Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Anne Graham Lotz's book, Pursuing More of Jesus, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2009).
Every day presents a fresh opportunity to pursue a closer relationship with Jesus – and the more you have of Jesus in your life, the better your life will be. So don’t settle for just occasional encounters with Jesus in some parts of your life. Keep pursuing more of Jesus until your whole life is saturated with His power.
Here's how you can pursue more of Jesus:
Go for the maximum, not the minimum. Choose to go after more than just the bare minimum God has to offer you. Make your faith about more than just trying to escape hell and get your ticket punched to heaven. Invite God to completely transform you: bending your will, awakening your conscience, breaking your heart, transforming your mind, overcoming your prejudices, soaring in your spirit, and conforming you into His glorious image.
Pursue more of His voice in your ear. Out of the many voices you hear speaking to you each day – through other people, circumstances, etc. – you need to learn how to discern what’s truly God speaking and what’s not. Keep in a mind that any authentic message from God is biblical (straight from God’s Word), personal (in the language of your own life), and powerful (resulting in lives either changed for the better or saved). If someone claims to have a message from God for you, test it by making sure that it’s in accord with and confirmed by the Bible. Remember Jesus’ promise that He would go ahead of you to guide you in every situation. Learn how to recognize Jesus’ voice by getting to know the Bible well (reading it, studying it, understanding it, applying it, and living by it) and then trust His guidance when making decisions.
Pursue more of His tears on your face. Jesus understands and cares when you’re crying tears of pain. Remember how much He suffered on the Cross, and see your own sufferings as opportunities to draw closer to Jesus. No matter what you’re going through – the loss of a job, a friend’s betrayal, a health crisis, a spouse’s unfaithfulness, a child’s rebellion – Jesus is crying along with you and will meet you in the middle of your suffering with His presence.
Pursue more of His praise on your lips. It’s easy to praise Jesus when your life is going well, but Jesus is still worthy of praise even when problems and pressures darken your circumstances. Make the deliberate, conscious choice to praise Jesus every day, no matter what, to honor Jesus and learn how to walk by reliable faith instead of shifting feelings. Praise Jesus for who He is by frequently thinking of one His many wonderful attributes and thanking Him for it. Praise Jesus for what He has done by thanking Him for specific blessings in your life on a regular basis. Real praise is affirming your faith even in the midst of desperation when you choose to cling to Jesus alone.
Pursue more of His death in your life. Death produces power that leads to more blessings in life. Just as Jesus died on the Cross so you could be spiritually alive, He wants you to die to your own desires and yield to His desires for you so you can experience the best life possible. God uses pressures, problems, and pain in your life as nails to pin you to cross of your own. If you submit to Him while you go through them, you experience what it’s like to die to yourself so God’s power can live through you. Every kind of brokenness you experience can lead to a corresponding blessing if you’re willing to die to your own: will, goals, dreams, desires, expectations, plans, rights, and reputation. If you choose to die to yourself, God will pour out blessings like a character that reflects His own, a witness that leads to other people’s lives being transformed, and rewards from God himself.
Pursue more of His dirt on your hands. Just as Jesus was willing to get His hands dirty serving others willingly, humbly, obediently, and gladly, He expects you to do the same. Choose to serve other people whenever God calls you to – even when it’s not convenient or when you’re struggling with serious problems of your own. Shift your focus from yourself to Jesus and the people He wants you to serve. In the process, your own problems will become more manageable. Never view yourself as being above any particular type of service – changing diapers, mowing grass, making coffee, visiting prisoners, etc.. When you do any task that God calls you to do, your work – no matter how humble – will become important because you’re answering God’s call.
Pursue more of His hope in your grief. Jesus has given you the hope of heaven in your grief. Let the promise of heaven sharpen your focus to help you see that any difficult situation you’re going through now is temporary compared to a joyful eternity with Jesus. Look forward to the reality of seeing Jesus face to face and enjoying the company of loved ones who have gone before you, when it’s your time to go to heaven.
