Each year, as part of our School’s registration exercise, I interview applicants to get to know them a little better before admitting them as students of our Certificate programme. My first question is usually “How would you describe your relationship with God at this point?”
Straightforward question, yes? And yet, I find many stumped by it. And without much thought, most immediate responses sound like this:
“I serve in the choir each Sunday.”
“I used to attend cell, but I have stopped now.”
“I do my quiet time each morning but don’t read my bible very much.”
“I have been attending church for the past 20 years.”
After listening to the replies, I would ask again, “Thanks for sharing that. But how would you describe your relationship with God at this point?” In other words, what I am telling them is that they hadn’t answered my question directly and I would like them to try again. Those who try again inevitably repeat their activity (or non-activity) or simply add more items to their did-this-didn’t-do-that list. Others simply look at me quizzically, not understanding why I asked the question again.
Please don’t get me wrong. I have no problems with church activity or involvement for these are commendable and encouraged. However, when it comes to describing a relationship with God, I believe something’s amiss when we only focus on what we do in church. Make no mistake, a good relationship will very likely result in one party doing something for another out of love and sacrifice. But one cannot simply presume or assume that activity necessarily indicates a healthy relationship at all. For example, a parent may do a lot for a child, working hard and sacrificing much. And yet, when the child is asked about his relationship with this parent, he answers, “Not very good. My dad is never there for me when I need him. I don’t really know him at all.”
And that’s what I am really after when I ask this simple, but loaded question! Seldom, if at all, do I get someone telling me honestly and directly, “I love my God and I really enjoy spending time with Him. We talk each day and He directs and guides me. I can’t wait to read the Word because it has become so alive to me by the illumination of the Holy Spirit!” Now, I don’t mean that everyone should be gushing passionately in this way if there isn’t such a level of intimacy with God. In such a case, the honest answer could be, “No, I don’t really know God at all. I serve in church and do all the Christian stuff but God is not real to me. Although I have been a Christian for many years, I guess I don’t really have a personal relationship with Him.”
What we need more and more these days are authentic believers who would do well to evaluate their own relationship with God in real and concrete terms and not simply hide behind church credentials and ministry résumé. We must be careful not to allow our ministry for God to define our relationship with Him. Instead, it must be our relationship with Him that defines our ministry for Him. Yet sadly, there is a great deception and delusion that is lulling believers into a state of complacency, thinking they have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ when in reality it is practically non-existent. Or for some, the relationship could be merely one way where the individual knows that God loves him but that is not rightly reciprocated. Or worse still, that God exists only to bless, to provide every need and to answer every request.
So, once again, “How would you describe your relationship with God at this point?” Perhaps you would like to have a go at answering this question? Yes, this seemingly simple question might very possibly be the most difficult to answer. But don’t brush it aside too quickly; after all, it is also the most important.
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3