In the busyness of life, it is easy to miss what is not directly in front of us. We go about our daily lives consumed with the here and now, the work we must do, and the people involved in it. As a result, we settle into a state of self-sufficiency, relying on ourselves to carry out the tasks we need to do. As we assign value to the things of this world, God slowly fades away into the background where He may be ignored completely.
In his book, Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges marks the lack of regard for God in a believer's life as the sin of ungodliness. He writes that it is "living one's everyday life with little or no thought of God, or of God's will, or of God's glory, or of one's dependence on God." If that makes you squirm in your seat, you are not alone. However, if we see ourselves often living this way, it shouldn't make us feel so guilty that we give up on our relationship with God altogether. Rather, it should humble us to value the presence of the Lord even more.
There are two aspects of God's nature that are essential in valuing His presence. The first is transcendence, which means that God is before, behind, and above all things. The second is immanence, which means that God is near and present with His creation. If we don't value both of these aspects and view them rightly, our perspective of God's presence can become flawed.
If we view God's transcendence as God purposefully detaching Himself from creation we can feel as if God does not want us to enter into His presence. We can think that He has separated Himself from us because He doesn't love us. But God is a transcendent God because He is a holy God. He is not detached from creation; He is distinct from it. His rule and reign over all things speak to His greatness. However, God isn't just a God who is high above; He is also a God who comes near. He does not remain at a distance, but His presence comes to fill His creation. His nearness to us communicates His desire to be intimately involved with us and our lives. God is a God of intimacy, not detachment.
Failing to see God's immanence can fuel feelings of detachment from God. When we emphasize His transcendence over His immanence, we easily fail to see Him as a God we can approach confidently. On the other hand, emphasizing God's immanence over His transcendence can cause us to grow comfortable with God's availability. Not being physically in front of us, we may tend to downplay His glory and view Him more as a casual friend than a holy God. And as a result, we take for granted His presence and fail to give Him the honor He deserves. So how do we move from taking the presence of the Lord for granted to valuing His presence?
Remember the sacrifice He made for His presence.
Before Christ's death and resurrection, the gap between God and man was great. The presence of sin formed a divide between us and God, and there was no way for us to bridge it on our own. By taking our sin upon Himself, Jesus provided the way for us to be reconciled with God. The cross of Christ bridges the gap between us and God, and those who trust in Him are restored to relationships with God forever. However, it is easy for us to make light of our reconciliation with God that Jesus bought for us. The wonder of this gift of grace can fade over time, and we can develop a comfortability with God that doesn't see His constant presence as a gift. We must remember the great cost Jesus paid for us so that we can experience God's presence. God desired to be with His people so greatly that He sacrificed His own Son to make this possible. The cost for such a gift of grace should move us to deep gratitude, for it is when we remember what Jesus has done for us that we will value the presence of God in our everyday lives. We were all bound to an eternity separated from God forever, but because of Christ, we experience the presence of God now and will experience it fully one day forever. God's presence is a precious gift.
Reorient your worship.
When we fail to have gratitude for God's presence, His holiness becomes downplayed in our lives. The worship of other things becomes elevated above Him, and daily distractions that vie for our attention become more important. When we reorient our worship by placing God on the throne of our hearts, we will worship His presence rather than ignore it. As we think of and reflect on God's holiness–the fact that He is bigger than the things of this earth–we will restore God to His rightful place in our hearts. When we turn to the pages of Scripture and read of His divine nature, His infinite glory, and His limitless power, we are reminded that God is greater than all the things we choose to worship. As we sing songs of praise to Him throughout our days and listen to worship music that speaks of His holiness, the gift of His presence will be treasured. The mighty God above all things has chosen to make Himself near to us, and in that, we rejoice.
Rely on His presence.
Abandoning self-sufficiency and depending on God alone is essential in valuing God's presence. This is why prayer is so important in the life of believers. When we dismiss praying to God, we prevent ourselves from depending on the only One who can truly help us. We need God in every aspect of our lives, not just the leftover parts we sometimes give to Him. We value the presence of God when we rely on Him throughout the entire day, being constant in our communion with Him. Our dependency is fueled when we ask for God's intervention and help instead of taking our lives into our own hands. When difficulty comes, fear rises, or tragedy strikes, we value God's presence by relying on it to comfort us. Depending on God's presence takes practice. Our fickle hearts will always jump between worshiping God and worshiping other things, from being constant in prayer to God one day to not speaking a word to Him the next. As C.S. Lewis once said, "Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done."
As believers, we must see God for who He is–high and above all things while also a God who is near. When we value His immanence, we will treasure His presence and acknowledge it each day. When we value His transcendence, we will be moved to worship Him above all things. May we hold both of those truths together and let them drive our attention to the Lord. The presence of God is available to us every day; let's not miss it!