Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Dick Bernal's new book, Shaking Hands with God: Understanding His Covenant and Your Part in His Plans for Your Life, (Regal Books, 2008).
Are you sure where you stand with God? God wants you to know that your bond with Him is secure. Thanks to the covenant God has made with you, you can approach Him with confidence and fully enjoy your relationship with Him.
Here's how you can bond with God:
Get to know God well. Even though God has initiated a covenant with you, a covenant requires a reciprocal interchange between partners. So respond to God. Decide to pursue God with all your heart, since He has promised that if you do so, you’ll find Him. Do more than just attending church once a week. Invite God to take His rightful place at the center of your life. Make your relationship with Him your top priority, and base all of your decisions around that reality. Communicate with God regularly through prayer. Read, memorize, and meditate on His Word, the Bible, often. Put your biblical knowledge to practical use so it will become wisdom. Get to know God well so you can relate to Him intimately and enjoy a close relationship with Him.
Learn God's language. God speaks the language of faith. The stronger your faith grows, the better you’ll be able to communicate with God. Be willing to follow where you sense God leading you; doing so will strengthen your faith each time you say “yes” to God.
Recognize the difference between a covenant and a contract. Our society’s main form of relationship is a contract – an agreement between two parties that focuses on what each promises to do for the other and can easily be broken. But God wants to relate to you through covenant – an unconditional promise of a permanent relationship. Don’t let the world’s prevailing form of relationship limit your thinking on how you can relate to God. Although other people can let you down, God will always prove reliable. Count on God to always do what’s best. Unlike with a contract, in a covenant it’s God Himself who protects your best interests. Decide to trust Him with every aspect of your life.
Stop striving. Since you have the assurance of God’s covenant with you, you don’t have to worry about trying to earn His love or fretting that you may lose His love when you make mistakes. Rest in the reality that God’s love is yours for now and forever.
Overcome pride. Pride will distance you from God. Ask God to show you areas where pride may be interfering with your relationship with Him. Confess the sin of pride in your life whenever you become aware of it. Ask God to help you develop a more humble attitude so you can draw closer to Him.
Overcome fear. Fear will give you the urge to flee from God’s presence, when what you need to do instead is run toward Him for comfort and forgiveness. When you make mistakes, confess them and learn from them. Turn toward God and let the promise of His covenant restore you.
Pass the tests. God will sometimes test your faith. When God calls you to do something that seems ridiculous to others, choose to listen to God instead of worrying about what other people think. When you encounter a temptation, decide not to yield to it so you can please God and avoid trouble for yourself. God has demonstrated His perfect faithfulness through His covenant with you; place your full faith in Him.
Embrace God as a Father. Recognize that the quality of your relationship with your human father can affect how you view your heavenly Father, God. If you’ve had an unhealthy relationship with your human father, work through the healing process as God leads you so you can come to understand true fatherly love.
Let go. Be willing to let go of anything or anyone that is interfering with your ability to follow where God wants to lead you. Learn how to rely on God alone. He is truly all you need in any situation.
Wait for God’s timing. Patience is an important part of faith. There will be times when God will wait until it becomes literally impossible for a dream or promise to be fulfilled before He moves, because He wants to build your trust in Him. Remember the covenant He has made with you to act in love and do what’s best. Wait for Him instead of rushing ahead and trying to make things happen on your own. Trust God to open the right doors at the right time.
Don’t hold grudges. Holding grudges against people who have hurt or offended you will hinder your covenant blessings. Think of the people you resent and ask God to help you forgive them. Let your gratitude for God’s full and complete forgiveness for you motivate you to obey His command to forgive others and try to reconcile with them.
Live through God’s strength rather than your own. Rely on God’s unlimited power (instead of your own limited strength) each day. Pray about every challenge you face and expect God to respond with the help you need. God’s covenant with you gives you full access to His help anytime, anywhere.
Focus on character. God measures you by the character of your inner being, not by what you accomplish or try to do for Him. Direct your attention toward developing the kind of character that God wants you to have – with the character qualities described in the Bible. Focus on who you are rather than on just what you do, since God has based His covenant on you as a person, no matter what you happen to accomplish.
Stay positive. You can maintain a positive attitude even when you go through negative circumstances (such as when others treat you unfairly). God’s covenant assures you that He will take even the worst situations and transform them to accomplish good purposes. During a crisis, remember that tough times don’t last, but tough people do. Be tough by staying positive through trusting God.
View life from an eternal perspective. Since God’s covenant with you is eternal, think in terms of eternity – rather than just the here and now – when making your decisions. Every one of the decisions you make has the potential to impact eternity. Keep the significance of your decisions in mind every day.
Expect God to use your life in great ways. No matter how insecure you may feel about your own abilities to serve God, God has expressed full confidence in you through His covenant and is always willing to use your life to accomplish great purposes whenever you turn to Him. Give your ordinary life to God daily and look forward to the extraordinary ways He’ll work through you.
Build true friendships. Friends who are willing to love each other unconditionally mirror the covenant relationship God has with people He loves. Whenever you find a good friend, invest plenty of time and energy into the relationship to nurture it well. Aim to love without any strings attached, and enjoy the love your friends freely offer you.
Get rid of idols. Is there something or someone in your life to which you’re devoting more attention than you do to God? If so, that’s an idol. Whether it’s your work, television, a relationship, a sport, or even a ministry you cherish, nothing should replace God as your top priority. Seek God first, and then you’ll naturally get the right perspective on all else in your life. Just as God has made a covenant to give His all to His relationship with you, you should give your best to your relationship with Him.
Expect miracles. All things are possible with God, and His covenant with you assures you that there are no limits to His love. Don’t discount His care for you. Expect that He may sometimes choose to perform miracles in your life if doing so will help fulfill good purposes.
Rely on the Holy Spirit daily. A vital part of God’s covenant with you is the fact that He has made His Holy Spirit available to you constantly for help, encouragement, and guidance. Connect with the Spirit every day for fresh empowerment.
Pray boldly. God’s covenant with you gives you the confidence you need to approach God with any request and have the faith that He will answer. Believe that God cares and will respond. Pray often, be specific about what you’re asking from God, and look forward to what He will choose to do. Besides talking to God, spend time in prayer listening to Him as well – enjoying His presence and surrendering to His will. Thank God each time He answers your prayers.
Give generously. God has given you incredible blessings through His covenant with you. Decide to give your best to God by giving financially to support His work on earth. Be generous, just as God has been generous with you. Overcome an attitude of poverty that makes you feel as if you can’t afford to give generously. God is the one who has given you the ability to earn wealth, and He will continue to bless you with whatever you need as you give back to Him.
Find your mission field. God calls each person with whom He has a covenant to a unique place of ministry. Ask Him to show you what your mission field is, and count on Him to empower you to accomplish whatever ministry work He has in mind for you. Then step out in faith and get to work, and look forward to what God will do through you!
Adapted from Shaking Hands with God: Understanding His Covenant and Your Part in His Plans for Your Life, copyright 2008 by Dick Bernal. Published by Regal Books, a division of Gospel Light, Ventura, Ca., www.regalbooks.com.
Dick Bernal and his wife, Carla, founded the now 14,000-member Jubilee Christian Center in San Jose, California in 1980. He has spent nearly three decades serving as a pastor, training ministers and reaching nations through media and missions work. He is a popular conference speaker as well as a noted author and leading authority on spiritual warfare and city taking.