They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32
Immediately before He returned to the Father’s presence, Jesus made a promise to His followers: He boldly said, “And remember, I am with you always, day by day, until the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20, Weymouth). The book of Hebrews echoes those words, quoting Jesus as saying, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you!” You can dismiss this, suggesting that it was a promise intended only for those who were alive in the first century. Some do, thereby washing their hands of the whole matter. But if you are honest, you have to say, “That promise was made to all of God’s children.” If you do that, however, you may have another troublesome question to wrestle with: “If He is there, why don’t I feel anything?”
Ah, now you are putting your finger on the pulse of the misunderstanding, and, thereby, reducing a truth to something which must be felt to be authentic and genuine. There are reasons why many never feel that the Lord is nearby—perfectly valid reasons, too. One factor is that this promise was made to God’s children, and to expect a non-believer to sense the warmth of His presence is too much to expect.
Others, though, are simply too busy to notice that He is there. They are unaware of His presence because they have no time to read His letters, no time to hear His gentle voice, and no time to cultivate a relationship with Him. They are somewhat like Jacob, who came to Bethel and used a stone for a pillow. After he had a dream of angels ascending and descending to heaven—something reminding him of God’s protection—he cried out, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not!” (Genesis 28:15-16). As the songwriter put it, “He was there all the time….”
Then others never experience His presence or impact in their lives because their lifestyles are completely out of harmony with God’s will. Do you think Jonah sensed the presence of God as he fled for Tarshish? Or that Judas felt an awareness of God as he asked for 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus? Of course not.
Want to cultivate an awareness of His presence? Then jot down the following guidelines: 1. Practice the presence of Jesus by serving others. Jesus was a servant, and you will never be closer to Him than when you serve, as well. 2. Practice the presence of Jesus by developing an attitude of humility. Jesus also gave an example of this as He took off His outer garment, took a basin and towel, and washed the feet of the disciples. Then He said, “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14, 17). 3. Practice the presence of Christ through obedience. I am reminded that God has not given us the burden of understanding, but the simple mantle of obedience, leaving the reasons to His watch care. Peter tells us, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). My old nature, though, wants to reject this for an easier solution, one which doesn’t exist. Practicing obedience in the small matters makes it easer to comply in the larger ones.
Finally, practice the presence of Jesus through daily communion with the Lord. Have you ever heard the words of the hymn written by C. Austin Miles: “And he walks with me and he talks with me,/ and he tells me I am his own,/ And the joy we share as we tarry there,/ none other has ever known”?
You can take those words, “I am with you always,” at face value and discover they are true, whether or not you feel a thing.
Resource reading: James 4:7-10
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