Let’s be honest; having a relationship with God is both exciting and intimidating. After all, He is God. He is the all-powerful creator that spoke the stars into existence and knows each of them by name. When He revealed Himself to the Jewish people in the book of Exodus, the mountain they were on began to physically shake and it was covered in fire and smoke. Can you imagine that?
He is immense in every sense of the word. To make things even more tricky, He is invisible to us. Although He is present everywhere, we cannot see Him; we can only see His impact. That makes having a personal relationship with God different from all our other relationships. When I first started building a relationship with God, it was awkward and a little weird. Thankfully, He was okay with that, and He led me on a journey of growing closer to Him. Here are a few things He taught me on the way.
1. He’s done all the work.
It’s true that there was a separation between humanity and God. That separation stretches all the way back to Eden and the first humans. I have often felt like that barrier is still in place, but thankfully that isn’t true. Jesus broke down all the barriers and brought us back into connection with God. The apostle Paul unpacks this beautifully in his letter to the Ephesians.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the Spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision (which is done in the body by human hands) – remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 2: 1-13
Jesus has done all the work. He’s removed all the obstacles between you and God and brought you near to Him. There are days I don’t feel like this, I’m sure there are moments when you don’t feel it too, but it’s true. The work is finished; the Father loves you and welcomes you near to Him.
2. Honesty is the best policy.
Developing a personal relationship with God was difficult when I was raised in a family that still maintained our ‘Sunday best’, which meant we dressed up smart for church. I remember my dad, who was an engineer, wearing a tie and jacket on a Sunday morning for church. That mindset stuck with me, and for years I adopted a ‘Sunday best’ approach to building a personal relationship with God. I would be on my best behavior, say my prayers in a formal manner and generally try to keep Him happy.
Essentially I was wearing a mask and projected a false idea of who I was to God. The crazy thing is, He was never fooled. He knows every thought we have, yet I was convinced He wanted my “Sunday best”. Finally, a few years ago, I got so tired of pretending that I couldn’t maintain the act, my mask slipped, and I got honest with God, extremely honest. I ranted and yelled, poured out my deepest frustrations, pain and disappointments. I was scared at first, wondering how God would handle the real me, raw and broken. You know what I discovered? He didn’t change one bit, but I changed. I was able to receive His love, kindness and His amazing grace.
God can handle you at your worst; you can’t shock Him, surprise Him or make Him reject you. He wants to love the real you, so drop the mask; honesty is the best policy.
3. Don’t tick a box, and don’t set a goal.
I’m extremely task-focused. I love a good list that I can tick off after a job is done. Unfortunately, I took this mindset in building a relationship with God. Consequently, I would set aside time to be with Him and tick off all the areas I was supposed to cover.
Read a scripture, tick.
Say sorry for anything I had done wrong, tick.
Say thank you for something, tick.
Prayer for my family and friends, tick.
Prayer for the world, tick.
My time with God became a dull, pointless exercise that I came to dread. It wasn’t until I realised that there wasn’t a goal to achieve and there was no end destination. The whole point was to learn to love God and allow Him to love me. That is a lifelong journey that will carry on into eternity. Once I understood that, I learnt to relax, take my time and enjoy being in His presence, even if I didn’t manage to tick off all the items on my list.
4. Study your bible.
Your bible is your greatest resource in understanding who God is and becoming closer to Him. However, the bible is vast, complicated, mysterious and awesome. It is also easy to misread, as I have done many, many times. To help with this, I have deliberately studied the bible over the years and learnt from gifted teachers who help me understand what it is the bible is saying. The Glorify app helps with this by including a short devotion each day to grow our understanding of who God is. As we begin to comprehend how awesome God is, it changes all areas of our lives. The Apostle Paul starts his letter to the Ephesians by praying this prayer:
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.
Ephesians 1: 15-23
That is a prayer I pray for myself and also for you, that together we would know Him more and that knowledge would change us forever.