"Principle Verses Feeling" (June 2004)
A couple of weeks ago the Lord said to me, "My people aren't basing their lives on the principles of My word." He let me know that this is what's wrong in the lives of so many of His children. I knew exactly what He meant. I see it all the time. I see Christians living defeated, cast down, miserable, confused lives as a result of not "basing their lives on the principles of God's word". Why aren't we living according to God's principles? I believe one of the reasons is because we live our lives based too much on "feelings" instead- we are people who live by our feelings rather than by the principles of God's word.
Before I explain what I mean, let me define "feelings" and "principles". Feelings, as we are talking about in this newsletter, means- emotions. The dictionary defines principle as- A basic truth, law, or assumption: A rule or standard, especially of good behavior: The collectivity of moral or ethical standards or judgments: a decision based on principle rather than expediency. A fixed or predetermined policy or mode of action. Let me put it in simpler terms- a rule or standard of conduct/behavior. For the Christian this rule of conduct is found in God's word.
We are either living by "feelings" or we are living by "principle" (the principles laid out for us in God's word). When I live my life according to the dictates of my feelings, I do what I want to do when I feel like doing it or either I won't do something based on the fact that I don't feel like doing it. When I live my life based on the principles of God, I do the right thing and avoid doing the wrong thing whether I feel like it or not. Let me give you some examples of what I am talking about. On Sunday morning when I wake up I can either live by my feelings- "I don't feel like going to church this morning"- or I can live by principle- "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25) "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." (Exodus 20:8) If I live by feelings- I won't go to church; if I live by principle- I will. When dealing with people who have hurt me, if I live by my feelings, I won't always feel like forgiving them, but if I live by principle I'll forgive them whether I feel like it or not. I'll forgive them even if I feel like I am justified in holding a grudge, and even if I feel like I am in the right and they are in the wrong. "But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses." (Mark 11:26) "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." (Matthew 6:12- New International Version) If I don't feel like reading my Bible I won't. If I live by principle instead, I will read it. Same goes for prayer; if I pray only when I feel like it, when I am in trouble, when things are going wrong, when I need an answer, I won't pray.
God does not intend for His children to live their lives based on feelings- He intends for us to live them based on His word. Am I saying that having feelings are wrong? Of course not, God gave us feelings (emotions), they are part of our makeup. You can no more detach yourself from your feelings that you can from your brain and still be a complete person. What I am saying is that we can't let our feelings rule and dictate our behavior. If we do, we will spend a miserable live playing "hit and miss" games with everything we set out to do. As we look at "feelings" verse "principles", we will see why God's plan for us is to live by principle. (Keep in mind throughout this whole newsletter that the principles that we are talking about are the principles that God has set in His word.) Feelings will often stop you from doing the right thing- principle will always cause you to do the right thing. Feelings carry consequences- principles carry blessings. Feelings keep you defeated- the principles of God's word bring victory. Feelings rob you of peace- living in the principles establish your heart and mind in peace. Feelings are fickle (unstable, inconstant, changeable)- principles are unchanging. Feelings cause us to be inconsistent- principle keeps us stable. When it comes to our feelings, most of the time we aren't even true to them. What do I mean by that? If there is something you really want to do, you'll do it regardless of how you feel. How many times have you not felt like getting up and going to church, but felt like getting up and going to the lake instead? How many times have you felt like you couldn't afford to pay tithes, yet you went out and spent money on all sorts of entertainment items?
When you live your life based on anything other than the principles of God's word, you will always live below the blessings and privileges that God has intended for you to have; you will never achieve true success; you will never enjoy the abundant life that God desires to give you. When we talk about living our lives based on the principles of God's word, what does that mean? It means to pattern your life after it's teachings, follow it's instructions, and obey it's commands. "Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed." (Joshua 1:8- New Living Translation) "Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God's will in thought, purpose, and action)." (2 Timothy 3:16- Amplified Bible)
First let's look at the consequences of living by our feelings. If you live your life based on how you feel, you can miss the plan and will of God for your life. "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him." (Matthew 3:1-3, 5-6, 13-15) John the Baptist was chosen by God as the forerunner of Christ- the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord". He was chosen to bear witness of Jesus and baptize Him. If John had gone by his feelings, he would have missed God's will and purpose for his life. "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?" John felt so unworthy and so inadequate to baptize Jesus- he needed to be baptized by Jesus instead. If Jesus had not told him to live by principle- "And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness."- instead of feelings, John would have missed his destiny. How many times have you "felt" so inadequate, so unworthy, so unfit to be used by the Lord. This feeling of unworthiness has caused so many to miss their destiny. I may "feel" unworthy, but the principle of God's word is... Christ has made me worthy through His blood; therefore, "I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13) "Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I will help you, says the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I will make you to be a new, sharp, threshing instrument which has teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and beat them small, and shall make the hills like chaff." (Isaiah 41:14,15) You may feel like a "worm" sometimes (the weakest, smallest, lowly, most insignificant thing there is), but God can take a "worm" and make it into a "sharp threshing instrument" able to tear down mountains. Living by God's principles instead of your feelings will cause you to be strong when you feel weak; victorious even when it feels like all odds are against you. And as a result you will fulfill your destiny.
