They invited me to Peoria. But the invitation came with the opportunity to share a new message. How do you convey to women the message of living in the supernatural? How do you invite others to experience and know more of God? How do you adequately convey the wonder and the terror of an intimate connection with the Holy One?
This past year contained a summer of learning for me. And the process brought me to a deeper level of intimacy with God than I’ve ever known. But first I had to travel the rigorous terrain of a long, dark desert.
It began with the invitation to “step out in faith” into a new adventure of following God. It all seemed so exciting as we prayed and dreamed about it, but as the hard realities of personal sacrifice and the fear of the future began to crowd into my nights, turning them into sleepless torture chambers, I began to question. And the road of doubt always leads you far from the heart of God.
Embracing the terrors birthed by doubt in the black of night, takes you far from the presence of your Savior.
The deepest lessons are best learned in the crucible of affliction. Not “best” in the sense that those lessons couldn’t be realized in the academic or theological sense, but “best” in the sense that affliction brings one to places of surrender that are defining moments. And surrender is where learning moves from the doctrinal “knowing” to the sacrificial fires of devotional living.
What do I know of intimacy with God?
I have much more to learn, because if you’d asked me that same question this time last year, my answer may have been filled with theological accuracy (to some extent), but would not have contained the element of understanding that comes with true surrender. And so, although I suspect I’ve deepened this year in my understanding of how to answer that question . . . I know I still have much to learn.
At this point, I would answer that question with three words:
Love begins with the truth that: We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We understand love only by God’s definition and demonstration of it: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). And love requires something. It requires our obedience as a response.
Jesus clearly articulated the proof of love when He said:
“If you love Me, you will keep My commands” (John 14:15)
But obedience can be hard. It can be uncomfortable. It can seem impossible. It may bring us to the brink of rebellion. Obedience that requires painful sacrifice can cause us to doubt God’s love, doubt His goodness, doubt His character . . . and sometimes even doubt His existence. And when you reach that point, the darkness is stifling and demonic.
At the point of that kind of crisis of faith, your allegiance will be tested and proved. You will either surrender or rebel. Surrender while in the crucible of pain determines that there is nothing greater to live for than God’s glory.
Intimacy with God hinges on this important point:
If I am truly committed to God’s glory—no matter what—then I will fully embrace every affliction He appoints for me.
Job learned that. Joseph, enduring an unjust prison sentence, learned that. Mary, surrendering to a supernatural pregnancy which contained a heart-piercing sword, understood that.
Do you want to experience intimacy with God? It isn’t a question to take lightly. It is a road filled with deep joy, but most often includes a journey through deep pain. Most likely it will include personal sacrifice. But I agree, and shout with David, the man who knew God’s heart:
[box]One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple.
For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock (Psalm 27:4–5).[/box]
There is no greater intimacy than being hidden by God in that “secret place.” But that secret place was reached by David in the midst of enemies at his heels, facing the possibility of brutal torture or death. That kind of intimacy would not have been gained without the appointed affliction. But David would not have traded the affliction in God’s presence for physical comfort outside of God’s presence.
Are you ready for intimacy with God?
Will you pray for me this weekend as I speak to the women of Bethany Baptist about developing an intimate relationship with Christ? Will you ask God to meet with us and give us understanding?
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