Knowing God in the Age of Instant Gratification

I’m old enough to remember checking my email in the early days of the internet. I would sit at my parents’ computer and wait about 45 minutes for our dial-up modem to connect (with all of its’ singing beeps.) Then I would eagerly see if there were any messages for me at our Compuserve email address.

It’s almost inconceivable now to wait longer than a few seconds to do anything online. We live in an age of instant gratification, and though I didn’t grow up with a smartphone in my hand, how quickly I’ve become used to the new normal!

Faith is a lifelong journey

But for all the ease and convenience the internet brings with it, I’m concerned for my ability to show patience for the things that matter. So many good things in life require us to have endurance for the process, to show patience when we want results, to embrace the slow journey towards what we’re hoping for. Patience and endurance is required of us in our relationships, our careers, and most importantly, in our faith.

Our journey of faith is a lifelong commitment. Some would have us believe that all we need to do is check some boxes on a spiritual checklist in order to live the hashtag-blessed Christian life, but this approach to faith impoverishes us—it is transactional instead of transformational.

A transformational life of faith begins with understanding that eternal life with God isn’t our final destination, it’s our starting point. Living our lives in relationship with God doesn’t happen overnight, it happens day by day, over the long haul. In her book “Half the Church,” Carolyn Custis James notes:

“By naming us as his image-bearers, God has made a relationship with himself the strategic center of his purpose for humanity and for the world. Knowing God is as vital to us as the air we breathe—not just a ‘come to faith’ knowing, but the ongoing knowing and endless discoveries of a relationship.”

Carolyn Custis James

Because we were made in God’s image, our purpose is to be in relationship with God. This involves an ‘ongoing knowing,’ not a one-time event. 

knowing God in the age of instant gratification

Knowing God through spiritual practices

When we meet someone new, we might learn their name, what they do for a living, or a little bit about their family. After first making their acquaintance, we can say, “Oh yeah, I know so-and-so.” But really, we know of them. To truly know someone, we must spend time with them—talk to them, listen to them, observe them. This happens over multiple encounters. 

And so it is with our life of faith: knowing God is a lifelong pursuit. There is nothing instant about it. Rather, we show patience and endurance in cultivating habits of faith that bring us closer to God in relationship.

These habits of faith have also been called “spiritual disciplines” or “spiritual practices” and I grew up believing there were only two: reading my Bible and praying. Since then, I’ve learned there are many, many more* such as creativity, play, and solitude.

Our eternal life with God starts NOW, and God’s presence is with us always through the Holy Spirit. How will we turn towards God and grow closer in our relationship with Him…not just today, but everyday? Are we willing to forego instant gratification in our faith life for a slower, richer relationship with God?

Here are some simple ideas to get you started with your own habits of faith:

  • Take a daily prayer walk.
  • Read a Psalm instead of scrolling on your phone.
  • Write your own breath prayers (or borrow mine!)
  • Schedule a day of rest to connect with your family and with God.
  • Set a daily timer for 1-5 minutes of solitude and silence, as a way to make space to connect with God.
  • Listen to Lectio 365 or Pray as You Go on your commute to work or in the school pick-up line.
  • Every night, use a blank notebook to record one way you noticed God’s truth or beauty or love in your day.

These are not meant to be a spiritual to-do list, these are simply some ways that I have found helpful in cultivating habits of faith. These are ways we can grow deeper in our knowledge of God over the long-term. Knowing God is indeed “as vital to us as the air we breathe” as Carolyn Custis James puts it, and it’s the one pursuit that is ALWAYS worthy of our time.

Success! You're on the list.

*For an excellent resource, check out Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster and Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun.

***Featured Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Posted by

Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s