For those who have never visited American Family Association, one of the best parts of working for this ministry is morning devotion. All employees gather in our large Devotion Room, where Mr. Tim Wildmon greets us and leads each Monday morning devotion. Other department leaders rotate and lead devotion on Wednesday mornings, while the rest of us take alphabetical turns sharing a short inspirational devotion on the other three weekdays.
Everyone kind of knows when their turn to lead devotion is approaching, so we prepare ahead of time. We pray and listen for God’s leading, and that’s exactly why each day in AFA devotion is a new adventure. Somedays we laugh; somedays we cry. Some devotions are serious and personal, while others are much more light-hearted and upbeat. We just never know what God has in store for us. But, invariably, each devotion is exactly what we need for the day, both personally and corporately.
Sometimes, our devotional gathering involves a few Bible verses; other times, we hear testimonies or short stories; and every now and then, we have guest speakers or singers to encourage and bless us. But every single day, we end devotion time by sharing and praying for any and all needs within our AFA family.
It’s easy to see why morning devotion is the highlight of the day for me.
But last week, on Wednesday morning, one of our leaders wrecked me with one simple question at the end of his devotion. His query went along with his inspirational words and Scriptures, but it was his final thought-provoking question that kept me pondering and praying the rest of the week.
He asked, “If you got to heaven, and it was just as wonderful and amazing as expected, would you still be satisfied to be there for eternity if Jesus was not present?”
Now, don’t get all technical and spiritually haughty on me. I know that Jesus will indeed be there in heaven. That is not the point of the question. The point is whether or not my religion begins and ends with my salvation, or if it is more about a relationship with the Savior who provided for my salvation. Do I love Jesus more than I love myself? That’s the crux of the matter.
I would love to say that if Jesus weren’t in heaven when I arrived I would march right out into the eternal doom I deserved. But would I? Would you? Think about it.
Would we turn down a free ticket to an eternal home of splendor and majesty in exchange for hell? Would we leave the friends and family already waiting for us there in our heavenly home? Could we turn down heaven knowing that our children, our grandchildren, and everyone else we left behind might be forever separated from us as well? Would we turn and leave if Jesus were not in heaven?
Keep in mind that Jesus turned down an eternity without us. He gave up everything, His very life, in fact, to come and purchase our pardon. He went to hell in our stead. And there, He took back the keys to death, hell, and the grave – for us. But would we turn down an eternity without Jesus? To put it plainly - do we really love Jesus like we should?
That question reminded me of the time when Jesus, after his death, burial, and resurrection, asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”
Many scholars say that the three times Jesus asked this question signified the three times Peter had denied Him earlier. That is probably true; but whatever the case, imagine the pain it took for Peter to hear those three questions. After all, Peter knew the truth of the darkness in his heart; he knew the real answers to the question. He did indeed love Jesus, but did he love Jesus more than he loved himself?
Maybe the answer to Peter’s three questions and the answer to my devotion-time question revolve around the other words of Jesus in this story from Matthew 21. Each time Jesus questioned Peter, the disciple affirmed and proclaimed his love for his Savior. But all three times, Jesus turned right back around and exhorted Peter to feed His sheep.
So, just maybe, true love for Jesus grows when we center our lives on loving and caring for others, rather than ourselves. Perhaps that kind of agape love would eradicate the need for Jesus to question our love for Him.
I hope so because I have no cute, pat answer to this question. Instead, I pray to live my life with this question ever in mind. For ultimately, I want my love for Jesus and the relationship I have with Him to be so intimate and real that it readily manifests itself in the love and service I have for others.