As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?—Psalm 42:1,2
You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.—Psalm 63:1-3
Once I was walking down a sidewalk in the suburbs of Denver, explaining to my pastor and mentor why I was going to drop out of seminary. I told him that could no longer tell if I was reading my Bible and praying because I wanted to, or because it was an assignment. “I just want to know that I would walk with God if I wasn’t being graded on it,” I told him. So I left school, and for the next year I lived in a simple apartment, worked as a security guard, and read my Bible a lot. It was a great year. It turns out I do love God, even when no one is watching.
I have never regretted that decision. It was good preparation for the unique challenge of pastoral ministry. While other people struggle to find time to focus on spiritual things, for pastors it’s a full-time job. We are neck-deep in the Bible and prayer all week long because we are supposed to be. But every once in a while it’s really important to ask the question: would I do this if I didn’t have to? Or, to put it even more simply: do I love God?
Loving God is a hard concept to get our minds around. We can’t see God, and we can’t see love. So when we talk about loving Him, what do we even mean? What does it look like? There are probably a number of answers to that question, but I think one helpful answer is that when we love God, we desire more of Him. We want more of God in our lives. We have a genuine hunger to worship, to pray, to draw nearer and nearer.
Jesus said there is nothing more important than loving God, that it is the first and greatest commandment. If that is true, then it means that when you look at the life of a Christ-follower, you should see desire. You should see a person who clearly is not satisfied with how well they know God and how much they experience God. God-lovers want more.
This is what you see in the above Psalms. The writer of Psalm 42 pants for God and thirsts for God and longs to meet with Him. In Psalm 63, David also thirsts and longs. He seeks God and says that His love is better than life.
Do you want God more than anything else? Do I? Right now in our church, we are in a season where there are a lot of practical things to attend to. Our annual business meeting is coming up, so our elder meetings are full of conversations about budgets, nominating leaders, etc. Even though they seem unspiritual, those things are an important part of church life. Often the people who give their time to those kinds of unglamorous details are some of the most faithful believers in the church. We have to take care of the details. There is always a need to recruit more Sunday School teachers, to keep track of which ministry gets to use which facility on which days, to pay the mortgage. But in the midst of that, it’s easy to lose sight of the simple fact that church is about God. Budgets and volunteers and ministries are things the church needs, but they are not at the core of who we are. At the core, we are a group of people seeking after God, because we love Him and we want to know Him better and better.
This past year and a half have been difficult for everyone. If I can be really honest, one of the hardest things for me personally has been realizing that many Christians are a lot more passionate about political issues than they are about Jesus. On Sunday mornings we sing worship songs about how great He is, but if you want to get us really worked up, just start talking about vaccines and masks, about freedom and everything that’s wrong with the government. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty wrong with the government, but sometimes I listen to all the conversations happening around me and think “wouldn’t you rather talk about Jesus and how great He is?” Where are the people who are in love with God, who think that His love is better than life? Does anyone thirst for Him, or are we all too distracted by the things we’re outraged about?
I want to want God more than anything else. I don’t always, but that’s my goal. There is this old worship chorus I’ve always loved called In The Secret, and the chorus says “I want to know you, I want to hear your voice, I want to know you more. I want to touch you, I want to see your face, I want to know you more.” On my best days, that is the cry of my heart. On other days, it’s a reminder that I have lost focus. Someday, when I am no longer a pastor, the question will still be “do I love God?” When the COVID-19 crisis has passed, when the United States of America no longer exists, when we stand before God unmasked and all opportunities to complain about politicians have come and gone, that will be the question. When there are no more church budgets, no more elder boards, no more capital campaigns or volunteer shortages or committee meetings, all that will matter is whether or not we loved Him.
If we love Him, we want more of Him. We think He is amazing, and we stand in awe. We pant and we thirst, and we look for ways to know Him more deeply, because there is nothing better. If you have lost sight of this, let me suggest spending time in the Psalms this week and allowing yourself to be reminded of His power and His glory. Let God be the thing you want most, this week and always.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”—Hebrews 12:28,29