I have a slogan for lots of things. I like one liners. They are proverbial sentences that bring wisdom and guidance to my spiritual journey. I have a one line motto that I have developed that has guided my pursuit of God. It has served me well over the years. This is my motto for pursuing God:
Ever grateful, never satisfied, relentlessly pursuing God for more of Himself, never taking offense.
Over the next few blogs I will unpack how this sentence has guided my pursuit of God by looking at each segment.
Ever grateful. There are two times to be grateful in life: when you feel like it and when you don’t. And the time when you most need to be thankful is when you least feel like it. The reason I put this line in my motto was because I found myself being ungrateful too often. I am a passionate person. Passionate people expect more from life and from God. The more expectations you have the more disappointed you will be in life. Disappointment easily leads you to grumbling and complaining. Paul talks about warnings from Israel’s history in 1 Corinthians 10. He talks about the big sins of Israel’s history. Things like - idolatry, sexual immorality and testing God. Then he adds grumbling. Do you remember when you were a kid and they had you do those tests where they showed you four pictures and you had to circle the one that didn’t belong: tree, plant, flower, car. One obviously didn’t fit. When I look at this list - grumbling doesn’t seem to fit. The others seem like really big sins, but everybody grumbles and complains a little. Why is grumbling on this list?
Grumbling is an indictment against the goodness of God. Grumbling is an act of unbelief. When the children of Israel grumble against God about not having water or food or the comforts of Egypt, they do not believe that God will provide for them, or take care of them. Doubt is not a sin. Doubt is weak faith that needs to be developed. But unbelief is a sin. Grumbling is unbelief. This is why I had to choose to be grateful. Gratitude reminds me of the goodness of God and strengthens my faith. Gratitude keeps me from grumbling and helps me to persist. Gratitude won’t change your circumstances but it will change your perspective.
Often I went away to the monastery to pursue God. I would spend two days at the monastery seeking God for more of Himself. If I came with high expectation of encountering God, but nothing much happened I could easily be disappointed. Disappointment can lead to grumbling. Grumbling can lead to a hardened heart. A hardened heart prevents me from giving God access. So I realized that I had to pursue God with great expectation, but be grateful no matter what I received. I was grateful when God answered me with what I expected and I chose to be grateful when He didn’t. I pursued God for the next great encounter with Him, and I chose to be grateful when all I got was a gentle whisper or a sense of peace. I pursued God for the next filling of the Holy Spirit; I hoped and longed that God would come, and I was grateful when He did. But I also had to choose to be grateful when all I received was a gentle assurance of his presence. I hoped He would come like a mighty rushing wind, but I was grateful when He came like a gentle dove. I had to choose gratitude. My lack of gratitude hindered my pursuit. Gratitude re-set the goodness of God in my inner being. Gratitude re-established faith in my soul.
Ever grateful. I had to realize that I wasn’t pursuing God so that He would give me what I wanted. I was pursuing God because He is worth it. He is worthy; He is worth our pursuit. He is worth our full attention, but we mostly give Him our distracted selves.
I went to the monastery one time with my friends Tommy and Dave. We ended our day alone with God but praying together before bedtime. After our prayer time, Tommy asked me, “What are you going to do now?” I said, “I am actually going to stay up all night and pray.” He said, “Really? Can I join you?” He was a youth pastor. Only a youth pastor would think this was fun! I said, “Sure. It isn’t a lock in or anything. I just feel led by God to stay up all night and pray.” He wanted to join. Dave reluctantly chimes in, “Well, I’ll stay up too.” I smelled the hesitation: “You don’t need to.” He said, “No. No. it’s ok.” So we stayed up all night and prayed, then at 6am, I stood up and said, “I am going to shower now.” Dave said, “Wait! Why did we do this? We stayed up all night and nothing happened. Why did we do this? We lost a night’s sleep for nothing!” I said, “Because He is worth it. Maybe next time He comes in power. Maybe He doesn’t. Be He is worth it either way.”
So, I pursue Him hoping for another great experience with God, but when it doesn’t come, I choose to be grateful because He is the God of the cross. He is worth it. He is worth our pursuit. He is worth our full attention. He is worth our sacrifice. He is worth our ever grateful response in the face of less than we hoped for. Ever grateful; never satisfied; relentlessly pursuing Him for more of Himself; never taking offense.