He is Near


This brief devotion seeks to tackle the common feeling that God is not near us. What we really believe, our values, are not the same as what we say we believe, and are most tested by the difficult times of life.

I was out praying recently and felt, as I had been feeling for some days, under huge pressure. Sometimes I think my very state of mind is on edge. I have learned however to turn to intense prayer at these times and to listen to what I am praying[1]. This practice is consistent with the promise of Jesus:

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks[2] receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10 ESV)

Are these words of Jesus true? No doubt someone who professes to be a Christian will say “Yes!” Yet in my observation of the believers I know indicates that they don’t keep on asking, seeking, knocking. Sometimes they sulk, sometimes they just seem to forget about God for a while or are generally unmotivated to pray according to his promises.

A Jesus transformation

As I was praying and telling God about his own promise that “everyone who asks (keeps on asking) receives, and the one who seeks (keeps on seeking) finds, and to the one who knocks (keeps on knocking) it will be opened.” I had a strange but clear sense that something was happening that was deeper than me. I was aware that Jesus was asking for me, Jesus was seeking for me and Jesus was knocking on the door of my heart. At this point certain scriptures came to mind, each of them are Jesus own words:

““I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21 ESV)

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20 ESV)

As this was happening I had a tremendously deep sense that Jesus has asked for me, sought for me and knocked on my heart day after day, night after night ….year in and year out. The truth is that it is Jesus rather than me who has put all the effort into our relationship.

Seeing Jesus

Generally speaking I don’t think this is how Christians see their spiritual lives. We look back on Christ’s terrible sacrifice on the cross and think for him it has all been laid back ever since. On the inside we act as if we are the ones who have to put the real effort into our relationship with God. As I was pondering these things I started to think of a remark by the great Church Reformer Martin Luther, ‘I know of no God other than the one who became man; and I will accept no other.’ This means that we need to take more seriously Jesus’ humanness. If we do then we can share the back to front insight that when life seems like it’s mostly left up to  us and our own efforts its really most about Jesus.

When the Holy Spirit breaks through to share with us the reality that our asking, seeking and knocking[3] is in fact a share in Christ’s own asking, seeking and knocking for our lives a wonderfully fruitful transformation happens in our spirituality. We start to seek God not in self-centred way asking for personal deliverance from our troubles, but in a Christ-centred seeking the coming of his kingdom with power in and through our lives.

In this way (the way of death and resurrection), when you least expect it you suddenly realise that Jesus is alive for you, he is raised for you and he is coming for you. The kingdom of God is experienced as coming near us.

Something to fear

As I was praying and sensing these things I found myself speaking with God and calling him “frightening Father”. This is not because I am in some sort of terrible terror of the heavenly Father, but because I had a very deep sense that the most fearful thing that could come upon a person was to believe that God is not there, or that he is there but silent and not involved in our lives.

The image of a distant and/or laid back God nurtured in the heart of most Australians is a projection of our own easy-come easy-go “she’ll be right mate” culture of which we are so proud. This terrible distortion of the truth is a very scary thing which in the end can only lead to spiritual destruction.

As I was praying my plea was that the Lord would reveal himself as the God who is there, who is not silent and is completely involved in the lives of all his creatures. This is the revelation that we all so desperately need.

[1] Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26 ESV)

[2] The Greek verb means “keep on” asking, seeking, knocking.

[3]This flows from Jesus promise that if we ask, seek and knock, the Holy Spirit will be given us (Luke 11:13).

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