God, How Do You Know That I Love You?
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. — James 1:22-25
I love God. I tell him this regularly. I find myself often overcome with thanksgiving and praise, and talk a great deal about what I’m willing to do for him. But lately, I find myself growing concerned with how I love him.
How does he know? What evidence is there in my life of my love and commitment to his ways and his words? I’ve heard the discussionary question asked, “If you were arrested and sent to court for being a disciple of Jesus, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
Tough question. How much evidence would they need? In my heart, I feel so convicted about my discipleship and my role in God’s family. And while I try to live faithfully, and demonstrate my love for God in every aspect of my life, I look back on any given day and don’t really see it.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. — James 2:14-17
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing to earn here. I have no illusions about needing to fulfill any requirements for good-standing and maintain my salvation. That’s not what I’m talking about. I know that Christ has already prepared a place for me in heaven; and I’m grateful for having been given the opportunity to join him there, regardless of my role when the time comes.
What I’m talking about, however, is how I display my love for God, or fail to do so. This is akin to me telling my wife that I love her, but never demonstrating my love by anything that I do. Do I do her any favors? Perform small or large household tasks as she requests? Do I do things that need doing without her asking? Do I demonstrate good fatherhood to her children. Do I speak to her and tell her about things I’ve got going on; and do I give her an opportunity to share with me her thoughts, feelings, and concerns? Do we spend time alone together? Do I engage in a real relationship with her?
Absolutely! That’s why we’ve enjoyed, struggled together in, and fought through 24 years of marriage; looking forward to enjoying, struggling and fighting through another 24 years or more! If I wasn’t actively involved in our relationship, how would she know that I loved her? Would the words be enough? Certainly not.
And yet, so often I find that I’ve been silent to God. I’m not often engaged in our relationship. I don’t often talk, I don’t often listen, I don’t often do him any favors, I don’t often do things without being asked, I don’t often do the things he does ask, I don’t often demonstrate good brotherhood to his other children, I don’t often speak to him about things I’ve got going on, and don’t often give him the opportunity to share his thoughts with me. We don’t frequently spend time alone together.
Despite the time we’ve been together, this is still not a way of life for me.
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples; then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” — John 8:31-32
Why is it so hard for me? I don’t doubt anything he has told me. I’ve seen him working, continually, in my life; despite me. While I was still busy shaking my fist at him, he died for me. It’s like I take him for granted, because I know that he will not forsake me or stop loving me.
Maybe it’s for the same reason I allow sin to still be so pervasive in my life. Cutting out sin, each one, is a sacrifice. Taking time out of my busy day, is a sacrifice. Setting aside my desires is a sacrifice. Doing anything that takes effort is a sacrifice. I don’t want to. Sacrificing is hard when it’s real. I’m not talking about giving up chocolate, or passing on a soda, or skipping a meal.
But I’ll set my selfish nature aside to serve and provide for our children. Even to give them more than they need. But I can’t seem to set aside any time for God.
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” — Matthew 7:11
But when I’m in prayer, I don’t want to be anywhere else. When I’m reading his Word, I don’t want to be reading anything else. When I’m doing his work, I don’t want to be doing anything else. And when I’m in the fellowship of his other children, I don’t want to be anywhere else. So why is it that when I’m not engaged in our relationship, that I’m not working desperately to get back in?
I’m depriving him of so much, and I’m missing out on so much more.
Father, I want you to know that I love you; not by the words of my mouth or the thoughts in my head. I cannot impact one soul, let alone change the world, with the best of intentions. It is only the purposeful actions that I demonstrate that have meaning. It is only my faith, in action, that can make a difference in the lives of anyone you put in front of me or in my care. Jesus, you’ve shown me the way, and you continually demonstrate how I should live, and you’ve given me a Spirit that is all about our relationship. Please help me not to squander the gift I’ve been given, but to enjoy the full measure of grace and love that our relationship has to offer. I want to be your everything, help me to maintain the connection with you to sustain me when we’re apart – or rather, when I’m apart from you. May I always yearn for your presence and be restless when we’re apart. Please help me to demonstrate my love and gratitude for your continued grace by loving others in active ways. You are my joy, my hope, and my love. May I always be a blessing to you. Amen.