His Life, Our Life
Walking closely with God is more wonderful than you could imagine, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Here’s a hint: You have to seek Him.
By Charles F. Stanley
How would you characterize your relationship with the Lord? Is He foremost in your thoughts and affection, or do you wonder how anyone could muster such devotion to an invisible God? Do you know Him personally, or is He merely a distant, vague concept? The Lord doesn’t want you to be uninformed about who He is. In fact, He desires to have a meaningful personal relationship with you that transcends all others in depth and richness.
Before we can enter into this kind of relationship with God, one of the first things we must learn is to relate to Him as a person. Too many believers approach the Christian life on a behavioral level. They go to church, read their Bibles, serve others, give generously, and try to be as good as possible, thinking that they’re doing what God wants. Although all these practices are beneficial, they’re not enough. He desires more for us than knowledge and good behavior. He wants us to know Him experientially—person to person.
You’ll never learn to know God intimately by listening to sermons. Even reading the Bible, on its own, will not achieve this goal. Although the Scriptures are foundational truth and the basis for confirming who God is, intimacy with Him isn’t possible unless He unveils Himself to us in the experiences of life. This means we must be willing to go through difficulty and pain, because some aspects of His nature can be understood only through suffering. For example, how will we ever learn that He is our Comforter (2 Cor. 1:3-4) if we never experience grief and pain? Those who are willing to walk faithfully with the Lord through the fires of affliction come to know Him in deeper ways and are able to speak with authority concerning His character, because they’ve experienced His faithfulness.
The Christian life is not ultimately about our comfort or satisfaction. It’s about the almighty sovereign God of the universe loving us so much that He’s willing to reveal Himself in a very personal way. We each have a choice: Will we invest our lives in getting to know the Lord, or will we squander the opportunity and live for ourselves?
God accomplishes His work through those who know Him intimately.
The most fruitful people in God’s kingdom are those who have a growing relationship with Him. That’s because He is able to accomplish His will and purposes through them. Since they know the Lord intimately, understand His ways, and have experienced His faithfulness, they’re willing to obey, no matter what. Those who don’t know Him very well tend to have a lower level of commitment and prefer to do as they please.
Building intimacy is a process.
After receiving Christ as Savior, we’d probably all like to instantly live in the richness of a deep relationship with Him, but this is not something that happens quickly. Like any human relationship, intimacy takes time to develop. Jesus begins this process with us much as He did with His disciples. After choosing the twelve men, He called them to follow Him. Then each one had to respond to His invitation. Over the course of three years, Jesus revealed Himself and His Father to them as they lived together. In the same way, God has invited each of us to enter into an intimate relationship with Him. When we say yes to His invitation, He immediately begins to unveil Himself and His ways and build that relationship.
Right after I was saved, I knew very little, but I sensed that God wanted to do something in my life—I just didn’t have any idea what it was. When I started reading the Bible, I couldn’t understand it, but God knew my heart and was using His Word to gear my mind toward Him. Over the years, I’ve seen how He’s worked in my life through difficulties and hardships of all kinds. During those times of utter helplessness and total dependence upon Him, He was deepening my relationship with Him, even though I didn’t yet realize it.
There’s an exciting realm of intimacy with the Lord available to every believer, but sadly, many have never experienced it. Some Christians don’t even realize it’s possible. Despite going to church, reading the Bible, and offering their petitions to God, they never feel a personal connection to Him. What does your relationship with God look like? No matter where you are in your Christian life, it’s never too late to grow more—or start growing—in Christ.
What is required for an intimate relationship with God?
Although the Lord is the one who initiates and builds a close relationship with us, He asks us to participate in the process. Intimacy is not a one-sided venture. The Lord can bombard us with revelations of Himself, but if we’re uninterested, we won’t see or hear Him. To develop a close relationship with God, here’s what is required:
Time: We must be willing to set aside time to meet with the Lord every day. Furthermore, we need patience, because a close relationship takes years to develop. If we’re just beginning the process, we can’t expect to have the same level of intimacy as someone who has walked closely with the Lord for 50 years.
Sharing: Since selfishness hinders relationship, we need to give ourselves freely to the Lord without holding back any areas of our life—and that includes our dreams, goals, family, friendships, extracurricular commitments, and finances.
Listening: Communication is essential in any relationship. The Lord has so much to say to us—through both in His Word and the inner convictions of the Spirit. That’s why we must be actively listening for His voice during the course of the day.
Attention: God is always attentive to us, but we’re easily distracted with the responsibilities, concerns, and pleasures of life in this world. Intimacy requires attentiveness in our times alone with the Lord as well as an awareness of His presence in every situation we face.
Openness: Transparency is a key characteristic of an intimate relationship. It requires an openness free of the fear of condemnation. Hiding areas of weakness from the Lord or trying to exclude Him from portions of our lives will never work, because He already knows everything. Confession is a privilege of cleansing that should never be avoided because of pride.
Trust: Without trust, there can be no intimacy. Sometimes distrust of God is the result of failure to understand His ways and purposes. That’s why reading the Scriptures is so important. We need to know what He says about Himself and His actions. Once that is firmly anchored in our minds, we can watch how He works in our life and discover that He is always faithful.
Love: As we grow in our knowledge of the Lord and experience His loving care for us, our love for Him will naturally increase. Instead of being a distant deity, He’ll become the primary focus of our devotion.
God draws near to those who draw near to Him.
The Lord desires intimacy with all of us, but the condition of our hearts determines whether we’ll experience it. If we’re careless or indifferent about our relationship with Him, we don’t have a heart for Him. But the Lord can build an intimate relationship with those who desire to walk in His ways and do His will. This doesn’t mean they never stumble, but rather, their focus is always on the Lord and on living in a manner that pleases Him.
Another characteristic of the kind of close relationship we’ve been discussing is a surrendered life (Mark 8:34-35). Those who are willing to yield control of their lives to the Lord prove with their submission that more than anything else, they long for a deeper relationship with Him. They’re willing to go through whatever circumstances are required in order to know Him more fully and love Him more completely.
If you’re willing to give yourself fully to the Lord, He will faithfully give Himself to you. His life will become your life—one of peace, comfort, joy, and transforming love. That’s what an intimate relationship with God is all about. This kind of ongoing connection will be costly, but I promise that once you’ve tasted its fruit, you’ll realize it was worth every sacrifice.
Do You Know God?
If God seems like a stranger to you, learn how to begin a real friendship with the One who loves you most here.