• St Aldates Youth

Testimony Tuesday // Lucy

Sometimes there are moments when you know God is speaking to you, and you need to pay attention.

I was sat on the floor of the big top during the worship at Soul Survivor. The Holy Spirit had been moving in beautiful ways among so many people there, and I wanted to be a part of what was happening. I can remember praying, ‘What are you saying, Lord? Who can I pray for? Do you have a word for me to share with someone?’.

I was so focused on doing something for God that when he finally spoke, I was surprised at what he said. ‘Isn’t my presence enough for you?’. With a gentle authority, his words cut through to a gap in my understanding of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.

All I wanted was for God to use me to build up his kingdom. But I had forgotten that it all needs to start with communion- the simple act of just being with God. What an honour it is that the Almighty God of the universe just wants to sit with us, and for us to enjoy his presence.

So, for several years I tried to sit in stillness, to make myself aware of the presence of God. Sometimes it was easy, but most of the time I really struggled to keep my focus. As soon as I quieted one train of thought, another would take its place. I tried making lists of things before I meditated, tried praying with and without music, reading chapters of scripture at a time, or just a verse, or a word. While some of these things were helpful, I couldn’t keep up a good routine.

At the same time, I was getting quite involved with church. I was desperate to see change in the city, so I would spend time praying for people on the streets and talking to the homeless. I wanted to engage my non-Christian friends in conversations about God, because I knew that he could change their lives!

All of this was good, and I think God used me in this time. But something in me knew that the balance between my actions and the time I spent alone with God was off.

A few years later, I was at David’s Tent, an event where people gather for 72 hours of continuous worship. As we started, I found myself questioning, “How can anything I offer in praise be worthy of God?”. I spent a lot of the first worship set distracted by the apparent inadequacy of the whole event, and especially my part in it.

However, God brought a flaw in my thinking to light. I was only seeing half the picture. God’s presence enough for me, and my presence was enough for him.

By trying to be with God, I had begun to step out of grace. I had been placing conditions on my relationship with him. He would only want to be with me if I read the right passage in my Bible, if I worshipped to the right song, if I prayed the right prayer.

All those things are wonderful, but they are secondary to the simple truth that God loves us. We don’t have access to him through our actions. We have access to him through our new identity in Jesus.

When God looks at us, he doesn’t count our sins against us. He is the one who blocks out our transgressions for his own name’s sake, and who will not remember our sins (Isaiah 43:25). He is a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love (Jonah 4:2). There is no condemnation for those who walk in Christ Jesus.

As Christians, it is so easy to slip out of grace. Paul asks the Galatians ‘After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?’. When I was striving to be in God’s presence, it was like I’d forgotten that I was already worthy to be there. I was trying to earn a place before God that Jesus had already earnt for me!

Once I realised this, the things I had been doing from a place of striving became much easier! I found that being in presence of God was almost effortless. Reading the Bible became more joyful. I knew when to pray aloud, and how to be comfortable in silence.

I learnt how to engage with the world around me. Being with God doesn’t mean that we detach ourselves from culture. It means that we can look around us and ask, where is God’s kingdom in this place? And if we can’t see it, we say, how can we establish the kingdom here?

All of this can only be done when we know how to be with God. Knowing our worth gives us boldness in the presence of our good father to ask for his kingdom to come, his will be done. As the Holy Spirit fills us each day, we are equipped to fulfil the great commission and to see justice flow like a mighty river.

The time I spend alone with God is now central to how I live. I definitely still struggle to just be with God. But each day, he leads me deeper into the ‘unforced rhythms of grace’ (Matt. 11:28-30, MSG).

Do you know that Jesus has made you worthy of God’s presence? Do you realise that God has commissioned you to bring the kingdom? And do you know that it all starts with communion?

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