I would like to share with you something that is very personal ~ how I’ve learned to get close to God through getting close to others. To be honest, when God first told me this it did not make sense. He said, “When you learn to love your personal family then you will learn to love Me”.
I knew that loving my family was important. It was a strong principle that I had been taught while becoming a minister, because the Scripture says, “that if a man cannot rule his own house how can he rule the church?” But through the years I discovered that the only true way to success is to be close to God personally, and this was an understanding that I just didn’t quite get.
When I was young I was raised in a very strong conservative religious family and truthfully, God was pretty scary. The first religious experience I can remember was when I woke up one night from a dream where I was left behind while every Christian had gone to heaven. I was stuck on earth with the people that were not saved. I was about seven years old at the time. I walked in to see my mother, who was a famous choir director and also a well-known woman evangelist.
I asked my mother what the dream meant. She explained to me that I needed to be saved and if I wasn’t I wouldn’t go with God to heaven. I recalled telling her, “Wow! If God gave that dream to me I must really be special.” As I grew up (I was finally saved at 10 years old) my relationship with Jesus was very distant. Though I wanted to obey Him I also wanted to be successful in business.
As I became a young man my desire for success became the preeminent factor that motivated my life. But something I didn’t count on was me continually being “interrupted” by God as He steered me to the proper process that would lead me to the real success I desired. His process was very confusing and discombobulating to an observer, but to me it was my life. Finally, in my late 50’s, it all came to a head when God spoke to me and said, “You need to learn to love your family, and in the process you will learn to love Me.”
Now this was a real shocker, because God was telling me that He wanted to be close to me, but He needed me to change the way I dealt with my family so I could be close to Him. This was when I received the revelation about the importance of the fruits of the Spirit in my life. They were not just something I could just casually add on to my personality, but I was to discover they were literally the doorway to everything I was seeking spiritually.
What I’m describing to you is a process (it has taken me three years to reach this point) and I’m still trying to learn more on a day-to-day basis. And the thing that amazes me is how many powerful, influential people ~ and even prominent religious people ~ have lost the importance of the fruits of the Spirit. Did not Jesus say that if He came to a tree that wasn’t bearing fruit He would cut it off and throw it into the fire? But fruit is not “gifts.”
This is why Jesus said there would be many who would come to Him and say, “Have not we cast out demons, healed the sick, and done other grandiose miracles?”, and He would say to them “Depart from Me I never knew you.” And you can see that this truth has been verified by how many powerful people have fallen from favor because certain flaws were found in their characters.
I am telling you that love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, kindness, and temperance ~ against such there is no law. It is important that you have these fruits so your fruit, your tree, and your success ~ will remain.
The thing that is most amazing about the fruit of the Spirit is that it helps you get close to people ~ and especially to God. The last few years I have been awestruck by how classy, amazingly loving, and gentle that Jesus is. It’s hard to describe the immensity of the experience that being close to Him is. Jesus is so awesome and His presence so breathtaking that it is like walking next to the largest African elephant.
But at the same time Christ can retreat if He senses even the slightest bit of self-will in me. And He moves quickly, like a hummingbird. But what’s amazing is that I never even know when He has left. The only way I can stay close to Him is by constantly keeping my feelers on in my spirit, seeking for His perfect will and obeying Him as accurately as I physically can.
Now here’s the real secret. The more I obey Him in the little things, the closer I end up getting to Him. It is at this point that the most amazing occurrences happen ~ doors open up to new relationships. So by getting closer to God I get close to others. Wow! What an incredible blessing that is!
Just last night Sandy and I were in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and were walking through a mall. Suddenly I gently heard the Lord say, “Look at the jacket in that store.” His voice was so gentle but I knew the elephant moved like a hummingbird and He could go away in an instant if I did not obey His voice. I saw that the entrance to the store was locked. As I was looking inside through the window, suddenly the owner saw my interest and ran over, opened the door, and Sandy and I entered.
The owner greeted us warmly and we responded with much love and friendliness. Then I told him I was interested in the cashmere business jacket that was hanging in the window. Though the jacket in the display did not fit me, he knew the precise amount of the check I was going to need and told me he could order me the right size and it would be there in a few days. Then at the last minute he suddenly turned to me.
“You know,” he said, “I own that same jacket and I think it is exactly your size. I just bought it myself, and if you want I’ll give it to you at an incredibly discounted price.” I looked and the tags were still on the jacket! It was amazing, but he really was willing to sell me his own jacket at a lower price even though it was brand-new!
After I paid for the item, and as Sandy and I were getting ready to leave the store, the owner told me his wife was ill and that it was a very serious sickness. While he was speaking the Lord showed me a prophetic act his wife should do, and if she did the simple thing, when he got home she would be healed.
The gentleman literally choked up and had a hard time speaking. He said he would do it and Sandy and I left. We had almost gotten to our car when the Lord spoke to Sandy to go back and slip a piece of paper with our phone number on it under the store door in case he wanted to call us later. This morning, while I was at the hotel working out in the gym, my phone rang. I did not recognize the number but when I answered, it was the gentleman from the store and he sounded very emotional.
He told me his wife had done the prophetic act last night and then she went to sleep. She woke up this morning and was feeling so good she couldn’t stop crying. She ran out of the door and said, “Dear husband, I’m going to my doctor. I want him to inspect me and see what God has done!” The gentleman was so moved he could hardly speak on the phone.
I realize the story is not yet over, but God had just introduced Sandy and me to another family friend in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Please may every one of you lovely and wonderful people let your relationship with God introduce you to new friends. Just listen and obey His still small voice. What He’s trying to do is introduce you to your future relationships.