We have certain expectations from those who claim to love us: Children expect their parents to provide them with food, clothing, and shelter. Husbands expect physical intimacy from their wives. Wives expect protection from their husbands. Friends expect what is shared in confidence to be kept in confidence. If you have healthy relationships with lots of people, your list of expectations will be long. If you have mostly unhealthy relationships, your list will be short.
We also have certain expectations from the God who claims to love us: He will comfort us when we grieve. He will reassure us when we are afraid. He will forgive us when we ask Him to. In the same way, our list of expectations from God varies in length depending upon the kind of relationship we have with Him.
It's easy to take these expected acts of love for granted, as if other people love us because they are supposed to—not because they want to. Isn't it wonderful then, to be surprised with an unexpected demonstration of love? Sherrel was given a sack of assorted candy for Christmas—normally not a very exciting gift. But this gift was given by a homeless woman in our Bible study who sleeps underneath a storage trailer.
Those unexpected acts of love make us realize that maybe some people love us because they want to and not because they have to. I want to challenge you today to look for those unexpected acts of love from God. They are easy to miss if you are not paying attention. Yours will be different from mine, but I want to show you what this looks like from a very recent example of my own.
Last night I woke up in the middle of the night, feeling like an elephant was standing on my chest. No matter which way I turned, the pain remained. I prayed for a few minutes… but no change. Not wanting to wake up Sherrel, I got out of bed and went into the living room.
I spoke health over every body part I could think of in my chest area, but the pain remained. Sherrel soon realized that I was missing. After letting her know what was going on, she told me to speak Psalm 103:1–5 over myself. What usually worked to get my body back in line wasn't working this time… there was no change.
I asked God for some direction… and the word “heartburn” popped into my head. Heartburn…? I've seen the ads but that's about it. You may know the symptoms of heartburn, but I don't. If I've ever had heartburn, it's been so long ago that I can't remember.
All I knew about heartburn was that it had to be hiding somewhere between my shoulders and my hips, so I told the heartburn to leave my body, in Jesus' name. Within just a few seconds I was sixty percent better, and within a couple of minutes after getting back into bed the pain was completely gone.
If the story stopped here… it's good… to be healed almost instantaneously… it's really good. But there's more….
I told Sherrel I was going to stay awake a little longer, wanting to hear more from God. Sherrel, just before going back to sleep, spoke to me: “The Lord thanks you for not tolerating it.”
Please note: If communicating with God in this manner is new to you, I will go into greater detail in a future study, But for now just make sure that if you hear something you think is from God, verify it with the Word. You're entering dangerous territory if you don't, because it's easy to make up stuff and think it's from God.
Back to the story…. I then asked the Lord, “What am I supposed to study?” and I heard “don't look back.” I prayed a little longer and then went back to sleep.
I want to show you how I put this all together this morning. (Too many times have Sherrel and I seen something in the Word relevant to a situation we were dealing with, but had no idea how to apply it to our specific situation. And because we couldn't find anyone else to show us how it all went together, we wasted a lot of time experimenting. So we are big on showing what things from the Word look like when applied to everyday life.)
What did God say? He thanked me for not tolerating the pain, and he told me to reference “don't look back” in His Word.
First of all, I am suspicious of the Lord thanking anybody—especially me. Giving thanks always goes the other direction. But then I remember that if it's impossible to please God without faith, it must be possible to please Him with faith. What happened last night must have been about faith because it pleased Him.
And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 NLT)
So it's safe for me to say, “He was pleased with me for not tolerating it (the pain and all the associated mindsets).” I now have to figure out what “not tolerating the pain” has to do with “don't look back.” After doing some study I come up with the following reference:
But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62 NKJV)
Okay… now I understand what looking back means. I signed on to work the fields in this life, here on this earth. I didn't just sign up for Heaven. I intentionally put my hand to the plow. I intentionally asked God if I could help. “Looking back” in this instance is to turn my thoughts or direct my mind to things that are supposed to be behind me—living in my past, and continuing to tolerate what shouldn't be tolerated. I can't make any progress forward when I'm looking back. When I look back I am unfit for the kingdom of God.
So what happened? How does all this fit together?
Last night I woke up in pain for some reason still unknown to me. I had some choices I could have made. I could have gone to the ER (which I haven't done in probably thirty years). I could have taken something (if I'd known what to take… but then we probably didn't have it in the house anyway). Or I could have just tried to suffer through the pain, hoping to sleep it off by morning.
If I had taken any of these choices, I would have totally missed His unexpected demonstration of love. But… I happened to be paying attention last night. He completely healed me of the pain in less than five minutes—even telling me exactly how to do it. And then He told me He was pleased with me because I trusted Him and didn't turn back to tolerating the old ways of thinking that didn't include Him. It was a good night.
I want you to see very clearly that God does not love you because He is obligated to love you in His role as God. He loves you because… well… because He loves you. Be on the lookout for opportunities to let Him love you. Give Him a chance to demonstrate His love through you.
Have a good weekend,