I wrote here about what it takes to grow faith. Today I want to talk a little about what it takes to get to know who God is—it’s a related topic in many ways. I said that a lot of people want to have faith, but not everyone wants to go through the necessary process to grow faith. Just like a lot of people want to be in better shape without going through the process of getting in better shape. Just like a lot of people want to have a mountain top view, but few want to climb to the top of a mountain. Tommy Nelson used to say, “It’s better to be a noun than a verb—it’s better to be humble than humbled.” He was talking about humility in that moment, but the principle seems to stand even when we aren’t talking about humility. We would rather be the noun, (have the quality in question), than be the verb (going through the process to receive that same quality in question.)
When we are talking about humility, then yes, be humble so you don’t have to be humbled. But when we are talking about knowing the character and the nature of God, then you have to be willing to be a verb. You have to be willing to go through the process.
Here’s the difficult reality: You will never get to know God as X (fill in the blank) unless you need X. To be more specific—you will never really know Jehovah Jireh, God the Provider, unless you are destitute and need provision. You will never really know God as healer unless you are sick and need healing. You will never know Him as your forgiveness unless you see your sins and need them forgiven. And so forth.
Do you want to know God? To really know God? There is nothing better, to be sure, but do you know what is you seek? If you want to know God, then He will reveal Himself to you, but I warn you that He will do so by placing you in precarious positions. He does not do so that He might put you in harm’s way, but that He might show Himself to you in the best possible light. Not that he needs a favorable light, but that more of who He is might be accurately displayed. He will lovingly place you in positions where you actually be aware of your need of what He has to offer. Being in need is not fun, I warn you, but learning who He is as He meets your needs is a glorious thing. Learning that you can trust in His character and nature—that Your Provider does provide, that the Lover of your soul is always with you, that your Defender is able to do just that—that is a thing worth any process, any pain, any sacrifice that it might take to get there.
You learn these things just as you learn faith—by getting in over your head so that Jesus is your only option. You trust in the character and the nature and the attributes and promises of God because it’s all you have, because Jesus lovingly took all the other options away. Why would He do that? Not to be cruel, but to show you that He is everything and you can trust Him. Because you asked Him to when you said you wanted to know Him.
You may not know it yet, but He did you a favor. It’s like that field Jesus talked about:
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Matthew 13:44
I think the parable sometimes plays out a little differently for us as believers though. We accepted Jesus—we bought the field. But Jesus paid the high price for it and we got it cheap, at least on our end—it was costly for Jesus, but free for us! So we take it for granted. We don’t go explore the field to see what’s in it. We don’t delight in it or value it all that much. We just know we have the field and we could use it to survive if we had to and all else went wrong. It’s not bad as a back up or a safety net, but it’s not like it’s all we’ve got, thankfully—because it doesn’t really seem like much, just a lowly empty field.
Jesus, however, knows what that field is really worth and He knows what’s really in it. He knows that if we’ll depend on that field, we will have all we need for life and godliness. He knows that in it we will find God Himself, and all His character and attributes and promises…in that field is a treasure far better than anything we have on earth, but we are missing it because we haven’t had to use it, to explore it, to get to know it, to depend on it…we haven’t had to find the real treasure that’s hidden in the field.
So what does Jesus do? He begins to strip us of our earthly possessions and relationships and securities and joys. We don’t necessarily give them up willingly…but Jesus forgives us for that oversight and takes them from us anyway. Sometimes gently, sometimes violently, sometimes singly, sometimes in bulk…He knows how and when is best for us, and He knows how much it will take before we finally turn to the field with the treasure in it and discover what truly lays inside: Himself.
Friend, are you being stripped of your securities? Do you find that life’s joys are beginning to pale? Count in pure joy! It is only so that you may know the treasure that lies in Jesus instead. Do you find yourself in need? Rejoice as it is but the opportunity for you to know that part of God that longs to and is more than able to meet your need. Are you sick? Come; meet your Healer. Are you in need? Come; meet your Provider. Are you weak? Come; meet your Strength. Are you sorrowful? Come; meet your Comforter and your Joy. Are you lonely? Come; meet your Love.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds,3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[c] his own glory and excellence,[d] 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,[e] and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities[f] are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers,[g] be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3-11)