Are You Using God?
Being married to a popular songwriter and performer carries its fair share of interesting situations. I am often the target of people’s interest only because of who I am married to, receiving strange comments from fans about how “cute” my husband is and disappointing people with the news that Jimmy does not, in fact, serenade me to sleep at night.
It is a peculiar experience to be pursued simply because I have access to someone “important.” Often these encounters seem genuine at first. Like the person is actually interested in me and my life and my interests. But suddenly the conversation takes a sharp turn: “So do you think I could meet Jimmy?” “Do you think Jimmy would sign this for me?” “Could you talk to him about coming to our event?”
The real reason for their interest is exposed: I have direct access to something they want. This is an example of what it means to be used.
Don’t get me wrong; I have no hard feelings at all about this. These moments come with the territory of what my husband is called to. But the truth is, those are not the people I am eager to spill my guts to. Nor are they who I prefer to be around. No one likes to be used.
Have you ever been used by someone? Maybe you have needy friends or family members who only pursue you because of your wealth. Or it might be that your husband only seems interested in you when he desires physical intimacy. Maybe you are a single woman and all your married friends tend to assume you are most valuable as a babysitter. Whatever the case, it feels horrible to be used.
Do you know who else hates to be used? God. He longs for people who will seek Him just because they want to know Him, not get something from Him. One of my favorite characters in the Bible is just such a man. His name is Josiah.
Josiah, the God-Seeker
Born to the wicked King Amon who was murdered by his own servants, Josiah had every reason not to seek God. Yet in 2 Chronicles 34:3, we see this astounding statement about him:
For in the eighth year of his reign while he was still a youth, he began to seek the God of his father David.
When Josiah was sixteen years old, he began to seek God. And here’s the amazing thing . . . it doesn’t appear that there was anything that prompted his pursuit of God! No war breaking out, no personal crisis, no famine in the land. He started to seek God just because God is worth seeking!
So let me ask you a question: Do you seek God like Josiah, just to know Him? Or do you use God?
Four Ways We Use God
Unfortunately, it is easy for all of us to fall into the habit of seeking God only to get the benefits He offers. Here are four ways that we often think we are seeking God, but in reality we’re only using Him.
1. We only seek God when we want something.
Do your desires for things dictate your prayer life? A desire for a better job? A husband? A child? Acceptance into your favorite university? Do you pick up your Bible only to see what it says about a certain topic you’re interested in? Or to find verses to pray for your husband to be a better leader?
Yes, God has told us to ask for things, to present every request before Him. But if that is the ONLY time we seek Him, we must ask the question, do we really care to know Him for who He is, or do we just want the benefits? Are we using Him?
2. We only seek God to fix our bad circumstances.
Do you start to pray more when your kids are acting up? Or when money gets tight? Do you only pick up your Bible when your life is falling apart? Of course, God is the first place we should run when things get hard or when we are suffering. But is that the ONLY time you pray? Do you ever pick up your Bible or pray when everything is going great?
3. We only seek God to improve ourselves.
Is God your form of self-help? You might have low self-esteem, so you think seeking God will make you more confident. Or maybe you struggle to have self-control with food and sometimes binge eat, so you only seek God to ask Him to help you stop. Maybe you have looked at pictures online that you shouldn’t and you don’t know how to stop, so you are seeking God as a last resort for change.
Yes, God is our only hope of true change and there is nowhere better to turn when we are caught up in sin. But if you are ONLY seeking Him for self-improvement reasons and never to KNOW Him, you are using Him to get what you really want . . . which is self-improvement, not God.
4. We only seek God to get His approval.
Maybe you have quiet times because that’s what good Christians do, and you really want to please God. So you faithfully read your Bible every day and pray. But you don’t do it to KNOW God; you do it to make Him happy, to be a good Christian. This is the subtlest of all false pursuits of God. It might seem right but it is still all about you, not about Him.
The truth is, your quiet times will never be enough to win God’s favor. We can never ever do enough good things to make up for our sin. Our only hope for God to be pleased with us is our belief in Jesus . . . not just that He died for our sins, but that He also lived perfectly for us. He lived a righteous life and then gave that perfect record to us. If you are in Christ, you ALREADY have God’s favor; He is ALREADY pleased with you. Not because of your quiet times, but because of what Jesus did for you! You just have to believe.
Seeking God to “be a good Christian,” though it might seem right, is really just another way to use God to feel better about ourselves.
Is God Your Waiter?
No one goes to a restaurant to get to know the waiter. Restaurant decisions are made because of the food they offer, not the wait staff. If I asked the average restaurant diners if they were excited to get to know their waiter, the answer would be a resounding no. That’s not why they came. The waiter is only important in getting you what you really came for—the food.
Do any of these statements describe how you relate to God?
“I’m waiting on God to bring me a husband.”
“I’m asking God to heal my family.”
“I’m praying to God to be accepted into my favorite university.”
“I’m waiting on God to free me from this sin struggle.”
Do we really want to know God? Or do we just see Him as a waiter, the one who can bring us what we really want? It’s easy to forget that the primary thing Jesus came to earth to do was to give us access to God! To know Him personally! It is no longer just the priests who can draw near to God. Everyone who believes in Jesus has access to God:
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Heb. 10:19–22).
“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).
All that Jesus accomplished was about one thing—giving us the opportunity to know God, to draw near to Him with a clean conscience!
Seeking God with a Pure Heart
If you’re anything like me, your tendency will always be to only seek God because of the benefits He offers you. Do you want a heart like Josiah? Do you want to be a God-seeker, not a God-user? Here are a few simple places to start.
- Pray. Pray for a heart to seek God! Apart from His grace and His Spirit, our hearts are desperately self-centered. Stop right now, get on your knees, and ask God to give you a heart to know Him.
- Repent. Confess your tendency to seek God only because of His benefits to you. Ask Him for the grace to turn from this pattern and create some new habits of seeking God just because He’s good.
- Seek God proactively. Using God tends to be reactive; we seek Him in response to something we want changed. Instead, choose to seek God proactively. Cultivate proactive habits of Bible reading and prayer that stay consistent when all is well.
- Treat God like a person. He has emotions, likes, dislikes. Believe that He truly is the most enjoyable, breath-taking, awe-inspiring Person you will ever know. Believe that, and act like it’s true.
- Read your Bible to know God. With every book, chapter, and verse you read, ask the question, “What does this tell me about God?” Set a goal to read your Bible until you unearth ten things you’ve learned about God.
Everything in this world is a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of just knowing God. True fullness of joy is found in His presence! Believe this and seek God with passion and determination, for no reason at all except that He’s worth it.