My wife often says that there are no shortcuts to great relationships. Building a great relationship requires a heavy dose of quality time. As a parent, I am more conscious of the fact that my time is the best gift I can give my children. They may not be able to articulate it but they will always choose to have me around with them over presents. The quality of the time spent is equally important. My son has told me off more than once for checking my phone while I was playing with him. He knows when he doesn’t have my full attention and he makes his feelings quite clear on the matter. As human beings, we are relational and there is just no substitute for dedicating time and effort to build a relationship. I believe this is due to the fact that we are made in the image and likeness of a God who is all about relationships.
God calls each one of us to be in a relationship with Him. It is within the context that relationship that He reveals Himself to us and we get to know Him. This is not something that anyone else can do on our behalf. It would be ridiculous to outsource my responsibilities as a parent or a husband and expect to have a great relationship with my children or wife. Yet as Christians, we do the spiritual equivalent. We would rather have someone tell us what is in the Bible than read it for ourselves. We would rather have someone pray on our behalf than learn to pray ourselves. There is nothing wrong with listening to Bible teaching or having others pray for us. However, God wants a personal relationship with each one of us without a go-between. Therefore, it is each person’s primary responsibility to get to know Him through prayer and studying His word. Others can help us on the journey but we cannot outsource praying and studying God’s word and expect to have a great relationship with God.
Daniel is a great example of someone who had a wonderful relationship with God. He walked with God faithfully for several decades in exile under the Babylonian and Medo-Persian empires serving several kings. In the 9th chapter of Daniel, we see an example of why. It shows Daniel studying God’s word [Daniel 9:2]. He was studying the scroll of Jeremiah and he realised that the 70 years God had decreed for Jerusalem to be desolate as a punishment for the sins of Israel were nearly up [Jeremiah 25:11]. This drove Daniel to intercede for the people of Israel and pray for their return to the city of Jerusalem [Daniel 9:3-19]. He knew that after the 70 years, God had promised to bring His people back and restore Jerusalem [Jeremiah 29:10], so he prayed for God to do what He said He would do. It was a prayer of confession, praise, sorrow and intercession which is well worth a study. However, what strikes me about the prayer is that he was praying based on God’s word. He did not pray amiss and God answered him with spectacular revelations.
The end of a year is customarily a good time for reflection and introspection. One of the questions I am asking myself is “how is my time in prayer and studying God’s word?” Or put differently, how is my relationship with God? Has it grown in the last year? Relationships are never static, they are either getting better or worse. As I have learnt from my wife, the amount of quality time is a good indicator of the quality of a relationship. So, I guess the other question is “how much quality time do I have with God?” Do I go to Him for emergencies only? Is it on a best effort basis while I get on with life? Or am I intentional about how I spend my time with God? Does He have my full attention on a regular basis?
I find that when life gets hectic and stressful, I have less time for God. If I am honest, my perspective is generally horizontal (man’s perspective) when confronted by the challenges of life. This gets worse when I am under pressure and when I witness world events. My challenge in the New Year is to be more aware of the vertical (God’s) perspective. God, like any good parent, wants His children to be informed. He told us how He created the universe and how He will bring it to an end but He also gives us wisdom and hope to deal with the present in His word. He runs the universe despite what the media and rest of the world think. If like Daniel we invest time and effort in studying His word, in time, we will come to see the day to day events of our lives and world events from God’s perspective. Daniel’s prayer was a summary of seven or so decades of Israel’s history from God’s perspective during his lifetime. He could only gain such insight from quality time with God. Have you asked yourself what God’s perspective is on the events of your life or on world history as it unfolds in our lifetime? God’s view is the most important perspective and as His children, shouldn’t we be aware?
One percent of a day is less than 15 minutes. Maybe a good New Year resolution is to aim to give God 15 minutes of your full attention each day. It could be time dedicated to praying or reading His word. If time permits do more. Time spent with God is never wasted. I can promise you that if you spend more quality time with God in the coming year, you will grow in every area of your life. He will reward that investment in ways you could scarcely imagine.