One inconspicuous Sunday, visiting a church to watch my niece get baptized, I heard a message that changed my “walk” forever.
The man delivering the message on this day is not my pastor, but a pastor to our extended family. He is the pastor of a church where many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins attend, and has been a gift to the family during some extremely painful trials (tragic death of family members) and during times of joy (births and weddings).
Howard said one line that has rung in my head for over 4 years now.
“My prayer is that you would learn to Know God, rather than strive to Know More About Him”
As Howard pointed out, the goal of the Christian life should not be to read a book and be the foremost authority on who God is. Not that there is value in that, but if you only spend your time on this earth as a student of God, you will never know who he is, or have a chance to experience him in the embrace of a relationship.
I prayed that prayer in my heart with Howard on that Sunday, but I never knew the depth of that request until this past year. God has been answering that request in so many diverse ways ever since. Every season of my life since then has been like an onion, peeling back the layers of what this really means. I find myself not going a week without hearing that in my head, and asking God to keep bringing me to the place where I know Him better, and stop learning about him.
It would take years to explain to you what that has produced in my life, and the trials and tribulations that this prayer has produced. You’ve read along with me a little bit over the past year, but I can say with 100% assurance, that God heard that prayer and has been answering it ever since.
I love the way Darin Hufford makes the analogy (and I am severely paraphrasing here), “If one of my kids came in to my room and started asking me questions about what I was doing, what I like, what I was working on, etc., I’d be an abusive Father if I halted their questioning and handed them a book, and said – just read my book son, it has everything you need to know about me.” The book has value, it has truth, and it’s a resource to validate what God is saying in your life, but if you only strive to read and memorize the book, and never stop to speak and listen to the person that wrote it, you’d be missing out on a full and Spirit-led life.
My problem for most of my childhood and early adult life was that I knew the book backwards and forwards, but I never knew the person. I never heard the person who inspired it. I never stopped to listen to the person myself, instead relaying on pastors and teachers to speak for him. I’d speak to him in prayers, but I really never experienced the intamacy of that relationship where I truly felt he was listening to me.
Was I saved? Yes.
Was I a model Christian? Yes.
Did I teach and lead others according to the book? Yes.
Did I know the man that saved me? Not really.
Did I know the person I was serving? Not too well.
Did I truly experience and understand what I was teaching? Not as much as I once thought.
The past year has been a revelation to get to know him. To hear his voice at a deep level. To see him work and move in both the mundane and exhilarating experiences of life. To watch him operate in my life and the lives of those around me. To know his comfort during difficult trials. To hear him laugh and see him smile in the amazing joyful moments of life.
Maybe they were right. Life must begin at forty.
All I know is that the rest of my time here on earth, and my days in eternity will be about knowing him, not being overly concerned about theology, doctrine, or principles. It’s about a relationship and spending my time with him and those he surrounds me with. I want this for my wife, I want this for my daughters. I want this for my friends, but I cannot give it to them. God will not force himself on people – he might interrupt them and save them – but this is a choice we all have to make. An invitation to deep relationship.
It saddens me that there are people who go to church each Sunday and read the Bible regularly, but have no sense of the daily, moment by moment relationship. Yeah, they are saved. But they are really missing the gospel in it’s fullness and experiencing love and life from Father because they don’t know him personally.
What are your thoughts on this? What have you experienced in this revelation?
Last week, Matt posted a blog on “A Story Of Two Believers” it detailed out the story of two young men who comes to know Christ and how their lives played out, asking at the end, who is the better Christian. As you can imagine, it sparked a number of comments. This week, Bob and Matt will go through the comments and give you some additional thoughts.
Jim Robbins is a former pastor, turned writer, who writes for those who are hungry for more –wanting restoration of heart and life — and aren’t satisfied with pop Christianity. It’s not about morality (as good as that is) or right behavior and sin management. It’s about something else. A restored heart. Learn more about Jim and his writings at www.robbinswritings.com