Christian Devotional: By Grasping These Four Points, Our Relationship With God Will Become Ever Closer
By Xiaomo, China
The Bible says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). As Christians, only by drawing closer to God and having real interaction with God can we maintain a normal relationship with God and obtain the work of the Holy Spirit. It is just like two people associating with each other, who can only keep their close relationship going for a long time by being more open with each other, communicating more when they encounter issues, and by understanding and respecting each other. In this age of fast-paced life, however, busy jobs, complicated relationships and evil social trends draw us in and occupy us more and more. Our hearts are easily disturbed by the people, events and things of the outside world, and they prevent us from maintaining a normal relationship with God. This leads to us becoming more and more distant from God and, when we encounter issues, it becomes very hard for us to quieten ourselves before God, to draw close to God and to seek the enlightenment and guidance of the Holy Spirit. When we do things, we often do them without any correct direction or purpose, and our spirits are constantly in a state of emptiness and agitation. So how exactly can we maintain a close relationship with God? We need only to grasp the four points below, and our relationship with God will definitely become closer.
1. Pray to God With an Honest Heart and Be Moved by the Holy Spirit
Prayer is the channel through which we communicate with God. Through prayer, our hearts are better able to become quiet before God, to contemplate God’s word, to seek God’s will and to establish a normal relationship with God. But in life, because we are busy with work or household chores, we can often just go through the motions in prayer, and we just treat God perfunctorily by saying a few absent-minded words. When we are busy first thing in the morning, for example, going to work or busying ourselves with something else, we pray in a hurry: “O God! I entrust today’s work into Your hands, and I entrust You with my children and my parents. I entrust everything into Your hands, and I ask You to bless me and protect me. Amen!” We treat God perfunctorily by saying a few random words. Our hearts are not quiet, much less do we have any real interaction with God. Sometimes, we say some pleasant-sounding words, and some empty, boastful words to God in prayer, and we do not say to God what is in our hearts. Or sometimes, when we pray, we recite certain words by heart, and we say those same, stale old words every time, and this becomes totally a prayer of a religious ritual. Many prayers like this are spoken in our lives—prayers which cling to rules, and prayers in which we do not open our hearts to God nor seek God’s will. God hates it when we say prayers without really meaning any of it, because this kind of prayer pertains only to outward appearance and religious ritual, and there is no real interaction with God in our spirit. People who pray like this are treating God perfunctorily and are deceiving God. Therefore, prayers like this are not heard by God and it becomes very hard for people who pray this way to be moved by the Holy Spirit. When they pray like this, they are unable to feel God’s presence, their spirits are dark and weak, and their relationship with God becomes more and more distant.
The Lord Jesus said: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). God is the Creator who fills all of heaven and earth. He is beside us at all times, watching our every word and action, our every thought and idea. God is supreme, utterly dignified, and when we pray to God, we worship God, and we must come before God with an honest heart. Therefore, when we pray to God, we must have a God-fearing heart, speak sincerely and truthfully to God, bring our real states, our difficulties and our hardships before God and tell Him about them, and we must seek God’s will and seek the path of practice, for only in this way will our prayers conform to God’s will. For example, we encounter some difficulties in life, or we see ourselves living in a situation whereby we are constantly sinning and confessing, and we feel tormented. And so, we open our hearts to God, tell God about these problems and seek God’s will, and God will see our sincerity and He will move us. He will give us faith, or He will enlighten us to understand His will. In this way, we come to understand the truth and to have a way forward. For example, when we truly recognize that our prayers just cling to rules and are just spoken as a formality, or we speak boastfully or emptily, and we are not having any real interaction with God, we can then pray in this way: “O God! When I prayed before, I was just treating You perfunctorily. Everything I said was said to cheat You and I was not speaking sincerely at all; I feel so indebted to You. From this day forth, I wish to pray with my heart. I will say to You whatever I think in my heart, and I will worship You with an honest heart, and ask for Your guidance.” When we open up to God like this from the bottom of our hearts, our hearts are then moved. We then see how much we have rebelled against God, and we wish even more to truly repent to God and to speak sincerely to Him. At this time, we will feel that our relationship with God is extremely close, as though we are face-to-face with Him. This is the result of opening our hearts to God.
Opening our hearts to God has nothing to do with how much we say to Him, or whether or not we use flamboyant words or fancy language. As long as we open our hearts to God and tell Him about our true state, seek His guidance and enlightenment, then God will listen to us even if we only say a few simple words. When we draw close to God frequently in this way, whether it be at gatherings or during spiritual devotion, or when we are walking down the street or sitting on the bus or at work, our hearts will always be silently opening up to God in prayer. Without being aware of it, our hearts can then become quiet before God even more, we will understand more of God’s will and, when we encounter issues, we will know how to practice the truth to satisfy God. In this way, our relationship with God will become much more normal.
