The Primary Promise: I Will Be WITH You
The most frequent promise in the Bible is “I will be with you.” Before Adam and Eve ever sinned or needed forgiveness, they were promised God’s presence. He would walk with them in the cool of the day. The promise came to Enoch, who “walked with God.” It was made to Noah, to Abraham and Sarah, to Jacob and Joseph and Moses and David and Amos and Mary and Paul and too many others to list. When God himself came to earth, his redemptive name was Immanuel — God with us. When Jesus left, his promise was to send the Spirit so that “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
God is closer than you think. Set aside for now the question of to what extent any of us is capable of experiencing God’s presence in our current spiritual condition. Set aside your past failures or future worries. The teaching of Scripture is that God really is present right here, right now. The Spirit of God is available to you and me: flowing all the time, welling up within us, quenching our unsatisfied desires, overflowing to refresh those around us. He is at work all the time, in every place. Spiritual growth, in a sense, is simply increasing our capacity to experience the presence of God. Brother Lawrence wrote, “The most holy and necessary practice in our spiritual life is the presence of God. That means finding constant pleasure in His divine company, speaking humbly and lovingly with him in all seasons, at every moment, without limiting the conversation in any way.”
What if God could be that close? Maybe I miss him because I fail to see him in the ordinary moments of my life. Maybe every heartbeat is not just the mechanism of a sophisticated plumbing system but the echo of God’s voice, the murmur of God’s love. No one has ever lived with a sense of the presence of God as Jesus did. He was so dependent on God that he said that everything he did was a result of God’s power.
He was so surrendered to God that he said his greatest delight was to do the will of his Father. He was so confident of God that neither stormy seas nor hostile crowds could shake his poise. The river of life flowed strong through this man Jesus as it had never flowed through anyone before him. And when he died, the veil that kept people out of the Holy of Holies — the veil that symbolized separation between God and human beings — was torn in two. In Jesus, God touched Adam. Now, according to the clear expectation of the teaching of Jesus, it’s our turn. It can happen for you.
For centuries now, people have stood in line to view the picture of God and Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. But what if the miracle that is hinted at on that fresco became a reality in our lives? What if an artist greater than Michelangelo is at work on the canvas of our ordinary days? “God alone is capable of making himself known as he really is,” Brother Lawrence said. “God Himself paints Himself in the depths of our souls.” It can happen anywhere, anytime, for anyone. Whatever your age or season of life or temperament or job — these are no obstacle at all. All you have to do is lift a finger. God is closer than you think.