When we think about our relationship with God, it’s difficult to be objective. Like so many very personal areas of our lives, one’s relationship with God is – and should be – sacrosanct. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that there is only one Mediator between God and man, and that is Jesus Christ. (1 Timothy 2:5) There is no biblical direction to use a priest or anyone else to intercede on our behalf – we are supposed to communicate directly in prayer, in Jesus’ name, and the only intercession that occurs is done by the Holy Spirit, who helps bring to our minds the things we should be praying about, and “covers us” on things we don’t even know how to express. (Romans 8:26) And because none of us is perfect, we all have areas where we need to improve.
So if our relationship with God was like our marriage, and we were looking for ways to make it stronger, it might make sense to consider what a deeper and stronger relationship would look like. What would the characteristics of the “next level” look like?
I was spurred into thought about this topic by an article called “A Challenge to Your Faith” by Keturah Alvin recently. She asked several very pointed questions in the article, such as:
Where is your faith then? ? Is it made void by the harsh circumstances of life? ?Is it replaced by fear and disbelief?? Can you stand firm and unwavering in your faith even if others call you nuts because they don’t understand?”
Students of human behavior from anthropologists to marriage counselors utilize questionnaires and observations of the day-to-day interactions between individuals to assess the depth and health of specific relationships. I was thinking the other day that I could use a more objective way to assess my own relationship with God, based on biblical principles applied to modern day life, and decided to take a run at it. I developed a 1-to-10 chart, with what seems to me to be the classic characteristics of the weakest spiritual condition at the bottom of the scale (a 1), and the characteristics of the strongest spiritual condition at the top of the scale (a 10).
My feeble attempt reflects my personal perspective, based on what I perceive that God is saying we should be doing through the Bible. I don’t pretend to have the definitive answers or any unusual level of insight in this area, and frankly I don’t score nearly as well as I should using this – I think fairly objective – set of criteria. But I do think it makes for a very interesting spiritual exercise. After assessing your own situation based on these criteria, I’d appreciate hearing your feedback. Do you think that an objective set of descriptions is possible, practical, or useful? If so, what kinds of things would you included that are not listed here, and which elements do you think are not relevant? What do you think?
Measuring the Strength of Your Relationship With God
No one exactly fits every characteristic on this list, so the important thing is to figure out which description MOST CLOSELY describes your situation.
10. I am a born again, Bible believing Christian, and I never doubt my salvation or any other promise that God has made to us in the Bible. Of course I’ve also followed the Lord in believer’s baptism, and now have the privilege to baptize others who dedicate their lives to Christ. I live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. I took the Lord’s direction in the Great Commission seriously, and my life is dedicated to winning non-believers to the cause of Jesus Christ, and then edifying them as saints. For that reason I live in the mission field, and my full time job is doing what the Lord commanded all of us to do. I never married or had children, because since we are commanded to leave our fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers and follow Christ, I have left my family behind as instructed and become a full time missionary. I read, meditate, preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout my waking hours. I rarely if ever think of anything else.
9. I am a born again, Bible believing Christian, and I never doubt my salvation or any other promise that God has made to us in the Bible. I’ve also followed the Lord in believer’s baptism, and it gives me great joy now to be able to baptize others who have decided to follow Jesus. I was called to be a pastor here on the home mission field. I spend most of my waking hours in constant communion with God, either reading scripture or meditating, or speaking to unbelievers about Jesus, as He directs. It never occurs to me to question the events around me, or the circumstances in my life because my relationship with God is intimate; I can see His hand in everything that happens around me, even the evil that He permits at times. It fills my conversations with others – believers and non-believers, and my thoughts all day, every day. I long for nothing but a closer walk with the Lord.
