It is truly wonderful to sit in God’s Presence. He is always with me of course, but as a Christian, I have the delightful privilege of seeking Him, stewarding His Presence, taking time to quiet the distractions of this world and purposefully pursue Him. Thanks to Jesus and His finished work on the Cross, there is nothing stopping me from approaching the Throne of Grace to find Mercy and help in time of need. But more than that, I come to receive Him! I want to bask in greater measures of His Peace, probe the depths of His Love, and be filled with all His Fullness on a deeper level. I read once of a painting that depicted a waterfall, gallons and gallons of powerful water tumbling over the rocks, unstoppable and unquenched. The title of the painting was: “More to Follow.” God is like that. With Him, there is always more!
The other day, I was just sitting with Him. Some soft music was playing but other than that, it was just me and my Savior. I don’t do this often enough, but I’m always amazed at the result of getting still long enough to be enveloped in His Presence…to the point where all I’m thinking about is Him. How wonderful it is to be filled with this Being of Love and Glory, perfect Safety and genuine Power. There’s so much in this world that I cannot embrace, cannot endorse, cannot fill myself with. Even most entertainment sources have to be viewed through an inner filter. But to be filled with the One who created me…it’s pure bliss, because I can accept and receive all of Him, and be accepted and received completely in return. He’s the reason I love standing by the sea, or any large body of water. The sense of something so much bigger than myself, something staggering in its beauty and yet unsettling in its power…that’s the feeling I get when I’m with God. And I haven’t even come close to all of who He is. Everything about His Character shines with Love and His Arms are outstretched to embrace me. The natural response of my being is to serve Him, to be one with Him in everything He is doing.
How differently I feel when I take my eyes off of Him and look at the wind and waves of the world around me. When I look around through a fleshly perspective, I am daunted and even resentful of the challenges facing believers today. My American upbringing smarts under the injustice and unfairness coming against Christians in colleges, high schools, and places of business, not to mention politics. I have come close to resenting the fact that I have to be alive at a time when the world is so volatile, and I’ve been angry that I have to watch long-cherished freedoms eroding in America before my eyes. I have resisted, not wanting to raise a family in this kind of world.
Some of my desires are good. I want to see God’s Kingdom advancing in the world around me. I want to see Justice and Peace and Mercy reigning in the public arena, rather than the injustice, cruelty, and decadence that are exalted today. I want to see God move in power and draw many people to Himself, because there is no life outside of Him. These are all things Christians should want and strive after.
But another part of me is selfish. I want to live undisturbed, even unaware. There’s a part of me that would not really mind what is happening in the world as long as it didn’t affect me or cost me anything. The change that takes place in my heart when I’m focused on God, letting Him renew my perspective, is considerable.
In Scripture, we are told not to be surprised when trials come against us as believers.
1 Peter 4:13-16 tells us: “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His Glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the Name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of God’s Glory and Power rests upon you….let him not be ashamed, but glorify God in that Name!”
As an example of this, look at what the Bible says about Moses in Hebrews 11:24-27:
“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the People of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.”
One of the results of being filled with God’s Spirit and spending time in His Presence is an increased oneness with His Heart. It is only in His Presence that we cultivate a heart that desires His Will and is pained over the things that grieve Him. He is absolute gentleness and tenderness personified, and yet when you come close enough to feel this, you can also sense the power of His Righteous Anger against sin. It’s not condemning. It’s understandable. His Righteousness cannot tolerate sin and darkness, and His Love burns to see people not swallowed up by it. When we spend time with Him, we are armed with the same kind of passion.
As I was sitting with Him that day, I was freshly awestruck by how people are changed through interaction with Him. Think of the people in Scripture: Abraham became a father of nations, Jacob became a prince (Israel), Joseph became a ruler, Moses became a shepherd-deliverer, Gideon led an army to conquer Israel’s enemies, David became a giant-slayer and king, Esther became a queen who helped save her people. It never ceases to amaze me. The more I thought about it this time, though, the more I realized that when these people came face to face with God, they also came face to face with His Purposes—and always through difficult, even unfair circumstances. I’m sure Joseph wasn’t happy about going to Egypt in the first place. Moses resisted leading the Israelites out of Egypt. And Gideon was hiding from his enemies when God sent an angel to recruit him.
We often tend to focus on the glory surrounding the lives of biblical figures, and the success their lives represented. But what happened right after these biblical heroes had an encounter with God and were sent off on His assignments? They saw evil. Their eyes were opened to wickedness and they couldn’t stand silent anymore. They felt God’s Holy Indignation against evil and were sent out in God’s Power to stand against it. God’s assignments looked different for each of them, and they will for us too. We can only stand in God’s Power, but the point is we were meant to stand.
We were not meant to hide out, hoping to preserve our personal comforts, while ignoring what God is doing in the world around us. Sometimes God spends time preparing us in places with little conflict. (Moses and David both spent time as shepherds before being sent out by God). But like Moses and David, we were meant to move beyond the “wilderness seasons” and embrace the destiny He is calling us to. Again, that will look different in practice for each of us. But when I draw near to God, I realize that there is a bigger picture and God wants me in it. I realize that God chose me and appointed me to go and bear lasting fruit that will impact my generation. I understand that God set me where I am for such a time as this. And the more time I spend with Him, the more I see that it is a privilege to stand with Him in His Purposes.
(Above photo: Beth-Shean, Israel, 2013).