What Makes the Difference?
14And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”—Exodus 33:14-16
I remember waking up in my car in Alberta after stopping at a gas station on my first-ever road trip across Canada. I stumbled out of my car, rubbed my eyes, and looked up to see for the first time the majesty of the Rocky Mountains. I was puny, standing literally spell bound as my eyes tried to take it all in.
I was in awe of some of God's greatest creations and yet it was just that—a creation of God. Now I felt even more puny standing before an awesome God. Even as a spiritually confused young man, I could recognize the glory of a mighty God on display and it brought me to a place of worship and prayer.
This past week at a pastors’ conference, I was reminded again what it is that we are going for at my church. And what should be going on in any church. Not just great ministries. Not just great community. Not just great music or preaching. Those are all good things to aim for, but they are not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal needs to be to recognize and display God's glory. That’s the purpose of every believer and church in this world.
When Moses was called to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he was scared at his own lack of abilities, power, and leadership. He faced the unimaginably difficult task of leading a rebellious, complaining, and stubborn group of people. In Exodus 33, Moses was speaking with God about how difficult things were and he asked God for something.
He didn't ask to be a better speaker. He didn't ask to be a better leader. He didn't ask for better conditions or better followers. He asked for one thing: God’s presence to go before them.
What is it that will make a church distinct from any other gathering of people? It is only the presence of God. If we are looking for earth-shattering, window-rattling, life-changing Sundays where people are impacted, marriages are healed, prodigals come home, and lives are changed forever—it only happens if God goes with us.
Father, if there is anything that I want more than to recognize and display Your glory, will You change my heart, God? I don’t want to go anywhere or do anything without Your presence. Nothing worthwhile happens when I lean on my own strength. Help me remember that compared to You, I am puny. I pray in Your Son’s awesome name, Amen.