Pursue the things of God

Pursue the things of God

When you are trying to change some kind of bad habit or mindset, working on what to stop doing is only part of the story. You need to replace the bad habit with something else. That is why you often find former smokers becoming committed runners. It’s not just about what to stop; it is also about what to start.

Paul uses this logic when he speaks to Timothy about the dangers of greed. While being aware of the problem and fleeing the love of money is important (and see the last blog post on this here), Timothy was also urged to replace this love with something else. We read this in 1 Timothy 6:

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          (1 Tim. 6:11 ESV)

The instruction here is not only to flee greed, but to pursue the things of God. We all are made to have desires; Paul is not telling Timothy to just stop desiring things. No, he is to desire to serve God and not money. He is to serve one master and not another.

Just as the word “flee” is an active, continuous verb here, so is the word “pursue”. The idea is that active effort be taken to pursue the things of God. And not just once, a decision to follow Jesus made sometime in the past. These kinds of active decisions are required regularly and often. Greed is a real continuous danger and neglecting the things of God is also an ongoing problem for us.

I think it is very easy for Christians to focus so much on grace that we miss the clear instructions to put in real effort towards cultivating godliness. Yes, Christians are saved by grace, very true. Yes, Christians have the Holy Spirit who points us to Jesus and away from sin, also very true. Yet we are called to make an effort. We are to intentionally work on our gentleness, our love, and all the other fruit of the Spirit as well. We are not to “let go and let God” but to plan and work to build our character and our godly response to Jesus.

How are you going with this? How is your godliness? Are you more patient than you were a year ago? What aspects of your character need work to become more like Jesus? I think we need to spend some time honestly assessing where we are at. We don’t want to just sleepwalk through life and not ask the real questions. Your godliness matters far more than your bank balance, so you should show that by what you work on more.

Building a godly character takes effort and time. You need to plan for it. Do you? How will you work on your patience, for example? If you find yourself getting impatient and angry a lot, and you don’t show love for other people very well, there are things you can do about this. You can pray intentionally for God to help you. You could set goals like to drive to work listening to Christian music and actively refusing to be angry at other drivers. You could intentionally listen to people at church, not being so quick to offer your opinion but being patient with their conversation. Small things like this, done intentionally and often, will build your patience with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Plan to work on your godliness. This could mean deciding where and how to serve the church family. It could mean identifying a weakness you currently have and being careful and thoughtful about how you might improve in that area. We all need to pursue the things of God intentionally and repeatedly. Make every effort to be more like Jesus.