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Whether we know it or not, God’s greatest gift to us is the ability to have a personal friendship-relationship with him.
To use the words of Dallas Willard, the most blessed life is when we live a Jesus-kind-of-life.
If you picture a triangle, each side represents a component that God will use to bless us with this richest of all blessings – a relationship with him that resembles the one that takes place between the Father and the Son.
The author of Hebrews knew the human reaction to the word, “discipline.”
He wrote, “Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12.11).
A meaningful prayer time may seem less thrilling than scrolling through Facebook posts.
Sometimes what we read in the Bible may be hard to understand or confront our behavior.
Spending a day in solitude and silence, free from the “noise” that fills our lives, may seem to be the stuff of saints, not people like us.
Spiritual disciplines fit into the “important, but not urgent” categories of our lives. They are not “urgent,” like having to get to work on time.
They are not “unimportant, nor urgent,” like TV watching, video games, and social media activity.
Spiritual disciplines can be put off, delayed, and ignored. If we neglect them, we are depriving ourselves of one of God’s key “tools” to help us know him better.
Going back to the triangle picture. The practice of daily prayer and Bible reading, along with other spiritual disciplines is the foundation of our relationship with God. As such, it is the foundation or bottom of the triangle.
One of the sides of the triangle is obedience. Isaiah declared God’s message of obedience.
If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be devoured by the sword;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 1.19-20)
The only thing we have that God doesn’t already possess is our free will. He could force our obedience, but that would not result in a loving friendship-relationship with him.
What God desires from us is the willing obedience of people who love each other.
Jesus got to the heart of the matter when he said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14.15).
It is completely logical to see willing obedience as absolutely essential to living in a friendship-relationship with God.
Daily prayer, Bible reading, spending time alone with God and other disciplines are ways to connect with God. However, without obedience they are empty.
Rightly did John teach, “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action” (1 John 3.18).
The Benefit of Hard Times
It may seem strange to note that the third side of the triangle involves hard times. You may wonder how hard times help us live in a friendship-relationship with
One man after experiencing a gut wrenching problem was heard saying, “If this is the way God treats his friends, I am surprised that he has any.”
That being so, many people who work the program of Alcoholics Anonymous will tell you that they discovered God only after they had reached “rock bottom.”
Many of my friends were committed to disobedience and only prayed when they got in trouble. However, their “rock bottom” problems brought them into the arms of our loving heavenly Father.
In some ways the Apostle Paul met Jesus at “rock bottom.” After that experience, he learned that God was able to use hard times to further his love relationship with the Father.
He wrote, “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself.
“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1.8-9).
As Paul was being crushed by affliction, even wondering if he would live, he experienced a new dimension of God’s grace. He discovered an even greater dependence on God.
Everyone goes through or will go through hard times. You can respond as Paul initially did and resist God.
At his conversion on the Damascus Road, Jesus said to Paul, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads” (Acts 26.14).
A goad was a sharp stick that was used to direct oxen. Obviously, if an ox were to kick back at the goad, it would only make the experience more painful.
When we resist God’s work in our “rock bottom” times, all we do is cause more harm to ourselves.
The other alternative is to discover deeper levels of God’s grace. We learn to “rely not on ourselves but on God” (verse 9).
The program of Alcoholics Anonymous teaches members to surrender the control of their lives to a Higher Power. Their “rock bottom” experience led them to surrender control, just as it did Paul.
Paul already had a great spiritual life with God. He was willing to be led anywhere the Holy Spirit directed him. Under extremely difficult circumstances, he was taken to a place of utter dependence on God.
My prayer for the readers of my blog is that we will cooperate fully God in all three of these areas – spiritual disciplines, willing obedience, trust in hard times – and enjoy the greatest love-relationship with God possible.
May We Pray For You?
Please email me at email@example.com or private message me on Facebook with your prayer requests. The Maywood Baptist prayer team will pray for you.