by Mark Batterson, author of Wild Goose Chase and Primal
In a world that often complicates Christianity, Jesus simplified it with the Great Commandment: Love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Sometimes by the time we get to the strength part of that commandment, we’ve got nothing left to give. But if that’s the case, we’re missing out on one of the most rewarding parts of loving God.
A few years ago I took a mission trip to Jamaica. I know what you’re thinking, but God cares about the Caribbean too. And someone’s got to go! In all seriousness, it’s not all blue ocean and beautiful beaches. Many islanders live in Third World conditions while vacationers kick back and soak up the sun. Our team worked from sunup to sundown building a ministry center for drug and alcohol addicts. It was physically grueling. And our primary task was sanding the cement walls to prepare them for painting. But here’s the catch: we didn’t have a sander or sandpaper. We had to use cement blocks to scrape the cement walls. Have you ever heard fingernails on a chalkboard? Cement on cement is no better! After a while, it started getting on my nerves. And then we started getting on each other’s nerves. But then there was a moment I’ll never forget. It’s a miracle that I heard His still, small voice over the sound of the cement, but I sensed the Spirit saying, “Mark, this is music in my ears.
When I finally collapsed into bed after a long day of good old-fashioned hard work, I was absolutely exhausted. My arms and my ears were sore. But I had a sense of spiritual satisfaction unrivaled by any worship service I’ve ever experienced. I felt like I had given God every ounce of energy I possessed. I felt like I had loved God with all of my strength.
I know God loves the sound of our voices when we sing songs of praise. It’s music to His ears. But you know what God loves even more? God loves the smell of your sweat. It stinks to high heaven, but it’s a sweet aroma. Your sweat is sacred incense. God loves it when we break a sweat serving His purposes. Our energies turn into beautiful melodies and it’s music in God’s ear. It’s also the way we build sweat equity in His kingdom.
So what does it mean to love God with all of your strength? It means expending tremendous amounts of energy for kingdom causes. It means blood, sweat, and tears. It means servanthood and sacrifice. It means good old-fashioned hard work.
Energy may be the least appreciated dimension of the Great Commandment because it’s the least sentimental. But it’s the most practical. And how we invest our energy reveals our true priorities. It also reveals how much we love someone. Let me put it in relational terms. For the guys who aren’t married yet, here are my premarital counseling CliffsNotes: taking out the garbage is romantic. Why? Because love isn’t measured by words spoken. Love is measured by calories burned.
Christianity was never intended to be a noun. And when we turn it into a noun, it becomes a turnoff. Christianity was always intended to be a verb. We’ve got to act on God ideas. We’ve got to obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We’ve got to seize opportunities to serve. Talk is cheap and we have cheapened the gospel long enough. At the end of the day, God isn’t going to say, “Well said, good and faithful servant.” There is only one commendation when everything is said and done: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” God doesn’t reward what we know. He doesn’t reward what we say. He rewards the expenditure of energy. And nothing is more rewarding than burning calories for a kingdom cause.
Adapted from Primal by Mark Batterson, published by Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group 2009. Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.