Draw near to God.
What exactly does that phrase mean, anyway? Besides being a popular line for countless worship songs, of course?
The problem about beautiful but vague and abstract phrases is that they're good for thinking on but not always for acting on. As I explain symbols and parables to my Sunday School children (why are we the light of the earth? why is Jesus the Lamb of God? why not goat?) I am reminded that they lose their significance if we merely treat them as nice set phrases or ideas, failing to discern the concrete application of truth behind them. As adults we too often take these symbols, metaphors, or expressions for granted, and in doing so we strip them of their power and purpose.
Perhaps it helps to think of the opposite--feeling distant from God, feeling disconnected and cold towards Him. The sort of feeling we have towards the real world after binge watching several seasons of our favourite show, for example...touché!
What do we do when that happens--how do we 'draw near to God?'
Believe me, I've been there so many times. I know I will continue to find myself there. When I'm busy. When I've got something on my mind, and heart; when I'm overwhelmed; but far more often, when everything is going smoothly and I'm all engrossed in everyday's self-centered quota of achievement and pleasure.
And I want to suggest two things which have helped me whenever I've fallen into that stagnant, lukewarm zone, found myself trapped in what felt like a spiritual syrup of diffidence.
Humility. We need to pray for His perspective with which to see ourselves. Pride is what keeps us from the truth about ourselves and the truth about God--and the fact that we need Him, desperately. Without humility, we don't know who we are, and we don't know who He is; we're only working on a false god we've created. A false or perverted perception of God is an idol we've made, whether we realize it or not.
Without humility, we fail to see why we even need to 'draw near to God' in the first place.
Worship. Whether alone, or with others. Just as we can't rescue a failing relationship without actually talking and spending time together; even if conversation lags, even if it feels awkward, even if you don't know what to say, or feel horribly insincere and pretentious. When was the last time praying felt like that to you?
Group worship, even if you feel disconnected from everyone, even if you feel no one cares if you're there; even if you don't particularly like the preacher or the style of preaching, is important. All those reasons highlight the other secondary things we go to church for; to have friends; to feel wanted; to agree; to be impressed. Good things, definitely. But also definitely not the main reason for going to church in themselves. Gosh, just get a dog or a ticket to a magic show for that.
The purpose of preaching and teaching is to discover truth about the person of God. And that starts with ourselves, with our heart. We could be served the world's best seafood but if we don't particularly like seafood in the first place we're obviously not going to appreciate it as much as we ought. If only for the simple reason that God has promised to bless our participation in group worship, that it is a means of grace, we should be there. Expecting and waiting to benefit, not because someone is in the pulpit, or someone remembered to greet us at the door, but simply because we trust God will bless, that our weak effort of coming despite the struggle we're in, is precious to Him.
And that, in essence, is perhaps what is most important of all. Knowing what we are, and knowing what He is like. Knowing that He will not leave us on our own, that He will draw us back.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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