Introduction: First Im going to begin by saying sharing in front of yall is a humbling experience for me I feel that I have little to say that would be new to you, and because everything Ive learned over the years has come from my parents, books Ive read, teachings Ive heard, etc anywhere but from me!!! That said, I am going to share about making God the greatest passion in our lives, and cultivating that passion for him. Similarly, about pursuing God as the number one priority in our lives.
1. To start, how do we make God our greatest priority?
a. The chief way we make God our greatest priority is by consistently participating in spiritual disciplines such as Bible reading and study; prayer; fellowship; going to the Sunday meeting; student ministry, & home group meetings. However, of all these, having meaningful devotions is the most crucial. The following is a quote by Nancy Lee DeMoss (a favorite author/speaker of mine) from her book on intimacy with God, called A Place of Quiet Rest, "Not until we make pursuing Him our highest priority and goal in life will we begin to fulfill the purpose for which He created us. Nothing absolutely nothing - is more important. And that relationship for which we were created cannot be cultivated or sustained apart from spending consistent time alone with Him." Like she says, pursuing God and she specifically speaks of our time alone with Him - has to be our highest priority. Everything else is second! Jobs, school, friends, everything.
b. Another critical way we make God our top priority is simply by following his commands and seeking to glorify God with our lives. What does that have to do with priorities? Because when we put our sinful will to death, refusing to give in to it, it signifies that we make Gods will a priority over ours.
2. Cultivating Passion
a. Additionally, God demands that he be our most fervent passion! Our enthusiasm for everything else must not exceed our zeal for God. When we make God our greatest priority, it will follow that he will become our greatest passion. The spiritual disciplines can provide a means of grace through which this passion develops, and that is why it so important for them to be our priority above all else.
b. More than anything, our passion comes from having an intimate, one-on-one relationship with God, which is most cultivated during meaningful devotions. (I stress meaningful because so often we myself included can read the Scripture and let it go through our minds but not hit our hearts. Likewise when we pray, we can just be saying words without the awesome realization that at each moment he is listening to you, hearing your every word and then will speak to you if you will listen.) To continue, several months ago we had a guest speaker at our church. He taught on having an intimate friendship with the Lord. One of his examples that struck me was, what if you were adopted into a new family but your parents never demonstrated their love for you by having a friendship with you? They were always there to counsel you, discipline you, and teach you the ways of the Lord, but you didnt have that closeness and companionship parents and children should share together. That would be awful! But thats not what God wants for him and his children, he wants to be their loving, caring, friend, & Father. We can experience this relationship every moment of our lives, but the most significant time is during our personal devotions when we communicate with the Lord.
c. Our enthusiasm is also cultivated by participating in fellowship regularly. Fellowship is not just conversing with other Christians, it is talking to fellow Christians about spiritual things. I enjoy fellowshipping with my friends very much (although I struggle with participating in it consistently, which Ill get to later). When I come away from talking to a friend or fellow home-group member about living the Christian life, I walk away with fresh inspiration, peace, and passion for God. We are all running this race together; when my friends and I share ways Gods been helping us, encourage one another, confess our sin, and hold each other accountable, it helps, among other benefits, to nurture and promote intimacy with, and zeal and affection for, God. Here is a quote from Esther Edwards, the daughter of Jonathan Edwards who is considered by many to be Americas greatest theologian. Because this was written in the 1700s I updated the language slightly so that it is a little easier to follow. In a letter to a friend she wrote, "How delightful it is to sit and hear such estimable people converse on how to live the Christian life. It seemed like old timesI regard spiritual conversation one of the best ways to keep up religion in the soul. With the exception of private devotions, I think its the very best. Then what a lamentable thing that it is so neglected by Gods own children."
3. So we know some of the ways to develop passion for God, and to make him our top priority, but how are we hindered from this?
a. One way is when we try to fill our lives with things like friends, clothing, desire for popularity, hobbies, sports, TV, etc. The culture we live in surrounds us with masses of things presented to us as sources of happiness. We are made to be worshipers its just a matter of whom or what we will worship. Humans have only so much passion and energy to expend. But just one pursuit will leave us satisfied and happy (which of course is God).
¨ A temptation for me is to make friends an idol in my life. Although I think Ive grown to an extent by Gods grace and with my moms help at times Ive struggled with keeping my enthusiasm for my friends in check. If so much of my thoughts were about my friends, when I would next be with them, or how I could figure out a way to get together with them, then Id be distracted away from God. I lacked contentment in my heart, which only God could satisfy, and I tried to find happiness in my friends. Although I have wonderful friends, no human or anything else - could satisfy me. I needed to find joy in an intimate relationship with God.
b. Another hindrance is when we replace other things with what God wants us to do.
¨ A recurring example in my life is when I am with my best friend. We get into our girl talk and forget or postpone having biblical fellowship. Many times we have run out of time for fellowship, or just not chosen to fellowship because we have other topics wed rather talk about. Because we didnt make fellowship a priority, it didnt happen, and therefore we were unable to receive the grace that comes through it.
¨ Yet another example from my life is how I have always had a great deal of trouble in having consistent devotions. In the morning when I wake-up I am sooo tired that I cant imagine reading my Bible and praying, etc, without falling asleep. Or certainly my mind would be asleep!!! So then I tell myself Ill do it later, once Im awake. But later I have something I deem more important for the moment, and on and on until that night when I lie in bed realizing, I never had my devotions!! Again, if I had given it the proper priority for the day, it would have happened.
c. There are, of course, other hindrances to our passion for God, and him being our highest priority. Lack of desire, sin that we refuse to acknowledge and work on, believing we can be happy w/o him, amongst other things are issues that need to be addressed.
Closing: To end I would just like to say, look at where your passions are placed. Are you pouring all your energy and enthusiasm on things which will never satisfy you? Do you find yourself pushing God lower and lower on your list of priorities? If so, ask God to create a longing and desire for passion for him, and intimacy with him. Let Psalm 63:1 be your prayer: O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I know it is my prayer every day!!!