Theologians have, for years, come up with all kinds of ways to describe God. And a lot of the words that they’ve come up with to describe God begin with the word OMNI. That’s the title of this four-part series. Omni means “all.”
This is part four, Omnipresent.
Tonight is the fourth and final part of a four-part series called Omni. We’ve been talking about how our God is the OMNIGOD. This word, Omni means all. And so the first week we talked about how God is the OMNIGOD, the one, true God. We said He is omnipotent (all-powerful). He is Omniscient (All-knowing.) He is Omnibenevolent (All loving – All Good) and He is Omnipresent (all present – simultaneously existing everywhere in time and space all at the same time.) In Week Two we dug more deeply into the first two omnis, God’s Omnipotence and God’s Omniscience. We also talked about how our God loves to share with us. If we have faith and if we are humble He is happy to share His power and knowledge with us so that anything He calls us to do, no matter how impossible it might seem, will be possible for us.
Last week we talked about the Omnibenevolence of God. He’s all good, all loving, never evil, would never harm us. And Now, this week, we’re talking about the omnipresence of God, that God is all places at all times, that there’s no place you can go, that God is not there. There’s no time that you could travel to that God is not there. God is omnipresent. That’s what we’re going to talk about tonight. If you are ready to hear what God has put on my heart to share with you tonight, would you give me some encouragement and say or type HIT ME WIT IT G! I’M READY! Awesome. Mahalo. Let’s get into it!
In May of this year, a Pennsylvanian won the $516 million Mega Millions jackpot. So I just wanted us to think about this. Use your imagination. What if you won the next big lottery and it was a $2 billion dollar prize, the greatest lottery prize ever? Nobody else won it with you. It’s all you baby! You have the winning ticket and all you have to do is go claim it. You just have to go down to the office and pick it up, say, “Hey, I’m here, I’m cashing in this ticket. I want it. It’s my money. Give it to me.”
But now, let’s further suppose because I understand this is the case, when you pick up a lottery prize, evidently, as I understand it, you have six months to do so, otherwise you miss out on it. You’ve got to get down there within six months or they just say, well, they didn’t claim it. It goes back in the pot and it eventually goes to somebody else. And so you’ve got six months to go pick this thing up. But let’s also imagine that you are a huge sports fan, a rabid sports fanatic. Let’s further assume that you are, primarily, an NFL football radical sports fanatic. Let’s further assume that you are actually a Pittsburgh Steelers fan — like me —- and let’s further assume that you get so caught up in the rest of this fall and going into the winter in the Steelers race towards their next Super Bowl ring, that you forget all about having this winning lottery ticket in your wallet. The months go by and the months go by and then we get into basketball season. You’re really focusing on all these things that you are interested in. And you totally forget to go cash in your winning 2 billion dollar lottery ticket and you miss out on it.
What would people say about you in that situation? They would say you are an idiot right? What a fool! What a moron! What were you thinking? You missed out on 2 billion dollars for a far lesser pursuit, for something that really wasn’t as big of a deal. Why did you put all your focus on watching games on TV when you had 2 billion dollars just waiting to be picked up? What the heck were you thinking? Right? And yet, billions of people are surrounded by the greatest prize in mankind, the Omnipresence of our OMNIGOD. The Holy Spirit of God is right here, nearby, just as easily available as having that ticket in your wallet. OMNIGOD is right here, this close, closer than we can imagine. And yet we spend our lives pursuing all kinds of lesser interests. We blow all of our time and all of our energy on other pursuits and we miss out completely on really knowing God, even though He is always right here. Closer than a whisper away.
Where do you sense the presence of God most in your life? Most people would say “When I’m outdoors. When I’m near the ocean or near a mountain or looking up at the stars or out in the woods, I just feel a better connection to God somehow. Somehow when I’m out in the middle of God’s creation, that’s when I really seem to connect best with God. That’s when I really feel like His presence is all around me.” Is that you? Do you agree with that? Say or type THAT’S ME for me. The Apostle Paul would agree with us. He says in Romans, chapter one that all we have to do is go out and look at God’s handiwork. If we see His stars, if we see His mountains, if we see the creation of God, it’s so amazing. It’s so huge! It’s so magnificent that there MUST be a Creator behind the creation. The design is so incredible. There MUST be a Designer behind the design.
