Intimacy with the Lord is something all believers desire and yet there seems to be a lack of clarity as to how this is achieved. Some (borrowing from our instant gratification culture), are under the impression that it is an easy intimacy—something obtained as simply as curling up with a nice “spriritual” book and a warm cup of coffee or listening to some Christian music. I suppose that could be a start or part of it, but it can’t possibly be the end. True intimacy comes only from sharing Jesus’ life. It comes at the cost of a cross (Luke 9:23-24, 14:26-27)—when we have the passion and priority to allow God to transform our lives to be more like His Son. And while it is joyous, it is also demanding. No one I know thinks there is anything “easy” about it.
Abraham is called a friend of God not when he believes in a sky full of stars, but when he offers up his son Isaac (James 2:23). God speaks with Moses “as one speaks with a friend” (Exodus 33:11), not during the glory of his palace days, but after 40 years in the desert, ten plagues, and leading Israel out of Egypt. The apostles are spoken of as friend by Jesus in the context of preaching and persecution (John 15:14ff).
Jeremiah Denton died last week. He was a senator from Alabama. He was married for 61 years. Most people remember him because he was a POW for almost eight years during the Vietnam War (1965-1973).
Ten months into his imprisonment, Denton was brought before television cameras in a propaganda effort that blew up in his captors’ faces when Denton not only failed to say anything disloyal to his country, but also blinked his eyes in Morse code spelling out the word t-o-r-t-u-r-e—something the North Vietnamese had been denying.
As one of the highest ranking officers imprisoned, Denton helped establish a tone of resistance and non-cooperation among the prisoners. For his efforts, he and ten others were placed in solitary confinement in 3 x 9 foot cells that became known as Alcatraz. While there, he came up with a system that enabled them to communicate with each other. This was crucial for maintaining morale in the face of the isolation and horrific torture they were experiencing. He would later say of these times, “If I had known when I was shot down that I would be there more than seven years, I would have died of despondency, of despair, but I didn’t. It was one minute at a time, one hour, one week, one year and so on. If you look at it like that, anybody can do anything.”
But the part of his story that inspires me the most is what happened when he was welcomed back after his release in 1973. After he deplaned at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, he walked up to the microphone and said these word, “We are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our country under difficult circumstances.”
The man could have used the moment to talk about his trials, his suffering, his scars—but he chose to speak only of the honor of serving! He put himself in good company by acting this way (Acts 5:41). This is the attitude that’s behind intimacy with God. We’re all in—wherever it leads!