Athletes who want to excel in their chosen field need to practice for long hours almost every day.
Take figure skaters for example. They practice skating techniques and choreography for 5-6 hours and then do more exercises in a gym. Olympic swimmers are in the pool for about 20 hours a week and lift weights as well. Professional American football players spend 4-8 hours a day running drills, sprinting, working out and watching film clips before game day.
The point is if you don’t practice you won’t improve in what you want to accomplish.
The same is true for experiencing God’s presence.
Realizing that God is with us, within reach, and not watching us from afar is the first step in truly experiencing the Presence of God. We are NEVER alone. Our Lord is as close as the breath in our lungs, the blood in our veins or the skin that holds it all together. In the New Testament Jesus gave a promise to his disciples;
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17 NIV
Because He lives in us he can never be away from us; He is our constant companion! However life has a way of distracting us and we forget this.
As flesh and blood we are influenced by many different factors;
- our feelings fluctuate from day to day, sometimes moment to moment
- the weather affects our attitude and well being
- circumstances in our lives scream for our attention
And so we forget that our Lord is waiting in those moments with us; waiting for us to recognize His presence.
Recognizing the Presence of God is the next step in our practicing his presence. It is not enough to just realize God is with us, but we need to recognize that it is real. It is not just a feeling, an idea, a thing or a statement. A loving, caring, compassionate, all-powerful, all knowing Being is all around us, with us, and longing to be our strength, help, shoulder to lean on and “the shade at my right hand” (Psalm 121:5). We must learn to recognize his Presence at every moment and in every circumstance so that we can become “more than conquerors” and dwell with our Lord and Saviour not only in the age to come but here in this present age.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither life nor death, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 NIV
Once we have learned to realize His Presence and recognize He is present, we then need to rest in his amazing Presence.
Resting is a hard thing to do at times. We live in a time and culture that idolizes and rewards busyness. But our Lord instituted rest. The Sabbath Day. Genesis states that the Lord made all things in 6 “days” and then He rested. He commanded the Israelites to work for 6 days and then to take the seventh day off so they would not burn themselves out and they would have time and energy to worship their Creator. This is not a suggestion, it is a commandment. Whether it’s a Saturday, Sunday or whatever day, we need to take a day to rest our minds, bodies and spirits by worshiping the One who strengthens us and provides for us.
More than this however we need to rest from our struggling to do life on our own; in our own strength. When Christ died on the cross he said “it is finished”. He was victorious once and for all. When we realize, recognize and rest in His presence, the fight and struggle is no longer ours but His! We can rest in the knowledge that he has whatever we are facing or feeling in his hands and we are safe with Him!
So to summarize we need to;
Realize – God is present and we are never alone.
Recognize – God is a REAL presence, one that can be experienced fully and not just an idea or feeling.
Rest – in God’s presence through every trial and difficult situation.
He will be with you when you are laying on an operating table waiting to have a procedure to diagnose if you have cancer or not; He will be with you when the nights are long and anxiety filled; He will be with you when you are walking through a sun-kissed park; He will be with you when your child is dying in front of your eyes; He will be with you as you laugh together with your family; He will be with you when you feel useless and insignificant. No matter where or when, He WILL be there and you can experience His loving presence and find rest in it.
I recommend a small book called ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ by Brother Lawrence who was a French Carmelite monk in the 1600’s. In it he speaks of his journey learning to experience God’s presence. He tells us to be in constant conversation with our Lord. Sing praises to Him when you are doing the dishes, talk with him when you are changing yet one more diaper, tell Him about your frustration with your boss and so on. He is waiting for you.
My friends, practicing the Presence of God is something that needs to be worked at continually. It is difficult to maintain in our own strength, especially at the beginning, and we will never totally perfect it until we go home. However, it is a practice that is well worth engaging in again and again and again until it becomes second nature. Ask God for his help. Please pray that I would experience his Presence more and more and I am praying for you also.