“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:9-11 (ESV)
Every year, my local church encourages us to fast in January. The purpose of this endeavor is for us as a church family to seek God for His plan for the new year, but the type of fast is up to the individual. Social media, meals, desserts and coffee have all been on my list, at some point. With much prayer, I planned out my fast — no meats, sweets or fried foods for this girl! I was full of hope and excitement … until it actually started.
My focus was so much on what I was depriving myself of that I failed to turn to the Lord for comfort. I soon realized I was consumed with WHAT I was giving up more than who I was giving it up FOR — the Lord. I completely missed the point.
I didn’t think it was possible, but I was just going through the motions of a fast.
God began to show me I was going through the motions in other areas of my life, too. In my personal life: as a wife, daughter and friend. As an employee at work and a servant in ministry. I was doing what I was supposed to do but had lost the heart behind my actions.
The church at Ephesus shared a similar struggle. In Revelation 2:2-3, the church was commended for all they were doing right: “I [Christ] know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (NIV).
But the compliment quickly turned into a rebuke: “Yet I [Christ] hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4, NIV).
It is easy to get into a rut when you have been doing the same thing for a while, even if that “thing” is good in and of itself.
Being on a fast can become more about the food than about the prayer. For me, it used to feel like a breakthrough was on its way when I fasted. But after fasting a few times, it just felt like a break — from things I didn’t really want a break from.
Being a wife can become more about living in the same house than being a companion to my husband. Back when I was single, if you would have told me that one day I would come home from work and be more engaged with my phone than my husband, I would not have believed you. Unfortunately, in reality, I’ve had plenty of evenings when scrolling won out over spending quality time together.
Being a leader can become more about finishing the task than serving the people. What I once embraced as a God-given assignment began to feel like a burden. I found myself operating in my own strength instead of His.
If it’s my 10th time or my 100th, in every part of my life, I want to do the right “what” with the right “why.” If you can relate to my struggle, you may be wondering, as I was … How can we do more than just go through the motions?
Jesus, as always, has the answer: Abide.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:9-11)
What does it mean to “abide” in God? According to the original language of the New Testament, it simply means to remain, stay or wait. In a world that is constantly running on the wheel of busyness, this is challenging but worth it!
When Jesus talks about keeping the commandments, He invites us to do it from a place of love, not legalism. When we obey, the end result is joy! This isn’t just a fleeting happiness that comes and goes based on our emotions at the moment. It isn’t a joy based on doing all the right things or performing all the right actions. When our hearts are actively abiding, God gives us a fullness of joy that is eternal and complete.
The more we remain with Jesus, the more we become like Him. Our actions overflow from what God is doing in our hearts.
Less going through the motions. More love, more joy.
Less of me, more of Him.
Dear Father, please forgive me for all of the times I’ve done the right thing with the wrong attitude. Help me to abide in You so I can live my life in Your love and joy. May everything I think, say and do be pleasing in Your sight. And may it all give You glory! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
Mark 12:30, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (NIV)
Think about an area of your life in which you have been going through the motions. What would it look like if you acted from God’s love instead?
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