J.I. Packer once said, “Knowing God is a matter of personal involvement–mind, will and feeling. It would not indeed be a fully personal relationship otherwise.”
I’ve wondered at times whether it was possible to have a fully personal and intimate relationship with a God who is, well, invisible. Sometimes I laugh out loud at how odd the whole faith concept is. I mean really, becoming ‘intimate’ with an invisible God?
But in the past five years of getting to know my Creator, I have become so totally convinced of His reality and His desire to be close to His children, that I am willing to sound like a complete kook in order to get this point across, that yes, it is indeed entirely possible to foster an intimacy with God closer than any human relationship.
Stay with me here.
The very word intimacy means “close familiarity or friendship… closeness…the intimacy between a husband and wife.” I may not be married yet, but I do know this: intimacy with another human being comes through spending quality time with the object of your affection. The same is true with God. In fact the Scriptures say, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us…”(James 4:4).
God yearns to spend time with us. What a thought!
Here are some practical tips I’ve learned over the years that have helped me develop greater intimacy with God through spending time with Him each day:
- Pick a Place. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35). If Jesus knew the value to retreating to a quiet place to spend time communing with His Father, how much more us? Pick a spot in your home or in nature that feels comfortable and make it your special Secret Place where you and God meet. Brew a hot cup of coffee or tea. Nuzzle in and greet your Father in heaven with a “Good morning Papa, how are you doing today?”
- Pick a Time. Not everyone is a morning person. I am NOT. But I have found there is no better time to spend with God than first thing each morning. It just feels…right. We must quiet our minds and still our souls in order to get into God’s presence. This takes time. You may start with 15 minutes and slowly increase, but I have found I need at least an hour to really have a meaningful quiet time. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God” along with Martin Luther, “Be still and let him mold you.” Be still!
- Pour out Your Heart. We sometimes assume God knows our every thought so why the need to share it with Him right? But Psalm 62:8 says, “Pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Intimacy requires constant and consistent communication. He desires nothing more that to listen to us. Whether we are feeling lonely, sad, lost, weary or confused, God is there to hold us in His arms and assure us He is there.
- Practice Listening. God also has a heart He wants to pour out to us. He begins to let us in on intimate secrets that are meant for our very own heart and soul. Psalm 25:14 says, “The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.” It is in our special Secret Place with God that He unloads His Words, visions, dreams and so much more. It is there that He draws us into the deeper side of His heart and plans.
If we want God to mold, shape, guide and direct us in the way to go in life, then learning the art of being still on a regular basis is a must. Us and Him. Alone. Quiet. Disconnected from the world and connected to His Spirit. Making it a priority to connect with Him each day–through Word, Worship, Prayer, Silence– is the single best thing we can do in our efforts to know God more.
Eventually, being still before Him turns from a nagging discipline to a necessity we crave in the early morning hours each day. Magic meets His Holy magnificence and there’s no turning back.
*What are some tips you have found helpful in growing closer to God? Share in the comment section below!
Maybe you’ve been a Christian your whole life, but you’ve never actually heard God speak directly to you. Or maybe you’re a total skeptic and can’t help but cringe every time someone says, “God told me this or that…” Wherever you are at, make a decision today to at least be open to the possibility of knowing a God who really does speak. Imagine for a moment, God Himself saying these words right to YOU, “My sweet child, do not fear, do not doubt, do not be discouraged…I am right here with you and have so much to tell you about your future with Me…yes, YOU!”
Yesterday we identified five of the most common ways through which God speaks to His people: the Bible, still small voice, other people, circumstances, dreams and/or visions. Today, I will address the question: How do you begin hearing God speak directly to you in your own life?
Here are five tips to help you on your way to hearing God, tuning out the distractions of life and tuning into the powerful voice of your Heavenly Father:
#1 Believe. In order to start hearing God’s voice in our lives, we must believe that He speaks. Take a look at these verses:
- “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)
- “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth… he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13)
- “I am the good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:14, 16)
Are you convinced yet? Knowing God is more than following a rule book of the Ten Commandments and trying to be the best person you can be. The God we serve is the same God who SPOKE to Abraham, Noah, Moses, Joseph, Daniel, Nehemiah, Jesus and many others who were led to do mighty things for the Kingdom of God. The only pre-requisite they all had to have was simple faith that they were being led by the voice of their God! That’s all that is required of you and me too. Do you believe?
#2 Be in the Word. In order know the voice of God, we must know who God is. In order to know who God is, we must read His Word, for it is the Book of Life, revealing His nature and character in dealing with His people. If we do not know the true heart and character of God, we can easily be deceived. The Scriptures warn us of false prophets and false doctrines that will come (Matthew 24:23-27; see also 2 Peter 3:3 and Jude 1:17-18), many of which are out there now, disguising themselves as ‘good’ and even ‘godly’ things. But we must remain vigilant in guarding against falsehood by knowing the Truth. Studying the real thing, will help us know the reality of His voice when it comes, and spot counterfeit when it comes.
