Total Pageviews

Sunday, 9 February 2014

When God Seems Far Away

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I tend to feel that God makes his presence felt on Sundays, and on special occasions such as on Christmas day - if I attend church that morning. Ditto on Good Friday and especially on Easter Sunday. And oh yes, God was present on our wedding day when we made our vows among hymns, choruses, and a sermon to boot - and after signing the Register he was even present during the Reception which followed, which happen to have taken place in our church back room turned restaurant.
And so on our happy day which was to change our lives together, when the Reception was over, we waved farewell as we climbed into the car driven by my younger brother who was also Best Man, and we were on our own once more as we ambled into the check-in lounge at the airport to start our honeymoon. So God's presence is felt whenever we are in church. And so Sunday after Sunday we gather together for a service which had always been very predictable - thirty minutes of coffee and doughnuts, followed by a time of worship (actually, it's standing up singing praises rather than falling on our knees) - then after thirty minutes of this, the youngsters depart for Junior Church with its separate departments catering for different age groups. Another song or two, then we all sit down for the preach, which the Elders prefer as the title rather than sermon. Finally, the church notices are read out before the meeting ends, and it's back to coffee and doughnuts.

We love to say and testify that God had been present throughout the service, and no doubt, he has and always will be. Sure enough, there has been talk of  wanting of a revival of some sort, whatever that suppose to mean, but I guess it is a great increase of numbers coming to Christ, along with godlier lifestyles. Something on the parallel of the early church recorded in the Acts of the Apostles of the New Testament.  During the days of the apostles, if Starbucks or Costa-Coffee had been around, they would have had a thriving business! With between three to five thousand converted in a day, they would have had to work hard around the clock, with new branches opening up in Jerusalem and then across the Roman Empire to provide coffee and doughnuts for the new converts. I'll be honest with myself here. The idea of change always poses a threat. Therefore I find something assuring about predictability with a promise, to a degree, of security in a comfort zone.
Therefore it can be seen in the subconscious a pattern like this in a typical week following week throughout our Christian lives:
Sunday - All about God.
Monday to Friday - Commitment to work, business and homelife.
Saturday - Day off.
Most Christian believers would deny such a way of thinking, but let's face it, how nearer the truth has it been really? Even if everyone in the fellowship would insist that they serve God on a daily basis, how does this work out on day-to-day reality? Is driving to church on a Sunday morning on a road vertically free of traffic more exhilarating than being stuck in a snarl-up on a typical weekday morning trying to arrive at the office on time? Then again, on a Sunday morning the sky is clear and the sun streaming through the car windows lifts the spirits even further and therefore tend to sing a praise to God. In turn, on Monday the rain falls steadily, plunging the same environment into a gloomy atmosphere as a long, rush-hour traffic queue appears ahead, caused by a contractor digging up half the road almost a mile further along the route. Then, for the last straw, an impatient motorist cuts in front, causing the need to brake suddenly. Singing praises to God? Or letting out angry expletives? Certainly God was present on the Sunday drive to church. But does he return to Heaven for a cup of coffee and a doughnut by Sunday nightfall? 

What a Winter we had so far. I tend to look with a degree of envy when I hear news on the telly, or read in the newspaper that the American State of California, as well as the African State of Kenya, are suffering drought. Here in England, the Jet Stream has been flowing directly over Southern England, the most densely populated area of the UK. The result being a "conveyor belt" of stormy weather with  an endless chain of low pressure systems following one after another. The result was a ruined Christmas for many, resulting in flooded homes and power cuts. The Somerset Levels in the West Country remain flooded with large areas of farmland underwater and villages evacuated. Our coastline had suffered mass erosion, including the main rail link to Cornwall from London and the rest of the UK totally destroyed. The way farmers are re-acting as well as general public opinion regarding our extreme weather, I am beginning to wonder if Armageddon and the end of the world as we know it are just around the corner.

So everyday throughout the week, I set off from home dressed in a heavy raincoat, even if it may not be raining the moment I leave the front door. Riding a bicycle in the rain is no way a pleasant experience, especially when one of the tyres punctures, as they are prone to when the road is wet. Or as was the case of the past week, day after day of rain forcing me to pack away my work equipment and return home long before the day is fulfilled. It was a near miracle that despite the retreats, I have just managed to bring the week's round to completion on time.

