This blog is Part One of my next four blogs on four simple rules of life that summarize for me what it means to make God look good and be a serious follower of Jesus. (Reference my blog of April 21, Following Jesus Made Simple, introducing this subject). And, here’s the first rule:
Love God Enough to Trust Yourself to Him.
Like you, I’ve probably told God I love him and have sung it ten thousand times, but when it gets right down to it – what does loving God actually mean?
It’s quite natural that in thinking about loving God, our minds would automatically go to worship and specifically to worship in church. It’s the place and the way we’re most accustomed to “loving God.” When we join with other lovers of God in singing praises, prayer and hearing from God in a sermon or message we are loving God and he loves it when we do.
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God.” Psalm 100:1-2
I don’t know about you, but I feel guilty sometimes because I don’t always feel as emotional about loving God or Jesus as other Christians seem to be. The warm, joyous, tearful feelings I experience most often come when I’m singing praise choruses, listening to the testimony of a new believer, in times of personal prayer or when some new revelation from God or about God, washes over me. But those don’t happen every day or even every week, to me.
And, I can’t, by an act of my will, just conjure up these feelings and make them happen. I love it when I’m surprised by joy – I just can’t surprise myself into joy. I now think of these moments simply as a wondrous gift from God to encourage me to press on and as his way of reminding me that I’m his beloved.
But in between these mountain top experiences are there other ways we can demonstrate to God and others our love for him? Is it really possible to love God when our hearts are heavy and fear, not faith, grip us?
Abba, Father God is our spiritual father. That’s how Jesus taught us to refer to him and think of him. Jesus gave us that imagery for a reason. In fact, both Paul and he used the word “Abba”, a term of endearment used by children for their father – daddy. So, years ago I began thinking about the times I felt most loved and honored by my children, other than birthdays and Father’s Day – on ordinary days. I believe there are at least four ways God similarly feels loved and honored by his children.
1. Speak respectfully to God and about God to others.
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me? Says the Lord Almighty…” Malachi 1:6a
When my children speak respectfully to me and about me to others, I’m tempted to turn to my friends and say, “Did you hear that? Did you hear the tenderness and respect in their voice? You know, they didn’t have to say that! But they did.”
When you’re with your friends, do you speak respectfully and personally about God and Jesus? I’m not talking about discussing church or the sermon. Do your friends see a tear in your eye occasionally when you talk tenderly of your love for Jesus? No using his name in a way that diminishes his majesty – just for a cheap laugh or to make a forceful point. No St. Peter at the pearly gates jokes, referring to him as “the man upstairs” or thoughtlessly invoking his name at civic gatherings to bless your food and country like he’s a spiritual rabbit’s foot.
Likewise, I can imagine God upon hearing us speak respectfully and tenderly to him and about him to others, turning to the angels and the saints, “Did you hear that? Did you hear how much they love me and how proud they are of me? Those are my children!” Do you really revere God and do your friends know you do?
2. Show God you love him by trusting him.
“This is love for God: to obey his commands.” I John 5:3a
When our children were small, they had chores. As kids they couldn’t possibly understand how their thousands of simple acts of obedience contributed to the orderly management of our large household. And, it wasn’t important for them to always know that. They just needed to trust us and do what we asked.
So, one time I asked my son, who was about twelve at the time to do something for me, fully expecting to hear the favorite question of children and the least favorite of parents, the big “why?”. But, to my surprise he simply did it. Ironically, it was the kind of request that ought to have raised the why? question, because the reason for my request wasn’t terribly obvious. But, he just did it – no questions asked.
However, almost every time I hear Christians speak of someone “trusting Christ” what they almost always mean is that someone became a Christian, or they were “trusting Christ” to deliver them from some problem they couldn’t solve on their own. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone say, “She trusted Christ enough to forgive her father”, or “He trusted Christ enough to fix the neighbor’s roof even when he needed a paying job himself.” Of course, we trust Christ for salvation and every other time we believe him enough to do what he asks without ever completely understanding why.
When our daughter, Betsy, was small I put her on a high wall and told her to jump. Most of our children had to be assured repeatedly before they’d take that leap of faith. But, Betsy dove so quickly I barely managed to catch her. Her trust showed me how much she really loved me. So, it is with God.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5
3. Be thankful to him for salvation.
“But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Whatever else you and I have to thank God for pales to insignificance compared to the love of the Father and the Son for humans, expressed most profoundly on the cross. It’s in this unimaginable act of love that my asking you to think of God as you might your earthly father is the least applicable. There is no father like this father – our Father and his Son. Jesus didn’t just die for his friends, his family or for good people. He died for those of us who hated him, were indifferent to him. The world’s shortest book has to be, People Beyond the Forgiveness of God. If you still think your name’s still in that book, please get your hands on a modern language Bible and read the whole Book of John. By all means ask a Christian friend to help guide you or go to my website and let us introduce you to the great forgiver and your divine lover.
4. Be thankful to him for everything else.
I think our Father’s ears tingle when his children are grateful even when life is junk at the moment – maybe especially when life is junk!
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18
I believe it is just this kind of childlike love, this humble trust in the face of chaos and confusion that makes God so proud he actually brags about it to the angels. “See that? That’s my child! She’s expressing gratitude, not for what she’s hoping I give to her, but for whom she knows I am. Isn’t that wonderful?” It’s what God uses to rebuke Satan and his demons with. This is at least part of what I think Paul means when he writes that it was Jesus’ intent that through the church (you and me), “the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities (Satan and his demons) in the heavenly realms…” (Eph 3:10).
I’ve heard it said that gratitude is the mother of all virtues. When we take time to thank God for the little things in life – it deflates our covetous, selfish hearts. I’ve found that the more thankful I am, the more content I am. The amazing thing about thanking God or anyone for that matter is that both parties are blessed. In today’s jargon, it’s a win-win. God loves a grateful heart!
Love God Enough to trust Yourself to Him Completely.
Following Jesus in Real Life