What does it mean to love God with your strength? Let’s talk about what it means and how to live this practice out practically in our everyday faith journeys.
Several years ago, a friend persuaded me to attend a fitness class with her. She insisted it was a great workout and not at all too intense. (Even though its name included the word “attack”.)
It didn’t go well. I barely made it halfway through the class before having to sit down, sweating and breathing hard. To this day, I can’t hear the song “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” the song that was ironically playing in the background, without thinking of that day – and laughing.
Exercise is not my forté. My strength is limited. So I can be disheartened if I take Deuteronomy 6:5 too literally: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength,” (NIV).
Maybe you relate? You might think you need to go and go and go on your own strength (re: energy, physical fortitude, and abilities) serving God and others without slowing down, maybe even to the point of neglecting your physical needs.
It’s honestly a short-sighted view of loving God with our strength if we’re thinking this way: a focus more on earning grace than living from grace.
Let’s reconsider how we approach this passage. Because operating on a striving, approval-seeking mentality to the point of burning out is exactly not the point.
Here are 5 ways to love God with your strength:
Honor the body God gave you.
Our physical aspect is significant to God. The first thing the Bible ever says about human beings is that God designed us in his image to do the work he had in mind for us (Genesis 1:26-27). Jesus became human to serve (Philippians 2:6-8) and relate to us (Hebrews 4:15), and he spent time healing and feeding those around him (Matthew 4:23, Matthew 14:13). Our bodies house the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
And yet. Yet our bodies’ needs tend to be put on the backburner, putting them through swinging extremes from over-exertion to skipping activity, from too much strictness to anything goes.
Health is a tricky subject to tackle, as well as body image. Each one of us has such different needs and perspectives and experiences. But something to know: self-denial does not equal self-loathing or neglect. Treat your body the way God sees it – with a value for your whole being.
Do your work for God’s glory.
Colossians 3:17 (NIV) says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” But take it from me, as someone who had this as a sing-song refrain in my mind for years, feeling like anything I do wasn’t good enough: we have to view this scripture from a perspective of grace.
Go back and read the whole context of the scripture – verses 12-17 – and see how they speak of gratitude, peace, love, compassion, and forgiveness. However we operate, whatever we do — we live as chosen, loved children of God as part of the holy community of his kingdom. Not for ourselves. Not to earn or prove.
Instead of working to earn God’s love, we realize we already have it, as shown through Jesus. It’s not working for, it’s working from.
Take care of others and their physical needs.
In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus gives a shocking example of loving your neighbor: he tells of a Samaritan who takes care of the physical needs of a Jew, two people who would never associate with each other.
It’s only an example, but Jesus takes great care to talk about the details. And then he lives it out, healing the sick with a touch, taking time to connect with those he heals, and feeding the hungry. (Some examples are above.)
This is a way that we honor and love God with our strength – living the way Jesus did, with care for all aspects of a person’s being, including their physical wellness. In fact, Jesus tells us this directly – that what we do for others is what we do for him, and the areas in which we haven’t cared for others are ways we haven’t cared for him (Matthew 25:34-46).
Of course God has purpose for us, and work for us to do. He also understands the need for rest, setting the example of taking a rest himself and giving us the gift of a day of rest, which he named Sabbath (Exodus 20:11). How good and gracious of him to offer us this!
Rest is a holy spiritual practice – not merely stopping, but choosing surrender of our efforts in favor of a faith in God’s ability. It’s a chance to pause, breathe, and be still with the God who fights for us (Exodus 14:14). It’s an opportunity to connect with God and with those closest to us.
Don’t underestimate rest! Studies show that it increases creativity, resets your body, and clears your mind. All of which help us to love God even more with our physical and other aspects.
Do things that are just between you and God.
Serving God with our strength doesn’t have to be praised or measured in human values to be worthy to God. He seeks out our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). Matthew 6:1-18 gives us examples of how we live this out: by not displaying publicly when we serve those in need, pray, or fast.
When was the last time you did something that was God-honoring that wasn’t about results or to earn anything? Isn’t that such a display of love — a love that isn’t for show, and isn’t really about you, but all about the other person in the relationship?
May we love God with all of our strength.
Not in ways that can be measured in human values, or for reasons of earning and proving, but in ways that are important to him, and honor the person he created us to be.
How will you love God with your strength today?
Here are ways you can love God with your mind, too.