To Ponder with Prayer

When a new year begins, it seems like a natural time to make evaluations about the past year and plan changes for the new one, which many people do. Followers of Christ, of course, are evaluating their lives much more frequently than once every twelve months. Still, there is something special about the start of a new year. So as 2010 begins, I would like to suggest that we reflect on getting “back to the basics.” I’m speaking, in fact, of the most basic of the basics. If we focus on that one thing, our spiritual lives become much less complicated, and everything else falls into place. That most basic thing is, of course, loving God.

Below are seven short thoughts to prayerfully ponder about loving God. I recommend taking them slowly, one at a time, with some pause for reflection. Or better, focus on just one each day for the next seven days during your daily prayer time.

Amazingly, God loved us when we were His enemies. He patiently and mercifully wooed and drew us, ultimately capturing us with His love. He then adopted us into His family, and we were born of the Spirit. All of this was not without great cost to Him. We have been bought with a very high price, the blood of Christ. Who else has loved us to that degree? God deserves to be loved supremely, more than all others whom we love. Jesus declared, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37).

Do I love Him more than anyone else? Others likely know, by observation, if I love my children or grandchildren. Do they know, by observation, that I love God supremely above all others?

We all know that, according to Jesus, the foremost commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). Those four words, heart, soul, mind and strength, encapsulate everything we are, which must be why God strung them together in His foremost commandment. God commands us to love Him with our entire beings. He expects nothing less.

Can I say, honestly, that I love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength? Is that love reflected in what I do with my time, talents and treasures?

Those four conjoined words contained in the foremost commandment—heart, soul, mind and strength—call into question the idea that I can love God with my heart but not with my actions, that is, my “strength.” When I excuse my actions by saying, “Well, God knows my heart,” I am fooling myself. My actions reveal my heart.

We can, and should, evaluate our love for God by our actions. God evaluates our love for Him by our actions (see Deut. 13:3). Jesus told us that if we love Him, there will be action. We will keep His commandments (see John 14:15).

Do my actions testify of my love for God? Am I obeying Jesus’ commandments, reflecting my love for Him?

If there is a single, simple explanation for what is wrong with the world, it is: God is not loved as He should be loved. Consequently, God is not obeyed as He should be obeyed.

If there is a single, simple explanation for what is wrong with any of us who believe, it is: God is not loved as He should be loved. Consequently, God is not obeyed as He should be obeyed.

What holds anyone back from loving God as He should be loved? If there is a single, simple answer to that question, it is: There are other things that we love that usurp God’s rightful place in our hearts. There is no shortage of potential lovers lurking around, baiting unbelievers and believers alike for a cheap and temporal relationship. They are lovers with names such as “the things of this world,” “the approval of men,” “self,” and “money”:

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15).

They loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God (John 12:43).

For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Tim. 3:2-4, emphasis added).

Notice that the Bible pits all of these against the love of God. If I love the things of this world, the approval of others, myself, or money, I give to other lovers what only God deserves. I am an idolater. Scripture makes that clear. There is really no middle ground on these things.

Does my daily life reveal a fondness for other lovers?

It seems that when people who are striving to please God are always miserable, they either don’t understand what true holiness is, or they are probably obeying God for the wrong reason, a reason other than love for Him. Holiness that is motivated by something other than love can be drudgery. Serving out of love brings joy. What a difference it makes to obey God because you love Him.

Am I serving the Lord with gladness?

Like any relationship, a relationship with God that begins with sincere and devoted love can slowly grow cold. It happened at Ephesus. The initial revival there was white hot with passion. New converts were publicly burning magic books, a declaration of their devotion to Christ (see Acts 19:18-20). But a few decades later, Jesus told them, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4). It was like a dying marriage in which former lovers had become nothing more than housemates. What should the Ephesians do? Jesus told them: “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first” (Rev. 2:5). Praise God that there was mercy offered, as well as a new chance to start over. But repentance was the first step. It always is.

Was there previously more passion in my walk with God? Have I left my first love?

The truth is, we are all just as close to the Lord as we want to be. The Word says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). How close do I want to be to the Lord? The answer is: Just as close as I am right now.

You may have heard the story about the elderly farmer’s wife who let out a big sigh as she and her husband stared at a couple in the pickup truck ahead of theirs while waiting at a stoplight. “Remember when we used to sit that close together wherever we went?” she asked her husband. He dryly replied, “I never moved.”

Have I moved? Was I at one time closer to God?

May 2010 be a year that you continually draw nearer to the One who loves you like no other.

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