What Is Awe?
About the Guest
Is God having trouble getting your attention? Human beings are hardwired for seeking awe, says author and pastor Paul David Tripp, so the awe of God should be our central motivation in all we do. However, we easily forget God and let other things, like money or self, take His place. Paul reveals the cure for this kind of spiritual amnesia.
Paul David TrippPaul David Tripp is a pastor, author and conference speaker. He is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries and works to connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. This vision has led Paul to write 17 books on Christian living, produce 14 teaching series and travel aroun...more
Human beings are hardwired for seeking awe, says author and pastor Paul David Tripp. However, we easily forget God and let other things, like money or self, take His place.
What Is Awe?
Bob: There is a connection between how the two of you get along in marriage and what you really believe about who God is. Here to make that connection is Paul David Tripp.
Paul: If the husband is screaming at his wife things that she should never hear him say—he is a Christian man—he’s not doing that because he’s ignorant of God’s law / he’s not because he knows God’s law. He’s doing it in that moment because he doesn’t give a rip about God’s law because he’s now in the center of his world. It’s all about him; and somehow, she has gotten in the way of what he wants.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 21st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Your marriage and family relationships will be stronger when you really understand who God is and how awesome He is.
We’ll talk more about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I was thinking today about back when I first came to faith. I think there was a Bible, and there were about ten other Christian books around at that time. Do you know what I mean? There just wasn’t a whole lot. I remember a book called How to Be a Christian without Being Religious. Do you remember that?
Dennis: I do.
Bob: Fritz Ridenour.
Dennis: It had a profound impact in my life.
Bob: And I remember a book by J.B. Phillips called Your God Is Too Small.
Dennis: That one as well. There were only ten books out—we had to have read them all! [Laughter] I wish this book had been out.
But let me, first of all, introduce our guest, Paul David Tripp—welcome him back to the broadcast. Paul, welcome back.
Paul: Thanks. It’s great to be here with you.
Dennis: Paul is a pastor / a prolific author. How many hundred books have you written, Paul?
Dennis: Seventeen—seventeen hundred. I knew it was a large number. [Laughter] He is an international conference speaker; and he gives leadership to his own ministry, Paul Tripp Ministries.
Bob: And he is going to be joining us in February of next year on the Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise. Glad to have you along on the cruise with us.
Paul: Yes. I’m excited.
Dennis: Paul, you have written a book called Awe—A-W-E. And you said in the book—right out of the gate—that you wrote this book for other people, but primarily for yourself. Explain to our listeners what you mean by that.
Paul: Well, I think that, like many other people, I am a very skilled awe-amnesiac—that what is meant to focus my heart and direct my life competes with other things that are less important but rise to levels of importance and control my behavior.
Dennis: We forget who God is.
Bob: Or back to that book that I was talking about—
—Your God Is Too Small—that’s really—we live, day to day, with a functional understanding of God at a smaller level than who He really is; don’t we?
Paul: Yes; I think it’s even bigger than that. I think what you need to understand is that human beings were hardwired for awe. We’re awe-seekers. That’s why we like the triple overtime NBA game, or the great, big steak, or all those kinds of experiences. We’re wired for awe. And all of that was designed inside of us to draw us to God so that awe of God would be the central motivation of everything we do.
You could ask me, “Why do you spend your money the way you do?” I could say, “Because of my awe of God.” “Why do you relate to your wife the way you do?” “Because of my awe of God.” “Well, why do you treat your physical body the way you do?” “Because of my awe of God.”
Bob: Okay; draw the line—because I’m having a hard time thinking of how I spend my money and my awe of God being connected.
Paul: Well, for example, materialism isn’t a money problem / it’s not a thing problem—it’s an awe problem.
Dennis: It’s a heart problem.
Paul: Well, yes—but it’s an awe problem. See—if my heart is being satisfied by the awe of God, I’m not seeking satisfaction in physical things. I mean, materialism is asking material things to do for me what they were never meant to do. So, I buy myself into oblivion. I spend all of my life gaining or maintaining physical things with the hope that physical things would be my savior—which they’ll never be.
Dennis: I think, just at the start here, we need you to practically define awe. Is it, in essence, practicing the presence of God?
