The Divine Presence with Us
Scripture readings Matt. 28:20, Heb. 9:24, and Col. 1:27.
It was a beautiful day, back in ‘43; the sun was shining brilliantly on a sea of clouds that spread softly beneath the three planes that flew in close formation, six thousand feet over the Solway Firth.
The war seemed far away and so unreal to the young pilots, little more than lads, who were practising an intricate formation manoeuvre. Only the military markings on the sides of their craft were grim reminders that nations were at war.
All was going well, signals passed between them, and again they began the manoeuvre. Down into a dive, fingers tensed on the controls—the little planes snuggled close together—then the signal, and up, up-up and over. Suddenly at the crucial point, something went wrong. The pilot in the lead panicked and in his endeavour to pull out of the formation, collided with the other two.
It all happened in a flash, but in that split second of time, one young man at least underwent a complete change in his sense of values. The throbbing power of the engine was not now half so sweet as the rippling of the parachute overhead. The beauty of the billowy carpet of clouds was nothing compared to the beauty of that canopy of silk that gently and almost silently lowered its precious cargo earthward.
Why now was the parachute so wonderful? Had this young pilot not always believed in it? In itself, the parachute had no more intrinsic value now than when he had strapped it on his back in the flight hut. Ah, yes! But now he was DEPENDING on it; now he was APPRECIATING its vital qualities to the full.
There are truths in the Blessed Old Book that as “believers” we can hardly remember when we did not believe them. The question is, have I, have you, APPROPRIATED their value in our daily lives? Are they verses to be quoted, or are they truths that we EXPERIENCE?
The truth of the presence of Christ is just a truth, always believed, but could it be, seldom enjoyed?
In the Scriptures referred to above, there is a three-fold aspect of the presence of the Lord. In Matthew 28, it is the presence of the Lord WITH us; in Hebrews 9, it is His presence FOR us; and in Colossians 1, it is His presence IN us. Let us consider these truths in a practical way, for it is the appreciation of these things that will affect our lives in the Church, the home, and at work.
CHRIST WITH US: Let me suggest that there are four main realms of experience in the believer’s life. There is the MOUNTAIN experience; when we are spiritually prosperous prayer is sweet, the Bible our constant companion, and service is attended with power and fruit for God.
How precious is the sense of His presence with us on the mountain top! Thank God that He does not leave us when He gets us there! What fools we would make of ourselves; with what pride would we gather the glory to ourselves. How easily would we be distracted from the Person to the experience and say as one did, “It is good for us to be here.” Yes, on the mountain top He is WITH US. For an illustration of this, read Matthew 17:8. The three, that day, saw Christ transfigured before them, and so for them, the appreciation of the presence of Christ with them on the mountain top meant THEIR VISION FILLED.
How we as the people of God need this in our day! When there is so much to distract from the Person, we surely need our vision filled with a glorified Christ. Decisions would be easier to make. What we consider “sacrifice” would be renamed “privilege”, and the souls of men and the comfort of saints would become a prime consideration in all our planning.
It is very significant, however, that the very next verse begins, “And when they came down from the mountain…”. As surely as the land of promise is a land “of mountains and of valleys” so surely is the believer’s experience. It seems that for every mountain experience there is its corresponding valley, the valley with its deep shadows, its chilling blasts, and cruel enemies, the valley with its loneliness, for oft-times we must leave our closest friends and loved ones and enter the valley alone. ALONE did I say? Ah, no! not alone, the promise was “I am WITH YOU ALWAY”. David knew that, for in the pearl of Psalms did he not say “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for THOU ART WITH ME…”?
If the appreciation of the presence of the Lord with us on the mountain means our vision filled, then the appreciation of His presence with us in the valley will mean OUR FEARS DISPELLED. Are you in the valley, dear reader? Oh, depend upon it! HE IS WITH YOU; He will see you “through” to the very end.
Perhaps you are not experiencing the exhilaration of the mountain top
or the darkness of the valley. Everything is “just ordinary”, the common round and task. This, I suggest, is the third realm of experience. THE ROAD. Just a step by step existence: a plodding on down the road of life with its interminable stretches, its long dragging hills, and perplexing cross-roads. Is He with me on the road? What was the promise?… “WITH YOU ALWAY”.
Step by step, dear fellow-saint, you walk the road in company with our beloved Lord who paces out the path with imperial dignity and human sympathy. “But,” someone objects, “I cannot feel His presence, I do not sense His nearness.” Did you say you were a “believer”? Then, though you feel Him not, just BELIEVE that He is there, depend upon it, and it will lighten your step, brighten your outlook, heighten your hopes and strengthen your heart. We turn to Luke 24 for the illustration of this. He was with the disciples on the road that day, even though they did not recognize His presence, yet afterward confessed, “Did not our heart burn within us…”
So we learn that the appreciation of His Presence WITH US on the road will mean OUR HEARTS REVIVED.
There are experiences in the lives of some of God’s people that can only be classed as the FURNACE—when the fire of affliction seems to be heated seven times and its hot blasts even sear the onlooker. We are caused to wonder how some of the dear saints have been preserved in those fierce flames. The answer can be found in Daniel chapter 3, where we read of those three valiant young men who had said “Our God is able to deliver us FROM the burning fiery furnace”. God did NOT deliver them from it. Were they mistaken, deluded, confused? No indeed, HE DID MUCH MORE, HE DELIVERED THEM IN IT by the very presence of one like unto the Son of God; undoubtedly, the Lord Himself.
Dear reader, are you tasting of those fires that so few of us can understand? We cannot sympathize with you, but, BELIEVE THIS, there is One WITH YOU in the furnace of Whom it could be said “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His presence saved them” (Isa 63:9). Thus, the appreciation of the presence of the Lord in the FURNACE will mean for those thus suffering, THEMSELVES PRESERVED.
Whether, then, we scale the pure clear altitudes of spiritual exultation; advance with much apprehension into the valley’s gloom; plod onwards on the daily path, or find ourselves cast headlong into a fiery furnace, depend upon the promise of One whose word has never been loosed from the rock of eternal verity: He said it, — “LO I AM WITH YOU ALWAY, EVEN UNTO THE END OF THE WORLD”.