“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done’.”
-Matthew 16: 24-27
In Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s seminal work of psychology simply entitled, “Flow,” he writes, “When we chose a goal and invest ourselves in it to the limits of our concentration, whatever we do will be enjoyable. And once we have tasted this joy, we will redouble our efforts to taste it again.” Csikszentmihalyi is not a person of faith, yet in his work he grapples with some of the key principles which I believe lead to a deeper faith.
When Jesus invites us into his work, he does not merely ask us to do something, he asks us to become something. He asks us to change who we are and, in so doing, change our life’s work. While Csikszentmihalyi argues that all we need to establish optimal experience, or flow, is the creation and fulfillment of goals, Jesus makes clear that not just any goal will suffice.
I tend to believe that we feel optimal belief, we feel closest to God, when we make God’s goals our goals; when we integrate Christ’s Kingdom work with the goals of our own lives. This is reiterated throughout Scripture as we are encouraged to do the hard work of Kingdom life; loving neighbor and enemy, acting as peacemakers, visiting the prisoner. When we do these things not because we should but because we feel truly called, because these things are truly our work, then we experience faith in a new way. When we deny ourselves, take up the cross of Christ and follow not out of obligation but because that is who we are, then we enter into a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Holy God, on this day I ask that you would help me work for your Kingdom in the world. Help me to love you, serve you and follow you with all of my being. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.