Last month, I shared my thoughts on what I see as the primary paradox of the Christian faith. Our faith is a gift, it is God’s work. First and foremost, he seeks us out. He did this with Adam and Eve in the garden and he hasn’t stopped since. And when he seeks us out and calls us, he works in us “to will and to do for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13).
But in the Bible we find there’s also a focus on our work. What A.W. Tozer refers to as our “exercising of the gift” in order for it to achieve its purpose. This month, I’d like to focus on defining the end goal of exercising that gift.
I believe that is our seeking of his presence.
From the scriptures
It’s a marvellous truth that the Spirit of God uses different verses to speak to different people in different ways. The following have been pillar verses for me over the years, especially the first two.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Hebrews 11:6 ESV
What a wonderful truth. Not only does faith involve our belief in his existence, but our belief in the idea that God rewards us when we seek him. I’m not preaching the prosperity Gospel here; the reward is not material or monetary. Rather, it’s being able to enter into his presence, to enjoy sweet communion with our Saviour and our Father.
The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.
Psalm 14:2 We see this exact theme repeated in Psalm 53:2 as well.
Interesting point made in the note from the NET on this verse:
Anyone who is wise and seeks God refers to the person who seeks to have a relationship with God by obeying and worshiping him.
Again, the focus of the seeking is relationship. The Psalmist(s) understand this and echo the call often.
Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
And Jesus spoke often of God’s kingdom and encouraged his audience that seeking it was more important than all our needs in this life, in this fallen world.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
God will take care of our material and physical needs, but our focus should be on him and his ways.
Seek and you will find
The good news in this truth is that if you seek his presence, you will find it. Indeed, the verses above show God’s attitude towards his creation; he keeps a watchful eye out for those who are searching. For something …
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 receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
And when Paul addressed the Areopagus in Athens, he alluded to this truth as well:
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’”
This is another marvellous truth. Although we cannot come into the presence of God’s glory without the redeeming work of Christ, God himself is not far off. He is not hidden in some secret place, only available once a person solves the right mystery. He is here, manifest in creation all around us.
Everything hinges on this
My goal here is to share the purpose of this newsletter for 2017. Based on comments of so many of you, this is a struggle. So many of us have a desire to seek his presence, but it gets drowned out in the noise. Or we recognize intellectually that we should desire his presence, but when the opportunity presents itself, we choose to fill our time with other things.
Here are some of the comments shared with me:
- When I don't schedule then the spiritual side of things always loses out
- Busy-ness … makes the spiritual aspects of life hard
- The world constantly battles for my attention and I too easily choose it over the sweetness of my Savior
- I struggle taking the time out of my super busy schedule to make room (for spiritual things), when it should be the opposite, that it empowers me and the rest of my life
- The cares of life always are ready to crowd out what really matters
All the disciplines of the Christian faith, all the tips & tricks, are for this purpose. At the end of the day, we should want him … the exercise and disciplines are used to increase that desire. And that is the purpose of this newsletter (in 2017 and beyond). And, like knowledge workers who need to make small changes to their daily habits, so too do we children of God.
That will be a big focus for me and my writing in 2017. But before you get to the practical, I find it vital to focus on the end goal first.
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
That is how I want the thread of my days to look and feel!