The Reality of God and His Love - Part 2
2000 William R. Cunningham
Consider the following scriptures.
Matthew 13:22 (NKJV) Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.
This portion of the parable of the sower and the seed identifies someone that allows the activities of this world to cause the word of God to become ineffective. We worry about so many things that eventually the word of God, and thus the reality of God, has no place in our lives and we become spiritually and heavenly unproductive.
Luke 18:22 through Luke 18:25 (NKJV) So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
This scripture identifies those that depend on their riches and thinks that he or she can earn his or her way to acceptance by God (eternal life). Their dependence on riches or personal (earthly) resources will keep them from true reality, which is Christ. This is not to say that a rich man can't be close to God or even truly be a Christian. It only means that those with wealth are more susceptible to trusting in that wealth as he or she succumbs to living solely according to the world system, which is a materialist life. What makes matters worse and sometimes confusing to some Christians is that the religious community makes God appear as though he is interested in our materialistic (worldly) attitudes. He isn't. Again, we should not set our hearts on things that are earthly. Instead, we should seek heavenly things because that is true reality. All things material are only temporal. A karate instructor of my youth once told me that everything we see is an illusion because in a certain amount of time these things won't exist. That is, everything material is temporal and therefore cannot be trusted or depended upon.
The things of this world have become a priority to us over and above the reality of God. After all, we can see and directly experience the riches this world has to offer. However, we have to learn to put our trust in God and live the true reality of the almighty God. We go our entire lives depending on what we see, touch, hear, and experience. We should not expect to automatically abandon these things to take on the new Way of God. We have to learn to trust God and live with the reality of him just as we learned to live the way of the dependence on our physical senses. It takes practice, time, and experience. The fact is that living a life of dependence on senses was natural to us. It wasn't like we were in class and were taught how to depend on touch, smell, sight, and experiences. This is how the world operates because the world is earthly minded by nature (See Matthew 6:19-21).
So what is needed so that the reality of God is more than the reality of the natural consequences and situations of this world? Experience! If we don't experience God then all we know of him is in our heads. I'm sure you remember from your school days that merely knowing the facts will not go far at test time. You have to solve problems and experience the things that you learn, that is, to see them in action. You had lab time and homework. These were designed to get you to experience the things that you learned from the books. We likewise need to experience God if we will truly trust him. We have to experience God if he will indeed be more real than other things we hold as reality, such as your problems. Well how do you experience God? Before I answer this question, let's look at the importance of trust. We cannot experience God if we don't trust him because we would never try him. How can I experience God if I don't learn to live his Way and how can I learn to live his Way if I don't try his Way, that is, obey him. Consider the following scripture.
Proverbs 3:5 through Proverbs 3:6 (NKJV) Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
I find that understanding this scripture is crucial to experiencing God. The word trust in this verse means to "lean on" as in leaning against a tree for support. The word "acknowledge" means "to be aware of in the personal sense." This means that you get to know God and that you consider his presence in normal life situations. So first we have to lean on God instead of our own understanding. Next we become aware of him and get to know him and God will straighten our paths, which implies his guidance for us to live according to his Way. That's wonderful isn't it? Let's look at another scripture.
Psalm 62:5 through Psalm 62:10 (NKJV) My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him. 6He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; The rock of my strength, And my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah
This is a very powerful verse that reveals a very powerful concept, which is to trust in God. David says that his trust is in God. God is his defense and salvation (the one that rescues him from danger). His glory signifies his praise of God and the importance of God to him. God was indeed real to David. God was the safe place for David-his refuge. So David tells us to trust in God at all times and to pour out our hearts before him. David could say this because he experienced God and knew first hand that God was trustworthy.
The meaning of the word "Selah" is not known. There are some theories relating to music, since this is a song. However, none of those theories have been proven (thus a theory). I thought I would add that for your own information.
Trust and Obedience
We cannot experience God if we don't trust Him. We cannot trust God if we don't obey Him. Why? We must do what God says In order to trust Him. We have to learn that God is true to his word and therefore can be trusted. We have to learn that we can truly depend on God. This can only happen if we begin to do what he says. As we do what he says we learn that he is trustworthy and we slowly lean more and more on him. Think of a chair that has been assigned to you and you aren't certain it will hold your weight. If you don't learn to trust that chair then you will either remain standing or sit someplace else less appropriate. So what you do is embark on a journey to trust that chair. You gradually sit down without putting your full weight on the chair. You sit down though still tensed and ready to pounce up. After a while you become more confident that the chair will indeed support your weight. You have experienced the chair. The more you sit on that chair then the more you will trust it without thinking. The chair's ability to support your weight has become natural and therefore real. You now trust the chair.
