The impossibility of escaping from God

‘Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?’ Psalm 139.7

These words give us so much encouragement.  Deep down we really want to get it right with God; we want to do his will and there is always the worry that if we do wander away from him, then we will lose him and his presence will no longer be with us.  However, this verse reminds us that his presence will never leave us.

The question asked by the psalmist is this – where can I flee from you?  The word ‘fleeing’ has the connotation of deliberately running away; of us making the choice to escape from the presence of God.  The following verse in the psalm reveals the answer – there is nowhere that God is not present.  He is in the heavens, in the depths and at the farthermost parts of the world.  Wherever you may try to flee, his ‘right hand will hold me fast.’ (verse 10).

The point is this: if we cannot deliberately find a place outside God’s presence, then surely it must be impossible to inadvertently wander away from him, especially if our hearts are inclined towards him?  We might make mistakes and fail to give him the attention we should, but the truth for us today is this: wherever we are and whatever we feel, it is true that the right hand of God holds us fast.

Take a few minutes to memorise this phrase from Psalm 139.10 – ‘your right hand will hold me fast’ – and come back to it throughout the day.

Too good to be true

‘Such knowledge is too wonderful for me’ Psalm 139.6

In this beautiful psalm, David is seeking to remind himself of the wonder of God.  He recounts the truth of God’s presence upon him and reminds himself that the hand of God is always with him.  At this point we can almost sense him shaking his head in wonder and declaring that these things are almost too good to be true!

For much of the time, our vision of God’s presence and his goodness to us is woefully small.  All too often we limit our sense of God to what we can perceive through our five senses – but God is not limited to those senses.  If we can begin to grasp this and believe that his presence is absolutely everywhere and that his hand is upon us – even right now – then we too would probably share David’s sense of wonder that this is almost too good to be true.

We often hear the expression ‘living by faith’, usually when referring to people who live without regular income, trusting in what God will provide for them.  Actually living by faith is something that we are all called to do, but in a much wider sense.  It is about holding fast to our belief in his constant presence and his hand upon us, and applying this to our daily lives.  Such knowledge is wonderful and almost too good to be true – but it is true!

Being willing

“…serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind” 1 Chronicles 28.9

We are all called to serve God, but phrases like ‘wholehearted devotion’ can sound a little daunting!  However, one aspect of the word ‘wholehearted’ is summed up in the phrase that follows it – ‘a willing mind’.  Serving God is not just about what we do, but about what we want to do – what our hearts are yearning to do.

It is so easy for Christians to feel guilty because there is always more that we could be doing!  The area worth exploring is what do our hearts yearn to do for the Lord, and what is it that is keeping us back from doing it?

The things our hearts ‘yearn’ to do is probably another way of phrasing ‘vision’, since this is God’s vision for us.  Since our heart yearns for it, we are willing and all that needs adding to this is the concept of ‘serving’.  In other words, how are we going to put it into practice?  A common mistake that many of us make is to expect God to bring about the things he lays on our hearts, but perhaps he has laid them on us so that we can bring them about.

“Serve him … with a willing mind”: what do you want to do for God and how are you going to go about it?

He is everything we need

‘…with him is full redemption.’ Psalm 130.7

This short phrase says something amazing – that the answer to everything we may need is in our God.  It refers to more than the promise of forgiveness for our sins as it speaks of everything that been robbed from us being given back.  This is full redemption, and it is all with God.

The whole verse from which this phrase is taken is a great call to God’s people to hope: ‘Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.’  It is a call to hope because of God’s unfailing love for us.  Our redemption is not based on the fact that we may or may not be good people, but on the truth that God is unfailingly loving.

The difficulty arises when we try to hold on to our faith as we wait for this full redemption to come, and yet nothing seems to be happening.  Does this mean that God’s love has failed?  Certainly not!  What it means is that this verse is addressed to us.  Despite their circumstances, the psalmist was seeking to call people to hope so that whatever they were going through, God’s love might be real.  We too are called to put our hope in God and look to him for the outworking of his love in our lives.

Whatever your situation, the solution to your present difficulties is in God, who loves you unfailingly.  As you focus on him now, let these words become real for you – “in you is full redemption”.

Waiting

‘I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning.’ Psalm 130.6

The way that this verse puts together these two concepts of waiting for the Lord and waiting for the morning says something very powerful and encouraging to us.  It speaks about the certainty of the Lord coming to us.

The idea is of a guard on the city wall, waiting for daylight to appear so that the sleeping town can be woken.  His duty would entail waiting for the first signs of light to herald the beginning of the dawn – an event that he knew for certain would take place.  The encouragement for us is to wait for God in a similar way.  If you are seeking God’s help or deliverance in whatever form, then the encouragement is to wait with expectation for the first signs of his touch.

