Most followers of Jesus have a history of time in the secret place – that place where we slip away and shut the door to be alone with God. No performance, nothing on show. For many its a place we have mixed feelings about. Sometimes we approach with bold joy, other times we crawl there. Sometimes it’s full of fire and revelation and sometimes it’s, well, not. It often seems contested. Jesus seemed to have no qualms slipping away to lonely places to be with the Father, even if it inconvenienced people he cared about. Here he built that deep intimacy with the Father that we hear about in the gospels.
Intimacy in any relationship takes time
Intimacy in any relationship takes time to develop and build – intimacy is about a sense of closeness, trust, knowing someone deeply. There is this unavoidable truth in the kingdom and in the natural world that without intimacy there is no fruit.
Over the years I’ve looked at people’s fruit and when it looks appealing or attractive I’ve tried to glean how they pursued intimacy with God, what their secrets are. I listened to an interview with a missionary I admire – how she get up very early to spend hours on the fathers lap before she starts the day. I thought if I could imitate what she does then I could have the relationship with God that she has. I tried it for awhile and what I mostly got was tired and frustrated with unfocused prayer time.
I heard one of the pioneers of the vineyard church movement explain that his habit was to sit with the Lord with his morning cup of coffee and turn on the worship music just enjoying and soaking in God’s presence. So I tried that too and got rather tired of my worship playlists.
So I have this history of trying to figure out how to have a rich time with God, because I crave intimacy with God and I want to bear fruit in my life but you can’t clone someone else’s relationship with God (and what I heard in these interviews were only small snapshots of their walk with the Lord). I’ve tried to piece together a bit of bible, some prayer, some worship and wondered what to start with and where to go? But I think there’s a critical element to building intimacy in the secret place that’s actually foundational to everything else that gets built upon it. And that is God’s word.
We live on God’s Word
There are 2 Greek words used for God’s word in the New Testament – there is Logos – the written word, which is our constant and there is Rhema – which is God speaking his word personally to us. When Jesus is being tempted in the desert he quotes from Deuteronomy that famous line – man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. We live on God’s word, we draw life from it.
In John 6:63 Jesus says ‘The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life’. Those words are rhema words. Food nourishes and strengthens us – a poor diet leads to all manner of illness and without food we will eventually die. If God’s word is our spiritual food then we likely have a pandemic of malnourished christians that are in a weakened state, satisfied to grab a snack here, a power bar there as a convenient pick me up. It’s just not enough to sustain a strong, life filled, healthy relationship and walk with God.
There is a way to connect deeply with God that has made a big difference in my life of late. I heard it from Jon Tyson so all credit to him. It starts in James 1:20- 25 (J B Phillips).
“Humbly accept the message that God has sown in your hearts, and which can save your souls. Don’t I beg you, only hear the message, but put it into practice; otherwise you are merely deluding yourselves. The man who simply hears and does nothing about it is like a man catching the reflection of his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, it is true, but he goes on with whatever he was doing without the slightest recollection of what sort of person he saw in the mirror. But the man who looks into the perfect mirror of God’s law, the law of liberty (or freedom), and makes a habit of so doing, is not the man who sees and forgets. He puts that law into practice and he wins true happiness.”
James is outlining two different approached to God’s word. In one, we have looked at the word but not necessarily expected or welcomed God’s word to speak personally to us. There is no real impact on our heart or on our day. In the second approach God’s word is welcomed, it sticks, and it provokes a response. Adjustments are made. This requires vulnerability and time which are key ingredients to intimacy.
Now the acronym TIME comes in. It’s an approach to our time with God in the secret place that will build deep relationship and bear fruit if we give it…time.
T is for Truth: This is the concept, phrase or image that strikes you as you read the passage. It might be something moving, or confronting or surprising or simply a turn of phrase that you find starting to lodge. The Holy Spirit is starting to highlight something to you. Try reading the passage for the day in two translations, ideally one of which is less familiar. Hear it fresh. You might want to look at another passage that it reminds you of, or look up a word in concordance and dig around. But don’t stop there because we want to let the word rearrange us internally and externally.
I is for Insight: As you ponder, ask the Holy Spirit to start giving you some insight into the truth that you’re exploring. How does this truth challenge your mind set, or impact on a situation you’re dealing with? Is there something in your perspective of God or yourself that needs some adjusting? Do you feel convicted? Or encouraged, or both? This is the place where God speaks to our hearts and reveals himself to us (and reveals us to us). We are starting to see clearly in the mirror of the Word. Don’t rush off from this place but don’t get stuck there either because…
M is for Mission: This is mission in the broadest sense of the word – what is being dealt with in our hearts is now turned outward so that something fresh from God can be expressed in our lives and have an impact on the world around us. We have revelation but its not just for our personal benefit. This is the person who catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God and sticks with it – finding affirmation and delight in action. This is the point where God will speak to our lives, providing an opportunity for obedience. Is there an action we are being asked to take in our finances? Or in a relationship? Or in the way we manage our time? Our obedience now becomes our worship.
E is for Encounter: Let your time in the word drive you into His presence. Remember that when we sit down to eat with a friend we eat AND talk. In prayer we can give thanks, laugh, intercede, repent, cry out for grace to be obedient and let the God of the Word speak.
This is a meal with God, and God is a great host. Jesus paid for us to have a deep and intimate relationship with God – it’s part of our inheritance. It will take more time than we think we can give it , but it will be truly satisfying. And it will bear fruit. No amount of books and podcasts can take the place of this time. This is our God and Creator drawing near, tenderly forming and shaping us with His Word and it is full of possibility.
Claire Esgate, Jan. 2022