Our experiences with God are similar to the experience with that chair. You gradually do what God says and you learn that you can trust him. You learn that he won't let you down even if it doesn't appear that way (consider Christ's words on the cross pertaining to God forsaking him-see Matthew 27:46). So trust is directly related to obedience. Trust cannot come unless we obey. Are you obeying God or are you living your own way. You will never experience the reality of God if you don't obey him, which will lead in trusting him. Obedience is a window to experiencing God and therefore the road to trusting him, which will lead us to a life of the reality of God.
So begin to read your Bible and put to practice what you learn. James told us to be doers of the word and not mere hearers (James 1:22). Then you will learn the reality of God because he will indeed become an integral part of your life. The more you obey God then the more you will learn to trust Him. The more you practice that process then the more you will experience Him. The more you truly experience God then the more He will become real to you. He'll be more than the object of worship on Sundays. He will become more than the great guy in the sky or the almighty God. He will become your God, your best friend, and your intimate heavenly Father.
The Working Of Pain
Pain has a definite affect on our perspective of God. We tend to look to God more when pain is experienced then any other time. When trouble comes we tend to pray more and go to church more. When we are faced to face our mortality then we realize the importance of God and His ways more than any other object. Why does pain seem to bring us closer to God? Why does calamity tend to get us to think more in terms of God's way? For example, church attendance increased dramatically during the time of desert storm. Why is that? Pain seems to get us closer to God. The reality of pain seems to make God more real to us. Consider the following scripture.
Romans 5:3 through Romans 5:4 (NKJV) And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Tribulations (trouble or persecution) seem to have an important role in our development. Persecution caused Christianity to be spread to all parts of the world because people fled their persecutors. We tend to pray more when we face troubles. It is far more likely that we will pray a prayer of deliverance then a prayer of thanksgiving. So pain seems to make spiritual things, namely God, more real to us because for some reason that pain changes our perspective of things.
The Working of Sudden Fortune
Pain is not the only thing that can snap us into a realm of reality. Sudden fortune can also change our perspective of God. If you were miraculously delivered from impending danger or suddenly received a large amount of money then you would tend to be more aware of God. You would thank God for the blessings and become very excited about it. You would declare the blessings of God to others and thank God for a long time for what He did for you. A sudden event seems to make us more aware of God, which is similar to the sudden occurrence of pain. The sudden receipt of "blessings" seems to make us more aware of God above. This is especially true when these blessings are not earned or are considered unexpected (coming from "out of the blue").
This sudden fortune can also be a sudden deliverance from a calamity or persecution, which we discussed in the previous section. We expect to be destroyed or suffer great loss and then for no reason at all we seem to pull through and everything seems to come together at the last minute. Again, we praise God for delivering us.
It seems that the reality of an event tends to wear off as time passes. This was evident in the Old Testament when we examine the experiences of the Hebrew people with God. They would gradually turn away from God's Ways and then experience persecution at the hands of another nation (Syria for example). Later, God would rescue them and they would rejoice for his deliverance and turn back to His ways. However, as time passes, the experiences of God's deliverance seem to fade. The reality of the events seems to decrease and they fell further away from God again.
We are the same way. If we survive a great catastrophe or overcome some great illness then we too will begin to forget what God did for us. The reality of the trouble and the reality of God fade away and we are back to "normal." It is as if sudden events guide us into reality. It is as if our sense of reality is misplaced by the normality of life and the rituals that we follow.
Consider an example in regards to prayer.
Matthew 6:7 (NKJV) And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
Repeating words with no purpose in prayer accomplishes nothing. Prayer should come from the heart and not from rituals. Rituals take us away from God because he no longer becomes part of our activities or worse, the reason for the activities. If God is the center or object of your prayer requests then He is indeed real to you. However, if your prayer is merely to repeat words that you have learned then the reality of God is not evident. Vain repetitions in prayer do not promote a healthy perspective of God. It actually promotes a separation from God to conform to religious practices. It is no wonder that we loose the reality of God's presence when we succumb to church life (the religious organizations and their practices).
