It Ain’t About the Money, Nor the Fame (4)

Creative Commons License It’s all about knowing God.

And to know God, to really know God, is to be loved by God. Maybe not exactly in the ways you’ve always wanted. But for sure, to be loved in ways you’ve never thought possible or even imagined.

I know the questions that are burning in your mind right now. Is this really possible? Is this for real? Yes, it is. Because it happened to me.

I don’t know about you, my friend, but when I was much younger — in my teens and young adulthood — I used to think that a love relationship would solve all my emotional problems. All the loneliness and emptiness I felt, and all my pains, would all somehow magically disappear, and I would be filled with joy… if only someone would love me.

That probably sounds familiar to you, eh? Maybe you can even personally relate. This is not the time, however, to talk about the reasons why I was like that, nor to dwell more on the story. And that is because my story was a really troubled one. My woes were more than mere adolescent angst and a need for validation, which I believe all of us go through in our lives.

And so for now just know that, if I am a girl, I wouldn’t love who I was back then. Instead, I would run away fast, as many had indeed done. Because honestly, I was just plain scary. And weird. And I had this black hole in my heart that was screaming, “LOVE ME! LOVE ME!”


Note: This post is part of the series My Testimony.

If I had been born to a better station in life, I would have undergone psychotherapy — I know this now. As it was, I struggled alone for years. With my identity. With my runaway thoughts and emotions. With loneliness. With rejections. That is, until God found me, and made me fall in love with him. With Jesus.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost. — Luke 19:10 WEB

At last… at long last… I’d finally found the love I desperately needed. And yes, it was not what I had imagined, but it was much more than I could ever hope for. Life and love, joy and peace were all literally poured into the black hole of my heart as God took residence, until I was overflowing.

I was never sure of my salvation before; I was then.

My friend, I have given you this glimpse of my past because, first, I want you to really appreciate how much God has done for me (and in me) all these years. The sinful and hurting boy that I was had already died a long time ago. And this man who is talking to you now, is one who had been born again because of my faith in Jesus, and one who has been walking with God long enough to have been entrusted this ministry.

Or don’t you know that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. — Romans 6:3-4 WEB

Second, I’ve given you this glimpse of my past because I want you to really understand, in your heart, the greatest reason why I’m serving God (and why I’ve endured all this time), and that is my love for him.

Jesus once said of a sinful woman, “her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little” (Luke 7:47 WEB). In a similar way, I too love greatly, because like this woman, I too have known great love and great forgiveness from God.

You already know, my friend, the price I’ve paid so that I can serve God and live victoriously. I’ve surrendered to him, giving him my life to do with it as he pleases. And I’ve been able to make this sacrifice, not because I was told to do so, but because I’ve come to love God and to know him personally.

If you were in my place, if you had been shown the greatest of all love, wouldn’t you also willingly make this kind of sacrifice?

We love him, because he first loved us. — 1 John 4:19 WEB

And lastly, I’ve given you this glimpse of my past because I want to put into perspective my present pains.

My friend, I don’t want to give you a lopsided message, but a balanced one. Yes, being loved by God can be the greatest thing that ever happens to you. And yes, I do not lie about the love, joy, peace, and new life that you’ll experience. However, all these things are just part of the whole story — a story that I myself is trying hard to understand. Remember the costs of following God that I’ve already talked about? Well, they too are part of this story as much as the benefits.

Because following Jesus is to become more like Jesus — to be holy.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the assembly to himself gloriously, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without defect. — Ephesians 5:25-27 WEB

And this process of becoming holy, also called sanctification, is lifelong and it begins at the moment of salvation. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. And integral to this process are the trials and adversities one go through:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations [trials], knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. — James 1:2-4 WEB

My present pains are caused by several problems, but as a whole they can be seen as simply part of the process of my own sanctification, with the end result of me becoming like my Lord Jesus more and more.

Loving God

Now my friend, let me talk in depth about some of these things I’m going through, so that you’ll understand even more just what it means to follow and to love God.

As I have hinted at in the earlier part of this essay, one of the greatest costs I have had to pay is to give God the choice for my wife. The when. The who. The how. Yes! As crazy as this might sound to many, I’ve given up my own rights to choose my mate, and have simply asked God, my heavenly father, to arrange my marriage.

Because I’ve been walking with God for more than a decade already, it is easy to talk about this now. But when I first made this decision, when I was still in my early twenties, it had been hard for me. I don’t remember now clearly the circumstances that had led me to do it, but I think that a broken heart was part of them. Yes, I guess that I just got tired of trying to find love on my own, that I was willing to do it God’s way.

The Bible itself warns against marrying unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-15), but my decision goes beyond that, because it has given God all control. And because I believe in him, I’d stopped looking for love long ago, and I’ve been simply waiting for his plans to unfold.