In fact, Paul goes so far as to say men are without excuse. He says if you can go out and look at the magnificent creation of God, then you have no excuse for not believing in the existence of God. That’s how far Paul takes it. It’s not just that God obviously exists though. The Bible is clear that God can be known by us as well. The Bible is clear that God is always close by, near to us, accessible. Why don’t we always feel that way though? Why does God seem close in some places but not in others? What is it about these quiet nature kinds of places that make us feel like God is close by? But when we get in really busy, loud, hurried, stressful places, God seems far away.
Maybe even when you come to church here is a place you would say, you know, when we’re singing and worshiping together I just really feel the presence of God. But when I leave this place, I don’t really feel God’s presence that that strongly anymore. Some people would maybe even go so far as to say, “Oh, well, that’s because the church is the house of God. That’s where God lives. It’s His house. That’s where God hangs out. And so when I go to church, that’s where I find God. And when I leave church, I leave God behind me.” Is that really the Scriptural truth about God though? Is He more present, more accessible here than He is in any other place? My goal for you tonight is that you would leave this place realizing that God is always in you and always around you, always near you, no matter what you do, no matter where you go. And that as you leave this place tonight, I pray you would leave with a renewed commitment to pay closer attention to His presence in your life. And don’t let yourself be distracted by lesser things and end up missing out on the greater prize of knowing God. Three hundred and sixty years ago, a philosophy began to develop in England, that eventually captured the minds of the upper classes in Europe. Then, later on, as America began to form, this philosophy even found its way into the upper classes of America. Eventually, people like Benjamin Franklin and George Washington and Thomas Jefferson adopted this philosophy. And it could just as appropriately be called their theology because it was their system of belief in God. Some of the particulars of their beliefs were these. Number one, there is a God. Number two, God deserves our worship. Number three, we ought to turn away from doing wrong and live ethical, moral lives. Number four, God will reward good and punish wrongdoing, but only when this life is through. Number five, all religions basically believe these same things. Thus, we should be tolerant of all religions. Sixth, God created the world and established unchangeable laws which require no further involvement by Him. Seventh, God is there in heaven. We are here on Earth. We are responsible for getting on with living the life God gave us and God doesn’t interfere with life on earth. He stays separated from His creation.
A lot of people would say, “Hey, I don’t see anything wrong with that. Sounds about right to me.” Well, that’s actually a belief called Deism. It’s a belief that God is the creator. He got everything rolling, created everything, and such. He established a moral good and a moral evil in the world and then He just bowed out and left it all up to us. Deism says God started the ball rolling and then He stepped back and said, “OK, you’re on your own. I’m not going to be personally involved in what you’re doing.
I’m just going to sit back and kind of cheer you on from afar and hope the best. I’m just going to wait and see what happens. You are on your own.” For many people, they would not say they are deists, they would consider themselves Christians, but they still think of God as someone they have go to. They have to go to Him in prayer as if their prayers have to cross some vast distance of some kind to get to God waaaaay up in heaven, right? They go to Him or look up to Him and they worship Him as though He’s looking down on them from some far, distant place. How often do we look up or point up when we pray to God or talk about God. There’s God. Waaaaaay up there in heaven and here we are waaaaaaaay down here on earth.
We don’t tend to think of God as being in our geometry class with us. We don’t tend to think of God as being with us when we’re changing a diaper or fixing a computer or making a sales presentation. In fact, in those situations, we rarely, if ever, think of God. And if we do, it’s always as a last resort when everything we have already tried has failed. Finally, at the end of our rope, we might say, “OK, God, I know this isn’t really your thing, sorry to bother You. I know You are super busy waaaaaaaay up there in heaven but, can you come down here for a little bit and help me out?” Right? That’s pretty common for most of us. But it act really a Biblically accurate understanding of God? Where is God? Listen to what King David says about God in Psalm 139.
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. 9 If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, 10 Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” 12 Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. ~ Psalm 139:7-12
David is imagining the furthest distances away from him in his worldview. Up, down, east, west. He says, no matter which direction I choose, I can go as far a possible and I will find that God is already there. In our modern world, I can put it this way. You could get in a spaceship and you could travel at the speed of light for a million years. You would be a million light-years away from where we are right now, and you would get there and find that God is already there. And listen, don’t miss this. It’s not that He raced you to that place and He got there just a second ahead of you. It’s that He had already been there from eternity past. He is Omnipresent, everywhere at every time. What does it mean when we say God is present everywhere when we say He is OMNI-present? I’m going to readily admit that what I’m about to describe to you, it’s difficult to describe, and it’s difficult to comprehend.
