What if the quality of your life is directly related to the quality of your relationship with God? Your satisfaction with life, your happiness, the quality of your relationships with other people, the ability to live a “good life,” a righteous or God honoring life, as well as intangible things like joy, peace, hope, what if all of this is directly related to your personal relationship with God?
Last week I gave you a quote to think about from Henry Blackaby, author of Experiencing God:
“Everything in your Christian life, everything about knowing Him [God], and experiencing Him, everything about knowing His will, depends on the quality of your love relationship to God.”
The closer we are to God, the more we know him and love him, the more we will desire to listen to him as he shares his game plan with us. Because we love him, we respond and follow his game plan. In sports, good coaches have a game plan before they start any game, they know their team, their strengths and weaknesses. They also know the opponents team, and so they come in with a plan to win the game. Life is not a game, but God does have a plan for our life and for the world. When we respond to God’s game plan and do things his way we experience God working in our life. That is basically the whole premise of this series, “Knowing and Experiencing God.”
Last week I concluded the sermon by asking us to think about what the quality of our relationship with God is like. If it’s going to effect every other area of our life, it is probably something we should think about (look at). Do you have a personal relationship with God, how close of a relationship is it? I gave us a few Biblical images to asses where we might be in our relationship with God; it could be like a servant to a king, a sheep to a shepherd (hearing God’s voice and follow where he leads), a child to a father, or a bride to a groom. All of these images are appropriate types of relationships with God, but God is trying to move us toward a closer intimacy with himself. Ultimately, like the Apostle Paul, we must admit that we aren’t there yet (Phil. 3:12), but even Paul said he was still striving forward as he said, “I keep working toward the day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be.” Paul made the choice to work toward knowing Christ.
If the quality of our relationship with God is going to help us in every area of our life, how do we grow closer to God? As Paul might say, how do we get to know Christ better?
Before we look at how we get to know God better, let’s begin with how you get to know a person better. Obviously the first way we get to know someone better or have a closer relationship with them is by spending time with them, being with them. It’s hard to know someone in a personal way without being with them in person (yes I know we have cell phones, text messaging, chat rooms on the internet, email and all that stuff). However just spending time with them doesn’t help us know them if they don’t reveal anything about themselves. You could be fishing or hunting buddies or be quilting partners for years with the same person or persons, and still not really know them at all if all you ever talk about is the weather or what you watched on television last night. “Yep, look at those clouds comin in, think we’re going to get rain?” What do you get to know about a friend with conversations like this, perhaps you get to know their preference for meteorology, but that’s about it. You might learn a bit about them by how they react in certain circumstances, but you don’t really get to know them.
Perhaps a good example of getting to know another person is like when you dated your spouse. You likely spent a lot of time together but you also spent time getting to know each other, you talked about what they liked, and disliked, what’s important to them, what their biggest fear and worries are, what their hopes and ambitions are, what they are good at, perhaps you even found out what their habits are. You got to know each other so well you could finish the other’s sentences for them because you knew what they would say. However even after you got married they would surprise you on occasion. Something would inevitably come up that you didn’t know about them, why? Because they hadn’t shared it. Which, by the way, is why I encourage couples to date at least a year or more before they choose to get married and commit their lives to one another, so they can get to know one another. We can only know a person by what they choose to reveal of themselves. The more experiences we have together, the more they share, the more we know who they really are, and generally speaking the closer you become. Are they honest or are they putting on a show?
What about God, how do we know him better? The pat answer I might say here is pray more, read our Bible more. Remember we are talking about a relationship here. We can spend time with God in prayer, we can read about God in the Bible and know more about him and still know God more closely on a personal relationship. Just as we can know a person better by them revealing themselves to us, we can only know God better as he reveals himself to us through experience. The Bible is a historical record of God revealing himself to people so they would be in relationship with him, so they would get to know him. The people in the Bible knew God because of their personal experiences with God, from Adam and Eve walking with God in the garden of Eden, to Noah, Abraham and his descendents (Israelites), Moses, David and the prophets. God revealed himself to them, he spoke with them either directly or through another person, they personally experienced God working through their life and the circumstances in their life.
