(Adapted from an article that appeared in “Knowing the Scriptures”, May-June, 1936)
You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).
I was somewhat struck with this remarkable and thought-provoking statement which I read sometime ago: “The practice of the presence of God is one of the lost arts of the Church of God.” Surely a sweeping statement, yet nevertheless one which is amply vindicated by the noticeable proneness among the people of God to wander and stray in the alluring yet sinful paths of unrighteousness. One cannot close one’s eyes to such a sad catastrophe, to such a true fact.
I know that you will agree with me when I say that the great basic and foundational truth upon which the whole structure of our lives must be built, if they are to be successful in the things of God, is the art of secret communion with God. For after all, if the foundation is faulty, it follows that the whole fabric will be insecure. A firm and reliable foundation is essential for a sound substantial building. So it is then, if what is seen of me, that is, my life before men, is to be a credit to my Master, I must pay very strict attention to that part of my life which is not seen, the seasons I am engaged in communion with the Most High in the secret of His presence. “You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence.” (Psalm 31:20)
Do I know what it is to practice the presence of God. In other words, is the practice of the presence of God a reality in my life, something tangible, something concrete, or on the other hand, is it something abstract, something unfamiliar, an experience I know little or nothing about?
Take for example a little flower growing in arid soil. Because of the parched nature of the ground it is bent and drooping, any life being almost extinct. It is unable to derive sufficient nourishment to ensure its existence. Plenty of stalk perhaps, much to be seen above the ground, but the concentrated rays of the sun focussed upon it, are soon too much for it, and ultimately nothing remains but a sapless, shrivelled weed. Is my life well-balanced? Is it proportionate? Or is it unbalanced? Plenty to be seen, much in view, but what about the nourishment, the foundation, the source? How long do I spend in the place where strength can be renewed, and where spiritual vitality can be obtained to equip me for sanctified service in God’s vineyard? That is the true basic fact, the only sure foundation for real Christian living. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4)
There may be plenty of outward activity, undue display in public, but if that expenditure of energy is not derived from hours alone with God, it will be powerless, and will go for nothing. Let us see to it then, that the foundation is laid in the secret place, and the structure will be solid and beautiful. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)
What a transcending joy it is when we cut the cords that bind us to this world, and climb the hill which leads to God; when we sever entirely our connection with this scene and find ourselves in the Sanctuary; when earth recedes and Heaven becomes nearer and more real. When we are lifted from the depths of despair, or trial and trouble, to the highest pinnacle of joy, to the plains of indescribable bliss, to the very presence of God Himself. Then if my soul yearns after these glorious experiences, how much of my time do I spend in the isolation of His presence? Do I reserve a set time each day which nothing must usurp and thus disallow me of intercourse with my Father? The fact is evidenced today in the lives of many, that too little stress is placed upon a consistent (not spasmodic) waiting upon God. Is it a wonder, in consequence of such negligence, that there are so many spiritual “laggards.” those who have made but little headway on the path of spiritual success? May we go in more and more for practicing the presence of God, an act which will undoubtedly produce healthy Christian characters. “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)