Seeking and Knowing God
The rainbow is a sure sign that God is there.
But how do we find Him? And how can we really know Him?
The good news is that God is looking for people who are seeking God
The LORD looks down from heaven … to see if there are any who understand, who seek GodPsalm 14:2
What a humbling challenge to attempt to “know” and “understand” God – the invisible, eternal author of all creation, full of righteousness, wisdom and might! Yet God wants man to try!
1. Identifying ‘God’
First, what is the nature of our ‘God’? Who (or what) are we looking for? Recall that, in Islam, god is unknowable and impersonal, link. In contrast, the Bible claims that there is really only one God – the God of Israel (Exodus 5:1) – and that God has the attributes of a ‘person’ i.e. God is knowable:
The LORD (Heb: YHWH) Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. There is none besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other (Deuteronomy 4:39, Isaiah 45:6)
You have established your people Israel as your very own people forever (2 Samuel 7:24)
Let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me (Jeremiah 9:24)
Secondly, the Bible claims that, in this New Testament age, there is only one way to find God. Jesus (who claimed Deity as the Son of God, rose from the dead, is alive, and is coming back to earth), said:
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father (the one true God) except through MeJohn 14:6
If you have not yet asked Jesus to lead you to God, then please see coming to Christ. But if you have already made this step, then please read on.
2. Getting to know God
The media today causes many to be concerned about their appearance and their health. But some might ask “What is the purpose of keeping the body going if we neglect the soul? The body won’t last forever and the Bible claims that the soul goes on after death!”
Question: If you are a believer in Jesus Christ and accept Him as your Lord and Saviour, then you have eternal life (John 3:16). Your life goes on beyond death. But what is the purpose of eternal life? Here’s the answer:
This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord … increasing in the knowledge of GodJohn 17:3, and Colossians 1:10, emphasis added
We can learn about God, and be accepted by God through the words and work of Jesus. But, clearly, this is not the same as knowing God!
So how do we really get to know someone? We seek them out and spend time with them. We converse with them. We learn to trust what they say and to rely upon them. In time we feel able to pour our heart out to them, and to listen to their heart and what they want and need. In time we learn to love them, help them and simply want to be with them.
We are not the only one’s doing the seeking! It is two-way. God wants us to seek Him, whilst He seeks out people to worship Him. Jesus said:
… the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipersJohn 4:23
This verse implies that God wants a dialogue with man. Recall, Abraham was called “the friend of God” (James 2:23), and Jesus calls us His friends if we keep His commandments (John 15:14). Friends interact and converse!
Here are some psalms describing the interaction between individuals and their God:
God to Man: Psalm 14:2 – 17:3 – 18:20 – 32:8 – 33:13,15 – 34:15,17 – 37:23 – 40:1,2 – 41:3 – 53:2 – 66:10
Man to God: Psalm 14:2 – 18:3,6 – 25:4,5 – 34:4,17 – 37:3 – 40:1
It seems David the psalmist had got the point about seeking God:
O God, You are my God; I shall seek You early; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh yearns for You …Psalm 63:1 , Psalm 42:1
As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God
Question: So how many believers really seek God in this sense? Do we take time out from busy lives to spend time with Him – that is – spend hours at a time with Him? Do we want to spend time with Him? Does our inner being ‘pant’ and ‘thirst’ for God; have we cried through the night searching for Him (Psalm 42:1-3)? Do we rise early and seek Him like David?
Surveys showed that the typical Protestant Pastor spends 5 hours/week in prayer (and 6 hours/week watching TV) [christiantoday.com, 2009], but only 30% of evangelicals set aside a substantial period of time each day to pray [christiantoday.com, 2014].
The Role of the Holy Spirit
A believer and follower of Jesus Christ is promised the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. So they are not alone; they have supernatural help.
the Helper is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him; but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you.John 14:17
This is perhaps the deepest mystery of the Christian faith. We are told we can know the Holy Spirit sent from God, – God’s chosen way of us knowing Him and His Son. And it is through His Spirit that we hear His voice (John 10:27) and can learn transcendent truths about life, as in
- the origin of man (creation, not Darwinian evolution)
- the purpose of God’s chosen people, Israel
- the underlying reason for the persecution of Christians
- the world events unfolding as we approach the end of the age
- the future of life on earth
3. The Danger of not Seeking God
False Christianity leads to the scariest verse in the Bible!
