A few weeks ago, I was spending time with God and thinking about my life – the current state of my life, the different parts of my life and the people in it like my husband and our marriage, our church and church family, our natural family, our finances, etc. Then a few questions came to my spirit – which I know were from God: What if these things were to fall apart? What if important people in my life began to leave or fail me? What would be my response to God? Would I run from God and abandon my relationship with Him? Would I become angry and bitter with Him because people I trusted in disappointed me or let me down?
Honestly, it’s hard to even fathom what my life would be or look like if certain things or people weren’t in place. God forbid if something major and unexpected were to happen that would shake my foundation and make me question God. God forbid if we were to be homeless or if something serious took place in my marriage or with my church. God forbid if we faced a serious situation with our health or even an unexpected death. These are things that happen in life that no one wants or expects to happen, but what if? As these questions came to my spirit and I imagined things that could possibly happen, I was honestly “shook,” (lol). I had to honestly ask myself, “Deborah, what would you honestly do? What would be your response to God?” I had to ask myself if I would charge God with wrongdoing for the bad things that would be going on around me. I had to ask myself if I would feel abandoned by God or harden my heart towards Him altogether.
At that moment, God was asking me, “Deborah, DO YOU LOVE ME MORE THAN THESE?” Initially, I’m sure that I would be shocked, angry, sad, feel abandoned by God, betrayed by those who let me down, and wonder if God was still with me. But would I be willing to push past the pain and still honor and love God in my heart? Would I still choose to live for Jesus and totally devote my life to Him if everything around me or if the things and people that I found most important failed me? Would I choose to rise out of the ashes of disappointment, bewilderment, depression, and intense pain to still be a willing disciple of Christ? Or would I be so hurt, angry with God, disappointed, and embarrassed that I run away from God and His people? This is a heart check that we all have to do.
What Does It Mean To Love Jesus?
In John 21:15, Jesus asks Peter frankly, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” Jesus had just performed a miracle and did the Disciples a huge favor by telling them which side of the boat to cast their net so they could catch fish. They had been fishing the night before and caught nothing, but when Jesus told them where to cast their net, they caught 153 fish! They went to shore and Jesus even had breakfast already prepared for them! I’m sure the disciples were elated at what Jesus had done for them. I’m sure they enjoyed the provision of food. Jesus wasn’t concerned though if Peter enjoyed or loved the miracle of fish, what He wanted to know was if Peter loved Him more than those things. Did Peter love Him more than the miracles He could perform or the things He could give or do?
It’s ok to enjoy the things that God adds to our lives – it’s ok to enjoy the money, the spouse, the jobs, the people, etc. But what God really wants to know is, DO YOU LOVE ME MORE THAN THESE? Do you love Me more than the loaves and fish that I can provide for you? This is what it means to really love Jesus. So many people love God and even come to God simply for what He can do for them. Many women in our generation are following Jesus simply to get a husband. Many people serve God in ministry simply for the money and fame they can gain from it. But God knows why we really love Him, yet He asks each of us, DO YOU LOVE ME MORE THAN THESE? If He were to take away all the things you loved or if the people you loved began to leave your life or do things to hurt you, would you still love Him? To really love Jesus is to still choose Him in spite of EVERYTHING and EVERYONE.
Each time Jesus asked Peter “do you love Me” (verses 15,16, and 17), Jesus followed it by saying, “feed/tend My sheep.” Jesus was pretty much saying if you love Me then be about my business – Kingdom business. If you read all of John 21 and the chapters before it, Peter and the disciples had gone back to what they knew (their old life) after Jesus had been put to death on the cross. Their life with Jesus, as they knew it had been torn apart and was over – so they thought. So, they went back to working and living for themselves, they went back to living how they used to live and living life for themselves. Jesus wanted them to know that if they truly loved Him, they would seek His Kingdom and make His Kingdom work their business.
To love Jesus is to seek first HIS Kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), not seek after the things that make you happy. If everything in your life were to be turned completely upside down, would you still be about your Father’s business or would you go back to living your life how you used to live it before you knew Jesus? (Unfortunately, many have.) After the shock and the tears, would you get back up and continue to follow Jesus or would you go back to what you used to know (your old life)? Do you love Him more than everything in your life right now? Do you love Him even more than the things that He has so graciously added to your life? John 14:15 says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Jesus’ two greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40). To love God with everything is to seek Him above all else, to love Him above all else. To love God is to continue to choose Him even through the trials of life.
God Will Test Your Love And Loyalty For Him
In this walk, we will all be tested on how much we really love God. God will allow tests, trails, and situations to take place to show us what’s really in our heart. I have gone through situations that have literally knocked me off my feet. I’ve faced disappointment, I’ve had my hopes dashed many times, I’ve been caught off guard by completely unexpected situations, and I’ve been hurt and let down by people. These situations showed me what was really in my heart. They showed me that I had a sense of entitlement and thought that God owed me something. They showed me that I had a carnal view of God and what being a disciple really meant. They showed me that my love was very limited and so much more. But God used those situations to build my love for Him, He used them to prune me and purify my heart so that my loyalty could be to Him first and foremost and not to the things He could do for me or give me.
