I recently read an article by Randy Alcorn with the above title. The question is a familiar one to all of us, because we all know how we sometimes (often?) struggle in our pursuit of God. Our lives are full of so many demands, obligations, and earthly pursuits that we have a difficult time accomplishing all the things we “have” to do, let alone finding the rare time to do the things we “want” to do. As a result, we often live with a quiet sense of guilt born out of perpetual spiritual defeat. We want to do better, we want to have those daily quiet times, and we know we should have them, but we don’t have them because life gets in the way.
In the face of this reality, how do we stay motivated in our walk with God? Alcorn gives us a good answer: You sustain your relationship with God by intentionally cultivating that relationship; more specifically, you strive to recover the biblical motive for any true relationship — LOVE. When we become luke-warm (or even cold) in our Christianity, it is not ultimately because we haven’t had time to be with God, it is not ultimately because we have failed to read Scripture and pray. The Bible tells us that the root reason we grow cold in our relationship with God is because we have lost our first love (Rev 2:4).
Thus the answer to our question takes us back to the root condition of our hearts, not merely back to issues of spiritual activity. If we find ourselves unmotivated to pursue God, then the problem is that we have failed to love God as our first and greatest priority. We have sinned; we have broken the greatest commandment: to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mark 12:30). Now as you read this, you may be thinking, “Great, Pastor. . . now I feel even more guilty and defeated!” Please keep reading, because God does not want you to live on in disobedience and guilt.
To recover our motivation, we must recover love, and to recover love, we must repent. So the first step is to humble ourselves and confess the root problem (1 John 1:9): “God, I have failed to love you as my first love, I have failed to talk with You, to listen to You, to draw near to You, and to cultivate a desire for You in my heart. Please forgive me, and strengthen me by Your grace to rekindle my love for You.”
The second step is to make the pursuit of Christ a priority, and we do this by dedicating time to Him. The simple fact of the matter is that the one person responsible for the busy-ness of your schedule is YOU. The other fact of the matter is that we do indeed make time for what is most important to us, whether it’s work, a sport, a television show, a hobby, or other entertainments. When we see Christ as our greatest love pursuit, we will make time for Him.
The third step is to use that time in the most beneficial way. Many couples face marital difficulties because, over time, they take one another for granted, they stop communicating about meaningful things, they become selfish, and they turn to substitutes. When I counsel with them, the first thing I tell them to do is to set aside time to communicate, to spend time together, and to “date” one another again. This part of the solution is not merely about activity, it is about recovering a relationship of love as the primary character of one’s commitment. We need to effectively do the same thing in our pursuit of Christ.
A couple wanting to recover their marriage doesn’t just “do” things together. Their dates and shared activities are a means of reestablishing their communication and their love relationship. Similarly, when it comes to recovering our walk with Christ, it’s not just about “doing” the right activities of reading Scripture and praying on a regular basis. Those things are the primary means of grace in the believer’s life, but if we just engage in those activities so we can check off the “quiet time” box on our spiritual disciplines list, we have slipped into superficial Christianity.
Reading Scripture and praying are ultimately about “knowing” Christ. The fuel and goal of our spiritual disciplines is beholding the beauty of Christ our Savior, relishing His Person and truth, deepening in a love for Him that is based in His promises and His commitment to us. Having spiritual activity that does not engage the mind, heart, will, and emotions will only leave you empty. So invest all of yourself in the pursuit of Him. Love Him, and because you love Him, seek to know Him through His truth and through prayer. If you see only a little love in your heart, feed it and make it grow through Scripture reading and prayer. Believe what He has said to you. Walk by faith even when your “feelings” are to the contrary. Walk by faith, pray to Love Him, and then cultivate that love by spending time with Him. Then you will see your motivation to pursue Him rejuvenated.