Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
I could be wrong, but as I see it, practically everything we are commanded to do in the Bible is based upon love. Every example and instruction Christ gives us is from the perspective of a love-based life philosophy. The parables in some way relate to love: the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the Lost Sheep…. Even the Ten Commandments are about the various forms of love for God and for God’s children. But how could they not be? They are intended for us to learn more about God, and God is love.
Our problem is not with the knowledge of what path Christ wants us to walk, or the plans that God has for us, or for the guidance that Spirit initiates within us. Our challenge is not knowledge; our challenge is in the willing obedience to source of that knowledge.
Some ancient philosophers taught that it is through knowledge that we gain the ability to be moral. The aptitude toward good and ethical behavior was based upon a person’s understanding of moral and philosophical truths. Only those who could understand could obey the moral codes. In other words, misunderstanding caused disobedience.
Jesus taught the opposite. He taught that disobedience leads to misunderstanding. John 7:17 states: Jesus answered them, "My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.”
Rather than the knowledge of the truth leading to obedience, Jesus tells us that whether or not a person is willing to obey God is what affects their ability to learn the truth. Spirit will teach us when we are willing to know and enact God’s will. When we are willing to listen to God, obey God, move in the direction that Christ leads us, no matter if our emotions, our circumstances, and the world are screaming the opposite, then we will be taught and led by the Holy Spirit into the fullness of God’s truth.
More and more, I look at situations and solutions from the standpoint of being love-based. This is nothing more than looking at things from a spiritual perspective. We are told God is spirit and must be worshiped in spirit. John 4:23-24 tells us: “But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Spiritual things are spiritually discerned, and spiritual understanding is our birthright as a child of God. If it is our will to do God’s will, we can discern whether the information and knowledge we gain is from God or not. It is an inherent ability; we will feel its rightness. It will resonate with our soul.
Whether we are willing or not, God watches us and guides. But it is our willingness that makes us receptive to God’s guidance and presence in our lives. God will not coerce us, force us our compel us; He wins our hearts from within, through spiritual means. God works from the inside out. It is the Father living within us that does His works, increasing our faith and inviting our hearts to turn to Him. In 1 Peter 5:2 we are told the attitude pastors are instructed to take toward their congregation: Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; Although this is intended for a pastor, it describes how we are to treat each other, and how God treats us.
Are we willing? Are we willing to love one another? Are we willing to treat each other with respect and forgive each other’s offenses? Are we willing to follow the example of Christ?
God wants us to be willing, not obligated. When we give in church, we are to give willingly, with our whole hearts, “offering freely and joyously” to God. This is how we are to give in every area of our lives. We are expected to give our service, in whatever form, willingly and joyously. We are to give love to strangers, family, friends willingly and joyously. We share knowledge and talents willingly and joyously. Our faith cannot be forced. God wants to win us from within, spiritually, and empower us by spirit to live willingly, freely, and joyously from the heart.
But sometime living from “within to without” is not enough. Many of the thoughts and desires of our hearts are holy, divine, and good. Others … not so much. Whereas compulsion and force come from ‘out there’, the desire for ‘shameful gain’ comes from within. 1 Peter 5:2 tells us to beware of being forced and compelled from without, as well as being aware of our motivations from within by selfish and hurtful desires. Rather, we should serve eagerly, motivated by shameless desires.
These shameless desires are the desires put in our hearts by Spirit. We enjoy serving others because Spirit causes within us to enjoy the feeling of love from serving. We give in church because Spirit fills us with the joy of sharing love through our giving. It is because of this reciprocating action between our souls and Spirit that we can confidently and willingly face the Divine Discontent that appears in our lives and follow Spirits guidance.
Some of us have experienced this Divine Discontent. We move along through life passively content, and then gradually, but then suddenly we feel like something is missing or is not right with our life. Often, this is Spirit tapping on our hearts, trying to get our attention, trying to lead us in a direction that is outside our standard scheduled events and menu of activities. An opportunity presents itself to serve in some fashion, and we experience this doubt or turmoil over whether to move forward or not. Should we be constrained by fear and doubt and remain safe in our contentment, or should we reach out to the newness of helping, giving, serving, and loving that awaits? This is Divine Discontent.
1 Peter 2:5 says we should reach out eagerly. Eagerly anticipate God’s invitations. Be willing, ready, and eager to serve in new ways, “not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you.” God is not moved by shameful gain nor acts from compulsion. As His children, He wants that for us as well.
God does not love His children reluctantly or under compulsion. “I will rejoice in doing them good,” he says in Jeremiah 32:41. Loving us, doing good for us, brings God joy. He does His works within us and for us, not from obligation or spurious motives but willingly, eagerly, and happily. He wants the same for us.
God wants us to be willing vessels of love, joy, peace, and hope. We are told, “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.” That is how God moves through this world, changing hearts, changing lives - by the spirit of Love.
Psalm 51:12 asks God to “Uphold me with a willing spirit.” In most instances, successfully meeting challenges in this world depends upon our willingness to learn and grow, and even release preexisting personal beliefs. Many of us are reluctant to cooperate with others, to embrace new ideas even if they are for the common benefit of all, because they do not align with our thinking. We are afraid that our respect will be diminished if we admit that we do not know everything about everything.
I read a phrase that makes sense: “Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great.” Willingness to listen to others, willingness to cooperate, willingness to learn makes the way smooth before us, whatever it is that we encounter. We have a choice each day to greet life with a willing heart, mind, and spirit. It is our choice to be willing to allow God's will and God’s work to be done in and through us.
Author and minister Emily Cady wrote: Every person has an inherent right to freedom of choice, a right to live his life in his own way. One of the surest signs that a person is no longer in bondage himself is his willingness to give others their freedom, to allow others the privilege of seeking and finding God as they will.
We are truly free when our awareness of personal freedom extends to granting freedom to others, releasing them from any bondage to our own personal views. We are walking the high road, beyond ego, when we willingly allow someone to live according to their own dictates and desires and not ours.
Our desire that others should act as we do, tells them that we lack faith in their abilities to think for themselves. Wanting others to believe as we do, says that they should look to us for personal guidance instead of their own indwelling Spirit. Our ego wants to be the life coach for everyone. If we want to be free from the bondage to other people’s beliefs, we must willingly grant others their freedom from the bondage to our beliefs.
Jeremiah 40:4 “But today I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists.” Today, let us willing free all those who we are holding captive to our beliefs.
Are we willing? We want peace; we want forgiveness; we want love. But are we willing to release the thoughts and beliefs that make us unhappy and create chaos? Are we willing to express the kinds of thoughts and feelings that break through the barriers of hurt, hate, resentment, and pride?
Are we willing to be loving when someone has been unloving toward us? Are we willing to be peaceful when someone is hostile and argumentative? When we are upset with people over the way they have acted, are we willing to forgive?
Psalm 130:4 tells us: “There is forgiveness with you,” and as with God, the very spirit of love itself dwells within us, which is always willing. We are willing to forgive when we allow the inner Christ to take control of our lives, thought, and attitudes.
So, it is my prayer that we take all the knowledge, experience, and truth we have gained from praying, reading, and learning, and apply it to our lives. It is not enough to learn and know, we must willingly live what God has given us, without obligation, without being forced, compelled, or coerced. I pray that Christ strengthens our resolve and opens our hearts so that we can willingly dedicate our lives to God, accept God’s will above our will, accept Divine guidance above the world’s recommendations, and accept Spirit’s open invitations and opportunities to serve and live in a new way.