“Draw close to God and He will draw close to you.” -James 4:8 (NLT)
It has taken me a while to understand exactly what “drawing close” means. It covers all the areas of our lives that God wants – our hearts, our thoughts, our time, our actions. It goes so much deeper than I first thought, and in the recent months I’ve really made a newer, fresher connection with God than ever before.
When I started learning about God, I thought the best ways to grow closer to him were to attend church and read the Bible. I used a lot of my time reading and learning Bible verses, participating in Bible studies, going to services and helping at church. I definitely found my knowledge of Christ and love for him growing through these activities. I think they are essential ingredients for anyone who wants to grow closer to God.
But what was missing here was having my heart focused on God. As I’ve taken the steps to confess my sins, repent and follow my faith, I’ve discovered that God is more interested in my love for him than my knowledge of him. It’s difficult to really explain how this happens. For me, I found a bible study called Experiencing God by Henry and Richard Blackaby and Claude King that explained the concept very well. One of the key points they make is that God is interested in a love relationship with you, more than anything else.
Focusing on that phrase, love relationship, has been an eye opener for me. I realized that over the years I have had some different ideas of who God is to me. Sometimes, I thought of him as a great king who rules the earth with mighty power, but didn’t realize He wants to know me personally. Sometimes, I thought of God as a great master, who just wanted to instruct me as his servant. Sometimes, I thought he was a great teacher, who had answers for me, but wasn’t all that approachable. But by understanding that God wants a love relationship with me, I realized that He is just as interested in getting to know me and hear from me as I am from him.
This awakened a new depth to my relationship with God. Over the last couple of months, I have found myself excited for the quiet time I spend each time with God. I talk out loud in prayer, sharing with God more than just what I want or need. I praise Him, I thank Him for my wife, my kids and all the blessings I have received. I express my anger, fears, and disappointments over the challenges that I face in my life. I have purposely started my day during my quiet time or in the shower naming God by the names he gives himself in the Bible – wonderful counselor, savior, Father, Rock , salvation, my stronghold, my help, maker of all things, Lord Almighty. By focusing my thoughts and speech on the greatness and power of who God is for me, I find my heart lifted and my love for Him growing more. By speaking out loud and sharing personally with God, I feel him closer to me.
This closeness is amazing! For the first time in my life, I find myself praying constantly. I used to be a morning/lunch/bedtime pray-er. This was much better than the lack of prayer life at all that preceded it, but now things are so much better. I find myself praying for patience in my relationship with my wife and kids as things get hard; praying for wisdom as I make decisions on our ministry and family operations; praying for peace as we go out for an outing. As I pray and talk to God in each moment, I feel his peace around me, and I see His power at work. From an argument that begins but then fizzles, to taking the kids out and having great behavior and no break-downs, to unexpected income showing up in our bank account, God is at work in my life. I can see God loving me because I am taking my heart, my thoughts and my time and loving him with it.
“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement” Philemon 1:7a (NIV)