Set priorities. Put first things first. Major on the majors…and don’t sweat the small stuff.
We’ve all heard the slogans. Experts tell us they’re the key to success. But with so many things clamoring for our attention, how do we determine what things to put first? How do we decide what majors to major on…and what small stuff not to sweat?
Those may sound like tough questions—and for many they are. But as born-again children of God, we don’t have to rush out to buy a self-help book or sign up for a seminar to figure out the answer. All we have to do is open the Bible. It plainly lays out our priorities.
No. 1: Believe on the Name of Jesus.
No. 2: Walk in love.
That’s it. God’s Word says if we’ll put those two things first in our lives, God will do whatever we ask and the rest of our lives will fall into place. Personally, I’ve never had a question about the first of those two priorities. It’s always been obvious to me that since faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior is what gives us eternal life and sets us firmly in the family of God, then believing on His Name is the most vital thing we can ever do.
But honestly, I’ve wondered at times about that second priority. I’ve puzzled over why it’s such a major issue with our heavenly Father. Why is it such a big deal to Him that we live in His love?
It is a big deal, you know. In fact, according to the Bible love is such a paramount issue in the mind of God, when one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to name the greatest commandment of all time, He said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
Think about that! According to Jesus, the command of love is so vital that the entire Word of God—from the Creation account in Genesis to the Amen at the end of Revelation—hangs on it. Love is literally the ultimate spiritual law. All the operations of God’s kingdom function in accordance with it, and no one on earth is exempt from it.
Created by Love for Love
Why is God so divinely determined for us to live a life of love?
Recently, I started asking the Lord that question. When I did, the Holy Spirit was quick to answer me. He started out by reminding me that love is the one word that fully encompasses God’s nature. The Bible says, “God is love” (I John 4:8). It affirms again and again that He is completely filled with compassion.
In Psalms 78:38, for instance, the Bible says that even when the Israelites sinned and rebelled against God, “He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.” And in Psalms 86:15 it says that He is “a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.”
Psalms 111:4 says, “He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.” And in Lamentations 3:21-23 we read: “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”
Those are especially powerful statements when we realize compassion means “to have so much mercy and tenderness for someone else that it actually causes pain.” It is the deepest desire to show love and goodness. Compassion is what moves God to do everything He does.
Compassion is what compelled God to create the earth. It’s what inspired Him to prepare the Garden of Eden as a home for the family He was about to create. It is also what moved God to reproduce Himself and make man in His own image. He didn’t just want someone to love, He wanted a family through whom His love could be multiplied—that would bless and fill the earth with His own compassion. That’s why, immediately after He created Adam and Eve, “God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28).
God’s plan was not just for man to be blessed, but for mankind to be a blessing to everyone and everything he came in contact with. He planned for them to subdue and rule this planet with His compassion until the whole place became a Garden of Eden.
That was Compassion’s plan.
God Never Changes His Plans
One thing I’ve discovered about God: When He makes a plan, He never changes it. Therefore, though Adam and Eve bowed their knee to the devil, threw away God’s blessing, and opened the door to the curse, God refused to give up His original intent. He kept on declaring His will would eventually be done. He kept on telling His people they were destined to be a blessing and fill the earth with His love.
He told Abraham, “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing…and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3).
He spoke through the psalmist and said, “Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous” (Psalms 112:1, 4).
He spoke through the prophet Isaiah of One to come who would be anointed with God’s own Spirit “to preach good tidings unto the meek; to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:1, 3).
Of course, every one of those declarations pointed to the coming of Jesus. He was Compassion’s plan—ordained before the foundation of the world to come into this painfully messed-up planet and set things straight again. He was the One destined to take upon Himself the sin, sickness, weakness and pain that had robbed mankind—and all the earth—of the blessing of God.
Jesus came to restore God’s original plan.
Do you realize what that means? It means those of us who have believed on Him have been restored to the spiritual position Adam and Eve occupied in the Garden of Eden. Through Jesus, we have received the same blessing and divine commission they did. We’ve been called to perpetuate God’s love in the earth, to fill it up with His compassion, to be a blessing everywhere we go, to everyone we meet!