That’s because we’re dealing with categories outside of our human experience. For example, when we talk about this idea of eternity, eternity past and eternity future, that’s hard for us to grasp. Go back an infinite amount of time and go forward an infinite amount of time. There’s no stopping point either way. That’s really hard for us to grasp. And the infiniteness of space, that’s also a thing that’s very difficult for us to grasp.
I remember as a little kid thinking “What do you mean space is infinite? It goes on forever.? I mean, no, it’s got to stop somewhere. You’ve got to run into a wall somewhere. Right?” But then, I thought, “Whoa! Even if there is a wall out there somewhere, what’s on the other side of that wall? BOOM MIND BLOWN!” And so these ideas of infiniteness and the omnipresence of God in every time and in ever place, that’s hard. It’s really difficult for us to grasp. As difficult as it is to comprehend, the Bible is very clear. It still declares it over and over again as absolutely factual. This is a truth about God. Listen to what Jeremiah, the prophet, says. He’s speaking for the Lord. He says,
23 “Am I a God who is near,” declares the Lord, “And not a God far off? 24 “Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?” declares the Lord. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord. ~ Jeremiah 23:23-24
Toward the end of His earthly human ministry, Jesus was explaining this truth to the disciples. He was preparing them for the exit of His physical body from earth but reminding them that His Spirit, which has always been with them as well, would still be with them in the future, in an even more profound and closer way. He said,
16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. 20 In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. ~ John 14:16-20
What does that mean that we are in God and God is in us? Let me illustrate it this way. I take this sponge and I immerse it in this bucket of water. l squeeze the sponge and get all of the air out of it and then I let go so that the sponge fills up with water but it’s still submerged in the water as well. Now, you’d say there’s water IN that sponge and there’s water AROUND that sponge, but you’d also say the sponge is IN the water, right? The water is in the sponge and the sponge is in the water. Now, think of this bucket of water being infinitely wide and infinitely tall, no boundaries, no edges, no container, just an infinite sea of water. Got that in your imagination? Now, think that this tiny sponge represents all of creation. All of matter. All of time. All of energy. Everything, including you and me. We’re in this infinitely tall, infinitely wide, endless sea of water. Like this sponge, the water is in us and the water is around us. The water is in us and we are in the water. That’s how Jesus is describing the Omnipresent Holy Spirit of God to us.
Jesus said the Holy Spirt will make His abode, His dwelling, with you and He will be in you and you will be in Him. Jesus says I am in the Father and He is in Me and I am in you and you are in Me. When God talks about being in you, He’s saying, look, it’s not that I can be contained in you or even contained in the universe. I am everything. All of the universe, all time, matter, space, every person, you, are actually contained inside of me. That’s how God is everywhere in every time because nothing exists outside of God. God says “All of Me infuses you. There is nowhere and no when that I am not. Everywhere and every when is inside of me. Now, amazingly, even though God is present everywhere in His creation, God is still also distinct from it.
While the sponge is part of Him, He is not the sponge, He’s the water. We’re the sponge. He’s the water. Even though He’s everywhere, He’s in us, we’re in Him, there is still a distinctness, there is still a separateness that He is something entirely other than we are. He created us inside of Himself. The Apostle Paul talks about this in Colossians 1:15-17 as he talks both Jesus, our creator God. Paul says of Jesus:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. ~ Colossians 1:15-17
Pantheistic people, and their New Age counterparts, would want us to believe that everywhere and everything IS God. That’s what the pantheists and the new age person believes, that the Universe itself is God. That’s not what Christians believe. A pantheist would say God minus the universe equals nothing, they are one and the same. On the other hand, Christian Theists would say God minus the universe still equals God. God is infinite and eternal and wholly other than what we are. The universe exists within Him and not the other way around. So again, as a fish lives in the presence of water, we live in the presence of God. As a bird flies in the presence of the air. So we live in the presence of God. We are sponge, Jesus is water. He’s everywhere, which means he is with us here. God is nearer to us than our own flesh is to our bones. God is nearer to us than the air is to our breath. God cannot be far from us that live and have every motion in Him. Jesus and Paul were not saying we live by God, near God, but in God.
This truth of the Omnipotence of God confronts us, it challenges us and it comforts us too. Let’s talk about how it confronts us first. First of all, how many people live today in our world as if God doesn’t see anything they do, doesn’t care about what they do? How many live their whole lives as if there is no God? So many people act one way when other people are watching but act a completely different way when they are alone. They forgot that God is everywhere and sees everything all the time. People have greater regard for the eyes of other people than they do for God’s eyes? We’re guilty of that sometimes too aren’t we? This truth confronts us. We are careful not to do bad things or say bad things when other people can see us, hear us, but we don’t really think twice about doing it, saying it, knowing that God sees and hears us at all times.
