Last month I wrote an article about love being a principle not a feeling. We may have feelings of love, but we cannot depend on feelings alone. Feelings of love can sometimes change when faced with negative circumstances. Many times we are expected to show love, regardless whether we have any loving feelings. Love is something that we are expected to give away, not something we always should expect to receive. Once we give love away, feelings of love often do arise in the heart.
This month’s article is about performing certain duties and denying self when you really do not feel like it. Many people’s lives are controlled by their feelings alone. They do what they feel like doing. They spend time with people they feel like spending time with. They eat what they feel like eating. They refuse to do some duties simply because they do not feel like it.
We have all felt sad at one time or another and we have also felt happy, as well as many other emotions such as anger, fear, and contentment. We are human. We were created to have feelings, and feelings are not bad.
When people allow their negative feelings to control their lives, this is when life can become challenging and unpredictable.
- Uncontrolled hatred has led to murder. Joab hated Abner and could not forgive him for murdering his brother. In turn he murdered Abner (2 Samuel 3:26–27).
- Uncontrolled sadness has led to suicide. We see much of this in our world today.
- Uncontrolled lust or passion has led to fornication. King David could not control his lust and thus fell into sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2–5).
We all need to learn to not act impulsively when feeling negative emotions. We need to pray and find a positive solution for negative emotions.
Then there are times in our lives when we may be asked to do duties that seem unpleasant, regardless of whether we feel like it or not. We are to obey by principle, “beyond feelings.”
If you ask Jonah, when first told by God to go to Nineveh, I am sure he did not feel like it. In fact, he ran the other way (Jonah 1:1–3). Moses, after 40 years in the wilderness, also did not feel like going to Egypt. He made excuses as to why he was not the best man for the job (Exodus 4:10–12). Also Jeremiah, when called to bear an unpleasant message to his countrymen, he did not feel like going either and started making excuses (Jeremiah 1:6–8).
I wonder how Noah felt when asked to build this large ship on dry land. Was he excited? Hesitant? Dreading? Yet, he went forward and performed the required duty and was blessed thereby.
“The character will determine the nature of the resolve and the action. The doing is not in accordance with the feeling or the inclination, but with the known will of our Father which is in heaven. Follow and obey the leadings of the Holy Spirit.” –The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1058
I am sure it was not easy for these men, but they went “beyond feelings” and obeyed.
“It is man’s work to cooperate with the divine. And it is the very hardest, sternest conflict which comes with the purpose and hour of great resolve and decision of the human to incline the will and way to God’s will and God’s way.” –Ibid., p. 1058
There are times in each one of our lives when we do things even though we do not always feel like it. To make a living, we often have to get up every day and go to work. Sometimes we may feel like it, other times we may not feel like it because, for example, we did not sleep well the night before and are very tired. However, we still must go if we wish to maintain our employment and continue to have the ability to pay our bills and feed ourselves and our families. We go, whether we feel like it or not—beyond feelings. Often we are more willing to do things we do not really feel like doing for selfish purposes, but when it comes to the cause of God, it is much easier to not do as we are expected to do, simply because we do not feel like it. However, in our Christian life we should be more apt to obey beyond our feelings, than with our secular pursuits. Although we do not physically see our Employer, we are all employed in His service and are to perform our duties whether we feel like it or not until the day we die or if we quit (leave the church).
Some join the church on a flight of feeling. There are some Christian churches that play on the feelings of people. They have loud music and the services seem exciting, and feelings of excitement are aroused. When the feelings fade, so does their interest in the church and in spiritual pursuits. The things of earth that Satan provides often contain an immediate satisfying feeling, although it is rarely a long-lasting, happy feeling. Satan is very good at controlling people through their feelings in the world and in false Christianity.
TIMES WHEN WE ARE NOT TO TRUST OUR FEELINGS
Donations to the church: Money is a big challenge for many people in the world. They are seeking to amass wealth and riches in any way possible, as quickly as possible. When having Bible Studies with people, you touch a sensitive point when you mention tithe and offering payments. Many have turned away, as did the rich young ruler when Jesus asked him to part with his wealth (Matthew 19:16–22).
Tithe and offering payments were not instituted because God needs your money. He owns the world—all the wealth and riches also. He instituted the system of tithe and offering payments as a blessing to His people on earth; to teach them about self-sacrifice and prevent selfishness. We trust God to provide for our needs. It is beyond our feelings. It is pure faith. We give, by faith, and then the Lord opens the windows of heaven and blesses us—after we give (Malachi 3:10).
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:19–21. Few have the faith to trust God to provide if they pay their tithes. Even fewer have the faith to part with their second tithe. God will still provide for the faithful if they pay their second tithe. If expenses are high one month, some are tempted to rob God rather than deny themselves.
