CLOSER THAN YOU THINK

It’s always a bit unnerving to glance behind you and think you’re being followed.

Some time ago I was part of a team engaged in rescuing a pastor who was being held in prison in a Middle Eastern nation. While I wish I could write about some swashbuckling exploits of climbing walls or drugging guards, it was hardly that. I had travelled to the capital city to meet with a couple of folks from the on-the-ground team and retrieve a critical piece of evidence. It was crucial to be certain first of all that I wasn’t being followed, and then to do the same for the arriving team.

So, hours before the meeting I took a taxi from my hotel to a park near the meet-up point. I wandered aimlessly, and stopped to peer in apparent awe at statues, signs, flowers and the like. Of course, what I was actually doing was observing everyone around me and looking to see (as the parlance goes) “if I had grown a tail.” I’ll spare you the details of the other steps I took, but I eventually arrived at the hotel where our meeting was scheduled to take place. I grabbed a seat where I could observe everyone in the lobby, ordered a can of soda, pulled a magazine out of my backpack and began to casually read for the next 90 minutes. It goes without saying that reading was not my primary focus. I was there to watch and observe.

At the appointed time, the first team person arrived. She went to the other side of the lobby, took a seat, and pulled out a crossword book. I was watching to see if anyone new came in after her, or anyone in the lobby began observing her. Fifteen minutes later the person with the evidence arrived and we repeated the procedure for another length of time. Finally, once I was certain we were not being observed, I stood up to put the magazine back in my backpack. (If I had done that while SITTING DOWN, it would have been a clue that I’d seen something.) We all “just happened” to find ourselves alone in the elevator. The exchange was made, Deed done.

What’s the point? That, unobserved by anyone following my teammates, they had someone who was nearby if they needed to call on me for help.

Today’s verse reminds us THE LORD IS NEAR TO ALL WHO CALL ON HIM.

If there’s someone you’re hoping to call on for help; it’s much better if they’re already close by. It’s all well and good to have friends in distant places or family on the other side of the country, but when you need help quickly that will not do.

As believers in Jesus, we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. It wraps us up like a comfortable sweater. God is love, so His character expresses that deeply and fully. When we give ourselves to God, He gives Himself to us. We abide — we live and exist — in God; surrounded by His love. The bible tells us that whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. And THAT’S CLOSE !!!

I used to work on an ambulance service. One night we had been dispatched to a motor vehicle accident on a local highway. The injuries were minor, and we were preparing to leave. So I radioed to our central dispatcher that we were available and returning to base. Immediately we were given a call to respond to a cardiac arrest. Though the address was close to fifteen miles away, we were the closest available ambulance and represented the victim’s best chance of survival. By the time we arrived on scene some twenty minutes later there was nothing we could do.

Thankfully God is NEVER distant, and He can be as close as we want Him to be. His word encourages us to draw near to Him, and promises that He will draw near to us when we do.

It doesn’t promise us that we will always FEEL like He is near, or that He will “fix” the outcome of every crisis we face in life. (Whatever “fix” looks like in your situation.) What He promises is that THE LORD IS NEAR TO ALL WHO CALL ON HIM. He promises that He will give us a comforter who will be with us and in us, His Holy Spirit. He promises us that we will never, ever be alone; no matter what it may look like or feel like.

God is not man, that He should lie. Nor is He a son of man, that He should change His mind on the spur of the moment. He isn’t sitting in heaven plucking daisies and saying, “I love them; I love them not.” He has spoken His commitment; will He forget to follow through? Or is God in the habit of making promises He not fulfill it? Not hardly.

THE LORD IS NEAR TO ALL WHO CALL ON HIM

We can also look at this from the other side of the question. How close to God are YOU?

Do your life choices move you close? Or are you allowing things in your life that will put distance between the two of you? Are you living the kind of life the He enjoys being close to?

During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was asked if he felt that God was on the side of the Union. His reply was brilliant. He said, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my great concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

Joshua, the man chosen to succeed Moses and lead the people of Israel into the land God had promised them, learned that lesson by coming face to face with the Commander of the Lord’s Army.

Joshua was near Jericho one evening, preparing for the battle to take the city. He looked up and saw a man he did not recognize standing in front of him with a drawn sword in His hand; not typically a very good sign. So Joshua approached Him and asked, “Are You for us or for our enemies?” But the “man” standing before him wasn’t a man at all! Joshua got an answer he could never have anticipated. “Neither,” the man with the sword replied. “I have now come as Commander of the LORD’s army.”

Joshua fell face down in reverence and asked Him, “What does my Lord have to say to His servant?” The Commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.”

When you’re standing in holy places with God and His angels, the question is never whether God is on our side. The only question is whether we are on God’s side, for God is always right.

Mark Twain recounts a meeting he had with a businessman notorious for his cutthroat tactics and poor morals. He boasted of his intention to travel to Mt. Sinai one day, climb to the top and then read the Ten Commandments aloud. Twain observed, “It might be better if you just stayed in Boston, and KEPT THEM.”

The best way I know to make certain I’m on His side is to work hard to stay AT His side. The closer the better.

THE LORD IS NEAR TO ALL WHO CALL ON HIM

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