A few weeks ago I may have received a message from God. I say “may have” because I would never want to put words into the mouth of God. Thus, I take the greatest of caution about making such a claim but I find myself with no other satisfactory explanation.
Although I am often aware of the presence of God at different times during my day, I can only recall four times in my entire life that I experienced what seemed to be a crystal-clear, direct message from God. In all four cases, I was cut off in mid-sentence by a single statement that obliterated the rest of what I was saying, overriding my own thoughts—it was powerful, demanding complete and total attention.
I was cut off in mid-sentence by a single, powerful, statement.
After replaying the incident in my mind both in the moments and days that followed, the impression that it was from God was so strong, I realized I would have to enter a state of willful denial to convince myself it was just my imagination. Before I tell you what was said, there is a backstory.
I grew up on a cattle and grain farm and learned a very strong work ethic from my father. If I was sent to the workshop to get a tool, walking was completely unacceptable; I ran. I learned to never stand around doing nothing. Instead, I was to always look for something else to do and think ahead as to what might be required next. I was never complimented on a job well done, but given constructive criticism instead. In my teen years, I worked as a farm hand twelve hours a day, six days a week, with chores on Sunday. This training served me very well when I got into the working world, but there was a wee problem.
Some say that your view of God can be strongly influenced by your past relationship with your father.
They say that one’s view of God can be strongly influenced by the kind of relationship one had with ones father. In my case, the result was that I tended to view God as a taskmaster — a perfectly good one mind you, but a taskmaster just the same. I believed that the way to please God and demonstrate my love for God was to work hard serving him and his people in the various things I do. In my mind, loving God really meant serving God and others.
With that backstory in mind, one morning a few weeks ago I was eagerly looking forward to a new workday. Just before tackling my priority objectives for the day, I earnestly and sincerely prayed, “Father, help me to serve you today as you desire me to serve you.”
But I was forcefully interrupted halfway through that sentence. Just after the “serve you today” phrase, a statement appeared like a thunderclap in my mind, interrupting me and cutting me off. The message was this …
NO! — NOT “SERVE” — ”LOVE”!
I was struck silent for a few moments at what seemed like a very sharp but loving rebuke. Immediately, I corrected my prayer, changing “serve” to “love” … “help me to love you today as you desire me to love you,” … and I sensed a wonderful door had just opened.
The statement from God has hung like a billboard in my mind for weeks now. I close my eyes at night and often the first thing I see is, “No! Not ‘serve’! ‘Love’!”
I sensed a wonderful door had just opened.
Three thoughts have emerged.
Immediately after my prayer was interrupted and cut off by that statement, the command that Jesus described as “the great and foremost” command came to mind. He said,
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment.1
Christ clearly said “love”, not “serve”. Love is the foundation. Serving, obeying, and glorifying God is a natural consequence of loving God but the loving of God must be first and foremost according to Christ. Why in the world had I been so fixated on serving, with scarcely a thought that loving God might mean something vastly more than mere serving?
Christ clearly said “love”, not “serve”.
Second, as I thought about it, I strongly suspected that I could not trust myself to understand the full extent of what Christ meant when he said, “with all your heart, soul, and mind”. I sensed that this was vastly more than I had conceived and it was exciting. It was like opening a door in a stone wall stretching across the countryside, looking through, and seeing a much more wonderful world that went forever “further up and further in” to quote the unicorn in C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle. I see that it is the most wonderful road a human being can ever walk; there is nothing that can possibly surpass it. To truly love God in the way he meant is a response to the supernatural way he already loves us. Human effort will fall orders of magnitude short of the real thing, and I can not rely on my own understanding of what this means. I need the work of God within me.
I see that it is the most wonderful road a human being can ever walk; there is nothing that can possibly surpass it.
Third, I now pray daily asking God to teach me and fulfill in me what he meant when he said to love him with all my heart, soul, and mind. Quite honestly, it is an exhilarating way to live, and you will see a subtle but wonderful shift in how you live and see things on a daily basis.
Why would we want to love God? Consider this verse ...
Every good thing given, and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights with whom there is no shifting shadow.2
What this means is that God is the origin of every good and perfect thing ... beauty, love, music, honor, power, justice, joy, peace, and so much more. For example, all the beauty in the universe is only a dim reflection of the one who is the origin and personification of beauty, honor, power, love, music, and every perfect gift. What could possibly be more wonderful than to love and enjoy someone like that forever? He is everything we have ever wanted and vastly more and it should be no surprise--it is what we were created for.
He is everything we have ever wanted and vastly more.
C.S. Lewis described the moment when those who have put their faith in Christ for eternal life see the face of God for the first time after death. He wrote ...
God will look (appear) to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it — made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand.3
You and I have been created to find our fulfilment and joy in God. We were designed and built to find fulfillment beyond our wildest dreams in God’s love for us and us for him. Although we have often thought we could find happiness in joy in this life, what we have really always wanted is God —the one from whom that happiness and joy originated, although we may not have been conscious of it.
Suggestion: If you would like to find out more about how to spend eternity with God, you may be interested to read my own story or you may find it helpful to talk with an online mentor by filling out the form below.
C.S. Lewis, chapter 10, 'Heaven', in The Problem of Pain.