That’s God’s plan for every New Testament believer.
God said it to Adam and Eve. He said it to Abraham. He said it to Jesus. And now He has said it to us. You are called to be a blessing! So wives, bless your husbands. Husbands, bless your wives. Love one another as I have loved you. Do good to all men. Bless, bless, bless!
Can you see now why walking in love is so important to God? It’s the reason He created us!
You may never have thought about it in just that way before but, the truth is, you already knew that. Every born-again believer does. I could stop a Christian on the street anywhere in the world and ask him if we, as believers, are supposed to love one another, and I’d get the right answer every time. Everyone knows Christians are called to live by the law of love.
Are we all doing it? No, we’re not. So, clearly there must be a problem. II Peter 3:1-2 tells us what it is. There the Apostle Peter wrote to people just like us—people who knew full well they were called by Jesus Himself to live by the law of love—and said: “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: that ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour.”
If Christians in Peter’s day needed to be reminded to keep the commandment of love, we do too. Just like those first-century believers, sometimes we just plain forget to walk in love toward one another. We forget to make compassion our priority because we don’t keep it in the forefront of our thinking. We get our lives out of line with love because mentally we neglect to put first things first.
But, according to the Bible, we can correct that problem. We can stir up our pure minds by way of remembrance. We can build love into our memory so that we think of it before we get dressed in the morning. We can so renew our minds to it that we think of it when we leave the house every day, or sit down at the table to eat, and even before we go to bed at night.
When we keep love on our minds like that, it changes how we interact with people. No matter what they say or do to us, our first thought is to respond in love. If we disregard that thought by yielding to the flesh and acting in a way that’s unloving, we’ll immediately be aware that we’ve been disobedient, and we’ll repent. Then we’ll get right back on track.
A Marvelous Cycle
“Oh, Brother Copeland,” you might say, “I don’t think I could ever be that loving.”
Sure, you can. You can walk in love as naturally as a fish swims or a bird flies. The reason is simple. As a born-again child of God, you’ve been re-created in the very image of Love Himself. You’re made just like Him and He is full of compassion 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He is, always and forever, love.
“Yeah, but sometimes I’m just mean. I can’t help myself! I guess God just made me that way.”
Don’t go around blaming God for your carnal self-indulgences. He’s not responsible for them. As my spiritual father, Oral Roberts, used to say, “God never created anyone to be something He has forbidden.” So if we act hatefully or unkindly it’s not because God made us that way; it’s because we’ve yielded to the pressure the devil is putting on our flesh. We may have even yielded to it for so long that we think that ugly stuff is a part of our identity.
But it’s not. It’s just flesh and everything in the flesh can be changed and replaced by the power of God’s Word and by the power of His love. It can be overcome when we stop defining ourselves by our carnal habits and renew our minds to our true identity in Christ.
One man who understood that fact very well was the Apostle Paul. He knew more about who we are in Christ than any man who ever walked this earth with the exception of Jesus Himself. He prayed continually for believers to have the spirit of wisdom and revelation because he knew what would happen when we began to see our real identity: We’d start acting like who we truly are. We’d start acting like Jesus.
No wonder Paul prayed for the believers to be rooted and grounded in love (Ephesians 3:14-19). That’s our native soil. We were born in and of Love! The more we operate in that love, the better we comprehend God because love is what makes God tick, so to speak. It’s the driving force of His being. It’s who He is.
To our natural minds, such a thing may seem impossible. But the Bible says it’s not. I don’t care how far-out it may sound, God is able to finish the plan He started in the Garden of Eden. He is able to reproduce Himself so fully in you, me and every other believer that we fill the whole earth with His goodness and love. He is able to make us a blessing to all the families of the earth.
So release your faith for it. Stir up your pure mind by way of remembrance. Keep love in the forefront of your mind by confessing daily, “I keep the commandment of love. I love the Lord my God with all my heart, all my soul and all my strength. I love my neighbor as myself. God’s love has been shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost and I release it everywhere I go. I will be a blessing to everyone I meet today.”
Remind yourself every day that Compassion has a plan—and He is fulfilling that plan through you!