I recently came across this quote from A. W. Tozer in a daily devotional:
“God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible – what a pity we plan only the things that we can do by ourselves.”
I would add to this quote, “only the things with a predictable outcome, only the things that feel comfortable or familiar, only the things that don’t require faith, sacrifice or suffering on our part.”
God wants us to know Him by personal experience. For too many years I remained distant from God, knowing about Him through reading the Bible, listening to messages at church and conferences, and hearing other people’s testimonies of their experience. I hesitated to fully embrace a personal relationship because I was afraid of what God might ask me to do. I wanted to remain in charge of my life and in control of my circumstances. I felt like I had already contributed more than my fair share to the suffering fund and venturing into the unknown, where I might experience situations or circumstances I couldn’t handle, did not appeal to me.
I said I wanted to know God, but I did not want it to cost me anything. Then I read a book that changed everything – a book I highly recommend called “Why a Suffering World Makes Sense.” The author is Chris Tiegreen, who writes a daily e-devotional called Faith. Hope. Coffee Break, as well many different hard copy devotionals. Chris makes an excellent point – that only in a fallen world, filled with evil, where we routinely experience suffering and pain – can all of God’s remarkable attributes be displayed. In a perfect world such as heaven, there is no need for compassion, forgiveness, mercy, comfort, healing, or redemption. Perhaps apostle Peter was considering something similar when he thought that the good news being preached by followers of Jesus, inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit, “were things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1: 12)
So, did I really want to know God? If so, I had to take seriously Paul’s appeal in Romans 12:1 to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” I also had to heed Jesus’ words, recorded in all four gospels, that “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternity.” (John 12:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24 &, 17:33, Matthew 10:39 & 16:25) I had to put behind me life focused on this world and embrace the unknown adventure of following Jesus, one day at a time.
I experienced a paradox of God’s Kingdom – that in His Hands, adversity strengthens character, produces spiritual maturity, enlarges the body of Christ, and generates a testimony worth sharing. I discovered:
If I want to know God as Healer, then I must be afflicted physically, mentally, or emotionally.
If I want to know God as Restorer, then I must experience loss.
If I want to know God as Comforter, then I must experience emotional pain.
If I want to know God as Provider, then I must experience lack or deprivation.
If I want to know God as Deliverer, then I must be in bondage to someone or something.
If I want to know God as Merciful, then I must make mistakes and mess up.
If I want to know God as the Prince of Peace, then I must contend with situations that produce confusion, anxiety and fear.
If I want to know God as Power, then I must admit my own weakness, limitations and helplessness.
I learned that many of God’s attributes are experienced only in the presence of overwhelming problems, challenging situations, and painful circumstances.
James tells us, “Count it all joy my brothers (and sisters), when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (perseverance). And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1: 2-4, my additions in italics)
Peter encourages his readers to rejoice in their salvation “though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Christ Jesus.” (1 Peter 1: 6-7)
Next time you find yourself in an adverse situation, rather than feel victimized, you could consider it an opportunity to personally experience an attribute of God that you only know in theory. Instead of “Why me?”, you could ask, “What are you showing me in this situation God, and how do you want me to respond?” Then be prepared for new revelations, deeper faith, inner healing, and greater trust.