Something’s wrong. Although we were meant to experience freedom and joy in our relationship with God, many of us feel discouraged. We’re working for God. We’re trying to please him. We’re trying to live by his commands. We’re seeking his gifts. But it’s not working. We’re unsatisfied, and we’re not enjoying the relationship with God that we expected.
The problem, according to Skye Jethani in his book With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God, is that we may be approaching our relationship with God in the wrong way. It’s not just a problem for us as individuals. Churches and books also call us to take the wrong approach in our relationship with God.
According to Jethani, most of relate to God in one of four ways:
- Life from God — Wanting God’s blessings and gifts, but not God himself; using God to get our desires; focuses on consuming
- Life over God — Abandoning God in favor of proven formulas and controllable outcomes; the implementation of useful principles; focuses on managing
- Life for God — Focusing on accomplishing great things for God; a task to accomplish; focuses on serving
- Life under God — Relating to God according to cause and effects — we obey and God blesses; a set of rules and rituals to follow; focuses on sin
“Much of the church’s activity is spent trying to move people from one of these four postures to another.” Churches can major in one of these approaches. Pastors often suffer from a “Life Over God” approach — the church will grow based on one person’s leadership.
But each of these approaches is seriously flawed. They are based on a misunderstanding of God’s character and what it means to follow him. We worship a relational and personal God. God isn’t interested in being the means by which we acquire our treasure. He wants to be our treasure himself.
We were meant to live life with God, right now. We can commune with him, trust (surrender control), and enjoy unending union with him no matter how hard life gets. We can find our hope in God rather than circumstances, and enjoy a loving relationship with him. We are beloved by God. We are meant to live life with him.
“Only a LIFE WITH GOD sees him as our true desire rather than a device, and only a life spent in communion with him can lead us to faith, hope, and love,” writes Jethani. It’s the life we were meant to enjoy.
I found Jethani’s insights to be profound. I had never thought about these different ways of relating to God. His critiques rang true. I was able to spot variations of these approaches to God, and see how much energy we spend trying to move people from one approach to another. I even wondered how many of my sermons focus on one of these at the expense of the other.
This book is both a caution and an invitation to enjoy the gift of a relationship with God, and to remember that he is what we seek most of all.
This was a challenging book. I love the invitation to the kind of life it describes. If you feel like you’re not experiencing the kind of relationship with God you desire, With may help you begin to enjoy a life with God like never before.
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