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DEVOTION TO GOD
Devotion to God implies ardent affection for him—a yielding of the heart to him with reverence, faith, and piety in every act, particularly in prayer and meditation. We catch a glimpse of the true meaning of devotion from what is said of the centurion of the Italian band. He was termed a devout man because he feared God, gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always (see Acts 10:2). This is the essence of true devotion. He loved God, without which there can be no devotion. The more we love an object, the more devoted to it we are. Devotion is therefore love manifested. At the feet of Jesus stood a woman weeping and washing his feet with her tears and wiping them with the hairs of her head and kissing them. Is not this a picture of devotion? It is love and devotion expressed in action. Jesus said, "She loved much." The secret of devotion is loving much.
Every devoted Christian desires to be more devoted to his God. I am glad we can be. It is pleasant to feel in our hearts an ardent desire to love God more. A fond mother clasps her babe to her bosom. She loves it, and her heart is happy in that love; but she feels she can not love it enough. She longs to love it more. Her heart yearns to love it more, though she loves it from the fulness of her soul. This longing to love increases our capacity to love. By being filled with air some vessels are made to expand. Unless filled to their utmost capacity, they would not become more extended. To the extent that the heart is filled with the love of God, man is happy.
To desire to be more devotional is not an evidence of lack of devotion, but, on the contrary, an evidence of devotion. Those who are the least devotional have the least desire to be more devotional. The heart that is fullest of love is happiest; and although it is happy and satisfied, yet it longs to move. Oh, how we long to clasp our arms more tightly about him! how we long to have him clasp his arms more tightly about us! how we long to nestle more fondly and lovingly on his bosom! What rapture to our love-flooded souls to receive of his caresses and hear his tender words! To the soul in the ecstasy of its heavenly love, the world with its pleasures has vanished away like a morning vapor.
It is not understood by all how and why we should have a desire to possess more of that of which we are already full. It is the desire for development; it is an innate desire; it is a principle planted in our constitution under grace. Let me repeat what I have said elsewhere: Every living thing consciously or unconsciously struggles to conform to type. When the little plant bursts through the ground, it enters the race in conforming to the type that it carries in its bosom. Thus, in the heart of the acorn is a miniature oak-tree. The little chick carries within it an image of the mother bird, to which it will naturally though unconsciously conform.
In the natural world when things reach the highest point of development, they begin to decay or deteriorate; but this is not true in the spiritual world. Never in this life and possibly never in that life which is to come shall we reach the fulness of the type, or, in other words, the highest point of development. As the acorn or the little chick bears in its nature an image of the parent, so the Christian bears in his soul the image of God. This is the image to which he is to conform. Day after day he can grow in grace. Day after day the beautiful graces of the Spirit can become more beautiful and the exterior life be more perceptibly stamped with the holy image of God. There must be progress, or there will be regress. When a ball that has been thrown upward ceases to ascend, it begins to descend. When the fulness of the type is reached, then begins the retrogression. This is none the less true of spiritual things. The reason why there need be no declension in love is because the highest point of development is never attained.
For illustration let us set a little child in our midst. As a child it is perfect. All its organs are in proper place and are properly performing their functions. It is a perfect image of the type of man into which it will grow. That child's nature tends toward, and the child longs to be, a man. The child's innate desire for development does not make it discontented as long as its craving for growth is gratified. In this we behold the goodness and the wisdom of the Creator. That the child may be happy, it is so constituted that it satisfactorily meets all the requirements of the law of development. The child is thus kept in a state of contentment. Did it seek to fulfil the law of growth contrary to its nature, to become a man would be an irksome task. It is a delight to the child to eat, to play, to sleep. And these things, producing growth, meet the demands of its nature. There is implanted in it both a desire to grow and a relish for the things necessary to its growth. Thus the entire process of development is a delight. In fact, there will be no delight or enjoyment unless there be development.