The difference, of course, is that when a watchman waits for the morning he knows exactly when and where the sun will appear.  With God we are promised his presence and help, but he is a living God and frequently chooses to surprise us in the way in which his help comes to us.  In fact, we often miss his touch which may come in ways we are not expecting (or indeed wanting), but like the watchman, if we can train ourselves to be expectant and look for the first signs of his touch upon whatever we bring to him, we are more likely to see his unfolding hand upon our lives.

‘I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning.’  Wait for God’s touch which will come with the certainty of the rising sun.

Knowing Forgiveness

‘He forgave us all our sins’ Colossians 2.13

As Christians, forgiveness is a familiar concept and it features in so many talks, songs and services.  What is less familiar for us is the ability to apply it to ourselves.  Paul states the truth very bluntly when he says: ‘He forgave us all our sins’.  In other words, Jesus took from us every sin we ever committed and he paid the price for it forever, so that never again can any of our thoughts, actions or attitudes be held against us or appear on our record.

This is quite something to get our heads around!  So many people suspect that God still sees them through the veil of their sins, so that whenever he looks at them he also sees their sins.  Paul states that this is simply not true. When we bring our sins to God, it is like opening the door of a dark room so that the light can shine within it; when the light shines, the darkness is gone.  This is how we are encouraged to see our lives.

It is us who are so frequently aware of our sins.  Then we often get into the habit of looking at others and noting their sins, even though God does not see them at all.  Forgiveness is total, eternal, wonderful and promised by God – so let’s stand in the light of it.

Being Alive with God

‘…God made you alive with Christ.’ Colossians 2.13

Sometimes the truth revealed in the Bible seems to be perfectly aligned with our feelings and we really do sense the truth of what the Bible says.  At these moments we have no problem believing the words we read and there is a natural ease about giving praise to God.

However, we all know that not every day is like this and at times there can be a vast difference between the truth and our feelings.  In fact, for every day when we sense that continuity between truth and feelings, there are many others when there is either an indifference between the two, or else downright hostility!

The point is this – truth is still truth whether or not we feel it.  So when Paul writes that God has made us ‘alive with Christ’, he is stating something that we may or may not feel but it is still the truth, and truth is to be taken seriously.

Whatever you may be feeling right now, this statement is true about you: ‘God made you alive with Christ.’  This is not because of anything you have done, but is all down to the action of the creator God.  You are alive with Christ; he notices you, is with you, holds you close to his heart and loves you.

The Heart of God

‘For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him’ Colossians 1.19

A common question asked by many is, ‘What does God want for me?’  Life might be difficult for you – so is this what God wants for you or dare you hope that there is more?

The encouragement of this verse is that in Jesus we see the fullness of God; his power and his will.  The heart of God for his world is fully revealed in the person of Jesus.

The implication of this is that what Jesus did in his life and ministry is an expression of God’s heart for us and one reason why Jesus foresaw his ministry continuing (John 14.12) is that he knew that the heart of his Father would not change.  All of this assures us that there is indeed more for each of us.  Jesus came to reveal the Father’s heart and to show us what it looks like for us.

As you seek his healing in every part of your life, there may indeed be frustrations and things you do not understand along the way, but one thing that you can rely on is the heart of the Father revealed in Jesus.

More than we can dream

‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us …’ Ephesians 3.20

This verse can easily be filed in the ‘too-good-to-be-true’ category!  It’s astounding enough that God is able to do the things that we actually ask of him without considering all the extra things that we imagine in our hearts.  In this verse, Paul challenges us to take the power of God seriously.

Paul is not just saying that God could hypothetically do anything he wants.  He actually grounds it in the realms of possibility by talking about what God could do because of his powerful presence at work within us.  It is the reality of God’s presence within us that lifts this verse out of the realm of our dreams and in to the hope of what God could do.

As you ponder the circumstances of your life, what could God do to bring about the change that you glimpse as you read the Bible?  The challenge is to recall the truth that the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is alive in you, and if that is true then why could he not bring about the transformation for which you long and dream?  Your responsibility is to constantly recall God’s presence that is within you.

Living for Jesus

‘For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.’ Philippians 2.21

When Paul wrote these words he was not bemoaning the state of the world but simply contrasting the attitude of many of the people around him with the example of one or two who had stuck with him through thick and thin.

His comment presents us with a stark challenge as it lays out two extremes: what is it that concerns you – your own interests or those of Jesus Christ?  It is, of course, so easy to make ourselves feel guilty so perhaps a better question would be to consider how we might move more from one extreme to the other?

Perhaps a good starting point is the realisation that Jesus needs those who will care about his interests.  It is tempting to think that he will grow his own kingdom and that being the Son of God, he has slightly more influence than we do in this world!  It is certainly true that he reigns over all, but he also calls us to be his fellow workers.  In any situation, a good approach is to ask him, “What can I do for you?”

We are usually only too aware of what we would like for ourselves, but rather than asking God to do this for you, what can you do for him today?