Back to Basics

By Keith Miller | January 5, 2010

Happy New Year!  During the last week of 2009, Andrea and I made some plans for 2010, including plans about this weekly blog.  We will be starting 2010 by addressing how one might deal with some of the basic questions of life from the perspective of living one’s entire life for Christ.  I’ll be writing blog posts about making a beginning (or renewed) commitment, about finances, sexuality, parenting, work, relationships, prayer and meditation, and many other topics.  I’ll start with questions I have already received, but I’m interested in hearing what’s on your mind right now.  So send in your questions.  We’ll keep your question anonymous when I address it.  If you prefer to send your question by mail (unsigned), send it to me at: P. O. Box 203061, Austin, Texas  78720-3061

Today I’ll begin with making a commitment to live for Christ.  The material for today’s post is excerpted from a booklet called “How Can I Find God?”  You can download the entire booklet (at no charge) from our web site at www.keithmiller.com under “Free Resources”.

Grapeleaves

HOW CAN I FIND GOD?

What Makes Us Ask the Question?

“I’ll never see my husband again.  He’s dead.”  … This intelligent, haggard-looking woman sitting across from me in my office was saying that suddenly she had realized she didn’t know God personally.  She was looking down at her hands which were clenched into fists, one holding a tear-soaked handkerchief.  Finally, after what seemed like several minutes, she looked up and asked quietly, “Keith, how can I find God?”

As I sat there thinking about her question, I could remember the faces of dozens of people who had sat in that chair over the years and in different ways asked that same question.  I could see again the bewildered look on the lovely white-haired lady’s face as she told me through her tears that she had committed adultery—after having been faithful to her husband for thirty years.

I felt once more the numb despair of a fifty-seven-year-old man.  Without any explanation, he’d just been fired from a fine position he’d held for twenty years.  He could find no other job.  The world has no use for the old—and “old” is getting younger every year.

Then there was that long line of ancient-looking teenagers.  They seemed to be feeling blindly along the wall of life looking for a doorway, wondering if there is any entrance to a world with meaning for them.  Was there anyone anywhere who would love them specifically?  Many of these emotional nomads with the haunted cynical eyes said they did not believe in God. Yet their presence in my office made their agnostic pronouncements sound a little hollow.

Finally, I saw the stunned faces of women whose confidence had been shattered when their husbands had deserted them for no apparent reason, and who were trying to put the pieces of their personal worlds back together.  They silently cried out for some new support since all the props which had held life in place for them had been swept away.

And many times through the specific disappointments and despair of all these people I had heard the deeper question they had not had time for when things were going well: “How can I find God?”

The Problem with Success

But I can also recall another sort of person who, far from having failed, had succeeded marvelously in life.  These were the fortunate ones who had reached the material or professional goals on which they had counted to bring them happiness and fulfillment.  But to their surprise and confusion, the success many of them had sought so compulsively left them empty and alone.  The great purpose which had made their journey toward the top so exciting disappeared when the goal was reached.  Long-repressed anxieties and insecurities arose to fill their days and nights.  These men and women too asked, “What does it all mean?  Is there anyone out there beyond ourselves?  And if there is a God, how can someone like me find him?”

You may think I am painting a black picture of modern life—that I am exaggerating the problems, the loneliness and restless incompleteness around us.  But I do not think so.  … We seem to be caught up by forces both beyond and within us over which we have little control. …  And to people searching urgently for personal meaning and hope, the fact of God’s “existence” means very little if they cannot find him and know him personally.

A Case History

How does a person describe a new beginning with God as the motivating center of life without basing that experience on some vague mystical feeling?  How does an individual who wants to have intellectual integrity describe the experience of encountering God as the personal, the immediate, and limitless Thou in life?

(What happened to me that brought me to make a beginning commitment is too long to include here, but it’s in the booklet.)

