It’s the Presence not the Blessings

Seeking His presence.  Not just seeking His blessings, but seeking His presence:  I want to learn how to do this better. 

I think that is how the apostle Paul could say he could be content in any circumstance (Phil 4:11).  Paul was something else, wasn’t he?  What a man he was!  Just listen to just some of HIS problems:  He had received thirty nine lashes on his back; beaten with rods three times; stoned; shipwrecked three times; had many dangerous trips, (among highwaymen and robbers); was often in danger from his own people as well as from the Gentiles, from false Christians, in the city and in the wilderness; suffered toil and hardship; spent sleepless nights; was hungry and thirsty; was in cold and nakedness; had the worry of all of the churches daily on him.

But he never turned bitter, or resentful.  He never lost hope.  He was content.   “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 corinth 4:8-9)  

I bet experiencing the presence of God is how Abraham was able to leave everything he knew, and then later trust this same God when he was asked to kill his long awaited precious only son Isaac.  And later Isaac himself, and then his son Jacob, had their own experiences on the mountains of their fears.  And they were blessed.  Not by blessings (which, yes, they had) but by His presence.

It’s why Hagar proclaimed that God was Jehovah -‘ the One who sees’.  Even though the One who had appeared to her had basically told her that her child would be a hater and hated by all.  Now what Mother wants to hear that?  Shouldn’t she have gotten offended?  No, she never forgot that day, as she had experienced the presence of God.  “God has seen me” she proclaims. (Genesis 16:11-13)

It’s why so many Christians have endured so many things throughout the centuries.  They experienced the presence, they believed the promises, they looked forward to where they will end up though they did not see it at the time.  “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13)

It’s why the writer of this song can write these lyrics “Held” (sung by Natalie Grant) “To think that providence would take a child from his mother while she prays, is appalling ……this is what it means to be held, how it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive.  This is what it is to be loved and to know that the promise was that when everything fell we’d be held.”

Or how Horatio Spafford could pen the song “It is well with my soul” after several traumatic events in his life,….. the death of his only son, followed by the great Chicago fire which ruined him financially, then a shipwreck at sea, on a ship his wife and 4 daughters were travelling on to take a family vacation (he was going to join them later).  All 4 of his daughters died.  Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died. 

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I want to be grounded enough so that when trials come…. no matter how horrific….. when there are no ‘blessings’ in the worlds eyes…. even then (especially then) I will be content and I will have peace.  Because I have experienced my Father’s presence.

I know God tells me in His Word that His Word is the source of this presence.  That’s what He tells me in Psalm 19: 

The law of the LORD is perfect,
   refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
   making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
   giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
   giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
   enduring forever.
The decrees of the LORD are firm,
   and all of them are righteous.

 10 They are more precious than gold,
   than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
   than honey from the honeycomb

Jesus says, “Man does not live by bread alone but by the Word of God.” (Matthew 4:4)  (By the way, Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 “….man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.”)

I also know I can experience His presence through worship. Not ‘worship’ in the way the world has debated it: hymns? contemporary? charasmatic? emergent? solemn procession? or shouting and clapping?….. No, I’m seeking out the kind of worship where Jesus cuts through all that tired debate with a clear description of what God is really looking for:  not a ‘kind of worship’, but a ‘kind of worshipper’.  “The Father is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth”.  That’s my heart.  Heart worship.  Love Him and fear him and honor him with all my heart, soul and mind.  That’s a big bite… those are big shoes to walk in….. but I will pursue it.  It’s like Paul says in Philippians 3:12  ” I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection.  But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” 

I’m not there yet, but I will keep on keeping on…….


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