Stop Trying To Grow Closer To God

Stop Trying To Grow Closer To God

There are lots of stupid things we say as Christians.

I should know, I’ve said most of them and I’m sure I still say lots of thing that are stupid!

One of the more stupid things I frequently come across are statements that revolve around “growing closer to God.”

It’s something I’ve heard my entire life as a Christian and one I’ve uttered probably hundreds if not thousands of times.

“I want to grow closer to God.”

But what does that mean exactly?

The problem…

What are we communicating with this phrase?

We communicate that our relationship with God is based on distance. Relationship with God revolves around a key question… how near or far is God from us?

Shortly followed by another couple of questions…

What did I do to cause the distance and how do I get Him to come closer?

You see in using phrasing like “growing closer to God” we create distance in people’s relationships with Him.

What does the Bible say about distance?

The message of the NT repeatedly talk of a God who is both with us and in us! It fights hard to unravel a mindset that sees God and His Kingdom as a far off reality.

No. He is in us and with us.

He has promised to never forsake or leave us.

We are the temple of God – He literally lives in us!

When thinking of our relationship with God I’m often reminded of John 15. Here Jesus relates our connection to the Father with a branch’s connection to a vine.

I like that – it makes it nice and easy for me.

You see He grafts the branch into the vine. Our only job is to remain.

That’s it. Remain.

We don’t have to worry about producing fruit… a branch will always bear fruit… so long as it remains in the vine.

But we don’t have to worry about growing either.

A branch will aways grow… so long as it remains in the vine.

Branches in and off themselves don’t grow, nor do they bear fruit.

I’ve never seen a branch lying on the road and thought to myself – “I’ll watch this and see how big it gets” or “I wonder what fruit this branch will produce.

Without being grafted into a vine the branch isn’t going to do anything!

But not only that I think of HOW the branch grows.

Have you ever looked at a tree and thought “Wow! Look how close that branch is to the tree trunk!”

Obviously not.

Aside from the fact that this would suggest you need some new hobbies in your life, it would also be a hugely redundant observation.

ALL the branches are attached to the trunk! They are ALL as close to the trunk as one another.

You see branches don’t grow closer to the trunk. They are already grafted straight into the trunk.

But branches do grow.

How? They grow IN the trunk… they themselves grow bigger and become able to bear more fruit.

It’s not rocket science to spot the most mature branches (they are usually the bottom ones!) they are thick, solid branches. You can spot them a mile off from the small new shoots that are peeking out of the trunk.

Neither is closer to the trunk than the other. But one has spent a lot more time in the trunk, maturing, soaking up the nutrients the trunk provides and preparing to bear great fruit.

In the same way we have to see our own growth.

None of us are “closer” to God than anyone else. We all live with Him. He lives with us! IN us in fact!

Our job is not to try and get closer to God. It’s to simply remain.

Are we to grow? Yes!

But lets not forget that growth happens one way and one way only.

By abiding… simply resting in Jesus and allowing Him to prepare us for all the fruit He wants to bring forth on our branch.

Let’s stop trying to get close to God and lets start abiding in the one who abides in us!

I like to give the following challenge those who think they can grow closer to God:

Why don’t you spend the next week trying to get closer to your heart and report back to me on how close you get.

You aren’t going to get any closer to God. Why? Because He’s already taken up residence in you! Right next to your heart!

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  1. I remember a friend of mine posted on fb on the need to draw closer to God… and i commented by asking her a simple questions of which was, “why do we have to draw near to a God that’s in us? The next thing i knew she deleted my comment and blocked me from having access to her account on fb… And i began to wonder, did i infuriated her by just simply asking the right question?… well i thank God its past… And also i thank God that you took the time out to accurately deliberate on this for purpose of enlightenment! God bless you Phil, you’re doing great! :)

    • Thanks :) I think some people have become deeply invested in the process of closing the distance. It’s hard for us to let go of that process and let God close the gap.

      Time is a great healer of this issue though – give anyone enough time and they will eventually burn out and come to the realisation that the gap isn’t getting any smaller when we do it in our own efforts.

      Eventually we turn to grace and trust in Emmanuel… GOD WITH US!

      • Hey Phil
        Thanks for this. John Bevere has taught on this. ‘Drawing Near to God.’
        James 4:8
        Draw Near to God and He will Draw Near to you

        • Hebrews 10:19-23, “let us draw near to God.” Such an interesting balance of drawing and full assurance of faith. Striving and abiding, and they can look so similar, but it is a deeper heart issue. Finding that place myself I realize inviting those near me to the abiding with Jesus without condemning the striving. The condemning or correction from me is hurtful and arrogant, not my place but the heavenly Fathers. Knowing I have lived in that place of striving as well. I was drawn out by love of the Father.

    • Ilens, isn’t it funny when they do that? Exactly the same thing happened to me. She blocked me when I asked a simple question related to what she said – my dear Christian Fb friend. Sorry it happened to you too. Ah well.

    • Thanks Nate! Sorry I’ve not been in touch for ages – I know I have at least one email of yours I need to reply to in my inbox! Hope you are well… expect an email from me soon :) Love you bro!

