What Does it Take to Fall in Love with God for a Lifetime?
In light of those who have walked away from the faith in recent days, what does it take to fall in love with God for a lifetime, and what does it mean to truly love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Below are five ways we develop a life-long love relationship with God.
If you listen to the lyrics of current worship songs, they include repetitious phrases of God’s unending love for us and who He says we are. The lines of these songs declare our our position before God: we are chosen, not forsaken. God will go to unending lengths to draw us to Himself. The call to surrender to the Christian life is often sung as an ambiguous response to God’s love and sacrifice. Trials are mentioned only as vague struggles that provide opportunities for God to intervene on our behalf.
Recently, a Hillsong composer made news when he declared on social media that he was “genuinely losing his Christian faith.” He is not the first of several well-known Christians to backtrack on their previous professions. These are men and women who have spent years following Christ with passion. Yet, for some reason, they fell away.
In light of those who have walked away from the faith in recent days, let's ask ourselves what it takes to fall in love with God for a lifetime, and what does it mean to truly love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength?
Below are five ways we develop a life-long love relationship with God.
1. We begin by following in the footsteps of Jesus.
When Jesus first met His disciples, He simply asked them to, “follow me.” They didn’t know where He was headed, yet they trusted and went where He led. In our own walk with the Lord, our first step is to search, in faith, the face of God. When the disciples started following, they still had questions, but they began the journey with Jesus. The more they were with Him, the more they began to understand who He was as the Messiah. It was through His words and actions that their love for Him grew.
I often remember when I first trusted in Christ as my Savior. I was in the third grade, with only a basic understanding of who Jesus was. Yet, I knew Jesus loved me and died for me so that I might have a relationship with Him. I trusted what the Bible had to say, and I decided that I wanted to know more. As an eight-year-old girl, I began to read my Bible. I might not have understood everything, but God continued to honor my faithfulness as I followed in obedience. As time passed, not only did I begin to learn more about Christ, but my trust in Him grew. When we spend time with God through prayer and Scripture, He begins to grow our hearts to become more like His.
2. We understand and surrender to the difficult teachings of Christ.
Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus ministered to the multitude with miracles. The crowds responded by listening to His teachings and gathering where He went. However, when he began to talk about the sacrifice that comes with following Him, people turned away. His disciples did not understand the response of the crowd. Soon after Jesus fed the 5000, He taught the crowd how He is the bread of life. This was too difficult of a teaching for some and many turned away (John 6:60-66). Jesus never promised that our walk with Him would be easy; yet He gave them the promise of His peace (John 14:27).
Jesus was very specific about the suffering His disciples would endure for His sake. He was honest when His disciples that they would desert Him in His time of need. If we fall in love with God without understanding the necessity and consequences of the cross, we miss a key aspect of this relationship. Not only do we misunderstand the cost of discipleship, but we neglect to fully appreciate the fulness of God’s love and grace.
Many church attenders today sit comfortably in their chairs without recognizing what is actually required to be a lover of Christ. Passive worship begs the question, have some fallen in love with a false perception of the person of Christ by thinking He is their brother and friend without understanding all that is required?
Perhaps this is why there has been a decrease in church attendance in the last decade. When we think only of a God whose “love never fails” and who “covers everything,” without considering His other divine attributes, we have difficulty reconciling the injustices of the world. As believers and lovers of God, we must surrender to His mystery and trust in His plan.
3. We understand that it is through trials our love for God is tested and refined.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture is the restoration of Simon Peter found in John 21. After Jesus was arrested, Peter denied his Lord three times. Jesus was then tried, beaten, crucified, and buried. Peter grieved for three days and witnessed the resurrection of his Savior. Then, after a miraculous catch on the sea of Galilee and breakfast with the risen Lord, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him more than these.
While the Greek text is elusive as to what Jesus referred, some interpretations suggest “these” could mean the other disciples, but could also mean Peter’s livelihood. After Jesus died, Peter had gone back to what he had known before Christ: fishing. Now Jesus called him a second time post-resurrection. It is not a call to follow, but rather a call to go and love. This is a call built on the truth of His resurrection and knowledge of the cost of discipleship.
After this encounter with Jesus, Peter and the other disciples waited in Jerusalem to receive the promised Helper, the Holy Spirit. It is through the Spirit that the disciples received power to be witnesses throughout Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth. In Acts 3 and 4, Peter boldly professed his faith in Christ and suffered for his faith, stating that he could not help but speak about what he had seen and heard (Acts 4:20). Peter’s example shows us that it is through heartache, failure, and sometimes even faltering faith that we can find our way to deeper love for Christ.
4. We place God at the center of our relationship with Him.
If we take John 3:16 out of the context of Scripture, we can easily believe that we are the center of God’s love. Creation and redemption can be seen as revolving completely around the salvation of mankind. However, this is a misunderstanding of the greatness of God. In fact, creation and salvation ultimately was a display of the love and glory of God. If we want to experience a relationship of love with the Lord as God intends, we must see Him as the prime beneficiary of the relationship.
God created us out of His great love. We are beneficiaries of that love and should therefore respond in love. He saved us, not because we deserved it, but because of His great love for us. Yet, to love God with all that we are requires us to not place ourselves first in our relationship with Him. Practically lived out, it means placing obedience over desire, giving thanks in all circumstances, and recognizing God’s sovereignty in our lives. Perhaps this requires us to re-evaluate our priorities in order to see if we are best using the time He has given us to know Him and make Him known.
5. We recognize that a love relationship with God extends beyond our emotions.
Everyone loves the feeling of falling in love. Our emotions are heightened, and we feel invincible. Spiritually, we have “mountain top experiences” where we feel intimately close to God. These could happen after a spiritual retreat or a convicting sermon. Yet, often with the spiritual highs come a low point in our walk with God. Suddenly, we do not feel “close” to God anymore. This emotional rollercoaster can lead to spiritual frustration. Scripture encourages us to know that God has given us everything we need to live a godly life. Therefore, in times when our emotions want to direct our relationship with God, we should hold tight to His word and practice discipline (1 Peter 1:3-11).
If you ask anyone who has been married for a long time how they have stayed in love for so long, an answer you often hear is that they did not rely on the “butterfly feeling” to guide their relationship. Rather, their marriage was built on their commitment, trust, and mutual admiration for one another. Likewise, to fall in love with God for a lifetime, we must understand that we might not always feel intimate with God. But even in times of waiting, God is still with us, we are free to trust and obey.
Cortney Whiting is a wife and mother of two wonderfully energetic children. She received her Masters of Theology Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. After serving in the church for nearly 15 years, Cortney currently serves as a lay-leader and writes for various Christian ministries. You can find her at her blog, Unveiled Graces.
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