How to Know God
Or, Making Room for More…of God
Matthew 22:1-14; Philippians 4:1-9
How to know God. I get that question a lot.
I’ve asked that question a lot.
Jesus once told a parable of a Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14). A king prepared a huge party…a wedding party…for his son. When the party was ready, he sent his servants to tell those invited the party was about to begin.
They would not come.
He sent another delegation with news the prime rib was ready for carving. First one, then another, all declined the invitation, having other things to do. None of the other things they had to do were bad. They just had no room in their busy schedules for yet another appointment.
I understand that. Don’t you? I saw someone recently whom I’ve not seen in months and I asked, “How have you been?”
How to know God?
“I’ve been busier than a beagle dog in a covey of Easter bunnies,” he responded.
I laughed. But it’s really no laughing matter, is it?
I have this new iPhone 6 Plus. In terms of “gigabytes,” or storage space, it will store more than thirty thousand high resolution pictures. Even if I could take thirty thousand pictures, which I cannot or won’t, how would I ever have the time to even look at all of them?
We were promised technology would give consumers more time…more space…more room on what was an ever-increasingly busy schedule for modern people. It is true that technology has succeeded in helping us to get things done much faster. Instead of filling the space with rest or relaxation, however, instead of giving us more time, we have only succeeded in filling the new spaces in our schedules with more stuff to do. Technology has really only succeeded in turning consumers into the consumed.
How to know God is, therefore, made more complicated because many have no room for God.
But that’s just it. The problem is not that we have no room for God, we just don’t make it a priority to enter the room we have. We have many rooms. Too many rooms.
We are like the couple who lived in a four thousand square foot home with four bedrooms, five-and-one-half baths, but they decided their house was still too small. Therefore, they added two thousand square feet more, complete with yet another master suite.
One day, however, out of the blue, they caught themselves thinking the same thing. “We have a six thousand square foot home now and there are rooms in our house we have not visited…even seen…in months.”
The challenge…the difficulty is not in how to know God…the challenge is in making room for God.
In the parable, finally, in frustration, the King sent a third delegation. This time, however, he sent them into the streets with an invitation to any and to all to come to the party. It mattered not to the King who came. He just wanted bodies there.
The party was on. All that was missing were people.
And, the point is? God’s Kingdom…God’s party is on.
A couple of things are worth noticing…
For one thing, this is a parable…a story…and, for the most part, parables have one main point. You make a mistake if you look for multiple meanings in such stories or try to make every part of the parable represent something else.
What, then, is the point of the parable?
That’s the second thing to note. It is that God’s kingdom is here, the party is on, but it’s up to each of us to make room for it. This is an ongoing challenge, isn’t it? This is the key to how to know God.
Do not mistake what I am saying, however. I’m not suggesting that to know God you must make more room for church. Nor is Jesus.
For much too long, that’s how the Church has chosen to interpret this story. When I was a pastor, I did too. I was always looking for ways to increase the regularity of the attendance of people at church. Too often I equated how to know God – or, to know more of God – to church attendance. The message was: “If you want to know God…to have more of God…come to church more often.
That’s a misreading of the story, however.
You can be in church but far from God…not know God…just as you can be near to God and never attend church. Nearness to God isn’t contingent upon anything. God’s presence is a gift to all people.
And, that leads to a point worth noticing. The Kingdom itself. What IS the kingdom?
It isn’t the church.
Nor is it some future place we go when we die.
How do I know this? To the first point, there was no church when Jesus spoke these words. And, to the second point, if the Kingdom were some far off place we go when we die, why did Jesus say in Luke 17:21, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” It is not out there, somewhere. It is in here. Inside yourself. In other words, when it comes to how to know God…when it comes to the Kingdom of God…all of these are just ways of saying, God’s presence is within each of us…growing in Presence awareness, however, is another challenge altogether.
Want to Know God?
Make Room for God?
Create a Space for God in Your Life?
That’s the point of the parable.
How then do you make room for the Kingdom…for God?
How to know God, or God’s presence, more and more in your daily life and living is indeed possible. Follow the four suggestions below.
