Do you feel that God is usually absent from your life and circumstance?
How do you expect God to be present in your life?
Building on the previous post (Click for “Starbucks and God”), perhaps our expectations of God need to be tested.
Here are two basic things to know about God – the one true God revealed as Jesus Christ.
First, God is love (1 John 4:8, 16).
Second, God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18; Titus 1:2).
When you link those two facts together what do you learn about who God is?
As a result, my expectation is that God is always “in character”: he is love and he cannot lie.
God has made a promise to every follower of Jesus. He's repeated it in numerous ways throughout history.
For instance, we read “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). Similar words were earlier spoken to the nation of Israel and to Joshua (Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5).
Together, God’s character and God’s promises are a solid base for the expectation that he is always present with you and me as followers of Jesus.
How is he present?
The indwelling Spirit
The Holy Spirit is living within every person who belongs to God through Jesus Christ.
Here are two of many confirming statements from the holy and ancient text of the Bible.
1. Paul, writing to Christians in Rome, states: “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, …” (Romans 8:11 NIV).
You may think the ‘if’ makes this a conditional statement, but it doesn’t. Allow me to be a bit technical here. In Greek grammar the word ‘if’ linked to a verb in the indicative (here, the form of the verb "living") conveys certainty, not conditionality. In that structure the ‘if’ can be translated as ‘since’.
The NLT captures this sense: “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you.”
2. Paul again confirms this fact to the followers of Jesus at Ephesus: “And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago” (Ephesians 1:13 NLT).
As a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives in you. Therefore, God is always present in you.
Here are a couple of examples suggesting how you can expect to experience his presence.
One of my all-time-favorite ‘stories’ is Elijah’s confrontation of the prophets of Baal. It is a dramatic incident full of tension, irony, and divine power (1 Kings 18).
Immediately afterward Elijah flees in fear of Jezebel. In a depressed state, he was alone in a mountain cave when God met him (1 Kings 19). Three things happened: (1) “a great and strong wind tore the mountains”; (2) an earthquake; and, (3) a fire – but the LORD was not in any of these dramatic events.
Then there was something that is described in terms difficult to translate. It was a “gentle whisper” (NIV) or a “gentle blowing” (NASB) or a “sound of sheer silence” (NRS) – it was like a delicate wisp of vapor. Elijah recognized it for what it was – the presence of God.
What I learn from this is that the presence of God is something to be expected and we have to pay attention. If we don’t expect it, we’ll probably miss it. If we don’t pay attention, we won’t see it or hear it.
You may say, “Well that was Elijah, and he was a special person – and it was a special occasion. I haven’t – I won’t – experience God like Elijah!”
Fair enough – we’re not Elijah. The point I want to make is be open – expect – the presence of God by paying close attention to small, quiet, un-dramatic, seemingly insignificant and ordinary things, on ordinary days, in ordinary places.
Example near Emmaus
One day, shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus, a couple of disciples were walking home to Emmaus. This was a journey of about seven miles (12 km). They were sad as they recounted recent events. A stranger began walking with them. The stranger asked them what they were talking about. They told him. Then the stranger began to explain about the Messiah from the Scriptures (Luke 24:13-35).
When they reached home, they invited the stranger into their house. As they shared a common meal with him, “their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (24:31) – it was Jesus. He had been with them all that time, but they had been unaware of his presence.
You may say, “Well that was Cleopas and his companion, and they were special people – and it was a special occasion. I haven’t – I won’t – experience God like they did!”
Fair enough – that wasn’t our experience. The point I want to make is be open – expect – the presence of God by paying close attention to what you hear from others and sense in your heart, on ordinary days, in ordinary places.
Of course, we need to perceive people, messages, and events from the divine reference points of Holy Scripture, Jesus Christ, and God’s love – nevertheless, be open – expect – the presence of God to be discerned in the undramatic ordinary things and people of daily life.
Let me encourage you to be learning that the ‘ordinary’ has a way of being ‘extra-ordinary’ – it holds the potential for making us aware of God’s presence. This is a way toward developing our expectation of the presence of God in all of life.
What can you add to this?
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