I have found in my own life that there are signs in my walk with God that say danger. They serve as a wakeup call for me and I must take them seriously. As with most relationships, things do not go sour overnight. There are warning signs, some very overt, which if ignored, can lead to disaster. This is also true of our relationship with God. Continuous introspection is key and we must also ask the Holy Spirit to reveal these warning signs and convict us to course correct. A simple way to do this is to pray: “God, is there anything I am doing that you do not like?” It is a simple prayer, but I have found it difficult at times because I might not like the answer I get in return. For those of us who are married, it is a bit like asking your spouse “what would you like me to change about myself”. It takes a humble person to listen and course-correct but inaction generally leads to worse consequences. I share with you some of the warning signs I have observed in the Christian life.
When the things of God become perfunctory. This is a particular danger for those of us who were born and bred in church. You know the drill. You know when to stand and when to sit down. You can quote chapter and verse. You know the prayers by heart. You know what the preacher is going to say because you have been around awhile. You find yourself switching off and your thoughts drifting to other things while in church. Essentially, you have been there and done that, nothing new to see here. This is such a subtle danger because routine is one thing that God and His Word aren’t. The writer of Hebrews tells us “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” [Hebrews 4:12]. This tells me that God’s word never gets old and neither can we get complacent in our Christian walk. No matter how many times you read through your Bible, it always has something new to teach. No matter how well we think we know God, He has unfathomable depths to reveal if we are willing to do our part. It occurred to me that when I hear a sermon or read a familiar Bible passage, I seldom pray: “God shows me something new I can learn here”. I am convinced that is a prayer He is waiting to answer.
When we take worship and being in the presence of God for granted. Author Philip Yancey states in his book Reaching for the Invisible God that “friendship is not the primary model used in the Bible to describe our relationship with God, worship is”. Worship is how we ought to relate to God and our relationship with God should never be taken for granted for it cost Him all He had to establish it. Unfortunately, we can turn worship into entertainment. There is nothing wrong with enjoying ourselves in the presence of God, but how often do we ask “was God pleased with my worship today? Was he pleased with my singing, my prayers or my time in His presence?” How God feels about our time in His presence is far more important than how we feel. Therefore, once we start taking worship for granted or treating it as entertainment, we risk making a mockery of our relationship with God and this is dangerous. The book of Leviticus has much to say about coming before God’s presence and worship. Interestingly, about 90% of the book is God speaking. If nothing else, this emphasises the importance of worship and why it ought to be taken with utmost seriousness. As a note of caution, God has shown that He can withdraw His presence from a house of worship [Ezekiel 10:15-19] or from a person [1 Samuel 16:14], He can do so with us or our churches if we fail to take Him seriously
When we pray absent-mindedly or to impress others. Prayer is how we talk to God. It is a time when we are supposed to pour our hearts to God and offer our praise, thanksgiving and/or supplication. Imagine you were having a conversation with someone who was more interested in something else while talking to you or trying to impress you with their eloquence. It is not a conversation you would enjoy. In fact, you may feel disrespected. If that is true for human conversations, how much more our conversations with God. Our time of prayer ought to engage our minds, hearts as well as our lips if we pray aloud. Our entire being out to be completely present, for nothing can be more important than talking to the Creator of everything. I find as well that those times when I allow myself to be lost in the sense of awe and wonder of who God is and who I am to God, my time of prayer is infinitely more uplifting. Something that has worked for me as well, is meditating on the scenes in Revelation 4 and 5. Imagine yourself in those scenes as you offer your prayers to God.
When we begin to make God in our image. We can sometimes forget the dichotomy of God. For instance, if God is just, which He is, then if He blesses good, He must punish evil. If he doesn’t, He is not just. If He loves good, He must hate evil, which He does. We grow accustomed to an image of God that is more akin to what Santa Claus would be like, a benevolent, permissive grandfather or that God doesn’t exist. The God portrayed in the Old Testament is awesome – a word that has been heavily diluted today. His might and awesomeness ensured He was taken seriously and those who didn’t, faced the consequences. Similarly, in the New Testament, it is worth remembering that the same John, the beloved disciple, who was at Jesus’ bosom at the Last Supper [John13:23], passed out in fright when He saw the same Jesus in Revelation [Revelation 1:17]. If we do not have a balanced image of God, we imagine Him as a god in the image that best suits us and invariably do not take Him as seriously as we ought to. The Bible offers a balanced view of God, who is called a consuming Fire [Hebrews 12:29], an image worth meditating on. Yes, God gives us the gift of grace and it is a necessary gift because, without grace, none of us would stand a chance. However, grace is not an excuse to sin [Romans 6:1-2], for we sin when we do not take God and His word seriously.
I have by no means exhausted the list of warning signs in our daily walk with God. My hope is that the above causes each one of us to look inward and ask God to reveal to us those areas of our lives where we are not quite taking Him or our faith as seriously as we ought to. As Derek Prince once said “faith is taking God seriously” and for me, that includes every aspect of my life as a Christian. “God is serious business, take him seriously…” [1 Chronicles 16:30 MSG]