On page 97 of his wonderful (and convicting) book Crazy Love, Francis Chan writes the following:
Hear me clearly in this, because it is vital – in fact, there is nothing more important or eternal: Are you willing to say to God that He can have whatever He wants? Do you believe that wholehearted commitment to Him is more important than any other thing or person in your life? Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people He made?
The quote closes out a chapter entitled “Serving Leftovers to a Holy God” which builds upon Chan’s premise that too many people in the Church (especially the American Church) are lukewarm and not giving God their all. I must admit that I was immediately convicted upon reading it. Chan accurately paints a picture of those who, in spite of their material possessions, are poor spiritually. He explains:
Because we don’t usually have to depend on God for food. money to buy or next meal, or shelter, we don’t feel needy. In fact, we generally think of ourselves as fairly independent and capable. Even if we aren’t rich, we are “doing just fine.” (p. 89)
I can honestly say that there have been times in my life when I lived with that exact mindset. I had a good job, a nice car, a good place to live and plenty to eat…what did I need God for? On top of that I had blindly convinced myself that I had achieved all of those things on my own, through hard work and determination. I believed in God and payed Him lip service in church on Sunday morning and I thought that was perfectly acceptable. I had forgotten Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33 when he told us to seek the kingdom of God first, and all of our needs will be met. When we do not struggle to meet those needs we often (falsely) assume that we no longer need Jesus.
In a recent Twitter post, preacher (and author) Timothy Keller stated: You don’t realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.
In the not-so-distant past, God humbled me and broke me to the point where I can now see the truth in Keller’s words. I spent so much of my time chasing after the things that the world told me that I should want, even when I really did not want many of them in the first place. Even after making the decision to go to Bible College and pursue the preaching ministry as a career, I can’t say that I was truly putting God’s kingdom before my own selfish (and foolish) desires. I learned quickly that not every one in ministry is doing it for the right reasons. Although few people become wealthy through preaching, many do achieve a certain level of success and job security. That is what I sought for myself. The salvation of the lost was a secondary goal. As horrible as it sounds, even when I was seeking to do kingdom work I was still approaching it from a worldly point of view. God quickly changed that.
So here I am now…Francis Chan’s words STILL ringing in my ears. The same struggle still occurs in my mind. What is my motivation? What is my goal? Why do I want to preach? In the past I would have had many different answers to those questions. I don’t sit here and pretend to be perfect this morning. I still have to rely on the Spirit to fight that internal battle for me. As the title of the blog says…without Him…I am nothing. In 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul gives us his famous definition of love. He begins by listing amazing things that people can do for the body of Christ. However, he makes it clear that they are meaningless without love. Jesus, when challenged by the religious leaders of the day, summed up the entire Law of God in two simple commands: Love God and Love People.
That has become my motivation. As I prepare to start a new phase in my life I want to remember those two commands…daily. I don’t care if I am the best preacher ever (I do want to be good) and I don’t care if I pastor the largest church in America (I do want it to be healthy and growing). I want everything I say and do to be motivated by love because honestly…nothing else matters.