Does God know us? Certainly God knew the prophet Jeremiah before he was born. And Psalm 139 suggests that God knows each of us before we are born:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you (Jeremiah 1:5) … You covered me in my mother’s womb … Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed (Psalm 139:13,16)
But, as in the time of Jesus, today there are those who claim to serve God (false prophets with signs and wonders) and yet they don’t really know Him. They think they are doing God’s will, but in reality they are not (Matthew 7:21-22). This false Christianity leads to what some say is the scariest verse in the Bible: to those false prophets, Jesus said:
And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; leave Me, you who practice lawlessness.’Matthew 7:23 (emphasis added)
In the same discussion with His followers, Jesus states what we should be practicing! We should aim to know, and then do, God’s will (Matthew 7:21). As the apostle Paul says, its not what we hear, but what we do that justifies us in the sight of God (Romans 2:13).
So what must man do? We must love God and His son, Jesus, and so keep His commandments (John 14:21,23). The most important biblical commandment was first given to the Israelites and was again given to the scribes of Christ’s day:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment (Mark 12:30)
And the second is like this: You shall love your neighbour as yourself (Mark 12:31)
Verse 30 refers to the depth of our being (our soul), to our mind (our understanding), and to our endurance and zeal, despite our circumstances.
4. Seeking God is Essential for our Well-being
Seeking is not an optional extra. It is actually a command to believers:
Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is nearIsaiah 55:6
And when we do this we will be blessed, and we will find Him:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness …Matthew 5:6,7
Seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you
This is well illustrated in the life of King Asa of Judah; He did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God (2 Chron 14:2). He told Judah:
Because we have sought the LORD our God …. He has given us rest on every side2 Chronicles 14:7
The result? The land prospered. But then Ethiopia attacked Judah with one million men. With army facing army, Asa cried out to the God he knew and said:
LORD, it is nothing for You to help … we rest on You … in Your name we go against this multitude2 Chronicles 14:11
Result? The Ethiopians fled. In 2 Chronicles 15 we see that Asa was encouraged by the prophet Azariah, who said to him:
The LORD is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you2 Chron 15:2
Isn’t this an encouraging promise to us today?
5. Seeking God is Essential for Church Revival
- Why do we see low and generally declining church attendance? In the UK weekly church attendance over 2008-2017 was just 8% [Pew Research Center], and Church of England attendance more than halved over 1930-2007 [christian-research.org]
- Why does the church often seem weak and powerless in the sense that few people are ‘born again’ and few people are healed?
- Why does the church keep a low profile on ethical issues of national importance, as in abortion?
- Why are church prayer meetings often poorly attended?
Of course these are generalisations and there are exceptions; God is working in some churches and some churches are growing. But generally, at least in the UK, there is a major problem with the church. Why?
Answer: One reason churches decline is because they are not ‘moving in the Spirit’ in the Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 12 sense. And, like the church at Ephesus, they are often full of ‘good works’ but have ‘left their first love’ – their zeal and love for God (Rev 2:1-7). Does today’s church readily ‘seek the Lord and praise Him’ (Psalm 22:26)? How many in today’s church say:
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 lifePsalsm 27:4
Pray that God will move upon individuals to seek God and cry out to Him for an out-pouring of His Spirit to revive the church. Pray that preaching will bring conviction and changed lives. Pray that individuals will be ‘filled with the Spirit’ and so speak and pray with boldness:
Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord )Ephesians 5:18-19
God moved in the Past: In 1949, on the Hebridean island of Lewis, two old women were greatly burdened because of the appalling state of their parish. Not a single young man or young woman went to the church. They spent their day perhaps reading or walking but the church was left out of the picture. These two women were greatly concerned and made it a special matter of prayer. A verse gripped them:
I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry groundIsaiah 44:3
The results of their seeking were astonishing! See the videos:
6. Seeking God is Essential for a Nation
King Asa gathered all Judah together at Jerusalem, where
… they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul … and He was found by them and the LORD gave them rest all around2 Chron 15:12-15
As the people sought God, the nation was protected by Him. The LORD said the same to Solomon:
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land2 Chronicles 7:14
But later King Asa left his reliance on the LORD and made a treaty with his enemies to appease them (2 Chronicles 16). This was a mistake, and one of Judah’s prophets came to him and warned:
You have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied upon the LORD your God … in this you have done foolishly; therefore, from now on you shall have wars”2 Chronicles 16:7-9
When Israel (the northern kingdom) was in moral decline, with the upper classes doing well at the expense of the poor, God sent the prophet Hosea to warn them:
It is time to seek the Lord until He comes to rain righteousness on youHosea 10:12
Question: Does this apply to Britain today – a nation which has left her reliance upon God and, at least up to 2021, relied upon her own strength and treaties with the EU? Will God heal the land even if just a remnant (a Christian minority) humble themselves and pray and seek His mercy for the sinful state in which we find ourselves – widespread teenage promiscuity, promotion of abortion, social and family breakdown, promotion of homosexuality, gay marriage, promotion of other faiths, intolerance of biblical teaching, corrupt leaders, a weak liberal church …?