Pursue more of His fruit in your service. If your service for God lacks the fruit of changed lives, you don’t have to try harder, pray more, or claim greater territory in service. Instead, you should examine your personal relationship with Jesus to see how closely you’re connected to Him. It’s the quality of your connection to Jesus that will determine whether or not you’ll have the power to bear good fruit for His kingdom. The fruit you bear isn’t produced through your own efforts; it’s produced by the Holy Spirit through you as you consistently rely on God. Jesus is the Vine and you are the branches. God may sometimes choose to prune you to bear good fruit by cutting out of your life everything you depend on – except your relationship with Jesus. When you’re forced to pay attention to your relationship with Jesus because that’s all you have, your connection to the Vine gets bigger, empowering you to produce more fruit. Trust God when He prunes the branches of your life; He knows what’s best to help you grow. Pray for greater fruitfulness in your service, asking God t conform you more closely to the image of Jesus, use you to make others want to know Him better, give you opportunities to share His Gospel and give you the fruit of changed lives as a result, draw others to Himself through a Bible study you lead, or give you one person to share His love with today.
Pursue more of His love in your home. As you give Jesus more of your heart, He will fill it with more of His love, and that will overflow into the lives of the people with whom you interact each day. When you let God’s love flow through you, it will empower you to love even those people who are difficult for you to love – those whose personalities or behavior makes them seem completely incompatible with you. Rather than just avoiding or tolerating difficult people, choosing to show God’s love to them will bless you in the process because God will use them to grind off the weak edges of your character to make you stronger. Ask Jesus to help you love people sacrificially, as He does. Instead of choosing to love only people who meet your needs, whom you get along with, who make you feel good, who do things for you, who give you things you want, whom respond with love, and whom you like, choose to demonstrate love to everyone, regardless of whether or not you like them and how they respond to you. When you love someone sacrificially, your act of love then becomes an act of worshiping Jesus.
Pursue more of His courage in your convictions. Be willing to stand out and speak up for Jesus in all areas of your life, and with whoever you meet. Take a strong public stand for the uniqueness of who Jesus is; for the truth of the entire Bible; and for the necessity of living a life of integrity, purity, and humility in order to please God. Rather than living a lifestyle that simply blends in with that of non-believers, show people the difference that your relationship with Jesus makes in your attitudes and actions. Pray for the courage you need to stand by biblical convictions when others pressure you to be complacent or politically correct. Ask the Holy Spirit to use all of your conversations with others to glorify God in whatever ways He guides you to do so. No matter how much pressure you encounter to compromise your convictions, decide that you will never give up, shut up, or let up, because of your love for Jesus.
Pursue more of His nearness in your loneliness. When you feel lonely, remember that Jesus is always with you. Pray for more awareness of His presence close to you, and take comfort in it. Although other people may sometimes disappoint you or abandon you, Jesus will always be there for you. Remember that Jesus is much more than just a man, prophet, teacher, revolutionary, icon, or symbol. Jesus is God Himself – and He loves you!
Pursue more of His answers to your prayers. It’s an incredible privilege to be able to go directly to God at any time and in any place with your prayers. Jesus has promised that when you ask Him for anything according to His will and believing in His power to act, He will answer. Whenever your prayers seem to go unanswered or turn out the opposite of what you asked God to do (such as when you pray for your career and get laid off or when you pray for a loved one’s healing and he or she dies), trust God anyway. Remember that His ways are not your ways, and He will act according to what’s best from His unlimited perspective on every situation.
Pursue more of His glory on your knees. Embrace God’s purpose for your life single-mindedly and wholeheartedly. Stay focused on what God wants for your life, and do all you can to fulfill that purpose well. Let your determination to do the work God has for you to do lead you to make wise choices like: less sleep and more prayer, less TV and more study, less shopping and more tithing, less eating and more exercise, less talking and more listening, or less work and more worship. Serve God faithfully to glorify Him every day.
Adapted from Pursuing More of Jesus, copyright 2009 by Anne Graham Lotz. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tn., www.thomasnelson.com.
Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham, is the President and CEO of AnGeL Ministries, a non-profit organization that undergirds her efforts to draw people into a life-changing relationship with God through His Word. She is the award-winning author of 10 books, including Just Give Me Jesus and I Saw the LORD. Anne has spoken on seven continents, in more than 20 foreign countries, proclaiming the word of God in arenas, churches, seminaries, and even prisons.
Original publication date: June 3, 2009