What does God’s love look like? How well do we understand God? What should relationships be built upon if they are to last? Dr AR Bernard explored these issues and more at City Harvest Church on May 26 and 27.
By Lalani Hanafi
After a three year hiatus, CHC welcomed back Dr AR Bernard, senior pastor of Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York, on the weekend of May 26 and 27. A long-time friend of the church, Bernard chose to go back to basics with a message on a person’s relationship with God and the four things one needs to be convinced about God.
To be convinced of something is to have conviction, said Bernard. Conviction gives to one’s faith the substance required to wait for something that has not yet materialized. “Faith in God is absolute confidence in God’s wisdom, God’s power, and God’s goodness,” he defined.
Bernard taught that there are four stewardship responsibilities that God gives to every person: time, talents, treasury and relationships. On Judgment Day, these four responsibilities will be what Christians need to answer for.
Of all the four, relationships are the hardest to manage because they require effort, patience and understanding.
“When you have a healthy relationship with God, you walk in peace, strength, and confidence,” he described. “You look at life differently, you deal with stress differently. The whole lens through which you see and understand and make sense of life and yourself, your own identity is different when you have a strong healthy relationship with God.”
The pastor went on to read from John 17:22-23, focusing on verse 23 which says, “and have loved them as You have loved Me.” Bernard gave the context behind this chapter. Jesus knew He was going to the Cross and He was praying for the disciples, people that He was counting on to continue His work. Jesus prayed that the disciples would be fully convinced of God’s love for them.
“How do we know if someone loves us? What does it look like and what does it mean?” Bernard asked the congregation. To answer that, one must first understand four things that are foundational to a healthy relationship with God and with people.
All relationships are based on trust. Trusting someone is having confidence in the character, ability, strength and truth of the person. A person cannot have a healthy relationship with someone they cannot trust. Bernard further explains that “trust is extended to the limit of truth and no more.” Trust is broken when falsehood enters a relationship. Character, ability, strength and credibility, once held together by truth, now come into question and the relationship is undermined.
All relationships have expectations. Unclarified expectations will lead to disappointment in a relationship, when a person does not find what he expects and finds instead what he does not expect. “The degree of disappointment is determined by the reality of the relationship and the ideal you were expecting. The greater the distance between those two things determine the degree of disappointment,” Bernard elaborated. When expectations are not clearly specified, everyone operates on assumptions, which is a dangerous thing to do, he says.
Similarly, the church and its congregation should have certain expectations of each other. “Expectation sets the atmosphere for miracles,” said Bernard. Expectation leads to anticipation which will fuel passion, creativity, and innovation in the relationship. Bernard cautioned that having unmet, un-Biblical expectations of God leads to disappointment in God.
All relationships have intentions. Bernard encouraged the congregation to clarify with each other what outcome is expected from the relationships they have. “If we don’t have a shared outcome, we’re going to be moving in different directions and it’s bound to fail right from the beginning,” he warned.
All relationships have motivations. Bernard specified that there are two motivations in relationships: love or lust. While love is a desire to give, lust is a desire to obtain.
FOUR PILLARS OF A BLESSED LIFE
“The nature of someone is their inherent character that influences and governs their words, thoughts, motives, actions, and attitudes,” defined Bernard. He explained that trusting someone starts from understanding their nature, expectations, intentions, and motivations. God responds out of His nature—in love, with life and light—even in negative situations. And the devil will try to convince people otherwise.
“The battle is in the mind, the battle of your faith. That’s why faith is absolute confidence; you can’t be negotiated out of it, it’s unchangeable and it grows stronger under pressure,” the pastor asserted.
Bernard is working on a new book, due out September. He arrived at its title while in Singapore: Four Pillars Of A Blessed Life. The book covers the four pillars a Christian has to be convinced of to have a blessed life: “God loves you”, “God created you for a purpose”, “God designed you for achievement and fulfillment”, and lastly, “God believes in you”.
Believers must be convinced and unwavering in their knowledge of God’s love for them, or their relationship with God is going to be shaky.
“You can’t build trust if you’re not sure you’re loved,” said the pastor. “Love is the motivation, sets the expectations, and guides the intentions. Love becomes the basis for trust.”
“All it takes is for one person, the right person, to believe in you, and it can change your life,” said Bernard, adding that the understanding that God believes in His people will inspire them to rise up, to achieve, to conquer, to be who they were designed to be, to fulfill their purpose, and live in love, life and light.
Bernard concluded that “once you grasp these four pillars, you will function in this community in a healthy way.” Wars and conflicts begin internally—getting one’s inner life right is key. The life of a Christian is both internal and external: what happens on the inside will translate externally eventually.