Author and minister, Bill Hybels, was once talking with one of his members about some of the “tough topics” he had taught through the years.
Among the difficult lessons he mentioned were hell, money, sex, relational confrontation, and self-discipline.
The member then asked, “Of all the topics you’ve preached on, which has been the hardest to get across?”
“I didn’t even have to think about it,” Hybels recalls. “Becoming totally devoted to Christ.”
Hybels went on to explain that helping people understand what a completely self-sacrificial lifestyle is all about was his greatest teaching challenge. Then he offered this somewhat shocking statement. “For many people, total devotion to Christ means squandering the only life they have.”
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
There are at least 4 essential elements involved if we want to reach forward to win the race, fulfill God’s purpose in our lives, and receive the heavenly reward. Today, let’s consider the importance of devotion.
“Devotion,” observed Douglas V. Steere, the 20th century Quaker Philosophy professor, “is not a thing that passes, that comes and goes, as it were, but it is something habitual, fixed, permanent that extends over every instant of life and regulates all our conduct.”
Devotion involves allegiance. Attachment. Dedication. Deference. Faithfulness. Fidelity. And fervor.
Dictionary.com defines devotion as “profound dedication; consecration.
earnest attachment to a cause, person.”
Religiously it is possible for our dedication to be misplaced and misguided. One writer opined that “Christianity is not devotion to work, or to a cause, or a doctrine, but devotion to a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
It’s obvious that Paul’s devotion was Christ-centered. Christ is mentioned no less than 38 times in this short epistle. Consider just a few of these references that speak to his devotion.
“servant of Christ” (1:1)
“grace and peace from Christ” (1:2)
“chains are in Christ” (1:13)
“Christ is preached” (1:15-18)
“Christ will be magnified in my body” (1:20)
“to live is Christ” (1:21)
“desire to depart and be with Christ” (1:23)
“suffer for Christ” (1:29)
“have the mind of Christ” (2:5)
“the work of Christ” (2:30)
“rejoice in Christ (3:3)
“counted loss for Christ (3:7)
“Upward call of God in Christ” (3:13)
“I can do all things through Christ” (4:13)
Paul’s devotion to Christ spurred him to reach forward. It was not blind loyalty to a religious sect. Or a philosophy. Or a personal opinion. But to the person of Jesus Christ.
It’s easy to get sidetracked and allow our devotion to be misdirected. Our devotion may be to churchianity. A political party. Conservative values. A popular preacher. Or a worthy cause. And while all of these may produce some good and improve people’s quality of life, they fall short of the supreme object of our devotion–the Lord Jesus Christ.
Because Paul ran the race with his eyes on Jesus, he declared, “one thing I do.” Author Stephen Covey is credited with saying, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Paul’s “one thing” was the main thing. His life began with Christ. His faith was based on Christ. His ministry was built around Christ. And his hope was buoyed by Christ.
When we get involved in too many things that distract and divert us from Christ, our devotion will wane. And we will fall by the wayside, failing to win the race.
Reaching forward with Christ as the object of our devotion ought to be our aim in 2021.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman