Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Power of a Presence

by Larry Rouse

A real test of spiritual maturity is found in the understanding of the presence of God. As a child of God partakes of the Lord’s Supper, he should realize that there is a divine presence with him. Jesus promised that as we remember His death in the supper that He is a fellow partaker with us. “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” (Mt 26:29). While we cannot see the Lord’s presence by sight, we nonetheless recognize His very real participation by the sight of a living faith. “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” (Heb 11:27)

The presence of God is a reality if a man recognizes it or not. While Jonah foolishly attempted to flee from the presence of God at first (Jonah 1:3), he came to greatly appreciate the impossibility of doing that as he prayed for God’s help from the belly of the great fish (Jonah 2:1, Ps 139:7-9).

The Power of the Presence of God

The real power of God’s presence is found when we are in fellowship with God and thus have the promises and protection of His covenant. Without these promises, the knowledge of His presence is unsettling. It ought to bring fear and trembling to the wicked (Jer 5:22-23). That is why wicked men try to divorce God from even being in their thoughts (Rom 1:28). What the wicked flees from, the child of God pursues! How comforting to know that we serve a God who sees and knows everything that happens to us and, as a result, will provide for us and never forsake us (1 Pt 3;13-14, Heb 13:5-6).

The Power of the Presence of Men

We all can relate to the power of the presence of men in our associations. One of the most powerful tools that Satan uses is the fear of what men might see and do as they judge our actions. How many are in fact “secret disciples,” those that recognize the truth about Jesus, but out of fear of men refuse to stand for Him (Jn 9:22, 12:42-43)? We cannot be a disciple of Christ if we seek to please men (Gal 1:10).

God uses the power of the presence of faithful men to help us build our faith. After describing the great men of faith throughout the ages that finished their lives as faithful to the Lord, the Hebrew writer refers to them as a “great cloud of witness” that help us to finish victoriously our Christian race (Heb 12:1-3). I have personally added men to my cloud of witnesses that I have known that “died in faith” (Heb 11:13). Their influence, examples and past words are in my consciousness and that gives me courage to cross the finish line. Who are those on your list?
God urges us to build friendships and relationships with those that love the Lord. It is very difficult to openly sin in such a presence. As we grow in our faith, even thought these faithful ones are not present, it is possible to recognize the presence of their influence to help us stand strong. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).

Which Presence is Greater for You?

How blessed is the one that has made the presence of God to be greater than the presence of men. When your faith has grown to this awareness, you will find peace and purpose in the midst of ridicule and of efforts to break your faith. “Oh, how great is Your goodness, Which You have laid up for those who fear You, Which You have prepared for those who trust in You In the presence of the sons of men! You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence From the plots of man; You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion From the strife of tongues” (Psa 31:19-20).

The Power of an Anticipated Presence

After my wife took a trip lasting several days the children and I anticipated her return. “Momma’s coming back tomorrow. We need to clean up!” We knew with a certainty the time of her arrival and we did not want her to be disappointed to see the mess that was tolerated and created in her absence!

Paul used this truth to motivate the Corinthians to resolve their problems before his arrival. “I have told you before, and foretell as if I were present the second time, and now being absent I write to those who have sinned before, and to all the rest, that if I come again I will not spare” (2 Cor 13:2).

While we can think this way about men, it is foolish to do so with God. As we have already learned, God is present now, regardless of whether we recognize it or not. One day the Lord Jesus will return in the clouds and this universe will end and each man will appear in His presence to give an account (2 Cor 5:9-10).

The Power of a Right Relationship with God

Moses knew that it would be in vain to take a single step towards the promised land unless he had the presence of God with him with the full benefits of His grace. “And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth” (Ex 33:14-16). So should it be with us in our walk to the promised land!

God is very clear about what it takes to walk with Him. We cannot walk in sin and ever expect to have this graceful presence. “He who works deceit shall not dwell within my house; He who tells lies shall not continue in my presence” (Ps 101:7).

Consider some of the blessings of God’s presence.

1. Your enemies will be ultimately defeated. (Ps 9:3)
2. You will find joy and rest. (Ps 16:11; Ex 33:14)
3. You will find justification (Ps 17:2)
4. You will have great blessings while your enemies look on in wonder. (Ps 23:5)

Do you have such a faith that is constantly aware of the presence of the Lord? Begin today to read God’s word and meditate upon its truths and then be aware of the daily actions that we take as a living sacrifice in His presence (Rom 12:1-2).

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