Names of God
When people in the Bible experienced God in personal ways they often expressed their experience with God by giving him a name, title, or description. We have to understand that in Hebrew a name was significant because it described a person’s character or described his nature. This is why, in the Bible, we find so many names, titles, and descriptions of God because it was how that person came to know God through their experience with him. If you look in your bulletin insert there are a few examples. Perhaps some of these experiences may reflect your own personal experience with God too. As I read through these names I want you to think about your own life and circle the names, titles, or descriptions of God in which you too have personally experienced God (not which you know about God, but have personally experienced God).
Lord is My Provider (Gen. 22:14)
Comforter in sorrow (Jer. 8:18)
Wonderful Counselor (Is 9:6)
Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6)
My confidence (Ps. 71:5)
Defender of widows (Ps. 68:5)
My strong deliverer (Ps. 140:7)
Faithful and true (Rev. 19:11)
Our Father (Is. 64:8)
A consuming fire (Deut. 4:24)
A sure foundation (Isa. 28:16)
My friend (Job 16:20)
God Almighty (Gen. 17:1)
God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3)
God who avenges me (Ps. 18:47)
God who saves me (Ps. 1:14)
Our guide (Ps. 48:14)
Our help (Ps. 33:20)
My hiding place (Ps. 32:7)
Holy One (Hos. 11:9)
My hope (Ps. 71:5)
Righteous Judge (2 Tim. 4:8)
King of kings (1 Tim. 6:15)
Our leader (2 Chron. 13:12)
Refuge and strength (Ps. 46:1)
The good shepherd (John 10:11)
My stronghold (Ps. 18:2)
Good teacher (Mark 10:17)
Lord of the harvest (Matt. 9:38)
My support (2 Sam. 22:19)
[Give an opportunity for people to mark on their sheet which names they feel describe how they have personally experienced God]
The ways you have experienced God indicate what your relationship with him is like.
Henry Blackaby writes in Experiencing God:
“I know God more intimately as he reveals himself to me through my experiences with Him.”
How would you come to know God as your Provider unless you have had an experience where you were in need and God somehow provided? How would you know God as the Comforter unless you were going through a difficult time in your life, perhaps the loss of a loved one, and experienced God’s Comfort? How would you know God as a Healer unless you were sick and needed healing? You might know these to be true in your head, but until you personally experience them
I want you to understand that when you experienced God in that way he was revealing himself to you so you would know him better.
Experiencing God by Accepting His Invitation to Join Him in His Work
If we know God better as he reveals himself through our experiences, do we just sit back and wait for God to give us an experience to reveal himself? Are these just occasionally occurrences which are totally out of our control? Granted some experiences, like the loss of a loved one or loss of health are out of our control. However personal experiences with God in the Bible were generally the result of God inviting his people to participate in his game plan, his work, and when they listened and obeyed, stepped out in faith, then they experienced God in a real and powerful way.
Moses. God appeared in a burning bush and invited Moses to be a part of delivering the Israelite people from slavery to the Egyptians.
Paul, personal experience with resurrected Jesus. He was given the mission of telling others about Jesus, particularly the Gentiles (non-Jewish people).
The pattern is consistent in the Bible (see back of sermon outline - insert). God appeared to people or made himself known to people, and initiated relationship. He spoke to them and communicated his invitation for that individual(s) to join him in his work, his game plan. Whatever God invited them to do led to a crisis of belief which required faith and action. They had to decide whether they would join God in his work. Then they had to make major adjustment in their life, then they experienced God as he accomplished his work through them.
1. Begins with a love relationship with God through Christ
2. God invites us to be involved with Him in His work
3. God speaks to us by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church (other Christians).
4. God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
5. You must make major adjustment in your life to join God in what he is doing.
6. You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.
Modified from Experiencing God, LifeWay Press, 1990.
If you wonder why you don’t experience God working in your life, it could be one of three issues: 1) it could be a relationship problem (either you are not in a relationship with God through Christ, or not very close). 2) It could be a hearing problem. You may not know how to hear God’s voice and understand what he wants you to do. My Monday night Bible study is focusing on this issue, so if you are interested you can join us on Monday nights at 7 pm (nothing like a little commercial in the sermon). We’ll also talk about this over the next two weeks but I’ll give you a little hint, God has already given us his commands in the Bible. 3) It could be an obedience problem. I’ll assume you know what God wants you to do, but you are unwilling to make the adjustments he wants you to make in your life, you don’t want to do it.