Whether you’re a mature believer or have responded to His invitation for the very first time, we all share the desire for a deeper spiritual connection with God. In this article, Sue Donaldson shares a few key basics for developing intimacy with God—basics that will help us know and love God better, no matter where we find ourselves on our own faith journey.
My phone pinged and I saw my neighbor, Julie, who had recently attended a girls-night-in gathering at my home had texted: “Sue, although I was brought up with no religion at all, I’ve always felt God was there. Despite any formal training, I just always knew. I’m just not sure how to incorporate it more into my life. I could use a lot more God in my life right now.”
“Come for coffee?” I wrote back.
TAKE TIME TO RSVP
You may have received an invitation to know God at one time or another, but never thought it was for you. Or, like Julie, maybe you felt Him inviting you closer but weren’t sure how to go about connecting more with Him.
John wrote, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4, CSB). How do I enter into life with God? Through His Son, Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
As Julie and I chatted over coffee I explained to her that God already knows we need Him, but there’s a big problem. He’s holy; we’re not. That means no matter how good our good is, we’re not good enough to sit down at the table with a perfect God. Man’s religions teach that we can do something to reach God—to bridge this gap—through our own efforts. But God loves us so much, He took this impossible burden of trying to be ‘good enough’ off us when He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross.
A prayer of faith
One sunny spring day was no different from any other, except for this heavenly event. Julie RSVP’d to God’s invitation to know Him as she prayed this prayer.
I believe You sent Jesus to live and die for me. I know I’m more sinful than I’ve ever believed but more loved than I’ve ever deserved. Please forgive me of my sins. I place my trust in Jesus and my life in Your hands. Let the celebration begin! Amen.”
After Julie prayed, she was anxious to get started in her newfound faith and grow in her intimacy with God. Whether a long-time member of His family who is feeling listless in their walk with God or a brand-new addition like my sweet neighbor, these basics for developing intimacy with God remain constant: Scripture, community, service, and prayer. Whenever I feel dry or disconnected in my walk with God, I need to check His mini-manual and see where I’ve stopped going back to the basics—basics that help me know and love God better and deeper.
“Don’t I need to be good and serve God?” Julie asked not long after praying to receive Jesus. “Absolutely,” I assured her. “But we need to take time to know God better through His love letter to us. The Bible will show us how.”
God’s Word is my compass, my standard, and my comfort. If I want to know how to make daily decisions that honor Him and bless others, I go to Scripture.
Here’s why: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NLT).
god’s word guides us
Like the voice commands in Google Maps, the Word reroutes me when I’m heading in the wrong direction. I may get tired of hearing that voice, especially if I’m convinced that my way is right. But if I’m smart, I pay attention and get back on track as soon as possible.
The Bible is a “lamp to my feet” (Psalm 119:105). It’s also a lens and grid through which we can view our circumstances.
god’s word helps us see
While I was single in my 30s, a former boyfriend called me to tell me he was getting married. By this time, I didn’t want to marry him. But there was no one else on the horizon. I felt betrayed by God and cried myself through the Psalms most of the night.
The next day I still felt terrible. But I realized God’s Word was working as a lens and grid in two ways. First, I knew God hadn’t betrayed me because Scripture—and the song—says: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” He loves; He doesn’t betray. Secondly, even though I felt weak and not up to the challenge before me, God’s Word says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
I experience negative emotions—loneliness, grief, anxiety. But choosing to view my circumstances through the lens of His character and to lay the grid of God’s Word over my feelings provides hope and nurtures faith.
god’s word helps us know him more
I couldn’t wait to show Julie all she could find in Scripture. So I gave her a contemporary version of the Bible, and we downloaded the YouVersion app on her phone. I showed her how to choose different translations, as well as the option to listen to passages while walking or doing chores around the house.
Taking time for Scripture is my lifeline for growing in intimacy with God. And it will be Julie’s as well. So is time spent with other believers.
I don’t go to church to leave the world behind; I go so that I can learn how to live godly in an ungodly world. A healthy fellowship not only teaches the Bible but also cultivates a loving community and cares for the un-churched.
