About two weeks ago, I and four other friends went to eat out at a popular restaurant in Abuja reputed for their tasty dishes. After the dinner, we exchanged banters and teased each other until a group of boys came in and ordered us to lie down on the floor and bring out all our valuables. We thought it was a Nollywood melodrama or comedy script until we saw the guns they firmly gripped with their hands. You can imagine the cold feeling the sight of a gun can elicit when it's pointed at a victim. We had to obey the robbers and reluctantly laid prostrate on the floor in utter humiliation. They were young boys whose bones we can 'crush' without much efforts, but they had guns and the threat was real. There was hysteria in the restaurant and the delicious food we had been eating, lost its alluring taste.
Flashes of negative thoughts ran through my mind in quick succession as I remembered my first encounter with robbers some years back in Benin City while on my way from choir rehearsals with another friend. We had unknowingly bumped into them as they robbed the neighborhood. With the gun pointed at us, my friend and I had to lie on dirt and debris under duress and one of them threatened to blow our heads up if we dared to raise our faces from our lowly position. Coincidentally, my friend who had grown up in Benin knew one of the guys, so it was all the more risky to try anything stupid.
While some of the customers at this Abuja restaurant shook in fear and anxiety, I recalled the conversation I had with Ben Okafor hours earlier. He had told me that in whatever circumstance I find myself in life, that I never should forget that "God is with me!'. He told me that circumstances (especially, the dire situations and challenges of life) have just one purpose: To make us doubt that God is with us! And that the difference between those who make exploits and impact their generation and those who don't to a large extent depends on this knowledge, for God had promised that 'never will He leave nor forsake us". As I stretched out on the floor, I calmed my heart and told myself that "God is with me". No sooner, my heart beat steadied and regularized its rhythm while the robbers frisked me to collect cash, and other valuables with me. At the end, none of us sustained any injuries even though the boys were rough for they overturned the tables and broke plates and cups in a bid to infuse fear in all of us.
Days after, I spent time to contemplate on Ben's words and I began to see that many biblical figures that had impacted their generation had an experiential knowledge of God and never allowed circumstances to shake their belief in God's abiding presence. It was this knowledge that made Joshua a mighty warrior because Moses had assured him that God would never leave nor forsake him :".As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you". (Joshua 1:5).
Daniel's friends willingly allowed themselves to be plunged into the blazing furnace because they were sure God was with them. In the same vein, Daniel became a friendly guest to some ravaging and hungry lions in the den because God was with him. A teenage David who was not a warrior was emboldened to fight Goliath ,the giant and warrior because he knew the God of Israel, Elohim , was with him. Paul knew that the ship he was traveling in as a prisoner was going to capsize, yet he was assured of his safety and that of other travelers because "God was with him".
In the past couple of weeks, I have had to face challenges and circumstances that had threatened to take my eyes off God's abiding presence. I now recognize that truly circumstances only act to make us forget that God had promised to be with us always. We often get consumed as well as discomfited by the events happening around us. We sometimes feel overwhelmed and lose heart in God's promises to us, but we need to fight the good fight of faith and stay on course. We need to fight the battle that is constantly waged by doubt and unbelief against our faith in God's word and His promises. We need to keep reminding ourselves that God's abiding presence is with us even when our feelings don't seem to detect it, or when we seem so uncertain and vacillating in our hearts about the veracity of God's promises to us.
If you forget every other thing you've ever heard, don't ever forget that 'God is with you' always even to the end of time. He is going to be with us from now till Time fades, and Eternity 'begins'. He is with us when we go through fiery circumstances, as much as when things work out for us. He is with us when we recall memorable experiences, as well as when we experience things we'd love to never remember. So don't ever despair because "GOD IS WITH YOU'.
The above truth notwithstanding, there's an error that we often slip into which led to Samson's fall to grass. He knew God was with Him but lived not within the confines of God's statutes and ordinances. He chose his own ways and preferences over and against what God sanctioned as right. He lived a life that took God for granted and expected God to accompany him wherever he went. That was unacceptable to God. We can't live based on our own terms and expect God's abiding presence. He lives with those that are humble, and those who are not self-conceited in their ways. He lives with those who recognize and acknowledge their utter dependence on God's grace. He strengthens those who recognize their weaknesses and inadequacies. He forms a shield around those who accept that they are vulnerable and weak, and need God's grace to push through life.
For us to enjoy the benefits of God's abiding presence therefore, we need to recognize how vulnerable we are without His presence. Such knowledge makes one desire His presence at every step of the way and at every stage in life such that we never truly can arrive at a point where we can't seek or need Him daily. That's our eternal configuration: to ever live totally dependent on God.
Final Thoughts: Isaiah 43:2
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
Isaiah 43:1-3 (in Context)
Read more articles by Felix Obi or search for articles on the same topic or others.