Peter’s love and loyalty to Jesus were also tested. Several chapters earlier in John 13:37 Peter boldly says to Jesus, “I will lay down my life for Your sake.” Those words sound really nice but of course, Jesus knew what was really in Peter’s heart. Jump forward a few chapters to John 18 and sure enough, Peter denies Jesus not once, not twice, but three times! Jesus had to put Peters words to the test to show him what was really in his heart. At that time Peter really cared more about His own safety and wellbeing more than standing up for the One he proclaimed to love. Jesus was about to be crucified, the whole city was in an uproar about it, and certain people were trying to identify His followers so they could persecute them too. Even though Jesus had warned Peter and the other disciples that this time would come, when it actually came, they scattered! What happened to their devotion for Him? What happened to Peter’s bold declaration to lay down his life for Jesus? When the fire got turned up, it exposed that they were not yet ready or willing to lay down their life, instead, they chose to save it.
It’s awesome to proclaim our love and dedication to God. In fact, it’s an easy thing to do. It’s easy to shout aloud during praise and worship how much you love God and how far you’re willing to go for Him. But when those words are really tested, what will you do? When it’s time to go to the cross will you scatter, or will you take a stand for and in Christ? Will you love Him more than your life? Will you love Him more than your husband/wife/significant other, friends and family, pastors/spiritual leaders; your job, education, social status, finances, house, etc.? Are you loyal and devoted to Jesus only when things are going good? Are you only with Him for the miracles He can do? We really have to search and evaluate our heart – ask yourself, how much do I really love God? Do I really love Him more than these things? So much so that I would continue following Him if something were to happen to these things? This is TRUE WORSHIP!
If You Failed The Test, God Wants To Restore You!
Clearly, Peter failed the test and I’m sure he felt really disappointed with himself, but the wonderful thing is Jesus still wanted to restore him! Jesus already knew what was in Peter’s heart, he just wanted Peter to know what was in his heart. Jesus already knew what was in your heart; He wasn’t shocked at your response when that situation did not go how you wanted it to go. He wasn’t shocked that you stopped talking to Him for a while because of that loss. He wasn’t shocked that you put that job and the money before Him. He wasn’t shocked that you choose the pleasures of your flesh over Him. He already knew it was in your heart, He just wanted you to see it. Now it’s time to get up, repent, shake off the shame and disappointment in yourself, and allow God to change your heart and restore you. As long as you are willing to repent (which means turn from your ways – turn from loving things and people more than God, turn from putting people and things before God), God is willing to work with you.
When Jesus asked Peter three times in John 21:15-17 if he loved Him, He was actually restoring Peter back to his rightful place as His disciple. Jesus didn’t want to hold it over Peter’s head, and He didn’t want Peter to walk around in condemnation and shame because of his actions. He actually wanted to change Peter’s heart. If you’ve noticed that you’re not as loyal to God as you thought you were or that you have placed other things before Him, or that you love the things of the word more than you love God, He doesn’t want your response to be condemnation and shame, He wants your response to be REPENTANCE – a broken spirit and a contrite heart (Psalm 51). He wants it to be a changed heart. To have a changed heart you will need to spend more time with God and in His word, maybe fast, and practice denying yourself more, but God can do it and He wants to do it.
After you repent ask God to make you Kingdom minded. Ask Him to give you a heart that seeks His Kingdom and righteousness first. Ask Him for a heart that desires His will above all and that cares about souls. Jesus told Peter, “if you love Me, feed My sheep.” Loving Jesus is not just an emotional feeling; it begins in the heart but then it has to be manifested in how you live. Loving Jesus requires action. If you love Jesus, be about His business and put Him above EVERYTHING else. If you love Jesus, you will love Him more than these.
Love Jesus More Than Life Itself
Our relationship with God cannot be dependent on how everything else in our life is going. God’s goodness is not dependent on what’s going on around us. His goodness is not dependent on what people around us are doing or not doing. God and His nature exist outside of our world, the circumstances we face, and the actions of those in it. We can’t judge or view God from the lens of our circumstances. He is God, He is good, and He is Love even when our world is in shambles – that’s the beautiful thing about Him, He doesn’t change. He is the ONLY constant in a world that is so unstable. Our trust should be in Him alone, our security should be in Him alone, and our loyalty should be to Him alone. We should love Him more than life itself and everything in our life.
Life happens; things will happen in life that you don’t expect to happen. Things will fail you and people will fail you. Even Christians whom you trust will fail you, but you can’t charge God for behavior that people do with their own free will. It rains on the just as well as the unjust and God knows when the rain will fall. He uses the rain to make us stronger. So, what will you do when these things happen? Will you choose to hold on to God and stay committed to Him or will you give up on Him? God will walk with you through those things if you choose to hold on to Him. Do you have your heart prepared and your mind made up to love God more than all these things? In a world that loves everything else more than Jesus and has put everything else before Him, do YOU truly love Him?
Do you love Him more than these? If so, be about His business!