Daily News Journal Columns

God is not hard to find
Steven Odom, For The Daily News Journal 1:13 p.m. CDT September 1, 2016


Much to my surprise and delight a woman recently asked me what is required to "go to heaven.

I was surprised because she is a longstanding and faithful church member and I had assumed she already knew. I was delighted because, well, a cobbler likes to make shoes, a cowboy likes to ride the range, and a preacher likes to share the good news. Forty-five years ago when I heard the call, I figured that's what I'd be doing all the time. Earnest seekers after the truth and adoring crowds rejoicing to hear the gospel filled my 16-year-old imagination. I could see myself standing at one end of a gigantic stadium while the masses of sinners streamed forward as we all sang 11 verses of "Just As I Am. Turns out I'm not that guy.

But it also turns out that not as many Americans think in terms of salvation, getting saved, going to heaven, as used to. Not as many troubled souls seek out the preacher to find out how to be saved as in former days. Partly this is due to the fact that more and more people seek satisfaction for religious needs in ways that lead them astray and away from the church. It's also partly due to the relentless anti-clerical and anti-church tone that underlies so much of our entertainment media today.

And there is genuine confusion out there about the real answer. So let me tell you what I said in response to my questioner. Heaven is only for those who really want it. Hmm, you say, who doesn't? Well, think about it. Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart and soul and strength.

It makes sense to point out that if you really want to be in God's presence, if you really want to be the friend of God, if you want to become "like " God, then your life, your desires, your "wants will reflect that. We often try to ease the restlessness of our souls, not understanding what we're truly looking for. But, to answer the question, if you're really looking for God, he's not hard to find, because he'll come looking for you. As a matter of fact, he already has been. Why do you think I'm writing this column? That's right. God works with all sorts of odd "tools.

A young man, seeking wisdom, came upon the legendary holy man sitting beside the banks of a deep river. He threw himself down beside the frail looking old fellow, and begged, "Tell me how to find God! "

Do you really want to find God? he asked the young man. "

I've been doing nothing else for years, said the young man.

The old graybeard nodded and then suddenly seized him by the neck and with amazing strength for one so old,  plunged him into the icy water and held him under. The young man struggled and kicked and bucked for a while.

When the old man man finally let him up, gasping and wheezing, he asked, "Why did you do that? You almost killed me!

The old man looked at him and said, "While you were under the water, what did you want?

"Air, replied the young man, "I just wanted to breathe.

"Well, when you want God like that, he said, "you'll find him. And on the day you find him, you'll realize that he has found you.

In Mendelssohn's oratorio "Elijah, there are these pertinent lyrics, taken from Deuteronomy and Jeremiah:

"Oh, that I knew where I might find Him, That I might even come before His presence, come before His presence. Oh, that I knew where I might find Him. "If with all your heart ye truly seek Me, Ye shall ever surely find Me, Thus saith our God.

Steve Odom is pastor of Central Christian Church on East Main Street in Murfreesboro and a former community member of The DNJ Editorial Board. He can be reached at steven.odom@gmail.com.