Driving down the highway I cried out, "Lukey boy, I can't wait to hold you!" The yearning in my heart to see my first-born son was indescribable. I was pastoring a church in St. Louis when he was born. The day after his birth I had meetings I could not cancel. During the last appointment, I was aching so badly to see him, I couldn't even listen to the person talking to me.
Finally I broke away, jumped into my car and went speeding down the road. I had an unbelievable longing to be with him, to hold him and look into his face.
Suddenly an overwhelming realization hit me, and I found myself asking, "You mean, God, that the way I feel about little Lukey is the way You feel about me?"
An urgent question came to my mind: "How much do you love your son?"
"Oh, Lord," I responded aloud, "I would give him everything!"
Then this Scripture verse seemed to explode in my heart: "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" (Matt. 7:11, NKJV).
The realization of the magnitude of God's desire for me was so emotionally overpowering, I pulled off the road and wept. The thought of a God who feels for me as I felt for my new son was almost incomprehensible. It seemed too good to be true.
Many people in the body of Christ today would have the same reaction I did to this revelation. Most of us have lost--or never had--an intimate knowledge of our heavenly Father. This is a fundamental problem in the modern church, and our generation is paying a heavy price for it.
The lack of knowledge of the Father has brought about the secularizing of our churches and the decay of our inner lives. It has led to the downfall of numerous spiritual leaders, repeated financial scandals in the church, and bitterness and hostility among members.
What you and I think about the Father is the most important thing about us. We are shaped emotionally by the image of God we carry in our minds.
Individuals often come to me with inadequate concepts of the Father. I explain over and over: "God desires you. He enjoys you. He has forgiven you."
But the believer responds: "I don't feel as if He loves me. I feel as if He has a big hammer in His hand, and He's just waiting to find a good reason to hit me over the head."
I may counsel and pray with the person time and time again, ministering the love and forgiveness of God, only to hear him say: "I wish I could believe that God is the way you say He is. I want to believe He really loves me, but I just can't grasp it."
As long as the individual continues to believe these or other lies about the Father, he will never mature into a strong Christian. Instead, he will live in fear, insecurity and defeat. Sooner or later, the fear and insecurity will bear poisonous fruit in the individual's own life and in his relationships with others.
I know they did in my life. In the early years of my ministry I did not have the confidence to minister to others if I was going through a period of personal failure or temptation. I wouldn't pray for people when they asked me. Honestly, I didn't think my prayers would help them unless I was soaring in spiritual maturity with constant victory in every area of my life.
I compared my experience to the days when I played college football. If I had several bad days of practice, the coach wouldn't let me play in the game that week. I thought God was like that: Either I did great in practice, in my personal spiritual life, or I wasn't good enough to participate in ministry.
Today I realize I had an entirely wrong idea of what God is like. When I am struggling, He wants me to run to Him, not away from Him. And He is faithful to continue to use me even when I feel the most inadequate spiritually. He loves me just as I am. * We are shaped emotionally by the image of God we carry in our minds. Mike Bickle is the director of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri, a 24-hour-a-day prayer ministry. He also is the author of Passion for Jesus and Growing in the Prophetic (Creation House). Visit his ministry on the Web at www.fotb.com.