Sometimes being in relationship with the living God feels difficult. We are so frail, and flawed. He is so perfect and powerful! The more time we spend in his presence, the greater this distinction can feel.
He has freely offered his grace to us and assures us of his love. John 15 tells us that Jesus Christ loves us as much as he himself is loved by the Father!
And yet we can find it difficult to believe him, and even when we grasp it, we know we don’t make the grade based on our own merit, but Christ’s. And so we have two choices:
To take him at his word –to really trust him that he loves us and wants us to be in close relationship with him.
We can settle for creating a relationship based upon our own terms:
I’m not good at this ‘relationship thing’ – God is just too big and I am so small! I’m sure he doesn’t want to take the time to work through my many problems… Bible reading is difficult and sometimes joyless, I’m not sure what I’m meant to be getting out of it, and prayer is so hard – I don’t know what to say to him most of the time!
But I make a mean cup of tea, and I’m good at practical stuff. So instead I’ll have the ladies fellowship round for lunch, or visit the elderly, or help a neighbour mow the lawn, or do the reading and welcome people on the door at church.
I’m not so good at the relationship stuff – but surely God must be pleased with all the practical things I am doing for him? That has to count for something…?
Imagine if this was how your marriage or a close friendship worked.
You might say to your husband when he wanted a conversation “Sorry love, you know I’m not good at talking about things, but I’ve made you a lovely meal!” Or when your friend comes over to give you a hug, you’d step back and say “Um…That’s not really my thing, but I’ll be round to mow your lawn later!”
That person would probably be justified in reacting with hurt or indifference to the practical work you’d spent ages doing for them, because what they really wanted was relationship!
Of course any analogy here is going to be simplistic and flawed. Our relationship with God is so different from our human relationships. He always makes the first move; in salvation, revealing himself in creation, and more specifically and fully in the Bible.
He is frank and clear in declaring his feelings for his people:
“The Lord your God is in your midst…he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you with his love” Zephaniah 3:17
“This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:9
“Be imitators of God as beloved children” Ephesians 5:1
We need to be careful that our response is not one of insecurity and withdrawal, disguised by a flurry of good works and practical tasks!
From time to time I notice this tendency in myself. Even though I know God’s promises to me, unbelief and insecurity rear their ugly heads.
I start to spend more time with people than in God’s word – because it feels like I’m doing something tangible, useful, and pleasing to God. But I avoid prayer and sustained time in the Bible, because I don’t feel as confident in my ‘abilities’ here, but exposed and vulnerable before a holy God.
And yet God is the only one who I can be truly vulnerable before, without fear, because Jesus Christ clothes me and so I don’t need to feel naked.
I become like Martha. Her sister Mary sits listening at Jesus’ feet, but she is “distracted with much serving” (Luke 10). Jesus simply tells her “Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary.
Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Christian, stop hiding behind a false front of works! You cannot clothe yourself with them, nor will they ever substitute the closeness that God offers you. We must let God’s promises and character banish our insecurities.
Remember Christ’s efforts on our behalf.
Remember the help that God has provided by giving you his Holy Spirit.
Remember the unchanging attitude of the Father toward you: “How great is the love that the father has lavished upon us that we should be called children of God!”
He wants you, not your works.
Good works have their place in our Christian lives of course, but they can never play substitute for real, trusting, grace-enabled relationship.
Praise God for his love for us!