It takes time to know God. Sadly, investing time and effort to develop beneficial relationships is anathema to our modern ears. We want instant returns on our investments, and often we aren’t interested if that isn’t the case. The God of the Bible is one of principles and patterns [Jeremiah 6:16, Leviticus 6:9]. Therefore, a fundamental component of a relationship with Him is understanding His ways [Psalm 25:4-5]. Unsurprisingly, it takes effort and dedication to learn the ways of God, and we have to rely on the Holy Spirit to help us understand them [Job 32:8] so that we can consistently apply them. Otherwise, we will be ever learning but never coming to an understanding of God’s ways [2 Timothy 3:7].
I once heard a preacher say that for our salvation, God pursues us as a shepherd seeks a lost sheep [Matthew 18:10-14]. But, if we desire intimacy with God, we must diligently seek Him [Isaiah 55:6, Hebrews 11:6]. Lamentably, many of us decide to be Christians because we want to avoid hell, not because we long for an intimate relationship with Jesus. So, once we think we’re safe, we relegate Him to the fringes of our lives rather than desperately long for Him [Psalm 42:1-2]. But, if we don’t value intimacy with God, we won’t prioritise learning His principles. Regrettably, neglecting God’s principles means we won’t experience His power in our lives because our obedience to His word predicates the manifestation of His power in the circumstances we face.
In truth, most of us have little or no experience of God coming through for us after we’ve diligently obeyed His word. So, we don’t see the value of learning and applying His precepts. That was an accurate description of my Christian experience until recently. Paul tells us that it’s the goodness of God that leads us to repentance [Romans 2:4]. How I experienced that goodness in my life was coming to a place where I realised that what I was doing wasn’t working. Irrespective of what success I attained, I didn’t have fulfilment. I was perennially anxious about the present, and the future, with several strained relationships because I had misordered priorities, often based on faulty paradigms. It took me a while to wholeheartedly believe that doing life God’s way was the only way I would ever find lasting peace and fulfilment.
When the penny dropped for me, I realised I had a lot to learn about God. Unfortunately, that revelation coincided with a season in my life with significant pressures on my time. Nowadays, I yearn for my late teens and 20s when I had fewer responsibilities and more control over my time. These days, I rarely get to sleep and wake up on my own terms because I have a young family and bills to pay. Like many of my contemporaries, I have competing priorities and responsibilities constantly demanding attention. When these internal conflicts are added to external societal pressures, pursuing intimacy with God can be stifled unless one is intentional and willing to make the necessary sacrifices to seek Him. My advice to the younger generation is simple: spend your youth wisely [Ephesians 5:16]. It’s much harder to pursue God when you have legitimate competing priorities and time constraints. Don’t wait for life to compel you to seek God [Lamentation 3:27].
One of my greatest temptations is to become despondent when I observe the lives of other Christians whose relationships with God are replete with tangible manifestations of His power. While I’m shadow-boxing and guessing, these individuals seem to have a conversational relationship with God, discerning His purposes with ease [1 Chronicles 12:32, Romans 12:2]. Their exploits testify that they truly know their God [Daniel 11:32]. Since God is no respecter of persons, these men and women aren’t special [Acts 10:34]. However, they’ve been diligently pursuing God for longer than me, and possess a superior understanding of His precepts. I know I’m capable of similar exploits because Jesus said so [John 14:12]. But these men and women invest more quality time in one week than I do in months fostering intimacy with God through prayer, fasting, studying Scripture, and other spiritual disciplines. So, it’s no surprise they possess something which enables them to operate in dimensions of God’s power and wisdom I’m yet to experience.
Nevertheless, I refuse to become disheartened about not making the most of my youth to foster intimacy with God or resent the legitimate responsibilities that rob much of the time I’d love to dedicate to solitude with God. Instead, I look to God’s mercy and trust Him to transform me as I seek to make Him the epicentre of my life. I may not sit in His presence for hours every day, but I can trust Him to make whatever time I can spend with Him profitable to me in unimaginable ways. I can trust Him to help me prioritise my time and responsibilities in a way that allows my soul to prosper [Matthew 6:33, 3 John 1:2]. My greatest desire now is to die having served the purposes of God in my sphere of influence [Acts 13:35] because my life would have been a waste otherwise. I’m confident that God will order my steps to fulfil this desire [Psalm 37:23].
I find the principle of compound interest helpful as I pursue God this season. One hour of studying Scripture, 30 minutes in quiet prayer and a half-day fast every week or fortnight may not seem like much at the beginning. But if I can remain consistent and lay aside habits which hinder my pursuit of God [Hebrews 12:1], the compounding effect of my labours will eventually bring results, and I will reap a harvest in due season [Galatians 6:9].