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Mary Crowley's Journey of Faith - Part 2

Guest: Mary Crowley

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April 08, 2024

Growing a Better Relationship with God

Spring is a season of hope. As the slumbering earth wakes up, we are reminded that it's a time of renewal—in nature and, perhaps, in our own hearts.

In many parts of the country, bright yellow daffodils peek through lingering snow and tulips of nearly every color open their petals to the sun. Bare-limbed trees, which have been dormant for months, begin to sprout buds then broad, green leaves that wave in the cool spring air, as if to say, "We're back!"

The season reminds us of God's promise that after winter comes spring. Every year, without fail. We know that from Genesis 8:22, "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease."

As nature begins to awaken, perhaps there's a stirring in your heart as well. You sense a need for spiritual renewal. You desire to grow closer to God. You want more connection and you hunger for His mercy and love.

The good news is that God wants to be close to you, too.

He wants you to experience a love like you've never known—love that is lasting, unconditional, compassionate, and powerfully strong. The Lord wants to hear what's on your heart as you talk with Him in prayer. He longs to guide you into a good future as you acknowledge His leadership in every area of your life.

If you've felt far away from God—or you've turned away—you can come back any time. Leave the guilt and shame at His feet. And let the One who loves you most wrap His arms around you. For in Him, you will find forgiveness, freedom and peace.

So how do you get closer to God?

First, know that you're on a spiritual journey and each person is in a different place on that path.

Knowing God personally—and growing closer to Him—can be compared to starting and growing a new friendship. When I had no knowledge of God in my life, I felt He was a stranger, then as I got to know more about Him, an acquaintance. As I grew closer to God, He seemed like a casual friend, then a close friend. While He never changed, I sensed greater closeness as I drew near.

Stages of spiritual growth
A good metaphor for growing in your relationship with God is the growing cycle of a fruit tree. For instance, in order to grow an apple tree and bear good fruit you start with a simple seed—and surrender. Here are the essential steps:

Plant. To grow an apple tree, you first plant a seed. The seed surrenders to the soil. You have an expectation that something will grow. Likewise, when you surrender your heart, your "seed" of faith, to Christ you release your sin and selfishness. And, in turn, receive forgiveness, grace, and eternal life. You choose to die to self so you can truly come alive.

Grow roots. After planting, seeds grow solid roots deep into the soil to absorb water and nutrients. Our roots can reach deep into the living water, Jesus Christ, to soak up the power to live out the Christian life every day. In order to grow, trees need the essentials of rain, sunlight, and oxygen. As believers, we get rooted and grounded in our faith with the essentials of discipleship (learning to live like Christ and follow His ways), prayer, worship, fellowship, serving others, and more.

Cultivate. As an apple tree grows, the gardener pulls the weeds around it, and deters pests to foster growth. Likewise, we have obstacles and distractions, "pests" in our own lives. Here, we choose to put faith into action. We learn to persevere in times of trial and testing and overcome challenges.

Grow. From a simple seed, a sapling sprouts. And, in time, an apple tree grows limbs and matures. As Christ-followers, we mature in our faith as we spend time with God. We choose to talk with Him often—in prayer and throughout the day. With the Lord, you can be yourself and talk about both good and hard things. He is always with you, listening and loving you, guiding and directing you.

Bloom. In the fulness of time, small buds form on the tree branches. Then, apple blossoms appear. Such beautiful and fragrant flowers! In the same way, we can develop into more mature Christians. Of course, this side of heaven we never "arrive," we are always growing.

Bear fruit. Apple blossoms give way to red, ripe apples—McIntosh, Gala, Honeycrisp, Fuji or another variety. They bear fruit. Likewise, we yield good results in our spiritual lives. With the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us we can exhibit the fruit of the spirit in our daily lives. Galatians 5:22 reminds us, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…"

Harvest. Finally, it's time to pick apples from the mature tree and place them in bushel baskets to share with others. In our lives, too, spiritual fruit ripens and we can share what we've experienced and learned about God with others. How we share may vary, from teaching in a classroom or demonstrating daily kindness to your neighbors, and one day sharing your faith with them.

Who knows what orchards of blessings God will bring into each of our lives?

As you grow in your relationship with God, remember that:

• Growth takes time, in trees and in people. Trust His timing.

• Christianity is not about religion, it's about a relationship. You are growing ever closer to the One who loves you most.

• God does the growing. We lean in, we make an effort. But we can't make growth happen on our own, just as an apple can't make itself burst forth from a bud.

• As you spend time with God, get to know His character, who He really is—compassionate, loving, powerful, merciful, slow to anger, and so much more. Read in your Bible what He has done in the past and what He's yet to do.

• Gratefulness is a good practice. It pleases God and brings joy to you.

All of these things will bring you closer to God.

Lastly, know that God is always reaching out to you. You simply need to choose to reach back.

"Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." James 4:8