16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
To finish beating the drum on the great commission, I want to talk about God’s presence with us. Personally, I have been learning a lot about God’s presence. I say “about” because I don’t want to presume that I have been necessarily walking in His presence this whole time, but learning aspects about it. For instance, God tends to withdraw His presence from us for a time to see how we will respond. Will we ask for it back? Will we even notice He is gone? Will we remain faithful to Him even though we don’t feel Him close to us? Just because we don’t sense His presence with us doesn’t mean He is an absentee Father. It means we are not in tune with what He is doing. The question is: what will we do and how far will we go to get back in tune with Him?
I recently finished a book called The Sensitivity of the Spirit by R. T. Kendall and have been telling everyone about it that will listen. It is about how Jesus conformed to the Spirit (which was like a dove) and did not grieve Him or cause Him to fly away. God will not conform to us, but expects us to conform to Him. If we are to be seeking His righteousness in our lives and trying to conform to His will, then we also must conform to His presence. When Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” He meant it. He is always watching, always aware, always listening. When Jesus was on the cross and the sin of the world was falling upon His shoulders, He felt as though God the Father had abandoned Him. But God was right there. Some say God turned away because He could not bear to see His Son covered in sin like that. Regardless of how you look at it one fact remains: when there is sin in our lives (ie we grieve the Holy Spirit) we cannot sense God’s presence. Sin and God do not mix and they will not coexist in our lives.
Yet there are other times that while we are not in sin we still do not feel God’s presence. What do we do then? Do we trust Jesus’ words that He is with us always or do we frantically search for Him? To we know He is there or do we try not to think about it and do things under our own strength anyway? This is a tough spot to be in. If you have experienced God’s presence in your life before and it goes away you don’t know what to do with yourself. Stay the course. Israel didn’t feel God’s presence for hundreds of years and instead of remaining faithful they created their own religion to try to pretend that God’s presence was still there with them. Meanwhile He was setting things in order for salvation to be poured out upon the entire land. In John 15, Jesus gives us the key:
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9 “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
Jesus calls us to remain faithful even when we feel low in faith. He calls us to trust even when we are struggling to trust His ways. He calls us to remain in Him even when we don’t feel He is with us. This is hard. This is spiritual training. This is where our faith is put to the test. God help us.