Resting in God’s Personal Love

“My life changed when I realized Jesus really loves me,” recalled a friend. I drew a quick, short breath, startled not at what he said, but by the fact he was the third person in the short span of one year to say this same thing verbatim. All three had been believers for quite some time beforehand—trusting in Christ alone for salvation, and grateful for it—yet for each there had arrived an epiphany point in life when eyes opened, barriers fell, love flowed and life changed. Their stories resonated with me, for my life, too, had changed when I realized Jesus really loves me. I had begun a daily pattern of reading God’s word, then writing down what it was saying to me, how it was affecting me and, in turn, my response. Soon I began to sense more deeply both God’s immeasurable love for all of humankind and His personal love for me. The palpable presence of His Spirit opened this heart to joy, and over time I have found myself criticizing less and caring more, stressing less and resting more, doubting less and trusting more. He was doing in His love what I couldn’t do by my will—He was changing me. Thankfully, He still is; it’s a process.

Of the disciples, it was John who understood—or at least expressed—most deeply the intimacy of Jesus’ personal love. Five times in his gospel account, this former fisherman self-identified as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”1 This was not to suggest the Messiah loved him more than the others: all of the disciples rightly could have realized the same for themselves as well, and perhaps each of them did. Rather, John’s confession was a matter of identity, as if to confess, “my worth is complete in this, and only this: Jesus loves me.” John savored this wonder; he embraced it and expressed it over and over again as if to process the unfathomable. Jesus really loved him, and his life had changed.

Jesus once urged His disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest,”2 and indeed sometimes the most vital next step for us in life is to stop for a time and rest in His love for us. Perhaps for you today this means reminiscing on specific things He has done for you—and in you—in the past. Maybe it is going on a walk with God, speaking openly and listening quietly to Him who calls us His friends. Priority time in the word of God is reliably transformational, for through the word of God the Spirit of God speaks the truth of His love into our longing soul. As He leads, sit with this for a while, contemplate God’s love for you, and take it personally.

Father, your word says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”3 Calm me, that I would be still before you and know your love for me. I give thanks to you, for you are good, and your love endures forever.4 Amen.

Savor these Biblical promises of God’s personal love:
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:9)
[Jesus prays to the Father for us:] “I have made you known to them … in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:26)
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:9, 10)

1 See John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; and 21:20.
2 Mark 6:31
3 Psalm 46:10
4 1 Chronicles 16:34


Retaining Our Focus

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)

My niece Meghan was an outstanding middle-distance track athlete in high school, frequently winning her events. At the team’s annual awards banquet her sophomore year, the coach said of her, “Meghan learned to run through pain,” a quality often distinguishing the best from the rest. She had grown in grit, exchanging comfort for excellence; she had matured as a runner and become a winner. Perseverance has a transforming effect all its own, and Meghan was named the “most improved” member of the team that season.

It was James, the Lord’s brother, who wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”1 We know from Paul the test of physical persecution, of course, yet our trials also include worldly enticements that distract us and devilish deceptions that discourage us from growing up into Kingdom effectiveness. Jesus taught, for instance, when we let “life’s worries, riches and pleasures” choke us like weeds, we remain immature and unfruitful.2 Too, He said we can expect people to insult, persecute and falsely say all kinds of evil against us because of Him.3 These are meant to intimidate us, yet in reality they are but hindrances and entanglements we are called to “throw off” as we “run with perseverance the race mapped out for us.”4 For we run not just to reach a finish line: there is impactful work for us along the way. Indeed, Jesus said that by persevering those who hear the word and retain it produce a good crop.5 Paul summarized a life of purposeful pursuit this way: “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”6

Then we run with focus, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith,”7 and we “consider him who endured such opposition … so that [we] will not grow weary and lose heart.”8 “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” we, like Paul, “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus.9 For “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”10 We mature as runners; we become winners.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)

Father, lead us in the course you’ve mapped out for us today. Strengthen us to throw off all that would hinder and entangle us. Grace us to fix our eyes on you and to run well in Christ. Amen.

1 James 1:2, 3
2 Luke 8:14
3 Matthew 5:11
4 Hebrews 12:1
5 Luke 8:15
6 Acts 20:24
7 Hebrews 12:2
8 Hebrews 12:3
9 Philippians 3:13, 14
10 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18


Rethinking Our Suffering

“Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”1 Paul, to Timothy

Now come the veterans. The parade has delighted us with bands playing, horses clopping, notables waving, and candy strewn to scampering children. And now come the veterans of war. We smile, wave, cheer and salute, all to honor those who battled to protect our freedoms. Yet our appreciation of liberty is faint compared to theirs, for who can identify with freedom as those who have risked everything, sacrificed dearly, and grieved deeply to preserve it? What words could they possibly speak to convey an understanding only they can know?

Though all of the apostles endured persecution for proclaiming Christ as Lord, Paul’s life was especially characterized by it. He was imprisoned more often, flogged more severely, exposed to death more repeatedly, thrice beaten with rods, and shipwrecked three times, as well; the list goes on.2 We naturally recoil at the extremes of his afflictions, quietly questioning, perhaps, our resolve to endure the same, yet it was in suffering for Jesus that Paul grew to understand Him more deeply, trust Him more completely, and rejoice in Him more fully. “I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties,” reflected the battle-tested veteran, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”3 Recalling a time when he and his companions found themselves “under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure,”4 Paul ultimately realized, “this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.”5 He had grown to “glory in [his] sufferings, because … suffering produces perseverance … character … and hope”6 in God whose “love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”7

Many believers have incurred at least some degree of rejection or ridicule for our faith in Christ, and in some parts of the world we endure terrible persecution. As we consider our journey, though, wouldn’t you agree it is not marginalization or ostracism for the sake of Christ we regret, rather the times we suppressed our faith to avoid it? We cannot “do-over” these weaker moments of our past, but we can let them remind us that the sting of opportunities lost pains us far more than any cost of opportunities seized. Wrote Peter, “It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil;”8 moreover, in these times, we identify more closely with Christ Jesus who endured rejection and wrath for us. So, “If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”9 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”10 Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Father, however you call me today to share the gospel of your Son or to serve in His name, send your Spirit to lead me, and if I must suffer for doing good, sustain me with joy. Amen.

1 2 Timothy 2:3
2 2 Corinthians 11:23-29
3 2 Corinthians 12:10
4 2 Corinthians 1:8
5 2 Corinthians 1:9
6 Romans 5:3, 4
7 Romans 5:5
8 1 Peter 3:17
9 1 Peter 4:16
10 2 Corinthians 4:17