By Jim DeAngelo
I am profoundly blessed to regularly have the opportunity to share Jesus with friends, family, brothers and sisters in Christ, and those who do not yet have a relationship with Jesus. I often think of these opportunities as having a meal with them, to taste and see how good the Lord is. I often receive more than I give. I’ve come to realize how I receive what is being said has significant impact on how receptive I am to the Holy Spirit’s direction of me through the conversation. I ask myself, “When I share, am I saying what the Holy Spirit wants me to share?”
These conversations about God in our lives are important. It is how we feed our spiritual selves and encourage each other toward the truths of God and His character. Like with a meal, God many times sets the table (agenda), prepares the meal (opens the heart and mind), and facilitates understanding (lets them digest the morsels). Given this, what part do we play in this important sharing experience?
Pause and think about this. None of this can occur without our participation with God. To be successful, God has to lead us.
I’ve found the biggest challenge is in learning to let God have the lead. I call this surrendering. Surrendering should be easy, right? Let God have His way, and I’m only along for the ride. I’ve found this to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I practice this every day, sometimes getting better at it and sometimes not.
What does this surrender look like? Jesus gave us many examples of surrendering, being obedient to the Father’s will, the most important being when Jesus surrendered to His Father in Matthew 26:42. “Again, for the second time, He went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.’” Jesus surrendered to the Father, going willingly to the cross so that we could all receive redemption from sin through Christ.
I found surrendering to God requires my active participation (agreement with and permission to lead me) in being transformed by the Holy Spirit. This includes:
- Loving Him with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength,
- Loving my neighbor as myself,
- Being obedient to His commandments,
- And recognizing that I am His ambassador.
I need to daily ask the Holy Spirit to show me where I err. I need to repent and turn away from those old behaviors, looking again at being spiritually minded and empowered through Him. I need to see my daily tasks, attitudes, and behaviors as acts of worship (doing what is right because I am in love with Christ). I need to recognize and appreciate my deep, abiding joy that I receive through doing what I know Jesus would have me do. I need to see “a joyous life” as the profound reward it is. I need to love my wife as Christ loves the church, to serve others as I am serving Christ, to receive truth in my life, and to always be receptive. I need to be willing to listen, to judge myself from another’s point of reference.
I find it necessary to check my feelings. If there is resentment, anger, frustration, a critical spirit, or defensiveness, then I know that I have a problem. The other person may or may not be correct in their assessment or point of view, but that doesn’t matter. I immediately know that I have wrong thinking and a bad heart condition when these negative emotions surface. My heart has hardened, I have judged myself better than the other person. I failed to understand that we all fall short, especially me.
When speaking into someone’s life, it is important to start from the right perspective. Truth being spoken in love, scripturally sound, consistent with God’s character, and Holy Spirit empowered. It is important to speak without criticism, judgment, condemnation, or manipulation. If I start by ensuring that I am in the right spirit, surrendered to God, then speaking truth into another’s life becomes what God intends and not what I might direct. In my experience, the other person seems to always know the difference between the two approaches. The difference starts with me being on right terms with God first and surrendered to His will. My speaking in love and with truth is not dependent on the other person. This is God’s way.
This is profoundly different and in contrast with the world. The worldly point of view would have us start with our judgment of another by seeing their faults through our eyes and perspective, then find fault with them and provide suggestions, etc. This approach produces resentment and broken relationships. It puts us first and surely destroys the godly joy of life.
We decide at these times which approach we are going to use by our attitude and perspective, God’s or the world’s. Which one of these approaches is our default? What will our choice be the next time the opportunity arises?