2. When Reading God’s Words, Contemplate Them With Your Heart and You Will Understand Their True Meaning
Christians practice spiritual devotions and read God’s words every day. How can we read God’s words in a way that both achieves good results and that can enable our relationship with God to become closer? God’s word says: “People believe in God, love God, and satisfy God by touching the Spirit of God with their heart, thereby obtaining His satisfaction; when engaging with God’s words with their heart, they are therefore moved by the Spirit of God” (“Establishing a Proper Relationship With God Is Very Important”). God’s words tell us that, when we read His words, we must contemplate them and go seeking with our hearts, we must obtain the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit, and we must understand God’s will and what He requires of us. Only by reading God’s words in this way will our efforts bear fruit and we will draw closer to God. When we read God’s words, if we just give them a passing glance without really paying attention, if we only focus on understanding some letters and doctrines in order to show ourselves off and we pay no attention to understanding the true meaning of God’s words, then no matter how much we read His words, we will not conform to His will, much less will we be capable of establishing a normal relationship with God.
Therefore, when we read God’s words, we must quieten our hearts and use our hearts to ponder why God says such things, what God’s will is and what results God wants to achieve with us by saying such things. Only by deeply contemplating His words in this way can we understand God’s will and be more after His heart, and our relationship with God will become increasingly normal. For example, we see that the Lord Jesus says: “Truly I say to you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). We can all understand the superficial meaning of this statement, that God wishes for us to become honest people. But issues such as the significance of being an honest person, why God loves honest people and how exactly to become an honest person, are issues that we should contemplate more deeply. Through pray-reading and contemplating God’s words, we then understand that God’s essence is faithful, and that there is no falsehood or deception in anything God says or does, and therefore God loves honest people and hates deceitful people. God requires that we must become honest people, for only by becoming honest people in accordance with God’s requirements can we be led by God into His kingdom. So how exactly do we become honest people? Firstly, we are not to speak lies, but we must be pure and open and say what is in our hearts; secondly, we must not act deceitfully, we must be able to forsake our own interests, and cheat neither God nor man; thirdly, there must be no deception in our hearts, there must be no personal motive or aim in our actions, but instead we should act only to practice the truth and satisfy God. After this light has been achieved through contemplation, we reflect on our actions and behavior and we then see that we still possess many expressions of deceit: When we are dealing with other people, we often cannot stop ourselves from lying or cheating in order to safeguard our own interests, reputation and status. When we expend ourselves for God, we may say in prayer that we wish to love God and satisfy God, but when trials befall us, such as our child gets sick or either we ourselves or a family member loses their job, we immediately start complaining to God, so much so that we want to give up our work in the church; in this, we can see that we expend ourselves for God in a way that is tainted, and in a way whereby we make deals with God. We expend ourselves for God in order to profit from God, and not purely to satisfy God. These are just some examples of our expressions of deceit. From these expressions, we can see that we are not really honest people. Once we see clearly our own shortcomings and deficiencies, the resolve arises within us to thirst for the truth and we seek to practice God’s words more in our lives. This is the result achieved by contemplating God’s words.
Of course, this result cannot be achieved by contemplating God’s words once, but rather through contemplating His words many times. Also, we must consciously practice God’s words whenever we encounter issues. In short, as long as we unremittingly contemplate God’s words with our hearts in this way, we will then be able to obtain the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit. One day, we will gain some new light, and the next day we will gain a little more new light and, over time, we will be able to understand more about the truth in God’s words, the path of practice will become clearer, our lives will make gradual progress, and our relationship with God will become closer and closer. Just as it says in the Bible: “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me” (Proverbs 8:17).
3. Seek the Truth and Practice God’s Word in All Things
The most crucial things for Christians to maintain a normal relationship with God is to seek the truth when they encounter issues and to practice in accordance with His word. But in life, when we encounter issues, we often rely on our own experiences or we employ human means to handle them, or we deal with them according to our own preferences. We very seldom quieten ourselves before God and seek the truth, or deal with the issue in accordance with God’s will. This causes us to lose many opportunities to practice the truth, and we grow further and further away from God. God’s word says, “No matter what you are doing, no matter how big the matter is, and regardless of whether you are fulfilling your duty in God’s family, or whether it is your private matter, you must consider whether this matter conforms with God’s will, and whether this matter is something a person with humanity should do. If you seek the truth in everything this way, then you are a person who truly believes in God” (“Seeking God’s Will Is for the Sake of Practicing the Truth”). “If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed” (John 8:31). God’s words show us a clear path. Whether we are doing work in the church or handling issues that we have encountered in our lives, we must always seek the truth and understand God’s will, see how to handle the matter in a way that meets God’s requirements, use the truth to resolve all the problems we may encounter and maintain our normal relationship with God.
