Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Have you ever asked yourself the question: What am I doing here in the world? What is the purpose of my existence? Millions do. It’s strange how so many Christians ask themselves these same questions, even though God has made it clear in the Bible that he has a high and noble and overarching purpose for every one of his children.
If we are not aware of a controlling purpose at work in our lives, then life becomes jaded. Without a purpose we are like sand dunes, shaped and shifted by the prevailing wind.
Peter in his great sermon on the Day of Pentecost said, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40). The root meaning of the word ‘untoward’ is ‘crooked,’ but it can also be translated ‘purposeless’. The generation in which Peter lived wasn’t going anywhere—it was adrift.
That purposeless generation ended up by making a sudden decision to crucify Jesus. It had no overall purpose, and so it was easily overtaken by a sudden and sinister purpose. Christians who do not see their life’s purpose in terms of what God wants them to achieve in this world will soon be overtaken by other purposes.
Be Aware of God—and Others
What then is God’s overall purpose for every one of his children? It is this: to be aware of God and of others. By ‘aware of God’ I mean to be in a loving relationship with him, and by ‘aware of others’ I mean to be in a loving relationship with them. If you search the Scriptures from one end to the other you will come up with no higher conclusion that this: God’s highest purpose for our lives is loving involvement with him, and loving involvement with others.
Most Christians have little difficulty with the vertical emphasis—‘loving involvement with God’—but when it comes to the horizontal dimension—‘loving involvement with others’—then, as Shakespeare put it: “Ah, there’s the rub.” As everyone will know, Christians are not angels. They can be rude, uncouth, smelly, stubborn, difficult and at times downright obnoxious.
This point is brought home in the doodle that a janitor picked up from the floor of a church in Scotland one Sunday morning many years ago. No one knows what the motivation was for the words that now follow: whether it was because the sermon was dull and uninteresting, or that the writer had been through a difficult time in his or her personal relationships. This, however, is what was written:
To dwell above with saints in love, for me that will be glory.
To dwell below with saints we know ─ now that’s a different story!
Some People Are Not Easy to Love
Loving involvement with others is one of life’s biggest challenges. To put it mildly, some people are not easy to love. I have to confess that there are some people in the circle of my relationships that I sometimes wish were on the other side of the world. As a committed Christian, what am I to do at those times when I find that my concerned and loving approach to others is unappreciated, misunderstood or even rejected?
I am to go on loving. Jesus made this point crystal clear in the word which he gave to his disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another even as I have loved you.” (John 13:34). Note the words: as I have loved you .
How then did Jesus love? With patience and persistence. How would you like to rub shoulders daily with a man like Simon Peter? One moment he could walk on the water with Jesus and the next withdraw from him on the land. Yet even though Jesus must have been hurt time and time again by this vacillating and oscillating disciple, not once do we ever see Jesus withdrawing from him. The same goes for all the other disciples also. Jesus moved toward them, and gave himself to them no matter how difficult they were and how prone to misunderstand.
I Won’t Be Hurt Again!
I once heard a preacher friend of mine say: “God calls us to move toward people who are guaranteed to hurt us.” There is not a person reading these lines who hasn’t been hurt in the area of relationships. So what do we do when that happens? Almost invariably we say: “I’ll make sure I’ll never be hurt like that again.” Then our future relationships become more cautious, more self-protective, more superficial. We get close enough to people to be affirmed by them but not close enough to be hurt by them. Our relationships then become no more meaningful than, as another friend of mine put it: “Two lovers kissing between a pane of glass.”
What we often fail to realise is that when we think more of ourselves than we do of another person to whom, in the plans and purposes of God, we are called to relate, we violate the law of love. We are not loving as we are loved. Our self-protective attitude deprives the person to whom we are relating of the spiritual impact a truly loving heart can make, and this in turn leads to a diminishment of our own being. We become less of a person because we have failed to love.
What then is the secret of maintaining good relationships and pursuing life’s greatest purpose? It is to keep our hearts open to the fact that in Christ we are loved with a love that is unconditional and unfailing. We are to draw upon that love and allow it to become the motivating force in our personalities.
More than draw upon it, we are to trust it, believing it to hold us whenever we are hurt, misunderstood or rejected. It is only when we experience divine love at the core of our being—experience it, not just comprehend it—that we have the power to move toward others and love as we are loved.
One of Two Forces
Everyone of us is controlled by one of two forces: love or fear. When love is at the helm, then we can move toward people knowing that though they hurt us they cannot destroy us. We are then fortified to endure the pain of difficult relationships and we can go on loving even in the face of the most painful situations.
But when fear is at the helm, we become more concerned about ourselves than we do for others; more afraid of being misunderstood than of loving. Our relationships then become superficial, and drained of all spiritual power.
I am convinced that a failure to understand this truth is one of the issues which is responsible for the church being unable to make the impact upon the world that it should. Jesus did not say: “By this shall all men know you are my disciples—when you fill the biggest auditoriums and stadiums in the land.” No, he said: “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another’ (John 13:35).
I will tell you this: the world will listen when Christians love.
By: Selwyn Hughes