Everyone has a reputation. That doesn’t necessarily mean fame. Most have reputations that are more local, subtle. In your family, work place, church, neighbourhood or among acquaintances, there are certain things you are reputed to be. No one is born with a reputation. We earn them by our actions, words, character and spirit. So reputations become a reflection of what we are, or at least what we are reputed to be. The truth be told, there is always space between my reputation and my reality. Reputations can be over or under inflated. To know someone well, we need to go beyond what they are known for. We need to know them first hand. With that in mind, look at this Psalm.
“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.” Psalm 9:9,10
God has the reputation for strength and safety in times of trouble. He has never been known to forsake those who seek Him. His words and actions have built a reputation which is heralded as glorious. Everything He is reputed to be - He is. But we should be challenged, “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. All of us know God by reputation first. But this is only the beginning. We are to grow from knowing God’s reputation to knowing Him first hand. So, how do we move beyond simply knowing about Him?
These four words help. Desire. Friendship with God is rooted in our longings. We carve space, time and opportunity which allow us to know Him. Faith. God’s words and actions invite my personal trust. When we exercise faith, our pilgrimage shifts from theoretical to experiential. Patience. Deep relationships don’t happen quickly. It requires time to cultivate relationship with our Holy Lord. You can read about God in a short span, but to know Him takes a life time. Submission. God is different from our imagination and expectations. His actions will confound our presumptions. We submit to who He is, rather than cling to what we thought Him to be.
The four words are hard 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. This shift from knowing God by reputation to a knowing by head as well as heart is a challenge. In fact, on our own, it’s impossible. The Spirit is our enablement. The Son is our way. The Father is our reward. He will never forsake those who seek Him. That’s what I’ve heard about Him. That’s what I’ve found Him to be.