Three men, Pete, Geoff and Kevin, found themselves one day in a large room, filled with people. These men had never met each other but on this day, through coincidence or fate they happened to be in that same place.
Pete, had heard about a man called Richard, he had heard a lot about this guy from when he was little. So much so that Richard was almost like an old friend to Pete. But Pete had never met Richard, he didn’t know what he looked like, what he did for a living, he knew he had a big family, that he had done great things for Pete’s parents and grand parents, really helped them out in times of great need, but Pete had never met him. In truth Pete’s life was pretty good so he didn’t really care if he did meet this Richard or not.
While Pete, in the midst of this crowd of people just went about his life, meeting new people and having fun. Geoff on the other hand came into that place with one purpose, he wanted to catch up with Richard. He had heard from some others that Richard would be there, and Geoff, who had not so long ago met Richard knew that if he could find him and spend some more time with him, then he was in for a great time.
So, while Pete did his thing, and Geoff sought Richard, Kevin entered this place with a heavy heart. His life was in a mess, he had hit rock bottom. Everywhere he looked he saw problems, more and more problems. In fact he didn’t even know why he was here at all, he just needed to get out of the house for a bit.
While Kevin sat in a corner, trying to keep himself to himself, thinking over all that had been going on, a man came and sat next to him. At first he didn’t say anything, he just sat there. Kevin knew someone was there but didn’t really want to talk to anyone. After a little while Kevin looked at this man, the man looked back and a conversation developed between them.
As the conversation developed Kevin started to look happier, he definitely felt better, his troubles just faded out of sight. Soon he was laughing and joking with this man. Then over came Geoff. “Richard, I’ve found you!” Richard asked Kevin if Geoff could them, Kevin agreed and all three of them sat there for hours, chatting with one another.
Recently in a house group meeting we were discussing the subject of the presence of God, in particular looking at what we mean when we ask, or are asked, the question “Did you feel the presence of God this morning?” or it could be “I really felt the presence of God today..”
Sometimes when that question comes it can have mean nothing more than, the worship team were really good, or the preacher really engaged you, or the time of prayer didn’t feel like it was bouncing of ceiling, but what do we mean by those sorts of questions, or we could ask what is meant by that question.
To begin with, because God is omnipresent, meaning he is at all places at all times, there is a sense in which the question of if God is present is redundant, because he is always there, whether we know he is or not. Just like in the story above, Richard was in the room even though Pete didn’t know it. If you would have asked Pete where you in the presence of Richard, he would have said no… even though in reality he was.
We also know from the Bible that whilst God is omnipresent, he also presences himself in a special way with his children. Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 28:20 ‘Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’. But at the same time we are also called on to seek the Lord, just like Geoff sought Richard.
If we contextualise this to a gathered church meeting, there is a responsibility on us all to when we gather together to come seeking the Lord, to want to meet with him and learn more about him and from him. But there are also times when we come to a gathered church meeting feeling like Kevin, with the weight of the world on our shoulders, and this is where the grace of God plays out when he comes and presences himself with us.
Or to put this a different way, for me what I think when I am asked the question ‘did I feel the presence of God’ is this…. were you drawn to God during that meeting, that can either be because I sought him out, or because he sought me out. I recently put the following tweet up on Twitter that sort of sums this all up for me, it said this…
The Holy Spirit is the one who draws near to us, so as to draw us near to our Father, because of the sacrifice of Jesus, His Son, our brother.
So next time someone asks you, “Did you feel the presence of God?” don’t be thinking so easily in terms of good worship, engaging preaching, or powerful testimonies, though these are good, but think in terms of whether you were drawn closer to God, because after all, that is the purpose of our gathered meetings, isn’t it?