Paul: Yes; it’s that capacity for wonder / the capacity for the fulfillment of wonder that is controlled by God and God alone. Yes; you call it worship, but there is something about that word, awe—about the wonder—the capture that—
—it’s the blown away by that—it’s: “This is what I want. This is what I live for. This is what I want to shape my life.” It’s that thing.
Bob: We use the word, awesome, a lot and use it about things that are trivial. Instead of being awesome, we call the mundane awesome.
But we’ve been in circumstances where—maybe, you’ve been at a Broadway show / and the lighting, the effects, the way it all comes together, the music—you walk out having been emotionally-moved. You look at each other and go, “That was awesome!” What are we saying when we say that to one another? How does that help us understand our definition of what awe is?
Paul: What we’re talking about is something that is more deeply theological than we understand. That capacity to want to be blown away / that capacity for wanting wonder in our life—
—the fact that we have eye-gates, and ear-gates, and heart-gates that can receive that—the fact that we are in a physical world that gives us that was all carefully designed by God so that would all lead us to have hearts that are satisfied with Him, where the thing that creates the deepest wonder, the deepest glory, the deepest satisfaction in me is God.
Dennis: Why do you think that God created us with this need for awe?
Paul: Because He created us for Him. What awe finally gets you to—and this is really humbling—is that it’s not about you / that I don’t live in the center of my universe. It’s not about my comfort. It’s not about my peace. It’s not about my happiness. It’s not about me. It’s not about me. It’s not about me. It’s about Him. And so, He gave us this hunger inside of us that can’t be satisfied by anything else but Him.
Now, the dark side of that is—if you replace God with horizontal, physical, created things, awe is not replaced by awe; awe is replaced by addiction because those things can’t satisfy you. So, you’ve got to go back again, and again, and again. Somewhere along the way, you get hooked. You get hooked to the love of a person, or you get hooked to business success, or you get hooked to alcohol. We’re all addicts in some way.
Dennis: Experiences through entertainment, athletics—
Paul: Sure—or the next big adventure, or vacation, or whatever—because those things can’t satisfy you. That’s why Paul says—in 2 Corinthians 5:15—that Jesus came so those who live would no longer live for themselves. He could have said, “Jesus came to give you back your awe of God again”; and he would have been saying the same thing because, when I’m not living in awe of God, the other alternative is it is awe of me.
Whatever I decide will satisfy me begins to direct my life.
Well, maybe, you’re a believer—listening to this program, saying, “That’s not me.” Sure it is! / It’s me! So, maybe, that moment is schedule—I’m ripping because Luella is five minutes late. Think about what that’s about. I mean, that’s so ugly and audacious: “Who do I think I am?”—that: “I am the center of my world, and you must not be three or four minutes late without incurring my irritation.” That’s not a law problem—that’s an awe problem that creates a law problem.
I mean, if a husband is screaming at his wife things that she should never hear him say—he’s a Christian man—he’s not doing that because he’s ignorant of Gods law /
he is not because he knows God’s law. He’s doing it, in that moment, because he doesn’t give a rip about God’s law because he’s now in the center of his world. It’s all about him; and somehow, she has gotten in the way of what he wants.
Bob: So, if you’re waiting for your wife, and she’s five minutes late, and you’re starting to get frustrated—how does re-centering yourself on the awe of God, and stopping and remembering, “God is indeed majestic, and mighty, and all-glorious,”—how does that affect the fact that “I’m still a little irritated because I wanted to be here when things started”?
Dennis: I mean, you wrote the book about having awe. You’ve undoubtedly been irritated.
Paul: It’s an easy question to answer because what you need to own is: “Your emotional life always reveals what your heart is in awe of—where you are happy, where you are joyful, where you’re angry, where you’re sad.”
In that moment, God, in His grace, is giving me warning signs. The warning sign is my anger. The fact that I even recognize that I am angry is grace. So, how about—in that moment, instead of yelling at my wife, cry out to God and say: “God, help me! Here I am again. I forget who You are. I forget Your existence. I get into my world and what I want. I need Your help.”
