The following is a guest post by one of our dear WM Pepperdine leaders, Krisitina Fertala:
A couple Sundays ago, my pastor proposed a question to me and for many reasons left me with an unfamiliar uncomfortable feeling. From that moment, a wheel of thoughts started rotating in my mind asking the question: Do I love God more than my old life?
This question asks if I am truly happy and so in love with the Lord that no matter how much fun my old life was, God is worth much, much more. But I have had faith as a part of my life for a long time, and so this question confused me.
“I don’t have an old life apart from God,” I thought. But as I thought some more, I realized that we all have an old life. An old life can be anything from the extreme of an addiction, ranging to little mental sins or acts based on self-righteousness. I know I can look back on the past two years and place them in the category of my “old life,” or a life that was much more comfortable for me in comparison to how I am living now.
The comfort of my old life was having control: control over my body, over my relationships, and attempted control over the direction of my life. It was easy for me to go through life that way because I thought I had what I wanted and needed for happiness. Most of all, there were no surprises such as an undesirable body weight, a broken heart, or a failed situation that would make me feel uncomfortable and out of my own control. It is so desirable to live in the way that gives us the most control, as we try to fill our thirsty hearts with what we feel is the best solution. But there it is: in that moment, we are saying to God, “I love my old life more than you. I love being in control of my life more than I love you, and ultimately I love myself more than I love you, God.”
It says in Matthew 6:24,
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other…”
Although we do not need to despise our own lives, as many believers may see as sinful ‘humanness,’ to love God fully, we do need to love the life that God has given us and love him with the faith that his wisdom for our lives is above all else.
But why did that question make me feel so uncomfortable? Thinking about it, I discovered that I still see parts of my “old life” appealing and desirable.
When things get rough or frustrating, my first instinct is to think of a plan; how am I going to fix this problem, what do I need to do to make myself feel better? And there I am, placing myself right back where I was before, trying to control my life and not allowing God to work in the ways that are best for me, loving myself more than God.
When I look back at my old life, there were many things that were easier, but there was no true happiness, no fulfillment, and certainly no peace. My life was so full of worldly happiness, like the size of my body or the friends I thought would give me what I needed—things that could never fill my soul of what truly satisfies. What truly satisfies is God’s love.
So, I’ll ask again: Do you love God more than your old life? And to add to that: Do you love God more than comfort, more than control, and more than this world?
The life of loving God more than yourself is challenging and extremely uncomfortable, but when all is said and done, and we start depending on him to fill our hurt and get us through our challenges, aren’t those the things that make us feel stronger in His love? When we look at our struggles as acts of love from God we can view our lives in a completely different perspective. When I look at the hurt or the frustration of a day, I stop focusing on myself and my hardship. I strive to look to the lives and struggles of others and use my experience as a testimonial to support the people in my community and my life. I’m not saying that it is an easy fix of an old habit, or is the solution to solve all my problems, but it is a goal that I can strive towards.
In Revelation chapter 2, God acknowledges,
“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place…To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
He knows that a life loving Him first will not be easy, and will not be comfortable. He knows that we will fall at times and go back to our old ways. I can stand as a witness to that statement and say that I struggle everyday with loving God more than my comfortable old life, but I also stand with the knowledge, that he will always be there to pick me up.
Each of us has our own struggles, our own hurts, and our own desires to live a comfortable life. It is something that presses on our hearts each and every day and we are faced with challenges and decisions. But we have a choice. We have free will given to us from our Lord to choose. You have the choice how you want to live you life.
So what’s it going to be? Are you going to love God more than your old life?