What God is Like (Musings on the character of God) #3

“Do you know what you really need?”

I want to know God. I mean I really do want to know him. It’s a core value for me. It’s not that I don’t want to do things for him  – that too. But I figure that I can’t show him any better than I can know him. When I was just over 20 years old I had my first ministry assignment as Interim Pastor of a small church in a rural town in Northern California. I had been a Christian for all of about five years, and was the youngest adult in that little church. I went into the church office prior to my first service, feeling desperate and a little bit afraid of what I had gotten myself into. I just didn’t know what exactly I was desperate for. I had been to Bible College, and was full of knowledge and concepts about God, but it was pretty clear to me that on this day I was way over my head. I got down on the floor, flat on my belly, and buried my face in the carpet – I think it was shag (this was still the ‘70’s). This seemed to be the posture that best expressed how frantic I felt. I started to pray, “Lord, I need…” (Pause.) I didn’t have much time before the service began, and I wanted my request to be as economical as possible. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I must’ve begun by asking for “anointing” to give the sermon (they taught us that in the preaching class in college). I probably also started to ask for “peace” to calm my screaming nervousness. But God, as he often does with me, interrupted my anxious prayer, and whispered to my mind what I actually needed. I very seldom get particular words when God communicates with me, but I guess he saw my pitiful state, and made his message clear enough for me to remember it for a long time. I didn’t hear it with my ears, but these were the words that I “heard” inside me.

“Do you know what you really need?”

Umm, not really. OK, what?

“Your greatest need is to know me.”

Really? Just that? Know you? Wow, I can do that. — I think.  

It’s actually pretty simple. (“Simple” and “easy” are not the same thing.) That short conversation put me on a life-long quest. I mean it. If you know me, you know it’s true that there’s nothing I talk about more than knowing God. It’s more important to me than pretty much anything else. I don’t remember how long afterward it was that I ran across Daniel 11:32, which became my life verse. It still reminds me (about 35 years later) of that conversation with God while I was on my face in the shag carpet.

… they that know their God shall be strong and do exploits.”

I knew that I wanted to be “strong” in God and “do exploits” for God. But that day it became clear to me that my first tier priority was to “know God.” I mean really know him, not just meet him, not just know stuff about him, but know him for who he is. He introduced himself to me when I was born-again in 1972 and yet on that church office floor he was inviting me to spend the rest of my life getting better acquainted with him.

I’ve come to believe that strength and exploits are usually the consequence of knowing God. I decided then, as a young man, if I was to pursue anything, it was going to be this. I have to admit that I haven’t been entirely loyal to this goal, but my life since then has only been worth living in proportion to how consistently I’ve followed God’s advice that day.

“We say that God is ‘infinite.’ In the sense that his knowledge

and power extend not to some things but to all, this is true.

But if by using the word ‘infinite’ we encourage

ourselves to think of him as a formless ‘everything’

about whom nothing in particular and everything

in general is true, then it would be

better to drop that word altogether.” 

(C.S. Lewis)

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