May Jesus himself and God our Father, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, enliven your speech. – 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
Doesn’t it feel like every day all hell breaks loose in the headlines? I was speaking to a group of leaders in Orlando shortly after the Pulse nightclub shooting, Disney alligator attack and outbreak of the Zika virus in Florida. In the span of a few weeks, it seemed like their city’s name had become a byword for bad news.
These added to the upcoming election, extremist violence, human trafficking and natural disasters, it’s easy for our hearts to become very, very heavy.
It has felt like a season of turmoil and chaos for our ministry as well on several international fronts. As I looked at the people in our organization giving of their lives to bring God’s Word to every child in the midst of harsh circumstances and facing great life challenges, a desperate question rose in my heart:
Lord, what do we need to accomplish your mission in the midst of this world that we’re living in right now?
The answer was overwhelming and simple: His love.
We all have times when we don’t live in the knowledge of how much God truly loves us. Times when we take for granted that love, and act like it doesn’t make much of a difference.
But remember when you first came to faith? It was like you could have reached out and touched Jesus right there. He was the biggest thing in your world. Over time, we slowly drift from that vivid awareness of His love and nearness.
When we make it our practice to be intentionally aware of and live in the abundant provision of a God who loves us deeply, we can tap into His unending help and confidence to combat the heaviness of our times.
This hope is ever to be held fast, even though appearances wear a gloomy aspect, sense of comfort declines, feelings of joy seem dead, and all hope from ourselves forsakes us. But, Father, your mercies never die; your counsel shall stand, your oath cannot fail. Hope in these is an anchor to the soul. – William Mason
God knows we will face hard things every day. That is why He loves and encourages us unendingly. And He doesn’t just leave us there, bolstered by His overflow of love and comfort – He equips us to go on the offensive. The Christian life isn’t just sitting around and contemplating the blessings that God has given us. The Christian life is living out those blessings and bringing them to bear on our lives in tangible ways.
In the midst of praying 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 over my co-workers, I got an email from my prayer partner. Ironically, he’s been in almost the same place, meditating on the same passage! He shared a story of preparing to go on a 5-mile run and putting together an awesome worship playlist to listen to. But something was wrong with his device and it kept repeating the same song over and over for the entire 5 miles. At first he was frustrated, until he realized the song’s phrase “The Presence of God—the Presence of God—the Presence of God” on repeat was the Lord’s way of saying to him that he needed to experience God’s love and bask in His presence in a fresh way.
Like my friend’s playlist, I think God wants us to hear this message anew. Many of us have become professional Christians—so busy in our work that our worship has become secondary to accomplishing the mission. We’ve got it wrong. Worship is not a warm-up to our work. Our worship is our work.
Worship should be so much a part of who we are that it is indistinguishable where it begins and ends in our lives. But it’s not our natural inclination. It’s taken work for over the past couple of months to just say, “God, show me more of your love.”
But let me tell you, it’s changing everything! If we as a community could begin to understand a small part of God’s great love, we wouldn’t worry about being motivated to do the work. We wouldn’t stress about the numbers and the funding and the meetings. We wouldn’t headache over whether or not what we are doing is meeting our outcomes. It would just flow out of us like a river to those we seek to serve. Because we are called to love God and the outflow of that love is the work we do for Him.
Living in God’s love can be embarrassing sometimes. When you’re really feeling God’s love for you, there are things that grab you—reduce you to tears. Because at the root of everything that’s wrong in America and the world right now is a blindness to the love of God. All the hatred that is in the headlines and the injustice that exists in this world is because God’s love is not known and is not experienced in a personal way.
Life is actually really simple when you understand that all we’re called to do is exhibit genuine love for this broken world.
God’s most important act beyond creation was “that He so loved the world” (John 3:16). God so loved the world that He gave His only son! As leaders, we need to be consumed with this truth. We must seek it out, experience it again and again, and learn to see everything through the Lord’s lens of love.
It sounds so simple and even trite. It sounds so nebulous; but it’s so true. It’s so true—He loves us!