You won’t lose weight unless you’re deliberate about it. You won’t gain muscle unless you intentionally exercise. You won’t earn a college degree unless you plan to achieve it. What does it mean to intentionally seek a deeper relationship of faith with God?
Bible Gateway interviewed Allen Jackson (@allenjacksonmin) about his book, Intentional Faith: Aligning Your Life with the Heart of God (Thomas Nelson, 2020).
What do you mean when you write, “Too often Christians confuse enthusiasm with preparation”?
Allen Jackson: Enthusiasm is a good thing! Preparation is a totally different response. If I’m scheduled for surgery, I want the person operating to be something more than enthusiastic. If outcomes are significant, preparation is imperative!
Preparation speaks to experience, understanding, and confidence. When we’re prepared, we’re able to respond to opportunities from which others will withdraw. Athletes use repetitive training to instill muscle memory so that in times of great stress they can perform at peak efficiency. They can sink a difficult putt under great stress or hit a curve ball at a crucial moment. As Christ followers we’re called to be prepared.
Consider 1 Samuel 17:36-37 (NIV) — Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine. Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.”
David was prepared for Goliath by his experience with the lion and the bear. Had he avoided the previous threats, he would have been unprepared for the challenge of the Philistine. Enthusiasm would not have been adequate. David knew what his sling was capable of accomplishing and what kind of stones to select.
Preparation is closely aligned with more familiar biblical terms like consecration and sanctification. They each reflect an intentional alignment of our lives with the purposes of God. Enthusiasm is an emotional response. Preparation is a purposeful discipline toward a desired outcome. God deserves more than an emotional response; he’s called us to be disciples—people under the discipline of preparation.
As 2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV) says, Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.
What does it mean to “seek God” and why is it important to do?
Allen Jackson: To seek God is to pursue God; a desire to know God. A more passive response is common. I often hear people say, “I’m open to anything God has for me.” Such a passive attitude can lead us to an eternity apart from God. We’re directed by Scripture to believe in our heart and confess with our mouth in order to be saved. See Romans 10:9-10 (NIV) — That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
God is clearly the initiator of our relationship with him, but we’re called to respond. God sent Jesus to the Earth. The incarnation is the greatest search and rescue initiative in history. Yet, our response to God is crucial. Hebrews 11:6 (NIV) says, And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
God has promised to reward those who seek him. Jesus directed us to “hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6 NIV).
Two of the most powerful motivations of the human personality are hunger and thirst. Jesus was not directing us toward a passive interest in God.
What are the daily actions involved in intentionally seeking God?
Allen Jackson: Obviously the lists could be extensive in answering this question. The two most obvious choices seem to be prayer and reading the Bible. Both practices are essential to maintaining relationship with God.
Prayer is an intentional inclusion of God into the fabric of our lives. There are many types of prayer and ways to pray. Intercession, healing prayers, prayers of repentance are just a few of the many categories of prayer. Each of these prayers represents a unique invitation to God into the midst of our lives.
Consistent reading of Scripture is an integral part of spiritual health and growth. 1 Peter 1:23 (NASB) says, For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.
God’s Word brings to life our own transformation, apart from his Word our faith is inanimate—it remains theoretical opinion. As we read God’s Word, it reads us—helping us to understand our responses to the world around us. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12 NIV).
What are the practical applications of “intending to grow”?
Allen Jackson: Consistent outcomes emerge from intent. It’s highly improbable you’ll mow the yard or make the bed if you don’t intend to. It’s equally unlikely that you’ll grow spiritually without the intent. Establishing intent leads to action. If you establish the intent, you’ll begin to develop an action plan. For too long we’ve been inert in our faith, preferring to share the story of our past faith decisions. It’s time to express our intent to grow in the grace of God.
What’s your advice for people who say, “I should read my Bible more”?
Allen Jackson: Accountability is a key component in establishing healthy habits. If you truly want to read your Bible, recruit a few friends and make a commitment together. Agree on a reading plan—don’t just read randomly. Check in with one another and share perspectives and insights.
Why do you suggest beginning a Bible reading plan with the four Gospels?
Allen Jackson: The focus of the Gospels is Jesus. The central figure in the “story of the Bible” is Jesus. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John give us a perspective of Jesus from four different vantage points. It’s a wonderful introduction to the central figure in the story of God’s redemptive plan for humanity.
Why is prayer necessary for a person to grow spiritually?
Allen Jackson: Spiritual growth is about a relationship. It’s more than the accumulation of facts and information. Prayer is an expression toward God; it’s an essential component to relationship.
What is the “100-day season of faith” you challenge readers to undertake?
Allen Jackson: The 100 days of faith is designed to help anyone establish a pattern of spiritual growth. Many of us would like to know God in a more meaningful way. These accessible statements of intent provide a pathway to transformation.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Allen Jackson: I especially enjoy John 9 and the account of the blind man who received his sight. When pressed about the circumstances of his healing he answered, “I was blind and now I see.” Clearly he did not know “the how” of his healing but he was very aware of the outcome. I often feel this way. I don’t know how to explain “the how” of what God is doing, but I can see the outcome. It’s wonderful to experience God and his love.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Allen Jackson: Bible Gateway is a tremendous tool for anyone with an interest in Scripture. The availability and ease of use has removed so many barriers to accessibility. Thank you for such a powerful contribution to the kingdom.
Intentional Faith is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Allen Jackson is the senior pastor of World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, TN, one of the largest churches in the nation, where he has been in ministry since 1981. He is also the founder of Allen Jackson Ministries, which reaches millions of people with the gospel each year.
Enhance your 100-day season of faith by becoming a member of Bible Gateway Plus. Try it right now!