Hebrews 10:39, Matthew 22:36-40, Matthew 16:24-27, Matthew 28:18-20
This month has been a great month to reflect on what it means to be relentless, be pursued and loved by Christ relentlessly and examples of times in Scripture where someone was relentless in some way. Man, I’ve enjoyed this study and I feel much more equipped to face 2016 armed with Scripture and teaching from my favorite women about how to be relentless. I hope you have too and thank you for taking this journey with us. As we bring this month to a close, I have a challenge for you. And this challenge comes in the form of an adverb.
Don’t remember what an adverb is? I had to go back to grammar class too. An adverb is a word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word group. Adverbs help us explain the manner, place, time, frequency, degree and level of certainty to the words that we place them before.
Why the grammar lesson? Since God put the word relentless on my heart for this year, I have felt a call to put two little letters at the end of my word and place it before verbs to enhance their meaning.
Oh how that changes, enhances, and deepens the meaning of any verb, adjective or word group. But what does Scripture say about this call to relentlessness? How can I follow Jesus, love, disciple and persevere relentlessly? That’s what we’re going to look to Scripture for today. I hope these passages encourage you to place an “above status quo” adverb before the things we are called to do and seek as believers.
The Call to Relentlessly Follow (Matthew 16:24-27)
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[g] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
This call to radical faith and obedience is found a several places in the Gospels: Matthew (10:38, 16:24), Mark (8:34), and Luke (9:23, 14:27). Could you imagine what it would’ve been like as one of Jesus’ disciples to hear these words come from His lips just shortly after predicting his death to them?
I can’t personally imagine the heaviness of that moment when they heard those words but I was convicted to “count my cost” as I took a look at the last reference of these words in Luke and as Jesus speaks specifically to the cost of being a disciple:
25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-33)
A builder has to sit down and estimate the cost of building a tower. What if he lays the foundation but doesn’t have the resources to finish it? Or what about a king going to war with another king? He must sit down and make sure he has the men he needs to oppose the one coming against him, right?
In the same way, I must sit down and consider that following Jesus requires sacrifice. It means I’m called to more than a mediocre faith and a mediocre pursuit of my Creator. Denying my selfish desires, taking up my cross and following Him requires a relentless sacrifice.
I’m called to relentlessly love:
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
I’m called to relentlessly persevere:
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Hebrews 10:39)
I’m called to relentlessly make disciples:
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
As I sit down and consider counting my own cost as the builder and the kind did in the metaphors Jesus shared, I’m reminded of “my anthem” worship song of 2014 – Oceans. As we consider the areas of our lives where He is calling us to place the word relentlessly, let this be our prayer:
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever You will call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior. (Oceans, Hillsong)
Psalm 63:1, Psalm 143:6, Matthew 4:1, Isaiah 55:8, Romans 11:36, Deuteronomy 8:3, Hosea 2:14, John 4:13-14
Have you ever been so thirsty that the waiter at the restaurant finally just brings you a pitcher so they don’t have to keep bringing cups to your table? Have you ever been so hungry that you order the biggest meal on the menu, eat it all, and still want more?
Or maybe the opposite.
Have you ever been so thirsty and reached for your cup just to realize it is bone dry? Or gone to the cabinet just to find it bare?
Those are examples of thirst and hunger that our bodies have. What about times when your soul longs, thirsts, and hungers? Have you ever thirsted and hungered for the Lord? Have you ever cried out for more of Him? Have you ever been in a desert place where you realized God was all you needed and He is all that would satisfy the deepest longing of your soul?
David- the man after God’s own heart- wrote about many different desert experiences he had.
Psalm 63:1, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” And in Psalm 143:6, “I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.” His soul was thirsty and hungry, and he knew where to find the remedy. In the midst of his desert seasons, he sought more of God. No matter who you are, where you are, what stage of life you are in, there are times when we have to walk through the desert.
