If you are not careful, you can be so busy doing life that you don’t even notice the presence of God in your life. This is what happened to a man named Jacob. Jacob lived a life on the fast track doing business deals and making lots of money. He was on the go. Going from one thing to another. One night God caught up with Jacob in a dream. Jacob woke up from the dream and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” (Genesis 28:16, NLT).

I’m convinced there are times in your life where God’s presence is being revealed, His guidance is being revealed, His will is being revealed and you are not “even aware of it.” You are not aware of it because you are too distracted. You are distracted by your job, by your career, by relationships, by your to do list, or by your desire to escape and do nothing. Somewhere along the way God gets your attention and you finally recognize “the Lord is in this place.”

One of the things that distracts us from being able to recognize the presence of God in our life is our anxieties. We focus on what we are afraid of, worried about, nervous or agitated over that we don’t see God at work, or we don’t hear Him when He speaks. We become easily offended, easily upset, and easily irritated. As a result, we are not aware, calm, and present for God or others. As a result, we either try to control the situation or get away from it or the person.

God has a better plan and strategy for dealing with your anxiety. Part of that plan involves being aware of His nearness. Let’s take a look at Philippians 4:4-9.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is nearDo not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (NASB)

We are in a series on the seven practices of peace. Within these statements in God’s Word, God gives us seven practices that help you defend yourself against your anxieties. We have already looked at two the practices, let’s briefly review them and continue looking at practice #3.

  • Practice #1 is the practice of joy. God’s Word says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice!” This is learning how to apply the attitude and power of spiritual joy based on your relationship with Jesus in unhappy situations. This is where knowing the difference between joy and happiness is crucial.
  • Practice #2 is the practice of gentleness. God’s Word says, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all people.” This is learning how to express gentleness in stressful and anxious moments of life. The Holy Spirit has given you a gentle spirit and He wants that gentle spirit to dominate your life regardless of who you encounter. This will help you to remain calm when facing difficult situations.
  • Practice #3 is the practice of awareness. God’s Word says, “The Lord is near.” When you are aware of how big and awesome your Lord is it makes what you are anxious about not so overwhelming. This is developing the skill of being aware of the Lord’s presence, His return, and His glory.

Let’s review what we have learned so far and then look at something new. When it comes to the phrase “The Lord is near” it can refer to three things.

The Lord’s presence is near

The first meaning of the phrase, the Lord is near, refers to the presence of the Lord. This describes God’s willingness to be near to help, guide, protect, and other things. As a follower of Jesus, you must be alert to His divine presence. The presence or absence of inner peace will be in direct proportion to your awareness of the presence of the Lord. Being keenly aware of God’s presence in your life helps you to manage the anxieties in your life. This is one reason why Philippians 4 says, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything…” (vs. 5-6, NLT). Because of the nearness and presence of your Lord you don’t have to let your anxieties or worries control your life. We have already examined this in detail. 

The Lord’s return is near

Another meaning of the Lord is near refers to the Lord’s return. Anxiety is often caused by an uncertain future, but believers find hope in knowing Jesus could return at any moment. Before Paul told them the Lord is near in Philippians 4, Paul reminds them in Philippians 3 they were “citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives” and “are eagerly waiting for him to return” as their Savior (Philip. 3:20-21, NLT). Not only is the presence of the Lord near, but His return is near as well. When you combine those two truths together you have something significant to hold on to and to get you through those stressful, anxious, and unwanted seasons of life.

For those who love Jesus, His imminent return provides encouragement to maintain a gentle spirit during a time of suffering and seasons of potential anxiety. There is something about the return of Jesus that reminds us that all the problems in the world have an end to them and it helps us focus on the future in light of a sovereign God. Throughout the Bible, believers are often encouraged in times of trouble by the assurance that the Lord is near.

