“Spiritual formation into Christlikeness – true change of character – comes from living in relationship with God.” These words express a simple but deep conviction by Dallas Willard in the first chapter of his book, Hearing God. The statement seems simple and obvious but throughout the book he unpacks the meaning of it with great insight and wisdom.
Dallas then concludes the book by restating this fundamental truth when he writes “Spiritual people are not those who engage in certain spiritual practices; they are those who draw their life from a conversational relationship with God.” In fact “Developing a Conversational Relationship with God” is the sub-title of this profound book on guidance.
The reason I was reading this book is that several weeks ago I was in a dinner conversation with several Christian faculty and a physics professor mentioned that she had just read it and found it to be the most helpful book on guidance she had ever read.
So I decided to read the book again and I found it newly inspiring and comforting. More specifically I was struggling to pray in any meaningful way but Dallas reminded me that sharing such struggles with the Lord is far more important than not having any struggles by myself!
Like a long and strong marriage a deep relationship with God depends on honest communication and a desire to please the one who first loved us. I am grateful that Dallas not only loves wisdom but that he loves to live in a conversational relationship with the Lord. His teaching and life continue to help me grow in following Jesus.
As a footnote I also am encouraged that Dallas has lived his entire professional life in the secular academic world. Although he was a lay preacher for a time he definitely heard God calling him to the academy instead of to a church pulpit. What he has learned from God and about God was not as a “professional” Christian but in the context of a philosopher in the marketplace of people and ideas. Ironically he now pastors probably thousands of pastors and other professional Christians who look to him for wisdom and guidance. I am one of these indebted to him.
Bob Fryling is Publisher of InterVarsity Press and has recently written The Leadership Ellipse: Shaping How You Lead by who You Are. (IVP)