We Are Closest to God on Mission
We've all been at the place in our spiritual journey where we have said, "I just don't feel close to God right now," whether that be a stale prayer life, lack of insight and understanding when reading scripture, or being unmoved in worship. Feeling like God is active and present in our day to day life is a desire we should all have. Not experiencing his presence is deflating, and having him feel near to us makes all the difference in the world. What If I told you that scripture gives us one surefire way to experience God's presence all the time? Of course, God is always near the believer. In fact, he's theologically more than near because he lives in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. (2 Corinthians 6:16) But there's another passage familiar to disciple makers in which God promises to always be near in a way that we can feel him.
"And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'"
When Jesus commanded his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, he gives them two incredible bookend statements connected to their mission. The first is "all authority is mine" and the second is "I am with you always." I love that because Jesus is promising the very thing we long for. The very thing we know makes all the difference in the Christian experience is feeling like God is close to us. The key is seeing that this promise is attached to the mission. When does Jesus say I am always with you? When you are on mission to make disciples. The promise of His power and presence is connected to the command to evangelize and disciple people. In other words, if you want to feel close to God, get on mission, for you will surely find him there.
Just about all of the most clear, tangible, faith transforming "God moments" of my life have been while on mission. They have been while building relationships with strangers for the sake of sharing the gospel. They have been in trusting God to provide financially while taking a risk of obedience in changing careers to reach new people. They have been while receiving supernatural boldness to push down that lump in my throat and sweaty palm nervousness to tell someone they should repent and trust Christ, having no idea what they will think of me. They have been in the middle of ministering to someone when they ask me a question I was not prepared for and somehow God gives me a verse or something to say in the moment. Some of the greatest experiences have been pleading with God for things in prayer that nobody else knows about and watching them come to life as I go attempt them by faith. I walk anyway from every one of those situations stunned at God's power and presence. Because in every one of them, I know how under equipped I was. I know how tight the finances were. I know how stupid I felt. I know how much fear I have of man. Yet, somehow I spoke, and answered, and stood firm, and loved well. That can only be God's presence. Each time that happens I feel the need to worship and praise him because I know he's near. The book of Acts is fascinating, and everyone loves the miraculous signs and wonders that God did in those stories. I've often heard people say, "I wish we could see God show up here like he did then." I, too, want to see God do crazy things for the kingdom in Louisville and pray for it often. But the undeniable theme of the book of Acts is mission. Jesus tells the disciples just before his ascension in Acts 1:8, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." As they go and witness, God starts doing crazy stuff. He shows up when they get moving to reach people for the gospel. Getting to see him break addictions, bring deliverance, convert the masses, change entire families will not happen in personal quiet time or corporate worship. It happens on mission.
Prepare those you disciple to live day to day on mission. Teach them how to really be close to God by teaching them to be a daily missionary. To be constantly on mission is to constantly have Christ feel near you. If you want to train your disciples to pray, get them on mission with you because they will be forced to learn to pray or have no power. If you want to train your disciples to know the Bible, get them on mission with you because they will need to know what to say when they enter conversations. If you want to train your disciples to love the community of the church, then get them on mission with you because when they are catching heat as sheep among wolves, they will value the gathering together with the saints for encouragement. Perhaps the greatest thing for helping those we disciple draw near to God as He draws near to them is pushing them to evangelism and discipleship. For it is the one place we know for sure we will find God is close to us.
Grace & Peace, Scott