8. I hold a traditional job in the secular work force. I am a born again, Bible believing Christian, and I never doubt my salvation or any other promise that God has made to us in the Bible. I’ve also followed the Lord in believer’s baptism. I know the Great Commission says to go out to all the world, but honestly I cannot figure out how it could work out if all of us as Christians just quit our jobs and followed Jesus, like they did when Jesus was actually walking the earth among men. Besides, I support missions work financially through my giving at church; someone has to do that or they’d have nothing to eat! I spend hours in Bible reading, prayer and meditation every day without fail. I witness to unbelievers verbally almost every day about their need for Christ. It wouldn’t even occur to me NOT to talk about my personal relationship with the Lord. I usually see God’s hand in the circumstances and events that surround me. I rarely question God about the evil and unfairness that I observe in the world, and when a doubt enters my mind it never stays longer than a minute or two. I never feel as though I am not in close communication with God.
7. I hold a traditional job in the secular work force. I am a born again, Bible believing Christian, and I never doubt my salvation or any other promise that God has made to us in the Bible. I’ve also followed the Lord in believer’s baptism. I think most of us are meant to just witness where we live, and support other people who are willing to go and be missionaries in other countries. I give money to the church almost every Sunday, so I am doing my part to spread the Gospel around the community and the world. I read a passage of scripture every day, and meditate on it. I never spend less than a full hour reading the Bible, meditating, and praying. I witness verbally to non-believers at least three times a week. I really enjoy it, and I can often see God working in their lives. When bad things happen to fellow believers and to innocent children, it sometimes makes be question why God would allow these things. I think about these kinds of things when I see them myself or hear about them on the news, and two or three times a week when something like that comes up it really saddens me. But I know that God is in control, and I trust that it is all a part of His plan.
6. I hold a traditional job in the secular work force. I am a born again, Bible believing Christian, and I never doubt my salvation or God’s promise that I will one day live with Him in heaven. I’ve also followed the Lord in believer’s baptism. But it just wouldn’t occur to me that I should be a missionary somewhere. God put me here, and this is where I will stay. I do put money in the offering plate at church to help missionaries and support the pastor most weeks. I read a Bible verse – usually from a Christian publication like Daily Bread, and pray about it every day. It usually takes less than 30 minutes, and it often comes to mind later in the day as God brings things into my life that help me apply that lesson; not always, but often. I often recognize blessings in my life, and I always try to thank God when I see them. For example, I count it a real blessing that God has allowed me free time and surplus income to do things like eat out with my family and go to major league baseball games and things like that. But sometimes the difficult circumstances and problems get me down, and even when I don’t get depressed I often get distracted – things like money problems, and my terrible boss and my kids acting up cause me not to think about my relationship with God many times throughout the day. I wish God would be more direct and a bit faster with some of my prayer requests. I have worked up the courage to verbally witness to others on occasion, but the circumstances have to be right. Otherwise they just think I am preaching to them and being “holier than thou”, and it’s embarrassing to be thought of that way.
5. I hold a traditional job in the secular work force. I am a born again, Bible believing Christian, and of course I’ve also followed the Lord in believer’s baptism. I don’t really think about missionaries ever, unless they come to church to get support or something like that. I read the Bible as a part of the Sunday worship services, of course, and on special occasions like Christmas Eve and at Easter. Otherwise, even though I do watch some TV and video gaming, I just don’t find time for daily Bible reading. With this economy, it’s harder and harder to always put money into the offering plate at church, but I usually do unless there is some major expense that surprised us at home. I pray when I go to bed every night, and we always ask the blessing at each meal. I’m not always really good at staying awake through my prayers at night, because I am just so exhausted from the events of the day. Sometimes I think I must have missed some unconfessed sins in my life, because I just don’t always think God is hearing my prayers. In spite of that, God has blessed me and blessed my family as well. We do a lot of family outings and at least one fun vacation thing every year. And some of the things that happen in my life, and especially the terrible things I sometimes see happening to my fellow Christians just don’t make any sense to me. Sometimes it almost causes me to wonder how completely God is in control of what’s going on here in this earth. But I do trust God that all things will work together for good in my life and the lives of all Christians somehow, even though I often don’t see clear evidence of that. A couple of times I have told other people about my faith when discussions about religion or God come up. Most people just avoid topics like that – it’s even more divisive than politics. But I have been going to a discipleship class at church, so I expect to get better eventually.
