For nearly three minutes on every space flight reentry, heat and disruption cause a communication blackout. But because of in-flight damage, Apollo 13’s famed re-entry extended to more than four minutes. As the three-minute mark came and went, NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston began trying to reestablish radio contact, fearing the worst:
“Odyssey, this is Houston. Do you read?” (Silence)
“Odyssey, this is Houston. Do you read me?” (Silence)
“Odyssey, this is Houston. Do you read?” (No reply)
“Odyssey, this is Houston. Do you read?” (Still no answer)
“Odyssey, this is Houston. Do you read me? (Nothing)
“Odyssey, this is Houston. Do you read?” (Still nothing)
God Is Always Present and Available
What if you called out to the heavens in prayer, uncertain if God was there? “God, do You hear me? Lord, are you there?” When Mission Control attempted to reach the Apollo 13 crew, they did not know whether the men had survived re-entry. Hope dwindled as the seconds ticked by. Finally, Apollo 13’s reply came: “Hello, Houston. This is Odyssey. It’s good to see you again!”
It is one thing to call out to someone you know is there but who does not answer. There is obviously a reason for their silence. It is an altogether different matter not to know if anyone is there. Imagine how you would feel if you had no guarantee that God was there when you needed Him. The assurance that God is always present in our life is the Christian’s deepest source of security. Even if He delays (Daniel 10:1-14) or His answer is “No” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), that’s okay. What isn’t okay is a lack of assurance that God is always present in our lives.
Fortunately, that is not something about which we have to wonder. We will never have to wonder whether God is listening when we speak into the dark: “God, it’s me. Are You there?”
When Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, he demonstrated complete faith in God’s presence. For hours, Baal’s prophets begged him to consume a sacrifice on the altar by sending fire from heaven. They danced, yelled, prayed, cut themselves—but the heavens were silent. Elijah taunted them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” (1 Kings 18:27, NLT). But Baal never answered because he wasn’t there—then or now.
As soon as Elijah called out to the God of Israel, Almighty God responded with fire that consumed the sacrifice. Elijah never doubted God’s presence in his life because he understood that God was always there. God never gets distracted, forgets, oversleeps, or goes on vacation.
Even if we try to avoid God’s presence—something I don’t recommend—we find He meets us around every corner. That’s what Jonah discovered when he attempted to flee from God and met Him in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. And King David found the same thing: “You have hedged me behind and before, … Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (Psalm 139:5, 7) David may have written this as he thought about his sins of adultery and murder that he tried to conceal. Far better, he concluded, to know that God is always there, even when we wish He weren’t, than to wonder if He is there when we truly need Him.
God’s Spirit Is Active and Knowable
God told the prophet Jeremiah that He “[fills] heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 23:24). And the apostle Paul told the skeptics in Athens that God “is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:27-28). That means God is as close to you, right now, as the air you breathe—even closer. Regardless of where you are, what you are doing, or how you feel, God is present with you.
One of the most amazing stories in the Bible about God’s presence is when Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt by his own brothers. Despite this ordeal, the Bible says that God was with him. The official who bought Joseph, Potiphar, eventually put Joseph in charge of all his affairs: “The LORD was with Joseph,” even as a slave (Genesis 39:2). Even when Joseph was wrongly accused and thrown into prison, “the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor” with the prison officials (Genesis 39:21).
Interestingly, the Bible tells us what happened as a result of God’s presence in Joseph’s life. First, Potiphar was introduced to Joseph’s God: “And [Potiphar] saw that the LORD was with [Joseph] and that the LORD made all he did to prosper in his hand” (Genesis 39:3). For the first time in his life, an Egyptian ruler observed the influence of Joseph’s God—and was impressed.
Second, because God was with Joseph in prison, Joseph was eventually brought before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to interpret his dreams. Pharaoh was so impressed with the power of Joseph’s God, he said, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?” (Genesis 41:38) As a result of God’s presence in Joseph’s life, Pharaoh made Joseph second in command over Egypt.
Egypt’s royalty welcomed God’s presence in the royal court because they had witnessed God’s involvement in Joseph’s life. As Joseph submitted to God’s plan for his life, God granted him favor. And therein lies a significant reason for God being with you and me wherever we are, regardless of the situation: God wants to make His presence known to others through us.
Yes, God is with us for our benefit. He teaches us, comforts us, guides us, corrects us, encourages us, and celebrates with us. But if we walk hand in hand with Him, by His Spirit, others will recognize the hope we have, and God will reveal Himself to them through us (1 Peter 3:15). We experience His blessing as we bring others into His presence.
Like Joseph, we may be hard-pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down for a time. That does not mean we have reason to feel crushed, despair, forsaken, or destroyed. God is here. He is working all things together for our good. Trust me: someone is going to notice. And they are going to want to know why.
Then you will have the opportunity to tell someone who thinks God is far off that He is as close to them as they are to you—because God is always present with you by His Spirit. Instead of that person speaking into the darkness and hearing silence in return, it will be your privilege to show them what it means to talk to the God who is always near.
Never forget: God is always present with you. And through you, He can become personally present to others.