  2. great points! I’d be more apt to adopt this analogy if you used some sort if scripture. For example the bible says he will never leave us or forsake us. This, however, is different than being distant from a God. For example, I may live with my brother in the same house. He is always around me physically. But if we don’t or communicate he can feel distant and far from me. This is how it is with God. In fact Isaiah 59:2 indicates there can be a separation. It doesn’t mean God us not with us, rather, it means his presence is apparent in our lives. So in a sense, we do have to remove sin in our lives to experience his presence in our lives but I agree, “growing” isn’t the right term. God bless!

    • Brittany

      I can give you a few scriptures but you could give me some that might contradict the ones I give you. I guess I mean I don’t want to argue but I think we should at least think about Jesus’ disciples. You can’t get much closer than they were or say Peter, James, and John But we do find places where they all did things that seemed to create distance especially when they all forsook Him before He was arrested. He said they would forsake him and after He died they were in fear and hiding when the Bible says “fear not” many times. Yet Jesus Himself closed the distance when He appeared to them where they were hiding. He removed their sin showing them his scars. In essence we love because He FIRST loved. But it wasn’t their love that brought him closer.


  3. Hi Phil. I ask this with the utmost desire not to be difficult but I am concerned and perhaps confused. It seems as though you are suggesting that we just rest in God and he makes growth happen without effort on our part. As referenced in another comment James 4:8 suggests that God does in fact draw near to us, as we draw near to him. This suggests some action on our part that causes us a greater “closeness”. I know you suggest growth must happen but it sounds kind of spontaneous, not requiring much effort if any on our part.
    I imagine that you do not believe in growth by grace without righteous works on our part, but it kind of comes off that way.
    I know there is a big grace vs. law/works debate out there. Was wondering if that feeds into this at all. Sincerely, josh

    • The Book of James was written to the 12 tribes of Israel that were scattered, and because they were scattered (James 1:1) an in depth study would reveal the reason for the language being used. James 4:8 confirms this about “drawing near to God, and He will come near”….remember the audience that James was writing to, they were scattered. I agree with Phil, we can’t get any closer to God that we are, as born again believers today. 1 Corinthians 6:17 states “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit”. It’s clear from the Bible that we are ONE with GOD. The oneness with God’s Spirit, is an amazing thing!

  4. Lovely, clear analogy. Thank you much.
    However, a question – when you say encourage us to ‘remain’, you suggest that we can ‘leave’. Would you comment on the ‘leaving’ phenomenon or the ‘leaving’

  5. Really good analogy – clear and simple. Do you think tho when people say they need to draw closer to God – they mean spend more time listening and just meditating on Him? Even though I am married, there are times I feel distanced from hubby due to work, lack of time spent etc etc. So to ‘draw closer to him’ I re focus my energies and thoughts back to that relationship. Same with God. We are married to him and that relationship never changes – but fellowship can. I dunno, that’s what I have always thought of when people do the ‘need to get closer to God’ thing. But yeah… we cannot get much closer to someone living in us. :)

  6. thanks phil reading your writings has always been a challenge to start and keep seeing aright with the right motives. Forgive my question as it may look too simple, how do you abide and rest? I’ll also appreciate you if you clarify this with james4:8. Thanks. Keep on the great work.

  7. Drawing closer to the kingdom means we are not in the kingdom yet. Drawing closer to God means that we have not found Him yet. It also implies that we have to work our way. Jesus lives in our heart–we don’t get closer than that!

  8. James 4:8New International Version (NIV)

    8″ Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” So it has to do something with the motives in our hearts and thoughts in our minds. If we do not make a choice to be/abide with the in-dwelling presence of Jesus in our spirits, we’re leaving him there very lonely for quite a while when something happens and we run to Him shouting “Jesus, help!” and He says, “I’m right here, have always been:)” And He helps without reproaches. It’s our sinful nature that blocks us from His presence in us and James puts it this way… Love the Word and love your brothers and sisters:)

  9. In common usage ‘close’ is used as a metaphor to mean intimate. People say things like ‘I was very close to my mother’ but maybe she lived 100 miles away. Can not God be in us and we in Him and at the same time we are growing more intimate with Him? Is not this what people generally mean when they say they want to grow closer to God? Yes, as a Christian God dwells in us as temple, but we may not be on intimate terms with God for whatever reason.

  10. Very insightful article!


    It’s interesting that as soon as we start to think or live like we accomplish something through our own effort, self-centered, rather than God-centered, identity, we start to create that mental distance. When, in Truth, we are one with God, we are directly connected with him in prayer, love and our true new-creation-identity.

    Wonderful, Phil.

  11. Nice illustration Phil…
    But I have a major issue here that I feel you’ve not touched on….what happens to you as a believer when you sin?
    Don’t get me wrong Phil… I understand the vine illustration and the other scriptures well but I’m faced with this question…. WHAT HAPPENS TO THE BELIEVER WHEN HE/SHE SINS? DO YOU CAUSE A SEPARATION BETWEEN YOU AND GOD? DO YOU LOOSE SOME AMOUNT OF THE POWER GOD HAS PLACED IN YOU?

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