Article by Casey McFall
In the previous article “Why do Christians sin”, it was explained that the reason why we keep sinning is due to a lack of love for God. Naturally then, this leads to the question of “How do we increase our love for God?” Many believe that love is something that either just happens naturally or doesn’t happen and can’t be controlled. This is why we “fall in love” instead of “choose to love”. Thus, before we can understand how to increase our love for God, we must first understand the kind of love that we are supposed to have for God.
There are four words for love in ancient Greek: Eros, Storge, Philia, and Agape. Eros is the sensual, romantic love that is most similar to lust. It is based on an emotional reaction to physical attraction and desire. This is the kind of shallow love that young people who have just met and know nothing about each other would feel for each other. Although this word can be used to describe the proper, pure love between a husband and wife; around the time that the new testament was written, the hedonistic tendencies of the age had completely debased this word for love. In fact, it isn’t actually found in the Bible anywhere. The Bible does, however, warn against the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes! (I John 2:16)
Storge is mentioned in the form “philostorgos” in Romans 12:10 and is translated in that verse as “Be kindly affectioned”. This word for love describes the natural love between family members. The affectionate bonds that develop between siblings, parent and child, and so on. This would be the love that Martha and Mary had for their brother Lazarus, or the love that Jacob had for his sons. A pure, clean familial love.
Philia is the root for such words as philosophy (love of wisdom), philanthropy (love of fellow man), and philadelphia (brotherly love). Philadelphia is also used in Romans 12:10, and there are several other instances of Philia being used in the new testament. This love is the deep love that we are commanded to have for each other. (John 13:35) This type of love denotes more than just a deep friendship, and those who have this love for each other honestly care for, respect, and have compassion on each other.
The final word for love, is also the one that is talked about most often. Agape love is perfect and unconditional. This is the love that husbands are commanded to have for their wives (Eph. 5:25), the love that we are supposed to have for our enemies (Matt. 5:44), and the love that we are commanded to have for God (Matt. 22:37).
So how do we grow and encourage this love for God? Through examining the Bible and looking at the real-world examples of this love that God has given us (ex. Husband and wife), we can see at least 4 ways to increase our love for him. 1. Pray for an increase in love. 2. Focus on His love for us. 3. Spend time with Him. 4. Surround ourselves with those who love God.
Pray for an increase in love
Our first response to a need should always be to take it to God. Philippians 4:6 teaches us that in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving we should make our requests known unto God. James 4:2 tells us that we have not because we ask not. All throughout the Bible, God makes it clear that He wants to hear from us and that He wants to answer our prayers.
Moreover, in I Thessalonians 3:12, Paul makes a prayer for God to increase the love that the Thessalonians have for each other. This sets an example for us of praying to increase love. So the first thing that we should is to let God know that we don’t love Him the way that we are supposed to, don’t love Him the way that we are commanded to, confess that sin, and pray for Him to increase our love for Him.
Focus on His love for us
I John 4:19 says, “We love him, because he first loved us.” You want to love God more deeply? Love Him with all parts of your being? Focus on His love for you. Actually dedicate some time reading about His love for you in the Bible, thinking about all of the blessings He’s given you and things that He has done for you out of love for you, and thanking Him in pray for specific examples of His love for you. Note the phrase “dedicate some time”. Don’t just mutter a quick prayer, or have a passing thought about it. Sit down and challenge yourself, “Does God love me? How do I know that He loves me?” And let all of the instances of His love come pouring in to your memory.
If you have a child, think about how precious that child is. Think about how much you love that child and how much that child means to you. Then, imagine sacrificing your child for someone else. You decide to give up your child’s life in order for someone else to live. How much love would that require on your part to override the natural love that you feel for your child? Now realize that God has done this for you.
When God created us, He built into every person a natural law of reciprocation. What this means, is that when someone does something nice for us, we feel obligated to do something for them in return. In 1971, Dennis Regan performed an experiment where an assistant would attempt to sale raffle tickets, and would either hand the subject a can of Coca-Cola first, or wouldn’t. Those who received the drink first, purchased more than twice as many raffle tickets as those who didn’t receive a drink! We can use this to our advantage by focusing on the love God has for us, and let our very nature increase our love for Him.