Paul said that believers are all a part of one body. And we need all our body parts to keep it running and healthy. When I get a hangnail, I feel it (and so does everyone around me!) When a Christian is hurting in the church, I can feel his or her pain as I draw up alongside to comfort, strengthen, and encourage.
I need people on my balcony, cheering me on when my faith flags and providing that occasional swift kick to remind me who God is. I need people to remind me that trust trumps worry and that dependence is my superpower, not my weakness.
A commitment to Togetherness
Ecclesiastes reminds us that falling down isn’t the worst thing that could happen. What’s tragic is when we fall down and no one notices. “Two are better than one…for if they fall, one will lift up his fellow…woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
In church we worship together, weep and laugh together, and draw our hearts and minds to the truths of God’s Word. And, so when we fall, we don’t fall alone.
Recently our church baptized four college kids in a tub full of less-than-warm water. Last week an elderly saint went to be with Jesus, and we signed up for meals and bathed his widow in prayer and hugs. This weekend, our women will gather to mentor one another, and Julie is coming with me.
My church is my extended forever family, with the doors wide open for those seeking a forever relationship with God.
I wasn’t raised to be a pew-sitter—someone who only takes from church and doesn’t give back. I watched my folks serve friends and strangers. And I learned early on that there is much joy in serving, especially alongside other believers.
I met some ladies in Georgia who make cinnamon rolls—by the hundreds—and they have a blast. It all started with one mixer and one baker. Now every Monday night, their church kitchen whirrs with the sound of laughter and mixers as bakers make cinnamon rolls for the newcomers, the poor, the high school football team and their coaches—whoever needs to know that God sees them and that they are greatly loved. That’s service with a smile and a rolling pin, and it’s a joy to behold.
We don’t serve God to earn our salvation but from a response to the magnitude of “so great a salvation” (Hebrews 2:3). Gratitude, not guilt, is our motivation.
My biggest unused resource is prayer. In Colossians 2:2-3, Paul wrote that Christ is our treasure of wisdom and knowledge. Sometimes, I just forget to delve into that treasure.
Oswald Chambers wrote: “Get into the habit of dealing with God about everything…pray to your Father in secret, and every public thing will be stamped with the presence of God.”
I was worrying over something the other day. Just because our daughters are out of diapers, doesn’t mean I worry any less. And when you have girls, it means you also worry about boys. It dawned on me that I was not accessing this most basic gift from God: talking to my heavenly Father. I didn’t know what to do, but He did—so I prayed, and just like He promises, His presence brought the peace I needed.
How many times have I stewed and worried and fretted and yelled and cried out loud, but not cried out loud to God? Too many to count.
keep practicing the basics of intimacy with god
All of us need reminders to never leave off practicing the basics of intimacy with God–including me. At any stage, we need His manual and companionship. We start by RSVPing to His invitation.
Julie is on her way. She just texted: “I have felt so much peace since you explained that I was specifically made by God with purpose and He is always with me in darkness and in light. I have so much more to learn, but I’m already feeling lighter. Thank you for sharing the Word of God.”
How have the basics Sue mentioned—Scripture, community, service, and prayer—encouraged you in our own faith journey? How could you share this mini-manual for intimacy with God with those in your sphere of influence who have RSVP’d to God’s invitation for perhaps the first time?
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Such rich, important words, Sue! I am a loner by nature, so this hit me hard, “I need people to remind me that trust trumps worry and that dependence is my superpower, not my weakness.” Thank you for the encouragement to reach outside my comfort zone to grasp all that God has for me.
You are not alone in your safety in one number, alone. Half the population?? We don’t need 12, maybe just 1. To reach all God has for me is a beautiful statement and for some reason I see it as a risk. I’ll learn someday. Thanks, Lori.
You are fast becoming my favorite red-headed theologian! And your cinnamon roll ladies have inspired me to try something similar—maybe cookies? — with my ladies!
I wanna hear about those cookie deliveries! Usually a redhead. Fading with time.
Well done, good and faithful servant. You are a multiplier of Christ and inspiration. This is a comprehensive recap for newbies and a thought-provoking sanity check for mature believers.
I’m rarely called sane, and I need the recollection as well as any.
Thank you for your kind words.