“Do not trust to your feelings and give when you feel like it and withhold when you do not feel like it. Give regularly, . . . as you would like to see upon the heavenly record in the day of God.” –Counsels for the Church, p. 516
Make a decision as to how much you intend to give, and stick with it, whether you feel like it or not—“beyond feeling.” “The plan of systematic benevolence . . . will prove a safeguard to every family against temptations to spend means for needless things, and especially will it prove a blessing to the rich by guarding them from indulging in extravagances.” –The Adventist Home, p. 368–369
Prayer: Have there ever been times in your life when you did not feel like praying? “Prayer is the breath of the soul. It is the secret of spiritual power. No other means of grace can be substituted, and the health of the soul be preserved. Prayer brings the heart into immediate contact with the Well-spring of life, and strengthens the sinew and muscle of the religious experience. Neglect the exercise of prayer, or engage in prayer spasmodically, now and then, as seems convenient, and you lose your hold on God. The spiritual faculties lose their vitality, the religious experience lacks health and vigor.” –Gospel Workers, p. 254–255
The above statement mentioned that prayer is the breath of the Christian soul. Do you ever feel like not breathing? Then you should also never feel like not praying. I am sure there are times when we have disappointed our Lord by some failure and we felt unworthy to come before the throne of God in this sinful condition. We question whether God would listen. Or perhaps we have a very busy day, we slept in late and are rushing off to our daily duties. We feel that we do not have the time to pray, although we seem to have time for everything else. Unless we decide that we can live without breathing then we should also believe and feel that we can live without praying. It is not possible. The true Christian will never pray only when they feel like it. They make sure to set aside time to pray every day.
Yet often when people are really discouraged and depressed, they do not
feel like praying. “It is difficult to exercise living faith when we are in darkness and discouragement. But this of all others is the very time when we should exercise faith. ‘But,’ says one, ‘I do not feel at such times like praying in faith.’ Well, then, will you allow Satan to gain the victory, simply because you do not feel like resisting him? When he sees that you have the greatest need of divine aid, he will try the hardest to beat you back from God. If he can keep you away from the Source of strength, he knows that you will walk in darkness and sin.” –My Life Today, p. 14 (emphasis mine)
“Our only sure defense against besetting sins is prayer, daily and hourly prayer. Not one day zealous and the next careless, but through watchfulness and earnestness becoming vitalized by intercourse with God. Prayer is necessary, and we should not wait for feeling, but pray, earnestly pray, whether we feel like it or not. Heaven is open to our prayers. Prayer is the channel that conducts our gratitude and yearnings of soul for the divine blessing to the throne of God, to be returned to us in refreshing showers of divine grace. With very many, this channel is allowed to freeze up, and then the connection with heaven is interrupted. . . . Oh, that we would spend more time upon our knees and less time in planning for ourselves and in thinking we may do some great thing.” –Our Father Cares, p. 244
“When we feel the least inclined to commune with Jesus, let us pray the most. By so doing we shall break Satan’s snare, the clouds of darkness will disappear, and we shall realize the sweet presence of Jesus.” –Lift Him Up, p. 372
“At the moment when you are offering your prayer for help you may not feel all the joy and blessing that you would like to feel, but if you believe that Christ will hear and answer your petition, the peace of Christ will come.” –Our Father Cares, p. 326
Diet and Appetite: Appetite is another area where people trust their feelings and their tastes. When you wake up in the morning, or just arrive home from work, and are hungry, you often think of what you feel like eating. In the world, people indulge a lot in their eating habits. They eat what they feel like eating, whether it is healthy or not. We may feel like eating a piece of food that is unhealthy because our fallen human nature craves it; however, our reason must go beyond our feelings and decides that, no, I will not eat that even if I feel like it.
Before you eat, consider some of the following questions. Is it a sin to eat this piece of food that is unhealthy? Does this piece of food improve your health or detract from your health? Will it make your mind clear or will it make your mind dull and foggy? Why are you eating this piece of food? Is it so I can get stronger? Or are you taste buds clamouring for indulgence for something that is actually detrimental to the rest of your body? Unhealthy foods are often eaten because it makes the person feel good for a short while, but later on the health is negatively affected. Appetite is to be controlled by reason, not feeling.
“The appetites and passions, clamoring for indulgence, trample reason and conscience underfoot. This is the cruel work of Satan, and he is constantly putting forth the most determined efforts to strengthen the chains by which he has bound his victims. Those who have been all their lives indulging wrong habits do not always realize the necessity of a change. . . . Let the conscience be aroused and much is gained. Nothing but the grace of God can convict and convert the heart; here alone can the slaves of custom obtain power to break the shackles which bind them. The self-indulgent must be led to see and feel that a great moral renovation is necessary if they would meet the claims of the divine law; the soul-temple has been defiled, and God calls upon them to arouse and strive with all their might to win back the God-given manhood which has been sacrificed through sinful indulgence.” –God’s Amazing Grace, p. 100. To eat unhealth foods is sin. We are to go beyond our appetites and feelings and eat healthy foods only; following all the health laws given by God. Healthy foods should also be palatable.