Remember, God watches nations (Jeremiah 18:7-10). See Is Britain being judged?
7. How others were Seeking God
Jesus Christ never taught His disciples how to preach, but only how to prayD. L. Moody
Our best model is of course Jesus. Usually He wanted to be alone when He spent time with His Father in prayer, and that should be our model too:
“He went off to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12)
Do we feel the need to spend long periods of time alone in prayer to our Father in heaven? What would happen if we did? If we live to be 70 years old, we will have lived over 25,000 days. Surely we can spend some of these seeking God?
Martin Luther was quoted as saying, “If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.”
John & Charles Wesley and George Whitefield were present at the beginning of Evangelical Revival. “It was a Pentecostal season indeed” said Whitefield. Sometimes whole nights were spent in prayer. John Wesley would rise up at 4 am every day to seek God for the first four hours of the day. In his later years Wesley was known to spend up to 8 hours in prayer. Wesley once said: “God does nothing except in response to believing prayer”. Subsequently around 25% of the population gave their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ.
John Nelson was a contemporary of John Wesley and was one of the foremost pioneer circuit pastors of early Methodism in England. He once said: ‘If you spend several hours in prayer daily, you will see great things’. John made a rule to rise from bed about twelve midnight and sit up till two for prayer and converse with God. Then he slept till four, at which time he always rose.
Charles Finney, a preacher in the 1850’s with amazing gifting, ‘struggled and groaned and agonised’ before God for the lost. One day he proposed that people around him should pray in private for revival at sunrise, at noon, and at sunset for one week. No other means was used. The Spirit was poured out and before the week ended all the meetings were packed!
David Brainerd yearned in the 1740’s for the salvation of Native Americans scattered along the colonial trails and farther west. He said: ‘I wrestled for my friends, for the ingathering of souls, for multitudes of poor souls, and for many that I thought were children of God. I was in such agony from sun half an hour high, till near dark, that I was all wet with sweat’.
John Smith was among the earliest gospel preachers in Oregon. It is said that ‘Where the result that he desired did not attend his own ministry, he would spend days and nights almost constantly on his knees, weeping and pleading before God – travailing for precious souls till he saw Christ magnified in their salvation’. Someone said ‘I have seen him come downstairs in the morning after spending several hours in prayer, with his eyes swollen with weeping’.
Evan Roberts received an overwhelming burden for the soul of his nation – Wales. After seeking God 13 years for revival, he prayed: “Lord, the altar is built, the sacrifice is laid upon. We await the fire from heaven to ignite the flames of revival.” During the Spring of 1904 he was repeatedly awakened at 1:00 am and he met with God in prayer until 5:00 am. He began asking God for 100,000 people to be saved. Subsequently, during the 1904-05 Welsh Revival, over 150,000 people were converted and added to churches and chapels in Wales. “You must put yourself entirely at the Holy Spirit’s disposal” he once said.
Point to Ponder
As a believer, do you feel you know (understand) God more than a few years ago? Have you ‘grown’? Steps of faith in God help us to know God more. And knowing and hearing God more should drive us on to serve Him more!
So to seek and thirst for God means many things: it means a determined, diligent searching for Him at the expense of other activities. It means wrestling and struggling and groaning, perhaps with tears, for those outside the Kingdom or who are in great need. It means learning to hear the Spirit speaking.
In practice many of us cannot achieve or are not called to such a deep, time-consuming, intercessory prayer life; we may be called to other ministries. But God still wants us all to deepen our knowledge of Him, as in John 17:3. Otherwise, the preaching, study, plans and schemes of the church will be largely ineffective. In the words of Rev. David Stoner,
“Study, books, eloquence and fine sermons are all nothing without prayer”