I once had an atheist friend who was as smart as a whip. Having completed a Masters degree at a prestigious university, he could easily go toe-to-toe with just about anyone in cleverly giving proof of God’s non-existence. From an intellectual point of view, I knew I was no match for him. In fact, we never engaged on this level. One time, however, he brought up the subject of God. He asked how I could believe in something so nonsensical as a God I couldn’t hear or see. So I posed the following question to him, “Can you explain your relationship with your mom to me?” He shot me a look of bewilderment. “What do you mean?” He asked. “Your relationship with your mom. How would you describe it to me?” Silence. I continued. “I can’t explain my relationship with my mom to you, however, it exists. We talk; we laugh; we love. The relationship exists, but how can I describe something so intangible? I can only experience it. That’s why I believe in God, because I experience Him. I see Him moving in my life. I talk to Him, and He answers. It’s less of something that I can explain and more of something that I experience.”
So now the question is posed to you: How can you possibly believe in God? What proof do you have to support your belief in God?
The proof is in your relationship with Him.
Are you experiencing God in such a way that you are assured of His existence? Are you experiencing a God who answers when you call? A God who gets involved in your story? Whatever your answer may be I would like to invite you to go a little deeper with God. Experience a God who is active and eager to answer when you call. Experience a God who loves to get involved in the human story.
The Journey: Sharpening our God-gauge
Christianity is a journey.
There are no couch-potato Christians. Take any football player at the end of the game with a clean jersey and pristine cleats, and you can conclude that he’s been sitting on the bench for the entire game. The same is true in our Christian walk. Christianity is a contact sport. It requires that we get involved and get dirty. It involves a God who is actively involved in our lives. We do not serve a god of wood or stone who doesn’t answer when we call. The most exciting thing about Christianity is that we serve a God who loves to get involved in the human story!
Far too often our spiritual growth is stalled because we are unable, unwilling or unaware of how to hear God’s voice. Our ability to perceive God moving in our lives has become dull. And sometimes, at some point along the way, we begin to doubt that God actually gets involved in the human story. And more than anything else, this is what we want. We want God to show up and be real and apparent. When hardship and destruction come, we want clarity and a solution. We want to see a manifestation of God. We want to know that our God is as real as our pain.
Our God-gauge is off, and sharpening this ability – learning to tune in – will take us to the next level in our relationship with God.
Speak Lord; I’m Listening
Not so long ago, I shared a story with a friend about a plane ride I had taken. As I sat in the middle seat of my row, I felt impressed that the lady sitting next to me was a Seventh-day Adventist. Over the course of the trip, during my conversation with her, the impression was confirmed. While I recounted this story, my friend interjected, “How did you hear God’s voice?” I paused and thought of how to answer that question. And again today, I ponder that question. How can we hear God’s voice? How can we rest assured that God gets involved in the human story? For many of us, if we could receive confirmation of this idea, we would experience an immediate growth spurt in our spiritual lives.
In order to hear God’s voice and experience Him moving in our lives, we must first believe that God exists and recognize that He is the God of the universe. Hebrews 11:6 says “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.” It is important that we first acknowledge that God exists and recognize who He is.
Next, we must clearly understand that God actively gets involved in the human story. Even when it seems that He’s somewhere off stage, He’s still a character in the story. Psalm 66 gives us assurance of this. In fact, Psalm 66:5, 16 invite us by saying, “Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in his doing toward the sons of men. Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul.” The Psalmist speaks with assurance throughout this chapter about the awesome works of God’s hands.
In this concept we see two levels of responsibility. If you have not yet experienced God’s movement in your life and you want to go deeper with God, it is your responsibility to read the Bible to see and understand how God has moved in the past. Spend time with Christians, with strong spiritual experiences, who can share with you how their relationship with God has impacted their lives. If, on the other hand, you are a mature Christian, it is your responsibility to be open and expressive about how God has moved in your life, because in doing so, your experience will give evidence to those around you. The proof of God’s existence is in your relationship with Him.
Finally, we must trust that God will answer us when we call. If there is one assurance we have in God’s word, it is that He will respond to our prayers. The Bible is replete with promises that assure us that God will listen and answer when we pray to him. Here are a few examples.
