With or Without…
Two verses of scripture recently captured my attention and got me to thinking about the notions of “Near vs. Far”… “Having vs. Not Having” … being “With or Without.”
I suppose the best place to start is with the two verses that caught my attention:
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
I am with you… always
Matthew makes these words of Jesus the final words of his gospel (first book of the New Testament), and what a way to end: A promise to believers, engaged in the work of the great commission, that wherever they go, whatever challenge they face… he would be with them.
Keeping in mind Jesus’ words from John 14, “Peace I leave with you, my peace…”, (his discussion of the Holy Spirit that would be their comforter in his physical absence), that promise becomes all the more powerful.
Unlike the physical presence of Jesus, limited to a tiny area in the Middle East during the first century, his presence through the Holy Spirit is not bound by time and place, making it possible for him to be with us always.
Not Always the Case
Until Jesus’ resurrection and the outpouring of his Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) that promise would not have been available to God-fearing men and women of early Bible days.
I wonder if, while the children of Israel wandered in the desert, some young man or woman ever sat on a hillside, overlooking the camp – the tabernacle in the middle and above it, the pillar of fire. Overwhelmed by a particular situation or circumstance, I wonder if they wished they could have a one-on-one conversation with God… to make things right, get an answer or simply receive his comfort, without having to go through another individual and risk rejection or unfair judgement.
I wonder if an individual could even be capable thinking such thoughts back then: Remember that up to that point there was no precedent for personal relationship or interaction with God, outside of “the chosen few” intermediaries (priests & prophets for example).
It’s Available to Us
Luke 24 is recounts the hours and days immediately following Christ’s resurrection; his interaction with various individuals. I think we can see therein at least three tips on how to find Jesus’ presence and experience his peace, since he said that both would be available:
- “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Luke 24.5
(The angels asked this of the women who had gone to the grave.)
If we’re to experience the peace and the presence of Jesus…. we can’t look for it in, or be overly preoccupied by, the world around us. 24hr news, secular books and endless web browsing may occupy our time but they generally don’t edify our spirit. Just as you can’t expect to find polar bears in the Caribbean, you’ll have a difficult time finding the peace of God outside of his presence. We must look for it where it makes sense to look for it… in his word, in the company of other believers, in church, in prayer. Don’t look for the living among the dead!
- “But Peter…” Luke 24.12
(When the ladies came back and told of having met the risen Jesus, most of the disciple thought them delirious and discounted their story…. but Peter got up and went to see for himself… then found it to be true.)
Many times, the people around us – whether or not they are spiritually attuned – are quick to discount some new thing that the Lord has done or is doing. As long as this new thing is Biblical then by all means… we need to be like Peter: We must be prepared to get up from among the crowd and say to ourselves… “I want to know for myself if this is true or not.” Then go and check it out.
- “Don’t be slow to believe all that the Prophets have spoken” Luke 24.25
(Jesus accompanied the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They were discouraged by how things had seeminly turned out… forgetting what God had previously said, through the Old Testament prophets, about how things would in fact turn out.)
Before we allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by our circumstance, we need to remember what the word of God says. We need to be familiar enough with it to be able to go back to it and encourage ourselves in the Lord, when circumstances would otherwise normally get the best of us.
Wrapping it up
We are not guaranteed a life without heartache, difficulty or unanswered questions, but in the midst of those, Jesus wants us to remember that he has left his peace with us…. not just any peace but his peace and he will be with us always.
It is available, but there are a few things that we can do to move ourselves toward his peace and his presence:
- Don’t look for the living among the dead.
- Be willing to get up and get away from the crowd to see for yourself.
- Remember what his word has to say about us and our ability to overcome in him.
I hope that you will be on the “With” side of the equation this week… That’s just how the Lord would want it!
Mike Long is a Canadian pastor living in France and who blogs over at AIMLong.ca. He loves God, his family, small backyard animals, travel and mobile photography.
He is grateful for the opportunity to guest-post for Maria here on Health from one Heart to Another
Categories: Guest Blogging