Let's look at King David and the consequences he faced because he fell into the trap of walking after his emotions/feelings instead of the principles of God. "And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house." (2 Samuel 11:2-4) Now, the Bible doesn't really say, but judging from human nature, when David saw this beautiful woman on the rooftop bathing, the emotion of lust (an overwhelming desire) took over. (Living by your feelings will take you on a one way downward spiral.) This is what happened to David. Once he gave into his lustful feelings it was down hill all the way. After having taken Bethsheba in adultery, he discovered that she was pregnant. Upon discovering this, the feeling of fear took hold of David- fear of exposure- so he had to "cover his tracks". "And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah to David. And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet. And Uriah departed out of the king's house, and there followed him a mess of meat from the king. But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house." David's plan backfired- Uriah would not go into his house and sleep with his wife. So he had to come up with another plan- this time the plan was murder. "And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die." (2 Samuel 11:6, 8-9, 14-15) Finally, the Lord sent the prophet Nathan to David to confront him with his sin and tell him that the child that was born to him and Bethsheba was going to die. If only David had lived by the principles of God's word when he was tempted instead of his own feelings this account would have never been recorded in David's life because it never would have happened. When the feeling of lust hit David he had the choice to either act upon his feelings or act upon the word of God. "Thou shalt not commit adultery." (Exodus 20:14) He chose to act upon his feelings and suffered the consequences. You and I have a choice to make when we are faced with temptations- are we going to follow our feelings or obey the principles of God's word? "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." (James 1:14)
There are blessings and peace found in basing your life upon the principles of God's word. The principles of God's word help us in our relationships with others- our spouse, children, family, friends. It helps us in the affairs of everyday life- our business dealings, our activities, our responsibilities. The principles show us how to solve our problems, how to handle difficult situations, how to maintain joy in adversity, how to respond to enemies and those who "revile, persecute, and say all manner of evil against us falsely". The principles of God offer us safe boundaries if we will follow their guidelines. Does this mean that nothing bad will ever happen as long as we are putting into practice the principles of God's word? No, in this world we shall have tribulation, and many are the afflictions of the righteous, but when we are faced with them we will know what to do and how to handle them in a way that will bring peace, liberty, and joy even in the midst of the storm, trials, fiery furnace, and impossible situations. That's another difference in facing trials in your feelings/emotions and facing them with the principles of God applied to your life- feelings will shipwreck your boat in the storm; principles will cause you to stay afloat.
Let me share a story about the blessings of basing your life on God's principles instead of your feelings. "And the multitude rose up together against them (Paul and Silas): and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house." (Acts 16:22-32) Talk about the ultimate... "I don't feel like it"- beaten, thrown into prison, in stocks, no first aide for their wounds, unable to lay down. If anyone had a good reason to respond according to their feelings, Paul and Silas did. But did they? Did they murmur and complain? Did they have a pity party? Did they talk of hate and revenge or bitterness towards those who had beaten them and cast them in prison? Or did they respond to their mistreatment according to the principles of God? "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God:" What were the principles that they applied in this situation? "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." (Philippians 4:6) "But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel." (Psalm 22:3) The principles of prayer and praise. They knew that prayer and praise would bring God into the midst of their situation. They knew that complaining would not. We see that the results of living according to the principles instead of their feelings brought great blessings, rewards and benefits. "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7- NIV) Prayer brought peace- peace of heart and peace of mind. They saw the miraculous happen- "And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed." They saw God fight on their behalf. They saw the jailor and all his household saved. Just think what they would have missed if they had been living by their feeling; just think that the jailor and his family may have never been saved; just think what a testimony for the glory of God that never would have happened; just think of the peace that they would have forfeited... if they had not been living their lives based on the principles of God. Just think of all you are missing if you are living your life based on your feelings, and just think of all you could enjoy if you would base your life on God's principles.