4. I hold a traditional job in the secular work force. I am a born again, Bible believing Christian. I’ve also followed the Lord in believer’s baptism. Missionaries and foreign mission fields rarely come to mind. I read the Bible in church, and we pray about what we are reading and what we hear from the pulpit during the service. I don’t usually have an opportunity to spend reading the Bible at home; there just isn’t time. (I have to admit that I do spend at least an hour a day surfing the web, doing Facebook, or watching TV though.) Also, in many cases I wouldn’t know what was meant without the Pastor explaining it. I put money into the offering plate at church when I can, which – sadly – isn’t very often these days. I often question why God doesn’t seem to hear me when I am praying, because He doesn’t answer my prayer requests very often. And I’m not usually asking for things for myself. I ask for healing for friends that are sick, and for protection for friends in the military, and things like that. I guess I am not a very devout Christian, and God isn’t listening terribly closely to me; I can’t really blame Him. I know that He is God, and I’m a pretty insignificant little human down here on Earth, but I do wish He would help me be better so that my prayers would be answered and things would be better for all of us. I have trouble talking to others about my faith, partly because I get a little uncertain and confused about things sometimes when people start to talk about theology and how I know this or that, and I don’t like to be humiliated in public.
3. I hold a traditional job in the secular work force. I think I met a missionary once at church many years ago. Our pastor reads Bible passages to us at church, and explains them. I asked Jesus to save me from my sins a few years back, and I really believe He did. I have a Bible at home, but I rarely remember to bring it to church with me and to be honest I’m not absolutely sure exactly where I last saw it. I try to remember to pray every day, but there are a lot of days I just get too busy or too distracted and just don’t think about it. I have a hard time remembering everything I wanted to pray about, too, and if I tried to work in everybody I know that is having problems it would take me hours to do it – I could never spend that much time on prayer. I almost never have extra money to put in the offering plate by the end of the week – these days, who does? If someone really wants to know, I will tell them that I’m a Christian. But I don’t spend a lot of time and energy being a “holy roller” because people are offended by that fire-and-brimstone stuff anyway. It makes people feel guilty a lot, I think, and they just don’t like it – that kind of thing is how you lose friends and get ostracized. And I really don’t understand how a loving God could possibly allow the things that are going on in this world to happen. It seems to me quite often that God has just abandoned some people – like all those starving children in Africa; why doesn’t He do something about those poor kids? I just don’t get that at all. I think I’m going to ask God about that when I get to heaven.
2. I hold a traditional job in the secular work force. I guess I still consider myself a Christian. I’m certainly not a pagan; I believe in God and that I have to follow the 10 Commandments and believe on Him to go to heaven. But we all sin, right? So I figure that in terms of getting into heaven I have as good as shot as anybody. I don’t do really bad things. I go to church sometimes and even put money in the offering plate sometimes when I do go. I don’t pray much – never really seems to go anywhere. But I do like Christmas music, and sometimes I do feel like I have really seen a blessing from God. With all the war and sickness and accidents and stuff going on in the world today though, sometimes it really makes me question what God is doing. Sometimes I even wonder which God is the real deal, you know? My protestant one, or the Catholic version where Mary is a deity, or that one with Mohammed or whoever it is. I basically just believe what my parents did – doesn’t just about everybody?
1. I hold a traditional job in the secular work force. I stopped going to church as soon as my parents stopped making me go. Those people are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites. All they want to do is think they are better than everybody else and look down their noses. I still think there is a God, but He has never spoken to me, and I don’t expect to hear from Him – or her – or whatever it is – anytime soon. I’m probably a lost cause as far as religion is concerned. I’m not at all sure there is a heaven or a hell. I have déjà vu sometimes, and I’m pretty sure I have been reincarnated. I’m not willing to say there is no God, because if there is I don’t want to get on the wrong side of Him. But I don’t see a lot of evidence in the world that he loves us and is taking care of us down here.