Most of the world is focused on the birth of Christ now and then at Easter the focus turns to His death. People will attend church services on both of these occasions and feel good about their relationship with God/Jesus. It seems an appropriate time to think about our relationship with God and Christ in light of what’s being celebrated.
Everything in our lives revolves around relationships. Our marriage, children, other relatives, friends, work relationships, etc. Working at relationships is a fulltime effort if you want to cultivate and maintain them.
When asked about their relationship with God people answer “yes, I believe in God”. Just because you believe that God and Jesus exist does not mean you have a relationship with them! I believe you exist, but we probably don’t have a relationship. Think about your relationship with the One who brought you into the world, gives you blessings, sacrificed His Son for you and finally will decide where you spend eternity. Is He not worthy of a very close, loving and obedient relationship? Is His Son who suffered immeasurable for you not worthy?
The professional counselors write that a good relationship with others is made up of the following: understanding, strong foundation of respect, love, honesty, loyalty, trust and strong communication. Communication is the key according to them! I’ll add that working at the relationship is very important as well.
What efforts are needed for a good relationship with God? The religious writers recommend the following characteristics so do an inventory of your efforts for a relationship with God. I’ve added a couple. As you read these take an inventory of your efforts.
First, decide you want a relationship with Him! Being ambivalent about God does not work for Him. Revelation 3:15-17 NIV - 15 “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” If your attitude is “I’m giving all I’m willing to give!”, then take a step back and think about your attitude towards God. This statement implies you have more to give to the relationship but are unwilling and not committed!
Love, honor and respect Him. - Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Do you? Is He your priority? He expects to be. Would your spouse feel like you valued the relationship with him or her if you treated them the same way you treat God?
Pray -Talk to Him. Just as with any other person in your life, communication is essential to strengthening your relationship with God. I Thessalonians 5:17 NLT– “Never stop praying.” Yes he knows what’s in your mind, but He wants to hear from you, frequently. If you do not talk with your spouse, your relationship is not likely to be a good one. It’s the same way with God. At one time I believed formality was required when I talked with God. Now I am very respectful but not as formal. Open your heart and let him know in your words. He can deal with whatever is on your heart.
Obey God's commandments. John 14:15 ESV - “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” People have a tendency to pick the commandments they are comfortable with and discard those they don’t like. Jesus did not say to choose the commandments with which you agree but made a flat statement to obey all! Never think that God’s commandments are outdated and not relevant in today’s world.
Study the scriptures – Study of the scriptures is God’s way of communicating with us.
2 Timothy 2:15 – NIV “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” If you do not make Bible study a regular habit how can you grow your relationship with Him?
Listen for Him – Listening to God Psalm 37:7-9 ESV – “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;”. F. LaGard Smith wrote in Meeting God in Quiet Places: “The peace of God comes to us when we use the quiet times in our life to turn our hearts over to God so that He can prepare us for whatever struggles we face.”
Trust Him! Have faith in Him! God does not always answer our prayers the way we want but He wants our trust. It’s not always easy to trust especially when you lose a loved one, lose your job and income, can’t pay bills and put food on the table. How can I trust Him when bad things happen? Why must these things happen? I have no answers other than to pray for peace through Him. Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.”
Mr. Smith spends part of his life living in England. He watches hot air balloons floating over the skies in the village of Cotswold. He compares in Meeting God in Quiet Places his trust in God to being in the basket of the balloon: “From my youth I have happily committed my trust to an unseen God. Even now, in most cases, I am truly a willing passenger. And so far the flight has been, if not always smooth, at least accompanied by an abiding sense of security. Over the years, I have been through storms and calm, through ups and downs; through the heartache of broken relationships, the passing of loved ones, the tears of defeat, the fear of loneliness, and the discouragement of my fallibility. But somehow I keep flying. Somehow he lifts me higher. In the safety of his gracious providence he carries me over the rough times and shares with me the joys of a life lived by faith.”
