I recently read a quote by Dr. Gregory Boyd that greatly impacted me. Dr. Boyd, speaking on the subject of God’s presence, asserted, “I’ve become absolutely convinced that remaining aware of God’s presence is the single most important task in the life of every follower of Jesus.” After reading his words, I was moved to analyze both their truth and their application for myself and for all believers. Powerfully reverberating within me was the immediate conviction of how we (I!) far too often go through everyday life taking God for granted.
God’s loving desire for a relationship with us through Jesus Christ our Savior is one of the most fundamental elements of our Christian faith. John 3:16 assures us, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” The apostle Paul further expounds on that truth by telling us, “Nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). The problem, however, is that so many things distract us from daily consciousness of God’s love and His presence. Most obvious, of course, is the distraction of television or social media. To turn on news or social media is to almost immediately hear or read things that are discouraging and upsetting. The result is the feeling that our world is a hopeless place and that we ourselves are helpless.
How should we as believers respond, though, knowing God is with us? John MacArthur’s words in Worship: The Ultimate Priority offer encouragement to the believer who needs to “practice” God’s presence.
First, it [God’s presence] means assurance. Whatever adverse circumstance or emotions we experience, whether we realize He is there or not, God is with us. We may doubt His presence, we may feel as if He were far away, but He is as near as He always has been. “He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
Philippians 4:5-6 includes this phrase: “The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing.” Although that verse is often understood to be talking about the Second Coming, it actually refers to Christ’s perpetual presence. He’s there all the time. Realize it. It is one of His attributes, an integral part of His character.
As I personally contemplate God’s love and comforting presence in a world of sin and evil, I think of John 16. In this chapter, John recalls how Jesus prepared His disciples to face a time of tribulation, the events which would accompany and follow His crucifixion. In summary, He said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Among “these things” was Jesus’s promise that the Holy Spirit would come and that He would dwell within each of them, a constant Presence with them wherever they went, ensuring that they would never be left to face the troubles of life alone. He additionally told them that His own peace would always be within their grasp. Bible Hub explains that those rich words “in Me you may have peace” describe a “peace [that] is found through dwelling in Him by simple faith, by the trust that rests all upon Him, by the love that finds all in Him, and by the obedience that does all for Him.” This is the answer to how we can have peace, perfect peace, and confidence, even amid trials and tribulations. We all face tribulations and we all live in a world that makes us anxious and unsettled, but the key lies in remembering that He has overcome this world. “For He Himself has said,” Hebrews 13 reminds us, “’I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So, we boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not fear. What can man do to me?’”
Knowing that God is with us and helping us leads believers to be strong, not fearful. The choice which every believer must make to live in faith and not fear is so important that we find God’s command to be strong repeated thirty times throughout Scripture. If maintaining courage is a challenge for you, as it is for me, consider Robert Morgan’s words in Jordan River Rules, “If we focus on Christ, we’ll be confident. It’s a matter of gripping His promises instead of griping about our problems. In essence, fear is the sin of forgetfulness—forgetting the fathomless omnipotence of the Lord Christ and His truth.”
Every believer in every age has faced the challenge of fear—with the same resources available for combat. When we consider the turmoil of our own current age, we must realize that we have the same Word of God given to Jesus’ first disciples and every generation since. That Word underscores for us again and again that we can have peace despite all the uncertainty. Its rock-solid assurance is that God is with and for us. He has overcome the world. Our part lies in remembering what Tony Evans says, “When we worry, we have forgotten who our Father is and what He is like.”
Holy Father, Your peace is perfect. It is perpetually unbroken in time, and through all changing circumstances. I praise You and thank You that Your presence makes the world’s annoyances and intimidations seem very small. Your presence is the secret of tranquility. Praise You, Lord Jesus, for You have overcome the world. I will be courageous and trust in only You.
I pray this in the powerful Holy Name of Jesus, Amen.
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all.”
(2 Thessalonians 3:16, NKJ)