Among the many important aspects of life, I find that my relationships are one that I hold most near to my heart. I’m grateful that my role here at Veritas is to pursue and build relationships with others and help them to do the same. In fact, one of our staff values here at Veritas is to be “radically relational.” We place a high value on being relationally connected to one another.
By the grace of God, I am grateful to have had and continue to maintain a number of close relationships that span from childhood to present, across various career paths, cities and even other countries. What I have found to be imperative in the maintenance of these relationships is having intentional time together, creating the space to know what’s going on in each other’s lives and staying in communication despite seasons of life and time zones.
In ways, the same principles apply in how we approach our relationship with God. It may be a stretch to make a side by side comparison of the similarities a relationship with a friend can have with our relationship with God, yet I believe there are similar principles that apply to creating and maintaining a close relationship with the Lord. And if we are honest, as a Christ follower, we can sometimes feel at a loss of how we are to practically start or continue in close relationship with the Lord.
The term abide comes to mind when thinking about our relationship with Christ and remaining relationally close to one another. We see this term abide throughout various parts of scripture–specifically nine times in the Old Testament and forty-four times in the New Testament. Maybe the most familiar passage is found in John 15 as Jesus describes himself as “the True Vine” that we are to remain in or abide in as a branch on that vine.
The dictionary defines the term abide as “to remain; continue and stay.” A second definition is, “to have one’s abode; dwell; reside.” Lastly, a third definition mentions, “to continue in a particular condition, attitude or relationship–to remain relationally close.” This final definition brings what I find to be the simplest way to look at this term in our relationship to God – we are to remain relationally close to him. So the question is, how does one practically abide in Christ?
Just as with a friend or family member, maintaining a close relationship with another person requires frequent communication with each other, time spent together and knowledge of one another’s lives. The relationships I’ve been blessed to maintain throughout the years were able to be sustained through these three aspects of relationships specifically.
In the same way, we too can pursue connecting with God and growing our depth of relationship with him. There are two specific ways I want to highlight that we can communicate, spend time with and know more about God, and that is through Bible reading and prayer.
The Bible is a gift to us, a letter written from God to his people. Through spending time reading his Word we experience him communicating with us. Through his Word we hear from him. Years ago in a sermon I heard the quote, “If you want to hear God speak, read your Bible. If you want to hear God speak audibly, read your Bible out loud.” As you take time in God’s Word each day through various Bible reading plans, scripture studies and beyond, you not only hear God communicate with you, you spend invaluable time together and learn about him, growing to know him more.
Resources on God's Word
Article: Why do we read God's Word
Veritas Bible Reading Plan
In addition, time in prayer is a way we can also remain relationally close to God. The dictionary simply defines prayer as, “a petition to God in word or thought.” When I was younger in my faith, I remember being intimidated and confused on how to actually pray to God, thinking it had to be very formal and well-thought-out. As I’ve grown in my walk with Jesus, I’ve come to learn that prayer is simply talking with him. Just like you would talk to a close friend, you can be frequently talking with God about the big and little things throughout your day.
Resources on Prayer
Veritas Series: Rhythms — Prayer
Veritas Sermon: Matthew 6:5-13
Veritas Sermon: Luke 1:11-13
Veritas Article: Prayer
Book: A Simple Way to Pray by Martin Luther
Book: A Praying Life by Paul Miller
We can even bring the Bible and time in prayer together in connecting with God by praying and speaking God’s word back to him. In Dane C. Ortland’s book Deeper he writes, “To connect prayer with scripture reading is simply to acknowledge that God is a real person with whom believers have an actual moment-by-moment relationship.” God is a real person, a person to grow in relationship with.
It’s important to remember that, as we work to maintain relationships with others, there is effort on our part. We spend time together, ask each other questions about life and maintain a level of communication. Our relationship with Jesus similarly will grow in intimacy and depth as we make the effort to spend time together, know one another and communicate through his Word and prayer.
As I reflect on one’s relationship with God and the importance of being connected to him and the pursuit of that connection, I can’t help but mention and rejoice in the fact that it is God himself that keeps us connected to him – He pursues us first. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love him because he first loved us.” What an encouragement and comfort this is, like the friend who is always setting up time to spend together, sending the first message, asking you how you’re doing and pursuing time with you. Praise God that he ultimately holds and keeps our relationship and not the other way around. And praise God that he is a personal God who desires a relationship with his people. This is the greatest relationship one can give their time and life to.