Standing in Awe of God
I think I would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard the phrase ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ This is quite a negative phrase to be honest. You would say this when you gain so much knowledge or experience of someone or something that you begin to lose respect for that person or that thing.
What if I were to say that we, as disciples of Christ, are not impervious to the dangers of this phrase in relation to God?
Is it possible that we can begin to lose our respect for God? I would say, yes. And, if you think about it, that’s fairly confronting, isn’t it?
I’m reading a book at the moment called Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp and in chapter 8 this is exactly what he argues for. Although he doesn’t use the word respect, instead - that we lose sight of our awe of God - I would go so far as to say that losing our respect of God falls within the same arena of losing our awe of God. We lose our respect because we lose sight of our awe of God.
Because, as the phrase goes, familiarity breeds contempt.
Paul Tripp was inspired to write on this subject because of an address that Princeton professor and theologian B.B. Warfield made to his students in 1911. In his speech he warned his audience that, indeed, “…the great danger of the theological student lies precisely in his constant contact with divine things.” So much so that, as he continues, they “come to seem common to him, because they are customary.”
I don’t think this is a danger reserved for those in the pastorate or ministry leaders or those undertaking some form of theological training. No, all those who call themselves disciples of Christ are susceptible to losing sight of our awe of God and making the things of God common and customary.
Why would we think that our relationship with God is, somehow, impervious to becoming common place and customary? We are deceived to think that way. Consider this:
When you first learn to drive, it’s very much exciting but the more you experience it, the more it becomes second nature and common.
When you land that dream job, it’s all very exciting, but the more you experience it, the more the monotony sets in and it becomes a routine.
When you’re in the midst of learning something new (be it a language, skill, etc.,) it’s exciting upfront but then having to put it into practice may feel common and monotonous.
The list goes on.
But as Christians, because we are soaking in Scripture, in constant prayer, and surrounded, daily, by the divine things…as exciting as it is, it can very quickly become common place and customary.
I want to share with you a picture I took from the front of a Bible I received in the fall of 2018. Take a look at the prayer I wrote for myself.
Jesus, please don’t let me make you so common and ordinary that your power and ability becomes common and ordinary and stale in my heart and understanding.
Amen and amen!
I’ve been picking my way through Dangerous Calling for a good while now and I don’t remember reading Chapter 8 in the fall of 2018. In fact, my bookmark was in Chapter 7 when I picked it up this morning. Who knows, maybe I did read it. Or, maybe I felt that my relationship back in the fall of 2018 had become commonplace. I just don’t know.
In either case, as I read Chapter 8 this morning, my mind was drawn to this little prayer which I had written years before.
We need to fight against making God so commonplace that we lose our awe of Him. It’s hard, I know. Daily we have to contend with the anxieties of life, work, jobs, marriages, families, children, and studies. Added, we now live in a world of perpetual distancing – for the last 10 weeks, to one extent or another, we’ve all felt the monotony of social distancing, double bubbles, and the repetitiveness of daily routines that seem to drag on forever, and ever, and ever.
But let it not be so with God.
Do you find that you’ve lost (or are losing) your awe of God? We all go through valleys. I do.
Spend some time staring at a small patch of grass – look how intricate that small microcosm is. And, yet, there’s God’s creative hand on display.
Or how about spending some time on a clear night gazing up at the stars – consider the vastness of the universe and how God holds it all together.
Or, if you have the luxury of living near the ocean, stand near it and try to wrap your mind around its width and depth and all the life inside it.
Or better yet – consider yourself.
I have three children and I can’t not look at them and not see God’s handiwork. I can’t not be at awe of God when I consider how beautifully and wonderfully made, they are.
So, in closing, let me leave you to meditate and contemplate and pray over the awe-inspiring awesomeness of God in Psalm 145: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+145&version=NIV
As I prayed for myself in 2018, so will I pray for you:
Jesus, please don’t let us make you so common and ordinary that your power and ability (and glory!) becomes common and ordinary and stale in our heart and understanding.