How to See God More Clearly
- 2008 14 May
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Christopher L. Heuertz's new book, Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World, (IVP Books, 2008).
God wants it to be simple for us to recognize Him at work in the world. But too often, we complicate our faith, obscuring our view of God.
If you want to see God more clearly, you can gain a better perspective by developing these simple yet profound qualities in your life:
Humility: Getting rid of pride and arrogance in your life and inviting God to humble you will wake you up to the reality of God’s work all around you. Take ownership of your inadequacies, weaknesses, and needs. Acknowledge how much you depend on God’s unconditional love for you, and express your gratitude for it. Get to know people who have endured humiliation – the poor, the sick, the disabled, etc. – and learn from their vulnerability. Serve them, and let them help you see what intimacy with God looks like as He meets their needs through you. Stop trying to limit or control God’s work; accept that God will be God on His terms, not yours. Allow yourself to be made uncomfortable by God’s work in your life, so you can be transformed by it. Remember that humility is the door through which you must enter to be welcomed into God’s presence. Rather than trying to keep God at a safe distance, tell God that you want to surrender to Him completely so that you can come to truly know Him. Don’t waste your time or energy on trying to impress God. Instead, know that it’s enough simply to be yourself before God, and that God sees your humility as a beautiful response to His invitation to intimacy. Remember Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross often, and let His great gift of salvation humble you. Understand that you’re worthy of God’s love only because He has made you so – not because of anything you’ve done – and He will treasure you forever, no matter what.
Community: Independence can blind you to the reality that you need God and other people. Participating in a community helps you discover who you truly are – both the best and the worst of you. It exposes your sin and gives you a place for confession, acceptance, and grace. Realize that you’ll get out of community what you put into it. So fully participate in community with others. Keep in mind that the sense of community in God’s kingdom is different from the messages the word presents about community. Reject the world’s lies: “I am what I have,” “I am what other people say about me,” and “I am what I do.” Instead, embrace the reality that you’re valuable because God has ascribed great worth to you, regardless of what you have, what others say about you, and what you do. Let the truth of God’s unconditional love validate you and free you to enter into healthy relationships with other people whom God loves. Instead of trying to avoid relationships because they can get messy, open your heart to the experiences God wants you to have in community with others. Ask God to help you recognize Him when you encounter people in great need, and to motivate and empower you to reach out to them as He intends. Give generously to others as God lead you to share your time, talents, and money. Rather than just giving from your leftovers, try to give the best of what you have. Instead of just giving handouts, try to empower poor people. As you give, be sure to build genuine relationships with the people you’re seeking to help. Befriend the poor, and learn from them, allowing them to give you wisdom as you give them the resources they need. As you help others, you’ll receive help yourself.
Simplicity: Living in excess tells you lies about what you want and need. But embracing a simple lifestyle helps you see past all that can clutter your life so you can discover God’s grace. Ask God to show you the specific ways your current lifestyle has complicated the faith He intends to be simple. Eliminate everything in your life that’s distracting you from focusing on what God considers most important. Build your priorities around those core values to experience the freedom God wants for you. Don’t make simplicity an end in itself, or it will only lead to legalism. Instead, simplify your life so that you can better pursue what God wants you to pursue – including giving generously to others. Don’t hold back any of your resources (time, energy, money, talents, etc.) from God. Make everything available to use as God calls you to use it to join His work on earth. Loosen your grasp on your hopes and dreams, trusting God to lead you into a better future than you can imagine on your own.
Submission: Whatever control and power you think you have is just an illusion. Recognize that God is ultimately in control of everything, and He alone gives you the power to do whatever you need to do. Resist the urge to assert yourself as God by trying to control your life. Instead, trust God with every part of your life, remembering His great love and kindness. Know that God truly wants the best for you. Let your gratitude for God’s love and your love for Him – not just a sense of obligation – motivate you to submit to His will for your life. Remember that God’s kingdom is a treasure that requires you to submit your life to His control in order to fully experience that treasure. Don’t make the mistake of viewing the resources God has given you as being just for yourself alone. That will perpetuate an unjust balance between you and other people. Instead, realize that God wants you to use your resources for His kingdom work. As you evaluate all God has given you, seek to be fully submitted to His will so you can respond in the very best ways to His calling for you.
Brokenness: Defiance and resistance to God leads to serious spiritual blindness. But when you allow yourself to be broken by the weight of your sin, you can see how much you truly need Jesus. Then, when you come to Him, Jesus will fill the broken pieces of your life with Himself. Recognize your ultimate need for God and leave everything else behind to have your needs met in God. Stop picking through the many kinds of trash that can poison your soul: consumerism, a sense of entitlement, bitterness, gossip, lying, sexual impurity, etc. Instead, recognize all of that as the garbage it is, and pray for the strength to eliminate it from your life so you’ll be free to start living the abundant life God wants for you. As God breaks sinful and destructive things in you, He redeems and restores you. God uses your brokenness to transform you personally, bringing you the healing you need. Then, He calls you into action to serve others, empowering you to transform the broken parts of the fallen world with His love flowing through you. So brokenness, with God, leads to wholeness.
Adapted from Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World, copyright 2008 by Christopher L. Heuertz. Published by IVP Books, a division of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com.
Christopher L. Heuertz is the international executive director of Word Made Flesh, an organization that exists to serve Jesus among the poorest of the world’s poor. Teaching, writing, speaking and pastoring, Christopher’s responsibilities have taken him to nearly 70 countries. He has also lived in Israel, India and Peru.