The Strong Odor of My Devotion

skunk-1239764_640Something disturbing has happened for me during The God Challenge.

It started out simply enough. I bought a book at a writer’s conference.

It’s a small, unassuming book with short chapters written by a guy I met briefly who seemed smart, practical, and kind of funny. 40 Ways to Get Closer to God. Why wouldn’t I want that?

I’ve know Jesus since I was three so, foolishly, I didn’t imagine I’d encounter much new information on the process but sort of take a “refresher” course on intimacy with God. (Again, I realize my arrogance is showing but trust me, this post will help to reduce my mountainous pride.)

Even though I know the incredible power of words, it still didn’t occur to me that through this undertaking I might be, well, challenged.
 Reading the book is easy, deceptively so. It’s in the doing of the assignments that God has seen to Gibbs slap me from on high.

(I know what you’re asking. Is she actually doing every assignment? In the interest of full disclosure: No. Today I’m on day twenty and there are four assignments that remain undone. On the days they fell, I just couldn’t pull them off but I’ve made a list and my plan for Saturday is to schedule to do those assignments before the 40 days is through.)

I’m not doing that because I’ve got some obsessive need to check off each one but because of the Gibbs slap. God is showing me that while I’ve adored Him with my mind and I’ve freely given Him my heart, I’ve been withholding from Him something else He requires – my strength.

If my devotion is a pleasing aroma to God, in the area of my strength, there’s a foul odor that also reaches to high heaven.

I’ve always been lazy when it came to acts that required physical effort or strength. And when faced with hard work in daily life, while I’ve improved with age and maturity, it’s still my first thought to quit, delegate, or find a short cut.

That bent is apparently adding an unpleasant note to the aroma of my devotion as it rises up to the Lord.

In Luke 10:27, where Jesus tells us to love the Lord our God with all our strength, the Greek word for strength is ischys. According to Strong’s concordance, this is a feminine noun (interesting) that means “ability, force, strength, might.”

In other words, God wants our minds, our feelings, our inner devotion, and our souls but He also wants us to love Him with every ounce of force and might we can muster.

That’s hard work, loved ones. That’s the kind of devotion that works up a sweat. That sounds to me like building arks, leading armies, giving birth, disciplining children, boarding ships for long journeys, and putting in long hours serving strangers in Jesus’ name.

That’s the kind of devotion that reeks.

Noah loved God with all of his strength. He spent a hundred years building an ark in a desert and then listened from inside as all life on earth was extinguished. He led is family through a year of floating in a box full of animals and faith. When they finally emerged on dry land, he offered a sacrifice to God.

“Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.” Genesis 8:20-21 NIV

The sacrifice of Noah’s strength was, I’m sure, a pleasing aroma as it reached the Lord.

Paul was a man who loved the Lord with his mind but he put feet to his faith, as well, by travelling ceaselessly for the Lord, working to earn his way in every town he visited, and suffering trials of every kind including beatings, imprisonment, and shipwrecks.

His sacrifice of strength sent a strong odor to heaven, too, as he writes in I Corinthians 2:14-17: “ But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.”

These great men of faith, and the things God is showing me about myself through the God challenge, inspire me to be sure I’m not holding anything back from the Lord, that I’m not reserving strength for my own selfish ends, that in the act of kingdom building I am leaving it all out on the mats for Christ.

So, I’m pushing myself to do every assignment because I want to stretch in ways that are uncomfortable but also because I do sense God’s presence in this process. I’m not doing every assignment well. I would not be getting straight A’s on this project but that’s not what it’s about.

It’s about doing something with my Father and growing closer through it. It’s about working up a sweat and using my morning strength, my mid-day strength, and the last ounces of strength at day’s end to be with Him.

How have I missed this strength thing? How has this never entered my thinking? No matter. It’s on my radar now. What about you? Where is God challenging you right now, whether it’s through this book or by other means? What does it smell like in your world?

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  1. Joanne Sher says:

    SO much truth here. I’m lazy that way too – and I think this will stick in my head for a while. Thank you.

  2. Oh my gosh- I love this post! I don’t know, Lori but somehow with this one I have confirmed that we sweet sister are destined for more…like a cup of coffee in person this Summer! I love your tongue in cheek humor (?) which is still grace-laced and scriptural based! Nice share. I am sharing …In His Grace, Dawn