Are you a seeker? If so, we offer some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that God is not lost in the woods. The bad news is, you are.
This realization can be painful. It involves facing your own finite nature and recognizing that some of your life choices have been less than “enlightened.” It’s okay to admit that you’re not sure of God, but if you’re a true seeker, you’ll admit that you’re not so sure of yourself, either. Rest assured that you don’t have to go it alone — God wants to help you find the right path through he forest of your life.
Becoming a genuine seeker means you’ve begun to open yourself up to a different way of living — one that includes God in the loop. That thought contains great possibilities, and some potentially frightening implications. Clearly, if you become convinced that God exists and you choose to follow him, you’ll never be the same again. And change is hard for most of us.
So what are you supposed to do as a seeker? How can you go about this all-important task of pursuing God and his truth? Well, the steps below don’t claim to be the final and authoritative word on the subject. But with a humble recognition that the stakes are sky-high — and believing you are very precious to God — here are four questions to help you in your search. They aren’t the map to your ultimate destination, but they may keep you from getting waylaid while you make your journey.
1. Why do you want to know God — what do you hope to get from him?
People seek God for a variety of reasons. Some think their search will lead to a more fulfilling life or a greater sense of purpose. Others are looking for relief from their pain. Still others are curious and just want to find out what’s true. What is your reason? You should be aware of your aspirations and motivations, because you may be looking for the wrong thing.
Perhaps you’re a seeker, for example, because you want to find greater happiness. What if you do find God, but your life circumstances lead to less happiness? Will you feel cheated? Believers often report that God gives them greater joy, meaning and purpose in life. But nearly every believer will also admit to experiencing periods of difficulty.
So this is a good question to ask yourself: What am I looking for? And, conversely, what does God offer me? He may not give you exactly what you’ve anticipated. So expect the unexpected, and make it your goal to find God, no matter what the outcome or perks. The bottom line is that a true seeker seeks the Giver of life, not just his gifts.
2. Are you placing limitations on what God can ask from you?
Two people who have fallen deeply in love don’t go into a marriage with the intention of ignoring each other’s wishes after the wedding ceremony. Such a commitment involves adjusting personal priorities in the interest of building the relationship. When they establish their residence, for example, a couple will usually discuss at length the furnishings, wall hangings, and other touches that will make their house (or apartment) a home. In the same way, it would be absurd for a seeker to open up to God but give no thought to the possibility that God may want to rearrange a few pieces of furniture when he moves in.
Of course, some people are fearful that God wants to throw out all the furniture and condemn their house as uninhabitable. They think that God is just waiting to stifle their every pleasure and ridicule their every action. But nothing could be further from the truth! God created us to be in relationship with him and with each other. Through creation, through the Bible, and through Jesus Christ, God tells us that he wants us to enjoy this life in a way that’s in line with his purpose for us.
But the question remains: Do you realize that God wants to be a powerful presence in your life not just an idea in your head? Following him means following his leadership. So let’s be honest — accepting that leadership will affect your lifestyle.
Here is where many seekers’ searches find the ditch. They declare intellectual reasons for dismissing the claims of the Bible, but in truth they are not willing to give up some activity they know is offensive to God. If that’s you, you need to know that God will take you as you are, but he doesn’t want to leave you as you are. He wants you to let him make you into what he wants you to be.
3. What do you think about Jesus?
A Spiritual seeker may think the proper order of inquiry is to first decide if there’s a God (a philosophical question) and then figure out who Jesus is (a historical question). But another and possibly even more exciting way would be to reverse the order, or at least work through the questions in tandem.
Many seekers discover that when they deal with the person of Jesus, at the same time they find answers to many of their other questions.
Is there a God? (Yes, and he came to earth in human form in the person of Jesus Christ. See John chapter 16, verse 28.)
Does God love me? (Yes! Look at what he did to show that love. See John chapter 3, verses 16?17.)
What religion is the right one? (Reconsider that question in light of the fact that God wants a relationship with you, not your religious affiliation. See Romans 10:9-13.)
What do I have to do to live forever? (Accept Jesus as your forgiver and your leader. See John chapter 3, verse 36.)
How can I experience meaning and purpose in life? (By following Jesus and by cultivating your relationships with God and with other people. See Deuteronomy chapter 6, verse 5 and Romans chapter 13, verse 9.According to the Bible, until a seeker comes to terms with Jesus, he or she hasn’t dealt with the issue that’s most important in starting a relationship with God.Consider this reality: Jesus is the most influential person in history.
This poor itinerant preacher, the sone of a carpenter but also the Son of God, changed the entire course of world history. How can any serious spiritual search overlook him? For example, look at any calendar. Today’s date is based on a reckoning that hinges on Jesus’ life. Because of him, people were moved to split world history into two eras — “before him” and “after him” (B.C. and A.D.).
4. How will you respond to Jesus?
It’s not enough to intellectually agree with Jesus’ claims. If you recognize Jesus as the true Son of God, a man who walked the earth, lived a perfect life, died, and rose again from the dead, you must choose to cross the line of faith and receive him. This is a once-for-all decision — a “crisis.” A “process” follows, but you have to start by inviting him into your life and accepting that he paid the debt you owe for your sin but could never pay yourself. Salvation in Jesus is a totally free gift, and receiving it is as easy as saying, “Jesus, I acknowledge my sin and your payment for it on the cross. I now ask you to be my forgiver and leader.” But you must respond personally and deliberately or the gift will remain unopened and unenjoyed.
Some Practical Helps
Keeping in mind the above questions, here are some practical ideas to guide you in your spiritual search: Ask God to reveal himself to you if you’re not sure he’s there.
Read the book, Beginning the Journey.
Talk to people who display a genuine relationship with God; those who obviously love him and who live their lives by a different set of principles.
Spend time in nature, observing and experiencing God’s creation.
Listen to older people who have walked with God for a long time.
Question things everybody seems to take for granted — be a lover of truth.
Ask God-followers why they believe what they believe and how they know their beliefs are true.
Recognize that following God must make sense: Truth may go beyond reason, but not against it.
Read what other believers say about Christianity — spend time scouring the shelves at a Christian bookstore or church library for credible authors, or ask you Christian friends for a list of authors who have inspired them in their walk with God.
Write down you questions, especially about what you read in the Bible, and take them to a knowledgeable Christian who respects your seeking process.
Expect ongoing questions and some doubts along the way.
Know your presuppositions — the things you already believe — and try not to let them interfere with your quest for the truth.
Stay open to actually finding what you’re looking for — fear of commitment and change can keep you from finding the truth.
Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings during your search.
Know your personal issues — your past will profoundly influence your present ability to be objective.
Remember that you don’t have to know everything to know something.
Determine to seek for a specific period of time, and continually evaluate your progress. Then try to reach an appropriate conclusion.
Act on what you decide.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; those who seek find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened.”
— Jesus (Matthew chapter 7, verses 7?8)
Excerpt from Beginning the Journey, Judson Poling, General Editor, Willow Creek Association © 2005 by The Zondervan Corporation, used with permission.