I had the wonderful privilege over the weekend of attending my church's first ever women's retreat.
I had a few reservations leading up. I was a little afraid it would be a weekend of cheesy "get-to-know-you" games and awkward, "come to the front and be prayed for" moments. But it so wasn't!
Our guest speaker was Sandy Cooper. You can visit her website at www.godspeakstoday.net. She is not actively blogging at present, but she has a wealth of information on her website on a great range of topics. If you go there, I assure you that you will find something relevant to your life.
It was one of those conferences where I found myself constantly saying, "yes! I totally get it!", or "this is so for me!". In fact, there were a few moments where I actually blushed or had tear-filled eyes because I felt so directly spoken to.
If you have spent much time on my blog, you know that I have been seeking God. But I have never felt very close to God. I have rarely felt His presence in a tangible way, despite desperately wanting to.
Going into this weekend, I tried not to have high expectations of something spiritually profound happening to me, but I did pray to hear from God in a real way.
Over the course of the weekend, there were a couple of messages that were literally dumped repeatedly over my head. At first like cold-water, and later like a salve. And to paraphrase our guest speaker Sandy, when God gives you something, it is always for someone else, too. So I thought I would write a little "retreat series" about what God has been teaching me.
To start, I want to look at Hebrews 11:6;
"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists AND that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Emphasis mine).
There are two parts to this verse. In the last year or so I've really come to understand that faith is a gift from God (see Ephesians 2:8). Not something I can hope to pick up at the store, or something I can hope to convince myself I have. But this weekend, it was the second part of that verse that jumped out at me. To please God, not only do we have to believe that He exists, we also have to believe that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
I've come to realize that I've never really believed that. This goes a long way to explaining why I so rarely felt the presence of God. Although it was something I wanted, I didn't actually believe that He would reward me for seeking Him. I knew He rewarded others, but I had bought into the lie that I wasn't good enough. That I wasn't doing enough or that I was doing something wrong. That is all a lie! As soon as I released this to God, I felt Him draw near. I felt in the presence of the Holy Spirit. I recognized God's voice. Can you hear the trumpets?! Rewards from God, feeling God's presence - that's for me too!
Which means, it's also for you!
If you think this applies to you, I encourage you to take some quiet time today and ask God to open your heart and remove the lie that being in His presence is something that happens to other people, but not to you.
But here's the kicker: if you don't immediately feel in His presence or hear His voice: YOU AREN'T DOING ANYTHING WRONG. Just ask again. And again. Eventually, I promise, he will answer you. But in His own time. Do not buy into the lie that you are doing something wrong or that you don't believe enough. That's what Satan wants you to think. God wants you to know Him. He will reward you for seeking Him. It's just that sometimes, He has reasons for making you continue to seek and the key is to KEEP SEEKING.
And let's pray that the next time I feel distant from God, I have the sense to read my own words and KEEP SEEKING, instead of allowing those same doubts to creep back in (pay attention, Lucy!).
Other relevant verses:
Isaiah 45:19: "I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob's descendants, 'Seek me in vain.' I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right."
2 Chronicles 7: 14-15: "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.
Psalm 24: 5-6: "They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob."
Psalm 34:10: "The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing."