by Christian Union Day and Night Staff
We can be dramatically strengthened by a fuller experience of the presence of God.
The presence of God provides dramatic spiritual strengthening to believers. It is the presence of God’s Spirit alone that enables us to fulfill the Great Commission and make disciples of all nations (Acts 1:8). This is why immediately after giving the Great Commission Jesus promises, "Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20). This is more than a promise to be omnipresent by the Holy Spirit, as Jesus certainly is—it is a promise to be present not just in any way, but present to bless and to strengthen His people.
In one sense the presence of God is everywhere, as Psalm 139:7–10 teaches:
"Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me."
However, in another sense God chooses either to manifest or withdraw His presence in certain times and places. This is why, for example, James commands, "Draw near to God and he will draw near to you" (4:8), and Isaiah prays, "Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down!" (64:1). For His own glory and for the good of His people, God sometimes pours out His Spirit and His presence (for example, Ex. 33:15; 2 Chr. 5:13–14; Acts 2:17–18), and He sometimes withdraws His presence (for example, Is. 59:1–2; James 4:1-10). The presence of God—that is to say, God Himself, with us, for us, and manifest to us in order to bless us and strengthen us with all that He is—is the most valuable life-giving treasure in all the universe (Luke 11:13; Ps. 16:11; John 14:16–23). More than anything else, we want and need the presence of God.
We have no hope for the fruitfulness that God requires without the presence of God, as Jesus teaches in John 15:4–8:
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples."
Jesus is not here teaching about two tiers of Christianity, as though abiding in Him is optional and some Christians will abide in Him while others will not. Rather, Jesus is teaching that treasuring and seeking the presence of God in Christ by abiding in Him is an essential part of being a Christian. Indeed, it is one of the ways to describe the essence of being a Christian (see, for example, Ps. 105:3–4; Jer. 29:12–14; John 5:44, 6:35). God has purposed to bear fruit through us for the sake of His glory as we abide in Christ and seek His presence—something we cannot do apart from Him. In order to live fruitful lives for God's glory, we must seek His presence and grace by striving to fulfill the conditions of His promises through the strength that He supplies.
(For more on this topic, see the discussion by Wayne Grudem under the heading, “God Can Be Present to Punish, to Sustain, or to Bless,” in Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994], 175–77.)