Closer than you think

The relational God. The invitational God. How close is He? Jesus responded to the query of the soon-to-be disciples, “Come and see” (John 1:39). To the dispirited and confused, He said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

In his impactful book, God is Closer than You Think, John Ortberg quoted Frederick Buechner: “There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize Him or not … because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

The waiting God. The beckoning God. The gracious God. How close has God come? Ortberg writes: “So close that your heart will be beating with life because Someone is walking around in there. God is closer than you think.”

All of us have known times when God has seemed distant. Perhaps He is too busy. Perhaps I’m not important enough. Perhaps He cannot love me after what I have done.. Perhaps He doesn’t care. Perhaps He cares but chooses not to act.

If God seems distant, it makes sense to ask a simple question: Who moved? My dad used to tell me a story about how relationships change. An elderly couple was riding together down a country road. The man was driving. The woman was leaning against the passenger door. They had been quiet for some time when she glanced over at him. “Fred, do you remember when we used to sit close and cuddle in this old car?” He paused for a moment before muttering, “I ain’t moved.”

I have to admit that most of the time I’m the one who has moved. We get distracted, overscheduled, and complacent. The relational, invitational, waiting, beckoning, and gracious God hasn’t moved.

Nicholas Herman was unhappy with his life. He felt a disconnect with God and wanted to change. He decided to make his life an experiment in what he called a “habitual, silent, secret conversation of the soul with God.” He joined a monastic order and was given a new name, Brother Lawrence. After he died, friends gathered his writing and produced a book that has been widely read for four centuries, Practicing the Presence of God. One friend noted, “The good brother found God everywhere, as much while he was repairing as while he was praying with the community.”

Perhaps we’re not looking like we should. One thing seems certain: God is indeed closer than we think.

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About Mark Wilbanks

Dr. Wilbanks became Wieuca’s fifth senior pastor in February of 2012. Mark’s father, Oliver Wilbanks, served as Associate Pastor here from 1966 to 1982. Wieuca had a tremendous influence in shaping Mark’s call to ministry during his teenage and young adult years. A graduate of both Southern and New Orleans Baptist Theological seminaries, Mark has served churches in Kentucky, Florida, and Georgia. He pastored Southside Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida for 17 years and Bradfordville First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida for ten years. He and his wife, Kim, were married in 1979 and have two sons, Andy and Jordan. Andy is married to Lindsay and they have a son, Cade, a daughter, Ruthie, and welcomed their third child, Samuel, in October.

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