Love’s Conflict of Interest
Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is their shame. They are focused on earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:17-20
The Son of God has many who love his heavenly kingdom, but few who bear the burden of his cross. He has many who desire comfort, but few who desire tribulation. He finds many companions seeking to sit at his table, but few who fast often. Like the travails of the Apostle Paul, who sought labor and hardship, sleepless nights, hunger and thirst; often lacking shelter and proper clothing?
All desire to rejoice with him, but few are willing to suffer anything for him – or with him; although we are promised that as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so our comfort overflows through Christ. So because of Christ, are we pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in other pressures of life? Like Paul, do we believe that we are weak before we become strong?
It has been given to us on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in him, but also to struggle and suffer for and with him. Do we truly understand what that means or are they merely words we claim? Many follow Jesus into the breaking of bread, seeking fellowship with him, but few willingly seek to the drink of the cup of his suffering. Many of us revere and desire his miracles, but few choose to share in the humiliation of his cross. Many claim to love Jesus, so long as adversities do not happen in their lives. Many praise him, so long as they receive comfort from him. However, if Jesus abides in us and then leaves for even a little while, how many of us start complaining or become depressed?
How powerful can our love for Jesus be when mixed with self interest or self love? Those of us who love Jesus for who he is and do not seek some special comfort of our own – they are the ones who bless him amidst all heartache, tribulation and anguish of real life. There is no difference in their love that is found also in a state of highest comfort and peace. However, those who are always seeking to receive comfort should be called “mercenary,” because they only reveal their association with him when they receive compensation. Do they not know that they are lovers of themselves, not Christ? They only desire profit and advantage from their relationship.
Where can one be found, who is willing to serve God for nothing? It is rare that one becomes so spiritually disciplined that they have surrendered their “white knuckle grasp” upon all worldly things. Consider how hard it is to find anyone who is truly poor in spirit and free from the world’s afflictions and influences. Such a person would give all their material possessions over as if it was nothing. That person would practice great repentance and still sense in their heart that it is not enough. That person would obtain all knowledge and realize only how little they really know and far removed they are from knowing God. That person may live extremely virtuous and be fervently devoted, yet lack much, because it would be recognized that we lack one thing that is most necessary for us. What is that one thing? Leave everything. Forsake ourselves. Turn completely away from our desires. Keep nothing for ourselves out of self-love. Release our “white knuckle grasp” onwhat pleases us to seek our Savior. Yet, when we have done all that is to be done, so far as we know and are able, we must think of it as having done nothing. We should recognize this one thing: We are in truth an unprofitable servant in, for and with Christ. However, at that point, we will realize that no one will be richer than us, no one more powerful, and no one more free for we can freely disregard all things we value in this world and set ourselves in the lowest place, and rejoice with our Savior, who exalts us with his blessings.
My daily prayer: Lord Jesus, in your holy name, I seek to understand within me the joy and comfort of knowing you for your sake, not for my sake. I rejoice in the blessings that flow from walking along side of you each day, no matter what is going on around me. May all I say and do today honor and praise you, and I lay at the foot of your cross all my worries and concerns. There is far too much in life that will affect me and my family that I have little control over, and it is in those situations I can only trust in you to handle those matters, directing my daily steps according to the perfect, good and pleasing will of the Father that you reveal through me. Lord, embrace my family and hedge them in as they seek you, and may I be a disciple of truth to inspire my family and others to seek you in their lives as well. Even if they begin the journey seeking their own comfort, Lord at least they have turned to you, and I believe as I have done, they will also realize the one truth to real comfort once they come to really know you as their personal Lord and Savior. Amen
For additional reading: 2 Corinthians 1:5; 11:27; 12:10; Philippians 1:29-30; 2:21; Luke 9:14; 17:10; 18:14; 22:41-42; Mark 10:38; Matthew 16:24-25