Take how we should seek the truth when we choose our spouse, for example. When we are looking for a partner, we always go by our own preferences and focus on the person’s outward appearance and temperament, and we look for a tall, rich, handsome man, or a fair-skinned, rich, beautiful lady, believing that we will only have a happy marriage if we marry someone like that, and that we will live lives of physical ease, comfort and pleasure, and others will be envious of us. However, do we ever wonder whether finding a partner like that is beneficial to our belief in God and to our life progression? If our partner does not believe in God and they try to stop us from believing in God, what will the outcome be? The Bible says, “Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14). From this, we can see that the aspirations of believers and unbelievers do not go together and are not suited to each other. In their approaches to faith and social trends, they will each have their own views and will pursue different things: A Christian will want to follow the way of fearing God and shunning evil, whereas an unbeliever will want to follow the evil trends of the world. When we are united with an unbeliever, we will necessarily be influenced by them, and our life progression will be held back. Therefore, when choosing a partner, we must take the person’s humanity and character into consideration and consider whether or not associating with them will benefit our belief in God, whether or not we are both on the same wavelength, and whether or not our aspirations are in accord. If we do not consider these things, but just focus solely on the person’s outward appearance and their family situation, then, after we are married, pain will come because we are not on the same wavelength. If our partner also tries to coerce us and stop us from believing in God, then this will ruin our spiritual lives even more. It can therefore be seen that, no matter what issue we may encounter in our lives, only by seeking the truth, grasping God’s will and acting in accordance with God’s will can we live under God’s care and protection, and only in that way can we maintain our normal relationship with God.
4. Come Before God and Reflect on Yourself Every Day, and Maintain Your Close Relationship With God
Jehovah God said: “Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:7). From God’s words, we can see that reflecting on ourselves is so necessary for our life entry! Through reflection, we can see that we have so many shortcomings and that we fall way too short of God’s required criteria. The motivation to pursue the truth therefore arises in us, we resolve to forsake our flesh and we do our utmost to practice in accordance with God’s word. In this way, we take heed to act in accordance with God’s requirements in our practical experiences, we practice God’s word, and our relationship with God becomes increasingly normal. For example, those of us who serve as leaders in the church see that it says in the Bible: “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2–3). Therefore, we should engage in self-reflection when we are shepherding our brothers and sisters, and ask ourselves: Are we taking care to testify to the Lord’s words and to His will, and leading our brothers and sisters before God, or are we saying high-sounding, meaningless things when we give sermons in order to show off, and preaching letters and doctrines to make our brothers and sisters worship us and look up to us? When brothers and sisters make reasonable suggestions to us, do we reflect on our own problems or do we refuse to accept their suggestions, to the point where we even make excuses and try to vindicate ourselves? Through self-reflection, we can see that there are still many areas in our service to God in which we are rebellious, and that we still possess many corrupt dispositions that require us to persistently seek the truth in order for them to be resolved. In this way, we can conduct ourselves humbly, we can seek God’s will more in our work, and we can lead our brothers and sisters in accordance with God’s requirements. If we are unable to frequently come before God and reflect on ourselves, then we will fail to recognize our own corruptions and shortcomings and will still believe ourselves to be people in pursuit of the truth. We will therefore be content with standing still and will refuse to make any further progress, and we will become more and more arrogant and self-righteous, believing ourselves to be after God’s heart. In actual fact, however, our actions and behavior will be unacceptable to God, and God will detest us. It can therefore be seen that frequently engaging in self-reflection is very important and that one’s practice of the truth is built upon the foundation of knowing oneself. Only by having true knowledge of one’s own corruptions and shortcomings can remorse then arise, and one will then become willing to pursue the truth and practice God’s words. Self-reflection is so very beneficial to our life progression, and it is the indispensable key to us drawing closer to God.
There are many ways to reflect on ourselves: We can reflect on ourselves in the light of God’s words; we can reflect on ourselves in the mistakes that we make in our daily lives; others pointing out our shortcomings and corruptions is even more so an excellent opportunity to reflect on ourselves; furthermore, when we see the mistakes made by those around us, we can also reflect on ourselves, take their mistakes as a warning, learn the lessons and be benefited by them, and so on. Self-reflection is not limited to the daytime or the nighttime. At any time and in any place, we can pray to God in our hearts, reflect on and know our own corruptions, and we can seek God’s will and requirements within His words, and repent in time. However, before we go to bed each night, we should reflect on and summarize all that we did that day, and we will then be able to have a clearer grasp of our states and know what things we have not yet got right. Once we start doing this, our pursuit will be more directional and will be more beneficial to establishing a normal relationship with God.
Brothers and sisters, the four points above are the path of practice for us to draw closer to God. As long as we put these points into practice, then our relationship with God will become closer, we will have a path of practice with issues we encounter, and God will bestow on us peace and joy and will enable us to live in His blessings. So, why don’t we start right now?