“I’m just not as close to God as I’d like to be.”
Has this thought ever crossed your mind? It has mine. As believers, we all want to feel “close” to God. But sometimes, it can feel so difficult, perhaps even mysterious, to know how to do so. After all, He is the almighty, all-powerful, eternal God. How can we draw close to Him?
This question reminds me of something my pastor recently said on a Sunday morning at our church. He said something along the lines of this: growing closer to Jesus includes everything that would be involved with growing closer to an earthly friend, day by day.
This realization immediately struck me. I think, sometimes, we can try to overcomplicate the rhythms of our relationship with God. It can be easy to think we have to have to pray the perfect prayers, have the picture-perfect quiet time routine, or never miss a day of Bible study.
But how do we grow closer to an earthly friend? It’s not through perfectly crafted interactions but through a daily rhythm of real, authentic relationship. We spend time with them on a regular basis. We talk to them. We get to know them. And that, too, is how we draw close to God. We spend dedicated time with Him. We get to know Him through His Word. We build a friendship with Him as His Spirit works in us.
Following the Example of Jesus
If we open up the Gospels—the biblical books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—we see Jesus display this closeness with God the Father. One such example comes in Luke 5:15–16, which reads:
But the news about him spread even more, and large crowds would come together to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. Yet he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.
These short verses take place in between two different stories of Jesus’s healings. But in between these two miracles, we see something interesting happen. As Jesus’s popularity is growing and growing—as the people are crowding around and expecting more and more from Him—how does Jesus choose to respond?
Jesus doesn’t cling to His increasing fame or ministry opportunities. He doesn’t let earthly things distract Him from what’s most important. Instead, He clings to His relationship with His Father. God the Son intentionally withdraws from everything going on around Him and takes time to be with God the Father.
We can find so many other examples of Jesus doing this during His earthly ministry. In Mark 1:35–38, after healing multitudes of people, Jesus goes out to a deserted place to pray. In John 6:15, just after feeding over five thousand people, Jesus goes out to a mountain by Himself. And even in the garden of Gethsemane, the night before His crucifixion, Jesus chooses to withdraw and pray (Luke 22:39–44).
In times of both joy and anguish, Jesus chose to draw close to His Father.
How Should We Respond?
All of these stories weave together to form a beautiful picture of Jesus’s intimate relationship with God the Father. But what’s the application for us?
Of course, we know that God is the One who draws sinners to Himself and redeems them (John 6:44, 65). He is sovereign over all things, including our relationship with Him. But also, as believers, we have the unique opportunity to draw close to Him, as we see Jesus so beautifully demonstrate time and time again. We have the opportunity to be in relationship with Him—to get to know Him as we would any earthly friend.
Practically, we can do so through spiritual disciplines, which include prayer, Bible study, worship, and more. But it’s important to note that we don’t pursue a relationship with Jesus in a legalistic way, beating ourselves up on the days when we forget to pray or read the Bible or turn to the Lord in moments of need. Instead, we pursue a relationship with Jesus by recognizing our sheer dependence and desire to be with Him, to rest in His presence, to know Him as a friend.
As we do so, as we draw close to God, we follow the example of Jesus, who drew near to His Father through every high and every low.
Jesus Is Our Truest Friend
As we draw close to God, we have the opportunity to build a friendship that will never fade away. Certainly, our God is many things to us—our Creator, our King, our Savior, our Provider. But He is also our friend, our closest companion.
The Lord is the only One who knows us fully, better than anyone else. He is the only One who has been with us through every high and every low, whether we recognized His presence at the time or not. And He is the only One who will remain when all our busyness, distractions, and earthly relationships fade away. The Lord is our truest friend.
So, in the moments when we feel ourselves wanting to be “closer” to God, may we follow Jesus’s example and simply draw near. May we thank Him for putting this good desire in our hearts (Philippians 2:13), and as His Spirit leads, may we get to know Him as we would a friend—for that is who He is to us.
Sermon by Lloyd Shadrach at Fellowship Bible Church