“Are we there yet?” is the constant call from the back of the car. Every time we go for a long drive, the kids ask, “Are we there yet?” Why are the kids the ones that ask? It’s because they are the ones who don’t know exactly where we are going, how far it is and the troubles we may face in getting there. And they’re impatient!
Often it can be the same for us when it comes to being on a journey with God. We can be so concerned with wanting to know where we are going, getting there without any hitches and getting there quickly that we don’t actually think to enjoy the journey!
Have you ever realised that we are all on a journey in our relationship with God? Instead of thinking in terms of being a Christian or not being a Christian, or being ‘in or out’, at The Kings Arms we understand that every person is at a different stage of the journey. And that’s good! If you don’t know God yet and are just investigating the truths of Christianity and deciding whether to find out more, you’re on the same journey as someone who has been following Jesus for 20 years. Sure, you may be taking a different route and be travelling at a different speed, but the destination is the same.
Where are we going?
The journey that each of us is on has the same goal – to get to know God more. The bible says that God made us to have relationship with Him and that means that we will all be unsatisfied until we know Him. We all started looking for God because we have tried looking for satisfaction in other things and have realised that other things don’t satisfy us in the long term.
I know for me as a teenager I looked for satisfaction in loads of other stuff. Drink, drugs, girls, sport. And none of them satisfied me for more than a few hours at a time. And in fact, afterwards I would often feel even worse. We are made to be in relationship with God.
I’m reminded of the words of the lyrics of a Caedmans Call song that say, “He created nothing that gives us more pleasure than Him”. We all have a God shaped hole in our hearts that only He can fill. We will never be satisfied until we find God and get to know Him. Whether someone has been on this journey for 100 minutes or 100 years, they will all say that they need to know God more.
Without wanting to jump ahead and answer this question by saying, “Well, we’re going to heaven”, that may be true ultimately for people who know God but we can’t get too wrapped up in that quite yet. Because what is heaven? It’s where God dwells. It is where we will know God more than what we ever can here. Let us not be like my kids when they go on a long journey. Let us not just focus on the destination, on heaven, glorious as that might be. We still have a role to play on this earth. Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ (Matt 22v36).
You might be struggling to work out what it is that brings you satisfaction. If so, it might be worth next time you’re trying to find satisfaction in something other than God, stopping to think, ‘Is this really, I mean REALLY satisfying me?’ I can guarantee that the more you get to know God, the less other things will satisfy you.
How long will it take?
I’d love to be able to give myself an answer for this, let alone you guys! It’s different for everyone. For some they find it easier to hear God than others and they seem to take bigger steps quicker. For others it may be a long process. And things get in the way! It may be harder for some people to understand certain parts of Gods character than others due to their upbringing or experiences. For example, if someone has had a father who has been distant or abusive, then it may take longer for them to understand or believe that God could know them closely and be a loving, caring father who loves them unconditionally. For me, I’ve always found it hard expressing my emotions and how I’m feeling which means I have also struggled to do that with God. It’s different for everyone! But what is the same for everyone is this – we must persevere!
In the book of Hebrews, the writer says, ‘let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.’ Firstly what this means is that we must persevere. We need to keep going when the chips are down. When we don’t hear God, we must trust that He hears us and knows us. In the Psalms, which is poetry and songs written by several guys included David, many of them involve them crying out to God when they don’t feel like God is listening. David really doesn’t mince his words. Get this – “How long O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13).
David’s really giving it some. I can’t imagine him sitting there on his lyre or whatever, gently strumming and gently whispering those words. He’s shouting them. He’s waving his fist in the air and he does it a few times. But, if you look at almost most of his poetry, he finishes it by saying things like, “But I trust in You God”. Its refreshing to me because here is this supposedly Godly guy who is one of Gods heroes yet so often he feels so far from God, just like me! (and you probably!) So just like David, its helpful for us to come to a place where we can say, “God, right now I may not be able to hear you and I might feel far from you, BUT, I trust that you are listening to me and are leading me on this journey.”
For me personally, I’m so impatient. When I pray, I need an answer, and I need it now! So it’s hard for me to wait for God. It’s hard for me when I don’t get an answer. But over the years I’ve learnt that God is listening to me, all the time. And often I find that what I’ve prayed about, the answer is a lot closer to me than I thought.
For example, I used to pray so often that I would know how much God loves me. It sounds weird but I needed to know it. And I remember God saying to me one day, ‘Look around you.’ Just those 3 words. ‘Look around you’. I stopped to think. ‘What, my bedroom wallpaper?’ Then I started to think. My wife and kids were downstairs and it twigged. My family was my gift from God. In fact, everything I own is a gift from God. God loves me, loves you, so much that he has given you everything you have. God loves you enough that he gave His Son for you. (I’m looking forward to writing again soon on what that means!)
Back to the Hebrews quote, it also says ‘(let us run with perseverance) ‘the race marked out for us’. What I get from this is that we all have our own race to run. It’s so easy to want to have a spiritual life like someone else, isn’t it? But God doesn’t want us to. Sure, there are parts of people’s characters that we can learn from and certain disciplines that would be good to follow. But God has made us all individuals and we all have our own journey. God will speak to you in a different way than He speaks to me because He speaks to you in a way that you understand. Because He loves you as a person, not just as one of millions of others.
It may help you to read and re-read that Hebrews quote (Heb 1-3). It might also help to read Jeremiah 1v4-5 where it talks about how God knows us and has set each of us apart. And we need to be patient. Part of the fun of being on the journey is being shown stuff along the way.
What kind of a journey are you on?
Some of you may feel like you’re enjoying bumbling along the country roads, taking in the views and enjoying the smells, the sounds, the sun and the breeze. You’re not rushing to get anywhere, just enjoying the moments, listening to God, chatting to God. Great days.
Some may feel like you’re sitting in a long traffic jam on the M25. You want to go faster but you can’t. There’s a reason, that you may not know, that means you need to go slower. You can’t even get off the road as you know it’s the right way but you want to get a move on.
And some of you may feel like you are on a roller-coaster. You have ups and downs, times of sickness and fear, screaming and silence. But you know this, it’s a white-knuckle ride and you don’t have control of where its going!
There are times in your life and in your journey with God that you will probably go through each of these, several times! But the good news is this. They’re all OK! It’s OK to go slow, to feel like God isn’t talking. Its OK to feel like you’re on a roller-coaster, to have ups and downs, high’s lows. God is a real God and he created you with real feelings, not to suppress them but to express them. And of course its OK to listen and talk to God.
So please, enjoy the journey. Accept the fact you’re on one and take it all in. Its not a race. Know that there will be times where you feel like you’re in a traffic jam, but take a deep breath, be patient and know that God is still there. Enjoy the roller-coaster when you feel like you’re on it. The wheels can’t come off the track and its no point getting off at the end and realising you’ve enjoyed it once its finished. And of course enjoy the times when you really hear from God. Open the windows, turn the radio up and enjoy the journey!