God is invisible and is everywhere all of the time.
So if He is in all places can He really be close or far from individuals?
When we are in difficult situations then God is close to us, in fact, many Christians have said that when they were being persecuted, even tortured, then the Lord is right there with them in a very real way.
1. Can God be close or far away from us?
Some Christians, when asked the question, ‘When is God near to us?’ will answer that God is always close to them.
But the Bible speaks in terms of distance when talking about how close God is to you. An example of this is in Jeremiah:
Yet you, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name; do not leave us.”Jeremiah 14:9 ESV
Another example of this is in Isaiah, where God says:
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters…Isaiah 55:1, 3 & 6 NIV
Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live…
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
This has similarities to what Jesus said:
Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”John 7:37-38 NIV
On another occasion, Jesus invites people to come close to him. All these verses are an invitation to those at the time it was spoken or written, and anybody over the centuries, to move closer to God.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
Here God is asking that we just call to Him in an earnest, humble way:
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”Ps 145:18 NIV
Obviously, we must believe that God is really there and that He is listening and He responds to our prayers:
And 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.Hebrews 11:6 ESV
Being a Christian means that the Lord is with us and we can be in Him when things get tough, He is our Ark that we can get shelter from the storms of life:
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.Psalm 73:23-28 NIV
You guide me with your counsel, and afterwards you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion for ever.
Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.”
There are some people who pretend that they are Christian, and they can attend a church but they are not true, their fruit will show otherwise.
These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.Isaiah 29:13 NIV
Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”
To answer the question, ‘Is God near to us’ here is a partial explanation to our subject:
God is with all believers today in that His Holy Spirit indwells us.‘What does it mean that God is with us?’ by Got Questions Ministries. 1
This indwelling can only happen if one is born again (John 3:3).
First John 5:11-12 tells us it is Jesus who indwells us:
‘This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.’
And Jesus said the Father comes to abide with us:
‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them’ (John 14:23).
In Galatians 2:20 Paul says,
‘Christ lives in me.’
Then in 3:5 he says that God has given us His Spirit.
In verses 26-27, he says that believers are ‘baptized into Christ’ and are ‘clothed’ with Christ. (God is as close as our clothing!)
Galatians 5 then discusses the fruit of the Spirit and states in verse 25,
‘Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.’
With many such verses as these, it is clear that God is in three Persons and that all Three dwell in all born-again believers—at all times (Matthew 28:20).”
2. God is incredibly close when being persecuted
When the apostle Paul was suffering opposition and personal pain, the Lord came near to him and encouraged him:
Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.2 Timothy 4:14-18 ESV
Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message.
At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me.
May it not be charged against them!
But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.
So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.
To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand were both tortured because they were Christians and they would not change that confession.
Here in the video below it shows the extreme violence to them from the Communists, and then Richard shares his joy in a prison cell, where Jesus came close to him:
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3. God said to Noah: ‘Come inside!’
In the New International Version of the Bible, the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark” Genesis 6:22
I personally like the New King James translation here (which is a reasonable interpretation of the Hebrew):
Come into the ark”Genesis 6:22 NKJV
‘Come’ seems much more appropriate than ‘Go into the Ark.’
Because that would be in harmony with other passages, such as in Isaiah, where the Lord says:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;Isaiah 43:1-2 NIV
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”
It is as if the Lord was saying:
“Noah! You are entering the unknown, something you have not experienced before, I know this is not an easy life, but I’ll be with you, so come!
I am with you. You and your family who are entering the Ark are My witnesses.”
The words: ‘I am with you’ are such a comfort to all believers when they are in a tight situation.
I expect Noah, and his family, had to walk up the ramp, and into the Ark amidst intense mocking, and sarcastic comments. They had to ignore the ridicule.
How did they do that?
Because they knew that the Lord was with them.
May that be an encouragement to us when we are not having an easy life and are having to stand as Christians in this fallen world.
Yes, Noah was entering a vast unknown.
He was probably anxious, as the Ark jerked upwards by the rising waters, and then was turned around by the force of the swirling ocean.
Perhaps he was feeling that the Lord was saying: “Noah! I will never leave you, or forsake you.”
4. God says: ‘I will never leave you.’
He also says to us: “Believer! I will never leave you, or forsake you. Trust Me! I haven’t forgotten you. I am faithful, I will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.”
It says in Hebrews:
God has said; ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’Hebrews 13 :5-6 NIV
So we say with confidence;
‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me.’ “
If we are not careful, when we hear these verses, we can drift into unreality, a place without pain, suffering, or hardships!
The promise of God’s Presence isn’t a guarantee for an easy life.
In fact, life can become more tough at times.
Peter tackles this, he wrote:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.1 Peter 4:12 & 16 NIV
But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.
…if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”
This is talking about troubles hitting us and persecution, which are a direct result of us being Christians.
Whenever I looked up a verse, which was talking about the Lord promising that He wouldn’t leave us, or the verses mentioned a special closeness, I noticed that they were related to our witness as Christians.
The Apostle Peter tells us that:
If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory, and of God rests on you.”1 Peter 4:14 NIV
Matthew’s gospel finishes with Jesus saying:
And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”Matthew 28:20 NIV
We can recall this verse as a ‘pick-me-up’ when we are down, and it is true that the Lord is always with us, that we are in Him, and that He is in us.
But to put the verse in context it is to do with our witness.
Because prior to that Jesus says:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”Matthew 28:18-20 NIV
Jesus is encouraging us, by telling us that He is with us in a very special way in a witness situation.
Even sending the gift of the Holy Spirit has this main purpose. Jesus said:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be My witnesses.”Acts 1:8 NIV
God’s closeness is not restricted to witnessing situations, nor when we suffer for being a Christian.
God is close to those who have been flattened in this life for whatever reason:
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.Psalm 34:18 ESV
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
If this is you, then cry to the Lord for help.
References – open in new tabs:
Drawings thanks to The Pictorial Dictionary published by The Educational Book Company, London.