His Invisible Presence
You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.
When we are living in sin, the concept that God is standing nearby is a cause of both conviction and holy fear. However, when we pursue righteous living, the idea that God is standing nearby is a cause of confidence and peace. His presence at the door both encourages us in the midst of suffering and challenges us in the midst of disobedience.
During our toughest assignments Christ is already present. During our worst suffering, He is at hand. During episodes of mistreatment and persecution, He is still Emmanuel—“God with us.”
Chuck Swindoll illustrated this truth in his book Getting Through the Tough Stuff with a story of a personal encounter he had with a blind student name John. Upon asking John how he’d lost his sight, Swindoll heard about his accident as a teenager and how it caused him to want to give up on life:
When the accident happened and I knew I would never see again, life had ended, as far as I was concerned. I was bitter and angry with God for letting it happen; I took my anger out on everyone around me. I felt that since I had no future, I wouldn’t lift a finger on my own behalf. Let others wait on me. I shut my bedroom door and refused to come out except for meals.
One day, in exasperation, my father came into my room and began lecturing me. He said he was tired of my feeling sorry for myself. Winter was coming, and it was still my job to put up the storm windows. He commanded, “You get those windows up by suppertime tonight,” then walked out of my room, slamming the door behind him.
Well, that made me so angry that I resolved to do it! Muttering and complaining to myself, I groped my way out to the garage, found the windows, a stepladder, all the necessary tools, and I went to work. “They’ll be sorry when I fall off this ladder and break my neck,” I thought . . . but little by little, I got the job done.
As he concluded the story, tears began to form in his eyes. “I later found out that at no time during that afternoon had my father ever been more than four or five feet away from my side.”
You might be tempted to consider James as insensitive in the way he speaks of God’s nearness to us, referring to Him as a Judge instead of Father. But the apostle is merely reminding us that our Heavenly Father, like the father in this story, wants to challenge our character and command our holy behavior.
Remember, James began his letter by writing, Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance (James 1:2
). Four chapters later, James reinforces the same truths.
So no matter what trial you’re experiencing today, be strengthened in your resolve. God may be commanding your obedience through challenging times . . . but He’s never more than an arm’s length away.
What trials are you experiencing that cause you to assume God has commanded more than you can possibly endure? Answer His challenge and pray for the needed resolve to pursue holy obedience.
Read James 1
again as James reminds us why trials produce patience.
I Pledge Allegiance
As citizens of two kingdoms, Christians face the unique challenge of determining where their allegiance should lie. Do believers pledge allegiance to one nation or to one God above all nations? The Church finds itself in a similar crisis: Is its mission to reform politics or to redeem people?
In this exposition of Romans 13:1-7, Stephen clarifies the believer’s responsibility as a dual citizen of heaven and earth. He also examines the difficult relationship between Church and State, encouraging the Church to focus more on saving Americans than saving America.
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