#3 Be Expectant. One of my favorite verses is, “In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” (Psalm 5:3). When we have a living, vibrant, two-way relationship with the Lord, we must remember to turn on our ‘spiritual antennas’ and expect to hear God speak to us. But notice what precedes the expectation: laying requests before Him. Sometimes we are not hearing from God because we are not asking specific things from Him. Jesus Himself says, “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:8). Expecting to hear from God without seeking Him first is like expecting your friends to come to your Birthday party without sending invitations. We must devote ourselves to asking, seeking and knocking on the door of our Father’s heart, waiting in expectation for Him to answer.
#4 Be Ready to Respond. We can’t just say we want to hear God without the desire to want to obey what He says. When we truly train our spiritual ears to hear from God, the hard fact is this: sometimes He says things we don’t want to hear. It’s true. He might say things like, Apologize to your mom…Forgive the person you wronged you…Give half your salary to that needy family across the street…Ask your boss if she needs prayer. Hearing God is an awesome privilege, but with it comes great responsibility. God is looking for those who will hear AND act, carrying out the directives He has spoken. Jesus says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28). So be ready to hear…and respond! Otherwise you’re better off leaving your earplugs in.
#5 Be in Community. There will be times when we are unsure whether what we are hearing is the voice of God or not. This is where Christian community proves invaluable. There have been times where I think I am hearing something from God and I will go to a trusted friend who knows me well and run it by her, “I am hearing this…does that resonate with you?” Thankfully, in these times God will speak wisdom and discernment through that friend and she will either say, “Yes, based on what God has been teaching you this season, this does resonate with my spirit.” Or, “Ya know, these sound like negative words of condemnation and don’t seem to be in line with God’s character in His Word.” And then we’ll pray in agreement with or in opposition to the Word and ask God for confirmation or further insight. We were never meant to walk this spiritual journey alone. Proverbs 14:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” There will be times when we need to lean on others for advice, wisdom and protection to help us stay on the path God has carved out for us.
Go beyond imagining God could speak to you and choose today to believe He WILL. By taking practical steps of being in the Word, being expectant, being ready to respond and being in community, you can be sure His voice will come! Rejoice, for God has special secrets to reveal to you (Psalm 25:14) and mysteries to uncover in your very own soul. It’s up to you to open your spiritual ears to hear. Will you?
I recently went to see the romantic comedy called No Strings Attached. Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) are life-long friends who one day decide to sleep with each other. But in order to protect their friendship, they make a pact to keep things strictly “no strings attached.” By “no strings” they meant no commitment, no vulnerability, no becoming emotionally involved. It meant they could reap the benefits of an intimate relationship while still doing whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.
I wonder if sometimes we approach our relationship God with a similar “No Strings Attached” clause. We want all the benefits a life with God has to offer, but we don’t want to have to put in the work that is required of a deeply intimate and personal relationship.
For years, I called myself a Christian, reaping the benefits of forgiveness, salvation and having Someone to turn to whenever I was in desperate need of something. But rarely did I open my Bible to spend time getting to know God. Rarely did I interrupt my daily activities to pray. Rarely did I ask God how He was doing or what it was that He wanted. I was on a quest to get what I wanted and on my terms. I was a Christian dragging God along side my life just in case I needed Him along the way.
Finally I realized there was so much more to having a relationship with God. His gift of grace is free and awesome, but getting to know Him on a deeper level takes time. Energy. Effort. Investment. Sacrifice even. Jesus says the primary way we can get to know Him and show our love for Him is to do what He says:
“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” -John 14:21
Keeping his commands is what He asks of us. Keeping His commands is ‘attaching the strings’. It requires obeying when we don’t understand. It requires connecting with Him through His Spirit and His Word when we don’t feel like it. It requires we persevere in believing in the unseen even when what we see is hopeless. It requires confessing our wrongs and forgiving those who have wronged us even when we are hurt. It requires letting God into our life so intimately and so deeply that we can’t help but be molded and made to His image.
“No Strings Attached” doesn’t exist with God.
But guess what? The benefits far outweigh a few cheap thrills and some temporary moments of bliss. Jesus says that when we obey His commands, when we put in the effort to know Him, when we ‘attach our strings to Him,’ then He WILL love us and show Himself to us. What an awesome promise!
We can be like the couple in the movie choosing to live with “No Strings Attached,” letting our fears, doubts and selfish needs keep us from a total relationship investment. Or we can we can dive in fully, deeply, totally, and completely with God, trusting that the benefits of an intimate relationship with Him are sooooooo much more than we could ever ask for or imagine.
Which will you choose?