What has happened in that moment is anger—instead of producing dysfunctional relationships—it has begun to produce worship. How beautiful is that?
Dennis: You know, I’m just listening to you here; and I am thinking, “The awe of God should produce fruit in your life.”
Dennis: Galatians 5 talks about the fruit of the Spirit. The first one is love. If people want to know how to love—how to love an imperfect person, an imperfect child, an imperfect relative—
—the way they learn that is by falling in love with Christ—standing in awe of His love for you / getting a better understanding of His love. At some point, that has to begin to spill over into your relationships in life; shouldn’t it?
Paul: Sure. And motivationally, if I’m living in awe of God—and these things picture God’s agenda—I think: “I want to be a part of that! This is the most amazing, wise, powerful, glorious, holy, good Person in the universe.”
Paul: “If this is what He values, I want to value that.” That’s what awe does for me instead of: “I’m going to hold onto the things that are important to me, and I don’t care what happens. These are the things I want.”
Well, who am I in awe of there?—me. And so, what happens, I think, for some of us is—that because we are not dealing with this awe issue, our Christianity stays on the fringes because, when push comes to shove—
—not on Sunday morning, when we’re singing some glorious worship song—but on Wednesday evening, Thursday night, Friday morning—what is really motivating us is: my holy wants, my holy needs, my holy feelings. That’s not okay because that’s a contradiction of everything we say we actually believe.
Dennis: You talked about, at the beginning of the broadcast, how you suffered from spiritual amnesia, which prevents you from having this awe—prevents you from knowing how to love, how to be patient with your wife, etc. What must we do about this amnesia—this tendency to forget who God is and to move toward making ourselves the center of the universe?
Paul: I think this is a very specific. I think, for most of us, what it means—I mean, for all of us what it means is: “Start everyday with gazing upon the glory of the Lord.
“Fill your heart with the stunning glory of God every day.”
You say, “I don’t know how to do that.” How about Isaiah 40, where the prophet stretches the human language as far as he can to capture the glory of God? How about reading the last few chapters of Job, where God has that, “Where were you when the foundations of creation were laid?” How about Ephesians 1 that lays out the saving glory of God throughout the ages?
And then, remember—remember something that’s glorious. That glory of God doesn’t just define God; it defines your identity as a child of God because He has unleashed that glory on you by grace. All that God is—He is for you by grace.
And my experience is—if I stop every morning, and that’s what I’m going to do, and I remind myself that the center of my universe is this Being of that stunning awesome glory, and that my identity, and security, and satisfaction will only ever be found in Him, that gets me the right start in the morning because here’s what happens to men when I wake up—
—I wake up loaded with Paul’s agenda / loaded with Paul’s sense of what he wants and what he—
Dennis: This is not the Apostle Paul’s agenda either.
Paul: No; no. This is the mustachioed one. [Laughter]
Dennis: This is paul—the small p—paul. [Laughter]
Paul: Right; absolutely. [Laughter] And that’s just—that corrective is so helpful for me.
I want to say one other thing—if you are married, make that a conversation that you welcome / you plead for from the other person. So, if I’m in a moment and Luella can sense my irritation, I’ve invited her to say to me: “Hey, Paul, what’s going on? Why are you up tight?”
I mean, she doesn’t have to say anything more than that. I go: “Oh! There it is again”; and I’ll say to her: “Forgive me. I’m so sorry. I lost my way.”
Dennis: I think you hit on something really important there. If you’re going to recapture the awe of God, you’ve got to go to the Bible, which you pointed us to.
And Bob knows—I’ve been reading in the Gospels because I just want to go near Jesus. I think we get off into the rest of the Bible and get away from who Christ is, and His road to the cross, and His resurrection. I’ve just been trying to spend a lot of time in the past year in the Gospels. This morning, I was amazed He forgave a woman of her sins. And I almost said something to Barbara—and I should have—because I think: “If you are seeing the awe of God, share it with your spouse.”
Dennis: Something you’re learning from the Bible, something that has hit you that morning, something that has centered you: “Pass it on / pass it on to your kids.
Let them know that your heart occasionally does get captured by the King of kings and Lord of lords.”
