Remembering the Abiding Presence of God

One day there was a preacher who was invited to fly across the country to preach at a meeting. This preacher had never flown before and when he got to the check-in desk, he was obviously nervous. Through a brief conversation, the lady at the desk learned that her nervous customer was a preacher and she tried to comfort him. “Sir, you have nothing to fear. Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘I am with you always?’” The preacher looked at the young lady and said: “Madam, if you’re going to quote Scripture, quote it right. The Lord said, ‘Low, I am with you always!’”

In Philippians 4:4-9, Paul gives a series of admonitions that have one thing in common: they all acknowledge the abiding presence of God – regardless of where we are. We’ll consider the first two admonitions today.

First, Paul tells us “to rejoice in the Lord [always] and then he underlines that by saying: “again I say, ‘Rejoice.’” This is not a recommendation. This is a command. Rejoicing in the Lord is something God expects us to do. Why? Because He has promised to always be with us, and He is the reason we can rejoice. This rejoicing is not based in unreality. It’s not rejoicing in our circumstances. It is rejoicing in our Lord. Rejoicing in our circumstances is dangerously unstable. It’s like standing on the very top of an A-frame ladder – you know, that part that says: “Not For Humans” – and trying to reach for something that’s just beyond our range. You can come crashing down. Rejoicing in the Lord is not unstable like that because it is not founded on our ever-changing circumstances. It’s founded on the abiding presence of our God: “Lo, I am with you [always], even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). Have you ever found yourself in a circumstance where it felt like the end of the world? Our Lord is there with us even then. Rejoicing in the Lord doesn’t mean we’re always running around smiling through everything. We can feel sorrow. We can feel heartache. But we can endure those things in the knowledge that no matter what, God is with us. That is cause for rejoicing!

Paul then moves on to our way of life by telling us: “Let your moderation be known unto all men” (4:5a). Why? Because “the Lord is at hand” (4:5b). “Moderation” is the Greek word epieikes. It means “forbearance, gentleness, sweet reasonableness.” We might even call it, “patience with others.” Paul says to let this be known about us to all. That doesn’t mean we wear t-shirts declaring: “I’m gracious.” It means we are living lives that proclaim God’s grace because we are exercising God’s grace to others. That kind of spirit is at odds with our sin nature. So, how do we stay on balance? By remembering the Lord is at hand. He’s not just with us at church. He’s with us throughout the week and it is our job to represent Him in a way that others know that we belong to Him. What does that look like? It means being kind to your server at the restaurant and leaving a good tip, not just an empty gospel tract. It means deferring to others even if they are rude to us. It means laying off the horn, not on the horn when someone cuts us off in traffic. It’s being gracious and godly even when no one is looking. The question that should constantly be in our heart is this: “If someone were to see me right now, would my actions draw them to Christ, or drive them away from Christ? Am I living in the reality of God’s abiding presence?”

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Photo by Daniel Sandvik on Unsplash

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