Is God Your Screen Saver?
|By: Dr. Steven C. Riser; ©2009|
|The first question to the Westminster Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is both simple and profound: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” In this article we will focus of the second part of that answer. Specifically, what does it mean to enjoy God and how do we do it?|
- 1 Introduction
- 2 I. What Do We Mean by Practicing the Presence of God?
- 3 II. Why Should We Practice the Presence of God?
- 4 IV. Identifying Triggers Which Remind You of God’s Presence
- 5 V. Practical Advice for Practicing the Presence of God
- 6 Concluding Thoughts: How Do You Usher In the Presence of God?
Are you familiar with the first question to the Westminster Catechism? It asks, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is both simple and profound: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” In this article we will focus of the second part of that answer. Specifically, what does it mean to enjoy God and how do we do it?
We enjoy God by getting to know Him and enjoying our companionship with Him; we enjoy Him by sharing our whole lives with Him and learning to relate everything to Him. The biblical jargon for this concept is the exhortation by Paul for us to “pray without ceasing.” How do we do that? We do that by simply leaning to practice the presence of God and rejoicing in the beauty of His holy character. For those who have spiritual eyes to see and ears to hear, there is a practical value of the glorious reality of an ever present God. The spiritual discipline of practicing the presence of God can have a transforming impact on our lives.
Those who are computer literate understand what a screensaver is: It is a default screen that our computer monitor returns to whenever it is not is use for some other purpose. So it might be appropriately asked, “Is God your spiritual screen saver?” Or more specifically, does your conscious mind default back to thinking about God whenever you are not directly, consciously focusing on something else? Practicing the presence of God is arguably the most important part of our lives. While God is always with us we’re not always cognizant of God’s presence. We all have a need to have a more vital relationship with God. The manifest presence of God is what gives us power and changes our lives.
I. What Do We Mean by Practicing the Presence of God?
- It is the continual conscious awareness of His presence with us and his love for us.
- It involves cultivating an intimate personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
- It involves abiding in Him and He in us according to the vine metaphor in John 15.
- It involves rejoicing in the beautiful holy character of God – the attributes of God.
- It involves practicing His presence through both personal and corporate worship.
- It involves sharing our whole lives with God and relating everything to God.
In worship we focus all our attention on God. Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of the conscience by His holiness, the nourishment of the mind with His truth, the purifying of the imagination by His beauty, the opening of the heart to His love, the surrender of the will to His purpose, all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless act to which one is capable.
This spiritual practice was first described by Brother Lawrence in a book called Practicing the Presence of God. He was a humble man who lived in a monastery almost 400 hundred years ago. He was a cook who engaged in rather mundane practices such as scrubbing the floor and washing pots and pans. The question you might be wondering about is: Can practicing the presence of God really work in the pressured-packed world that most of us face today?
The King of heaven and earth is personally, purposefully and passionately in love with every one of His children. He is with us every moment of every day for He said, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Heb. 13:5) Further, He is eager to respond to anything you might tell Him.
You mean more to God than you know. For many this is a struggle to accept, if not understand. The intensity of God’s love and devotion to you is literally mind-boggling. Jesus endured a torturous death just to be on intimate terms with you.
Here is something almost beyond belief: the most exciting, breathtaking, wise, loving and exalted Being in the entire universe is with you 24/7 longing to have an intimate relationship with you. Why should we ignore the most precious person in our lives for hours at a time? Why would we rob ourselves of the priceless privilege of getting to know Him, sharing our whole lives with Him and relating everything to Him? Why would we wander away from Him, ignore Him or forget that He is even there? Someone once said, “If you are too busy for God, you are too busy.” Anyone who claims he is too busy for God is really admitting that his priorities are out of whack.
When we talk about being in the presence of the Lord, what are we talking about? We’re talking about the realization of abiding in God’s presence, of being able to perceive or discern His presence, of being conscious of His holy presence with us and His love for us. What we are seeking to do is to increase our awareness of His presence on a regular basis. We are seeking God’s manifest presence: that is His peace, His purpose, His passion and a power that changes lives by revealing His glory!
