Do you think it’s possible to prefer God over all other pleasures? How could Asaph say “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you,” (Psalm 73:25)? How could Paul say “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,” (Philippians 3:8 NLT)? I often feel like I’m not even close to these men in terms of preferring God. However, I believe that if we get this right, it will solve a lot of other issues we have. Four keys to preferring God are becoming acquainted with him, tasting and experiencing him, spending time with godly people, and continually rebuilding your faith.
- Learn about God and His benefits
To prefer God, you must know who he is, what he offers, and why he is to be preferred. Even Asaph admitted in the Psalms that he “was envious of the arrogant when [he] saw the prosperity of the wicked,” (Psalm 73:3). It wasn’t until he entered the sanctuary of God that he realized that their “good life” was short lived and that they were on dangerous and slippery ground (Psalm 73:17-20). To prefer God, you must allow your mind to linger on his power, greatness and majesty. Invest time to become acquainted with both the compassionate parts of his nature as well as the terrible aspects of his wrath. In this way, you will allow His dynamic personality to fill every corner and longing of your thoughts.
- Experience the fact that God is good
It’s not enough, however, to know about God intellectually; you’ve got to be fully convinced based on your personal experiences and examination. Imagine trying to explain the sweetness of honey to someone who had never tasted it; tasting honey on your tongue is a whole different experience than hearing about it! Similarly, we must “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) to appreciate Him fully. You’re never going to prefer God if you’re not fully convinced of the relevance of his truth, the practicality of his ways, and the value of his Holy Spirit. You must study His Word and contrast it with the ideas of the world until you are absolutely sure that you want to follow Him instead of any other plan. It takes time to learn God’s ways and it takes dedication to try them out.
- Spend time with people who are fired up about God
As a kid, I loved watching the Minnesota Vikings play football on Sunday afternoons with my brothers and cousins. However, what followed a Vikings win was even more fun than watching the game. What did we do after the game had ended? We ran outside and played football! We were so pumped up by the game that we would try for hours to reel in passes like Randy Moss, juke and spin like Adrian Peterson, and fire bullet passes like Brett Favre, practicing until our jeans were full of grass stains. Similarly, if you get fired up about God, you will begin living like Christ. To become passionate about God, spend time with people who are passionate about living for Him and who are fired up about doing what’s right! Read faith-building stories like David Wilkerson’s The Cross and the Switchblade or timeless treasures like John Owen’s Mortification of Sin. Watch sermons on YouTube by John Piper or listen to podcasts by Charles Stanley. Do whatever it takes to get fired up about God and He will begin consuming your thoughts and your time.
- Rebuild your faith whenever it begins to fade
Unfortunately, the ideas above which cause us to prefer God leak out of our brains incredibly quickly, and they are easily replaced with the doubts, worries, and busyness of everyday life. At a minimum, it will probably be necessary to rebuild your faith every morning; when we wake up, our minds usually lack adequate faith to enable us to prefer God throughout the day. Morning devotions are a staple of anyone who’s serious about preferring God. Hudson Taylor once said, “Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him.” And for the moments when God begins to look less appealing, a prepared pick-me-up should be ready and waiting. A Spotify playlist of my favorite worship songs is a go-to for me when I’m feeling my faith beginning to wane. The songs remind me of truths that are being crowded out of my mind by worries, fears, or temptations.
The goal of these ideas is that when the devil comes knocking with his counterfeit pleasures, you’re able to quickly and easily say, “No, I chose God because He is far better!”