January 15, 2020 // by Laura Malone
In my last post, I talked about the benefits of dividing up resolutions into three categories with the purpose of GROWING in overall wellness in 2020. God has created us in three parts – physical, mental and spiritual – so, it makes sense to target all three areas of our being because each one affects the other and today I want to share the only spiritual goal that I believe you and I need for 2020.
Each year my spiritual goals consist of a long list of noble tasks such as waking up early, reading my Bible, journaling and praying before I start my day. Then I set my alarm so I can remember to pray specifically for my husband in the afternoon, and I do my best to have devotional and prayer times with all my kiddos. These are all worthwhile tasks that can help us grow in our faith and help us hear the Holy Spirit guiding us from day to day.
But why is it so hard to do? I struggle. To be honest, as the year goes on, it all becomes a part of my to-do list. When I fail to get it all done, I feel like I’ve let God down. No matter how hard I try, I can’t do it all and out of guilt, I make an extra effort the next day and make more time for God. And then I wonder, how would I feel if my children only interacted with me out of guilt?
I’m realizing even though I’ve had good intentions, this can’t be what God had in mind. What kind of relationship it that? As I write now, I’m remembering Paul’s lament in Romans 7:18b when he says, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”
All We Need Is Love
I’m doing things different this year. Our Creator and Redeemer deserves more than our guilt-ridden, measly efforts to fit him into our schedules. I’ve decided to get to the root of the problem and go straight to the mouth of God to see what He says my goal should be.
Here’s what I’ve found: Jesus never commands us to have a daily spiritual task list, although they can be rewarding and fruitful. Reading back through Jesus’ teachings in Matthew, I wrote down at the top of each section what his main point was. Parable after parable he says our hearts are what he’s interested in. The tasks we accomplish are worthless if our hearts aren’t engaged.
Jesus commands us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind. He called this the first and greatest commandment in Matthew 22:37-38. This is the only spiritual goal we need for 2020. If we GROW in our love for God, all aspects of our relationship with Him will fall into place.
So, if we’re dragging ourselves to our quiet times and can’t remember where we’ve left off the last time we read our Bible, maybe our problem isn’t rooted in our schedule or time management. Maybe the problem is rooted in our lack of love for God. If we truly love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind, above all other things, reading our Bible and continuous prayer will be a natural part of our day because it’s what brings us closer to the One we desire above all other things.
What Does This Love Look Like?
Loving God is a phrase we hear every Sunday in church from the time we’re kids. It sounds so basic and simple. Most of us dismiss the phrase because we’ve checked it off our lists. After all, we wouldn’t be in church if we didn’t love God, right?
But let’s not brush off this command so quickly just because we believe in God, attend church every week and bless our food before we eat. He’s not talking about love in the way we love that movie we just saw, the restaurant we eat at every Friday or even the way we love our family. It’s a love that consumes our entire being – our heart, soul and mind, like nothing else.
So, what does this look like? How do we know if we love God in this way? In his book, Crazy Love, Francis Chan says that when we love like this, “The results are prayer and intimate study of His Word and our motivation changes from guilt to love.” The outward daily tasks we were struggling to keep up with before are now the highlight of our day. We crave that time with the Lord because we know with our whole being that nothing compares to Him.
We know we have this love when we find ourselves in natural conversations with him during the day and longing to read just one more chapter of His Word even though we have to be up early the next morning. We passionately and naturally share God’s love with friends, family and even random people because we see that they need Him and we can’t keep our mouths shut.
The Bible says this is evidence that we truly love God:
- We Love Others – “And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 4:21
- We Obey God – “But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them.” 1 John 2:5
- We Live Like Jesus – “This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6
- We Give – “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” 1 John 3:17
- We Love Jesus – “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.” 1 John 5:1 (emphasis mine)
How Do We Get There?
First, we stop striving and simply stand in awe of Him. When we come face to face with our Maker, we’ll give up anything to follow him. Encountering his holiness and love compels us to love him back with every part of our being. Look at Him. Study Him.
- Scripture – We can’t see Him with our eyes or hear Him with our ears, but we can study Him through the Scriptures. If you want to intimately know someone from history, you can study they’re journals or books they have written. We have God’s journal. 2 Timothy 3:16 says every word of Scripture was God-breathed. If we want to understand what makes Him awesome and worthy of our love, we study the Word. As you read, make a point of asking, “What does this tell me about God’s character? How does this chapter show His love for us?” Read with the specific purpose of discovering Who He is.
- Study Creation – Another way to know someone is to study what they have made. Take time each day throughout the year to stop and notice His creation and ask, “Why would He make this? What does this teach me about Him?” For example, study the wisdom behind His design for the universe, the human body, a spider, the functionality and beauty of water, His intricate artwork on a butterfly or the way plants defy gravity by drinking water from the ground and sending it to their leaves and flowers.
- Worship – Worship occurs any time we give glory to God. The act of worshiping aligns our hearts with what’s true and helps us mentally, physically and spiritually recognize that God is above all things, including us and our circumstances. It’s not something that can only be accomplished while singing songs in the service on Sunday mornings. Stopping to praise God throughout our day keeps our hearts full of thankfulness. Worship can be pointing out His greatness to our children while on a walk. It can be doing the fourth load of laundry with a joyful heart because He’s given us a family to care for. Or it can be sharing His love with a stranger who needs to know God sees her during her difficult time. As we glorify Him, we walk away more aware and amazed at His love for us and it plunges us into a deeper love for Him.
When we take time to stand in awe at the Creator of the world, we see how enormous He is and how small we are. Then we realize that despite our smallness, He chooses to lavish His love on us and be with us.
When Isaiah encounters God in a vision, he cries out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then when God asks who will speak to the people for Him, Isaiah is quick to answer, “Here am I. Send me!” He saw the Lord, was humbled and out of his love for Him, eagerly offered himself to do God’s work.
When Saul saw Jesus in a vision, he was never the same man again. His passion turned from persecuting Christians to being a persecuted Christian. He loved God with all His heart, soul and mind to the point of suffering for Him.
This year, instead of struggling to check off our spiritual to-do lists, let’s just love the Lord with our whole being. Let’s GROW in our knowledge of Him. Let’s discover His power, perfection, awesomeness, compassion, creativity, beauty, wisdom, knowledge and incomprehensible love for us so our hearts, souls and minds will be forever changed. May we be consumed with love for the One who knew us before we were created and chose to die for us before we loved Him.