Paul: Nourishing my awe of God makes me more susceptible to be willing to admit my awelessness because the thing is enlivened inside of me.
Dennis: Yes. And that’s our natural bent from the time we get up in the morning—it’s all about: “What am I going to eat? What am I going to do? What are my goals this day?” And we all need to be weaned away from that.
You know, I’ve increasingly said this, Paul—and I bet you can identify with this statement—I have increasingly said: “I think life is one long process of God weaning us from the world—and pointing out where real life / where real glory is—it’s in heaven. What I long for isn’t here. I’m not really home. I’m headed to my home, and that’s what eternal life is all about.”
And I wonder, right now, Paul, if there is a listener, who is listening to us, going, “Man, I don’t even know what you guys are talking about—
—“about knowing God.” The reason is they don’t have a personal relationship with Him. They’ve never come to the point of placing their faith in Christ, like the woman Christ forgave. She was born again on the spot. Jesus said: “I forgive you. You’re faith has given you eternal life.”
What would you say to the person, right now, who is listening to us, who needs a relationship with Christ but doesn’t have it?
Paul: I would say this: “Every moment of awe—no matter what it’s about—is hunger for God. You just don’t know it. You’re crying out for something to excite you, to satisfy you, to give your life meaning and purpose, to make it worthwhile to breathe. You’re hungering for God / you’re crying out for God. How about doing that? How about, right now?—saying: “God, I don’t know You; but I now understand I’ve been searching for You my whole life.
“Won’t You make Yourself known to me? I need You because I’ve begun to realize just by listening today that all the things I’m looking to satisfy me will never satisfy me.”
Dennis: And Jesus is the manifestation of that God.
Bob: And should they expect some instant experience of awe when they cry out like that?
Paul: No, I think, like everything else, change is a process. It begins with an event, but it’s a process. And one of the things that happened to me in writing this book is—the more I wrote, the more personally convicted I became / the more I quit writing as an expert and wrote as a person who is on the journey as well.
Dennis: And that really is encapsulated in what Christ said in John, Chapter 5. He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life.
“He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
Now, if you are looking to find some awe in your life today, think about the thought that Almighty God stepped out of eternity in the person of Jesus Christ, died on the cross for your sins, paid the penalty that you couldn’t pay, and has forgiven you, and then, defeated death, and offers you eternal life if you’ll cry out to His Son to save you and forgive you. That is filled with awe. That is an amazing thought—that God could let me into heaven—not on the basis of who I am / my good works—but something that He did for me. That is the gospel; isn’t it?
Paul: Yes; it is. And what a—think of how horrible the alternative is! “I bump around this world—I don’t really ever reach satisfaction. I suffer a lot of things we all suffer—injustices, and physical sickness, and those things. Then, it goes black.”
That’s what you would live for? How about?—“My life is invaded by this God of grace, who forgives me for every wrong I’ve ever done; and, then, when it ends, He loves me perfectly forever, and ever, and ever, and ever.” You can’t put enough ‘evers’ on the end of that. What a gorgeous story!
Dennis: That creates some awe.
Paul: Yes; absolutely.
Dennis: And the rest—
Paul: And I get chills when I talk about it.
Dennis: Yes. And the rest of your life you get to find out more, and more, and more about the God of the universe—and His mercy, His grace, His forgiveness, and His love. And that will create awe at the beginning of your day or the end of your day.
Bob: As you do that, your awe for God is going to increase throughout your lifetime. The more you know God—the more awesome you realize He is. He doesn’t become more awesome—you just realize that the awesomeness that is there / you begin to get a picture of that.
And I think you get a picture of it when you read through your book, which is called Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do. And it’s a book we’ve got copies of in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order a copy from us when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com—order online—or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and order by phone. So, again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. The toll-free number is 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
By the way, on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com, we have some bonus audio. We had about a 10-minute conversation with Paul Tripp about how a right perspective on who God is can have a dramatic impact on our emotions. If you’d like to listen to that, it’s available online. You can stream it or download it when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com.
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Now, tomorrow, we want to spend some time exploring the wrong places we go to look for awe—the substitutes we entertain. Paul David Tripp is going to be back with us. Hope you will be back with us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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