Pressing On in the Shade of His Presence

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Sin doesn’t always announce itself boldly. Sometimes—actually, frequently—sin pulls us into its grasp so gradually that we can barely see what is happening. It only takes a few instances of surfing Instagram before opening the Bible in the morning, or looking at Facebook just before bed, until one can begin to look forward more to distraction and diversion than to the concentrated focus of digesting God’s word. But when the heart forgets that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, drift is inevitable (Prov. 1:7).

Finding True Refreshment in Seeking God

Do I crave the screen or satisfying the deepest needs of my soul as a human? There is something to be said for learning to cultivate an ability to take refreshment from seeing God’s blessings in things others might consider work—reading, writing, hospitality, and even things commanded, such as sitting in the Lord’s house.

After all, Jesus himself emphasized that the Sabbath was created for humankind, and who would know better the needs of our souls than our Creator? The more we dedicate ourselves to a disciplined pursuit of God, the more we realize that we are created expressly for fellowship with him, and that all the leisurely pursuits along the way are meant to point to the greatest and deepest joys of knowing and glorifying Christ.

While there is no need to ban the beach fire or regulate cookie-making, it is important to note that small instances of pleasure can’t come anywhere close to meeting our deepest needs for nourishment and refreshment. We should never underestimate the danger of allowing “taking a break” to eclipse—even unintentionally—a breathless, wholehearted pursuit of God. 

Staying in Fighting Condition

I don’t imagine this ought to, or even can, look the same for everyone, but I am becoming more and more convinced that each believer has areas of sacrifice in their lives required of them if they are to stay in “fighting condition” (Mark 8:34; Eph. 4:19-24; 1 Tim. 6:11-12).

Paul pointed out how on one hand, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood,” (Eph. 6:12) as he speaks about the spiritual enemies in this life, but this fact does not mean our flesh and our blood then become insignificant in the battle. Paul also speaks about the battle that we must wage against our own sinful desires—the flesh (Gal. 5:16-17; cf. 1 Pet. 2:11). No, every time I catch myself minimizing the importance of dying to my flesh as it wars continually with the Spirit, I’ve usually made several choices already to undermine my own personal holiness. 

Safe in His Everlasting Arms

If I am not sitting before him, expectantly offering up these pieces of my life—even the good things that must sometimes be given up to cultivate the best things—I am soon found unfaithful with the goods I have been given. 

In the absence of offering, of sacrifice, of denial, my heart grows proud. It grows selfish. It grows jealous. No amount of sleep, laughter, leisure, food, or wasted concentration is worth drifting from my Lord (James 4:8-10). God has given us all the good things we experience, and he is the source of all good. Should we not seek him out zealously?

Thankfully, God is merciful and keeps his promises to us even as we stumble and fall. I know that the everlasting arms hold me—that my heart will not wander into eternal lostness. I am firmly assured of my salvation (Deut. 33:27; John 10:28).

Pressing On in God’s Ever-Refreshing Shade

Yet, I ask the question of my heart: In light of the severity of loss, agony, and separation endured by my Lord for me, how can I not be abandoned to the wholehearted love of that Savior? He thirsted that I should never thirst again. How then could I wander from that well for the sake of my own imagined comfort? And as I strive to seek after my heavenly Father, may I constantly be reminded that my righteous standing before God has already been secured by Jesus Christ running the race perfectly for me and that my race is not to merit anything from God. Instead, it is a race of both thanksgiving for such a wonderful salvation and drawing nearer to my Father in heaven.

When my Father promises to be a shade to me in the heat of the day, let me seek out that shade and refreshment, leaving all behind that would seek to draw me away from a full enjoyment of it (Ps. 121:5).

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Simona L. Gorton blogs at http://yes-presson.blogspot.com and is the author of Better Than We Dreamed: The Story of Elaine Townsend.

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