“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” – James 4:8
This is a priceless promise. What a wonderful thing to know that because of Jesus Christ, we have access to draw near to the God of the universe. And how amazing to realize that when we do this, He will draw near to us. How readily would we jump on this offer if it were given to us by some great leader or athlete or artist? Yet I wonder if the reality of this promise from God is expressed more often in pretty embroidered wall hangings than it is in our own lives.
I think part of our problem with taking hold of this promise is that we don’t know what it means. We have some idea what it means for us to draw near to God – we know we can do this through prayer, study of His word, worship in song, and in a variety of other ways. But what exactly does it mean for God to draw near to us? When I draw near to God, what exactly do I expect Him to do? We don’t normally take this to mean that God will visibly display himself to us, or that He will speak audibly to us, or that He will meet us for coffee. We’re forced to think of God’s drawing near to us in a different way than we would think of our drawing near to one another.
I won’t even attempt to define the nearness of God, but it is worth the effort to describe it, at least to some degree. In order to take hold of this promise, we need to have some idea what we should expect the nearness of God to be like.
As believers, we already have a relationship with God through Christ, and that never changes. But when He is near to us in accordance with this promise, we are enabled to live in conscious experience of that relationship. We are granted the privilege of more fully participating in His nature, so that His character is more clearly displayed in us. He gives us an awareness of His presence with us, and opens our eyes to see His work in us. When He is near to us, we have an inescapable, undeniable sense that He is there, in all His goodness, for us.
The nearness of God is of infinitely greater value than anything this world has to offer. This year, let’s take God up on His promise. If we do, we will be able to say with Asaph, “the nearness of God is my good.” (Psalm 73:28)