You can have a thriving ministry without a thriving relationship with God, but only temporarily. Anyone can fake it in the short run, but to go the distance, you need a passionate devotional life and continual closeness to Jesus. Often, pastors tend to allow the busyness of ministry and the necessity of studying for sermon preparation to replace a real, personal walk with Jesus. But God wants better for you.
Three T's for a thriving walk with Jesus…
It takes time to get to know somebody. I know Jesus Christ a whole lot better than I did five years ago or ten years ago or twenty years ago. It just takes time. When you spend time with Jesus, it doesn't make you more religious. It makes you more natural. In fact, God doesn't want you to be religious. He wants you to be you.
You can't develop an intimate relationship with anybody in a crowd. My wife tells me this all the time. My favorite joy is to greet people on our church's patio and talk to 100 different people. Meanwhile Kay would like to get with one person and spend an hour with them. She's always saying, "You can't get to know people in a crowd." You can know about them, but you get to know people by spending time with them. The same is true with God.
Relationships require communication. That's something else my lovely wife has taught me! Marriages die when one partner stops talking. You just can't have a relationship without communication. In the same way, you get to know God by talking to Him, by communicating.
If you heard me talk to the Lord on a daily basis, it doesn't sound like a pastor talking. But I talk to God all the time. Constantly I'm saying things in my mind to God all the time. It's not even real spiritual. I can be going through a Taco Bell ordering tacos, "God, I'm really glad to get this one. I'm hungry!" If you want to lose your joy, just talk to God in solemn, somber tones all the time.
John 16 talks about our communication with Jesus when it says "Until now you've not asked for anything in my name. ask that your joy may be complete." Much prayer, much joy. Little prayer, little joy. No prayer, no joy. The more continual your communication with God, the deeper your intimacy with Him will be.
It takes TIME, it takes TALK, and it takes…
Relationships are built on trust. Kay and I have a good relationship because I trust her. We don't agree on everything but I trust her implicitly. Relationships are built on trust. When we first got married, we had all these little rules – how you fold the towels, how you push the toothpaste from the bottom up. Do you know how many rules we have in our home now? Zip! The greater the relationship, the fewer the rules you need.
God wants you to learn to trust Him. So He allows all kinds of problems in your life. Then He can demonstrate His reliability. Paul says, "My number one ambition in life is …" to start churches? No. to get rewards in heaven? No. to win people to Christ? No. He says "My number one purpose in life is to know Christ." He says this at the end of his life. Doesn't he know God? Of course. But he wants to know Him better. He never stopped hungering for God.
Your hunger for God is going to come out in different ways depending on your personality. Mystical people hunger for God in a mystical way. Practical people hunger for God in a practical way. Loud people hunger for God in a loud way. Emotional people hunger for God in an emotional way. I'm not talking about how you do it. Just hunger for God. Always have as your number one ambition, "I want to know God more."