This month, I want to share something from my prayer journal, and how the Holy Spirit directed me to a particular scriptural passage to calm my fears. I hope you can relate to my struggles, and will find the same comfort in God’s Word that I did.
“Dear God, I am so grateful for Your grace, and I know I am saved because I have accepted Jesus as my savior. I just worry that I won’t measure up when I get to heaven. Don’t get me wrong, being the worst Christian in God’s presence is so much better than the alternative. But, I want You to find that I took care of Your temple and lived my life for You. Unfortunately, I’ve spent more time not doing that, than I have so far in honoring You (and I still don’t always get everything right). If I were to die tomorrow, I worry that You will think I wasted my time ‘under the sun’ and will punish me in heaven. I know that You forgive and forget (subjectively though, I mean can God really forget? I don’t think You can literally) and that works will not get me into heaven. But, works are important once I get to heaven, when we are judged on how we lived our lives on Earth. So, what are You going to think? What can I do to show You how much Your love means to me?”
Do you struggle with accepting God’s amazing love for us, realizing that even though we fall short, He still loves us despite our sin? Do you ever compare yourself to other people who seem to be better Christians (or have had longer relationships with God) than you? I suspect that I am not alone in the fears that I had regarding this. I use the past tense here, because I felt the most amazing peace when I was directed to the following scripture (1John 4:7-18) from the ESV translation:
God Is Love
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
We’re all probably familiar with the verse “We love because He first loved us” (1John 4:19), but if you look at what leads up to that statement, there are other important truths, as well. This passage tells us that we should have confidence when God’s love is perfected in us. But, then there’s fear, which has to do with punishment – which is the exact fear that I was having. John explains that whoever fears has not been perfected in love (1John 4:18b). This doesn’t sound good at first glance, but all it means is that we are works in progress, and God’s love is growing in us, but it is not yet perfected. If we love one another (1John 4:12b), God will abide in us and His love will be perfected in us. It doesn’t say that the effect is immediate, so if we continue to love others as God loves us, His love will be perfected in us, and we will not fear judgment. How awesome is that? “Love is patient; love is kind.” (1Cor 13:4) – We just have to be also; patient with ourselves, and kind to others in everything we do!