You may know who God is and may even consider Jesus your Savior, but do you really KNOW Him?
Many people around the world would identify as Christians and say that they know God. In fact, 70% of adults in American identify as Christian (Pew Forum). But when we look around at the changing landscape of American culture, we question how this can be true. If so many people claim to know God, why is there so much hatred of the Christian faith? I believe that this is because people may know who God is, but they don't really know and have a relationship with Him.
God isn't someone that we can put into a box and only pull out when it's convenient for us. He needs to be a significant part of our lives - both friend and Lord. We have to be willing to dedicate time to our relationship with God and the best way to do so is to read the book that He's given us. We already have everything we need to get to know God and He wrote - inspired, technically, but it comes out to the same thing - the Bible in a way that we can each understand and learn from.
The Bible is a letter to mankind about God and His plan. In it, He reveals Himself and the ways that He is working in the world and in your life.
Think God doesn't have a plan for you?
If you don't think that God has a specific plan for your life, you're mistaken. In fact, He tells us that He has a plan for each of us.
You may not understand His plan, but He does have one. If you think that He can't use you because of your past, just read the Bible. It's filled with stories of messed up people who did great things for God because they chose to follow Him when He called. (For a list, check this out.) Your past doesn't matter if you're willing to listen to God and follow where He leads. It may not be easy, but the reward for your faithfulness is spending an eternity in Heaven with the Creator of the universe.
But God isn't speaking to me
I've been there. There have been times when I feel that God isn't speaking to me. You may think that He isn't speaking to you either. Again, I would say that you're wrong. God is speaking, you just aren't listening. So many of us read the Bible, say a quick prayer, and expect God to come down and speak to us in a booming voice. While He's totally capable of doing that, He usually doesn't. Instead, He waits for us to dive in, quiet our hearts and our minds, and listen.
God speaks to us in a few ways. First, He has given us the Bible, a book packed full of information and guidance. If you really read the Bible, not just to find an quick solution to your problem, but to get to know God, you will see who He is and how He works. God will speak to you through His word and will bring you to passages that resonate with where you are.
Second, God uses other people to speak to us. Often, others are better at seeing our situation clearly because they are not caught in the middle of it. He can use anyone to bring you His message, and He will bring you the same message over and over until you get it. Listen to these people and build a group who know you well and are dedicated to Christ so that He can use them in your life.
A friend told me once that God speaks to Him through his wife. Usually it isn't something he wants to hear, but when he hears an uncomfortable truth, he stops and asks her, "Are you saying this because it's what you want?" He told me that when God is using his wife, she will answer that it isn't what she wants, but what has been put in her heart to say.
Third, God can speak to us directly. I don't think that He speaks out loud anymore, but He does use the Holy Spirit to guide us. The key here is that you have to ask. You have to quiet your mind and push all of the voices in your head. Ask and then wait. God isn't in the loud roars of the self, but in the quiet whisper of your heart. His voice is peaceful and true. You won't always like what you hear, but you will feel a sense of peace about doing it. Jess Lively has a great video that explains this feeling here. Please note that her view is secular, but when I heard her explanation, I knew that she was talking about God when she references the "spirit" and the "gut."
You have to know God to hear His voice.
If you've tried listening to God, but you still aren't hearing anything, you need to dig deep within yourself and ask yourself if you really know Him. Are you spending quality time in the Bible? Are you pushing aside your selfish ways and opening yourself up to the unexpected? Are you living a life that reflects God to the world? And, most importantly, have you asked His Son to take away your sins and make you a new creature in Christ?
This month I read Keith Ferrin's How to Enjoy Reading Your Bible after receiving a free copy from Bethany House Publishing. As I was going through the book, I was reminded of many things I already knew and learned some tips that I hadn't heard before. His writing style is fun and engaging, so the book keeps your interest.
We should be getting to know God, but just learning about Him.
Ferrin writes about the importance of spending real time with God as you would with a friend. His note that the Bible is basically a letter written with each of us in mind - and can be funny - is a great reminder that we need to engage with God when we read it. Ferrin gives ten tips on how to enjoy reading the Bible. They are all practical and most are easy to apply. I've been reading the Bible for a long time, but I think this book would be helpful for new Christians, those who think they know the Bible, and those who are just curious. The book is written so that it can be used as a Bible Study guide, so reading it on my own made the question and answer sections a bit awkward. The last two tips are about really digging into the Bible - either through a 60 day reading plan or by reading through the entire Bible - which I haven't tried out yet, so I'm not sure how those would affect me. Overall, I found strategies that I can use to enjoy reading God's Word and I've already been seeing a difference in my relationship with God since I've been putting these tips into practice.