May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. (verse 5)
Sheep dogs have a finely tuned technique. Running back and forth across the open field, they cut off every avenue of escape for the sheep, moving them closer and closer to the goal, until the only route left is the one heading directly into the sheep pen. Mission accomplished.
Then, of course, there is the very different methodology of the pig in the movie “Babe” who first established relationship with the sheep, securing their cooperation, then worked with them to efficiently and easily direct them home to the pen.
God works in many different ways in our lives, some easy, some more abrupt, directing us into his purposes. He wants to remove every impediment and make the path straight, leading us home.
And so it is here. The apostle expresses in this verse his heartfelt wish that the Lord may direct our hearts into the fullness of what he has for us. Paul sums up that fullness under two headings: God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
How heartening that it is the Lord’s determined desire to steer our hearts decisively into his love. This is where he wants us. I think of the father in Jesus’ parable, running to embrace the wayward son returning home, the son who never expected anything but rebuke and condemnation. Instead, he discovered the open arms of the loving father.
I think of the disciples round the table that last night, dirt covering every foot, and Jesus, simply but clearly, showing them the full extent of his love by getting down to serve, washing them clean, in the process giving a graphic picture of his love poured out on the cross. This love pays the price; such is its depth.
I think of Jesus at the beach-fire, grilling fish for breakfast. He turned to Peter, who’d failed him so miserably, and asked, “Do you love me?” Drawing Peter out, Jesus welcomed him back into the circle, calling him to serve alongside him once again, living in the certainty of his undiminished love.
These are but snippets of the shelter into which the Lord is directing our hearts, drawing us deeper still. He wants us to live in the embrace of his love.
But he also wants to build strength in us. He is determined to direct our hearts into Christ’s perseverance. I think of the Son of God choosing to submit to the Father’s will and laying aside heaven’s glory to come down, down, down into human experience, becoming man. After fasting in the desert, he could have made bread from the stones to satisfy hunger, but he refused the devil’s temptations, putting each aside, pressing on in determined focus on the Father. He “set his face toward Jerusalem,” journeying on though he knew the cross awaited him there, persevering on the path of obedience. In the garden he prayed, expressing his heart, but laying aside his own desire to submit once again to the will of the Father.
“For the joy set before him he endured the cross … (enduring) such opposition from sinners …” The Father wants to direct our hearts into this self-same perseverance so that we “will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3). Just as “Christ suffered in his body,” he wants us to arm ourselves “also with the same attitude” (1 Peter 4:1). The Father chooses to lead us deep into Christ’s perseverance, for our good.
So, submit to the direction. Allow the shepherd to lead you home. Settle into this place of growth. Draw life from God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
Dear Father, may you direct my heart deeply into your love. May your Spirit continually pour it out, super-saturating my heart.
Dear Lord, may you direct me into Christ’s perseverance. May I not grow weary or lose heart. May I willingly suffer as I seek to obey.
Reflect: Set aside two 5-minute blocks of reflection today: (1) Trace out the dimensions of God’s love. (2) Imagine yourself armed in Christ’s perseverance.