A few years ago, I heard our pastor recite James 4:8 from the pulpit -- and it was as if I had heard the truth, and fully understood it, for the first time.
"Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you."
Some versions say, "Come close to God, and He will come close to you."
Take a few moments to ponder that. Do you see the promise?
This verse teaches an important spiritual truth.
When you draw near to God -- what happens?
That's right, He will then draw near to you.
There are millions and millions of people who consider themselves to be a follower of God's ways; yet they don't know God's presence in their lives. They are good people, who do good things, and who are helpful to others. Yet, they don't feel the closeness of the Spirit of God. They may not even know that there are ways to be close to God. They don't recognize that He is available, ready to help, ready to answer their prayers, and ready to guide them. They do not experience God's help and support, because they have not fully embraced this spiritual truth: God strongly helps those who are seeking Him. (2 Chron 16:9)
Jeremiah 23:23 tells us that God is both near and far at the same time. "Am I a God who is only close at hand?" says the LORD. "No, I am far away at the same time." (NLT)
How can that be?
God is close to those who draw near to Him, to those who call upon Him in faith. However, for those who are not coming to Him, His help remains far. He is far from those not seeking Him, even though, ironically, He is near and available to them, as soon as they have a change in heart towards Him.
He is near, yet He is also far. The difference depends, at least to some degree, on us and on our desire to be close to Him.
The Bible never promises that God is always close and ready to help people who "got saved" on a retreat when they were young, yet haven't given Him much thought since then. It doesn't say God is close to those who call themselves a Christian. It doesn't even say that He is close by and ready to strongly help those who regularly go to church.
Once again, He is close to those who draw close to Him.
James 4:8 isn't the only place this truth is told to us, either. Here is a sample of other verses which emphasize the same spiritual truth:
"The Lord is near to all who call upon Him." That is Psalms 145:18. Look carefully at those words. Does it say that the Lord is near to all who call themselves a Christian? Does it say the Lord is near to those who have good intentions in their hearts? No. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.
"Return to me, says the Lord....so that I may return to you." These are the words of the Lord Himself through the prophet Zechariah (Zech 1:3). These are the words of the Lord to an entire country of His people who had turned from His ways. The Lord wants to help; He is willing to help; however, again, His people must be actively seeking Him. If His people have rejected His ways; they must return to Him to receive His benefits and His protection.
"The Lord's eyes keep on roaming throughout the earth, looking for those whose hearts completely belong to him, so that he may strongly support them." That is 2 Chronicles 16:9, and it is very clear again. Who is God wanting to strongly support? Answer: Those whose hearts are near to His.
"...He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." That is from Hebrews 6. Once again, we are told the Lord helps and even rewards those who are drawing close to Him.
When I fully realized that I could ensure the Lord's nearness by my own faithful action of seeking to be near to Him, it transformed my spiritual life and my Christian walk.
Suddenly, I didn't want to read my Bible just for knowledge, I wanted to read it and ponder it for the purpose of keeping His Spirit close!
I no longer wanted to pray merely to send up requests which I hoped He would answer to my desired outcome. Instead, I wanted to pray more frequently than ever, about every little thing I could possibly come up with to pray about. I wanted to do this to ensure His nearness!
After, I began setting reminders for ways to think about God throughout the day. I began keeping a prayer journal, sometimes filling three or more pages a day of both small and large requests, as well as many notes of thanksgiving.
Do you know what happened?
God came near. Just as the Bible has told us He would.
He came near enough to practically feel His presence at times. He came near enough to answer nearly every single one of the many prayer requests filling pages and pages in my journal. He came so near and helped me in countless small and large ways.
Ultimately, my faith in His existence and in His personal willingness to help went from being strong, to being rock solid strong and absolutely unshakeable.
My prayer journal is evidence not only of His Spirit's existence, but it is also great evidence that He stays near to those who stay near to Him.
That is my testimony, my personal experience of the Lord's work in my life. I write it
with the hope that it may encourage others to choose to live near to Him too.