We live in a "What's in it for me?"-world. Our decision making is based on "how does it make me feel?" We look to satisfy our needs, and as long as we are ok, well that's a good start.
As Christians, it seems our faith is often manipulated the same way. Our prayers are based on what we think is best for us and our situation, and our assessment of answered prayer on how it has benefited us. I'm not sure that this is correct thinking.
The Greatest Commandment
When Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees with the question: "Which is the greatest commandment?" in Matthew 22: 37 Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind."
He added to this that second most important commandment was (vs39) :"love your neighbour as yourself".
The response Jesus gave was not at all what the Pharisees expected, and it left their arguments dead in their tracks.
See, I like to think that the Pharisees were looking at a legal-if you don’t do it you will go to hell- kind of greatest commandment, whereas Jesus was talking about the most awesome, lose out if you miss it- greatest benefit to those who live it-kind of commandment.
God-thinking turns World-thinking totally on its head. Sometimes embarrassingly so. God-thinking is so at odds with what society teaches and yet it works. Society says: "Look out for number one; if it feels good do it; you deserve this; pamper yourself; you will feel great if..." God wants us to be Christ-centred, others-focussed, totally selfless. He wants us to focus our love on Him. Love God.
What's in it for me?
This is one of the most selfish, self centred statements ever to pass the lips of men. The conditional premise of doing anything in the community of Christ is often perceived as "if I do this thing, I will get ...in return".
Giving is the perfect example. Jesus said in Luke 6:38; "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
Most people I know (including me) have used this as the secret formula for wealth. I guess in a way it is, but not in the context that we would like it to be. Investing into the Kingdom of God is important. The question is: am I giving to get or am I giving to give?
We need to turn our thinking around and focus on our total motivation for anything we do in life:
I work and in return I get paid. I give to God of my time, talent and finances because I love Him. I know that He is not only able, but also true to His word in looking after me. My attitude to God is relational, one of faith and trust, not a business deal. We cannot out-give God, so don't try. Give out of relational response, because you love Him.
When I think of my relationship with God, I often compare it to my relationship with my own children. I am motivated by my love for them and respond to their relationship with me. When one of them comes to me with open arms and hugs me and tells me they love me, I just want to bless them. (What can I do for you, how can I bless you?) Their love for me invokes an even greater response of love back. I think in a way that this is how it is with God; we obey his commandments because we honour, love and respect our Heavenly Father and He in return blesses us with answered prayer, provision, peace and His presence.
God’s love for us is manifest all around us. His promises of supply, protection, care, guidance and companionship, are littered generously throughout scripture.
Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat? ’ or ‘What shall we drink? ’ or ‘What shall we wear? ’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."
Surrender & Submission
Loving God is about surrender and submission. I like to think of it this way: When 2 armies are at war, and one surrenders to the other (white flag and all that stuff), normally it is the capturing victorious army that dictates the terms of the surrender. Funny thing about Christianity is we want to do all the surrendering on our own terms: “Well, God, I will give you these parts of my life, but I am going to hang on to this one...” That doesn’t work. Never has, never will. God wants total surrender, not a partial one. Why? Well, for starters, Jesus was willing to give everything He had and everything He was up for you and me. He set the standard of total surrender when He went to the cross. I really think in His own flesh He had some serious reservations about the whole suffering and dying thing. In the garden of Gethsemane He prayed: ... “Let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.”(Matt 26:39) But He was driven to total Surrender to God’s will by His total love for you and me! The other reason I believe God wants all of us in Surrender to Him is because only He knows the plans He has for us, “plans for good and not for evil, to give you a hope and a future” (Jer 29:11), and He can’t bring that to pass if He doesn’t have our total, confident, submitted trust.
2 Chronicles 15:2
“And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him: “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.”
When we walk away from God, we leave Him virtually powerless to work in our lives.
I am realising more and more that relationship is the key to life. When I have great relationship with my wife, things go really well for us. When I focus on doing my own thing, and put her second, our relationship suffers. It is no different in Christianity. God longs for relationship with us. He is looking for ways to bless us. When we stop loving God to pursue other things, we stop His ability to bless. It is like cutting off the line of supply. We are not wired like that. God made us for relationship with Him. Love Him. Today!
Have a great week!