God, Where are You… when I NEED YOU?
Thoughts encouraging our being drawn closer to Christ
“Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The LORD brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the LORD has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”
22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he cried out, “Oh, Sovereign LORD, I’m doomed! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!” 23 “It is all right,” the LORD replied. “Do not be afraid. You will not die.” 24 And Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “the LORD is peace”). The altar remains in Ophrah in the land of the clan of Abiezer to this day. Judges 6:13, 22-24 NLT
One word from the lips of the man who has actually heard the lute play will have more effect than a score of sermons by the man who has only heard that it was played. Acquaintance is always better than hearsay.
There’s a classic distinction that can serve us well in sorting out how to go about our work. In the church’s parlance over the centuries we have spoken of those things that are bene esse (beneficial) and those things that are esse (essential). Most people have an innate grasp of this concept, but too often it’s set aside in practice.
Gideon knew of God’s love, but only saw it as God’s love demonstrated to His people in the past. Sure,, God was with them during the Exodus, and of course, during the conquest of the Promised Land.
But now, that Gideon and those he loved were struggling under immense burdens… where was God?
Even as he asks, God is interacting with him…. and soon, Gideon will see and realize it!
God is at work, and far too often, we aren’t aware of it.
Senkbeil gives one reason why we spend time taking care of the church’s business, more than just being the church. The esse – the essence of who we are (esse from the root of the word “to be”) gets covered and overwhelmed by dealing with the details. We see that every generation as cell groups, kinship groups, and now “house churches” are created with an attempt to free the church of the bureaucratic, structural, and legal nonsense that gets thrown at us. Only to find out that as those groups grow – they need that garbage as well! The garbage is important – but not critically important – like realizing God’s presence is.
And a generation later, the church’s new leaders try to free themselves from the stuff again!
For Tozer’s observation becomes true – we have forgotten what the lute sounds like because we’ve been focused on crafting the thing… (If you don’t believe me, look at those who advocate and coach house churches – they had great experiences being part of small groups – they re-invent what had meening to them and want to see that become the new model)
What if, instead, we took the time, as the apostles did – to ensure that there were men who devoted themselves to prayer and teaching, and others took up the structural stuff. Our leaders were men who worked in the Kingdom of the Right (the sacred) and had ministers who took care of the Kingdom of the left ( the secular/business stuff). What if our lives were similarly arranged – with time set and dominated by Senkbeil’s esse – and left lesser time for the bene esse, but didn’t just dismiss it?
The “who we are” would flow naturally into and flavor “what we are.” Our walk with God would be seen and experienced more as we walk through life.
We would know God is with us… while He guides us to be free from what oppresses us…..
Until the day where bene esse fades, and in the presence of God we know we are His… and we know where He was, when we needed Him.
Lord, help us prioritize our time around knowing Your presence before putting other priorities of life and ministry first!
Tozer, A. W. 2015. Tozer for the Christian Leader. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Senkbeil, Harold L. 2019. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.