Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Tag: Knowing God

Not What But Whom

You’ve probably heard the old business adage that when it comes to finding a good job, it’s not what you know but whom. You’ve probably known talented, motivated, and honest workers who didn’t have especially good jobs, largely because they weren’t well-connected. On the other hand, you’ve probably known workers who weren’t talented, motivated, or honest, but who had great jobs because Uncle Bob owned the business, or because Daddy knew the CEO.

Before we decry this as being unfair, let’s apply this to our spiritual lives. Is our salvation because of our talents, hard work, motivation, and skillset? Or is it because of something else? Is it because we know Someone?

Near the end of his life, the apostle Paul wrote, “for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1.12). He doesn’t say “I know WHAT I have believed”, but “WHOM I have believed”. 

Paul wasn’t discounting WHAT he believed, he wasn’t discounting doctrine. In fact, in the letters to Timothy and Titus, he repeatedly emphasizes teaching and believing “sound” (healthy) words and doctrine (cf. 1 Timothy 1.10; 6.3; 2 Timothy 1.13; 4.3; Titus 1.9, 13; 2.1). WHAT we believe is vitally important.

But as Paul approached death, he wasn’t thinking about SOMETHING, but SOMEONE. Someone who knew Paul better than he knew himself. Someone who had never deserted Paul. Someone whose promises and plans would ultimately prevail. 

Paul had entrusted his work, his plans, and his life to God. He says in this text that God would guard whatever Paul had given him for safekeeping. It would be safe until the day that Christ returned to reward his people. For Paul, knowing his redeemer was the ultimate reality (Philippians 3.7-11). Nor was it simply knowing facts about God but knowing him relationally and intimately. 

For Christians, it’s not about what you know but whom you know. Do you know Christ?

Seeking & Serving

“Two men please God – who serves him with all his heart because he knows him; who seeks him with all his heart because he knows him not.” (Nikita Ivanovich Panin; 18th century Russian statesman, advisor to Catherine the Great). 

Whenever I’m pondering something, I like to think in categories. What I like about this insightful quotation is that it describes man’s relationship to God in terms of four categories: Knowing God, seeking God, serving God, and pleasing God. 

In the first category, you either know God or you don’t. To know God is NOT simply acquiring information about him. It IS knowing him relationally, knowing him intimately. The Bible wasn’t written simply to give us information ABOUT God, but to show us HOW to enter a close relationship with him.

In the second category, if you don’t know God, you should seek him. To seek him means to look for him intentionally and intensely. We need God the way we need air, and when we want God as badly as we want to breathe, we’ll have no trouble finding him. God reveals himself to seekers.

In the third category, if you’ve found God, you should serve him. Service to God proceeds from gratitude. We serve God because we’re thankful for what he’s done for us. Obedience to God is our way of saying “Thank You” to the one who has saved and transformed us.

Finally, in the fourth category, when we seek and serve God, we please him. An old hymn says to “trust and obey.” I would suggest that constantly seeking and serving God are how we express those two things.

Hopefully most readers have reached the fourth category. We know God and because of who and what he is, we want to serve whole-heartedly. But sometimes it’s hard to maintain complete devotion. At times, our efforts seem anything but whole-hearted. But as Panin’s quotation suggests, we continue in seeking and serving and knowing. 

Panin’s dictum reminds me of David’s final words to his son Solomon, the future king of Israel. David said, “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever”
(1 Chronicles 28.9).