God is near is the practical day-to-day reality of Him in us and us in Him. Living in the truth of this brings intimacy and unfolds our purpose in Him.
Am I a God near at hand,” says the Lord, “And not a God afar off? (Jeremiah 23:23)
I read this verse the other day, and it settled into my spirit with a sense of ‘coming home’ that I always recognise as a Holy Spirit nudge to really pay attention. As I meditated on it, the image I’ve chosen for today’s post came to mind. The photo doesn’t even begin to do justice to the moment – a lonely stretch of road between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund in Namibia. I had to pull over to drink in the breath-holding in sight of the coastal fog rolling over the beach and coastal road. It’s impossible to forget the absolute assurance of the truth of ‘God is near’ that I experienced in that single ‘otherworldly’ moment. The glory of God was quietly revealed in the stillness of something that defies description.
God is near is for every moment in life, big or small.
Not so long ago, I would have laughed at the idea of me trekking off into the ‘great unknown.’ In a year, I’ve been blessed to see more of southern Africa than I ever imagined possible. For a homebody who had no aspirations to travel, it was something of a culture shock. I recall setting off on my first ‘alone’ trip with my Garmin and absolute faith that this was what God wanted. I had no idea where I was going or what to expect, but I knew that ‘God is near’ was an indisputable fact.
I’m often asked how I ‘cope’ out there on my own, covering some extremely long and uninhabited stretches of road without ‘backup.’ It’s a tragic reality that non-believers cannot even begin to imagine the peace and assurance that comes from knowing that God is near is real, practical, and intimately rewarding. The real truth is that, though I may not see another solitary vehicle or sign of life for a few hundred kilometres, I am never alone. My God is there with me every moment of every journey.
Discovering the great blessing of God is near.
I don’t for one moment believe I’m ‘unique’ in any way. This ‘treasure’ is freely available to every believer. Yes, it’s essentially a relationship of spiritual intimacy with our God, but it’s a simple, practical, day-to-day ordinary interaction as well. God is near in the little things as well as in the large. He is near in those moment of quiet contentment just as much as He is in the turmoil of heartache or rush of effusive joy.
How we perceive His nearness is entirely up to us. Today’s verse tells us clearly God is near and not a far-off God. It’s unequivocal. So what’s the problem, then? Why is it that there are times when He seems so distant and far away? It’s our perception that is cluttered with the problems and our emotional response or mental confusion. Having been through some real tragedy and heartache over the course of 2016, I learned that discovering that God is near in all those daily moments meant I could see Him more clearly in the storm.
God is near and our purpose in life.
There is a lot out there about ‘discovering your purpose in God.’ This is absolutely essential. We were created for a particular purpose and it’s critical that we learn to walk in it. Our only real purpose, of course, is to worship Him with all that we are. But the Bible also tells us that He created good works for us to walk in. This ‘purpose’ isn’t separate from our worship. It’s the natural outworking of lives surrendered in worship and obedience.
The problem of our purpose in God is that too many believers make the purpose – the work – more important than God. We need to step back and realise that it’s our purpose IN God, not for God. There is a critical difference. Anyone who desires to discover their true purpose must first desire to know the absolute reality of God is near. Daily intimacy weaves us into the eternal relationship of Him in us and us in Him. It’s beautifully simple. The more we know His nearness, the deeper our surrender, and the easier our faith and obedience. Our purpose unfolds without us having to strive or search.
The dynamic New Testament truth of God is near.
The Old Testament ‘God with us’ is very similar to today’s verse. Our incredible blessing under the new covenant is that God with us and near us has become God in us. If the ‘Old Testament God’ was near at hand and not afar off, our God is so close that we’re inseparable. He is part of me, and I am part of Him. We have become one, and nothing can tear us apart. That is grace immeasurable.
If we could only grab hold of the truth of this and live it in our daily lives, we would experience transformation. I have no fears ‘out there’ in the unknown. God is with me and God is in me. Nothing surprises Him, and He already knows what lies ahead. Not only that, He has already made plans and provision for every eventuality so that His purposes will be fulfilled and will work to my good. God is near, under the grace and power of the cross, is God in us – forever, everywhere, no matter what.
Living God is near is living in His will.
Our relationship with God is one of worship and intimacy. Yet He has chosen to work through people, just as He worked through Jesus to reveal Himself to mankind. God is near, for believers, is the same close walk that Jesus had with His heavenly Father. When we are there, in Him and Him in us, He makes His will known in simple, intimate ways. Our closeness involves simple, day-to-day interaction. This is the foundation of the purpose that unfolds in our lives, often without us even realising it.
Of course, it’s not an instant transformation. There are also times when prayer, fasting, and intercession is needed. Our relationship with God is never static, and the more we live God is near, the more He will call on us to give of ourselves. The difference, though, is that as we immerse ourselves in the reality of Him in us and us in Him, His presence guides us constantly in what He wants us to do and say in every opportunity.
God is near never excludes His Word.
We always, being human, gravitate somehow to the ‘easy’ or the ‘feel-good’ and try to sidestep the necessity for a little ‘hard work.’ Living in the reality of God is near is, fundamentally, a spiritual experience which touches us in every area of our lives, including our emotions. But it’s dangerous to use this ‘Spirit living’ to entirely replace the Word. Remember, we must worship in spirit and in truth. Word and Spirit must work together or we’re unbalanced and will go off course.
To truly live the beautiful reality of God is near, we must immerse ourselves in the Word. I consider myself blessed that I am able to use long, solitary hours on the road to simply ‘chat’ with God, pray as I am led, and above all, to meditate on His Word. What I have found is that by including Him in all the little, inconsequential things, He is automatically included in the bigger ones. I now lose Him the details less and less because I cannot lose what is in me. Nor can I lose what I am in.
How to live in the practical reality of God is near.
I’d be interested, one day, to discover how many ‘how to’ articles there are on the web. It’s a popular trend because people need real, down-to-earth instructions instead of esoteric, spiritual vagueness. Our God is practical. Though entirely spirit, He gives us real, doable, and often ‘ordinary’ instructions. It’s pointless presenting us with a relationship that is so super-spiritual that it has no earthly value. The how of living God is near is simple: Make the choice.
Today, decide to pause and make God is near the reality in the daily details – breakfast, traffic, lectures, work, or even at the gym. Share these moments with Him. Point out the beauty of the sunrise or the view. Share the little something that made you smile with Him. Chat to Him about your concerns or the demands of the day. Our mistake is often that we launch into ‘heavy prayer’ when a simple sharing is all that is needed. As you make that choice and begin to implement it in the little things, you will discover that God is near. Your awareness of His presence will grow daily. The truth of His Word will transform your life of worship and obedience.
Gracious Father, we thank You that that You aren’t a God who is far off. Help us to discover You in all the small daily details of our lives. Move us to share each moment with You, to listen for Your response, and to learn Your will. Grant us the grace, Lord, to be satisfied with You in us and us in You, so that Your purposes may unfold according to Your will.