A few years ago I noticed a negative pattern in my spiritual walk.
- When I read the Bible, I was primarily looking for ways to apply the passages to my life.
- I loved Christian articles and books that provided “how-to” lists on being more Godly.
- My favorite part of my pastor’s messages were the applications at the end.
- After reading the Word or listening to a sermon, I would ask myself “what does this mean for my life?” opposed to “what does this teach me about my Lord?”
You might be thinking that those things don’t seem bad, and you would be right. Seeking to apply what we learn is obviously a good thing, as the Bible teaches us that our actions have an important role in making us like Christ. However, I had taken application to an extreme, so focused on being sanctified that I forgot who I was being sanctified for.
Between work and family, my mind went in a million different directions during the day. In my few quiet moments with God at church or in the morning, I wanted to learn something tangible to take with me. In reality, what I was taking with me were self-help tips on ways to act like a better Christian.
While I was knowing about God more, I wasn’t knowing Him more. There is a big difference between the two.
God showed me that I needed to stop obsessing over application so much, and instead to know Him more deeply. He wanted me to learn from His Word – not for the sake of just action, but for the purpose of understanding His ways and His character and growing in a real relationship with Him. My life needed to be about Him instead of me.
Maybe I am the only one who has struggled with this, but I venture to guess I’m not. In our culture of self-reliance, it is easy to be preoccupied with action. We are busy and productive creatures who want to be doing something! Without even realizing it, we can falsely believe that we can be holy through our own power.
Our flesh also tempts us to think the whole world revolves around us and that what God is doing in our little life is all that He is up to. We don’t pay attention to who God really is and the mighty ways He has worked in the past and is working around the world today.
The Lord has profoundly worked in my life since I have taken the time and energy to know Him on an intimate level. Many the ways I used to try to sanctify myself – like dealing with my anxiety and being kind, patient and selfless through my own efforts – come naturally from knowing Him. The fruits of the Spirit pour out of my life more abundantly, and I understand humility and His grace, heart, mind and will on a deeper level.
I encourage you to take a moment to think about your own spiritual life. Is your attention mostly on action to the point you don’t have a good relationship with God? If so, I have a “how-to” tip for you: get to know Him better.
This article was originally written/published by the author under the title “Start Knowing God.”