Seeking the Face of God
“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
It has been suggested that every job or occupation should have an appropriate hymn. For instance,
~ The Baker could sing: "I Need Thee Every Hour"
~ Barber: "A Parting Hymn We Sing"
~ Baseball Batter: "Seek Thee First"
~ Builder: "How Firm A Foundation"
~ Chiropractor: "Awake My Soul, Stretch Every Nerve"
~ Civil Engineer: "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross"
~ Dentist: "Crown Him With Many Crowns"
~ Electrician: "O Joyful Light"
~ Fisherman: "Shall We Gather At The River?"
~ Golfer: "There Is A Green Hill Far Away"
~ Gossiper: "Oh, For A Thousand Tongues"
~ Historian: "Tell Me The Old, Old Story"
~ Trucker: "On The Highways And Byways Of Life"
~ Medical Technician: "Revive Us Again"
~ Mountain Climber: "The Rock That Is Higher Than I"
~ Obstetrician: "He Is Able To Deliver Thee"
~ Optometrist: "Open Mine Eyes That I Might See"
~ Paratrooper: "Now On Land And Sea Descending"
~ Politician: "Standing On The Promises"
~ Real Estate Agent: "I’ve Got A Mansion"
~ Sceptic: "Almost Persuaded"
~ Shopper: "Sweet By And By"
~ Stonecutter: "Rock Of Ages"
~ Tailor: "Holy, Holy, Holy"
~ Voice Teacher: "Sing Them Over Again To Me"
~ Watchmaker: "Take Time To Be Holy"
~ Weatherman: "There Shall Be Showers Of Blessings"
Now all that is supposed to be a joke, obviously, but there is something of a point here—God is with us in every aspect of our lives, and the other side of that coin is that we ought to bring God into every aspect of our lives.
Charles Spurgeon, the great 19th century English preacher said, “Beloved Christian reader, in matters of grace, you need a daily supply. You have no store of strength. Day by day must you seek help from above. It is a very sweet assurance that a daily portion is provided for you … you shall receive renewed strength. In Jesus all needful things are laid up for you. Then enjoy your continual allowance. Never go hungry while the daily bread of grace is on the table of mercy.” [Charles Spurgeon Morning & Evening: Daily Readings].
What is your ambition in life? Is it to get rich? Is it to make a name for yourself? Is it even to do some wonderful thing for God? Listen to me, the highest ambition that can possess any human heart is a longing to see God. That is something that you are not going to hear from any career counselor. Every year the people who study these kinds of things publish lists of the career fields that are most likely to succeed. High School seniors are urged to get training in the appropriate fields so that they can get great jobs and have supposedly successful lives. Nothing wrong with any of that, but is a vital part of human life gets left out in that process. Human beings are about more than jobs and money. We are made to have a divine relationship with God. We are seekers after God.
Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Psalms 63:1-2 , O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.”
That is what human beings are about. We thirst for God, we long for God, but sadly, that is something we hear less and less about in our time. Over the last many years, I have conducted an informal survey. Whenever I meet people who go to a certain church, I ask them why they go to church there, or I might ask what do you like about that church. I get all sorts of answers, some say, I like the music, some say, I have a lot of friends in that church, some say my family always went there, some say I like the youth program. A few even say I like the pastor, but none say, I find God there. Not a single person I have ever asked about going to church has ever said to me, I find God there--which seems to indicate that something is radically wrong with the way we do church--because I cannot think of any other reason to go to church at all. We go to church to seek God.· A. W. Tozer, a renowed Christian author and pastor, wrote, "If we yearned after God even as much as a cow yearns for her calf, we would be the worshiping and effective believers God wants us to be. If we longed for God as a bride looks forward to the return of her husband, we would be a far greater force for God than we are now" (Men Who Met God).
II Chronicles chapters 6-7 is about the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem. When King Solomon finished his prayers of consecration, the temple was filled with the presence of God and Solomon and the people offered sacrifices: thousands of oxen and sheep. We are told in 7:6 “The priests stood at their posts; the Levites also, with the instruments for music to the LORD … opposite them the priests sounded trumpets, and all Israel stood.” V8 says “Solomon held the feast for seven days, and all Israel with him.” V10 adds, “On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people away to their homes, joyful and glad of heart for the prosperity that the LORD had granted to David and to Solomon and to Israel his people.” It was a great event, the most glorious event in the history of Israel since the Exodus. We read in v11, “Thus Solomon finished the house of the LORD and the king's house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the LORD and in his own house he successfully accomplished.” But after the festival, after all the shouting and celebration, God came to Solomon in the night, and God gave the King some one-on-one instruction. In effect, God says, you have built the temple, and that is good, but that is not enough. In v14, God calls on his people to humble themselves. Maybe that is the first step. To quote A.W. Tozer again (in The Pursuit of God), “Now, as always, God discovers Himself to "babes" and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and the prudent. We must simplify our approach to Him. We must strip down to essentials (and they will be found to be blessedly few). We must put away all effort to impress, and come with the guileless candor of childhood. If we do this, without doubt God will quickly respond."
Returning to II Chronicles, God also commands his people to pray and “seek his face.”
