And be sure of this: I am with you always…Jesus
“You are welcome to the Presence of God…” This has become a standard term in most church gatherings, but this mental idea of ‘entering into His presence’ though with good motives does more harm than good, in particular it desensitizes believers to the fact that the ‘presence of God’ is not only found in church gatherings.
It was Sunday morning, I was in the room with my roommates some years ago in school when someone with a very loud digital sound system started playing some very non-gospel music, it was hip, it was hop and it was non-gospel. One of my roommates quickly rushed out of the room and began to vent against whoever or whatever had the guts to play such music, on returning from his holy zeal, I inquired and asked why he had opposed the music seeing he had the same songs in his media device and played it almost every day in the room? He looked at me and answered in the most honest terms “today is Sunday!” I remember standing there with mouth agape and mind bewildered at my roommate who had successfully separated church and life and as such God and living.
The response of my roommate was nothing but vain religiosity on rampage, a condition all too present in the lives of many people, symptoms include: heart/life compartmentalization (a situation where certain parts of your life are ‘spiritual’ and devoted to God and other parts are yours for the living) and the localization of God to a place, time and activity. As far as they are concerned God is present in certain places like church buildings and available during times of corporate worship, during acts of prayer or sacred activities. Such places are sacred and such times are holy, this is why my roommate on further probing declared that if they should play such songs (as he had on his media player) in the church, he would pick up his things and leave.
Thoughts of God never crop up in places like the office, the home, the streets, the game, when with the guys or talking with them girls. Don’t even mention such thoughts in the bars or gambling rings or when surfing the net, and that’s why we go places, we wouldn’t want our pastor or priest to know about, because consciously or subconsciously the thought “we are not in the presence of God” has been engraved in our minds.
If you only think of Heaven in the church building, only remember God when you see a priest or pastor, only act in honor of God when the church spotlight is on you and only speak like a Christian when you meet a member of your church, you just might be more religious than Christian and religion never saved anybody.
The consciousness that God is right now where you are and is always with you is both a source of strength and fear: strength to face the challenges and temptations of the day and an instilment of the righteous fear called the Fear of God. It is an experience which Bro Lawrence (whose compiled letters form the book: “practice of the presence of God”) knew well of and developed this consciousness by always focusing his thoughts on God even in the most mundane of tasks, always acknowledging God’s presence. He believed it was not so much of changing what you do but changing your attitude to it, doing it with the consciousness of God and to the Glory of God (PS. He was a cook).
The presence of God has little to do with feelings, that I don’t feel God in my flesh doesn’t mean for a micro second He is a Nano distance farther from me. How do we know He is here, now? Because He said He is here, now! (Heb 13:5, Rom 8:35-39) Even when your world seems torn apart and the earth feels like it’s been snatched from under your feet, even when you seem to only get into a deeper hole every move you make, even though your body breaks in ails and your mind bends in frailty, God is right there with you.
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; isa 43:2
Our greatest proof of His presence is not feelings but the fact He said He is present
The reality of God’s presence for the New Testament believer is beyond good times or bad times, it’s beyond acts of sin or confessions of purity, it’s beyond place or time. God is with you as much in the solitary confinement of the prison cell as He is with you in the largest assembly of the brethren, on the altar, by the pulpit on Easter day; in the middle of your 100 days dry fast! Let this sink into your spirit “God is ALWAYS with me!”
God’s presence is not only found in the church gatherings, it’s found everywhere you a Christian is found
What of when I sin? The idea that you can’t come to God because you sinned is like saying you can’t take a bath because you are too dirty. And the idea that God leaves you if you sin is like saying your parachute leaves you when you fall off a plane. If God leaves you when you sin as a believer, how on earth are you going to find Him? You were saved in the first place, because He found you and should you fall, you will rise because He keeps finding you, He saves you and keeps saving you. Your repentance and contrition is the very same God at work in you making you both willing and able to do His good pleasure. Repentance is a proof of His ever present presence, that is why in matters of conscience others don’t even note, you know. Your conscience is alive because He is alive in you.
God’s presence is God being present. And check it out He is always present.
What is the presence of God, it is God (the Almighty, all Glorious, all Holy, all Sufficient, all knowing, all loving God) being present! The Christian who acknowledges (walks with the consciousness of God’s presence) can keep living in sin as much as a fish can keep living in boiling water! Not Possible. The fish may keep swimming around, but as the water gets hotter, its movement gets smaller and soon no more. Certain anti-Christian lifestyles may keep swimming around your life but as you become more and more conscious of God’s presence you open a door into your life that lets that presence and all it carries flow into you and as it keeps flowing in, the junk keeps flowing out.
Acknowledging/living in the consciousness of this presence opens you up to its effects and manifestations
The presence of God with the believer is not the same as with unbelievers, for unbelievers God’s presence is the generic omnipresence nature of God (Col 1:17), but for believers it is so much more, not just that He is around, but for us He is also within (1 John 4:4), you see we don’t go to a temple to experience God, we are His temple by which the world experiences Him (1 Cor 3:16). We carry God, we are His mobile temples and this gives us the privilege of communion, of talking to Him and hearing Him, everywhere, every time, all the time. And there are times when by His sovereign Spirit or should we press in even more in the reality of God with us, we can feel His presence: a Soulish/physical experience many have called the manifest presence, the atmosphere seems to change and a different cloud covers us. It is in such atmosphere many times, natural laws are broken, from healings to miracles to dramatic experiences (and you don’t have to be in a church gathering to experience it). Soulish referring majorly to our mind, will and emotions.
No matter how interesting, important or pressing, anything that takes your focus from God is killing you, it may be slowly but it’s surely.
One of the biggest challenge to the Christian soul of this generation is distractions, from idealism, to gadgets, to political storms, to inventions, to even tragedies. The aim of many of such challenges by the devil is that you take your eyes of the God that is with you and get caught up with the ‘current happenings’ of the day. But I also say: this great challenge bets an even greater opportunity.
When you set your heart to focus on God in your everyday life, everything becomes a tool of worship, even your pain.
We have the greatest opportunity of a continual, purposeful, acknowledgment and carrying of the consciousness of God’s presence. The blessing of technology gives us access from books to renew and train our minds to songs that focus our attention on God, a single gadget can hold more bibles, bible translations, commentaries, dictionaries, concordance, images, messages, gospel songs, podcasts and videos than the largest libraries put together of certain times past. You may have an excuse but it won’t be lack of opportunity, and it won’t be an acceptable excuse.
The secret however is loving God, who wants to have someone they don’t like with them all day? And who doesn’t want to spend every possible second with the one whom their heart loves?
Don’t stop, this consciousness may be difficult when starting the practice, but keep on, asking the Spirit to help you and over time you will live in it, you will begin to see the Glory of God in everything. I was alone in a room once and I felt hungry, I spontaneously raised my hand and thanked God, for it occurred to me “on a general note, it is only the healthy who feel hungry” and I blessed God for His health at work in me. A lot of challenges we face today and fret over are a result of God’s blessing; a student is worried because he is yet to pay his school fees, look at it from another perspective and you realize he is only in such a situation because God has blessed him with intelligence and admission into school, those who are not so blessed are not privileged to face that challenge, only the one who has a car complains of the cost of filling it’s tank. An unoffended heart helps you acknowledge God and worship Him in spirit and in truth (PS. I later had a wonderful meal that day).
Let us start today by acknowledging His presence, even now.