A friend and I were recalling the season many years ago when a popular teaching on faith emerged that promoted a clear cut strategy for getting from God what you wanted. If your heart was set on a bicycle, for instance, you must submit the request complete with the color, size and brand name. This concept is still popular today along with countless other methods to spiritual “success”.
Religion is great at coming up with formulas for just about everything. Prayer, financial blessing, spiritual warfare, getting into God’s presence, miracles, healing, and the list goes on. Many of the methods may have worked in the case of a particular person during a certain season of their life while in the midst of a unique circumstance.
But making any formula or set of formulas a template for life in Christ is like an athlete preparing for a weight lifting contest by drinking baby formula. When I was 8 months old I was able to get my mommy to respond to my need by crying loudly. I could crank it up to screaming level if my expectations were delayed. But if I had tried the same method when I was two, I would have gotten the paddle.
The only thing that “works” is a growing relationship with Him in which we are wholly dependent on his love and grace. Formulas and pat methods apply only to worldly systems and are as incongruous to relationship as a lead basket attached to a hot air balloon. If we choose to lean on them, we’ll only sink further into the mire of self effort in trying to recreate our experiences of yesterday. Our expectations will be rewarded with nothing but the fading glory of what has already become obsolete. But Jesus says, “Come to me…and learn of me.”
Spiritual formulas are a substitute for genuine relationship. As a relationship between two individuals grows deeper, the way they relate to one another changes. Understanding one another’s needs becomes more intuitive. One becomes more focused on pleasing the other rather than on getting what they want for themselves. It’s the same with our side in our relationship with God. He, of course, is all knowing. Jesus said as recorded in Matthew 6:8, “.your heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask.” We know nothing that he has not revealed to us by his Spirit, so our interaction with him is not to discover the secret code that solicits his cooperation, but to learn to understand his ways. As we live out what he reveals to us we grow to know Him more intimately. The way “things are done” changes as well, and will continue to change as we grow in the knowledge of Him.
All of God’s directives to us are aimed toward the goal of knowing him. We cannot stand on a particular experience, doctrine or method or even a cause, or we will frustrate that one purpose of our existence. Our relationship with him is a romance that progresses through courtship, intimacy and the sharing of secrets revealed only to trusted lovers. It continues as an adventure of discovery between us and Him and those of the bridegroom’s friends who have come to savor the anticipation of the unexpected and that which is still to be revealed.
Editors Note: I am so tired of the “send this to 10 other people and your will receive a blessing” emails. I call this junk Christian Santeria (voodoo). Human nature loves works. Religion is the opposite of relationship. The more immature we are the more these things grab our attention. God did not stop creating after 7 days. Its His nature to be New and Fresh every morning! So, if you want to grow up drop the routine and the mundane, the repetitious and ritual, the recipes and the formulas and fall deeper in love with the One who is passionately pursuing you. JLB
By David Fredrickson