True, a child does not eat and play for the express purpose of growing. Indeed, it may take no thought about growing. But there is in the nature of the child, when in health, a demand for growth. When the child is in ill health, the growth ceases; consequently there is no demand for development, and it loses relish for the things that go to meet that demand.
This very beautifully illustrates Christian development which includes becoming more devotional. You desire to be more devotional. Such a desire is legitimate. The nature of every sanctified soul craves development. The soul is not dissatisfied, any more than the growing child. As that developing life in the child moves it to seek for the things that produce development, so the life of God in the sanctified soul moves it to seek for the things that will unfold and amplify that life. "If ye be risen [have life] with Christ, seek those things which are above." Those things, coming into our soul daily, will unfold us more and more into an heavenly life. They are food to the sanctified soul. They keep the soul satisfied, because they are the means provided by a loving, all-wise Providence for the constant healthful growth of our spiritual natures. Herein only is true soul-rest.
God gives us a relish for the very things that go to fulfil the demands of our Christian nature. Prayer, meditation, reading the Bible, trust, and resting in the Lord promote increase in him. How delightful is prayer to the soul that is healthful and growing! and the Word of God is sweeter than honey. Where there is a demand in the soul for these things, how delightful it is to engage in them! Do you behold the beauty and the wisdom here? God implants a desire in the soul for spiritual development and at the same time implants a relish for the things necessary for such development. Bless his name! Understand me, please, this desire is not a restless longing, an aching void, as is found in an unregenerate heart or in a soul in spiritual decline; but it is the delightful struggling of a soul bearing the likeness of God, to conform to the natural law of development pent up within its bosom.
What is it in the nature of the oak that causes it to send its root down into the soil and to drink up of its substance? What is it in the nature of the child that causes it so eagerly to eat and play? It is the demand in their nature for growth, or that innate struggle to conform to type. Manhood is sleeping in the child's bosom, and it wrestles and struggles to rise to the fulness of that image. What causes the Christian heart to long to root deeper into God; that makes the soul seek his embrace? It is that instinctive struggle to conform to God's glorious image. The entire process of development is delightful. Whenever the natural tendency toward growth ceases, the soul is in an abnormal state, and loses relish for the things necessary to growth.
Christian, see to it that you keep in your heart a desire, a longing, a panting, or, if you would rather I will say, a demand, in your spiritual being to be more devotional to God, and meet that demand by resting by faith in him, by prayer, by meditation, by service. Do this, and you will become more devotional. But I love the word "desire." Desire in the soul for spiritual things is appetite. Satisfying this desire is a pleasure. Never were any viands so sweet to the physical sense of taste as that food to our soul which helps us be more devotional. "Desire" is a Bible term. "As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby."
Before concluding this chapter I will call your attention to one way of becoming more devotional—being active in service. Desire must be gratified, or it will die. Likewise, motive must find expression in action, or it will die. You have a desire for prayer; then grant that desire by actually praying, or you will lose the desire. An appetite once lost is difficult to regain. You may have in your soul a pure motive; then carry it into action. Do something for God, and you will become more devotional to God. Not that devotion comes by works, to begin with, any more than grace; but we do become more devotional by doing, just as we grow stronger physically by exercise. Follow out every inclination to do good as far as you can, and you will become more devotional to your God.
God loves to have you devoted to him, and he longs to have you more devoted. It is astonishing, nevertheless God has intense desire to be prayed to and great love for communion with our hearts. He says, "My son, give me thine heart." What does he want with man's heart? He wants to put his love in it, so he can be loved by it and hold communion with it. "The prayer of the upright is his delight." Oh, that there are so few hearts that love God! Jesus wept over Jerusalem because they would not come to him. But why does he so intensely yearn for the prayers and devotions of our hearts? Because it is another young life struggling to conform to the image in which it was created. It is another soul which has been won for God and in which he has his throne.
O God! take our hearts and compress within them that pure love from thy own heart that will cause us to pray, "O God! enlarge our hearts." God would even pain our hearts with the fulness of his love until we find no ease except in expansion.
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