Posted by: mikenicholsblog | August 12, 2010

with, not for

God doesn’t need us, God desires us.  How does that sit with you?  Some will answer with quick agreement, some will wrestle and some will take issue.  But there is an underlying truth in that opening declarative that I believe scripture clearly states, and which has the power to forever change you and I.  That truth is that God desires to be with us, and is infinitely more interested in the invitation into our everyday than what we do for Him.

In our performance-based culture, we can be easily deceived into applying that same mindset and priority to our spiritual walk.  After all, are we not exhorted to be doers of the word (James 1:22), and busy at the work of storing up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20)?  Acknowledging the out-of-context use of those pieces of scripture, I would still assert that we have all been exposed to the message that it is what we do for God that matters most.  And while I would never deny the truth that faith without works is dead, I see a pattern in scripture that points to a foundational truth that God desires most to be with us, and us with Him.

In a great truth and mystery of the Christian faith, in eternity past God existed in perfect communion with himself.  And thus begins the pattern of with.  Our place begins at the onset of creation, where we see the pure and perfect relationship that existed between God and man before the fall.  It exists in the story of a man and a woman in a garden, where God walked with them.  Later in the book of Genesis we are told of a man named Abraham, and the promise that God would be with him and through him would create a great nation that He would call His own.  Advancing in the story of that great nation, God calls out to Moses from a burning bush, saying that He has heard the cry of His people in bondage, and instructs Moses to go to Pharaoh.  And when Moses asks, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”, God answers simply, “I will be with you …” (Exodus 3:12)  And then there was Joshua.  After the death of Moses, God speaks to Joshua and says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9).  This thread continues through the prophets and kings of the Old Testament, all the way up to the birth of the Messiah, who was called Emmanuel … God with us.  God takes on flesh in the person of Christ and walks with us on this earth.  Eating, talking, walking, and suffering with us.  Being acquainted with, and present in, the full width and breadth of our humanity.

As I begin to meditate on, and process this pattern of God being and going with us, it brings to life a truth I see in my own earthly relationships.  My desire above all else with those whom I love, is to be with them.  Yes, I certainly get pleasure in doing things for them, but the greatest joy is in spending time with them … no matter what the circumstances.  At the end of a long day, does my wife wish most that I would complete a list of tasks, or spend time with her?  OK, maybe both.  But with the obvious kidding aside, the choice would be an easy one for her.  That goes ditto for me.  If this is true of my earthly relationships, how much more true is it of my heavenly Father and his relationship with me?!

In a collection of letters assembled into the book, The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence writes about the true joy he found in discovering and experiencing God’s presence amongst the pots and pans that were his job to wash and dry each day.  It was not his lot in life to spend his days immersed in prayer, or the translation of scripture … He worked in a kitchen.  Yet letter after letter told of the experience of God’s profound presence in the activities that others would judge as mundane, and anything but sacred.  Through it all, he presents us with the challenge to invite God into our everyday, and experience that same joy.

In focusing first on being and doing with God, the “for” happens with no intention on our part.  A performance priority, in contrast, risks treasures that will burn up or blow away.  What would our walk look like, if no matter what the time or place, we invited God to go with us?  From prayer and study to pots and pans, God’s presence makes anything sacred and of eternal value.

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