How do you remain close to God?
Part 1: Where is God?
Part 2: Abiding
Part 3: The question of “feeling” close
Where is God? (Part 1)
When we talk about being close to God we are more likely discussing it from our viewpoint. From God’s viewpoint we are never far away. Before we had any consciousness of him, he knew us and drew close to bring us into existence. He was there when we were formed in our mother’s womb. “For you formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)
Could we get away from him even if we wanted to? “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.”(Psalm 139:7-8) Our continued existence is wholly dependant on him, down to every breath we take. Should he put us out of mind we would cease to exist. To any who know God this is a comforting thought. To those who reject him, however, this thought is very disconcerting.
Even though all of this is true, your question is a very good one. You wouldn’t ask it if you were not one of those who hungers for God and wants to do all in your power to remain close. Though HE is close to you, You wish to remain close to him.
Jesus gave us the secret to this close relationship in John 15 when he talked about being the true vine and his disciples being the branches. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (Verse 5)
Abiding (Part 2)
It’s fine to say that we are to abide in Jesus but what does that mean on a practical level in the real world? Here are a few thoughts. First of all, be willing to accept pruning. Verse 2 says that “every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Being pruned is one of the least pleasant experiences in the Christian walk because – well, IT HURTS!
Are you willing to have every kind of sin cut out of your life? No holding on to secret comfort sins that you justify as “not so bad.” Every sin hinders our full participation in the life of the vine. Being honest enough to ask God to reveal any sins you are blind to is a good first step. Don’t worry; he will answer that prayer.
What about developing dependence? Everything in our culture tells us to be independent and self sufficient but that is not God’s way. The picture of the vine and the branches is the picture of full dependence. Dependence is demonstrated in diligent, disciplined prayer which seeks God’s will over our own. It is also demonstrated in the regular study of God’s Word as our only road map to life in the Spirit.
Abiding realizes the end result is fruit. Fruit is something succulent, ripe, nutritious and ready to be picked and eaten by SOMEONE ELSE. In other words, we are not meant to lie on the vine, fat and bloated on the blessings of God. We are meant to produce fruit that can be given away to the world that Jesus wants to touch. If you desire to remain close to God’s heart, start giving yourself away. Remember that once fruit is picked it leaves place for more to grow.
The question of “feeling” close (Part 3)
God is close to us always and we may learn how to abide in him better as time goes by but I must also admit that there will be times we do not “feel” close. On an emotional level sometimes God seems very distant, even though he is not.
We may wonder why but I think it is just natural and happens in most any long term relationship. If you asked a successfully married couple of fifty years if they always felt close they would probably recount times when they went forward in their relationship without many feelings. All the days were not honeymoon days.
Christians often liken these times to a desert. We feel dry spiritually. God’s presence is nowhere to be seen; we feel thirsty and can’t find a drink anywhere. Nothing satisfies; not a worship service, not prayer, not ministering to another. Anything that ever brought us near before is not working at all now.
I don’t want to put words in God’s mouth but I sometimes think he withdraws temporarily so that we will press in for him deeper. He wants to take us to the next level like a shepherd who heads out to the next pasture while the wooly ones are busy eating. The sheep look around and don’t see him so they start scrambling to find him and keep at it until they do.
There is a good thing about the desert. According to desert veterans, those dry places produce the most growth in our souls. We are glad when we reach the oasis but we treasure the times that brought us to maturity. In the desert we establish stamina and the faith it takes to run the race to the end.
The best advice is: enjoy the times of close intimacy and tender feeling but don’t rely on them too much because they will lift. Beyond the feelings, know deep in your soul that God is near every single minute of every single day. That’s a promise!