I have been thinking a lot lately about a relationship with Jesus, and what it looks like. I have been a Christian for most of my life—I grew up never missing a Sunday at church, learning all the Bible stories, memorizing all of the Scriptures, and going to youth group—I did it all. I knew a lot about Jesus and heard a lot about Him, but I didn’t realize I needed my own personal relationship with Him until I was a teenager.
Sometimes we think we know Jesus because we’ve heard the stories and know what He is all about, but there is so much more to actually having a relationship with Him. When all we do is go to church and read the stories, we learn a lot about Him. It’s kind of like when you google your favorite band or go to one of their concerts. You may have a lot of head knowledge about them, and you may know you really like them, but you don’t actually know them. You don’t know what they like and don’t like. You don’t know what their favorite color is. We tend to do the same thing with Jesus—we think we know Him because we go to church or because we grew up hearing stories about Him.
Our culture can be very systematic. Systems are a good thing—I'm glad we have a system in place for schooling or a system in place for when we drive—and systems can be helpful as we begin our Christian journey. But our relationship with Jesus can’t just be a system. It can’t just be go to church services and read the stories. Those are incredibly important and essential things to have in our Christianity, but our relationship with Jesus can’t be based on the fact that we go to church.
So, what does it look like to have a relationship with Jesus? Going deeper in your relationship with Jesus looks the same as going deeper with a friend. You spend time! You chat, you ask questions, and you put time aside. I think sometimes we think that we go to Jesus only with our prayer requests, but, the truth is, He also likes to hear about our day. He likes to know the good things, the hard things, the funny things, and the sad things—He cares about it all. One of the most impacting things my Pastor has preached about is practicing the presence of Jesus—going throughout your day including Jesus.
One story that has really stood out to me in the last little while is Peter walking on water. In this story the disciples got into a boat, and left without Jesus. It was very windy. After a while they looked out, and they saw Jesus walking on water. As Jesus approached the boat, Peter said, “Lord if that is You, tell me to walk on the water.” Jesus told him to walk on the water and Peter stepped out of the boat and walked on the water. After a moment, Peter saw the wind and began to sink, He called out to Jesus and Jesus saved Him. Jesus said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
The reason this story has really stood out to me recently is because of Peter’s faith. Nobody had ever walked on water before (at least not that I’m aware of!)—walking on water is a pretty impossible task. But he knew who Jesus was and because of that he was able to step out of the boat and do the impossible. It wasn’t just a spontaneous moment where Peter suddenly had faith—no, it was a moment that happened because Peter knew who Jesus was. And when he began to sink, he knew to call out to Jesus. I don’t believe Peter would have been able to walk on water if he didn’t have a history with Jesus. In the Bible it tells us that hard things are going to happen in life. In James, it says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” This verse doesn’t say to consider it pure joy IF you face trials. It says to consider it pure joy WHEN you face trials. Sometimes we have a mindset that says, because we’re Christians, nothing bad is going to happen ever. But the truth is, trials are going to happen in our lives—hard things happen to everybody. It’s in those moments where you need to be able to lean on your relationship with Jesus. You don’t suddenly build it in those moments, but it has to be something you’ve been building. We have to know His character. He is so good and so faithful and He really loves us a lot!
When I first got challenged with this, I realized that I hadn’t been doing a very good job with my personal relationship with Jesus. I began to become more aware of Him throughout my days, and started including Him in what I was doing. I began to talk to Him on my way to work, chat with Him when I was in the office by myself, or as I was doing housework. My goal was to include Him in everything, even if it was just chores. It has changed my relationship with Him so much for the better! I know He is with me, I know that He loves me and I love Him, and I know who He is even in the hard times. If you’re somebody like me who has been stuck in a system of just going to church and hearing the stories but not actually knowing Jesus for real, I want to encourage you to go after that relationship! It’ll change your life