We find this same phrase in Psalm 27:8, “You have said, 'Seek my face.' My heart says to you, 'Your face, LORD, do I seek.'” Again, Psalm 105:4, “Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.” This is a metaphorical way of saying, seek the presence of God. This we read in Isaiah 55:6, “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:” Seeking God then, or seeking the face of God, is a sincere and persistent effort to reach out to God. It may be motivated by the need to ask something of God, to request his intervention, to seek his mercy and forgiveness, to acquire wisdom, but mostly this seeking mostly stems from a desire to know God more intimately.
In Philippians 3:10, the Apostle Paul describes his yearning for Christ: “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” Paul wants to be intimately acquainted with Christ. He wants to “know” the power of the resurrected Lord, to share in his victory over death. Paul wants to know Christ so intimately that he shares the sufferings and even the death of the Lord. The apostle wants to become like Christ, to imitate him, to be Christ insofar as he can.
That is why we should come to church, to know Christ--Not to criticize other people or other churches or even other religions, not to find fault or to be judgmental--to seek the face of God.
But the good news, the really good news, is that we are not only seeking God, God is seeking us. There is an old Chinese saying, “When the pupil is ready, the teacher will come.” Or to put it another way, when you really want to learn something, you will find a teacher. We can expand that saying into the spiritual dimension. When you are really ready to learn about God, God will be there to teach you. When we reach out to God, God is already reaching out to us.
Every religion teaches that we are on a journey toward God, and we hear that terminology a lot today, “a journey of the spirit.” That is true as far as it goes, but Christianity adds to that insight. God is on a journey toward us. We are in pursuit of God, but God is pursuing us.
The Christmas story relates how God the father reaches out to us. We remember the shepherds keeping their flocks, the choirs of angels, and the babe in the manger in Bethlehem. God physically sent his son for our salvation. Or put the same truth another way, God sent his son to search for spiritual seekers. That is what John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
God became flesh and blood among us to take hold of us. This is the central theme of many of the parables of Jesus. In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables in a row. A shepherd has 100 sheep and loses one. He leaves the 99 and will not give up until he finds the one that is missing. An old woman has ten coins, loses one, and sweeps the whole house and searches until she finds it. Then we come to the most famous parable of Jesus, the Prodigal Son. A young man cajoles and nags his father into giving him his share of his father's estate. He then goes to a strange land and squanders every cent in wild living. He winds up feeding pigs in this foreign land and realizes he is worse off that the pigs. In desperation, when there is nothing else he can do, he goes home, but his father is watching for him, and runs to meet him. The novelist Tobias Wolfe says these are the most beautiful words in the English Language: “His father, when he saw him coming, ran to meet him.”
This is something we desperately need to know. The world is sometimes a dreary and depressing place. We get tired and lonely, we think about giving up. We talk about being on a spiritual journey. Sometimes it is more a rambling stumble in the dark. We think about giving up on the spirit entirely. This is the ministry of the devil--to tempt us to give up our search for God. But if we listen to Jesus, we know that God is not giving up on his search for us. The light of God's love is too intense to be dimmed by the devil's darkness.
There is an old hymn that encourages us,
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!
Or perhaps you like a more modern reference. In the Movie, The Last of the Mohicans, the Irish musical group Clannad has a song which says,
No matter where you go I will find you In a place with thousand years
No matter where you go I will find you In a place with no frontiers
No matter where you go I will find you
God will find us. Knowing that we can put the emphasis on God and avoid the sin of thinking it is all about us. Knowing God is seeking the seeker helps us avoid the pride that comes from seeing ourselves as the heroic main character in the drama of the spiritual search. If we believe that the search is ours, if we believe that we seek a God who is apparently indifferent toward us that implies that we love God more than God loves us, which is not even close to the truth.
Furthermore, even though some people sincerely seek God, sometimes they do not want to be found by God. C. S. Lewis, once an agnostic, astutely observed that “amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about 'man's search for God.' To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse's search for the cat!” This is why some people want to remain seekers. Polls regularly show that more that 80% of Americans are spiritual seekers. I suspect they are happy with that status because that puts the focus on them, not God, but that misses the whole point of seeking in the first place.
Jesus promises that those who seek will find, because he knows God pursues and finds those who search for him. In our fallennness, we are sometimes blind to the God who is already here, but once seekers find God his presence is so obvious that they often wonder how they missed it for so long. The theologian Catherine M. LaCugna puts it this way: “One finds God because one is already found by God. Anything we would find on our own would not be God.”
Henri Nouwen came to this realization after years of struggling to know and find God He describes his radical change in outlook once he realized God had been trying to find, know, and love him all along. “The question is not, 'How am I to find God?' but 'How am I to let myself by found by him?' the question is not 'How am I to know God?' but 'How am I to let myself be known by God?' And finally the question is not 'How am I to love God?' but 'How am I to let myself by loved by God?'”
Let me close with the words of another hymn
I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek him, seeking me.
It was not I that found, O Savior true;
No, I was found of thee.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
|HOME||About YARPC||Sermons||Prayer Center|
Copyright 2013 York Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
Last Modified: 05/02/13