When it comes to religion, Christianity, and the Bible, I think most people would say they believe in God. But knowing God involves far more than knowing about Him.
As a young girl, I believed in God and knew about Jesus. My beliefs about God, however, were similar to my beliefs about Santa Claus. I didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, and so as I grew older into my teen years, my perception of God was vague.
I remember one day in my grade six classroom, a supply teacher told a group of nine and ten-year-olds that you must be one hundred percent perfect in order to go to heaven. This idea had been ingrained in me for years, and I knew deep down in my heart that I definitely was not perfect. The misconception of “God only loves those who are perfect” led me to believe that I may as well live my life the way I choose because, in the end, I’d never have been “good enough” for Him. My view of God was strict, angry and task-making; and one who would only make my life more miserable.
Changes took place in my early teen years when I reached a point of rock-bottom. I had gone through a heart-breaking experience which contributed to the development of an eating disorder. I was held captive by the eating disorder until I was 18 years old, and felt worthless, unloved and abandoned by God. There were feelings of emptiness and sadness inside my heart that drew me closer to God, despite my own disbelief in His loving and merciful character.
As I laid in my bathtub one night, I remember crying out to God and asking Him, “If you really are a loving God who cares about me, then why are you allowing me to go through this?” His reply was simple and straight forward, “Because, Sara, I want you to know Who I really am.”
A few months later, I was attending a church where the message of salvation was being taught. I was engaged in what the pastor was saying and knew that there was a need for repentance in my life. About a year later, I felt a huge tug on my spirit to take the next step of obedience by accepting Christ into my life and allowing Him to change me. The experience was not planned or pre-meditated, it was simply an act of faith and belief in God’s Son, Jesus Christ to take away my sin and make me into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The difference between my childhood years vs. my recent years is that I now know God as my personal Lord and Saviour. His name, Jesus, means so much more to me than it did as a young girl. God is not someone I think of as some figurative being, but instead He is my Lord, my Shepard, my Father and my Friend. He is ever present, and I can count on Him to lead me through each of life’s enigmas.
The privilege of knowing God on an intimate level requires daily renewal and constant cultivation. Hebrews 6:7-8 says:
For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
This passage from scripture should encourage believers to continue growing in their faith. These are just some examples that I’ve practiced in my own life which has helped me grow in my faith and where I’ve seen blessings unfold:
- Making a habit of reading, studying and learning how to apply the Bible to our daily lives
- Establishing patterns of prayer: asking for God’s guidance and direction in our day-to-day choices, prayers for one another, prayers of confession and repentance
- Praising God for who He is, what He’s done and what He continues to do in our lives
- Acting on our faith in our communities
- Humbling ourselves and admitting when we have wronged others
Christ should never be just a “concept” we acknowledge in the background. Instead, He should be the One we place above all else, above all things. If He isn’t our first priority, we may need to consider new disciplines to keep our faith flourishing.