By: Kelly Shaw
The word “abandoned” has a strong meaning and often strong emotion attached to it. Most often it is construed as something negative. The word conjures up pictures of children who have been abandoned, left utterly alone, needing to depend completely upon themselves, unable to trust anyone else.
In some cultures like Thailand, there is also the reality of fathers leaving their wives and children to take care of themselves.They have been abandoned. The definition describes one who is abandoned as forsaken. One who is abandoned is forgotten about by the ones who are supposed to care most deeply.
Applying this word “abandoned” to devotion, some people think that it means to abandon one’s devotion or faith in Jesus. Some have even considered it to be forsaking Jesus completely.
The confusion comes from the juxtaposition of two words with such strong meaning – “abandoned” meaning forsaking, next to “devotion” meaning profound dedication, consecration. Normally, these two words put together would suggest forsaking dedication and consecration. However, it means completely the opposite.
Abandoned devotion is to forsake all else in pursuit of Jesus alone.
- “Abandoned” serves to describe the totality and extent of our devotion. Our devotion is no longer casual, comfortable, or convenient.
- This “abandoned devotion” calls us to do it when it will cost us our time, money, security, friends, and family. We do not respond only when it is convenient, but we surrender everything to Jesus.
Abandoned devotion is key for believers because we cannot give to someone else something that we do not have.
God’s call on our lives as believers is to be disciples who are making other disciples, but we cannot teach someone something that we haven’t yet learned ourselves.
This same holds true for pastors, message bearers, and other ministry leaders. We cannot expect our congregations to be full of fire and passion for Jesus if we do not first hold this passion ourselves.
We cannot expect others to grasp the fullness of what it means to forsake all else if we have not first committed ourselves to forsaking all else in pursuit of one thing, Jesus Christ.
One of my students told me that in her country pastors are highly respected, much as doctors are in the West. She explained that many people want to become pastors because it is a great job. These pastors are interested in helping their congregations, but once they receive a position as pastor, they no longer grow in their understanding of God. Some call this plateauing, where you reach a certain height and then just level off.
But as we go deeper in God, we realize if we are not pressing into God then we are really slipping away. The little foxes of sin start to creep in and steal our joy in Jesus and following Him. We begin to make other things more important than spending time in God’s presence.
These may seem small at first, but it is these small steps, going uncorrected, which become a slippery slope into deep deception and sin.
To avoid the little foxes and the slippery slope, abandoned devotion must become a continual lifestyle. Sometimes in our excitement after we receive Jesus into our hearts we start off well, forsaking those things hindering our love for Jesus. But as the days wear on we simply get tired of saying no, and we slip back into old patterns and habits.
It is easy to get caught up in busy schedules, to become distracted by the pursuit of a better job, or helping our family. Yet, anything not put in line with God’s priorities can quickly become a stumbling block to abandoned devotion in our lives.
Jesus is after a growing wholeheartedness in our lives. He desires for us to get rid of more of our sin nature today than we did yesterday. He wants us to experience more victory over temptation today than we did yesterday.
This process unfolds in the daily choices we make to keep saying yes to the still small voice leading us toward our greatest Desire, our Beloved. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, we choose to surrender; we choose to go deeper; we choose to say no to distractions; we choose to forsake all over and over again in pursuit of knowing God more and loving Him with our whole hearts.