One of the most famous characters in the Bible, yet of whom we know relatively little, is the patriarch Enoch. Most readers of the Bible know something about him, but biographical information is sparse. The writer to the Hebrews commends his faith: “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5). Moses frames it a little differently: “When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:21–24). Notice the distinction in wording. The writer to the Hebrews states that Enoch “pleased God” while Moses says that he “walked with God.” The two terms are synonymous.
The Bible calls Christians to walk with God. Unfortunately, far too many professing Christians relate to God in an entirely different way. G. K. Chesterton wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” Too many professing Christians have not walked with God because they have found it a difficult ideal. They have sought to relate to God, to be sure, but in a way that cannot be described as walking with God. Skye Jethani identifies four wrong ways that people relate to God.
First, some professing Christians approach life as life from God. These people use God to bless their efforts. They are not interested in a meaningful relationship with him but relate to him only inasmuch as he is able to bless them. They may go through the motions of Christian worship but only because they expect that God will bless their business, their marriage, or their parenting because they are doing the right things. When they fail, they live in fear that he will remove his blessings.
Second, some professing Christians adopt the approach of life over God. They reduce their relationship with God to mere formulas, which will produce controllable outcomes. If they give so much of their money, or pray so many hours a week, or read so many chapters of the Bible a day, they expect God to bless them. God operates on their terms. Churches that approach ministry this way may find themselves relying on business or organisational practices rather than the power of God for church growth. Christians who operate this way may rely on methods and practices rather than communion with God to face life with hope. They believe that they can control God.
Third, some professing Christians view life as life for God. For them, everything in life is about what they must do to “best” serve God. They might be paralysed into indecision because they are unsure whether moving forward with a particular action is the “best” way to serve. Jethani gives the example of a young woman he met who had always dreamed of going to medical school, and whose grades allowed for it, but who was uncertain whether she should instead labour to become a missionary. In her own words, missionary work was “really significant” in a way that medical practice was not. “I just don’t want to reach the end and feel that I missed out on a more significant life,” she said.
Fourth, some professing Christians live life under God. This posture is similar to life over God in that it anticipates predictable outcomes from our actions. It differs in that it doesn’t so much try to determine how outcomes must respond to actions, but it does work hard to figure out which actions God approves or disproves and always expects things to operate that way. If I uphold my end of the bargain, God will necessarily come through for me in the way that I expect.
Enoch “walked with God.” He lived a life of deep, meaningful communion with God, which resulted in a life that pleased God. As Jesus was “with God” in the beginning (John 1:1), so God desires his people to live life with him. The vision of the new Jerusalem highlights this truth. John saw the new Jerusalem coming down to earth from heaven and heard a voice from the throne declaring, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:1–4).
At root, the problem with the four postures described above is that they seek to control the relationship. They are less interested in communion than they are in control. But God wants us to live life with him—a life of deep, meaningful communion.
Over the next few days, I want to briefly consider three methods of prayer that we can employ to help us to live life with God, rather than life from, over, for, or under God. I will borrow from Skye Jethani in this regard, whose book With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God has proven personally helpful in this regard. I trust that, as you think about Enoch, who walked with God, and as you think about God’s desire to dwell with his people, you will pray for God to help you relate to him in this way.