GOD’S UNFAILING PRESENCE
by V. Rev. Fr. Michael Baroudy
The subject of this article is "God's Unfailing Presence." You can't find anywhere a more fitting and relevant theme than that God is the guide and companion of man. He is a man-befriending God. This fact is often overlooked by a great number of people who live as though there were no God. I don't mean that we don't offer Him lip service on Sundays and breathe some meaningless prayers. I do mean that in every day practice the majority of us don't measure up to our ideals and our beliefs. This is our trouble. We say, "Lord, Lord," on Sundays but our lives say in effect the rest of the week, "What have we to do with thee Jesus of Nazareth, leave us alone."
There is no wonder that official Washington, Moscow, London, Paris, Peipin and the rest of the world's capitols live in paralyzing fear. We have every right, speaking after the manner of men, to be frightened, bewildered and flabbergasted. We depend for our security on the work of our hands, on the creature rather than the Creator, on our technical and material acquisitions rather than spiritual and moral values. "Today," said the sacred writer, "if you hear his voice, harden not your heart. Look unto me and be saved all the ends of the earth. Fear not I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." The voice of the Eternal is crying in the wilderness of the world being heard, may be, but not heeded. We are so wedded to this world of ours in such a way that it is making us impotent.
One has a right to ask, "What has happened to the Christian faith "once delivered to the Saints?" The answer — it is either vitiated, anemic, weak or inadequate. We have, as St. Paul has it, "A form of godliness but we deny the power thereof." That is, we have the form of godliness, without being godly. The light of our faith shines dimly, very dimly indeed because our affections and attentions are set on the here and now, rather than the hereafter, that is, on the things that are seen and touched and felt.
What we need to do is to search our hearts by taking stock of our personal lives and discover where our emphasis and enthusiasm are. We need to realize at this critical juncture in human history that "Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." We are assured of His constant presence and ever-availing assistance if we sincerely desire his companionship and seek Him with all our hearts. We can ride the gale of temptation and the fury of wicked and designing men if Christ is the Pilot aboard the ship of our lives. There is a struggle going on now, as there always has been, between good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness, between the Christ, representing the world's holiest, loveliest and best and the anti-Christ, the embodiment of sin, iniquity and infidelity. Who is going to win depends upon whose side we are fighting.
We need not have any concern or unnecessary fears about the future if we but realize our privilege, heritage and responsibility. I am speaking from personal knowledge when I say that our times are in God's hands who still guides men's destinies. God is still and ever shall be the reigning Monarch and the sovereign Ruler of this world. The reins have not slipped out of His omnipotent hands. So have no fear for tomorrow for God is already there! Our present as well as our future are under God's personal guidance if we slip our hand into His and let Him do the guiding and the leading. We should never run before Him or try to get ahead of Him with our plans.
Throughout the Holy Bible we read about the assurances and promises of God to His people relative to His guidance and presence with them. To Abraham the promise was, "I will bless thee and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing." To Moses the Lord said. "My presence shall go with thee and I will give thee rest." To Joshua the heartening words were, "I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee — Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest." Jesus our Lord after giving His marching orders to the disciples added these words. "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end." One can go on multiplying these assurances, but the important thing to remember is not whether God will reveal Himself to man and give him the power and the assistance needed, but whether man is willing to meet the conditions and the challenge which daily confront him.
The history of man, both sacred and secular, is an incontrovertible proof of this fact, namely, whenever and wherever man failed, the reason was because of his failure to conform to God's will.
We cannot evaluate life properly and therefore have a sense of right values without a sound belief, briefly stated, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." This is where all adjustment of our complicated lives must begin. This is where one either rises or falls. One cannot be assured of happy human relationships unless he is adjusted there. It is no exaggeration to say that the average person has multiple gods and goddesses to whom he pays close attention and homage every day in the week. We are daily conforming to the pattern which the world offers to us that we are ignoring God and His righteous claim upon our lives.
The weals and woes of men depend upon the choices they make: the Master's words which he spoke 1,900 years ago are timely and relevant to our generation and to all generations. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all other things shall be added unto you." We cannot hope to have peace, serenity and happiness as long as we seek self-interests first, when we are on tiptoe seeking worldly conformity. Self-seeking is a self-destroying principle leading to sorrows and griefs. But no one need be afraid if anything which may confront him if God is the central figure in his thoughts, life and endeavors.
One look into the kind of world in which we are living would convince us of the hazardous situations. It seems as though our world is in the grip of a great monster who is toying with it and about to throw it into oblivion. There is security in nothing. The threat of a nuclear war, the danger of fallouts are reducing people to a condition of despair. God has been driven into a neutral corner or so it seems, that we have begun to think He is impotent. Our thinking is so tainted with fear that a sense of inadequacy and desperation is our lot.
But out of the tumult, confusion and commotion Jesus's voice comes thundering to us, "Be not afraid of those who kill the body — Peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I you. Let not your heart he troubled, neither let it be afraid."
The sacred writer assured us that. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore, will not we fear though the earth be removed, though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea - Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge."
The present condition in the world stems from a distorted concept as to whom or what we should look for security. The man of the world reads his newspaper and fears. The man of God reads his Bible and hopes for the best. The verdict of history, the Bible and everyday experience teach that man's extremity is God's opportunity. If only men would lift up their eyes unto God from whence cometh their help! If only we would realize that no sparrow falls to the ground without God's knowledge! If only they could repeat the sacred writer's words and mean them, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. I had fainted unless I had believed in the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."
So don't be afraid of tomorrow, for God is already there!
From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
pp. 3, 17
PUBLICATIONS BY ORI