4/18/12

No More Striving for His Presence

Traveling with a revival ministry in the 1970s, there was a constant focus on seeking God, genuine repentance, and prayer for revival. These concepts became my goals each morning, and my last thoughts at night. I felt my life was saturated with thoughts of knowing God, and loving and pleasing Him. It was a wonderful, intense season of life when I learned to walk with the Lord.

After I left that ministry, for a long time ~ many years ~ my thoughts and routines stayed basically the same. Then children came along, and ministry opportunities, and personal pursuits. It wasn't that I forgot about the need for revival, but rather that other things seemed more important than "seeking God" at the time.

Years later, I discovered that in those times that I'd felt I didn't need "revival," I needed it most.

Wrapped up in busyness for God and family, I allowed my own ideas about life to take precedence over seeking God's face and making sure that He was speaking life into my everyday routines. We all have periods of dryness, but after a while, I realized how desperately thirsty I'd become. I couldn't seem to find a way to quench the deep thirst; I felt I'd always be a "sipper" at the fountain of life.

A few years ago, as I attended a revival meeting ~ or rather, a week of intense preparation for a year of church ministry ~ I heard these simple words: "Everything flows from the presence of God." I still remember the impact these words spoken by Little Rock pastor Bill Elliff had on my thinking. I sat weeping in my chair for a long, long time ~ letting the words sink into my soul.

At that time, life was not "flowing" for me. I felt stagnant and shallow, insecure and incompetent. So Bill's words haunted me. If everything flows from God's presence, I needed to make sure I was dwelling there.

I asked myself, "How do I get back into God's presence?"
The thought came to my mind, "I've always been here."
"Then why don't I sense your presence?" I asked.
"You don't spend time with me."

I'll admit that I spiritually rolled my eyes. Prayer. Bible reading. Meditation. All ways to "spend time" with God, and I was doing them all.

And then I unpacked what the Spirit was trying to tell me ... to teach me.

I was praying about others' requests in emails, on Facebook, and at church ... but I wasn't communing with God. I was reading my Bible for facts and for my job ... but I wasn't reading with the intention of obeying what God showed me. I was mulling over questions I had about philosophy and apologetics, but I wasn't meditating on scripture long enough to allow the Spirit of God to sink the Word deep into my soul and give me solid inner strength.

Over time, I realized that seeking the Lord in revival is a process. It's not once-for-all, and it doesn't happen overnight. But there is a beginning point. David told Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:19), "...set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God."

So I intentionally set my mind and heart to seek God, get into the Word for more than knowledge, and understand what it means to be "in Christ" ~ dwelling in His presence.

And I searched for a visual picture that would help me understand. How could I dwell in God's presence?

A speaker at a women's conference at Pine Valley Bible Conference Center supplied the illustration. Shelly Volkhardt stood on the platform behind a table and filled a small glass with water.

"That represents you, a believer," she said ~ a believer filled with the Spirit of God.

Then she set that cup of water into a larger glass container and proceeded to fill up the second container until the water overflowed the smaller cup and then continued to the top of the larger container. She explained that the larger container represents the Lord. We, the smaller glass, are "in Christ." [I've duplicated the illustration here ~ one vase inside of another, but both containing water.]

I clearly saw that no matter what comes into my life, it will be filtered through the presence of Christ. (Before anything can reach the smaller vase, at the right, it must pass through the waters surrounding the vase!) Some people describe this as life being "Father filtered," but for me, the picture of being in Christ is also rich.

Resting in my position in Christ means that I am safe, deeply loved, and more. It wasn't a matter of striving to sense His presence, but counting that it is always there. I simply need to acknowledge it and live as though it were true. I need to act on the truth of the presence of God.

I cannot tell you the relief I've discovered in this. No striving. Just resting. Just dwelling. Just allowing the power of the presence of Christ to flow in my life.

"Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?" Psalm 86:5
"You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11

The stirrings of revival. The beginnings of fresh joy.

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