Our Personal, Intimate God – By Lindy Thomas
Our mighty God loves each one of us and wants to have a relationship with us. He is not only big, but he is a personal, intimate God as well.
I would like to tell you about a very difficult time in my life, and what I learned about God through it.
After my middle daughter Abbey’s wedding a few years ago, when we had just had a wonderful time with visiting family and all the festivities, I went for a scheduled doctor’s appointment. It was discovered that a large tumor had essentially exploded in my belly. I was quickly sent into surgery, and the doctors removed about 3 kilos* of tumor matter.
As I recovered, we learned more about the extremely rare disease I had. It was a type of cancer that comes on suddenly from the appendix and does not respond to treatment. It has an almost 100% fatality rate.
There is a song that plays on Christian radio in the U.S. that has these words:
“Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”
While I am confident that because of my faith in Jesus Christ and his resurrection I will go to heaven when I die, I also really wanted to live to see grandchildren, to see my daughters grow into women, to be with my husband and to grow old together.
So I went to God’s word. I read about Jesus healing people. I turned to the Psalms where the psalmist is not afraid to pour out his heart, including his fears, to God. God led me to Psalm 139.
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
God who created the universe and spoke the earth into being has searched me and knows me. He knows my movements and my thoughts. He even knows my paths, including when I travel across the earth to be here with you!
He has hemmed me in behind and before, encircling me with his presence. His hand is upon me. I can’t even comprehend the ways in which he knows me.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
When God knitted me together in my mother’s womb, he knew that something was eventually going to go terribly wrong in my body. But he also created a body that could heal. When you cut yourself, it is important to keep the wound clean, but nothing you can do will actually mend it. Two pieces of cloth stitched together are still 2 pieces of cloth, joined by thread. But when God heals a wound as he has made our bodies to heal, it becomes one again.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made and I am to be thankful to God for that.
The length of my life has been determined by God since before I was born. This disease did not catch God by surprise.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
Here was my answer. I needed to dwell on, to think about, God’s thoughts. And that was plenty to keep me busy in my recovery from surgery, since his thoughts outnumber the sand.
Now, about my health, after 2 surgeries and a year and a half of uncertainty, the doctors determined that I was clear of disease. The medical people were amazed. I had been healed.
Many friends prayed for me when I was sick. They visited and brought food. But, most importantly, they prayed. You can hold each other up in the same way. I encourage you to do that.
Let’s look at the New Testament now and see what God’s thoughts are as we learn from Jesus. God knows me well, but he also wants me to be very close to him.
John 14 tells us about Jesus preparing his followers for the time when he would no longer be with them. He talked to them about:
- A place prepared for them in heaven
- That they could ask for anything in his name and he would do it
- Loving him and keeping his commandments
- A Helper, the Holy Spirit, promised twice in this chapter
John 14:23 – “
Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’”
What does it mean to make a home with someone? It means to move in, to abide or live with. We have had a student from South Korea living in our home for the last 4 years. In the beginning, she was like a guest, but as time went on, our home became more and more her home. Let’s read about what it’s like to have a “home” with God.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
Jesus is the vine.
God is the vinedresser.
We are the branches.
The vine itself does not bear fruit. The branches are brought forth on the vine for the purpose of bearing fruit.
Because Jesus is not physically with us today, he counts on us to be his branches and bear his fruit.
Now there are 2 ways we see in these verses that branches are cut. A dried branch with no fruit will be cut and thrown away. A producing branch will be pruned in order to put all the sap into fruit production instead of just more branches.
Jesus told his disciples that they were already clean because of his word, so we know that they were not the branches that would be thrown away. They would, however, be pruned.
God wants to strip away the things in our lives that use up the sap, or energy, that could otherwise go into fruit production.
So he tells us to abide in him.
I love the beautiful vegetation here in Kenya. Last night I saw powpow (papaya) trees that were just bursting with beautiful fruit. If I cut a branch off of the papaya tree and took it home in my suitcase to Texas, would it grow papayas for me?
Neither can I bear fruit in my life if I do not abide in Christ Jesus.
John 15:5 –
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Apart from HIM we can do nothing.
Note that he says we abide in him and his words abide in us. How do his words abide in us?
John 15:8 –
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
What happens when we abide in him?
- We bear fruit
- We prove to be his disciples
- We live in the safe place of his love
- We keep his commandments
- His joy is made full and our joy as well – fullness of joy
John 15:12 –
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant[b] does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
Twice we’re told to love one another. Jesus calls us friends and promises to lay down his own life. “Friends” in the Bible is a term of covenant, the most sincere and binding kind of promise. He asks us to do what he commands, but only after he has foretold that he would lay down his own life for us.
Jesus tells us that he has revealed everything from the Father that we need to know. It’s all in the Bible on your lap.
He chooses his disciples to have the privilege of bearing fruit.
He promises again to give whatever we ask. “He longs to draw you to his side and show you his dreams for your life and the lives of others around you.” (Bonnie Floyd)
My experience with cancer and healing taught me many things. My self-sufficiency (my dependence on my own strength) was pruned pretty severely. I rejoice in my healing but I also know that God would still be in control even if he had chosen not to heal me here on this earth.
Abide in him. Make your home with him. Let his words abide in you.