Anyway, the one personal reason why I’ve been asking God to find me love — in his way and in his timing — is that I want to receive his best provision for this very important aspect of my life. The best possible love relationship he can give me. Because even then, years ago (and especially now), I already knew enough about failed relationships, and also about successful ones that are centered on God, to realize that I definitely want the latter for myself. Furthermore, because I have an artist’s temperament and personality, I’ve also realized that only God, who has created me and formed me, can give me someone who will truly love me as me — someone who also love God like I do.

These things sound good, right? Yes, they do. However, the good things in this life come with high price. Especially God’s best.

As you may rightly expect, my friend, the consequences of my arrangement with God are difficult, especially the waiting. I’m already 35 years old, but having a family of my own still seems like a faraway dream. Even now, as I write these very words, my needs for a woman are burning. Physically. Emotionally. Because working now for God, as I’ve said before, has intensified these needs. And there is nothing I can do about them — nothing I can do to make love come faster — but to continue to wait on God.

Another difficult consequence is the prerequisite molding of my character, so that I’ll be ready to receive (and to treasure) love. Remember my talk about preparing my fields for the rain? Well, this is one such field. Because if I want God to bless me with the woman of my dreams, then I better make sure that I am worthy of her, that I too am the man of her dreams. And God, in his lovingkindness, is doing just that — making me worthy — through my trials and my pains.

Not the kind of love story you find in the movies, eh? But these are the love ways of God, and I have chosen to follow them, even though it would be much easier for me to just forget this arrangement, and then go out and try to find a wife on my own — to lower my standards, and to just go with my feelings. After all, I am no longer the boy that I was….

And yet, here I am, standing by my decision, regardless of the costs — and regardless of how lonely it can get sometimes. And the reason I’ve given you, my friend, that I want God’s best in love, is a powerful-enough motivation for me in most situations.

But I have another reason. And it is a more powerful one. Guaranteed to see me through anything. And that reason is my love for God. Which is greater, much greater, than the love I have for myself.

Yes, I love God much more than I love myself. This is the greatest reason why I serve him, why I persevere, and why I wait. And because of this love, I desire more to see God’s plans for my life realized — to really make him smile — than I desire to see my own needs met. And having a wife whom God has chosen and approved is critical in the realization of those plans.

You see, my friend, my ultimate goal is to finish well. In the parable I’ve already quoted, the Parable of the Talents, Scriptures tell us that God does reward those who have been faithful in their service to him. Though part of this reward can come while the believer is still here on earth, this parable is usually taken to be God’s commendation when he already stands in heaven before God, having finished his earthly race.

His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” — Matthew 25:21 WEB

Yes, I want to finish well. However, this isn’t just about the rewards I’ll receive in heaven. I myself want to come home to where Jesus is and be able to say to him, “I have done my best in loving you, my Lord, and I have not withheld anything to you.”

This is the Christian’s true hope, you know, to see Jesus return in glory and claim his own, or to be where he is now.

Father, I desire that they also whom you have given me be with me where I am, that they may see my glory, which you have given me, for you loved me before the foundation of the world. — John 17:24 WEB

The truth is, I live now in the light of eternity. Every major decision I make in this life is measured against its eternal consequence. And to give God the choice for my wife — because he alone can give me someone who will bring out the best in me, so that I can be the kind of man he wants — is one such decision.

You can think of this as an ad for a job:

  • Position
    • A wife to me
  • Description
    • To love me, and to support me in all the things I do, especially in my ministry
  • Requirements
    • A strong and deep relationship with God
    • A willingness to submit to me as her husband
  • Compensation
    • My love and my faithfulness, until death do us part

Insane, huh?

And now, to the obvious but all-important questions that I know you are dying to ask me: What about feelings? Where do they come in? And my answer to you is: They will be given by God, who is love itself.

When I was a boy, young and naive, I thought that love is all about feelings. “You cannot decide to love someone!” I used to say. “You must have some feelings to call it love.” But now that I’m older and wiser in the ways of the heart, I would rather depend on someone’s decision to love me than on whatever she feels for me.

Feelings change. We all know that. They either grow or die. And something as important as marriage should not be built on such an unstable foundation, but on God, who never changes.

Yes, my friend. I know. All of these may sound surreal to you. A kind of idealism that is simply beyond crazy. But the assumption here is that there is a God, a powerful God — a God who has promised to help me and bless me if I would walk his ways. Yes, God indeed will bless me, but there is a price, and, as you know very well by now, it is high. Very high. Only my life.

And whenever I am discouraged about this, because of the waiting and because of my pains, I only need to look back — to the lost and needy boy I was before, and to what God had done for me — to find the strength to carry on. And to remember also, to remember… that God is the one I love above all.

And so… we’ve finally come back to the glimpse of my past that I’ve shown you, my friend. I’ve said that I want to put my present pains into perspective, and here it is:

I belong to Jesus before I am anyone else’s.

