There is a very real sense in which our relationship with our Trinitarian God is connected to the choices we make in life. That is true for all relationships. The quality of the relationship is connected to the choices we make. For example, we grow a closer relationship with God when we choose to follow his way of life. This is quite like the Old Testament covenant God had with Israel. Now God has a new covenant with his church. Thus, just as he did with Ancient Israel, God now is in relationship with both individual Christians and the collective called the church. It is very important that we nurture both an individual relationship with God and a corporate one. This is why it is a fallacy that an individual person can have a relationship with God totally disconnected from any other people. God always desires that individual to connect with others who also have relationships with him, so they can partner together to advance his Kingdom, actively loving their neighbors and encouraging one another in their discipleship to Jesus. We see this reflected in the Trinitarian concept of God. God is a three in one, relating in a loving way totally unified as Father, Son and Spirit.
So you and I strive to grow our relationship with God certainly by reading the Bible, and by spending time alone with God, listening for him to speak, through his word, and in many other ways. God speaks through his Spirit, through nature, through his church.
When you are with friends, whether in person, on the phone or texting, what is one of the first questions you ask them? “How are you doing?” A couple years ago I had the realization that when I spent time with God, I primarily focused on me. There is a verse in 1st Peter than says, “Cast all your cares on him, because he cares for you.” So we can get used to the idea that when we spend time with God, we do the complaining, the crying, the longing, the asking. Imagine how that would work in any other relationship. Maybe you have a friend like that, one is a talker, but not so much of listener. You know that person, right? Annoying. You have to work hard to stay interested. The crazy thing is that when you lose interest and start checking your phone, or looking away, or stop paying attention, all while they are still talking nonstop, they eventually notice that you are not paying attention, and they confront you. “Hey…are you listening to me?” How bold of them, right? They give no indication that they are aware of how annoying they are by droning on and on. They don’t ask you how you are doing. Or if they do, they barely listen for an answer, because they are so eager to talk. They are focused, not on you, but on them. It seems to me that I can be that way with God. So I would recommend that you ask God, “How are you doing, Lord?” and then listen. It might be quiet. Learn to listen by practicing it. What helps me when my mind wanders, which is often does, is to say a word or phrase that helps you return to listening. Pick a word that is based in Scripture.
I also encourage you to learn about listening to God. Dallas Willard’s book, Hearing God, is a good one. Martin Laird has a three-part series of small books that are helpful (Into the Silent Land, An Ocean of Light, A Sunlit Absence). Place yourself together with other people to listen to God together. Talk to other people about your relationship with God. This is why I have a monthly appointment with a spiritual director. I encourage you to do the same. This is not a counselor or therapist, but a person who is trained to help you listen to God.
Listening to God and learning to grow your relationship with God takes practice, and that means working on it. I also recommend books by Henri Nouwen. Now is the time to make a change in your schedule, in your habits, to make working on your relationship with God a priority.
God wants to do a great work within you and through you. His relationship with you is one that is deep and connected to others. Let me conclude with a passage that has become so meaningful to me, Ephesians 3:14-19,
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash
2 thoughts on “We can choose to have a vibrant relationship with God – Relationships: God, Part 6”
Listening to God is a good topic for conversation. I’d like to hear that more Christians are talking about listening for God. But maybe that conversation will begin with you and me. Or maybe I need to catch up with you! Bravo!
Agreed! I’d be happy to talk further!