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Has anything taken a place in our heart that is reserved for One?
There it was – another testimonial. Someone started taking a health supplement and within weeks their life was drastically changed for the better.
For two years I had been taking this particular brand of supplement, hoping to see improvement in some of my long-term health issues. I had seen slight changes as the months went by, but nothing like the stories I had read online. At one point, my body became so sensitive that I had to stop taking the supplement altogether for a time.
As I sat there and read yet another story of the supplement’s success, I found myself feeling a bit discouraged. Why am I the only one who doesn’t seem to be experiencing the kind of change that everyone else is? And right on the tail of that thought, another came to me: Am I content enough in Jesus that even if nothing helps these health struggles for the rest of my life – I can say that He is enough?
Lately, I have been struck with just how many things in our society have become “needs" – things we look to on a regular basis for happiness, health, comfort, satisfaction, fulfillment, or rest. Coffee, wine, chocolate, ice cream, health and wellness products, well-behaved children, a husband … I’ve often seen this trend mask itself in funny memes or slogans on shirts and home décor. Things like, “Give me Jesus and coffee,” or “Everything is fine thanks to wine,” or “I live for weekends.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I greatly enjoy a good cup of coffee. I’m all for taking supplements and training my children to be well-behaved. God has given us an abundance of material things that He wants us to enjoy as gifts from His hand and even practical ways of functioning that are wise and healthy. But the moment we depend on these things or anything else for our happiness, “sanity,” or rest, they’ve taken a place in our heart that is reserved for One – namely, Jesus Christ.
Try as we may to find our satisfaction in other things or people, it will only last so long. After a little while we’ll realize that if we’re looking to these things, they will fall short every time. Sure, they might seem to satisfy us for a while, but it won’t last – it can’t last, because we were made to be content, satisfied, and fulfilled in Jesus alone.
Paul says in Philippians 3:7-8, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ” (NASB).
He said he had suffered the loss of all things in order to gain Christ. Things in and of themselves are not bad, and God has given us things and relationships to enjoy, to enrich our lives, and to be of help to us. But we must hold each and every one of these gifts with an open hand, knowing that even if everything was stripped from us (just as it was from Paul) we would have all we need in Jesus to be deeply, eternally satisfied.
Each of us will have the propensity to depend on something or someone in our lives, rather than on Jesus. For one person it might be indulging in too many sweets, or some other food or drink. For another it might be obsessing over the way their body looks. Maybe it’s a favorite TV series you have to see. It might be expectations you are placing on your husband (or future husband), a certain career, or an income level. Or maybe it’s something else in different seasons of our lives. But whatever those “needs” are for each one of us, we must allow the Lord to reveal what may be competing against our relationship with Him. These things may be painful to surrender and it may mean giving up certain things for a time or altogether – but I can tell you from experience that you will never, ever regret it.
If you’re desiring to take steps forward in finding greater satisfaction in Jesus alone, here are some ways you can begin.
Start by coming to Jesus, asking Him to reveal to you anything in your life that you are depending on for contentment, joy, peace, or satisfaction above Him. When He does highlight something, don’t hesitate to start taking steps in seeing Him take precedence over that area of your life. In my own life, there has never been a time I have regretted opening my heart to the Lord in greater measure, allowing Him to “search me and try me.” (See Psalm 139:23-24.) It might sting a little in the process, but the joy that comes from having unhindered intimacy with Him is far beyond worth it.
You might wonder (like I have before) how you can know whether something has become too important to you, or if you are leaning on it in an unhealthy way. First of all, if anything does pop into your mind when you ask God to reveal it to you, it’s very likely that He does want you to freshly evaluate the place of that particular thing in your life. You can trust that He loves you enough to show you anything in your life that isn’t drawing you closer to Him.
Along with that, here are some questions to ask yourself:
Is this something I am becoming dependent on for my mood, relaxation, comfort, contentment, etc.?
Do I think about “it” constantly throughout the day?
Would I be willing to give “it” up?
What is my reaction when I don’t or can’t have “it" for some reason?
In my life, there are a few things I know can easily become too important to me – almost subconsciously. Two of these are coffee and my phone (particularly social media). So, a couple of times a year I take a “fast” from them for a little while as a reminder that these are not to become things that help me cope with life or that I resort to when I am stressed, overwhelmed, or in need of rest. I always come away from those times of “fasting” refreshed as I ask God to help me keep Him first and return those other things to their proper place.
This may be something to consider doing as a reminder to yourself that Jesus deserves the place far above anything else in this life. Maybe it’s a few days … or maybe it’s an extended period of time. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom to know what is going to be the most effective in drawing your eyes and heart toward Him in greater measure.
Now, there are certain things we can’t just take a break from (like a husband, family, job, relationships, ministry, or other responsibilities). So, ask the Lord to help you realign your perspective if you feel that something like this has become too important to you. Ask Him to give you wisdom to know how to practically keep your relationships, vocation, and every other area in its proper place in your heart.
And last, but certainly not least, be proactive in making Jesus first in your life. Over the years, I’ve seen that setting my mind and heart on Him first thing in the day – intentionally turning my focus to Him the moment I wake up – makes all the difference in the perspective I have throughout the day.
Here are some ways that I have sought to do this in my own life and that I would encourage you to practice, too:
We are living in a world that is not going to help us place and keep Jesus at the center of our lives, so we must continually press into Him, seeking to know and love Him more and more.
Putting Jesus first doesn’t cause our lives to become boring or dull. In fact, when Jesus is first, there is soul-delight that goes beyond anything this world could ever offer. Our temporary distractions will leave us lacking, but in Jesus there is “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).
May our lives resonate with the truth this old hymn so beautifully expresses:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
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