Life being his disciple is hard, yes. There are many sacrifices I have had to make. And there are many sufferings I have had to endure. So that I can serve my Lord. And so that I can become more like him.

And yet, despite of all these hardships, I am loved by God. I have his joy and peace in my life. I have his blessings. I have his grace. And I have his power to live an overcoming life.

Therefore, even though I yearn for a companion in this life, and this is a legitimate need, no woman should ever take his place. Jesus Christ is my Lord. My Savior. And my greatest Love. He is the first in my heart, and will always be.

My friend, I hope that you now have a much deeper appreciation of how serious I really am about all this. My love life is only one of the many things I’ve surrendered to Jesus, so that I can follow in his footsteps: To serve God and to honor him, and in return, receive the blessings he has promised.

It shall happen, if you shall listen diligently to my commandments which I command you today, to love Yahweh your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, that I will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. I will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. — Deuteronomy 11:13-15 WEB

Final Thoughts

I still have many things to say to you, my friend, but I think that I’ve already reached my limits — physically and mentally — and so I’m wrapping up my testimony for now. This last part of this essay has been the hardest to write.

Since last March, when I had my writing job, I’ve been working hard trying to break through and reach this place where I am now, though as you know, full-time ministry as a blogger was not what I had in mind. And I believe that with the publication of these essays for my testimony, I have firmly settled myself in this new place. Therefore, it’s time to move on: to leave the past and even this present behind, and focus on my future as a blogger and teacher of God’s Word.

For my closing, I will discuss briefly a few points that I hope would answer any questions that you might still have. And then I will present to you a passage from the Bible that I also hope would help you remember these things I’ve talked about. Let’s begin.

A Special Case

In all my talk of the costs I’ve paid to follow Jesus, you might be wondering if you too will be asked to pay a similar price if you decide to follow him also. Well, my friend, the answer to that is… it depends. On the plans that God has for your life. And on how willing you are to follow him.

What I know is this: Though every Christian is called to be a witness for the Gospel and to serve God, only few are called to the ministry, and they are the ones who undergo special training and preparation from God. They are also the ones who pay the higher costs.

I am among those who are called, thus the high costs I’ve paid, and I am also a special case. As I’ve explained above, I’ve known great love from God, and so the love I have for him is also great. That is why I am willing to follow him wherever he leads me.

A Coming Home

I’ve talked about the “benefits” of being loved by God — the love, joy, peace, and new life you’ll experience — and perhaps you’re still skeptical about them being possible at all.

You see, my friend, they are possible because if you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, you will be reconnected to God, the source of your life.

The truth may be hard to accept, but here it is: Since the rebellion of mankind in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, people have been separated from God their creator because of sin. And the consequence of this separation? Besides the eternal punishment in hell if they are not saved by Jesus, they are also spiritually dead.

That is why we call ourselves born-again Christians. When we accepted Jesus as our Savior, we were reconnected to God — we came back home — and we were spiritually reborn.

A Divine Relationship

We humans are made for a relationship with God. We will never be complete without him in our lives. Nevertheless, this is a divine and not a human relationship.

What I mean by that is, even though you can find sufficiency in your relationship with God alone, you’ll still feel the need for human ones. Friends. Family. Love. Remember Adam? He already had this perfect fellowship with God, and yet he still needed a human companion. And so God gave him Eve to be his wife.

Furthermore, this relationship with God is unequal — obviously. He is God, and we are only his creations. Basically, this means that, no matter how much in love we are with him, we still have to worship him, serve him, and follow his commandments.

A Victory Plan

So now we’ve come to the end.

I’ve talked about many things in this testimony, and I want you, my friend, to have something that you can take home with you — something that will explain most of what I’ve said in a nutshell.

Fortunately, the Bible already has it. It is Romans 8:28-39.

  1. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.
  2. For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
  3. Whom he predestined, those he also called. Whom he called, those he also justified. Whom he justified, those he also glorified.
  4. What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
  5. He who didn’t spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how would he not also with him freely give us all things?
  6. Who could bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who justifies.
  7. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
  8. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
  9. Even as it is written, “For your sake we are killed all day long. We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
  10. No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
  11. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
  12. nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from God’s love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 8:28-39 WEB

Now, I want you to look at this passage in this way, and understand God’s victory plan.

  • God has the power to transform our lives for the better, including the bad things that happened to us (v.28).

  • God protects us from evil (v.31,33,34).

  • God wants to give us all things through Jesus Christ (v.32).

  • But… God requires that we are made holy, and that means our trials and sufferings (v.29).

  • But… God also assures us of victory (v.35,37,38-39)

My friend, God cares about you, and I do too. I pray that as you reflect on my testimony in the coming days, you’ll realize how much God loves you, and how much he desires to bless you and help you live a victorious life.

Finally, I pray that you will decide to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

God bless you, my friend!

(the end)

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This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ. — John 17:3 WEB

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