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You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV https://my.bible.com/bible/59/DEU.6.5.ESV
How do we know whether we’ve loved God with everything we have? It seems impossible. How do we know if we’re doing enough? This verse gives me a lot of anxiety because I don’t know how to measure “all.” What if I can’t?
The bible.com video for today, once again, really hit me. Maybe I’m going to be saying that a lot, I don’t know. But it’s something that I’ve been praying about over the last few months in particular, because my “all” hasn’t always been much. And when I do think about giving “all,” it sounds nuts. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t worry so much about money anymore, but I was talking to a mentor from my church last night about how far I’d been willing to go. “I want to have an open hand and trust God to fill it with what I need every day,” I told them. “But not, like, go live in the desert and literally expect God to send bread from the sky. Or go on a mission and for real not even take an extra sandal strap.” Because that would be insane, right? Terrifying, even to think about it. Nope, I’m good where I am, right here. God makes me uncomfortable almost every day, and I can say that I’m doing something.
But the question in the devotional brought everything back to Abraham: despite everything (the lying, the cheating, trying to go his own way at times) Abraham was still willing to do what God commanded and give up the one thing he’d prayed for and agonized over and been promised over and over by God: Isaac. This is one of the many places where I realize how dark and disturbing the Bible really is, and where I have to really lean into God as I wonder what on EARTH is going on. Why would God ask anyone to burn a child on an alter? How could a good and loving God ever ask that? Even if it did end up being a fake-out, that is so messed up.
So the question is: What would I be hard-pressed to give up, if God asked me to?
The list goes on, actually. I wouldn’t want to give up my mind, like King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4. I use my mind for everything, and despite it’s problems, I actually quite like it. I have a deep fear of getting Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia one day.
I wouldn’t want to give up my reputation, like Isaiah when God asked him to go around naked for three years. There’s no way I’d be allowed into my favorite snack places like that, and honestly, it’s cold up here in Canada.
And as much as I have dreams and visions of grandeur of becoming one of those at the throne at the end of time who gave up their life for God, if someone was pointing a gun at me and telling me to renounce God or die, I can’t honestly say what I would do. I’d rather do that than go around naked or lose my mind, so that one is more in the realm of possibility. But if someone who actually walked with Jesus couldn’t even do it, who am I to say that there aren’t rooster crows in my future?
But what if the gun was pointed at someone else, or even my smallish fiend? What I was told to renounce God, or give him up? How could I possibly allow my son to die, just for a handful of words? If what I do puts my son at risk, I can’t say that I wouldn’t stop. I just don’t know. I pray that it never happens, but I know it happens to persecuted Christians every day.
And again, the list goes on. Read the books of Hosea, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Acts. It’s filled with people doing mad bonkers things for God, with no guarantee that they won’t be killed or seriously injured for it again. So giving my “all” doesn’t seem that appealing, all the time.
This has been my biggest barrier to really giving my life to Christ for a long time. There were so many things that I didn’t want to give up, and I didn’t want God to ask things of me, because I knew I’d feel guilty for not wanting to do it, and would likely outright refuse. Yet at the same time, I feel guilty for not doing enough, for not being good enough, and for feeling like a fraud all the time. This is where I was at last year, and a time in May really sticks in my life. I was recovering from my first overdose. During that time, I did nothing. Well, not nothing, obviously, but not much. Not anything that I was previously so convinced was what gave me value. I didn’t work. I didn’t have my son. I didn’t read the Bible, and there were days I didn’t sleep or eat. I didn’t leave my house, not even to get the mail. I barely talked to anyone, and I didn’t even get out of bed sometimes, for days. I watched YouTube and Netflix, and I worked on A Saviour’s Path. I did all the things that made me feel so guilty for so long, but more than that, I rested. After years of hustling and feeling like I was behind all the time, I did nothing for a while, because I had nothing left to give.
And I’ve never felt closer to God. I never felt more loved, or treasured. In a way, I was like Nebuchadnezzar, though it was a Ritz Carlton version of his version. But there was nothing, not even Scripture, and the message I heard was that God loves me for me, not for what I can do for Him. I am almost crying now, thinking about it. If everything I’m trying to do fails, and at the end of the day I’m left homeless, friendless, jobless, and penniless, with nothing to show for my efforts, I hope I can remember that time and that God loves me anyway. I hope I can remember it even while I do have a home, friends, a job (sort of) and a handful of pennies. God spent a lot of time last year dismantling everything I had been leaning on and drawing strength and identity from. Although it was through my own actions, He smashed up my life to show me what was really inside. Even when things fall completely apart, I want to trust God to put the pieces back together.
In Our Daily Bread, the Quote of the day was:
The Pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.Jeremiah 18.4
The take away was that instead of, “You break it, you buy it,” God sees it as, “If you break it, we’ll make it into something better.” I’d like to say that it’s both. God wants to buy our brokenness. It’s already been paid for. He gives us His wholeness, for free, if we can trade in the shattered pieces we’ve been holding onto for so long. In the New Testament reading, we got to see Jesus feed thousands of people for the second time with only a few loaves and fishes, without even a Costco card. How? How is that even possible?
If I was ever on fence before, say no more: if there’s free snacks, I’ll follow God anywhere.
And in the Old testament, we see good ole Pharaoh up to his antics. Unlike the Egyptian King of Joseph’s time, who was shaken by the dream of the famine and decided to listen to God, or even Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia centuries later, who had to go through a lot before he turned to God, it seems that there’s nothing Pharaoh won’t give up to get what he wants: namely, keeping the Israelites and not having to admit that he was wrong. And yes, he was even willing to give up his son, and the sons of those who was supposed to be leading. God was dismantling his life, but nothing was going to keep him from going down with the ship and taking everyone else down with him.
To have the steadfast faith of Pharaoh! Maybe he was on to something. He’s like a dark counterpart to Job, who also systematically lost everything. Imagine if Pharaoh had gone the way of Saul to Paul: Apostle Paul was once so zealously against God, then turned and put all that passion into following God. What if, instead, Pharaoh had put that stubbornness into doing what was right, no matter what Satan threw at him? What if we take that determination to go down with God – even to be buried with him, if necessary?
Because unlike when we put all we have into our own plans and ideas, when we give what we have to God, He doesn’t let it go to waste. The more of the broken pieces of our pot we give to Him, the more he has to work with. The more of our addiction, greed, pride, anger, heartbreak, and stubbornness we give to Him, the more He builds with it. We might go down with the ship, but just like in “At World’s End” when Jack Sparrow acts like a lunatic but he really has a great idea. Because “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:27 ) It may not make sense on our end, but when the sun goes down, everything makes sense, and everything is right side up again. If we don’t allow ourselves to be buried, we’ll find ourselves on the wrong side of the grave when that sun sets.
So, be like Pharaoh. Don’t just rock the boat a little like Peter did. When God asks, rock that boat with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. ROCK IT UNTIL IT FLIPS OVER and go down to the depths. It might be dark for a while, and you might have that terror that it was all for nothing and it didn’t work, but just when you think all is lost – BAM! You realize He had it right all along.
It doesn’t matter what little we have, or if it’s all messed up. God takes what we have and shapes it and multiplies it, if we let Him. He’s done it for countless others. He expects us to give him everything, because He gave up everything for us.
Try to spend a bit of time in the word every day! It will be amazing, confusing, uplifting, perplexing, and at times disturbing – just like life, and so much better when you’re holding God’s hand.
For daily Bible verse breakdowns and more, go to http://www.bible.com. Don’t forget to download the app!
For a daily guide and devotionals on how to get through the Bible in a year, go to http://www.ourdailybread.ca
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13