It is God

[Phil. 2:13]---'It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.'

Many people feel that they have not a sufficiently vivid sense of the nearness and power of God. To them this is a matter of deep concern. They would gladly be conscious of the constraint upon their wills of some power other than their own. Their religious doubt does not arise from their lack of conviction of the existence of God, but from their lack of consciousness that God has any direct action upon their heart and life. They look around upon others and say to themselves, "In what way am I different from those who do not fear God, except that I fear Him?" They pray that their wills may be in tune with the Infinite, but are inwardly conscious of fluctuations of desire and waywardness of purpose. They set their hands sometimes to tasks which are dictated by the love of the right and would be inclined to believe and hope that some inflowing Divine power would come to their aid. But they can discern the incoming of no fresh strength to hasten the flow of that mingled strength and weakness they have long recognized as their own. They would like to believe with St. Paul, 'It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.'

To such there are two simple things which may be said:

The first is that we should always look for God in the ordinary rather than in the extraordinary. Imaginative writers have often tried to picture primitive man looking out with fresh eyes upon the wonderful works of God, filled with a sense of awe concerning those things which to us seem to have become too familiar to attract our attention. Milton made use of this thought in Paradise Lost, but it is not a picture which seems true of the facts as we slowly discover them. The probability is that primitive man took the world for granted and had not his attention stimulated by those wonderful works of God which are infallible in their operation. At least this is so with primitive man as we find him today.

Men have always believed in spiritual aid, but in early days, even as the Bible reveals them to us, there was not much ethical content in their idea of God's operation upon men. They thought that God sometimes came upon man with exceeding strength. There are many passages in the Old Testament, such as 'The spirit of the Lord came upon Samson,' or 'The spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon.' Literally it is rather, 'The spirit of the Lord leapt upon' such an one. The fact is that, when men did extraordinary things and were suddenly lifted above the level of their fellows, it was thought they had been possessed with a Divine spirit. Indeed not only in Bible times, but in many countries to this day, madness is considered a manifestation of spiritual power.

It is not until we come to the great prophets that we find them separating themselves from these crude notions of God's action upon man, and teaching rather that God is the guardian of the world's order, and that true inspiration lies in the perception and interpretation of the infallible order of God. It is only slowly we have come to see that the really wonderful things are the things which are always happening; and unless we can find God in the ordinary, we are restricting our hope of finding Him to a very narrow segment of life.

So we must look for God in ordinary things. We must not lose sight of the thought of God's unobtrusiveness. We talk about feeling the nearness of God. What do we mean? He is the infinite God who is every where. Would we have His presence so enveloping that it smothered us? We talk about the silence of God. What do we mean? Would we hear the voice of the great God, Master of the flaming heavens and far-flung stars? Would we hear a voice that might be commensurate with His greatness---and be deafened by it? We talk about wanting to see the power of God. Would we have so great a God put forth His strength as though He exerted it to persuade us, and be crushed by it? No. He is very courteous and delicate in His dealings with men.

If religion only taught us to expect the irruption of God into the ordered processes of life it might well be a curse to us. It is better to see God in the sunrise than in the earthquake.

The second thing is that, if we would seek God in the common things, we must not rest there. God is not the God of commonplaces, even though His commonplaces be as mysterious as the rising and the setting of the sun. Let us seek through the common things for spiritual realities. God is Spirit. Out of Spirit everything came, back to Spirit all will eventually go. Materialism has about given up the attempt to explain the universe by merely material things. Material things cannot account for the things of mind and the spirit. Material things are the creation of the Spirit of God. He uses them as His mirrors, through which He may make clear eternal truths.

We should not often doubt the reality of God if we were really seeking spiritual things. Along that line the quest is wondrously satisfying. A great many of our religious difficulties arise from the fact that our plans are so often overthrown, our wishes so often thwarted. Prosperity turns to adversity, and wrong seems to triumph over right. These are the ordinary problems of the religious mind, but if it is spiritual truth we are seeking after, if character is the great objective of our quest, these are the things that ought to happen. All the saints through all the ages would tell us that these thwartings of our purpose are the means of enrichment for our character and the ways by which we discover God.

If we would look at life rightly, we should regard it as a spiritual thing. Whatever we take beyond the veil, it is obvious we can take nothing unless it is essentially spiritual. We cannot take our goods and property, we cannot take our matterial substance. If life has a Divine meaning at all, its ultimate meaning is a spiritual one. We are not really growing in the deepest sense unless we are becoming more and more superior to the material things, and more and more under the sway of the spiritual. Let us go to the common things; kneel beside a common bush, look down upon a blade of grass, lift up our face in the sunlight and say, 'It is God!' The world is full of God. Then seek for the spiritual reality which indwells all these things and is their soul. Love the ordinary, but love God in the ordinary, and we will not long and not seriously doubt that 'it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.'

In Christ, timothy. Maranatha