ENCOUNTERING THE FATHER'S LOVE
“The Lord, your Father, HE is proud of you, Adam. He is proud of you!” I can still hear the British accent speaking to me those very words as I lay weeping on the conference floor in San Jose, CA in 2000, totally lost in the ecstasy of the Father’s love. He continued, “Adam, even though your earthly father has been absent, the Lord wants you to know that He, your heavenly Father, has always been there… He loves you. Adam, He has been with you…Yes, He was with you on ‘sports day’, Adam. Your heavenly Father was there on ‘sports day’”… This British man, who I had never met before was speaking with incredible insight right to the depths of my heart; I was undone. How did he know? He wasn’t in my room that morning; he wasn’t at the football game that night, years before…was he? There was only one explanation: God.
Just 12 hours before that historic encounter I was in my room ‘talking’ with my mom. Ok, so we were arguing. Literally, we were screaming at each other. I don’t remember what we were yelling about but I do remember what happened when my mom yelled out, “What’s really the issue here, Adam?!” I broke down in tears and that moment of weakness pulled out of me some honest words that I had never previously given voice to: “You never say you’re proud of me, Mom!”
At that point I was about 18 years old and had walked with Christ since my conversion in my early teenage years following a life-threatening football injury that required emergency brain surgery (aka ‘Sports Day’). In the end, the Lord used that nearly fatal scene to woo my heart to Him and save my soul. Being told I’d never play sports again crushed my already broken spirit. In the midst of my brokenness, and as a result of my mom’s faithful prayers, the gospel became the best news. I was born again.
However, like many kids who grow up without a father, I subconsciously and hopelessly tried to fill my love-deficit with the praise of man. As a young, gifted evangelist and preacher I very easily found the praise and encouragement I longed for in the church as a result of the many Christian families who loved seeing God work through me in ministry. Sadly, the gracious words from these dear ones simply could not satisfy my insatiable need for the voice of the Father to heal my fatherless heart and free me from an orphan spirit. I now know today that those who live by the praise of man die at the criticism of man…and rot at the silence of man. I know today that even the truest words of encouragement have no lasting power to strengthen the heart that has not yet been personally rooted in the Father’s love. Of course, I did not know this then and it was this miserable ignorance that made that argument with mom so terrible; and those words from the British man so glorious!
“The Lord, your Father, HE is proud of you, Adam. He is proud of you…He was with you on Sports Day!”
A dozen years later the glorious work that God began in my heart that day still continues. I have enjoyed an ever-increasing revelation of the Father’s great love for me; a truth that has anchored me in some of life’s most hostile storms and kept me centered when God has allowed others to encourage and strengthen me with words of blessing. This love has set me free from the treadmill of striving and performance and daily guards from petty schemes of comparison and jealousy. Most importantly, this love continually inclines my heart to love Jesus and live before Him in joy and peace.
I have a Father and He loves me.
The glorious truth of the Father’s great love for us must not be relegated to momentary encounters, no matter how awesome they are. We must not give into the cultural lie that elevates moments of intimacy over daily commitment in relationships for we will then dangerously apply that perversion to our relationship with God. Though it may be imparted in encounter, the Father’s love is sustained and further cultivated only as we fiercely guard the word of truth given to us, steward our hearts in righteousness and abide in communion with Him.
I have listed below some ways I’ve learned to posture my heart to keep myself in the love of God. I hope that in practicing them you find your own posture in the Father’s love:
1 Embrace the call to forgive. Unforgiveness is a terrible master that progressively limits our capacity to give and receive love. Forgiveness is the divine gift that frees our hearts to walk in love. Asking the Holy Spirit to reveal areas of unforgiveness in my heart and repenting is often the first step to re-aligning myself in the love of God.
2 Feast on the word of truth. I have purposed in my heart to see my time in the word of God bring me into communion with the person of God. Bible meditation and praying the scriptures has been a primary avenue for relating with the Lord and as a result my mind is being shaped by truth of His word and His love for me.
3 Listen for the Father’s tender words of affection. In times of prayer I will ask the Spirit to speak to my heart and mind His words of love. In quiet stillness I sit and receive His impressions, simple phrases and pictures that speak of His heart towards me. I write them down, declare them out loud and hide them in my heart. So good!
4 Learn to say ‘No’. Every former striver and performer needs to learn to rest, take breaks and not sign up for every ministry opportunity presented to them. At times I have sensed that the pattern of performance creeping back in, I will pull away and give attention to my first love.
1 John 3:1 – See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.