- When God thinks of you, what do you assume God feels? What is your immediate impression? Here is the truth: God has a bias towards you. Even when we fail “in ministry or personally”God stays true to his nature as love. Do you recoil at this thought about God”s unconditional love toward you? Is your first impulse to qualify it somehow? Or does receiving God”s unconditional love call forth a response of love in return? Ask God for the grace to receive his love for you . . . without qualification.2. Are you motivated by love or fear? We rightfully revere God even as he welcomes us as friends (Jn. 15:15). Genuine friendships are grounded in love and mutual respect. But some of us live in fear of not performing well enough to be accepted by God. We find ourselves locked in a self-imposed prison of fear. How easily we forget that perfect love casts out fear (1 Jn. 4:18). What is the ground of your relationship with God? Performance? Fear? Or having received God”s love, are you now motivated by love?3. Have you surrendered to God or submitting out of duty alone? Some pastors have never experienced full surrender to God”s love. They focus on their own efforts and actions to please God. To float safely in water one needs to relax; thrashing around leads to exhaustion and sinking. Have you learned to float in the current of God’s grace? Or are you trying to keep yourself afloat by your own efforts?
4. Have you been transformed by God’s love? Many pastors desire a radical spiritual transformation to occur in their own lives. God deeply desires this for us. But it has to be his way and his way is to encounter his love. Once we receive that transformational love, we are then in a place to serve God and others in and through love. We will be like Jesus. Have you turned yourself to face Jesus? Can you be vulnerable and honest with God about your desire for transformation into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18)?
5. Have you become love? As pastors, we need to remember that becoming like God is the goal of friendship with God. This is what union with God is about (Eph. 4:24; 2 Peter 1:4). When we are transformed by God’s love, love will then flow from us. We will deeply care for others as an end in itself, not as a means to a goal. Love will flow from us because that is who we really are on the inside authentic love is not conjured up, but is a stream of living water that flows naturally. What has been your experience with God”s love? Do you know God’s love or just know about it?
The five points above are taken and adapted from David Benner. 2003. Surrender to Love. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Kirk Byron Jones. 2001. Rest in the Storm: Self-Care Strategies for Clergy and Other Caregivers. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press.
For further reading, consider Dallas Willard. 2012. Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
Executive editor: Russ Gunsalus
Curator of content: Dave Higle