As I prayed over my life to further grip God’s will for the coming year, I was convicted by the reality that most new year’s resolutions don’t last. God showed me that following Him with my whole life should be my focus. Living life to the fullest in 2014 is not about doing all kinds of cool things that make me feel good about myself, but about trusting God’s work in each area of my life.
He laid on my heart that He loves me and that I am to love Him back. Thus, came the realization that this year isn’t going to be about a checklist.
There’s nothing wrong with to-do list resolutions. I actually find writing tasks and crossing them off to be quite therapeutic. However, that’s not what I’m meant to do this year. God’s asking me to trust him with the small things – something that comes from the overflow of His extravagant love.
Now, I’m not sure where you are in your walk with the Lord. Maybe you just learned about Jesus. Maybe you’re a seasoned believer. Or, you could have been following closely and then somehow slipped away. You might have grown up in the church and are just now starting to wonder what it means to pray and feel a true connection with the Lord. I’ve been there. I know. I didn’t always have a faith that was real. I had “faith,” but it was empty. I wasn’t allowing Christ’s work to fill the emptiness of my mundane life.
Wherever you are in your faith, I want to encourage you. As I share more about what God revealed to me about His love, I want you to know that you can have encounters with God that are real. As you read the Bible, pray, and seek Him, He will meet you. I say this knowing how it felt when I first realized what it meant to actually follow the Lord. There was a point in my life where it became more than Christian rhetoric.
Before that point, it was more about church than it was about God. I didn’t know the freedom that came from trusting Christ instead of worrying. When I learned how to practically follow, my whole life changed. I don’t say this lightly. Logically, the changes in my heart just don’t make sense aside from knowing that God gave me the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4).
Over the past 4+ years, I’ve developed the discipline of a daily quiet time. I’m certainly not perfect and do occasionally miss days, but I try to make it a priority because I want to know the Lord. I enjoy seeking Him. A quiet time can mean different things for each individual, but for me it means praying, worshipping, reading the word, reading other devotional books, and journaling.
One day during my quiet time right before the new year, I felt like God was asking me to love greater. God is love (1 John 4:8-9). He desires for us to love Him and then others with the overflow of the love He has given us. After praying that I would understand God’s love for me, I opened my Bible and turned a few pages. I saw 1 Corinthians 13 and knew He had led me there.
Slightly funny – 1 Corinthians 13 is a chapter of the Bible that is often used in weddings. It has the “Love is patient, love is kind…” passage. I can see why it’s used because it is quite instructive for a love relationship. Be patient, be kind, don’t envy, etc. are all good things to remember. But, why did I need to specifically focus on this?
What I enjoy about this chapter is the context. The Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Corinth about spiritual gifts and the body of Christ. The gifts are miraculous – true signs and wonders. He writes that the Church body needs all parts, so each person’s gift is worthwhile and necessary. While the gifts are good for the advancement of the Kingdom, Paul warns that even with good gifts we cannot forget the central component of our faith – love.
God is love. He became love in Jesus. His perfect sacrifice of His Son was an act of love. That love never fails (1 Cor 13:8). There’s so much that can distract us from concentrating on the love of Christ in addition to spiritual gifts and their use in the Church body. It’s so easy in today’s society to fall astray. Even while being a “good Christian,” we can forget what God’s love means.
This is the portion of this passage that sticks out to me the most:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
-1 Corinthians 13:1-3
It’s easy to do good things without doing so out of love. But, what’s it mean to do it out of love? Because God is love, we are doing it out of Him – out of His work at the Cross. That love is present in our lives. Because he first loved us, we know true love and can share it with others.
From a practical standpoint, doing something out love means living your life with Christ at the center. Because of his love, you love Him, other people, and yourself. As we see in 1 Corinthians 13, that love is patient and kind. It does not envy or boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. It never fails. (1 Cor 13:4-8)
Love that comes from God is extravagant. It’s beautiful.
Instead of resolutions this year, God has given me a theme and chapter to keep me grounded in Him for the next year.
It’s The Year of Extravagant Love.
I will seek Him first, and out of His love will love Him, other people, and myself. I have no idea how the next year will look, but I know I want to love the Lord more each day. I want to love others in a way that is unconditional. I want to love and care for myself, knowing that I am sufficient in Christ. I’m excited to see what God teaches me with this chapter because I feel like I’m only scratching the surface right now.
I pray that in the coming year, you learn what it means to love in a way that can only come from God.