I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)
I have been reading a book called Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax. (It is a great book, by the way, and I highly recommend it.) In his discussion, Sax talks about two kinds of knowledge. His discussion of knowledge is highly appropriate to our understanding of our relationship with Christ. How do we know love that surpasses knowledge?
Let’s first examine what it means “to know.” Sax shares that the verb to know in the English language has two major definitions. The first is to know something as fact or truth or to be aware or cognizant of something. The second is to be acquainted with something through experience. In the discussion of education, he refers to book knowledge vs. experiential knowledge.
For example, it is one thing to study plants in a science class. That type of study brings knowledge about how plants are formed and what is required for them to grow and thrive. It is a totally different type of knowledge when we get outside, dig in the dirt, plant a vegetable in the garden, care for it, and then eat the results of our efforts. This is experience. This won’t be forgotten like book knowledge. No one can take this experience from us. It is impactful and real.
Interestingly, he points out that the English language has only one word for “to know,” and that perhaps we sometimes miss out on experiential knowledge because we use the verb “to know” generally. Other languages, such as French, Spanish, and German, have two different words to represent these ideas—one word to denote head knowledge, a separate word to denote experiential knowledge. So, which definition do we mean when we say we long to know God?
How Can We Know God?
I suspect that what we mean when we say we long to know God is that we want more experience of God. Those of us who have been serving Him for years, attending church, and having daily devotions, can claim a great deal of knowledge that pertains to facts, truths, and cognizance. We quote Scripture, reference Scripture, tell Bible stories, apply parables, and pray and claim Scripture in our daily lives.
But what we really desire in our heart of hearts is to know God intimately. That desire has been placed in us by God. That kind of knowledge takes experience. And that comes personal, deep study of God’s Word s and prayer. We can’t rely on “experts.” God has called each of us into relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit is our Teacher. He whispers meaning, revelation, encouragement, correction, and more as seek to know, really know, God in all His ways.
You can’t get to know someone well if you only hear about that person from a friend. You must spend time with a person yourself. This is no different when we want to know God. It seems silly that we even consider that we can get to know God by only listening to the pastor’s message on Sunday morning.
We need our own experience with God. When we study for ourselves, God gives us a personal revelation of Himself and a personal application of knowledge to our own lives. When we pray and God answers our prayers, we have experience that solidifies our intimacy with Him. We don’t just have head knowledge that God is dependable. We’ve seen through our own experience that He is dependable. Whether answered prayer comes from guidance, provision, healing, or peace, we live it. That is what we truly desire when we say we want to know God or know more of God.
Paul talks about this kind of knowledge when he prays for the saints in Ephesians1:17-19. If you read it in the Amplified Version, there are a lot of adjectives used to describe knowledge, which implies knowledge is greater than just awareness.
I always pray] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may grant you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation [that gives you a deep and personal and intimate insight] into the true knowledge of Him [for we know the Father through the Son]. And [I pray] that the eyes of your heart [the very center and core of your being] may be enlightened [flooded with light by the Holy Spirit], so that you will know and cherish the [a]hope [the divine guarantee, the confident expectation] to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the [b]saints (God’s people), and [so that you will begin to know] what the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His [active, spiritual] power is in us who believe. (Ephesians 1:17-19)
It takes a lot of effort to spend this type of time getting to know God. But that is true of any relationship. Time is essential. However, when we make a commitment to spend that time, God will reward it. God is a Rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
I pray, as Paul did, that you and I may you find more experiential knowledge of God as you seek to walk more closely with Him.