Are You Desperate for God?
Some times people come to me saying how much they want God…they are so hungry for all of God they can get. They ask me how to come closer to God. We talk for awhile and they tell me about their life. I ask questions and they tell me more. Then I make some suggestions that would help them draw closer to God. It is surprising to me how many people are full of excuses for why they cannot do the things necessary to draw closer to the Lord (which basically amount to the disciplines of the faith that we should all be doing). They see that the economy is falling apart. They know that the One World Order is beginning to close in on us, and yet they are not willing to make the changes necessary to get nearer to the Lord. Why is this?
I believe they are not desperate. (I know in my own life it was in a time of desperation that I made the decisions I needed to make to get nearer to God. I knew he was my only hope.) We have difficulty drawing close to God when we are not in desperate, dire circumstances in our life. If you are in a terrible situation right now and don’t know where to turn, rejoice for your circumstances. You are in the perfect place to find more of God. The Lord will often allow us to be in trials that seem to have no solution and no end. It is in these places that we fall down on our faces before God and begin to earnestly seek him with our whole heart.
The terrible storms and fires that have ravished much of our nation are wakeup calls from God to draw people unto himself. He has seen that as long as we have all our prosperity and our comforts, we have little inclination to seek him. We sometimes turn against God and blame him for the troubles in our lives when he has had to allow these to cause us to turn to him and seek him. He has so much to give if we will only come to him. What he has to offer far exceeds anything this world can give.
How do we seek God? What does he require? I think we all know that daily prayer and Bible reading are a must with God, but sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we are doing all we need to do with these disciplines and that if we don’t have the closeness we desire with him, it is his fault. I am sometimes bothered by some of the songs that are sung in churches begging God to come closer when I know God is waiting for us to do what we need to do in order for him to be able to draw closer to us. Until God has our whole heart and our sincerest, deepest attention focused on him, he will not give us what we desire. He longs to be close to us even more than we long to be close to him, but it has to happen on his terms because that is what is best for us.
How do we know whether or not we are doing all we can to seek God? There are a few criteria that I believe are absolutely essential for deepening our relationship with God. First of all, we need to give him our undivided attention for a period of time each day…a time that we increase whenever possible. Undivided attention is not walking through the woods talking with God. That is a good thing to do if done in addition to your special time alone with him. When God said, “enter into your closet” to pray, he had a purpose in saying this. If you have ever prayed in a tiny room such as a closet, you know there are very few distractions there. With nothing to look at but a wall and no work close by needing to be done, you can close your eyes and focus on God.
I hear so many excuses why people don’t have time to get alone with God for prayer. It may be their work schedule, their ministry or various other demands. However, if we desire that time with God and he desires it even more than we do, there is always a way for this to be accomplished. If you cannot change your schedule, then you need to cut some activity out of your life in order to have this time alone with God. As far as I am concerned, there are no excuses because if we are really serious about this, God will even change our schedule for us in order for us to have this time with him. However, he won’t do this until we have done all we can do to ensure that we have this precious time with him. Even parents with small children can train their children that there is a certain time of day that is mommy or daddy’s time to be with God. The children need to know that this special time is not to be interrupted.
We need a special place to be alone with God…a place where we feel comfortable and know that we won’t be disturbed. If there is no place in your house, consider getting rid of some of your clothes and sitting in the closet. I have actually done this! It works great! However, with my children grown, I have a bedroom in my house that has become my office. I have all my books and study resources all around me. I get up very early in the morning so I will not be disturbed with phone calls or the feeling that I need to get the work for the day started. Those early hours belong to God and me, and I don’t allow anything to interrupt this time.
Another criterion for drawing closer to God requires the willingness to make radical decisions. Jesus said, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell (Matt 5:29, 30). He is telling us that we need to make radical decisions if that is what is necessary to live a life of purity such as is necessary for entering his kingdom. He says a similar thing again in Matthew and also in Mark, “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire” (Mark 9:47).
I fear that there may be many Christians who could find themselves in the situation Jesus described in Matthew 8 when he said, “But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 8:12). This was stated as Jesus marveled at the faith of the centurion who knew Jesus could heal his servant without even coming into his home.
Many times over 40 years of ministry, people have come to us wanting help for their lives that are in a shambles. We have often said that dire situations require radical decisions. Are you willing to get radical for God? Few, it seems, are. Sometimes being radical demands moving from a house, changing a job, forsaking a relationship, giving up a prized possession, or humbling oneself in front of others. If we are going to continue on with Jesus into his kingdom in these end times, it will require giving up absolutely everything for him. Sometimes when we give up something for him, he gives it back. However, other times he does not. Whatever taking up the cross and following him demands of us, we must be willing to do. Then, and only then, will we have more of him.
Consider this passage: And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:57-62).
Sometimes family is our reason for not continuing on with God. More than once I have heard a pastor say something like “my wife and I refuse to move to another city because we will not leave our grown children and grandchildren.” That puts limits on God. For many well-meaning Christians, family is an idol that sits on the throne of their life. Family, if you have one, can be a wonderful thing, but if it hinders our all-out pursuit of God, it can be an idol.
When our children were growing up, I prayed every day that when they were grown they would live near us so we could enjoy our children and grandchildren. I never thought to ask God what he wanted. As it turns out, he had different plans. Our children live in different states and we see them twice a year but sometimes only once. We could have refused to move so far away from them, but had we done so, we would have missed God in a big way. We would have missed something more precious with God than words can describe. Our children may have missed something too. Because we are not nearby, they have to rely on God more for themselves. Sometimes parents, especially parents in ministry, can take the place of God in their children’s lives and hinder their children’s opportunities for learning to cling to God for themselves.
Moving away from our children was a taking up of the cross. I cried many tears and felt as though my heart was being wrenched from me. However, once I died to this, I found such great joy in the Lord. He has given us many children and grandchildren where we live. I love them as though they were my own. Someday in God’s perfect timing and plan, I believe our children and grandchildren will be near us. In the meantime, we stay close with phone calls, texts and emails.
I say all this to encourage my readers to not be afraid to make radical decisions for God. No sacrifice is too great for him. His presence and love are beyond anything we could ever imagine. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
My prayers have changed over the years. Now I pray that I will not allow anything on this earth to hinder in any way where God wants to take me and what he wants to do in my life. No matter what I am asked to give up for him, he more than makes up for in ways I could not have imagined. Truly our God is a great and awesome God! He is pure love, and he longs to pour his love upon us in ever deepening ways, but if we are clinging to the things of this world, we will not be able to receive this love. So as adversity comes into your life, choose to allow this to draw you closer to God. In your desperation, you will find him in ways that would not have been possible without the trials you are facing.