Message posted June 26, 2014: “Having a Good Relationship with God”
I am noticing that many people who say that they believe in God are not sure what it means to have a relationship with God. Is God a magical being that exists who-knows-where that we repeat memorized prayers to every morning and evening? Is Jesus God? What about Allah, Mohammed and Buddha? How do we worship God?
Let’s take a look at that last question. In order to worship God properly, you need to know what he expects from you. God created man so that he could share his love with a being created in his own image. He expected total obedience and perfection, but when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, man was forced to live with sin from that point on. God was disappointed, but that did not cause Him to love Adam and Eve any less. All through the Old Testament, God was dealing with sinful people. When things got too bad, they were destroyed by God, such as the great flood in Noah’s time or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Then at a certain point, God tried something new. He came to earth to teach man to live without sin. Because of the awesome power and ever-presence of God, he had to come in a form that man could comprehend, so he came to earth as another man in the person of His son, Jesus. Jesus lived his entire life without sin, proving that if we would follow the ways He taught us, we could also honor God by doing this. His teachings were written down and can be studied in the New Testament of the Bible.
And that is what God expects from us – to live our lives without sin, honoring and loving God, and accepting His love in return. If this would work with everyone on earth, we could possibly reverse the wrong doing caused by Adam and Eve. But this idea is only working with a few of us while everyone else continues to sin and disbelieve. Since you are reading this, you must be one of the people capable of giving God the respect He deserves.
While you are growing in the grace of God, you should do your best to convince others that this is the way to salvation, that there IS a God and he will one day be the judge of how we lived our lives. Did we disrespect God and live a life of sin, or did we do everything possible we could to honor and respect God? Which way do you think offers the best chance to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Knowledge of God is a blessing that you cannot afford to keep to yourself. That would be selfish. It is up to you to explain to all of the unbelievers you know that God is worth investigating. This is a situation where there is everything to gain and nothing to lose. If everyone you know accepts God, you have done them a great service, and you have acted honorably!
In addition to believing in God, honoring God, being respectful of God’s wishes and avoiding sin, the next thing you need to do is to learn all you can about God and all of the teachings that were handed down through the writings in the Holy Bible. The Bible is your “Handbook for Life,” your “manual” on how you should operate. You cannot possibly absorb all of the information by simply reading the book once or by skimming through it. You need to read it over and over, questioning what you read and doing further research until you are satisfied that you understand all of the information. And even then you will have many questions. There are special bibles called “study bibles” that have done some of the research for you and present the findings at the bottom of each page along with the material you are reading. There are also thousands of research books on The Bible available for your reference. One popular way of studying the Bible is to read a chapter in the Bible and then read the section of one or more reference books that explain this passage.
Another popular way to understand the Bible is through weekly Bible study sessions with a group of friends. Each of you can do research on your own and then share and compare notes at the Bible study sessions. Attending church every Sunday is not only a requirement for a good Christian life, but also an excellent way to learn about the Bible. Typically, every Sunday worship service consists of a Bible reading and a sermon. The sermon, if offered correctly, should serve as an explanation of what the Bible passage is teaching us and how we can apply this information to our lives. Also at the Sunday services, listen to the lyrics of the hymns you sing, as they were all written to praise and worship God, so perhaps they will give you some good ideas of how others are honoring God.
Most importantly, you must trust God to control your life. When we think that we can do everything on our own, then this is when things start to go wrong. When things disrupt your life, turn to God in prayer and ask Him how you should deal with each situation. Ask Him to show you the right thing to do; the path to take; the choice to make. Turn to God when you have an important decision to make, when things are upsetting you, when you need help with something, when you are in trouble, when you are desperate, or anytime at all.
Talk to God as if He were there with you by your side, because He actually is! But remember that you are not talking to a cartoon character, so be respectful, and most importantly, be honest. You cannot hide anything from God. You cannot lie to God. Pour out all of the bad along with the good and ask him how you should deal with this. Ask God to help you put things in perspective and how to avoid making the wrong choices. You must be willing to realize that this is not something you can do without God’s help, and that you put your complete trust in God to get you through this and to allow you to do the right thing. None of this “I hope” stuff – that implies that God may or may not come through for you. There should be no doubt. When you give your troubles to God, you must be completely satisfied that He will lead you to the right decision. His methods may not be easily understood, nor may things happen as quickly as you were hoping for. There are two time frames in life – your time and God’s time. If you do not get immediate results, be patient. You must trust that God is aware of your situation and has your best interests in mind. It is not up to us to know when is the best time for things to happen because God already knows this and will be there for you when you least expect it.
