The Benefit of Knowing God’s Names
by Ava Pennington
What is your understanding of who God is and how He works? People speak of “my God” or “your God.” My God would never allow pain and suffering. Your God is judgmental. My God is . . . and so on.
Author A. W. Tozer once wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” When I first read those words, I was struck by the realization that I needed to learn more about who God really is as opposed to who I think He is or who others say He is.
It’s easy to pick one or two characteristics of God and allow those attributes to become the total of who we understand God to be. For example, some focus only on God’s characteristic of being loving and merciful. They don’t like to think about His holiness, righteousness and judgment. Problem is, they end up with an anything-goes god who tolerates sin. Others may focus on God’s holiness and judgment to the exclusion of all other characteristics. The god they create for themselves is a fire-and-brimstone god who is unloving, unmerciful and uncompassionate.
God is love and He is holy. He is merciful and He is just. He is also righteous and compassionate. He is all these things and more. To truly know Him, He calls us to learn all He is—not just one or two characteristics appealing to who we want Him to be. Think of the facets of a diamond that combine to reflect its brilliance. The names and attributes of God combine in a similar way to reveal the transcendence of His nature and the glory of His ways. But how can we connect with such glory?
To know someone intimately, we learn what he says about himself. And with each revelation of God’s names and attributes, it’s as if God whispers to us, “Come closer, My child. I have something new I want to tell you about Me.” The more we learn, the easier it is to trust Him and depend on Him. And it doesn’t stop there. With each new revelation, we also learn something new about who we are in relation to Him.
That’s why, when I wrote Reflections on the Names of God: 180 Devotions to Know God More Fully, I included three distinct devotions for each name and attribute. The first devotion in each set examines what God said about Himself. The second devotion explores how this particular name or attribute changes us because of our relationship with Him. And the third devotion in each set considers how our relationships are influenced by this same name or attribute of God.
Even if we grew up attending Sunday school or going to church, we still might have trouble understanding what God said about Himself. It doesn’t help that the names and attributes of God which brought comfort to countless generations are now often misunderstood.
On a personal level, learning the names of God has affected my own faith relationship with God in at least three ways.
First, it changed the way I relate to God. Faith in God is not blind faith. We can confidently rely on who God is by what He has revealed about Himself in His Word. And each name and attribute tells me not just who He is, but how He works. He is unchanging—the God of the Bible is the same today. I can rely on Him because He is not capricious or unpredictable like the ancient pagan gods. And while we cannot fully understand who He is this side of heaven, His names and attributes give me glimpses into His divine nature.
Second, it changed the way I pray. I’m not praying to some impersonal force out there in the universe, I am praying to our very personal God. Whatever the subject of my prayer—whether worship, thanksgiving, interceding for others or asking for myself—there is a name or attribute God has revealed which helps me relate to Him in that area.
Third, it changed the way I share and teach about Christ. Knowing His names and attributes has given me the confidence to share Christ on an individual and personal level. God is not some ancient or outdated theological idea. Everything about who He is and how He works is relevant to us today. Knowing His names and attributes gives me specific ways to describe who He is. It also helps me when others speak of who they think God is, because then I have a starting point to say, well, let’s look at who God says He is!
The more we learn about who God is and how He works, the easier it is for us to trust Him, resulting in a more intimate relationship. The foundation of this trust is a complete picture of who He is. All the names and attributes of God combine to reveal His nature and His glory.
God calls us to know Him as He has revealed Himself in His Word and to respond in faith—that’s how we relate to our awesome God! Dig into His Word, spend time with Him in prayer, and learn what He has said about Himself. My prayer is that you’ll discover what I did—that His names and attributes reveal He is everything and anything you will ever need.
Ava Pennington is an author, speaker, freelance editor and certified writing and speaking coach. She also teaches a weekly Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class. In addition to writing Reflections on the Names of God: 180 Devotions to Know God More Fully (Revell Books), Ava is published in numerous magazines and more than 35 anthologies. For more information, visit www.AvaPennington.com