The life and ministry of the American pastor, John Wimber, has had a great influence on my own life, our church and many other churches around the world.
He said, ‘The ability to hear what God is saying, to see what God is doing, and to move in the realm of the miraculous comes as an individual develops the same intimacy with and dependence upon the Father [as Jesus had]. How did Jesus do what he did? The answer is found in his relationship with the Father. How will we do the “greater things than these” which Jesus promised (John 14:12)? By discovering the same relationship of intimacy, simplicity and obedience.’
God loves you with an intimacy that surpasses all your dreams. He wants you to have a close, personal relationship with him of intimacy, simplicity and obedience. This is an extraordinary honour and privilege. Moses, David and, of course, Jesus had an intimate relationship with God. In the passages for today we see what this kind of intimacy means.
1. Develop intimacy with God through openness, vulnerability and honesty
There were times when David was down; his soul was empty (v.12, MSG). He was honest and open enough to talk about the challenges:
David faced great opposition from those who repaid evil for good and attacked him. You, like David, may face great opposition from those who repay evil for good and attack you (vv.12,15b). They may slander (v.15c). Or maliciously mock (v.16a). Opposition does not only come through the world – it can even come from God’s people (v.16).
- ‘Unanswered’ prayer
There may be times when your prayers do not seem to be heard. ‘My prayers returned to me unanswered’ (v.13). He says to God, ‘How long are you going to stand there doing nothing?’ (v.17, MSG).
We all stumble (v.15a). We can feel we are walking with the Lord quite happily, and then suddenly we stumble. Being a Christian does not mean that we never stumble. There may be times when we fail to meet our own standards, let alone God’s.
Like David, speak to God about all these challenges. Do not pretend that all was well. Speak from the depth of your heart. It is this openness, vulnerability and honesty that draws you into an intimate relationship with God.
Lord, thank you that I can come to you and speak from my heart. Thank you that you listen to the cries of my heart. Thank you that you rescue me and enable me to say, ‘I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you’ (v.18).
2. Grow in wisdom through intimacy with the Father
Even as a child Jesus had astonishing wisdom: ‘And all who heard him were astonished and overwhelmed with bewildered wonder at his intelligence and understanding and his replies’ (v.47, AMP).
As has often been said, ‘Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.’ Knowledge is horizontal. Wisdom is vertical. It comes down from above. It is far more important to grow in wisdom than to grow in wealth. Wisdom outweighs wealth. Intimacy with the Father leads to growth in wisdom.
After Jesus’ parents find him in the temple courts he says to them, ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ (v.49b). Or as The Message translation puts it, ‘Dealing with the things of my Father’ (v.49b, MSG).
On the one hand, Jesus’ relationship with his ‘Father’ was unique. On the other hand, he also enables us to call God ‘Father’ too. He prayed to God as ‘Abba’ (the Aramaic word used by children on intimate terms with their father), and he taught his disciples to do the same (11:2). St Paul, writing about the Holy Spirit, says, ‘For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father” ’ (Romans 8:15).
We can learn four things about the wisdom that comes from intimacy with the Father by examining Jesus’ example in these verses.
- Wisdom comes from listening
Wisdom is willingness to listen to and learn from others. Jesus was ‘sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions’ (Luke 2:46).
Often, those who know most speak least. When we are talking, we are usually merely repeating what we already know. When we are listening, we may learn something new.
Asking good questions is the key to being a good conversationalist. It was said of President JF Kennedy that he made you think he had nothing else to do except ask you questions and listen, with extraordinary concentration, to your answer. You knew that, for the time being, he had blotted out both the past and the future for you.
Sir Isaac Newton said, ‘I find intelligence is better spotted when analysing the questions asked rather than the answers given.’
- Wisdom leads to simplicity
Wisdom brings clarity. Jesus knew where he should be and what he should do. He declared, ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ (v.49). Knowledge leads us from the simple to the complex; wisdom leads us from the complex to the simple.
- Wisdom is holistic
Wisdom is shown not only in what we say, but also in how we live. ‘Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them’ (v.51). Wisdom is about the whole of life, rather than just our intellect or our words.
- Wisdom should grow
Through his intimate relationship with God, ‘Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and people’ (v.52) – a very similar description to that used of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:26).
Wisdom should grow as we get older. Not that Jesus’ wisdom was flawed or imperfect, but it grew as he matured, as it should with us.
This is a prayer often prayed for our children – that they would grow in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and people.
Above all, Jesus’ wisdom came from his intimate relationship with God. God was his Father. He knew he had to be in his Father’s house, and his intimacy with his Father was the foundation of his wisdom.
Father, thank you that you have given me the Spirit of adoption by which I can cry, ‘Abba, Father’. Thank you that you call me into the same relationship of intimacy that Jesus had with you. Help me to grow in this relationship of intimacy, simplicity and obedience. And to grow in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and people.
3. Stand still and listen to the intimate voice of the Lord
You cannot develop an intimate relationship with God without setting aside time to communicate with him. ‘When Moses entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him … and he spoke with him. The Lord said to Moses …’ (7:89–8:1).
God spoke to Moses (8:1;9:1). Moses spoke with God (7:89). It was a two-way conversation. God spoke to Moses face-to-face, as a person speaks with a friend (12:8) – talking and listening at the same time, watching for each other’s reaction.
In the age of the Holy Spirit you are in an even better position than Moses. You no longer have to go to a particular place, like Moses did, but can be with God wherever you are. By the Spirit of adoption you are brought into an intimate and eternal conversation with God the Father (Romans 8:15–17,26–27).
This was the pattern. ‘The Lord spoke to Moses … So Moses told the Israelites … The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses’ (Numbers 9:1–5). The Israelites’ whole way of life was built upon obedience to what God had said to Moses in the place of intimacy. Your intimacy with God needs to overflow into the way in which you live your life. You need to put into practice the things that God shows you in the place of intimacy.
There are times when it is not always clear how God is guiding us. Again, Moses’ example is a good one. When the people asked Moses a difficult question to which he did not know the answer, he replied, ‘Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you’ (v.8). If you don’t know the right answer it is wise to ask people to ‘wait’. This gives you time to pray and to find out from God the right way forward.
Eugene Peterson translates, ‘Give me some time; I’ll find out what God says in your circumstances’ (v.8, MSG). The Amplified Bible says, ‘Stand still and I will hear what the Lord will command concerning you.’ In the busyness of life stand still and listen to what God wants you to do.