We do not have to earn God’s love because He has already chosen to love us first. Here is a story of a man who became part of a church to pursue love, only to realize that Love Himself had been pursuing him.
I grew up thinking that I had to earn the love of God. Being the eldest of seven children, I grew up with the pressure that I had to always do the right things and be responsible. Somehow, there’s a fear in my heart that if I fail to do what’s right, God will get angry and reject me. Knowing that I do not always do the right thing and that I’m not as patient and forgiving as I need to be only made me feel frustrated and alienated from God.
In 2007, I met a woman who attended Victory. Having the mindset that love is something I had to earn, I did things that I knew she would appreciate, considering that I had a different religion. I joined the same church and became part of a Victory group even though my heart was not really in it. I went to church only because my mind was set on pursuing someone, not knowing that I was there because God was set on pursuing me.
I started noticing something different from the people I met in church. I saw real joy and peace in their lives. I saw a group of people who were committed to obey God, and it did not seem like a heavy chore for them. They were obeying God not out of obligation or fear of being rejected and punished, but out of love. The testimonies I was hearing and everything I was learning in the Victory group made me curious to know the God they were talking about. When I heard the teaching about loving your enemies, praying for them, and blessing them, I was shocked. It was not only a new concept; it seemed unfair, unacceptable, and even unwise. It was then that I started seeing God’s heart.
I realized that God had already chosen to love me even if I had not done anything to deserve it. He loved me first, and He loves me unconditionally. I can stop trying to earn God’s love because He has freely given it to me. Knowing this truth released me from a very heavy burden. I wanted to know this loving God and experience Him in my life. In spite of the knowledge that my decision would not be taken lightly by my family, I turned away from the religion I had grown up in and surrendered my life to Jesus. I completely trusted Him for the strength to face everything that I knew I would go through.
As expected, it was very difficult, but I saw God’s hand move in my situation. I experienced the joy and peace that do not depend on circumstances but on a relationship with God. I enjoyed the blessings that come from belonging to a church community. The challenges I faced brought me and Luzebel, the woman I had initially pursued in church, closer. We got married six years after I became a Christian. Although I did not see my parents for some time because of my decision to follow Christ, they had a last-minute change of heart and attended our Christian wedding. Now, they welcome my weekly visits, and I am praying that they would also experience God’s great love.
My wife and I have now been serving God together for seven years. In all the challenges we have faced, we carry with us the assurance that the love that drew us near to God will also cause us to triumph. His love will never fail.
. . . and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts . . .
Mazhar is a high school teacher and serves as a volunteer in Victory Zamboanga.