If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all (Isaiah 7:9).
The Department of Energy plans to announce today that scientists have taken a major step in developing fusion energy technology that could provide unlimited, cheap, clean power someday. Now if someone could just create the power we need for our lives today.
US adults are dealing with what one researcher called a “stunning” level of stress. A recent poll identified financial fears, the war in Ukraine, and “ongoing coexistence with pandemic stressors” as contributing to unprecedented levels of anxiety. The New York Times reports that winters with COVID-19, the flu, and RSV “may be our new normal.”
And Christians especially have cause for concern these days.
As a sign of things to come, a restaurant in Virginia canceled a Christian group’s reservation because of the group’s biblical beliefs. Protesters disrupted a pro-life banquet for a pregnancy resource center that had been vandalized over the summer. And the University of Idaho agreed to pay ninety thousand dollars to settle a lawsuit filed by three Christian students who had been censored for their biblical beliefs regarding marriage.
However, every obstacle is also an opportunity.
How to be what we were created to be
Humans are born and eventually die (if the Lord tarries). For Jesus, it was different: he was the baby who was born to die. In Against Heresies, Irenaeus (AD 120–203) wrote that Jesus’ “obedience on the tree of the cross reversed the disobedience at the tree in Eden; the good news of the truth announced by an angel to Mary, a virgin subject to her husband, undid the evil lie that seduced Eve, a virgin espoused to a husband.”
Now our Savior calls us to love him as he loves us (Matthew 22:37), not for his sake but for ours.
William of Saint-Thierry (c. 1085–1148) prayed, “You first loved us so that we might love you—not because you needed our love, but because we could not be what you created us to be except by loving you.”
When we love our Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, he fills the “God-shaped emptiness” in our souls (Pascal) and our hearts rest in him (St. Augustine).
“Found difficult and left untried”
Here’s where the challenges of our day can be reframed as opportunities: we prove that we love someone when it costs us something significant to love them. Similarly, we show that we love Jesus to the degree that we follow him even (and especially) when we don’t want to follow him.
This is why Jesus taught us, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15, my emphasis).
The greater the cost of following Jesus, the fewer the number who will follow him. G. K. Chesterton was right: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”
But the greater the cost of following Jesus, the more we are transformed when we follow him. And the more effective our courageous witness becomes. The darker the room, the more powerful the light that remains.
By contrast, when we retreat from our Lord in the face of opposition, we impoverish our souls (cf. Matthew 13:21) and weaken our witness (cf. Matthew 26:69–75). The biblical declaration is still true: “If you are not firm in the faith, you will not be firm at all” (Isaiah 7:9).
Three ways to love our Lord
So, how do we love Jesus when it’s hard to love Jesus?
The good news is that we don’t have to try harder to do better. Love is a “fruit” of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). To love God’s Son well—or anyone else, for that matter—we must therefore have the help of God’s Spirit. Here’s how:
First, ask the Spirit to “fill” and control your mind, heart, and life today (Ephesians 5:18). Submit every dimension of your life to your Lord (Romans 12:1). As Oswald Chambers noted, “The only way in which we can offer a spiritual sacrifice to God is by presenting our bodies a living sacrifice.”
Second, ask the Spirit to help you love your Savior more deeply and intimately. Pray for the faith and courage to love and serve Jesus with courageous faith (cf. Mark 9:24).
Third, act on your prayer as if it were already answered. Counselors tell married couples who don’t feel love for one another to do what love does with the expectation that they will eventually feel what love feels. In other words, act into feeling—don’t feel into acting.
The same applies with Jesus. Nowhere does the Bible say how it feels to love Jesus. That’s because such love is a commitment that leads to actions. Said simply: If you were more in love with Jesus than you are, what would you do that you’re not doing? What would you stop doing?
What a wise man does
The philosopher and theologian Isaac of Stella (ca. 1100–ca. 1169) said of Jesus, “He became the Son of Man and made many men sons of God, uniting them to himself by his love and power.” Now his Spirit wants us to experience his love and power in ways that transform our lives and embolden our witness.
When we experience our Lord on this level, we welcome adversity as an opportunity to show our Lord and our skeptical culture how much we love him. We pray in the face of temptation for the love of Jesus that empowers us to refuse temptation. And we respond to enemies of our faith with the “gentleness and respect” that models our Lord’s love for them (1 Peter 3:15).
Francis Bacon observed, “A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.”
What opportunities will you make to love Jesus today?
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