“I confess that there are times when I find faith in God to be as confining as the basket hanging beneath the balloon. Sometimes I can’t understand why I always have to be in his basket, or why I always have to do everything his way. Yet every time I truly turn my life over to God, I invariably forget the basket and find myself concentrating on the beauty. When I let God’s invisible power take control, I am dependent, but oddly free. I am no longer in control, yet I am safe and secure in his leading.”
“Nothing can surpass the reality that settles in on us when we reach the point with God where we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is in control. When we really know that we have nothing to fear! When we take that confident step and actually get in the basket! It is then, when we have let go of everything that holds us back, that we will know true freedom. And beauty. And breathtaking heights of exhilarating joy!”
Show gratitude to Him - Psalm 86:12 – “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” God wants us to be thankful to Him even in the bad times. Always remember even though things may not be going your way, He is there.
Max Lucado writes on gratitude: “Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God’s accomplishments. To rehearse God’s accomplishments is to discover his heart. To discover his heart is to discover not just good gifts but the Good Giver. Gratitude always leaves us looking at God and away from dread. It does to anxiety what the morning sun does to valley mist. It burns it up.”
Be content with Him and His blessings– I do not do well with whinners and I do not imagine God does either. LaGard Smith writes in Meeting God in Quit Places: “In our discontent and greed, we miss what Jesus wants to teach us about true joy. How could we ever be discontented with things here on earth if we put our affections on things above? In view of eternity, what is there to really to worry about in the here and now?
Those who can’t live with godly contentment in the here and now will miss out on the joys of the here and then. Heaven itself would disappoint them!”
How did you do on the inventory? Be honest. It’s not that you won’t fail Him at times but is your whole heart in your efforts to cultivate and maintain the relationship?
Allen Jackson writes in Standing Firm about how we came about our relationship with God and Jesus. We cannot inherit our relationship from someone else but must choose to build the relationship. He asks “Is your relationship with Jesus one you feel you inherited , or is it one you have established for yourself?
Mr. Jackson continues to write about the Pharisees and Sadducees: “We, too, can be outwardly religious and not believe in God. We can sit in church, carry a big Bible, and know every song, and yet have no relationship with Jesus. Let’s examine our hearts to ensure our desire is not to put on a religious show, but to be a friend of Jesus.”
Max Lucado writes in Just Like Jesus: “Our relationship with God is exactly that– a relationship. His invitation in Psalm 27:8 is simple. ‘Come and talk with me, O my people.’ And our response? Lord, I’m coming! We abide with him and he abides with us.”
“Psalm 119:105 says in everything, His word is a “lamp unto our feet.” It’s not a spotlight into the future, but He gives enough light to take the next step.”
“Our “Glory Days” are such because we learn to hear God’s voice telling us to turn this way or that way. Isaiah speaks of it in chapter 30, verse 21. “Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go.” Wait until God speaks before you act. Be patient and monitor your impulse. If you feel a check in your heart, heed it and ask God again. Consult God in everything!”
“God rewards those who seek Him. Not those who seek doctrine of religion or systems or creeds. Many settle for these lesser passions, but the reward goes to those who settle for nothing less than Jesus himself. And what is the reward? What awaits those who seek Jesus? Nothing short of the heart of Jesus.”
“God’s love never ceases. Never. Though we spurn him. Ignore him. Reject him. Despise him. Disobey him. He will not change. Our evil cannot diminish his love. Our goodness cannot increase it. Our faith does not earn it any more than our stupidity jeopardizes it. God doesn’t love us less if we fail or more if we succeed. God’s love never ceases.”
Our relationship with God is an investment in our life now and after death. It’s not that we earn heaven through our relationship but I’m confident what no relationship with Him will get us! God bless you in your efforts to build and maintain your relationship with Him!
Max Lucado, Just Like Jesus: Learning to Have a Heart Like His – 1998 – Word Publishing – Used by permission
Allen Jackson – Standing Firm – 2018 - Intend Publishing – Used by permission
Meeting God in Quiet Places written by F. LaGard Smith – 1992 - Published by Harvest House Publishers Eugene, Oregon 97408 - Used by permission