Why We Don't Experience God
In my last article, What Good Is the Gospel, I claimed that the gospel is amazingly relevant for our current needs. If that's true, then why do we so rarely feel it? Let me just say in advance that you're not going to like the answer, but if you will give it a chance, I believe you'll find it to be true, and to open up a whole new realm of possibilities in our relationship with God.
Last Saturday I had my first piano gig in quite awhile. With coronavirus slinking into every town and community, there have been very few opportunities to perform as crowds are generally frowned on. (Don't worry, this gig was outdoors, we all had masks, and we intentionally kept at least six feet away from one another at all times.)
Often when I perform, someone will come up to me and say something like, "I wish I could play piano like you do." While this is a wonderful complement, there is a part of me that always thinks, "Do you really?" I started studying music seriously before I was a teenager. I practiced hard for hours and hours over years and years. I invested thousands of dollars in music lessons, books, and CDs. I invested tens of thousands of dollars to attend one of the best jazz programs in the world. I believe most people could become passably good at playing the piano, but the difference between a daydream and reality is a lot of hard work. Let me hasten to say that while I'm a good piano player, I know people who are really good -- musicians who tour the world, recording and performing with the best of the best. They worked even harder than I did.
So what does this have to do with experiencing God? If you want experience the joy of playing the piano well, you have to work hard at it. If you want to experience the joy of a deep and intimate relationship, you have to work hard at it. Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship knows this is true. While you make your vows before a group of witnesses once, you have to wake up every day and decide you're going to do the hard work of staying married.
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, (Psalm 119:2)
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Rushing out of the house to my gig last Saturday, I realized I had once again lost my keys. My wife told me they were on the side table next to the couch. I looked. They weren't there. Eventually I borrowed my wife's keys to get where I was going.
When I got home she said, "I found your keys."
"Great!" I replied, "Where were they?"
"On the table where I said they were."
Whaat? I looked on the table. I sought them there. Turns out I didn't seek them with all my heart. They were behind the box of tissues.
Too often this is how we think about our relationship with God. We receive his grace and salvation. We go to church on Sunday. We might be part of a small group. We spend a few minutes reading the Bible and praying throughout the week. But, do we really seek him with all our hearts?
Reading the Bible and understanding it is hard work. Praying fervently is hard work. Listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit is hard work. Worship is hard work. Telling others about Jesus is hard work. All these things require learning, practice, and perseverance.
Be honest for a minute. Compare the diligence and persistence you give to seeking the Lord with other activities you give your time and energy to: your golf game, your craft projects, reading for enjoyment, working out, watching TV, attending your kids' events. None of these are bad things, but if you're like me they can easily crowd out my commitment to seeking God with my whole heart.
Look, all I'm saying is this: Our relationship with God is like every other relationship. It takes time and hard work to build it. We will know him when we seek him with all of our hearts. Until then, we won't experience him fully, giving us little incentive to share him with others.
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