Editor’s Note: It’s a new year and it’s time to form more consistent daily rhythms. One of our newest 90-day devotionals might help do the trick. God Above All is a unique devotional that will take us through 90 days of some of Fourth-century philosopher and theologian St. Augustine’s most influential works. Here’s a sneak peak at the first three devotions that we know you’ll love!
Who Are We?
Great are You, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Your power, and infinite is Your wisdom. Man desires to praise You, for he is a part of Your creation; he bears his mortality about with him and carries the evidence of his sin and the proof You resist the proud. Still he desires to praise You, this man who is only a small part of Your creation. You have prompted him that he should delight to praise You, for You have made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.
Confessions, 1.1.1, trans. A. C. Outler*.
According to some, we are not much of anything at all. Our lives barely register in the vast history of the universe. Life itself is just one great cosmic accident. There is no greater purpose, no greater truth.
But this isn’t God’s perspective. Although we are a “small part” of creation, we have a purpose, and this purpose is greater than anything we could possibly imagine. We have been made for God Himself. And our truest innate desire is to praise Him. Nothing less will ever make us truly happy or fully alive.
Yet we have forgotten who we are.
We love, but we do not know the One who is Love. We praise, but we praise what has been made and not the One who has made all things. We are so often in conflict with ourselves and with one another. We are proud when we should be humble.
So we are restless. Restless until we find our rest in Him.
St. Augustine invites you to recover your true identity and find your rest. As you read and reflect on what he has to say, be prepared to meet God. Encounter Him in His glory, grace, and mercy. See the Creator’s fingerprints in the world He has made. Offer your brokenness and disordered desires, and receive His healing and care. Follow the path He sets before you. Drink from the fountain of Wisdom, and read from His Word. Let Him transform the way you love yourself and the way you love your community. Love Him. Praise Him. This is who you are.
In a Mother’s Arms
What praises could we give, what thanks could we offer for God’s self-giving love? He, through Whom time was made, loved us so much He was made in time for us. He, older than the world in His eternity, was younger than many of His servants in the world. He, Who had made humanity, became man. He, Who created His mother, was born to her. He formed the hands that carried Him. He filled the breasts that fed Him. The Word, without which human eloquence is rendered mute, wailed — an infant, wordless, in a manger.
Sermon 188, trans. S. Watts.
Have you ever held a baby in your arms? Felt the warmth of their body? Looked into their eyes when they recognize a familiar voice?
If so, you’ve probably also heard a baby’s ear-splitting wail. You’ve seen their face, wet with tears and scrunched up in frustration — a frustration you may have shared as you struggled, almost hopelessly, to find a solution.
Augustine, in this Christmas sermon, wasn’t being sentimental. A father himself, he was aware of the wonder, challenge, and even heartache these newly formed humans embody the moment their lungs fill with air. Yet that is why he finds Jesus’ birth to be a cause for such praise, gratitude, and amazement.
The One who created all things was formed in a womb. His mother bore Him and then held Him in her arms. He cried and she fed Him. And why did He choose to do this? Because He loves us so much. Because He loves you so much.
Reflect upon what this passage reveals to you about God’s love. Imagine yourself as a child, wrapped up in the comfort of your mother’s arms. Imagine staring lovingly into the eyes of your newborn child. Remember that this love does not depend on what you do — only that the One who made you loves you this much.
Nothing is Greater Than Love
And now regarding love, which the Apostle says is greater than the other two — that is, faith and hope — for the more richly it dwells in a person, the better the person in whom it dwells. For when we ask whether someone is good, we are not asking what they believe, or hope, but what they love. Now, beyond all doubt, the person who loves aright believes and hopes rightly.
Enchiridion, 31.117, trans. A. C. Outler*.
Serving people can be hard work. Although good in itself, it is often a thankless task. The more you give, the more people ask of you and the more they take. Some are thankful, others not so much. It can be all too easy to grow tired and burnt out.
Augustine wrote this passage after twenty-five years in ministry. Who could blame him if he had started to feel as if he needed a break? Yet when he finally sat down to write about what it means to become a follower of Jesus, his words held no hint of bitterness. Instead, Augustine wrote warmly about one of the Bible’s most famous and enduring passages — the apostle Paul’s tribute in 1 Corinthians 13 to faith, hope, and, above all, love.
For Augustine — as it was for Paul — love is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. The more God’s love lives in us, the more it will change what we hope for and what we believe. This may mean we no longer fear uncertainty because our hope is now in Jesus. Perhaps we decide to spend our money differently because we believe what we really need is Him.
Receive Augustine’s reflection on God’s transforming love as both an encouragement and an opportunity. If life is wearing you down, if you find your faith misplaced and your hope faltering, don’t try to push through. Instead, reach out to God. Ask Him for the gift of His love. It will restore and transform you.
Excerpted with permission from God Above All, copyright Zondervan.
- Confessions. Translated by J. G. Pilkington. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 1. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.
- Sermons. Translated by R. G. MacMullen. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 6. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.
- Confessions and Enchiridion. Translated by Albert C. Outler. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1955.
* * *
If you’re struggling to understand the endless and unconditional love of God, we hope this has given you a sliver of hope and a small taste of clarity. How are you experiencing the tangible love of God in your life today? Come share on our blog!