From a recent talk given at our Colorado University FCA // Athletes in Action meeting on 1/20/20
On Monday, we talked about how we are all, “all in,” in at least one aspect of our lives. Whether it be our identity as an athlete, a student, a friend, etc., the world presents many opportunities for us to go “all in” by giving our hearts and minds to that which competes for our full attention. Furthermore, in an age where technology has made multitasking such an integral part of our lives, often we attempt to go “all in” in more ways than one. Is this even possible? Maybe in the sense that we talked about the world being “all in,” but if so, the strain and stress of it all most certainly weighs a ton. So then, what do we do with all of this? Where do we go for rest, a second to breath or sound counsel in how to move forward rightly with peace and joy?
The good news here is that the world isn’t the only one “all in.” We talked about how God went “all in” when he created the world and decided to carefully craft humanity in His own image:
“… in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food… And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:27-29, 31 NIV)
While many of us have heard this before, have we ever really paused to consider the implications of declaration, the many ways that God demonstrates his love and commitment to us through creation? In Genesis 1:26-31 we see what it means for God to be “all in:”
- He created you in His image
- He blesses you because you are not only His creation, but more specifically because you are His image bearer
- He gives you purpose and provision because you are His
- He affirms you and approves of you not because of anything you have done or could ever do for, but simply because He created you to exist as a representation of His likeness
- Adam and Eve were created, and then immediately blessed, given position, authority, and provision for all of their needs, and divine approval -All of this as a result of mere existence, before they had any opportunity to do anything to earn it.
Here’s what really gets me: Adam and Eve deliberately chose to give themselves to the allure of the world over obedience to God, even after the love and favor He communicates through creation. This decision renders them dead in sin, as we are when we chose to be “all in” with the world as well. But, as we said, God went “all in” when He created us, and in doing so He also determined to give His one and only Son, Jesus, to sacrifice His own life in our place:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)
Why? Because we were made in His image, carefully crafted by God so that we might communicate His great love to the world as we live in relationship with Him through the Holy Spirit and the resurrection power of Christ Jesus. Clearly Jesus is “all in” as well.
So, what does this mean for us? Since we are all “all in” somehow, someway, and God created us with free will, we have the liberty to chose whether or not we want to go “all in” with the world, or “all in” with God though Jesus. But, how do we do this?
At the end of our meeting on Monday, we connected a few dots and determined that if we make Jesus our only priority, giving Him our full attention and going “all in,” He then guides us in how we give are to give of ourselves in participate with the world as a means of worship through Him by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible affirms this in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Apart from Jesus, the cares of this world push and pull at us, competing for our attention, but how are we to know how much to give and where best to devote our time? Jesus is the one common thread that connects all of these seemingly separate aspects of our lives in one cohesive life of peace, joy, and righteousness. He is the only way to make sense of it all, bringing and holding everything together.
As I was reading in the book of John, I noticed that Jesus refers to Himself as the “the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:51) Going “all in” with Jesus means that He is our provision for every need that we have. When we:
- Learn that we didn’t make the starting lineup and are tempted to think we’re not good enough
- Receive a poor grade on a test that we studied super hard for and are confused with how we could have fallen so far short
- Are frustrated because a friend of yours failed to live up to the expectations you had for your relationship
- Are stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed, you name it…
… Jesus ALONE is our response and the only sure answer. At this point you might be thinking: for someone who said she doesn’t like clichés, she’s certainly using her fair share of them in this little write up. Well, I would have otherwise agreed with you until the Lord opened my eyes to what that statement truly means, and to be perfectly honest, there’s no other way to put it: Jesus just is, period. Why?
By directing our focus and attention to the person of Jesus, acknowledging His presence and submitting to His authority in our lives, He removes our own thoughts, worries, fears, etc. and replaces them with the awareness of Himself. When we pause to spend time with Him first, no agenda, but simply being still in His presence, consciously inviting him into the moment, He awakens our hearts to the reality of Himself alive in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. God reveals His glory to us in Jesus, and in doing so, captivates our hearts and commands our attention in the most beautiful way. We might not always be able to explain it, and well, let’s face it, how could we ever adequately explain the greatness of our own Creator? But, Spending time with Jesus and saturating ourselves in the gospel gives the Holy Spirit the space to work in and through us by the power of Jesus, the power of the gospel itself, which “is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes… For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed…” namely, Jesus. (Romans 1:16-17 NIV)
When we go “all in” with Jesus in this way, He saturates our hearts and minds, allowing us to discern ho we are to best express our worship response through the many aspects of life that otherwise compete for our attention. Instead of being enslaved to these woes, God guides us through our cares and concerns as we follow Jesus, so that by being “all in” with Him, we can be “all in” in every aspect of our lives: “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17 NIV) What I have discovered is that the path and provision that Jesus provides in the time I spend in the awareness and the stillness of His presence offers the only solution or course of action that ever truly satisfies. And, this satisfaction is not just a temporary relief or fleeting pleasure, but one that actually endures because it is given directly by God through Jesus and the power of His Holy Spirit alive and at work in my heart and life.
On the contrary, when I do not seek Jesus alone, even when my first response to a question or concern is to go to the Bible for the answer to my problem, I would be willing to argue that I am no different than the Jewish authorities that Jesus rebuked in John 5:39-40, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” If we do not first look to Jesus, we are missing the point entirely.
While I have been walking with Jesus for most of my life, I have been seeking the scriptures to see what God says about that which has captured my attention or concern in the moment. The Word of God is good, and it has and will always bring peace and wise counsel, I am learning that my focus in this scenario is on the proverbial waves, and not on Jesus alone (See Matthew 14:25-31). When the waves are my driving factor, inevitably my focus will begin to shift to the waves alone, and all of the peace and fulfillment I found to speak to my situation is gone, and I find myself sinking again.
I think this is why our faith journeys and the emotional states we experience therein can begin to feel like a roller coaster ride. Instead of seeking the scriptures to find what I need for any given woe of this world, I’m missing the point of the scriptures in the first place: Jesus standing right in front of me.
So here is my challenge for us all, as we start navigating together what it looks like to truly be “all in” in the best way: Instead of reading the Bible with an agenda, or devouring the Word as it speaks to our lives, or even seeking Jesus first in addition to our pursuits of other worlds endeavors, will you join me in simply spending time with Jesus? For me, personally, this has been journaling with a gut level honesty before the Lord, spending time in the book of John as I marvel at the glory of God in the person of Jesus, reading J.D. Greear’s The Gospel, and prayerfully conversing with God in my heart and mind through ought the day. This might look differently for each of us, but I am convinced that in doing so, we will all experience a transformation from the inside out that will change our hearts and lives for an eternity.