Even though we have only been married for a few months, my wife has an uncanny ability to see things in me that I am somehow blind to. Case in point – I struggle with anxiety. It was never much of a struggle for me until I got to college, but ever since I enrolled as a Freshman, I have had days when I become nothing more than a ball of anxious energy and emotion.
I hate the feeling. It starts in my head – with a stray thought or memory - then slowly moves into the pit of my stomach where it settles in like an unwanted guest. And there it stays. I have repeatedly asked God to take this away from me, because it seems like sometimes I am anxious over things that only exist in my head. However, I have continued to struggle with it.
On a particularly rough night, I was pouring out to my wife and I explained to her that, “I hate the feeling – I just want God to take it away. I don’t understand why He won’t take it away from me. I’ve prayed about it so much.”
I expected a little bit of sympathy, or maybe a pat on the shoulder. Instead, she softly but firmly said to me, “Caleb, you’re praying for the wrong reasons. You’re only praying because you don’t like the feeling your anxiety gives you.”
At first, I was hurt by her remark. But as I thought about it the next few days, I realized she was right. I was praying for the wrong reasons. Oftentimes, I was only praying so the feeling of being anxious would go away. I wasn’t honestly imploring God for help in temptation, I wasn’t seeking His Word for verses to help combat anxiety, and I surely wasn’t talking to God because I enjoyed it. I was merely hoping He would magically whisk my anxiety away.
And then, today, I came across this snippet from John Piper. He says that many Christians, “have absorbed the notion that becoming Christian means turning to Jesus to get what you always wanted before you were born again.” (John Piper in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals)
He says just a few sentences later that, “In other words, to become a Christian, in this way of seeing things, is to have all the same desires you had as an unregenerate person – only you get them from a new source, Jesus. And He feels so loving when you do.” (John Piper in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals)
That last sentence pierced me through the heart. How many times have I prayed and had my prayer answered and responded by praising God and giving Him glory because I felt His love manifested through blessing?
But how many more times had I prayed to God, only to be met with silence? What was my response then? Undoubtedly, many times it was to get angry or upset with God because I didn’t get the response I desired – and I would wonder to myself, “If I am God’s child and He loves me, why isn’t he giving this to me? Does He not love me anymore?”
In other words, why wasn’t He taking my anxiety away?
I can’t answer that question – sometimes God allows His children to suffer through things to draw us closer to Him. But I think part of the reason God hasn’t taken my fight with anxiety away is that I haven’t learned to love Jesus for Jesus.
I haven’t been praying because I desire to speak with Him – I’ve been praying to get what I want and I’ve been loving Jesus for the things He gives me. It’s a trap that many of us fall into, but frankly, it’s erroneous and is robbing us of the true joy of the Christian faith. Because the true Christian faith does not depend on circumstances or blessings. We do not praise our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because we are healthy and wealthy. We don’t worship the Son of God because we have nice houses with white picket fences. We don’t give Christ the glory and the honor and the fame because He blesses us with long and happy lives. We don’t love our Savior because He makes our bank accounts grow. We don’t love Jesus because we have trust funds for our kids.
No, we love Jesus for Jesus. And if we aren’t loving Jesus for who He is, we aren’t really loving Him at all. We are loving the things Jesus blesses us with.
So I challenge you today – don’t love Jesus for the things He blesses you with. Thank Him for them, yes, because, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” (James 1:17) But don’t make those gifts central. Make the One who gave them to you central.
Here are three ways we can love Jesus for Jesus.
1. Love Jesus Because He is Sovereign
The book of Colossians calls Christ, “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.” (Colossians 1:15).
Christ is the supreme ruler of all creation. There isn’t a single part of the Earth or a single inhabitant of the Earth that is not under His rule. He is constantly working out everything according to the counsel of His will and is holding the very universe together (Col. 1:17). That alone is enough to praise Christ. Love Him because He is holding the universe together – and that includes you!
Love Jesus because He is sovereign.
2. Love Jesus Because He is Sufficient
Our culture is constantly telling us that our contentment can be found in our things. That it can be found in our identity or our wealth or our status. But the Bible tells us that in Christ we find our contentment.
I love the Apostle Paul because, like me, he asked the Lord to deliver Him from something that was ailing him. We don’t know what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was, but we do know he asked Christ to deliver him from it three times. Each time Paul asked to be delivered from the thorn, the Lord’s response was, “My grace is sufficient.” (II Cor. 12:9)
Although Paul would have loved to have been freed from whatever was ailing him, God had other plans. He wanted to show Paul that Christ’s grace was sufficient. Paul didn’t need anything else – only the grace of God. The same goes for us.
Love Jesus because He is sufficient.
3. Love Jesus Because He is Savior
This may just sound like another reason to love Jesus because of something He did for us. “Oh, of course, we should love Jesus because He died for us!” But it’s more than that. Christ not only died for His people, but He died for the glory of God.
In the Gospel – in which Christ gives Himself for sinners and saves them – we find the great plan of salvation that results in the glory of God. Listen to this awesome exaltation from the book of Revelation.
Revelation 7:9-10: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” [ESV]
Wow. What a passage. It describes a great multitude from every tribe, people, and language of the world - and what are they doing? Praising God. And why are they praising Him? Because of the Gospel. The great multitude that God has redeemed through the Gospel of Christ is glorifying God because of that same Gospel.
The Gospel is for God’s glory. Christ died for the glory of God and that’s something to love Him for. What better purpose to die for can there be than for the glory of God?
Love Jesus because He is savior.
These are just three ways that we can love Jesus for Jesus instead of all the things He gives us. There are many more that we can find in the Bible. If you find some, feel free to leave a comment below, or message me on Facebook or Twitter. I would love to hear from you!
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