For example, maybe you are out of work and out of money and are about to lose your house, so you pray to God not to take your house. The foreclosure date is drawing near and still no sign from God. Then it happens – you lose the house. But at the same time, God somehow puts you into a different house, perhaps a smaller one, perhaps a rental, perhaps you will be living with a friend or relative, but one way or another, God is not going to have you out on the street with no roof over your head. Perhaps you need to learn how to better manage your money before you take on the responsibility of home ownership. I certainly would not know all of the circumstances, and this person I am describing would also probably also not understand why things are happing this way, but God will protect this person and teach him, and guide him to a better life.
What about all of the homeless people, you ask? I don’t have that answer. There are too many personal things that I am simply not aware of, and also, each case is different. Perhaps some of these people are praying for good health, not for a home. Perhaps there are other troubles that are more important in their eyes or in God's eyes that must be overcome first. Perhaps eventually they will get a job and find a place to live and turn their life around. Perhaps not, but that is not our concern. We must continue to trust and believe that God is in control.
Before leaving this subject, please understand that none of this is going to happen until you ask for it. Don’t be afraid to ask God for anything and everything. God promised in the Bible that if you trust and believe in the Lord, he will provide for you and answer your prayers. Whatever it is that you need, if it is important and not foolish or greedy, and if it is in your sincere best interests and the best interests of others, and if your need honors God and is from your heart, then ask God in prayer to provide.
It is not greedy to ask for money, but it is greedy to ask for more money than you need, or to ask for money for all of the wrong reasons. It is not greedy to ask God for reliable transportation, but it might be considered greedy to ask for a new Corvette. I also believe that it is not improper to ask God for gambling winnings as long as you donate a fair share of your wealth to God’s work, use the rest of your money honorably, and do not insist on having more than you need. What is wrong is when you want things just to impress or to have something that others don’t have, such as wanting a car that is better than your neighbor’s brand new car. Jealousy and greed have no place at all in a good Christian life. God expects you to provide for you and for your family, and if you need money in order to do this, God will give you the money you require.
In the Bible, when people chose to follow Jesus, He asked them to give away all of their possessions. This was because they needed to trust that God would provide for all of their needs. And in the process of doing so, you might not always get what you want, but you will certainly get what you need.
There are many testimonials on this subject. For example, I have a friend who once needed a new set of tires to get his car to pass inspection. He did not have any money to buy the tires. He prayed to God to help with this matter. The day of the inspection came and he was leaving his house to go to have his car inspected, knowing that it will not pass and he will be without legal transportation. He checked his mailbox on the way. There was a check in the mail for $136 from a bank account he had closed out many, many years ago. It seems he had left a little over a dollar in the account, and the interest over all of these years brought the sum to $136! The cost of a new set of tires was $134!
And then there was a time when it was near the end of the month and I had run out of money before I had run out of month. I was commuting to work every day over a distance, living in the country and working in the city, and I needed money for gas. There was about $42 available on a credit card, so I bought gas on the card, but I knew that would not be enough to last through to the end of the month. Then a check for $34 arrived in the mail, and surprisingly similar to the previous story that I just told you, it from a bank account I had closed out many years ago. Apparently I had once contested a transaction that occurred while closing the account, and after all of these years, the bank concurred with my claim and sent me the money which I had coming to me! Now I had exactly enough gas to get me to work every day until I got my paycheck at the end of the month!
And finally, the most important thing to remember is that your life on this earth is only temporary, and your true goal is to prepare yourself for a place in heaven for all of eternity. Do not be overly concerned about things you do not have on earth, but instead, strive to live your life for God and trust that you will be provided for in your next life with God in heaven. If your success leads to greed and especially if this greed causes you to act improperly in your associations with others and to turn away from seeking God’s blessings, then I would be worried about what God has in store for you when your earthly existence is over!