Devotional/Reflection: “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” I think the words of David in Psalm 13:1 reflect the way we feel at various times in life, particularly times of struggle. The trials of life often overwhelm us and obscure our view of God. We know, theologically, that God is omnipresent. We know that He knows what we are feeling, thinking, and facing in our lives. We know that He is present. But we don’t feel THAT He is present. I imagine sometimes how I would have responded if I had been in the disciples’ place in Acts 1-2. They had followed Jesus, given up their lives for Jesus, and then he was gone. He was dead. For three days they were without the presence of the one to whom they had commited three years of their lives. After the resurrection, when Jesus is again present with them, it must have been amazing as he taught them about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). Yet Jesus also tells them that he must leave them. He reminds them of his words in John 14:15-31 that he will send the Helper, the Holy Spirit to them. In the time between the Ascension and the coming of the Spirit, how hard it must be to wait! The presence of Jesus that had just been restored to them only 40 days earlier is now once again removed. In Acts 2, then, imagine the unbelievable joy at the outpouring of the Spirit on the apostles and believers! Jesus’ promise had been fulfilled. God was announcing His new covenant in a powerful new way–with a new presence, the presence of God the Holy Spirit. The presence of God was made more fully manifest in the life of each individual believer and the church through the indwelling and empowering work of the Holy Spirit. That same presence is available to us today if we will only seek after God. So why, I wonder, do we so often fail to feel the presence of God? First, I think that it is impossible never to struggle with feeling that God is far off. If David struggled with it, I am certain that I will, too. However, I think we can more often experience the presence of God if we make a daily practice of His presence. The practice of God’s presence is essentially a spiritual discipline. It requires consistency and commitment. Brother Lawrence, a 17th C French monk, expresses the concept beautifully. “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God. Those only can comprehend it who practise and experience it; yet I do not advise you to do it from that motive. It is not pleasure which we ought to seek in this exercise; but let us do it from a principle of love, and because God would have us. Were I a preacher, I should, above all other things, preach the practice of the presence of God; and were I a director, I should advise all the world to do it, so necessary do I think it, and so easy, too. Ah! knew we but the want we have of the grace and assistance of God, we should never lose sight of Him–not, not for a moment. Believe me; make immediately a holy and firm resolution nevermore wilfully to forget Him, and to spend the rest of your days in His sacred presence, deprived, for the love of Him, if He thinks fit, of all consolations.” May we practice the presence of God daily as we rejoice in His grace!
- In what ways do you daily practice the presence of God? How can you begin to do this better?
- What role does a community of fellow believers play in helping us practice God’s presence?
- What is a time when you have struggled with feeling the presence of God? What did you do? What helped you?
- Jesus gave his disciples a witnessing mandate and told them he would give them the power to do it. He then sent the Holy Spirit. In what ways is the Holy Spirit helping you fulfill this command to be his witness?
Scripture Memory: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”–Acts 2:21