[Drawing near to God]
Adding an exclamation mark to the title of this post was an afterthought, but I’m excited about this new series (Faith Mapped). Parents applaud and celebrate all of their child’s firsts: their first steps; their first word, and every sturdy new step they take throughout their life. I believe God, and Heaven must also rejoice then, as we draw near to Jesus–taking our very first baby steps of faith.
That being said, every journey begins with a starting point, and has an end goal. The first step of faith is to address what we believe, but I wasn’t always actively seeking God. Before He called me by name, He was the furthest things from my mind (Isaiah 43:1-2). He–on the other hand–was pursuing me. (More on that in a bit).
“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” –John 10:3
So, maybe I originally thought that faith was an instantaneous thing: you say yes to God and it’s a done deal, right? (Hmm…nope). I was wrong on that point. (Philippians 3:12-14). I continue to find that I’m wrong about a lot of things, but this too is part of that ongoing pilgrimage. So we press on towards the goal.
“And 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.” –Hebrews 11:1
It was at the age of twenty–when I started dating a Catholic fellow– that what I believed about God and religion began to be challenged. This Catholic fellow wasn’t the man that I’d marry, and Catholicism itself isn’t the path I took to God (that is to say that I’m not Catholic), but that part of the journey was a stepping stone for me (both towards the man that I would marry and also my faith in God).
Dating a Catholic reintroduced me to wrapping my mind around the idea of God, and it was while we were dating that I began to question the things in my heart–even praying one night, “God, if you’re real please make yourself real to me.” (I’ll explain what I meant by dating him “reintroduced” me to the idea of God in the next post of this series).
Looking back at that verse about it being impossible to please God without faith, might make one wonder why He would ever answer a doubtful prayer like mine. After all, I didn’t have faith. I wasn’t even sure of His existence! How could a prayer like that ever please Him? However, He did answer that prayer.
In the 23 years I’ve been walking by faith, I’ve learned that while faith may first start with a seed, that seed can take some time to germinate before it begins to take root and starts to grow. It also needs help to grow. How then could God ever deny a prayer like the one I prayed? Only His help would do, and only His help could make me a believer. I could never have taken my first steps if God hadn’t first loved me, for on my own accord I had no intention of doing so. It was God Himself that drew me to Jesus.
“No one can come to me [Jesus] unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. –John 6:44
Even before my eyes had met the words written in Scripture: “help me to believe more” or “help my unbelief,” I was unknowingly uttering this very sentiment myself. I didn’t realize that I was drawing closer to God, but even in that prayer, I was beginning to seek the truth. I’ve learned, with time, that God honors even the smallest of steps towards Him. This is what He wants. It isn’t what we can do for Him that He wants. (We can give Him nothing) It’s what He can do in us and through us that He desires, but every strong relationship (including a relationship with God) requires a good measure of both giving and receiving, so faith requires forward movement.
“Come near to God and He will come near to you.” –James 4:8