Above All Else
The 14-Day Nutella Challenge
I once had a friend who was an atheist. He was also as smart as a whip. Having completed a master’s degree at a prestigious university, he could easily go toe to toe with just about anyone in cleverly giving proof of God’s nonexistence. From an intellectual point of view, I knew I was no match for him. In fact, we never engaged on this level.
One time, however, he brought up the subject of God. He asked how I could believe in something so nonsensical as a God I couldn’t hear or see. So I posed the following question to him: “Can you explain your relationship with your mom to me?”
He shot me a look of bewilderment. “What do you mean?” he asked.
“Your relationship with your mom. How would you describe it to me?” Silence. I continued. “I can’t explain my relationship with my mom to you; however, it exists. We talk; we laugh; we love. The relationship exists, but how can I describe something so intangible? I can only experience it. That’s why I believe in God, because I experience Him. I see Him moving in my life. I talk to Him, and He answers. It’s less of something that I can explain and more of something that I experience.”
So now the question is posed to you: How can you possibly believe in God? What proof do you have to support your belief in God?
The proof is in your relationship with Him.
Are you experiencing God in such a way that you are assured of His existence? Are you experiencing a God who answers when you call? A God who gets involved in your story? Whatever your answer may be, I would like to invite you to go a little deeper with God. Experience a God who is active and eager to answer when you call. Experience a God who loves to get involved in the human story.
The Journey: Sharpening Our God Gauge
Christianity is a journey. There are no couch-potato Christians. Take any football player at the end of the game with a clean jersey and pristine cleats, and you can conclude that he’s been sitting on the bench for the entire game. The same is true in our Christian walk. Christianity is a contact sport. It requires that we get involved and get dirty. It involves a God who is actively involved in our lives. We do not serve a god of wood or stone who doesn’t answer when we call. The most exciting thing about Christianity is that we serve a God who loves to get involved in the human story!
Far too often our spiritual growth is stalled because we are unable, unwilling, or unaware of how to hear God’s voice. Our ability to perceive God moving in our lives has become dull. And sometimes, at some point along the way, we begin to doubt that God actually gets involved in the human story. And more than anything else, this is what we want. We want God to show up and be real and apparent. When hardship and destruction come, we want clarity and a solution. We want to see a manifestation of God. We want to know that our God is as real as our pain.
Our God gauge is off, and sharpening this ability—learning to tune in—will take us to the next level in our relationship with God.
Speak, Lord; I’m Listening
Not so long ago I shared a story with a friend about a plane ride I had taken. As I sat in the middle seat of my row, I felt impressed that the woman sitting next to me was a Seventh-day Adventist. Over the course of the trip, during my conversation with her, the impression was confirmed. While I recounted this story, my friend interjected, “How did you hear God’s voice?” I paused and thought of how to answer that question. And again today I ponder that question. How can we hear God’s voice? How can we rest assured that God gets involved in the human story? For many of us, if we could receive confirmation of this, we would experience an immediate growth spurt in our spiritual lives.
In order to hear God’s voice and experience Him moving in our lives, we must first believe that God exists and recognize that He is the God of the universe. Hebrews 11:6 says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists, and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” It is important that we first acknowledge that God exists and recognize who He is.
Next, we must clearly understand that God actively gets involved in the human story. Even when it seems that He’s somewhere offstage, He’s still a character in the story. Psalm 66 gives us assurance of this. In fact, Psalm 66:5, 16 invite us by saying: “Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind!” “Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.” The psalmist speaks with assurance throughout this chapter about the awesome works of God’s hands.
In this concept we see two levels of responsibility. If you have not yet experienced God’s movement in your life and you want to go deeper with God, it is your responsibility to read the Bible to see and understand how God has moved in the past. Spend time with Christians, those with strong spiritual experiences, who can share with you how their relationship with God has impacted their lives. If, on the other hand, you are a mature Christian, it is your responsibility to be open and expressive about how God has moved in your life, because in doing so, your experience will give evidence to those around you. The proof of God’s existence is in your relationship with Him.