II. Why Should We Practice the Presence of God?
What are some reasons why should we attempt moment by moment contact with our almighty Lord?
- The Example of Jesus. Jesus said, in John 5:30, “By myself I can do nothing. I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” If this statement is true for Jesus, how much more is it true for us? All of us need to depend upon God more than we realize. Living by faith involves living of life of dependence of God and on the truth of His Word. We need daily guidance from God in the decisions we make and in the actions that we take. The gospel song says, “I need Thee every hour, most precious Lord. No tender voice like Thine can peace afford. I need Thee, O I need Thee; Every hour I need Thee! O bless me now my Savior, I come to Thee.” If the truth by told, we don’t need God every hour, we need Him every moment. Another chorus goes like this: “Moment by moment I’m kept in His love; Moment by moment I’ve life from above; Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine; Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.”
- The Teaching of Jesus. Jesus said, in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Do you believe that? Do you act like you believe that?
- Making God More Real. The more we think about God the more we’re aware of His presence. How can we be spiritually minded if we’re not thinking about spiritual things? How can we be God-centered if He is not the focus of our conscious thinking? How can we be Christ centered if our lives do not revolve around Christ?
- Don’t Hurt Your Best Friend. Jesus is a friend that sticks closer than a brother because He is with us 24/7. He’s with us every day and every step of the way. Why would we choose to ignore His presence? Why would we ignore the most important being in the universe? It would be rude on our part.
- The Need for Inspiration and Motivation. The Scripture continually reminds us of God’s presence:
- Psalm 1:2 – But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
- Psalm 34:1 – I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.
- Psalm 71:8 – My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.
- 2 Corinthians 10:5 – 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.
- Ephesians 5:20 – Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Philippians 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
- Colossians 3:17 – And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:17 – Pray continually.
All these verses are like tributaries to a powerful river called practicing the presence of God. God would not have said these things if He did not want us to be consciously cognizant of His presence. The fact that God wants to have a close relationship with us ensure that it is in fact possible.
6) Enjoying God’s Companionship. Enjoying God’s presence is a valid motivation for practicing His presence. Hebrews 11:6 says that we must believe that it is worth our while to seek after God. Enjoying God’s presence is another way of saying, “Delight in God,” – something commanded in the Old Testament.
What does God promise to do if we delight in Him? He will give us the desires of our heart (Psa. 34:7). God gives us a carrot rather than a stick to motivate us to seek, rejoice and delight in Him. Practicing God’s presence should never be a burden but an exciting adventure. Rejoice when you remember God’s presence rather than remorse when you forget.
We need to be cognizant of the fact that the enemy of our soul will try and sabotage our efforts at progress by throwing up barriers and roadblocks along the way. What practical steps can you take to jog your mind into remembering God throughout the day? In Jeremiah 33:3, God invites us to call on Him and He will answer. Hebrews 11:6 says that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. God promises us in James 4: 8 that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.
IV. Identifying Triggers Which Remind You of God’s Presence
Most people live very time conscious and hectic lives which makes it very difficult to remain conscious of God’s presence throughout the day. Here are a couple of triggers you might find helpful:
- Every time you look at your watch, say “Eternity” and remind yourself of the One who is eternal and of the importance of living your life in light of eternity as well as looking at the time of day.
- Every time you handle U. S. coins, read the inscription, “In God We Trust” and affirm your trust in God by saying a brief prayer: God I trust in You and not in money or the things money can buy.
- Every time you get in the car and put the key in the ignition, you can thank God for ptection.
- Every time you sit down and eat, you can thank God for your physical sustenance.
- Every time you get up and go to bed, may your first and last thoughts be of Him.
These triggers can serve as glorious reminders that we know, love and serve a glorious Lord.