God allows us spans in the desert to create in us a relentless thirst and hunger that only He satisfies. Then, He shows us His relentless love for us as he satisfies those needs with Himself.
Even Jesus experienced these desert times. Matthew 4:1, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” It is especially important here to notice that the Spirit led Jesus into this desert time.
While our flesh is repulsed by this idea as it seeks comfort above the will of God, we have to remember that God’s plans are better than ours (Isaiah 55:8), and His plans are always for our good and His glory (Romans 11:36). Any desert that we are in we can be confident that God is with us. Looking back at Jesus’ time in the desert, it is important to note that the Spirit led Him, went with Him, and did not leave Him. In Jesus’ time in the desert, He sought strength and fulfillment in the Word of God.
For all thirsting and hungering we do, we can be confident that God will fill those needs, wants, and desires with Himself in a way that is bigger than anything we could image.
In God’s relentless mercy, He sometimes allows us to thirst and hunger in such an insatiable way that only He can satisfy to draw us back to Him.
Deuteronomy 8:3 is one example, “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” God allowed His people to hunger and thirst in the desert so that they would plead before Him and He could be their Bread of Life and Living Water in every way.
Hosea tells us more of this. In 2:14 we ready, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” Sometimes, it is the most gracious thing God can do for us to take us into desert places so that He can show us that He is better than the world. To show us that He loves us and desires us more than the world ever could.
Anytime we seek the world and the things of the world more than Jesus, our souls will begin to long for its truest desire, Jesus.
Thankfully, we have the remedy. John 4:13-14, “Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” When we thirst, when we hunger, when our souls are so dry, turn to the Lord. Cry out to Him and He will fill you with His love that makes our cups run over.
Psalm 145:8, 2 Timothy 2:13
I started reading through the Bible in January 2015, and as I am nearing the end of this year-long journey, I have noticed one main theme throughout Scripture: the love of God is relentless.
Since the beginning of time, God has desired that mankind live in harmony with Him; yet our family tree proves that we are all rebels. From Adam and Eve in Eden, to the Israelites’ continual waywardness throughout the history of the Old Testament, sinful man has rebelled and our loving God has pursued.
God’s ultimate pursuit of fellowship with His creation was satisfied through the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus, who made a way to forever change the wayward hearts of all that believe. What amazes me is that, while mankind still has the same problem we had thousands of years ago, God has remained the same. God still pursues us today through the grace of Jesus.
Although we see the continual perfection of God through His Word, I’ve still found it easy to attach human qualities to God. When I fail, I fear He will forsake. When I lie, I feel He reacts in shock and disappointment. When I call out to Him, I fight the feeling that He may not come this time. When I keep struggling with the same things over and over again, I fear that He may have finally given up on me.
I forget that He is the same God of the Bible, relentless in His love for His children. I forget, “The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 145:8).
I forget that God is the Rock of Ages. I forget He is constant. Nothing can or will thwart His plans. Nothing will compromise His unfailing love.
He is relentless for me, and for you. He died an innocent death for the guilty - for us. Our Father is relentless, and nothing satisfies Him like the return of a wayward child.
Is there something in your life you feel God’s love can’t quite get to? Is there a loved-one or situation you feel is beyond all hope? To that, I must ask, what do you believe? Do you believe His love is strong enough to break the chains and move past the carefully crafted fortress around our hearts? Do you believe that He can make you relentless for Him, just like He is for you?
I must remember that God’s Word is glued together with His perfectly fulfilled promises, His faithfulness despite His own people’s rebellion, and His steady presence despite our distance from Him. There is nothing that will stop God from loving, because love is His identity.
Christians, you cannot fall to a place where His love cannot reach. Why? Because His relentless love is stronger than any sin, stronghold, or situation that you could ever face. And for the curious bystanders, this perfect love is offered to all who believe.
Today, wherever you find yourself, remember that despite your own struggle, He remains faithful, constant, and relentless.
“If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13