Finally, we must trust that God will answer us when we call. If there is one assurance we have in God’s Word, it is that He will respond to our prayers. The Bible is replete with assurances that God will listen and answer: “Call to me and I will answer you” (Jer. 33:3). “He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him” (Ps. 91:15). “Before they call I will answer; and while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isa. 65:24).
God already knows the desires of your heart, but He wants to hear from you.
How to Experience God Moving in Our Lives
Sometimes even seasoned prayer warriors find themselves at a standstill when it comes to understanding God’s moving and leading in their lives. Trying to discern God’s action (and inaction) sometimes sends longtime Christians into a tailspin in their relationship with God. And often enough, it’s most difficult to understand God’s movement in our lives because of our emotional involvement in the situation.
Understanding God’s movement in our lives may require a drastic change in perspective. Reading a book with the page pressed against your nose permits you to see only one or two words on the page. However, when you adjust the book to arm’s length, you can see much more and read so much better.
Our walk with God is the same. Obsession with one moment of one day of one week in one month of life’s experience is like demanding full beauty from a single thread in the vast tapestry of our lives. By contrast, Psalm 37:4 invites us to “delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This formula involves two jobs: delighting ourselves in the Lord (the easier of the two) and experiencing our heart’s desires (the harder one). But the harder one is God’s business.
So tell God what you desire. Reveal your plans, dreams, and goals to Him. Be spiritually vulnerable before Him. And focus on doing your job, which is delighting yourself in Him.
The Nutella Challenge
“How do I do that?” you ask me. Think of a few of your favorite things—football, chocolate, your cat, your children. Whatever it is that brings a smile to your face, think of it right now. Put a picture of it in front of you. Revel in the joy and happiness it brings you. Delight in the way it gently tugs at the corners of your mouth until you break into a smile. Now think of Jesus. Imagine your relationship with Him. Does it bring you the same joy? Changing our perspective is about learning how to delight in the Lord. It’s about taking our eyes off our desires and fixing our eyes upon the Lord, just as Peter had to do as he was walking on water toward Jesus (Matt. 14:22-33). God already knows the desires of your heart, but He wants to hear from you. Tell them to God, and then focus on enjoying your relationship with Him as much as you enjoy your favorite things. This is your 14-day Nutella challenge.
I call it that because I first posed this challenge to a friend, whose number one delight in life is Nutella. For the next 14 days, let God be your magnificent obsession. Focus on delighting yourself in God. Don’t selfishly ask Him for anything during this time; just spend the time with Him, getting to know Him and enjoying His presence. Read the Gospels. Put yourself in the story and imagine how you would react. Delve into Psalms and spend time praising God for who He is. I guarantee you will begin to see and perceive God’s movement in your life. You will experience a God who is actively involved in your story.
Implications for the Church at Large
Our 14-day Nutella challenge may seem to be an individual matter. But it could have a serious positive impact on corporate spiritual growth. It all comes down to Philippians 2:3, 4, which says: “Value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” Delighting yourself in your relationship with God frees up your mind from selfish preoccupations. You learn to “not be anxious about anything” (Phil. 4:6). The energy used to pray for yourself and your own needs can now turn toward the needs of others. This allows us to channel the same fervency to stand in the gap for those around us—to approach God in prayer on their behalf. When we are assured that God is concerned about us, will act on our behalf, speak to our hearts, and move in our lives, we can confidently speak to Him on behalf of others. This is one of Christianity’s most exciting, spiritually revolutionizing aspects.
If you find yourself questioning that God will actually get involved in your story, just check out the fire of His passion for you in Psalm 18:6-14. Read it now! Experience a God who sees you as “the apple of his eye” (Deut. 32:10) and who longs for you to prove His existence through your relationship with Him. He longs for you to hear Him when He whispers your name. He longs for you to recognize His movement in your life as evidence of His love.
Your God is deeply involved in the human story. Contrary to all our low expectations of Him, He’s committed to doing exceeding abundantly more than what we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20, 21). Truly delight yourself in your relationship with Him, and you will hear and experience God as you never have before.