“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know Your Name put their trust in You, for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” Ps.9:9,10
The author states that there things God is known for. He has the reputation for being strength and safety in times of trouble. He has never been known to forsake those who seek Him. The words, actions and attributes of God have built a reputation which is heralded as glorious. He is the only One in the universe whose reputation fits perfectly. Everything He is reputed to be - He is. No wonder then, that those who know His Name, put their trust in Him. Still, when it comes to living out that confidence, we are challenged with this question. “Do I know God or just His reputation?” Some are content with hearsay about God. They have read what the Bible says. They have heard others testify of God’s repute. They affirm His attributes with songs of worship and converse in Christian cliché in church parking lots. All of that is to be expected. For everyone, our first knowing of God is by reputation. But this first knowledge is only the beginning. Maturity is a shift from knowing about God to knowing first-hand the things we have heard. I suggest that the confidence I experience in God and His ways is proportionate my personal knowledge of Him and not simply His reputation. So how do we move beyond simply knowing about Him?
I risk being simplistic, but here are four words I have found helpful. Desire. Growth begins with my longings and intentions. Friendship with God is cultivated. So, there will be space, opportunity and disciplines in my life which allow me to know Him. Faith. All of God’s words and actions (His reputation) invite my personal trust. Whenever I exercise faith, my pilgrimage shifts from theoretical to experiential. Patience. We prefer immediate answers and easy relationships. It doesn’t happen in friendships or marriage with finite people who are much like us. We shouldn’t be surprised that relationship with our Holy Lord requires patience. You can read about God in a short span, but to know Him takes a life time. Submission. Reputations are filtered through expectations. We all have been surprised to find that someone is not exactly what we imagined. God is different from our imaginations - always greater. His actions will confound our presumptions. In those times, we submit to who He is, rather than cling to what we thought Him to be. We won’t be disappointed.
The four words are easy to type - much harder to flesh out. My desires are often in flux. My faith and fears are always in battle. Patience stretches me to the point of discomfort and submission is not my default. In other words, this shift from knowing God by reputation to a knowing by head and heart is challenging. In fact, it would be impossible if we were on our own - but we aren’t. The Spirit is our enablement. The Son is our way. The Father is our reward. He will never forsake those who seek Him. It’s what I have heard about Him. It’s what I have learned from Him.