Finding God Where You Are

I have become convinced that the things which keep us from finding a live relationship to God are often not the bad things in our lives, but the good things which capture our imaginations and which keep us from focusing on Jesus Christ.  I think this accounts for much of the frustration of moral people.  One looks around and says: “No stealing, no murder, no adultery!  Why, God, am I so miserable and frustrated in my life?”  But we have not seen the fact that we have never really offered God the one thing he asks—our primary love.

What do we do when we find out that we love something more than God?  For me it was rather terrifying, because that which was keeping me from the freedom of Christ was my desire to be a great Christian leader!  It seems evident that our decisions will ultimately be made to conform with whatever has truly captured our imagination.  My own decisions and sacrifice were not being made purely to love and feed Christ’s sheep out of obedience and love of him. Rather, my decisions were made to help the church’s work (my work) to its greatest fulfillment.  This led to chaos and frustration.

When we see and can honestly face the fact that our world is really centered in something besides God, in ourselves, I think we face the most profound crossroads in our lives.  Because this is to recognize that we have separated ourselves from God by taking God’s place in the center of our own little world.

What do we do?  For me the answer is paradoxically the simplest and yet the most difficult thing I have ever done.  In our age of complexity we want a complex answer, but Christ seems to give us instead a terribly difficult one.  I think there are basically two things involved in coming to God at the center of life: (1) to tell God that we do not love him most and confess specifically what it is that we cannot give up to him; and (2) to ask God in the personality of Jesus Christ to come into our conscious lives through his spirit and show us how to live our lives for him and his purposes, one day at a time.

But what if you recognize that you honestly do not want God more than whatever is first in your life?  I think this is where a good many perceptive people find themselves.  In that case I would recommend that you (1) confess (as above) and then (2) tell Christ that honestly you cannot even want him most.  Tell him that you want to want him most (if you do), ask him to come into your life at a deeper level than you have ever let him before, and give him permission to win you totally to himself.  This may be your first honest encounter with Christ, and he will take you wherever you are.  As a matter of fact I believe this is really all any of us can do — give God permission to make us his. I, nor anyone I’ve known well, could not be his by our own strength of will.

If you made this new conscious beginning in a conversation with me, this is what I would tell you: From now on you are not responsible to exert the pressure or to carry the burden of muscling yourself up to be righteous.  You are not promising to change, or to have strength, or to be a great Christian.  You have only confessed your need and turned your life over to Christ.  What a relief!  It is his responsibility to furnish the forgiveness and motivating energy for you to live in a new and creative way.

***

Now you can begin a whole new way of living—at your own address!

Dear Lord, Thank you for your never wavering commitment to be with us and guide us.  Help us to find the courage and humility to begin to recognize what we may love more than we love you, and help us to come clean and confess whatever it is to you, and give you permission to draw us more and more toward loving you with everything we’ve got!  In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!  Deut. 6:5, The Message (See also Matt 22:37-40).

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence…[and] love others as well as you love yourself.”  Matt 22:37-40 The Message

P.S.  If you would like to learn more about living your entire life for Christ, try the newly released Third Revised Edition of The Taste of New Wine, available at www.keithmiller.com/store/

2 comments | Add One

  1. Ted Miller - 01/5/2010 at 9:12 am

    Keith, This is more of a testimonial than a question.
    I have often turned to my older friends and siblings for advise in times of trouble . I realized after reading some of your books and listening to you talk I was looking to the wrong source for advise, The best source of advise is indeed our heavenly father.
    Thank you for opening my eyes and ears to this.

  2. Donna Hahn - 01/6/2010 at 6:38 pm

    I know what the above people are talking about. A couple of years ago I had a bout with cancer. Usually one tends to think that you feel closer to God during a trail such as that but I felt alone. My husband put it into focus for me. When I told him I couldn’t find God he told me “He is here, you just don’t recognize it yet. Remember the story of the set of footprints in the sand? Well he is carrying you through this.” How right he was! God was here all the time.
    Thanks for your e-mails. I really enjoy them. Ed, my husband, introduced me to you when we were first married, in The Taste of New Wine. We team taught a high school class back then and the kids we taught still talk about Keith Miller!
    Thanks and a Happy New Year to your and your wife.

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