Lavish is an incredibly rich word. It means “over the top, more than you could imagine”—like when we read, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1, NIV).

No matter how great we are, we do not naturally deserve to be called sons and daughters of God. Even if we achieved academic honors in school, the highest promotions in our jobs and every other qualification this world could possibly offer, we would never merit such a gift. Only His free and lavish love gives us the most beautiful title of all—not doctor, not lawyer, not apostle, but son or daughter.

We are the family God went out and found. He was so determined to call us sons and daughters that He suffered on a cross and died. Jesus and His Father are one. Whatever Jesus does, the Father does. They act together, and the cross expresses the unity of their love for us. Jesus died so we could be brothers and sisters to one another. Before that, we could not be one family.

I have been beaten up, shot at and lied about. People have even tried to strangle me. I am not afraid. To this day I can walk boldly into gangs of armed thugs and tell them to stop in the name of Jesus. I expect them to drop their knives. Generally they turn surprisingly nice. Sometimes they look at me and apologize.

Where did this confidence come from? It came from knowing the Father loves me. Because I truly know that I am loved, I am not afraid.

God wants your ministry to flow from the realization that you are a beloved child of God. In that place you don’t worry too much about how people see you. You don’t worry too much about whether they are nice or mean. You don’t even worry about whether they love you or hate you. You don’t worry because you’re simply going to love them and love Him. This comes from knowing who He is and what He thinks of you. This is what it means to grasp you are a child of God.

But what if we make messy mistakes? What if it turns out we are still flawed people who can be difficult to get along with? Will He keep on loving us then?

We have taken in thousands of children to live with us over the years; one of them was a particular rascal. If he could find something wrong to do, he would do it. I asked God what to do about this one. God told me to love him. I sensed the Lord saying He wanted me to give him some time and pray every day for him. So that is what I and the other caretakers did. For a long time we could see no progress. Despite everything, this boy was always very charismatic, and after a while he managed to move to the United Kingdom.

Recently, when I was speaking in the U.K., I saw this spiritual son again. At once I was startled to see how powerfully the presence of God was resting on him. When he came up to me, he started shaking and weeping in my arms. In broken English he said, “Thank you, Mama. For not stop loving me.”

Our joy in this son was not so much in seeing him graduate from school, though we were very happy when he did. Our joy was seeing him filled with the presence of God. Our joy was seeing him come home to the Father’s house and step into the spirit of adoption.

That boy—now a man—knows who he is. He is a son. He knows better than most that God loves him no matter how many times he might have lied, stolen, beaten up innocents or committed adultery. He is loved because of the incredible grace of God that comes down to call each of us sons and daughters. None of us deserve it. We simply have it.

Your heavenly Father loves you the same way. He wants you, no matter what you do or how you fail. This is the love He spoke over us when He sent His Son. It is what Jesus poured out of the cross. It is the thing the church must demonstrate to the world. Love so lavish can never die.

Because of this love, we have become children of God. Even if we do not yet believe it, this is what we truly are (1 John 3:1). We have had children who, for the longest time, would not believe they are truly loved. This particular son had been with us for 14 years before he actually got it. That is a lot of waiting and a lot of pain. If the Holy Spirit ever touches people in such a way that they realize they are sons or daughters instantly, we ought to celebrate it as a mighty miracle—because sometimes it takes 14 years.

You are a son or a daughter right now—today. Your real identity is in this truth. It doesn’t matter what people do or do not call you. It doesn’t matter where you do or do not sit. You are a son. You are a daughter. There is no more precious position to which you might ever aspire.

To be a son or daughter of God also means you are royalty. This is the greatest of privileges, but it is also an awesome responsibility. If you are truly thankful to God and want to please Him with all your heart, you must do more than just recognize your own authority. You must use it. He asks you to give love as freely as you have received it—not just to those who deserve it but also to everyone He puts in front of you.