*An excellent piece of advice from Pastor Cwenar after reading this article, is to keep a journal or record of God’s love for you. Write down answered prayers, undeserved blessings, and just fill the pages with evidences of His love. Jude 21 “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”
Spend time with Him
Throughout the Bible, God uses what we know and can understand in order to explain or illustrate what we don’t know or can’t understand. Whether it’s God saying that He measures the heavens with the space between his thumb and pinky (Isa. 40:12), or commanding Hosea to marry a harlot to illustrate God’s relationship with adulterous Israel (Hosea 3:1); God gives us real-world illustrations to better understand Him.
The one that will be beneficial for us now, is that of the Agape love between a husband and wife. Ask yourself what to do in order to increase and deepen the love that you have for your spouse, and you will come to an understanding of what you need to do in order to love God more. I don’t mean something as superficial as buying flowers, or something as specific as date night once a week. Instead examine the core elements of what it takes to strengthen and deepen that relationship.
I’m sure that everyone has realized it already, but it boils down to spending more time with that person. Dedicating time to focus on them, spending time to learn them better and discover aspects of their personality that were hidden before, setting aside some time just to talk with them and listen to them. This is what we should be doing with God! It is no wonder that our love for God is failing when we spend a mere 3-4 hours a week with Him!
In this day and age where the average attention span is only 8 seconds (based on a 2018 study by Microsoft), and where we are under a constant barrage of pop-ups, notifications, flashing doodads, and whizzing thingamabobs, it is ridiculously easy to accidentally (or intentionally) put God on the back burner. Not to mention how busy life is! There’s work to be done, kids to be fed, yards to be mowed, pets to be walked, and on and on. But what happens when you get so busy at life that you stop spending time with your spouse? Does the relationship get cold and distant? The same thing happens with our love for God! A quick 15-minutes a day plus church service is not enough time to grow our love for God to the heights and depths that we are to love Him!
Luke 10:38-42 describes a scene where Martha is so busy taking care of all of the “important” things, that she forgot what is actually important. Another example would be the church of Ephesus, which was so diligent and busy about the work of God, that they had forgotten to love God! (Rev. 2:4-5) We need to sit down and ask ourselves if we have fallen into this trap of minimizing our time with God. Because unless we give Him our time, our love for Him will not grow.
Surround ourselves with those who love God
The Russians have a saying, “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are”. This saying really captures an important fact about life: namely, that a person is very heavily influenced by those they spend time with! There are a number of places in the Bible that teach this exact thing. Proverbs 13:20 says: “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 adds to that: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” And as a final example, there’s Proverbs 22:24-25 which cautions against being friends with an angry man because you’ll pick up his anger issues.
There are a lot of psychological reasons as to why this happens, but I won’t go into that here. I would encourage all of my readers to look into it however, because it can be quite eye-opening! But what it all boils down to, is that if you have friends who don’t put God first and don’t love God fully, then it will affect you and make it harder for you to maintain your love for God; much less increase it! Fortunately, the reverse is also true! If you surround yourself with friends who are absolutely glowing with a love for God, their love will challenge you to love Him more as well.
God wants us to love Him and commands us to love Him. As we saw in my other article “Why do Christians sin?”, the strength of our Love for God directly correlates to our ability to resist sin. For all of these reasons and more, we should constantly and earnestly strive to increase our love for God. We can accomplish this by praying for God to increase our love, focusing on His love for us, dedicating time to spend with Him and in His word, and surrounding ourselves with people who love God. Making a habit and lifestyle of engaging in these practices will increase our love for God and enable our continued growth as Christians!
Encouraged. Very thorough.Anonymous            April 5, 2019, 3:22 a.m.
God gives the power to resist sin. Resisting sin will not give the power to love God.
Very good article informing us how to fix our problem. So many times our "problems" will be pointed out or preached but the solution is left up to us to figure out. Not only do you explain how to repair this, but you go into deep thought as of how and why we need to do this. Another thing I love about your articles. Keep it up, God is using you in amazing ways through these articles!Maribeth            April 16, 2019, 4:57 a.m.
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