Fully PresentA couple of years ago I was in New Zealand for the school break and remember one of the guys from the youth group recommending a sermon titled "Everything is spiritual". At the time I had never heard of the preacher and a lot of the things he spoke about in the message were really profound but there was one thing that not only remained lodged in my mind, but the idea grew.
I think a lot of the time, we can easily confess that we spend far too much time daydreaming. I'm sure there are some out there who are able to stay focused without letting their minds wander too much, but for many, our minds can have a tendency to wander.
Does this ever concern us? I mean, God is trying to speak to us and all we have is this moment, this very moment to hear His voice and, sometimes, we are too caught up in worrying about other matters when He desires our undivided attention.
This is the issue I want to talk about today and the verse I want to base the message on today comes from Exodus 24:12. Normally I use the NIV when quoting Scripture but, here, I feel the KJV really captures the idea that Rob shared and the one I want to develop on.
In the KJV, Exodus 24:12 says, "And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them."
Just to put this context. God had commanded Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and seventy of the elders to come up onto mount Sinai and they were to worship at a distance. But then in verse 12, God specifically commands Moses to go further, to enter further into the presence of God. For some today, this may not seem like a big deal but for Moses, to enter the presence of living God was a terrifyingly great occurrence that was, in no way, meant to be taken lightly.
What's interesting about this verse is what God says after He tells Moses to come up. Let's look again.
God says "Come up to me into the mount, and be there." When this was preached on, the speaker put it this way: the reason why God commanded Moses to not only come, but to be, was because as soon as Moses got up onto the top of the mountain, what's one of the first things he would have started to worry about? How on earth he was going to get down the mountain! And in the midst of this, he would have missed exactly what God wanted to show him.
Aren't we like that all too often? We come to church or go to Bible study and we outwardly worship God... but our minds are lost elsewhere. Maybe we're thinking about a situation that needs to be resolved, or a meeting that is coming up the following week. Maybe we're pondering on something someone had said or trying to figure out how we're going to pay the bills the next day or hand in our homework.
Whatever it is, we find ourselves no longer focusing on Him... we find ourselves no longer fully present in His presence... no longer simply being with Him.
But isn't Scripture clear on this?
Matthew 6:34 says, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (NIV)
2 Corinthians 10:5 says, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (NIV)
James 4:13-14, 16 say, " 13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes... 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil." (NIV)
Here, Scripture not only explains why we shouldn't let ourselves get lost in thoughts about what is to come but it tells us the arrogance behind it and I think this is a concept we really need to grasp.
Truthfully, we have little control over our lives. For all I know, tomorrow could be my last day. I can't predetermine everything that will happen and how the actions of others will impact me... but too often, I think we act like we do have that control and we act as though we know exactly what is going to happen... and, as a result, we end up setting ourselves up for failure, for disappointment and for pain.
But I think the worst thing of all is when we no longer hear His voice because all our other worries are clouding out His.
We all know the story of Samuel and God, right? Samuel is asleep and two times God calls Samuel. Samuel wakes up thinking it is his teacher calling him until after the second time, his teacher realises the Lord is calling Samuel so tells Samuel to respond accordingly when God calls again. So then God calls Samuel a third time and he responds, "Speak, for your servant is listening."
Christ said His sheep know His voice. Isn't it a morbid thought when we are His sheep... and we no longer listen and we become like the Pharisees, always hearing but never actually listening.
But there's a different point to look at. The blessings that come with focusing on the present. There is quote I remember from the book titled The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis where Lewis talks about the concepts of the present and eternity. In the quote he says, " He[God] therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time, which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity."
Isn't that a beautiful thought? The very idea that the past has already gone, the future is yet to come, but this moment, right now, is where the eternal can touch the present.
Then in Scripture:
James 2:15 says, "Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (NIV)
Isn't t that even more awesome? Not only should we keep our eyes focused on the present, on Christ, but we can take confidence in that everything will happen according to His purpose and His will. All we need to do is pray, trust and hope in Him. Now, that sounds pretty awesome.
There is more I could talk about on this, but I want to leave you with this thought:
Instead of asking God,
Where do You want me go next?
What do You want me to do next?
Instead, try asking Him,
What do You want me to do here?
What do You want me to do now?
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:3-5 NIV)