4 Suggestions for How to Know God
When it comes to how to know God, here are a few things you might remember. These come straight from the words of Saint Paul to the Philippians in the reading from Paul’s letter to the Christians in Philippi. His suggestions will help you, if you’ll follow them.
1. First, while being in God’s presence takes no effort whatsoever, staying in God’s presence does.
Saint Paul opens the fourth chapter of Philippians by saying, “My dear friends, I love you so much…don’t waver. Stay on track…” If God’s presence is like a train track and your life is like a train, picture yourself on the track of God’s presence already because you are. But, remember, staying on track…well…that’s your part.
How, then, do you stay on the track? That’s the second point I wish to make about making room for more – more of Presence in your life.
2. Whenever you have a thought of God, chase the thought. That thought IS God.
Give attention, even just a little, to the thought of God and see what happens. “Celebrate God all day, every day” said Paul (vv. 4-5). It’ll take practice for that to happen. But make it your practice to give some attention each time a thought of God pops into your mind. This is what easterners call practicing “mindfulness.” I call it, the answer to the question of how to know God. When you are fully present to every thought…to every situation…you are fully present in Presence herself.
3. That means, and this is the third suggestion, view everything you see as a doorway into Presence, not as a problem to resist or, if it is a problem person, as someone you must avoid.
This is what it means in the east to practice “mindfulness.” It is to recognize that every situation you walk into, stumble into, every person you meet, every conversation in which you find yourself is a door way into the presence of God.
Now, suppose the difference it would make in your life, and the lives of others if, instead of viewing this situation or conversation in which you find yourself as something to resist or avoid, you were to embrace it?
When you fill your consciousness with the conviction this experience…this circumstance…even this person is my doorway into presence, even God’s Presence, what room is there for worry in your heart?
When, therefore, it comes to the question of how to know God, remember there is no place…no situation wherein you may find yourself…and, certainly, no conversation you’ll ever have but what God is there with you. Train yourself to see every person…every situation…every encounter as an encounter with the Divine. This is how to know God.
If you wish to go deeper in this study, I would suggest you read my book The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God. It’s all about this very subject. Follow the link.
4. Practice being mindful, or aware, of your thoughts…your thinking. In other words, catch yourself thinking.
When you do, simply observe your thoughts. Only then can you determine their legitimacy and, if necessary, make a change in your thinking.
“Summing it all up,” says the apostle, “you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable…” (vv. 8-9).
Do you know how many thoughts you have each day? I read somewhere it is something between fifty and seventy thousand. That’s a lot of inner traffic, isn’t it? Even staggering to think about…and, yet that, too, is another thought.
When it comes to how to know God, replacing unwanted thoughts with a thought of God is a wonderful way to practice the presence of God.
Two things distinguish those thousands of thoughts.
1) They mostly repetitive; and,
2) They’re mostly wrong.
Observe every thought for what it is. A thought. That’s all. Once you do, you enable yourself to make a choice about what to do with it. Maybe you’ll decide to replace some thoughts with thoughts of God. I wonder: Would that help you answer the question, “How to know God?”
Sir Edward Dyer wrote: “My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is”
My mind to me a kingdom is, such present joys therein I find
That it excels all other bliss that world’s afford or grows by kind.
Though much I want which most would have
Yet still my mind forbids to crave
They get with toil, they keep with fear,
Such cares my mind could never bear.
Content I live, this is my stay,
I seek no more than may suffice,
I press to bear no haughty sway.
Look! What I lack my mind supplies.
Lo! Thus I triumph like a king,
Content with that, my mind doth bring.
Some have too much, yet still do crave.
I little have and seek no more.
They are but poor, though much they have.
And, I am rich with little store.
They poor; I rich;
They beg; I give;
They lack; I leave;
They pine; I live.
But of all the pleasures that I find, it is to maintain a quiet mind.
What is it you want?
You want to know how to know God? You know God already. You have all of God there is. God does not come to us in percentages. The key to how to know God is to train yourself to be aware of God wherever you are. Which brings me back to the first suggestion above. What has helped me over the years is the practice of giving some attention – even just a little – to every thought of God that I have.
In other words, I regard every thought of God AS God.
This is how I am learning to know God. I would suggest you not make it more complicated than this.
Start with this thought of God. Yes, this one.
Now, see what happens.