Awareness of God

 

One of the things that many people comment on when they have been visiting Eastside is our God @ Work segment where people say how God is involved in their lives this week.

 

Of course, all Christians know that the presence of God is always with us, because Scripture tells us that God will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). 

 

And we take comfort from Jesus’ statement that he will be with us until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20), but when we see the fingerprints of God over our lives and express it, that is an awareness of his presence.

 

Awareness of that presence of God is what I want to talk about today

 

We cannot get the presence of God. We're already totally in the presence of God. What's absent is awareness" (Richard Rohr 1999:28).[1]

 

God is already moving in our lives and experiences, inviting, acting, nudging, disturbing and calling[2].  Are we aware of him doing this?

So, what is “awareness of God’s presence?”

It is the experiencing of God’s presence. It is the consciousness of God’s presence. It’s not the belief that God is present. It’s not hoping that God is present, but it is the consciousness of God’s presence. It’s not making God become present. It’s becoming aware of The Holy Presence that is already here, now.

So on this topic I could delve into Scripture and talk about Enoch who walked so closely to the Lord that he went to heaven without dying (Genesis 5:24); or about Noah who had personal guidance from God about how to build the ark (Genesis 6:13); or Abraham who met God before God went to Sodom and destroyed it; or Moses who met God in the burning bush and on the mountain top, or many other well-known God encounters; but I want to talk about a lesser known example of the awareness of the presence of God:

In 2 Kings 6-19, there is a story about someone who is not even given the dignity of a name becoming aware of the presence of God

 

 The King of Aram sent horses and chariots and a great army to Dotham to seize the prophet Elisha whom he felt was the cause of all his problems.

 

14 they came by night, and surrounded the city. 15 When an attendant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. His servant said, “Alas, master! What shall we do?” 16 He replied, “Do not be afraid, for there are more with us than there are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed: “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw; the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18 When the Arameans came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, and said, “Strike this people, please, with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness as Elisha had asked.

 

We are often like Elisha’s servant.  We can become gripped with fear because we cannot see that God has the issue in hand. We may know of his presence in our head because we remember our Scriptures on that topic, but we are faithless when it comes to actually trusting him with our gut.

 

“Alas, what shall we do?  We are undone!” could well be our cry in times of danger as well. “Woe is me!”

 

The opening of our eyes causes the silencing of our fears. In the dark, [in our blindness] we are most apt to be frightened. The clearer sight we have of the sovereignty and power of heaven the less we shall fear the calamities of this earth.[3]

 

Being aware of the presence of God stills our troubled mind.

 

Think of another situation from Scripture: This time from the New Testament and well known:  Luke 24:13-35

13 … two [disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

[after they explained to this fellow traveller their dilemma…] 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

[They invited him…] “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 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?”

Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.

 

Their fear and despondency were dispelled because they became aware of the presence of Jesus.  He was already with them, but they had failed to see him.

 

If it is true that one of the realities which we discern but cannot see is the living presence of God which is all around us,[4] how do we get eyes to see the living presence of God all around us? How do we foster an awareness of the presence of God?

 

Being aware of the presence of God begins with a mind focused on Him. How often or little during the day do our thoughts drift to the Lord? How can we increase our conscious awareness of Him?

 

The answer to those questions is to grow spiritually. Spiritual growth in a sense is simply increasing our capacity to experience the presence of God.[5]

 

How do we grow spiritually?

 

Spiritual growth doesn't happen by accident. It is a result of an intentional pursuit, a cooperation with God. He is the active agent, moving us forward in spite of our weaknesses and failures, but we must cooperate with him [6]

 

An active pursuit of God does not mean trying harder, trying to be more ‘spiritual’.  The word that Gary Thomas (his quote above) is to cooperate with God.  We open ourselves to God by cooperating with him.

 

Practices such as reading Scripture and praying are important- not because they prove how spiritual we are-but because God can use them to lead us into life. [7]

 

We are not talking about working out our salvation here either – we are already saved – but we are talking about how to tune ourselves into seeing with our spiritual eyes what God is doing in our lives and through our lives; and where he is leading us and how he is protecting us.

 

It is about fostering a relationship with God, coming to him, rather than simply knowing about him.

 

Spiritual transformation is not a matter of trying harder, but of training wisely.[8]  We do not do this in our own strength, we have a helper in this.

 

In John 14:18 it says that Jesus did not leave his followers as orphans but sent his Holy Spirit to indwell them. 

 

The Holy Spirit gives us eyes to see and ears to hear what Jesus is saying and doing around us.

 

By practice, we get to identify the God moments in our lives, and that is what “God @ Work” is all about.

 

Let me conclude with a prayer from Psalm 25

 

4     Show me your ways, O Lord,

teach me your paths;

5     guide me in your truth and teach me,

for you are God my Savior,

and my hope is in you all day long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Gary Moon & David Benner Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls: A Guide to Christian Approaches and Practices Loc. 91 

[2] Janet Ruffing “Opening one’s heart to another” in Conversationsd (Spring 2007) 8

[4] Scott Walker Where the Rivers Flow 135

[5] John Ortberg God is closer than you think 25

[6]Gary Thomas Thirsting for God 34

[7] John Ortberg The Life You've Always Wanted 39

[8] John Ortberg The Life You've Always Wanted 43