What is strong enough to change our priorities?
In the early 1900’s Mrs. Charles E. Cowman wrote a line in one of her poems which has arrested this particular reader of Streams in the Desert, words which have pierced, purified, and propelled me to rearrange my priorities: “He has taught us to yield up the love of life, For the sake of the life of Love.”
What exactly is “the love of life”? What does it look like for each of us? For one, it might involve traveling to as many places as possible during this short time on earth, learning firsthand the culture, customs, cuisine, and even the language of different people groups. Another could be enamored of adventure and high-risk living – e.g. sky-diving, helio-skiing, sailing solo around the world. Other “loves” in life could be sports, music, in-depth studies, family, and countless other things. Indeed, the Lord “richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for [our] enjoyment.” (I Tim.6:17b, Ampl). Likewise we are promised in Romans 8:32, “He who spared not His own Son but freely gave Him up for us all, will He not also together with Him freely give us all things.” BUT … there is a certain and strong motivation that prevents us from taking these words and slipping (or jumping!) into a life of self-pleasing hedonism. This constraining force is His Love for us.
“the Love Christ has for me …”
Kenneth Wuest, in II Corinthians 5:14, captures what I believe is the number one priority in a believer’s life; and once it is in place, and we are established in it, we can be truly abandoned to the Lord and to His priorities, and we can live a life of Love: “For the Love which Christ has [for me] presses on me from all sides, holding me to one end and prohibiting me from considering any other, wrapping itself around me in tenderness, giving me an impelling motive, having brought me to this conclusion, namely, that One died on behalf of all, therefore all died, … and that He also died on behalf of all in order that those who are living no longer are living for themselves but for the One Who died on their behalf … “.
Unless we know and believe the Love that God cherishes for us (I John 4:16, Ampl), we will get stuck in “the love of life” and live to please or satisfy ourselves. The Lord did not say that the world will recognize that we belong to Him and that we are His disciples by how much we love life, but rather by how we love each other (John 13:35). But before we can truly love one another we must first receive and be rooted and grounded in His Love for us. Only in being persuaded of this Love for us can we follow the example of the Lord Jesus Himself, Who “came not to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give HIs life a ransom for many.” (Matt.20:28)
How do we know His Love?
The Cross is the clearest manifestation and proof of His Love for us: “By this we know Love, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (I John 3:16) Here is God’s order again: We love Him – and others – because we are persuaded that He first loved us. There are remarkable accounts of believers who exemplify this verse.
Moses, for example, chose “by faith … rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproaches of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, for he looked to the reward.” (He.11:25, 26)
Esther, I believe, saw the Love of God for His – and her – people in Mordecai, who asked her to risk here life to save them all from being annihilated through Haman’s evil scheme. Somehow that Same Love got ahold of her as well, and she became willing to lose her life if need be for the sake of her – and God’s – people. Both Moses and Esther, and many others in the Old and New Testaments, exemplify Jim Elliot’s famous declaration: “He is no fool who loses what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.”
“Hide not yourself from your own flesh and blood”
Being fully persuaded of His Love for us will constrain us to respond to go to where and to whom He has called us. Click To Tweet
In Isaiah 58:6-13 we read a clear, detailed encouraging description of those who choose the “fast” that the Lord has chosen. It is worth not only reading and re-reading, but also spending time meditating upon it and even committing it to memory. In verse 7, the Lord implores us to not hide ourselves from the needs of our own flesh and blood. We are reminded reading this command that we are indeed of His Body, flesh, bones and blood as well as members one of another (I Cor.6:16; Eph.425). Love will keep us from hiding from the needs of others, pretending we don’t see them, or persuading ourselves that we just aren’t equipped to help. Being fully persuaded of His Love for us will constrain us to respond to go to where and to whom He has called us, confident that He will indeed provide all that we need.
May our love abound yet more and more!
Matthew 24:12 makes us shudder, because we see this rampant already in the world: “Because iniquity will abound, the love of many will wax cold …”. If we get stuck in just loving life, our love for the Lord, others, and for what really matters to the Lord will wax cold, and therefore, our faith will weaken (Luke 18:8) because faith works by Love (Gal.5:6). But we don’t have to get stuck in self-pleasing lives! Let’s pray the Apostle Paul’s prayer for the Philippian believers and trust the Lord to do this for us: ” … that your love may abound yet more and more and extend to its fullest development in knowledge and all keen insight … , so that you may surely learn to sense what is vital, and … prize what is excellent and of real value …” (Phil.1:9,10a) – in other words, a life of Love.