How much do you think about heaven? I used to consider heaven as something that was unimportant to the here and now. For the most part it is true but overall it cannot be neglected. To be heavenly minded is to realize that we will spend an eternity in heaven if indeed we are born again. The life we have on this earth is a mere blink in time compared to the eternity that we will spend with God in heaven. Consider the following scripture.
Matthew 6:19 through Matthew 6:21 (NKJV) "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
If our thinking and perspective is earthly then we are living in an illusion. Everything around us is temporal except the people that we see. Why put so much stock into something that is only temporary. Ecclesiastes reveals to us the vanities of life and the toil that we have on this earth. It would therefore seem reasonable that we would put stock into things that are heavenly, which are eternal. This means that heaven must be real to us and not just the object of a future life.
So the reality of heaven implies the reality of God and also the realization of our mortality on earth. We must realize that our existence on earth is temporary and our total existence a spiritual beings is eternal. Where will you spend eternity? If you are born again then you will spend it with God. If you are not born again then you will spend eternity apart from God.
The point that I am trying to make is that our perspective of heaven is directly proportionate to our perspective of eternal things (things that ultimately really matter), our perspective of God and therefore the reality of God. I should also mention here that the reality of God and the reality of eternity do not negate the reality of our life in the present. I simply want you to realize that God and His Kingdom are just as real, however more significant, then the things that we see around us and experience on this earth.
It is silly to think that we can explain or discuss the reality of God without mentioning the importance of faith. By faith we believe God because there is no definite proof of his existence. We can't look at something and say, "Look! There is God." The evidence that we have of God come to us via Jesus Christ and through His word-the Bible. By faith we know that God loves us and cares for us. By faith we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:31).
By faith we first have the confidence to do what God says. Why should I do what an invisible being tells me? Faith! By faith we love God because we can't experience him in the physical realm. By faith we obey him because we believe in His word. So faith is very important to our reality of God. As a matter of fact, I would dare say that faith is a critical element to the reality of God. A reality of God that doesn't include faith is mere head knowledge of a superior being and the establishment of something called mental ascent. We believe God for the facts (merely scientific) without faith, which is spiritual and within.
Faith incorporates the workings of the Holy Spirit, which also cannot be scientifically explained or observed. The reality of God is the acceptance of and operation of faith.
The Reality of God
So how can we relate to God in the same way that we relate to other things that we naturally consider being real? How can God be as real to us as the people and objects around us? I believe the answer lies in the knowledge and experience of God in our lives. The more we experience God and are truly aware of Him then the more real He will be to us. To a child, God can be taught as real and that child will believe you. This is how it was done for me. My mom told me about God as a child and for some reason I believed her. I regularly talked to God and considered him to be real. As I grew older there began a conflict between the reality of God and the realities of life. This conflict increased a great deal when I moved away from home. Why? The realities of life, which I was sheltered from while living with my parents, became very real. Dealing with real issues in everyday life, which moves so fast, seems to lesson the reality of things that aren't seen, namely God. Therefore, there is this ever-going war between carnal things and spiritual things. The physical things around us and the things of everyday life compete for our attention. What tend to come to the forefront are those things that we can interact with physically.
The task then is to perceive God in the realm of reality as we do the things of everyday life. How can we do this? We must experience God and be aware of Him in our lives. If we are aware of God then we can recognize him operating in our lives. If we can experience God then we have something that we can relate to regarding God's activities in our lives.
Being certain of his existence, aware of him in your own life, and experiencing him acting in your life therefore establish the Reality of God. This is accomplished by learning who God is, learning about God and His Ways, and practicing what you learn. This is summarized in hearing the word of God (His Ways) and obeying Him. With obedience come experience and a realization of the trustworthiness of God and then we tend to trust him more. This increased trust in God spawns new acts of obedience because we are less afraid since we know that God will honor his word.
The reality of God is difficult if we have allowed the things of this world to define our reality. The more reality is based on this world then the more work we will have to establish the reality of God and His Kingdom-and for anything spiritual for that matter. Sudden calamity especially and sudden fortune tend to instantaneously shift our perspective of reality to include godly things. This is usually followed by a return to the previous perception of reality, which is based on the physical things and everyday life situations.
The work ahead is to learn who God is and to learn how he operates (his kingdom) and to incorporate those godly principles into our lives. Then we can experience God in our lives and develop a lasting trust in him, which in turn gives us more confidence to do more of what he says and how he operates. These experiences of God will increase our perception of His reality. If God becomes more real and ideally as real as earthly things, then God and His ways will become an integral part of our lives.
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