One of the times that it is especially important to think about God is when we are tempted. This especially needs to become an ingrained habit. God has promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that when we are tempted that HE will provide a way to escape, but it is incumbent on us to find that way. One of the best ways to deal with temptation is to nip it in the bud by memorizing and meditating on Scripture. Psalm 119: 9, 11 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.… I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
Another time to think about God is when you are tempted to think ill of someone. Jesus said we need to forgive those who sin against us and pray for those who persecute us. We need to avoid becoming angry, bitter, self-righteous or resentful. Believe it or not, Jesus even said we are to love our enemies.
Whenever you see yourself in the mirror, remind yourself that you were created in God’s image so you can mirror His attributes to others – with qualities such as: compassion, gentleness, patience, goodness, empathy, wisdom, etc. – so others might see what a great God we serve.
When you see the number seven, think of heaven. When you feel pain, thank Jesus for the pain He carried for you. When you put on your glasses, ask God to help you see things through His eyes. Each time you open the Bible, ask God to speak to you. When someone asks you to pray, do it right way. Every time a loved one comes to mind, thank God for them. You can tailor make your own list with your own triggers to jog your memory. Ideally, your triggers would be things you encounter several times a day.
V. Practical Advice for Practicing the Presence of God
The Israelites had articles of clothing or jewelry to remind them of God’s wise and loving laws. Deuteronomy 11:18 say, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” A bracelet or a ring could easily catch your eye and remind you of the Lord. Some people even have Christian ring tones on their cell phone that reminds them of God.
Thinking of God rather than yourself is a key to becoming God-centered rather than self-centered. Our objective is to pray continually: to share our entire life with God and relate everything to God. Practicing the presence of God requires a bit of mental discipline that may not come easily. Make sure that you have the right attitude: so that your prayer life will be a joy and a privilege.
Paul says that we are to train ourselves for the purpose of godliness. In 1 Timothy 4:7b-8, Paul says, “Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” Part of our training in godliness is learning to practice the presence of God. The word for “training” is the same Greek word for “discipline.” Discipline is the prerequisite for establishing a godly habit.
Instead of thinking about yourself , think about God. Instead of talking to yourself, talk to God. There’s no glory in doing anything that’s easy and its proof of our love to do something that costs us. In 2 Samuel 24:24, David refused to offer to God that which cost him nothing. Worship involves sacrifice.
The exhortation to pray without ceasing is given in the context of always being thankful to God (1 Thess. 5:16). Daniel included thanksgiving regularly as part of his prayers three times a day (Dan. 6:10) Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:3, “I thank God… as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.”
It’s hard to be both thankful and miserable at the same time. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ. “Praying continually”… or… “Practicing the presence of God” is to be a joyful and thankful experience.
God is the God of all your life and not just your spare time and He wants to be included in all of life. We’re so addicted to entertainment and mental stimulation for many of us to be still before God is rare. We have: CD’s, DVD’s, TV’s, Radio, X-radio, the internet, video games, mp3’s, e-mail and e-books, etc.
One of the observations I have about Jesus is: He wasn’t lazy but He never seemed to be in a hurry. He lived a life in close relationship with His Heavenly Father – a purposeful, passionate and peaceful life.
The good news is that as we develop the spiritual disciple required in practicing God’s presence, over time this practice can become a godly habit that is enjoyable and beneficial. We need to ask God’s assistance in converting this disciplined practice into a godly habit. God is faithful in bringing Himself to our conscious mind. I trust these suggestions will be helpful to you in your quest of growing closer to God and practicing His presence.
Concluding Thoughts: How Do You Usher In the Presence of God?
- 1. Seek Him. Deuteronomy 4:29 – But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. (A heart of God – a desire to know God.)
- Draw near to Him. James 4:8a – Come near to God and he will come near to you. (Humility/Repentance)
- Trust Him. Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Faith in God)
- Delight in Him. Psalm 37:4 – Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
- Obey Him. John 14:21 – Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (Obedience)
- Abiding in Christ’s Word. John 15:7: If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. (Memorize and meditate on God’s Word.)