Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
Celebrating the Presence of God
By Dr Alex Tang
BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD
BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM
BE STILL AND KNOW
Christians are a people of celebration. We have moved from the despair and bloody sacrifice of Good Friday to Easter celebration – a life of new life, love, joy and hope. We have moved from being slaves in bondage to sin to a new life in freedom and forgiveness in Christ. A life of separation from God to a new life of abiding forever in God’s presence. Psalms 46:10 offers a powerful meditation on this subject.
Be Still and Know that I AM God
The Psalmist admonishes us to be still so that we are able to know God. This implied that God is ‘knowable’. The "knowledge" of God includes a factual knowledge about him, his past acts, and his promises. The life of faith is lived in commitment to God's sovereignty, rule, and ultimate exaltation over all the nations. To know God is to know God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit (The Trinity). John of Damascus, an early Church Father wrote, “Think of the Father as a spring of life, begetting the Son like a river and the Holy Spirit is like a sea, for the spring and the river and the sea are all one nature. … The Father is a sun with the Son as rays and the Holy Spirit its heat.”
This Trinitarian knowledge tells us about a God whom in his godhead, has a holy relationship with one another. It shows us that it is possible for us to have such a holy relationship with him. Our God is not a God who is somewhere out there, amusing himself by watching us struggling with our existence on earth. Our God is a God who loves us, cares for us and wants to involve himself in our everyday life. When we are together with people we love, there are many tender moments and cause for celebration. Therefore knowing God’s presence in our lives should be a time for celebration. We celebrate because of the presence of the Trinity in our lives.
Be Still and Know that I AM
Our God is spirit and is beyond what our finite mind can understand. In our arrogance, we often think we can understand God. But God often confounds us by acting outside the box and we are reminded that we are but dust. John Chrysostom, another Church Father noted, “ A comprehended God is no God.”
In his love for us and knowing our limitations in worshipping an invisible God, God became incarnate as Jesus Christ so that as his sons and daughters, we can see, know and touch God. The God who can only be described as ‘I AM’ became flesh and dwelled among us in history. In our country, there is a strong tradition of making visiting dignitaries welcome. The city is cleaned and ceremonies with parties are organized for a welcome celebration. As Christians, there is all the more reason for us to celebrate because ‘I AM’ became Immanuel, which means ‘God with us’. We celebrate because of the presence of the incarnation in our lives.
Be Still and Know
We are saved from eternal damnation by the blood of Christ. We are a new race to redeem the image of God and to grow into Christ-likeness by the power of the Holy Spirit. Augustine and John Calvin spoke of the importance of double knowledge: the knowledge of God and the knowledge of self. We cannot know God without knowing ourselves and we cannot know ourselves without knowing God.
The Christian process of spiritual formation or growing into Christ-likeness is often described as a journey. Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite nun writing in the sixteen century used the metaphor of the journey of the soul as moving into a castle with seven mansions, each with many rooms. Each room leads us closer to union with God or Christlikeness. This process of knowing will result in us being transformed; beginning with our mind, our characters, our behaviour and our souls. It is when we struggled on this journey that we discovered that we have a travel companion as the two disciples discovered on the road to Emmaus. Or as the Israelites discovered in their wandering in the desert, that God’s presence was with them as a cloud and as a fire. We celebrate because of the presence of God in our spiritual journeys.
Ours is a fast moving, changing world. In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we often lose track of the fact that God is found in solitude and silence. Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk observed that even when our bodies were stationary, our minds are still racing. Our minds are like a busy river with barges, sampans and speedboats crisscrossing at great speed. It is only when we get below the surface of the river that we experience peace and tranquility. Similarly we need to seek for solitude and silence if we are to experience the depths of God. In the solitude and silence within ourselves, we will find that God has always been there and is waiting for us. We celebrate because of the presence of God in our stillness.
We live in an age where success is measured by wealth, fame, achievements and upward mobility. Rabindranath Tagore, an Indian Nobel Prize laureate commented, “In society, we find our places according to a certain conventional price set upon us like toys arranged in shop windows according to their values.” Thus it is hard to understand the teachings of Jesus who emphasised downward mobility. He taught that a leader should be a servant, to serve rather than to lord over others. That to love is more important than to do things. That we are human ‘being’ rather than human ‘doing’. The Christian spiritual journey leads us from achievement to rest. Who we are is more important than what we do. C.S.Lewis conclude, “Our whole destiny seems to lie in…acquiring a fragrance that is not our own but borrowed, in becoming clean mirrors filled with the image of a face that is not ours.” If we can accept that, then we are free from the bondage of achievement. We celebrate because of the presence of God in our be-ing.
A Life of Celebration in the Presence of God
We celebrate because of a Trinitarian, incarnate God who reveals himself in our spiritual journey, our stillness and our being. Unfortunately, we often take his presence for granted or even worse, neglected, by the demands of our daily lives. Hence there is a need for us to intentionally acknowledge the presence of God.
Brother Lawrence, a cook in a monastery, taught millions of Christian how to practice the presence of God in their everyday lives. He wrote in The Practice of the Presence of God, “All we have to do is to recognise God was being intimately present within us. Then we may speak directly to Him every time we need to ask for help, to know His will in moments of uncertainty, and to do whatever He wants us to do in a way that pleases Him. We would offer our work to Him before we begin, and thank Him afterwards for the privilege of having done them for His sake. This continuous conversation would also include praising and loving God incessantly for His infinite good and perfection.” It is this intentional act of acknowledging God’s presence that will help us to live a life of celebration.
When we wake up in the morning, as consciousness return, we should make God the first awareness that comes to our mind. We should give thanks for the night’s sleep, protection in our slumber and for the coming day. This should set the tone for the rest of the day. When we get up and get ready for the day at work, school or home, we should intentionally be aware of God’s presence. Talk to God in prayer; thanksgiving, adoration, petition, praise, worship at every opportunity we have; short breaks in our work, catching a glimpse of a rainbow, standing in a queue, waiting for the traffic light to change, washing dishes or waiting for an appointment. Let every encounter with another human being be an encounter with a being bearing the image of God. Let every act of help and charity be to Jesus in the person before us. Decorate our home and workplace with things that will remind us of God’s presence; a small cross, an inspirational poster, a Christian theme screen-saver, a plaque with Bible verses or the Bible placed in a prominent place. And at the end of the day, before we drift off to sleep, praise and thank God again for the day. Run through the events of the day in our mind and look for God in them. You will be pleasantly surprised to find that God’s presence is with us all the time and we need only to be aware of him.
Soli Deo Gloria
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