Tim Cook will become $120 million richer today when he receives 560,000 shares of Apple stock. But he should beware: prosperity is no guarantee of happiness.
Writing in the New York Times, Jonathan Rauch notes: “Real per capita income has more than tripled since the late 1950s, but the percentage of people saying they are very happy has, if anything, slightly declined.”
A Harvard study tracked a group of men for close to eighty years. The bottom line: loving relationships are the key to happiness and health. It was not money or status but strong interpersonal relationships that led to the greatest life satisfaction.
This news should not surprise Christians. We know that we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and that our Creator is relational by nature. He relates to himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. And “God is love” (1 John 4:8), an attribute that requires someone to love.
Here’s the question: With whom should we most seek a loving relationship as the key to happiness? The answer may surprise you.
A personal confession
I was led to faith in Christ through a bus ministry. A church in my Houston, Texas, neighborhood enlisted volunteers to knock on doors, inviting people to ride their bus to church. In August 1973, they knocked on my apartment door. My brother and I came to Jesus as a result.
I will be eternally grateful for evangelical churches that emphasize evangelism and practical ministry. But I was active in church life for years before I began realizing that Jesus wanted to be more than my Savior and Lord–he wants to be my friend. He wants an intimate, personal, loving, daily relationship with me. He wants to be a “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
How is it possible to have such a relationship with the Son of God?
The fact is, you and I can know Jesus better than we can know anyone else. Here are three reasons this miraculous statement is true.
One: Jesus loves us unconditionally.
Our human failures and frailties inevitably intrude on even the best of human relationships. There are things you do that bother your spouse and family. There are things about you that even your best friend would change.
But Jesus knows you better than anyone and loves you more than anyone.
Two: Jesus’ omniscience proves his omnipresence.
Jesus’ ministry on the earth didn’t end when he left the earth. Upon his return to heaven, he returned to the right hand of the Father where he is “interceding for us” (Romans 8:34).
“Us” includes more than two billion believers in the world today. If Jesus can pray for each of us at the same time, he can commune with each of us at the same time. His omniscience demonstrates his omnipresence.
Three: Jesus’ Spirit lives within us.
I can know my Savior better than I know even my wife because the Spirit of Jesus lives in me (1 Corinthians 3:16). Jesus promised that his Spirit “will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14). He speaks the very words of Christ to the followers of Christ.
You and I were created for such an intimate relationship with our Savior and Lord. As Pascal noted, there is a “God-shaped emptiness” in each of us. Experiencing Jesus personally is the key to a life of the deepest fulfillment and significance.
How can we know Jesus more personally?
Consider these simple steps:
One: Remove anything impeding his Spirit in your life.
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal anything in your life that displeases your Father and confess whatever comes to your thoughts. You may want to write down what the Spirit reveals, then confess and repent of these sins and destroy the paper.
Two: Ask the Spirit to help you love the Son.
Love is the first “fruit” of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Not just love for others but love for your Lord as well. If you’ll ask for the Spirit’s help, he will draw you into deeper intimacy with your Savior.
Three: Act into feelings.
Counselors encourage a husband who doesn’t feel love for his wife to do what he would do if he did feel love for her. We act into feelings rather than feel into actions.
The same principle applies with Jesus. He stated: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word” (John 14:23). What would you do today if you were more in love with Jesus? Would you spend more time in his word and worship? More time in prayer? Are there acts of service you would render? Do what love does and you’ll feel what love feels.
“What bread is to the hungry”
Charles Spurgeon: “The nearer to [Jesus], the nearer to the perfect calm of heaven; the nearer to Him, the fuller the heart is, not only of peace, but of life, and vigor, and joy. . . . What the sun is to the day, what the moon is to the night, what the dew is to the flower, such is Jesus Christ to us. What bread is to the hungry, clothing to the naked, the shadow of a great rock to the traveler in a weary land, such is Jesus Christ to us.”
Imagine a world in which every Christian knew Jesus on a deeply intimate level. Imagine the impact such transformed, empowered lives would make on our culture.
If not us, who? If not now, when?
For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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Publication Date: August 24, 2018
Photo Courtesy: Unsplash/Sharon McCutcheon