By David Wise
The initial concept for this blog was to give an opportunity for a P.S. after a sermon was over; this week is the perfect example of that happening. Within the concept of idle relationships there were so many directions I could have gone and so much content that it felt impossible to do justice to any single area. As I was listening to the communion meditation given by one of our elders, I realized that I spent the vast majority of the sermon focusing on our relationships with people without spending much time emphasizing the needs to prioritize our relationship with God. The truth is, if we’re not prioritizing our relationship with God then none of our other relationships will be what they’re supposed to be.
I realized this morning that my relationship with God has not been what it should be. The past few weeks, or maybe even months, I have been trying to do more work for God rather than relying on Him to work through me. While my intentions may be good, they have been causing tension in every area of my life. I was completely blind to this until I was meeting with a retired pastor last week and he explained his previous behavior and I realized that it was exactly what I had been doing.
As a pastor, part of my work is to pray, read the Bible, study, and preach. The issue arises when my work becomes my only time of reading and devotion. For some time now, I’ve been getting up in the morning and instead of spending time with the Lord, praying, and reading the Word, I’ve been jumping into work. Usually this means reading books, studying, and working on sermons. While there’s nothing wrong with doing those things, they have been placed in a higher position of priority than simply spending time with God.
I realized it recently when it was my day off and I didn’t want to read the Bible because it felt like work. That was a sad realization and a somber moment to realize that I’ve reduced my relationship with God to a mechanized version of work. The idea has slowly drifted to become an attitude of inputs and outputs and simply spending time in prayer or reading the Word has become a chore instead of something to delight in.
I have been idle in my relationship with God.
As I began to be convicted of this over the last few days, I spent some time yesterday simply repenting to God and asking the Holy Spirit to lead and direct me. This morning instead of waking up early to get a head start on work, I simply woke up and spent time in prayer and then reading. I resolved to wait for work to start until I’d left the house, but for that hour before the kids got up I simply spent time being in God’s presence.
It was incredible to prioritize my relationship with God, but also to experience His love and grace. As I was opening to 1 John, I began thinking about the apostle John. We don’t know much about him, but in the gospel account named after him, there are multiple times where a disciple is mentioned as, “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. Most scholars and teachers acknowledge this as being the apostle John and that title, or designation, has always annoyed me. It either comes across as arrogant or needy, but either way it has never left a positive impression on me, until this morning.
As I was simply spending time in relationship with God, I thought about John as not being arrogant or needy, but being firm in his identity. What if John simply clung to the fact that Jesus loved him? What if John wasn’t trying to point out how special he was, but was just resting in God’s personal care for him? Perhaps John was just making a statement, but I believe there is something more to this. The Bible is the inspired Word of God, which means that although John wrote it, the Holy Spirit inspired it. God wanted those words to be written, multiple times, to show that Jesus loved John. What I was reminded of in that moment this morning is that I share the same identity. I am also one whom Jesus loves, personally.
Perhaps that’s not a deep and profound concept for many, but for me it was incredibly refreshing to be reminded that God loves me. Even when there are periods of time where I slowly drift into a works-based mentality of performance-driven spirituality. Even when there are times where I wobble between being arrogant and almost simultaneously needy. To be reminded that the God of the universe loves me was exactly what I needed to see this morning and to cling to that identity.
God desires relationship with us, personally. Yes that relationship should make us desire to live differently, but too often that becomes us working for God rather than abiding in Him. Jesus loves each of us and that should confirm our identity as God’s children. It is only as we engage in relationship with God that we will be able to be purposeful in our relationships with people.
I’ve had multiple people ask me if I’m okay lately, and I guess I haven’t been. I’ve been trading in a purposeful relationship with God for some idle counterfeit that’s based on my work and not His love for me. My relationships with those around me have been under tension because I was trying to do this on my own effort and without entering into God’s presence simply to spend time with Him. Without prioritizing our relationship with God our relationships with people will never be what they’re supposed to be.