Loving Jesus

“When you fall in love with someone, you do things you don’t want to do.”

When I heard that comment, it didn’t take me long to think of an experience of doing just that – something I didn’t want to do but did because I love my husband.  He needed his pants fixed, and it was going to involve using the sewing machine.  This might not seem like a big deal to you, but it was to me.  My mom majored in Home Economics in college but, unfortunately for me, my sister got all the craft/sewing genes from her.  So thanks to Mom I knew what to do, and I had a nice sewing machine to do it.  But it is excruciating for me to sew. sewing pic 1

But I love my husband dearly.  And I knew he needed me to do this to help him.  And I knew I could do it – it would just be an experience that would challenge my patience in a way that few things do.  So I determined to do this out of my love for him.  I prayed and asked God to give me patience, to help me not get frustrated and angry.  I resolved to not complain one bit to my husband about doing this for him.  (Although I will confess that I called my mother a couple of times when he was out of earshot!)  And although it took much longer than it would have taken my mom to do it, I did it and it looked OK.

The statement above about love, however, wasn’t made about marriage.  I was meeting with a church planter and his wife, and we were talking about discipleship.  This was his statement about being a disciple of Jesus.  I love it.

Jesus never said following Him would be all about what we want and like.  In Matthew 16:24-25, He says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.   For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”  That is utter surrender to whatever He calls us to do, whether we like it or not.  But it is surrender with a promise – a promise that we will find life.  It’s a promise we can be confident of as we follow Him because of His character.  We know that He loves us, that He is committed to His glory and that His glory is inextricably linked to our good, that He is all-knowing and all-powerful so He knows what is best for us and can accomplish it, and much more.  It’s an incredible promise, one Jesus compared to finding a treasure in a field and joyfully going and selling all you have so you can buy the field and have the treasure (Matthew 13:44).

When following Jesus means doing things we don’t like and don’t want to do, it’s easier when we remember His promises and His character and His love for us.  And it’s easier when we love Him.

That conversation made me think about what things Jesus might be calling me to do that I don’t want to do.  Forgive someone who’s wronged me?  Share the gospel with someone even though I’m scared to initiate with them?  Give of my money or possessions or my time when I want to hold onto them?  Be honest with someone about sin I see in their lives?  Take a stand for the right, moral thing even though I may pay a price for doing so?

Will I do what He wants me to do even if I don’t like it?  If not, how much do I love Him?  I mean really love Him?

It was a new way to think about obedience that I really like.  I tend to relate to God far too much as Master/Servant.  He is the Master, and I do what He says because there are consequences for sin that I want to avoid and because I want to please Him.  But I am also His bride and He is my Bridegroom, and He also wants me to follow Him because I love Him.  “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word,” (John 14:23).

My love for my husband led me to do something hard and difficult with the best attitude I could muster in the power of the Holy Spirit.  I pray that my love for Jesus will keep growing and will always lead me to do the same.

Perseverance Awards

The 2014 ESPYS - ShowOne night last July, my husband was flipping channels and landed on the ESPYs on ESPN.  It happened to be just as they were honoring one of their Sportscenter anchors, Stuart Scott.  I was thankful to not miss this important moment.  I graduated from high school and college with Stuart and have been following his battle with a rare form of cancer.  It was first found seven years ago but has come back twice, and he is currently still fighting for his life, mainly to still be here for his two daughters.  In recognition of the inspiration he has been to others in the way he has endured over the last seven years, he was given the Jimmy V Perseverance Award.  If you aren’t familiar with the story, Jimmy V was the coach of the NC State basketball team when they won the national championship in 1983 and also battled cancer in a way that was inspirational to thousands of people.  Part of his legacy is a foundation that raises money for cancer research.

As I was going to bed that night, I was thinking about Stuart and his life.  And then it occurred to me that God also gives a Perseverance Award.  It is called The Crown of Life.  James talks about it in James 1:12: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

The Christian life is one of perseverance.  Of following the Lord to the end, even when things are hard and confusing and you don’t understand what God is doing.  Of following God to the end even when temptations arise to turn and follow the world after money and sex and power and more.  Paul describes it as a race.  “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win.  And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.  They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”  I Cor. 9:24-27

There are lots of motivators to keep running our Christian race to the end, but these men pointed to the motivator of eternity – of eternal life.  I love the definition of the word “life” as used in James 1:12.  The word is “zoe” and the lexicon in my Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible defines it this way:  “Referring to the principle of life in the spirit and soul.  Distinguished from ‘bios’, physical life, livelihood, of which ‘zoe’ is the nobler word, expressing all of the highest and best which Christ is and which He gives to the saints.  The highest blessedness of the creature.”  You can’t find a better Perseverance Award than that!

I have another friend who received a Perseverance Award.  His name is John Roper, and he was one of the leaders in Campus Crusade for Christ when we were at the University of North Carolina.  He was a couple of years older than I am and was someone I looked up to and respected.  John received his Perseverance Award from Jesus in March of 2007.  Here is how his family described him in his obituary:

“Christ was the centerpiece of John’s life. While he enjoyed many accomplishments, the hallmark of his character was a devotion to his Savior. The light of Jesus shined through his love to his wife, daughter, parents, siblings, friends and colleagues, so brightly that it could not have been missed. John was by the world’s standard talented, successful and accomplished, yet his joy was born out of dedicating his time, talents and treasure for the glory of God’s kingdom. His family and friends take great joy in knowing Jesus met John at the gates of heaven saying, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master’.” 

John finished his race well, with perseverance, following Jesus with his whole heart to the very end.  I want to do the same.

When life is difficult and it is tempting to stop trusting and following God; when the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil come to pull you away from following Christ;  keep your eye on the prize.  There is so much more ahead – more blessings than we can ever imagine.  And it is worth it.  Amazingly, God is so gracious that He provides incredible blessings on this earth, too, as we persevere and follow Him.

It is worth it.  It is worth it.  It is so worth it.  May we all finish well and receive Perseverance Awards from Him one day.