If our emotions are God-given, and God works through them to allow us to feel both joy and sorrow, are they reliable indicators of how we stand with him? Does the Bible teach us to trust everything we feel to signal that we’re in right standing with God? We are emotional creatures, and feeling Godly conviction (sorrow) brings about repentance that’s necessary for salvation. Repenting (turning from our sins because we want to be obedient to God and draw closer to him) certainly allows us to feel better about ourselves than we did when we were carrying the guilt of all our sin. It’s exciting to know we are moving closer to the life God has for us.
On the other hand, people who once were stirred to seek God can sometimes become satisfied with their present states of mind or spirituality, and begin to grow colder and less fervent. Evidence from the Word of God indicates that these people, too, begin to feel comfortable and good about where they are with God. Being out of God’s plan is a very dangerous place to be, yet it is exactly where the Enemy of our souls, the Devil, wants us to feel very comfortable. His job is to influence us not to seek God and obey the Word, and he uses a variety of strategies, including feelings of complacency (“I’m OK where I am; no need to get carried away with this”), smugness (“at least I’m not out there committing murder or drinking up my paycheck”), condemnation (“I’ve messed up too badly; God wouldn’t want me now”), fear (“I’ve known people in churches who were out for their own gain – I don’t want to get mixed up with that bunch!”) and a host of other subtle thought processes to gently move us away from whatever conviction or stirring we have felt about our spiritual condition.
What does the Word say?
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God:” 1 John 4:1
“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverbs 14:12, Proverbs 16:25 (Both passages record the exact same statement.)
We are complex, emotional creatures, influenced by all that is around us: what we see, hear, read, and the actions of others. No man is an island, and often our experiences influence how we perceive God, how God wants us to approach him, and how likely it is for us that our seeking him would pay off for us the way it seems to have for some people. Most everyone, at least in our area, seem to acknowledge that Apostolic Pentecostal individuals who are really living what they believe have some “special connection” with God, that often they admire (or at least seek out if they really need prayer for an urgent need, which is fine with us, because we really believe in prayer). Few people believe they would be able somehow to meet some requirement they perceive must go along with having that relationship, but not realizing God intends it without respect of persons.
Since God doesn’t force anyone to serve him (which wouldn’t be service at all , but something more like slavery or robotics), he works to draw people to himself. He said “Draw nigh to God, and he shall draw nigh to you…” (James 4:8), and admonished us that seeking him needed to be “with all our heart” (Jeremiah 29:13) in order to find him. He promised, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). The process of seeking God can bring rewards of feeling more of him, generating more desire to seek him. In much the same way as we reward our children for beginning to do what we were trying to show them to do, what we feel in trying to draw closer to God is one way in which we are encouraged to continue learning and reaching for more. This feeling of having God closer to us because we’re drawing closer to him is wonderful, but must not be mistaken for assurance that we’ve gone as far in him as we need to. In this case, feeling good about where we are with God is only OK if we continue doing what got us there: seeking for more of God.
It’s a process much akin to falling in love. The process is supposed to work like this: two compatible people meet, a “spark” fires between them, igniting the interest and intense feelings that drive them to draw closer and to know more about one another, to spend time in each other’s presence, and to hardly be able to stand the wait until they’re together again. Ideally, this begins a process that works itself out in a balanced and continuous manner, where the two build a sustainable fire from this spark: a relationship that will last, even after the initial intensity of the first few weeks or months has died down, as it is destined to do. Sometimes, though, people mistake the fire and fury of initial attraction for all they are going to have in the relationship, and fail to build a real foundation for their lives together. Others linger too long in the slower-paced phase after the initial attraction: content just to enjoy the company of the other person without following through with a real lifelong commitment.
As God very often in his Word relates our knowing him to our knowing one another as husband and wife, the comparison here is entirely valid. Many people feel some inspiration when encountering Godly people or when seeking God to some degree, and decide that’s a great place to build a life: even if the feeling wanes and never returns, they stake their spiritual heritage and well-being on a feeling they had years ago, but never continued to follow on to completion. Others follow a flame for awhile, but grow accustomed to being around Godly people or reading God’s word or going to church, and find that this is sufficient to quell their hunger for God altogether, never following on to a commitment that keeps the source of that initial feeling flowing for them. I submit to you that although God promised to feed the hungry, he never intended us to stop hungering; he gives drink to those thirsty for righteousness, but he never wanted us to stop thirsting. What did he promise the woman at the well? Not a drink of water, but a well springing up into everlasting life. He died to bring a well, a river, to each one who wouldn’t quit seeking him until they found that source of living water; and I’m proud to say, having found the well, we can still seek him to our heart’s content, having that well spring up within us over and over again!
Feeling good about where you are with God can be a good thing, if it’s signifying you’re looking for more and excited about that process; but if it means you’ve become satisfied with what you have, and you’re not willing to compare where you are, honestly, with a fresh look at the scriptures (never be afraid to peer honestly into the Word of God), then the feelings of being OK are not good, but in fact, are dangerous. In my own walk with God, I have often found that when I pray more and seek God more, I feel that I need more of the same, not less. But when I have, for whatever reason, allowed myself to slack off on those things, I actually felt able to be very content with where I was in God. Fortunately, God has given pastors and teachers and evangelists to preach to me that this is a very dangerous place to be, and that only in a continuous loving desire to know God more and more, and to allow him to shed forth his love in my heart more and more by the Holy Ghost, would I find the peace and real safety in God that I needed.
So, what kind of “feeling good about where you are with God” are you experiencing? I urge you to find out for yourself by honestly asking God to show you, and taking steps to find out. Reading his Word (especially the book of Acts where the birth and establishment of the church is recorded, and the original plan of salvation being preached by the Apostles is recorded as well). Seeking God where this Gospel message the preached, of repentance, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38) is preached in love, as is the necessity of living a Godly, holy life, will give you a truer sense of what you are seeking, and of where you are in the process. I invite you, as always, to seek him with us at:
First Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ
246 Hwy 528 E
Bay Springs, MS