In Jeremiah 23:23-24 God asks, “Am I a God at hand and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? Do I not fill heaven and earth?” God’s searching questions reveal his omnipresent nature. This doctrine assures us of God’s presence throughout time and space. Regardless of our circumstances, he is there. When we sin, we do so before him. God is always with us, which should strengthen us as we fight sin and comfort us as we face challenges. Because God’s presence is the backdrop to all of life, it should inform how we live—especially our preaching and teaching.
The Creator of heaven and earth is always with us, watching over us.
Much joy, freedom, and rest comes with knowing that the Creator of heaven and earth is always with us, watching over us. Citing Psalm 118:6, the author of Hebrews testifies, “he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’. So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me'” (Hebrews 13:5-6). But I have found that this confidence can also lead us to false expectations. I have also found that it can lead to a sense of erroneous freedom and autonomy in ministry, especially how we handle the Bible. God’s presence corrects both, while comforting preachers in their task.
You Preach For ‘An Audience Of One’
There was a time in my life when I was so confident in the presence of God and his call on my life that I did not see the need to prepare a message for preaching. Thus when I prepared a message, the Bible functioned only as a proof text, propping up what I wanted to say. The danger of this type of preaching is that it fails to communicate the message that God desired when he inspired the text. The message of the passage becomes subject to the preacher rather than the preacher being subject to the Bible.
Our confidence in God’s presence should also serve as a warning.
It also overlooks the fact that our confidence in God’s presence and his call on our lives should serve as a warning for how we conduct ourselves in ministry. This was certainly how it affected Paul and his companions, especially in their handling of God’s word. They separated themselves from those whose preaching sprung from error, impurity, or the desire to deceive (1 Thessalonians 2:3).
Preaching Faithfully In God’s Presence
For Paul, the recognition that his preaching was done in the sight of God was a motivation for him to be faithful to the word of God, in contrast with “peddlers of God’s word (2 Corinthians 2:17). God’s presence meant that Paul pursued integrity and sincerity. Paul understood that he spoke in the sight of God. Therefore the recognition that God is with us in our gatherings, watching over us, should spur us onto faithfulness. It should motivate honest and careful proclamation, faithful to God’s word.
The recognition that God is with us should spur us onto faithfulness.
In Jeremiah 23:23-40 God’s omnipresence means he is aware of what the false prophets speak in his name. This results in God declaring judgment. God cares deeply about what is said in his name, about him, and to his church. His presence is not licence for the imagination. It is a reminder that God will judge teachers in the church more harshly (James 3:1). Because all preaching occurs in God’s presence, we must pursue faithfulness. God is a witness to all that we do. And he will hold us accountable.
Take Comfort From God’s Call
God’s presence should motivate faithfulness, stirring the desire for sincerity. But, for those who preach and teach in the church, the combination of God’s presence and our own calling is a wonderful comfort. For example Paul writes, “Our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
Paul understood himself as one entrusted with God’s gospel.
This is very important. For in the African church many preachers and so-called prophets use this confidence to justify countless unbiblical teachings. But, for Paul, his confidence in God’s calling meant he understood himself as one entrusted with God’s gospel. Therefore because we have confidence that we have been called by God to ministry, we should bear in mind that this call makes us subject to our Lord. We are ambassadors with a task and clear message. Therefore God’s calling comes with the need to watch carefully over our teaching.
God’s calling comes with the need to watch carefully over our teaching.
This point is evident elsewhere when Paul says, “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing…For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:1-3, 5). Paul found confidence through knowing that he was always preaching in the presence of God.
Pastor, Be Careful And Confident
Being confident of a calling to ministry is not an excuse for inventing your own message. As with Paul, understanding oneself as called by God means recognising that we are accountable to him as we minister in his presence. The church is his. Not ours. Because he is present both in our ministry and among his people we should seek sincerity and fidelity.
The church is God’s. Not ours.
This is how it was for the apostle Paul. Christian teachers and pastors are entrusted by God with his gospel. Therefore we should aim at honouring his call rather than treating it as a licence for preaching our own thoughts and passions. God cares about his truth much more than your sense of calling. Dreadful judgment awaits us if we are not intentionally faithful, good stewards of his gospel. Pastor, because all preaching is carried out in the presence of God, be careful that you are faithful. Let your confidence come from rightly handling God’s word.