6 Signs We’re Settling in Our Relationship with God
We often tell ourselves and each other not to “settle” when it comes to our relationships, career, or the things we want in life. But what about when it comes to our relationship with God? Is that where we’ve decided that where we’re at now is “good enough”?
We know that God is awesome, infinite, all-powerful—that His ways and thoughts are far above ours (Isaiah 55:8-9)—and yet He chose to humble Himself to be one with us, so that we may know Him. Does the way we relate to Him reflect a holy curiosity to plumb the depths of who He is?
Or have we been skimming the surface of this relationship and keeping Him at the periphery of our lives–only turning to Him the night before an important occasion, on Sunday morning, or during Easter and Christmas?
This list isn’t intended to make anyone feel guilty, but to encourage us to see that God desires a vibrant relationship with us. Let’s explore together what it looks like to go “all out” in our relationship with God.
1. We don’t expect to encounter God in His Word
When was the last time you actually felt challenged or prodded by a Bible verse?
We can be guilty of “switching off” our attention whenever we come across those familiar Bible passages that seem to turn up at every other sermon, or even default to giving textbook answers in Bible study instead of really exploring what God might be telling us through a particular passage.
Maybe our Bible reading has become just a routine that we go through day after day so we can fulfil our “quiet time quota” and check it off our to-do list.
But if we truly believe that the Bible is living and active (Hebrews 4:12), how can we invite God to use His Word to search our hearts and reveal areas in our lives that need pruning–or to help us see how His Word might give us the insight we need for an issue we’ve been praying about?
Let’s ask God to speak to us whenever we open His Word, to help us realise that it’s not just reading a book, but getting access to His heart and mind for us—so that the “eyes of our heart may be enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18), and we will truly know what it means to relate to God as His beloved child, made in His image.
Let’s be open to sit and wait as we come before Him, and allow His Word to shape our hearts, perspectives, and purposes, so that our lives will be dripping with His grace, and we can be clear-minded in our response to the world around us.
2. Our faith is shaped more by social media than the Word
Thanks to the Internet and social media, we now have God’s Word and a host of Christian content at the tip of our fingers. But at the same time, this convenience has made it easy for us to become distracted from actually reading God’s Word, especially when so many notifications and messages are calling for our attention.
Or, we might even find that we’re fitting time with God into the 5-minute break we’re taking from a work task. As our attention spans have gotten shorter and shorter, our social media habits have trained us to gravitate towards bite-sized Bible verses, or a tiny boost of encouraging and motivational quotes, instead of whetting our appetite for an in-depth study of God’s Word.
As a result, many of us end up with an incomplete (and immature) understanding of God’s Word and develop shallow roots—which shows in our disappointment when God’s answers to our prayers don’t look like what we expect, or when our spiritual life doesn’t match the image of victorious Christian life that we see on Instagram; or maybe even when we find ourselves praying the same thing over and over, asking God for rest and peace, yet also keep choosing to worry and fret about our work.
Remember the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9)? Jesus understands the challenges we face when it comes to listening well to His Word. Let’s not settle for quick reminders online that may fall along the path or become withered or choked by the troubles of this life. Let’s invite the Spirit to till the soil of our hearts so that the Word of Christ can take root and dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16).
This means really immersing ourselves in God’s Word, learning to abide in it, and committing Scripture to heart so that God’s Word can do its work within us, and our lives will bear fruit.
3. Our prayers sound like a tasklist for God
Let’s face it: prayer times can be boring–especially when you’re sitting in a room with other Christians and you’ve all got your eyes closed, trying to focus on a long list of prayer items without falling asleep!
Maybe prayer feels that way because we’re doing it like we’re handing over a “tasklist” to God. Then we wonder why we even need to pray when God already knows what we need! Not to mention if our prayers often consist more of quick SOSes (“Lord help me!”, “Lord be with me!”) when life isn’t going our way, it’s no wonder we find it unexciting to connect with God.