“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3
“He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.” Psalm 91:15
“It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24
How to Hear God & Experience Him Moving in Our Lives
Sometimes even seasoned prayer warriors find themselves at a standstill when it comes to understanding God’s moving and leading in their lives. Trying to discern God’s action (and inaction) sometimes sends long-time Christians into a tailspin in their relationship with God. And most often, it’s most difficult to understand God’s movement in our lives because of our emotional involvement in the situation.
Understanding God’s movement in our lives is about shifting our focus. It requires a drastic change in perspective. Imagine trying to read a book with the page pressed against your nose. This would only permit you to see one or two words on the page. However, when you readjust the book to arm’s length, you are able to have the full experience of reading the book, line-by-line, paragraph-by-paragraph, page-by-page.
Our walk with God is the same. When we focus on one moment, in one day, in one week, in one month, we are unable to experience God, who is not restricted by time, as we understand it. When we set our sites on one thread in the tapestry of our lives, we fail to see the beautiful masterpiece that God is weaving.
The secret to changing our perspective can be found in Psalm 37:4, which is an invitation: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” In this formula, there are two jobs to be done. Our job is to delight ourselves in the Lord; that’s the easier of the two jobs. God’s job is to give us the desires of our hearts.
Right now, wherever you are, whomever you’re with, I invite you to make your desires known to God. Reveal your plans, dreams and goals to God. Be spiritually vulnerable before Him.
Now, focus on doing your job, which is delighting yourself in God. Many would now ask, how can we delight ourselves in the Lord?
Delight Yourself in the Lord
Think of a few of your favorite things. For you it might be football or chocolate or your cat or your children. Whatever it is that brings a smile to your face, think of it right now. Put a picture of it in front of you. Revel in the joy and happiness it brings you. Delight in the way it gently tugs at the corners or your mouth until you break into a smile. Now, think of Jesus. Imagine your relationship with Him. Does it bring you the same joy? Changing our perspective is about learning how to delight in the Lord. It’s about taking our eyes off of our desires and fixing our eyes upon the Lord, just as Peter had to do as he was walking on water towards Jesus (Matthew 14:22-33). God already knows the desires of your heart, but He wants to hear from you. Tell them to God, and then focus on enjoying your relationship with Him as much as you enjoy your favorite things.
If you are genuinely committed to experiencing God in a new way in your life; if you have always longed to see God moving and to hear His voice, I invite you to take a challenge: the 14-Day Nutella Challenge. I call it this because I first posed this challenge to a friend, whose number one delight in life is Nutella. For the next 14 days, I challenge you to focus on delighting yourself in God. Don’t selfishly ask God for anything during this time; just spend the next 14 days with Him, getting to know Him and enjoying His presence. Read the Gospels. Put yourself in the story and imagine how you would react. Delve into the Psalms and spend time praising God for who He is. I guarantee you will begin to see and perceive God’s movement in your life. You will experience a God who is actively involved in your story.
Implications for the Church at Large
This message has the potential to have a serious positive impact on corporate spiritual growth, though at first glance it seems to be a message that’s reserved for individual spiritual growth. It all comes down to Philippians 2:4, which says, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interest, but also for the interests of others.” This means that once you’ve expressed your desires to God and turned them over to Him, you begin to delight yourself in your relationship with Him. Your mind is then freed of its concerns. It is then that you can “Be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6). Now, the energy you were using to pray for yourself and your own needs can be turned towards the needs of others. This allows us to use the same fervency to stand in the gap for those around us – to approach God in prayer on their behalf. When we are assured that God is concerned about us, and will act on our behalf, speak to our hearts and move in our lives, we are then able to do the same for others.
One of the most exciting aspects of Christianity is knowing that the God of heaven understands our problems (Isaiah 40: 28) and that He rushes to get involved in our stories (Psalm 18:6,7). When we come to truly understand this concept, it will revolutionize our spiritual lives.
If you find yourself questioning that God will actually get involved in your story, I invite you to hold on. Experience a God who sees you as the apple of His eye (Deuteronomy 32:10) and who longs for you to prove His existence through your relationship with Him. He longs for you to hear Him when He whispers your name. He longs for you to recognize His movement in your life as evidence of His love.
God is a God who loves to get involved in the human story. Far too often, we have low expectations of our God, but He can do exceedingly, abundantly more than what we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-23). Truly delight yourself in your relationship with Him, and you will hear and experience God as you never have before.