As part of one of the university courses I took last year, I had to write a position paper on a highly publicized court case that was under way. Before researching for the paper, I had a very clear picture in my mind of my thesis and the direction that the paper would take. However, when I started researching and looking at facts that hadn’t been filtered by the media, I was forced to take a drastic change in direction. What I thought was a clear-cut case wasn’t so clear after all, and in the end I rewrote my thesis to accommodate for what I had come to know the truth was. Even though I found this intrusion annoying and time consuming, in my life this is a frequent occurrence.
Many days, I like to think that I have God all figured out, only to find that my thesis of Him needs massive readjustments. I can spend years of my life limiting God to one perspective, but He is far too big to be held to that. He is also much too majestic for me to count on secondhand perspectives to shape my own.
In reality, it can be so easy to become complacent and allow our relationship with God to be based on someone else’s view of Him. We listen to sermons, attend Bible studies and read books, and while these things are good in their place, we should never let someone else’s opinion be the sole factor in influencing our perception of who God is. That would be the equivalent of basing the perception we have of our parents on what our neighbors think of them. Not a very clear or personal perception at all.
So if going straight to the source is obviously the best way to establish both our relationship with God and our perception of Him, then why do we so often become satisfied with other sources alone? A friend and I were discussing this question recently, and we came to the conclusion that it’s because we don’t like the struggle that comes with figuring it out on our own. Since childhood, many of us have been fed prepackaged views on God, as presented on a felt board, so why mess with something so safe and clean? After all, whatever worked for the generation before us should work for you and me, right? Wrong.
Am I suggesting that the messages taught to us on Sundays and Wednesdays are inaccurate or outdated? In most cases, no. What was true when Jesus walked the earth is still truth today. What I am saying is that in order to mature in our faith, you and I need to work out for ourselves why we believe what we believe.
There is so much more to a relationship with God than what comes clean, easy and passed down. In fact, dare I say that the best times of spiritual growth come through the messy struggles of faith—the times when we question and the times when we search to find the answers for ourselves. It’s also during those times that our faith becomes a very real and personal thing.
In 1 Chronicles 28 King David is recorded as saying: “And Solomon, my son, get to know the God of your ancestors. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and with a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and understands and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him.” David didn’t say read up on my experiences with God or memorize the books of the law. He said get to know the God of your ancestors, and David gave the promise that if we seek God out, we will find Him. As Christians, we need to make sure that we don’t overlook seeking God because it is an essential part of the Christian walk. Hand-me-downs or secondhand experiences aren’t going to change us and help us grow, but face-to-face encounters with our Savior will.
It’s time that we started to shake things up a bit and stop being afraid of what comes as a result. After all, there is nothing clean or easy about what happened on Calvary, so how can we expect our faith based on that event to be?