J. B. Phillips’ book How Big is Your God? describes very clearly what a lot of people believe about God and often they have a wrong or a small view of what God is. As we saw before, some people see God as the ‘resident policeman’, who’s out there to get you. There are other ways people see God, as described in that book.
God – The Parental Hangover
Christian-based counsellors will tell you the image most of us have of God is a picture based largely on our childhood relationships to our parents, especially our father, but it can be to our mother as well. This is true whether we are committed church members or not. Author Selwyn Hughes explains it this way: “When we became Christians, God didn’t drill a hole in our head and deposit a clear concept of himself there.” As a general rule, we relate to God in harmony with the laws of relationships that we learned in childhood. God is our parents magnified.
If your father was loving, warm, tender, and compassionate and gave you lots of attention and approval, chances are you tend to feel God is the same. But if either your father or mother were tyrants, abusive, legalistic, punitive, distant, cold, demanding, or perfectionist, chances are we’ll feel God is the same. Selwyn Hughes put it, “God made us in his image. We do ourselves great harm when we try to make him in ours or in that of our parents!” If you base your concept of God on your parents, your God is too small.
A minister filling in for his friend told the story one Sunday night. A young student came to church, and approached him. He had something important he wanted to say. He appeared to be aggressive and said: “I don’t want to insult you, Jay, but I come to this service mostly because it’s a good place to meet girls. There are some very beautiful, young, professional women who come to this church, and so I’ve found this a good place to meet dates. It’s a wholesome place on Sunday evening. I don’t want you to feel insulted, but I don’t even believe in God.”
Jay, the minister, wasn’t offended—he appreciated the young man’s honesty. But he wanted to know more. This person had a maiden aunt who was neurotic. Every time their family wanted to talk about the football, she wanted to talk about her own death. Every time someone was having a good time, she wanted to bring up questions of hell. So he had concluded that believing in God had something to do with his maiden aunt. His view of God was far too small. But that’s all he had to go on.
God – The Old Man With a Long White Beard Who Has Lived For Ever
In his book, J. B. Phillips talks about a group of students being asked about a new thing that had just been discovered fifty years ago when the book was written: radar. They asked a group of students if they thought that God understood radar. The students said, “No! God is too old to understand radar.” Some Sunday School children were once asked to write down their ideas as to what God was like. Most of the answers said something like this: “God is a very old gentleman living in heaven.” Children often view their superiors as ‘old’, which carries over into a person’s conception of God.
People use old and archaic language or Victorian expressions to speak about and pray to God, because he seems old to them. Maybe a nice old man. So is God old? No. God made time, and exists outside of time. He is neither young nor old. He simply is.
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God In a Box
Some people see God as someone whom we turn to when we need answers and we don’t know where else to go for answers. This God exists only to answer questions for which we have no other explanation: God in a box. This God is too small.
God – The Managing Director
In this view, other people think God’s job is to coordinate and steer the universe and make sure everything comes out okay in the end. This God is too small.
How Big is Your God?
One day a young man comes to see his community’s wise elder. The young man says, “I have a confession. I don’t believe in God.”“Really?” the elder says. “Why don’t you believe in God?” “Well, I don’t believe that there is some kind of a physical being living above us who chooses one people over another, demands constant praise, makes innocent people needlessly suffer, and eternally punishes others for disobeying his arbitrary rules.” I also have a confession,” the elder responds. “I don’t believe in the same God that you don’t believe in.”
Most of us—maybe all of us—live with images in our minds and hearts of God that are just too small. So, how big is your God? Is he big enough to see you once you leave this building? Is he big enough to help you get through your daily worries and sins?
There’s a children’s song that says, “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do.” If children can say that, then why can’t we? Is your God big enough to handle anything in your life?