  • In Mark 13, Jesus told His disciples about the coming abomination of desolation (v. 14), the sun and moon going dark (v. 24), stars and meteors hitting the earth (v. 25), and the universe shaking in chaos (v. 25), which He knew would create a lot of anxiety and stress in their life. Jesus then decided to encourage them by saying, “When you see all these things taking place, you can know that his [Son of Man] return is very near, right at the door” (v. 29, NLT).
  • Years later, James would encourage the believers who were going through persecution, which created all kinds of stress and anxiety, by saying, “You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near” (James 5:8, NLT).

When you look at the details of life through the lens of the Lord’s return it helps put things that cause anxiety into perspective.

  • For example, possessions (which can be a source of anxiety) become less important when you are focused on the Lord’s return.
  • Sickness for the believer takes on a new perspective in light of being drawn up to heaven where you will receive your new body and where there is no sickness.
  • When you are very aware of the Lord’s return things like money, rejection, mistreatment, injustices, and the like look and feel different to you.
  • They are not as overwhelming as they could be. In many ways, the nearness of the Lord’s return helps you to be aware, calm, and present to do what the Lord would have you to do until He returns.

As a believer you need to always live in the context of the possibility of the Lord’s return at any moment. The fact that Jesus could step into this world at any time to take you to be with Him forever can give you hope and peace in every situation.

When Paul wrote to believers in Thessalonica, he described the Lord’s return in detail and ended that section by saying, “Encourage each other with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18, NLT). When received correctly, the comfort that comes from knowing Jesus can return any moment smothers the smoldering anxiety fed by fears of the future or the uncertainty of the present.

The Lord’s glory is near

The statement, the Lord is near, can refer to the presence of God, the return of Jesus, and to the glory of God. The subject of the glory of God covers a large territory. One aspect of God’s glory occurs when a believer dies and finds themselves in the presence of God’s glory in heaven.

Paul has already mentioned this Philippians 1 when he wrote, “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live” (Philippians 1:21-24, NLT).

Paul has come to the point in his life that he is torn between two desires. Part of him is ready to go be with Jesus and that’s why he says, “I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me.” He knows the best is yet to come. His body has been beaten, abused, imprisoned, starved, and stoned and left for half dead twice. His body hurts. He is getting older. He is tired. He knows that in heaven with Jesus he would receive a new body, a glorified body. It “would be far better for” him if he were in heaven. He also knows there is no sin in heaven. That means no more dealing with his own selfishness, weaknesses, and faults and no longer having to deal with the selfishness, weaknesses, and faults of others. It “would be far better for” him to go be with Christ. With Christ in heaven there is no sin, no heartache, no sickness, and no sorrow.

What Paul is referring to is something amazing. When you die and go to heaven your salvation will be complete. What happens to you when you die and go to heaven is called glorification. Glorification refers to receiving your new and resurrected body in heaven. From God’s perspective this is a done deal. Paul wrote about this when he said, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to becomeconformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30, NASB). The last phrase, “He also glorified” means God shares with His people His glory. Part of that glory is a glorified body that is eternal, holy, perfectly healthy, and supernatural (1 Cor. 15:42-49). This means there is coming a day when you will experience no anxiety, no stress, and your mind will be perfectly at peace. You will be aware, calm, and present like you have never experienced.

When you understand the wonderful things that are coming for you, it is easier to be motivated to give up your rights, be gentle toward others, and to be aware, calm, and present for God and others while experiencing the unfairness, stress, and pressures life can heap upon you.

Conclusion

Do not believe the lie that God has left you or abandoned you. The Lord is near. He is closer than you think and closer in more ways you can imagine. Choose to be the person who grabs hold of the presence of God with both hands. You can say with the Psalmist who wrote, “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 118:6, NIV). The people in your life may create much of the stress in your life, but God will help you and He is own your side. You do not need to fear. You can be aware, calm, and present. The Lord is near. His presence is near. His return is near. His glory is near. Embrace God’s nearness and let the peace of God that surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.