But if we study the rich prayers in the Bible, we see how the Bible characters viewed God differently. Their prayers were not only an opportunity to pour out to God what they’re feeling or experiencing, but also to ask Him to open their spiritual eyes and enlarge their spiritual vision. Take this prayer in Ephesians 3:16-19, for example:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
When was the last time we prayed for spiritual knowledge and insight–that we may know the love of God that surpasses knowledge, that we may become more and more like Him in all our ways? When did we last pray for opportunities to minister to our loved ones, and to see God’s all-surpassing power at work in their lives?
Let’s move beyond seeing God as our Santa or genie–that we may see and relate to Him as our God, Saviour, and friend.
4. We’re contented to live on someone else’s faith
Many of us have at some point peered enviously at other Christians who seem “deeper” or more “far along” in the faith. Maybe their faith stories have sparked a longing within our own hearts to encounter more of God, only to be snuffed out by the realisation that it isn’t as easy as it looks!
If you’ve given up on growing in your faith, thinking that it takes a “special breed” of Christians to get to that level, 2 Peter 1:3 encourages us with this truth: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who calls us by His own glory and goodness.” That same power that has empowered all those other “super Christians” is also accessible to us!
But of course, this requires putting in the effort to “train [ourselves] in godliness” (1 Timothy 4:8-6) and persevering even when it feels like our efforts aren’t producing fruit. Studying the Word and pursuing God for ourselves is hard work, but if we’re only relying on our pastors or other Christian authors to get our spiritual feeding, we’re bound to feel spiritually malnourished.
In Jeremiah 29:13, God promises that we will find Him when we seek Him with all our hearts. He wants to be found by us, to have us meet Him “face to face”, and to walk closely with us.
Don’t settle for a second-hand knowledge of God—earnestly seek Him in the Scriptures, and trust that He will be as real to you just as He had been to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph . . . and the generations of saints that have come after them. Ask Him to show you how He is at work, and you may be surprised to see the different “faith stories” He has written in your life too.
5. We limit time with God to certain times in the day and week
We know that God is with us all the time—but the busyness of life has caused us to designate and limit time with Him to just Sunday worship services, or “mornings” or “nights” when we’re barely awake or have enough energy left to spend quality time with Him.
The more we push God to the margins of our lives, the more we’re building our life on a foundation of self-sufficiency and independence, leaning on our own strength and resources in everything we do. And when we do so, we might start feeling like spending time with God is just another obligatory meeting we have to attend, and miss out on the joy of walking with God as our constant companion—of knowing how deeply He cares both for the little things and the big things in our lives.
It takes time to grow in awareness of God’s presence, and to turn our thoughts and attention to Him throughout the day. But God has given us the Holy Spirit as our constant guide, counsellor, and helper—He’s the one who will “teach [us] all things”, “remind [us] of everything” Jesus has said (John 14:26), and set our feet on the firm foundation of Christ. The more we respond to His promptings, the more we’ll be sensitive to His leading in our lives, so that we can walk in step with Him, and say along with the Psalmist:
I have set the LORD always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 16:8)
6. We prefer to grow and worship in isolation
While COVID-19 has made it easier for us to tune into our church services virtually, the Bible is clear that we can’t grow spiritually in isolation.
Hebrews 10:23-25 tells us to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” and “not giving up meeting together . . . but encouraging one another”–and there’s a good reason for this.
We all face times of discouragement, when we find it difficult to see and understand what God might be doing in our lives. We might be tempted to waver in our faith, or to question if God really is who He says He is.
During such times, we desperately need the strength of our community to help us “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess” (Hebrews 10:23), to remind us of the times when God has been faithful and true, to hold us up in prayer when we can’t hold on to it ourselves, and to gently point us towards Scripture to strengthen our faith.
More importantly, when we commune with other believers and seek God together, we begin to see different facets of God’s character reflected through their lives. For example, the steadfast presence of a friend might remind us of how God’s kindness leads to repentance (Romans 2:4), while another’s firm and gentle words of correction might demonstrate God’s merciful love for us.
Since, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, the body of Christ is made up of different people with different talents and spiritual gifts playing different roles (1 Corinthians 12:12-27), then we need each other’s perspectives, experiences, and wisdom to come to a fuller and deeper understanding of who God is.
So yes, it may be easier and more convenient to worship God in the comforts of our own homes, but when we open ourselves up to the community He has given to encourage and walk with us, then we begin to live out His intention for us as the body of Christ.
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