I once listened to a Chinese sermon by James Taylor IV preaching to a church in Taiwan on being a disciple of Jesus. He is the great grandson of Hudson Taylor; born, raised and grew up in Taiwan. His Mandarin puts me to shame. I learned so many lessons from his sermon.
He shared that a disciple 1) obeys God’s command 尊從主命 2) loves God’s people 深爱主民 3) glorifies God’s name 榮耀主名.
One story sticks in my mind. He shared that he once heard a pastor preached: 今天骆驼很多，鹿不多. Today, there are many camels but not many deer.
Camels can drink lots of water and store it in their bodies for a long time. Deer on the other hand, thirsts often. In warmer months, deer loses water through their urine, droppings and breathe while panting. When the temperatures rise; their need for water increases. A whitetail needs about two to three quarts of water daily, per 100 pounds of body weight. In hotter climates, it could be more. (source: https://www.mossyoak.com/our-obsession/blogs/deer/deer-management-why-minerals-and-water-are-key-to-deer-health)
Many Christians today are like camels. We like to attend retreats and revival meetings. Eat & drink all you can like in a buffet. Then we hope to store them for days (months) to come.
Not many are like deers. David said: As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. Why do deers pant? Panting is how some animals cool when overheated. Deer have very few sweat glands, which we use to exchange heat, panting is their mechanism, place of the cooling more sweat glands offer. (https://www.quora.com/Why-does-a-deer-pant-for-water)
In the deer context, panting is a word associated with longing or yearning; a passion or thirst for something.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lamp stands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place.
The church in Ephesus persevered and endured hardships for the name of God. They have not given up. Yet they were rebuked because they have lost their first love. What is it like to have our first love?
First love is often associated with passionately thirsty love. I admire how often new Christians are passionate about sharing the gospel; how they love reading the Bible, praying often. There is a deep desire to do the things of God. Yet, it is just as important that we maintain this first love throughout our Christian walk.
There are many things that I can do as a follower of Jesus: read the Bible, pray, lead bible studies, pray for others, help others. BUT, how do I do all these things? Do I do it merely out of habit? out of obligation? just ordinarily routinary?
Before doing all these ‘holy’ stuffs, how is my heart before the Holy God?
Leading a holistic life has nothing to do with holiness. In the dictionary, holistic is characterised by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole. Integrity is being whole – coming from the word integer. I can be a holistic Christian and not really passionate for God.
Even as I do, what drives me to be? Do I do it to please people? Do I long for God in my doing? David described his heart so well – that he really loved God – he thirsts for God like the deer thirsts for water. Without water, the deer cannot survive. Without God, David is nothing. David is a man after God’s own heart because his heart belongs to God and God alone. In spite of his many weaknesses, his ultimately big strong weakness is his strong God!
Dear Lord, forgive me for losing my first love.. for doing many things because I have to and not because I love you.
Day by day, dear Lord,
of thee three things I pray;
to see thee more clearly,
to love thee more dearly,
to follow thee more nearly,
day by day. (Song attributed to Richard of Chichester)
Help me Lord to love you more dearly, day by day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.