The Next Best Thing to Heaven – Pt. 2 of The Path to Divine Influence
It’s been a long time since I held a baby in my arms. So you can see from the picture how thrilled I was when recently I had the opportunity to snuggle with a precious, little baby girl. There’s no other feeling like it. Where else can you find a little slice of heaven yet untarnished by her sin nature or the influences of the world around her? Does not the innocence of a little baby remind us that God’s divine influence is alive and well in a sin-sick world?
Perhaps there is truth in the words of Henri Frederic Amiel. “Blessed be childhood, which brings down something of heaven into the midst of our rough earthiness.”
In all honesty, I must share with you what happened the day after I wrote the above about babies. Last Sunday, when we arrived at church to serve as greeters, my serving took on a whole new persona. I was asked if I could help with the nursery. Which, by the way, as far as I can remember has never happened before. I entered the room to find 10 babies and four workers, including me. I quickly picked up the baby who was crying the most to give her the attention she needed. Needless to say, we all stayed very busy for the next hour. At one point, I looked down at the little girl I was rocking and smiled at the irony.
God really has a creative sense of humor. From years of no babies to a short visit with one little one. And then, ten babies vying for attention, accompanied by a huge dose of reality.
Babies cry and mess in their pants, don’t they? And unfortunately, some sweet babies grow up to be not so sweet. The important question is how does one tap into God’s divine grace after the glow of an infant wears off and parents face the terrible two’s? Or even worse, a rebellious teenager? Or how does one draw upon God’s provision of hope when a marriage goes sour? Or when tragedy strikes close to home? Or when one’s job turns out to be intolerable? What are we to do when our world crashes down around us?
Scripture teaches the best way to draw upon God’s divine influence is to draw near to Him. James 4:8 promises He will draw near to us if only we will take the initiative to draw near to Him.
I’m convinced our desire to be close to God thrills His heart as much as it blesses ours. I love the parting words of Moses as he urged the Israelites to carry on without him to the Promised Land. He knew how vulnerable his people had been to the influence of the false gods. Because of this, he reminded them of their favored position in the heart of God. “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” Deut. 4:7
The Hebrew word for near is qârab, which means to approach, to come near, to be at hand, to join, to offer, to produce, present, make ready, stand, take.
All action verbs describing the nearness of God. And yet, God’s divine influence doesn’t come by osmosis. The proximity of our closeness with God requires an on-going act of our will to by faith step into His Presence with a desire to connect with Him on an intimate level. If we do that, He will do the rest. If we expectantly draw near to Him, He will draw near to us and we’ll never be the same again.
Effective prayer advances spiritual maturity. It’s impossible to stand still spiritually. We either stagnate or we grow. It’s as if intimacy with God releases spiritual growth hormones to set us on a path of becoming.
Prayer is simply sharing your life with God. It’s a state of being, an on-going awareness of His Presence. And it involves talking to Him any time, all the time and about everything: our challenges, blessings and desires, as well as our discouragement,disappointments and doubts. Our God is a big God; He can handle whatever we send His way. He’s also a forgiving God who loves us beyond our crying and messiness. And He never tires of picking us up, wiping our tears and calming our fears.
Why pray? Because we are babes in Christ—born of the Father to share an inheritance greater than life itself and worth far more than the riches of this world. Truly, the path to God’s divine influence in, over and through our lives is prayer. Effective prayers always originate from the same place: the Presence of God. And as long as we’re on this earth, the nearness of God is the next best thing to Heaven.