flock of birds flying over the sea

, | 16 Mar 2020 | by GEM

Familiarity with God

by Doug Mitts

“…for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.” (Acts 11:24, NAS95)

Barnabas had a lead role in both the start and expansion of the church. I think the secret of Barnabas’s lived faith has to do with his familiarity and responsiveness to the Holy Spirit, God’s presence with us today. As I have grown and matured over the years, familiarity with the Holy Spirit’s leading has proven essential. While it has taken me much time to understand this, I think such familiarity came early in Barnabas’s life as a Christ follower.

Barnabas lived his faith (Acts 4:36-37) in profound ways soon after choosing to follow Jesus. He gave substantially, loved the body, and here as well as elsewhere, proclaimed Jesus to others. I can’t speak to what motivated Barnabas exactly, but his emotional attachment, experience of God’s love, appears profound in his actions. Not just in his giving, encouraging, but also in his proclaiming. This pattern began early in his Christian life and I think it accelerated his familiarity with God — the Holy Spirit’s interaction with him.

I know in my own life, learning to give of my financial resources opened abilities to see God’s provision, which until then, remained hidden or invisible to my heart. Learning to move from simply making demands or requests from God to revealing my heart to Him, transparently sharing my attitudes, motives, feelings and desires reshaped my prayer and relationship to Him. Since then I have continued to notice that obedience (or maybe better, responsiveness) to His invitations opens a deeper understanding of Him and a stronger emotional connection to Him. One of the most significant spaces I have experienced this concerns my readiness and willingness to invite others to follow Jesus. Over the years, this has transformed into a sense of being so proud of God that openness about Him to others comes naturally. Jesus gets proclaimed almost automatically.

My life lags behind Barnabas’s — his familiarity with God came early because He took responsiveness to the Holy Spirit (obedience to God) as the standard for life. He saw it in the others. He lived his faith, and that faith was not an idea, but a real, felt, and familiar interactive relationship with God. I see this ever more clearly now in my life, but oh how I wish somebody would have helped me grow into this level of familiarity with God earlier in my Christian journey.

Warmly in Christ,

Doug Mitts

For Reflection:

“But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.” (Psalm 13:5, NAS95)

  1. What sorts of stories do you have where God has reshaped your understanding of Him through obedience or responsiveness to His leading? What do these memories mean to you?
  2. What helps you grow in your familiarity with God? What role does obedience or responsiveness to Him play in that?