You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth (Psalm 119:151 NASB).
The Ministry of God’s Presence
Many people envision God (if they think about Him at all) as distant and unapproachable. They may even acknowledge His existence and His creative power but believe He is not involved in the everyday affairs of their lives.
David, a man after God’s own heart, knew this was not true. God’s desire is for an intimate relationship with those who love Him. David loved God. He knew God was near. “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” (Psalm 145:18 NKJV).
Like David, those of us who also know and love God should be aware of God’s faithful and dependable presence. God’s presence is evident in His creation, His word and the fulfillment of His promises in history. All these reminders lead us to one important truth – what we really need is God.
Without God’s presence, there would be no salvation, no everlasting love, no security, no guidance, no hope, no joy and no peace.
God demonstrated how approachable He is by coming to live among us. Jesus chose to experience the same limitations, temptations and trials we face. At the same time, He showed us by example that we can call on God at any time and He will hear because He is near.
Jesus’ life was truly a ministry of presence – tangible evidence that God is near.
Presence is so important because absence is so painful.
What will make Hell eternally painful is that God will not be there. There will be a day of separation of believers and non-believers. On that day, when He says to those who do not know Him as Savior, “Depart from me,” they will never see or hear from Him again. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power (2 Thessalonians 1:9 NIV).
God is holy and cannot look upon sin. As our substitute, sinless Jesus bore the pain of separation from God the Father upon Himself – for our sakes. His agonizing cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” gives us a glimpse of the suffering and cost of His sacrifice for us. Bearing the hideousness of our sins on His own body on the cross, Jesus experienced the absence of the Father’s presence so that we would not have to.
We need to know He is near. He is. His Spirit is as near as our thoughts, hearts and our breath.
His presence is a gift and a promise – now and forever. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8 NKJV).
Passing on the Ministry of Presence
Sometimes we can serve as Christ’s representative – another tangible evidence of His presence.
My husband and I have an international ministry. We are involved in evangelism, church planting and Christian discipleship training. I have noticed another thing that is as valuable or maybe even more so than our teaching. It is the ministry of presence. Our ministry partners comment on the fact that God has connected us, that we care about them, their families and their ministries and that we have traveled long distances to minister with them. Often there have been periods of discouragement in their lives and our presence – even more than the teaching – has been the thing God has used to keep them going. Our presence is evidence that God cares.
My father went to be with the Lord at age 90. I spent the last few days of his life with him in the hospital. I knew he wanted me to be near him. I didn’t have to say much. In fact, he couldn’t talk to me. He was on a breathing machine. The doctors told me that before I got there, he had been struggling. He had pulled out all the tubes and tried to get out of bed. He tried to fight the doctors. When he saw me, everything changed. He stopped struggling. He relaxed. His daughter that he loved was near him. My presence was what he wanted.
It is not always possible to be physically present to show a loved one you care. As we can serve as God’s representative, He serves as ours. Like many families, there is a geographical distance between my husband and me and our sons and their families. We only get to see them occasionally – once or twice a year. Since we are His children, we count on His presence to convey how much we would love to be with them.
Presence makes a statement of caring. Desertion – deliberate absence – also makes a statement. One of the most chilling words spoken about anyone from the apostle Paul was Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world (2 Timothy 4:10 NKJV).
Since I know that God is near, I know that I can talk to Him anytime about anything, no matter where I am. As I learn more about prayer, I am increasingly grateful that He wants to be near and wants to hear from me.
One of Paul’s favorite expressions was “Christ in you.” Jesus’ Spirit is closer to His believers than anyone else can be.
I know the value of feeling my Father’s presence. I talk a lot to God, but I don’t always have something to say. I just feel His presence. I know if He needs to say something to me or I need to say something to him we can talk.
All I really need to know is that He is near.
Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God (Isaiah 41:10a NKJV). “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b NKJV).
© Stephanie B. Blake