Missionary Work: This is a very difficult one because in missionary work there is a lot of rejection. The majority of the world has not chosen Christ as their Lord and Master. The master they have chosen is full of evil, and he targets the followers of Christ. Even family members can turn against family members. Unless truly connected to Jesus, feelings of discouragement can easily turn a person away from continuing to face the constant opposition. Missionary work does not get done because people do not always feel like facing the rejection. They feel more like sitting in the comfort of their home. Remember what the Lord said to Samuel? “They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me.” 1 Samuel 8:7. However, we are human and have human feelings.
Some begin but give up easily. “It is true, you may feel a sort of anxiety for the souls of those you love. You may seek to open to them the treasures of truth, and in your earnestness shed tears for their salvation; but when your words seem to make but little impression, and there is no apparent response to your prayers, you almost feel like casting reflection upon God that your labors bear no fruit. You feel that your dear ones have special hardness of heart, and that they do not respond to your efforts.” –Messages to Young People, p. 201. And thus you give up.
Here is a very key statement. Read it slowly and carefully. “My brethren and sisters, do you desire to break the spell that holds you? Would you arouse from this sluggishness that resembles the torpor of death? Go to work, whether you feel like it or not. Engage in personal effort to bring souls to Jesus and the knowledge of the truth. In such labor you will find both a stimulus and a tonic; it will both arouse and strengthen. By exercise your spiritual powers will become more vigorous, so that you can with better success work out your own salvation. The stupor of death is upon many who profess Christ. Make every effort to arouse them. Warn, entreat, expostulate. Pray that the melting love of God may warm and soften their icebound natures. Though they may refuse to hear, your labor will not be lost. In the effort to bless others your own souls will be blessed.”–Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 387
Go to work for Jesus—beyond your feelings; whether you feel like it or not.
Leisure time: Some people come home from work or school very tired, and often the last thing on their mind is to pick up their Bible and read. They want to relax and unwind. This may be true, as it may be difficult to assimilate some of the deep thoughts in the Bible when the brain is weary. However, after an hour of unwinding, a second and third hour is wasted—many times in front of the computer or TV, wasting many precious hours and then a quick read of a few Bible verses and a short prayer are done before going to bed.
Or maybe you have a day off from work, so you ask your friends and family, “What do you feel like doing today?” Often the answer is some work that needs to be done around one’s house, or going out and enjoying a day free from care and labour with friends and family. Or simply spending a quiet day at home. These are things we feel like doing, but what does God ask of us? There is nothing wrong with these endeavours, however, if we neglect missionary work and Bible Study, then it becomes an issue. “Our time belongs to God. Every moment is His, and we are under the most solemn obligation to improve it to His glory. Of no talent He has given will He require a more strict account than of our time.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 342. How many decide to go do missionary work on their day off?
“What leisure time we have should be spent in searching the Bible, which is to judge us in the last day.” –The Faith I Live By, p. 339. Pick up your Bible and read, whether you feel like it or not—Beyond Feeling. “The more you search the Scriptures with humble hearts, the greater will be your interest.” –Maranatha, p. 44. And then go and find the lost sheep.
CONVERSION IS NOT A FEELING. IT IS AN EXPERIENCE—A DECISION.
Here we read of a very important point that many stumble over.
“The youth especially stumble over this phrase, ‘a new heart.’ They do not know what it means. They look for a special change to take place in their feelings. This they term conversion. Over this error thousands have stumbled to ruin, not understanding the expression, ‘Ye must be born again.’
“Satan leads people to think that because they have felt a rapture of feeling, they are converted. But their experience does not change. Their actions are the same as before. Their lives show no good fruit. They pray often and long, and are constantly referring to the feelings they had at such and such a time. But they do not live the new life. They are deceived. Their experience goes no deeper than feeling. They build upon the sand, and when adverse winds come, their house is swept away. . .” –The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 1164
“When Jesus speaks of the new heart, He means the mind, the life, the whole being. To have a change of heart is to withdraw the affections from the world, and fasten them upon Christ. To have a new heart is to have a new mind, new purposes, new motives. What is the sign of a new heart?—a changed life. There is a daily, hourly dying to selfishness and pride.” –Ibid., p. 1164–1165. Notice how she defines a new heart here. It is, a new mind, purpose and motives. It does not say new feelings.
“The truth is not to be practiced only when we feel like it, but at all times and in all places.” –Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students, p. 196
“Bible sanctification is not the spurious sanctification which will not search the Scriptures, but will trust to good feeling and impulses rather than to the seeking for truth as for hidden treasure. Bible sanctification will lead its possessors to know the requirements of God and to obey them.” –The Review and Herald, February, 1898
On our baptism day, we make a vow (a decision) to adhere to certain Biblical principles. We may not always feel like obeying these principles throughout our lives, at all times, but we are to go beyond feelings and obey at all times, as they are the requirements of God. We are not to deny our feelings completely. It is not a sin to have feelings because we were created as thinking and feeling people. We have been given emotions so we can laugh, and cry, but we are not to allow them to control our lives if they lead us away from God or our ability to serve Him.
May God help us to find the true peace and happiness there is to be had in obeying implicitly every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God—as written in His Word—and we will experience great feelings of peace that the world cannot provide. “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” Psalm 34:8. Amen.