Then my wife's poor health. To date, she is able to walk and complete household tasks, but back pain and stiffness returns if she over-exerts herself, and she is constantly dependent on a variety of pills, mainly to loosen her back muscles and to kill the pain. But I have to carefully watch how much medicine she has in stock, and re-order her supply from the NHS surgery as soon as one set of pills run down, as in her present condition, she is unable to make her way to the surgery unit on her own. A bureaucratic mistake made by either the doctor himself or by the computer operator had caused one set of pills to run out completely after causing a re-order to be stopped. I had to watch my beloved cripple in agonising pain. When the mistake was rectified, I have noticed the cool, fobbing off attitude towards her by the doctor, as if he sees her as a perpetual nuisance, someone to get off his back. Therefore the distress I can feel when she gets upset and her body re-acts, leaving me in an emotional down turn as well as all the housework. When my prayers seem to hit a brick wall, and not only my prayers but those in our church as well, I tend to lose faith and believe that prayer is a waste of time. Why not just eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we shall die.

So at times like these it is tempting to believe that God is far away, left behind to dwell alone in the building where we meet every Sunday. What I find amazing, is that when a crowd of believers sing out in praise to God, I can do the same without hassle, it is another thing to see my beloved writhe in pain after being dismissed by an irate doctor.

Then again, is living in the UK that unhealthy? Although our climate is appalling, we have as many commodities to make living as comfortable to the extent most previous generations could ever imagine. Such as running water from the tap after all the impurities filtered out and chlorinated to kill any harmful bugs, electric power at a touch of a switch, double glazing to keep the Winter cold out, the ability to watch events on the other side of the globe and to talk to someone equally far away. So it goes on. Yet, take a look at the doctor's surgery and the patient's waiting room on a Monday morning and see how the phone lines buzz while a queue builds up at reception, and every seat in the waiting room taken. Can a weekend elapse without someone falling ill? And there are times I feel lonely and forsaken, with the weight of the world on my shoulders.

So really, it is a good thing that my emotional side does not reflect the hard facts - as for example, Psalm 139 so lucidly demonstrates:

Oh LORD, you have searched me and you know me.
You know me when I sit and when I arise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.

You hem me in - behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139:1-10.

That is a terrific psalm, and in it contains a prophecy on international air travel! - To be fulfilled some three thousand years later. But even more important, it demonstrates that God is with us throughout the week, even during working days which can't seem to sink any lower. The truth is, God will never leave us nor forsake us. Even on bad days, God had already knew them long before we are even born. If there is a Scripture that proves without a shadow of a doubt that once saved always saved is true Biblical doctrine, than this is it, along with the New Testament equivalent of Romans chapter 8.

And this is a good place to remind ourselves that our God is a happy God. Yes, God is a happy God! Checking on Luke 15:3-10, Jesus gives two short parables, first about a man who has a hundred sheep and was unfortunate enough to lose one. He then goes out on a search and finds it. He then throws a party with his friends to celebrate the occasion. The second parable is on the same thread as the first one. Here a woman had lost a coin, and like the shepherd, sets out to find it. And having found the lost coin, she too throws a party. Then from verses 11 through to 32, Jesus tells a story of the Prodigal Son, and concludes with the father throwing a party over his safe return. The reality of all this is that someone, somewhere around the world, believes in Jesus Christ as Resurrected Saviour and experiences a new birth. And on each occasion, if these parables were anything to go by, there is rejoicing in Heaven. With the rate of people being saved, we can conclude that the party in Heaven remains endless.

God is a happy God because he sees the reward he has for his Son being fulfilled. The reward is for his suffering and death on the cross to atone for our sins, and the Father is more than delighted to give each and every believer to his Son as a reward. That is the basis of Eternal Security. God's Covenant with his Son, rather than with us. We are a gift to the Son from the Father, according to John 6:39-40 and 17:6-7, and as such, God's intention is that his beloved Son will lose nothing he had received.

And now that is something to celebrate with coffee and doughnuts.


  1. Dear Frank,
    It is so true that many view Sunday services as "God time," "something to check off our weekly to-do list," as our former pastor likes to say, and the rest of the week as "me-time." But every good and perfect gift comes from above, and there is no gift more precious than time. We should honor Him not only with tithes and offerings, but with giving back to Him the best of our time and talents, no matter what day of the week. Thanks as always for the great post, and God bless,

  2. Hi Frank,
    Ever since I was born again I have constantly had the Lord in my mind, whatever day it is. I think that is because in my old life I began looking for Him, mainly because my life was turning dark and I started remembering my father's teaching when I was a child. I think the problem sometimes can be - not the fact that God stays in the church, but that we can leave Him there.
    God bless you for this thought provoking post.

  3. Too often we get like a married couple who only talks to each other when they ask for something at the table, seldom even thinking of their mate. A happy couple, on the other hand, talks intermittently all day and are constantly aware of each other's presence. It's not that God isn't there, but that we ignore him because we have become too wrapped up in our own concerns.