Psalm 16:11, "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (ESV).
I want to know the next step to take on this path called life. I want to experience all the pleasures of God's presence and find the satisfaction for my soul that only His presence can bring. He promises He will give me these things... so why do I so often feel empty and lost?
I started reading a book the other day called "Abide in Christ" by Andrew Murray. And I was absolutely gobsmacked not only by the beauty of the prose but the way it tenderly drew my heart to God and incited a deeper hunger for Him.
In John 15:4 Jesus says, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me" (ESV). Combine this verse with all the other verses that tell us how God's presence is our refuge, our security, and the place we can lay our burdens down, and you get a sort of sad picture.
It's like Jesus knows we're so prone to doing--to achieving and accomplishing and producing--that He knows the best way to get our attention, to get us to experience the joy and peace of His loving presence, is to let us know that we cannot do, and achieve, and accomplish, and produce unless we abide in Him.
You would think His love, and His gifts of peace, and security, and refuge, and companionship would be enough to draw us to Himself. But so often it's not. Maybe because we've never truly tasted the joy of His presence. Maybe because we cannot comprehend the pleasures forevermore found in His arms.
Or maybe there's another reason. Maybe we've fallen prey to perhaps the most invasive disease modern humanity is facing at this moment: distraction.
In his book Murray says a line that made tears come to my eyes. He said, "To repeat day by day the Master's blessed command, 'Abide in me,' until it enters the heart and find a place there, no more to be forgotten and neglected... So we shall gaze on its blessedness, until desire be inflamed, and the will with all its energies be roused to claim and possess the unspeakable blessing."
I hear so many Christians (myself at times included) who try to spend time with God but find themselves coming up empty. I know Christians (again, myself often included) who want to live passionate lives for Christ. They want to have a hunger for God... but they can barely scrounge up the appetite to spend a few mere moments in His presence.
I think in our day and age of instant gratification, instant pleasure, and instant stimulation we have lost sight of what it means to sit still in the silence long enough to truly encounter God.
We must take the time to still our hearts in the silence in order to hear the Holy Spirit's still small voice... (1 Kings 19:12).
I love that Murray also emphasized the will. We are a generation addicted to and controlled by our feelings. And we don't want to do anything unless we feel like it. Unfortunately this mindset often trickles into our spiritual lives.
But God is not a slave to our feelings. And so often our feelings are gravely deceived. Emotions are a gift from God. But they were never meant to guide our lives. Faith first and foremost must be what leads the way. And it requires the fruits of the Spirit like peace, and patience, and self-control.
It isn't our works that bring us closer to God, but our dependence on His. And the only things that can come between us and the full experience of His presence is our will. The ability He gave us to choose.
The enemy may contribute with lies and distractions. But ultimately the decision lies in our own will. God has promised to provide a way of escape from every temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). But we must choose to accept the way of escape He has provided.
When it comes to experiencing God's presence I discover how distracted I really am, and how weak my willpower is. I discover how much this society of instant gratification has wrapped it's influence like tentacles around my heart.
So often I do not sit in the quite long enough... I do not take the time to gaze upon my Savior until melodies of worship rise up in my soul. I do not gaze upon the blessed beauty of Christ and His love for me long enough for my desire to become inflamed, and for His goodness and love to become louder in my ears then the many things in this life that consume me.
Thankfully, Jesus never gives up on us. And because of His grace we have the ability to keep coming into His presence. To keep seeking Him. To keep learning how to give Him our worries and our burdens and rest in His presence.
Psalm 46:10,"Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world" (NLT).
James 4:8, "Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world" (NLT).
Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest" (NIV).
1 Peter 5:7, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (NIV).
Resources: Murray, Andrew. Abide in Christ. New Kensington, PA, Whitaker House, 1979.