Worship and the Presence of God, Part 5
- Bob Kauflin Director of Worship Development, PDI Ministries
- 2003 6 Jun
I remember at different seasons in my life having a profound awareness of God's activity and presence. Over time, however, those experiences waned in frequency and intensity. I started to question my sincerity, my zeal, and worst of all, God Himself. Had He become bored with my company? Was He no longer impressed by my attempts to experience His presence?
Obviously, these are the wrong questions. God wasn't impressed with me in the first place. Rather, the sense of His absence that He allowed me to feel was helping me grow up. As we mature in our faith, we realize that feelings aren't the ultimate measure of God's presence. We develop a greater appreciation for the variety of ways God reveals His nearness to us.
Still, God encourages us to "Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!" (Ps105:4). How do we do that? Here are a few thoughts:
Seek God's presence most often where He has revealed Himself most clearly -- in His Word.
Too often we look for evidences of God in subjective feelings and experiences rather than the objective truth of Scripture. Of course, God is a living God, eager to interact with us. But without faith it is impossible to draw near to Him or to please Him. And faith's object is God's truth, not our experiences. That's the difference between pursuing a feeling and pursuing God Himself. As we meditate on His character, His promises, His actions, and His warnings we often find that He seems quite near. Most of all, Scripture helps us, as the Puritans used to say, to "labor to be affected by the cross." At the cross, God becomes nearest to us in our sin and misery, and demonstrates His infinite love.
Seek God's presence in the gathering of the church at worship.
As we've noted, God uniquely reveals His presence when His people gather to exalt and encounter Him in praise, prayer, and preaching. It is something we should never take for granted.
"There can be no substitute for that manifested presence of God which is always a biblical possibility for the people of God. When it is not being experienced they should humbly seek him for it, not neglecting their ongoing duties, nor denying their present blessings, but recognizing that there is always infinitely more with their God and Father who desires fellowship with those redeemed by the blood of his Son and regenerated by the work of his Spirit." (Graham Harrison, Worship and the Presence of God, www.banneroftruth.co.uk)
Seek God's presence in everyday life.
We began this series by reflecting on the omnipresence of God, believing that this precious truth frees us from the lie that God is only with me when I feel His presence. He has promised to be with us until the end of the age (Mt 28:20). Because my sins have been paid for and I am clothed in the perfect righteousness of my Savior, I can speak to God at any point in my day. God is no less with me when I'm at my computer, driving my car, or playing softball than He is during corporate worship. It may well feel different, but God is there just the same.
A.W. Tozer explains it this way: "If you do not know the presence of God in your office, your factory, your home, then God is not in the church when you attend. I have come to believe that when we are worshiping-if the love of God is in us and the Spirit of God is breathing praise within us, all the musical instruments in heaven are suddenly playing in full support. It is my experience that our total lives, our entire attitude as persons, must be toward the worship of God." (Whatever Happened to Worship? Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: Christian Publications, 1985, p. 123.)
Amen. Next time we'll begin wrapping up our series by considering an experience of the presence of God yet to come.
Recommended Resources from Bob:
Upward: The Bob Kauflin Hymns Project. In an age of individualism and an emphasis on personal experiences with God, hymns remind us that we don't ever worship God in isolation. By their very nature, hymns connect us to that "communion of saints" from every nation, culture, and time who will one day unite to glorify God around His throne. We are honored on this project to join our voices and hearts with hymn writers from previous centuries who looked upward and were moved to worship our great God and glorious Savior. Free downloadable song, sheet music, song samples, and video interview with Bob at sovereigngraceministries.org