So often we treat the eyes and the ears and the knowledge of our parents or our spouse or our kids or our friends or even complete strangers better than we treat the all-seeing, all-hearing, everywhere present God. This should confront us because even children, at least older children, have the good sense to only disobey their parents out of the sight of their parents, right? But do we think so little about our omnipresent God, do we think so little of God Himself, that we disregard His wishes and sin against His ways, right in front of Him, right in His very presence? If we go on sinning in the very presence of God, how could that be called anything but rebellion, an act of rebellion against God? So the omnipresence of God confronts us. It forces us to either repent or to at least acknowledge our rebellion against God’s ways. The truth of God’s omnipresence confronts us.
The second thing, the omnipresence of God does is it challenges us. It challenges us to live in relationship with God at all times, to recognize that God is in your schoolroom, that God is in your car, that God is in your home, that God is in your office, God’s going to be at work with you tomorrow. And He longs for you to live in relationship with Him. He longs for you to experience Him, to love Him the way Je loves you. The truth is that when we live each day as if God were someplace else, we really deaden the relationship that we have with Him. Imagine if every time you were with your spouse or your parents or your friends you were constantly on the phone with someone else and you were completely ignoring the people you were with? We do that with God all the time.
Now, some people will protest to me, “Pastor Greg, how can anyone think of God all the time? I mean, wouldn’t that be burdensome to try to keep God constantly at the forefront, to constantly try to keep thoughts of God in the focus of the middle of all of my fast-paced and complex days? How could anybody do that? That would be so burdensome to always have to be thinking about God all the time?” A.W. Towser in his book “The Incredible Christian” writes this about that question. He says, “The wings of the dove do not weigh it down, but they carry it and support it. Likewise, the thought of God is never a burden. It is a gentle breeze which bears us up, a hand which supports us and raises us alight. It guides us and enlivens us even when we do not feel it working in us.” Those down through history who have lived with a daily moment by moment awareness of the presence of God in their life tell us this is a discipline that has to be cultivated.
But once cultivated, it becomes as natural as responding to someone we love, someone we have a familial or friendship relationship with. See, the truth of God’s omnipresence challenges us to live in relationship with him continually. That’s the intimacy that God wants us to have with Him. That’s the intimacy He longs for with us. He formed us in the womb. He knows our frame. He knew us and saw us when we were still an embryo. He fashions our days. He knows our thoughts. He hears our words. He knows when we sit down. He knows when we stand up. He protects us. His hand is upon us. The one who inhabits all things is near to us. We can’t escape His presence in the light. He sees us in the dark. He always sees us, always knows us. We’re the continual objects of his thoughts in his love. He searches us. He changes us. God challenges us to live in that same kind of intimate relationship with him. That’s amazing. God’s omnipresence confronts us, it challenges us and lastly, it comforts us.
Think about how you feel when someone you love deeply, unexpectedly shows up at your place of work or unexpectedly shows up in a time of trouble. Well, that’s not a burden to you, is it? It’s a delight. It’s a relief. Oh, I’m so glad to see you. I’m so glad you’re here. I’m having such a bad day. You’ve lightened my load by showing up and being my friend today. Their presence pulls you out of the near-sightedness of the moment and gives you a broader perspective on what’s really important in your life. That’s the way God is. Consciously experiencing the presence of God will give you peace, a peace that passes all understanding. Thinking about the presence of God isn’t a burden. It’s a burden carrier.
Think especially of the times when we experience great loss in life, maybe it’s loss of a job, maybe it’s loss of finances, maybe it’s the loss of a loved one, the loss of our own health. Maybe it’s the loss of a marriage, the loss of a spouse, the death of a parent. Often, we feel like we struggle with our relationship with God in those times, sometimes we feel like God has let us down in some way. We feel like God allowed us to be harmed and that feels unfair. Often, in the aftermath of that loss, people struggle greatly with their relationship with God. That’s when a lot of people come to see me as a pastor. They’ve lost a marriage or they’ve lost a job or they’ve lost a parent or a spouse or a child to death. And they’re struggling with their relationship with God, they’re really doubting. Is He really nearby? Is He really available to me to draw strength from and wisdom from and comfort from?
I’ll be honest. That’s happened to me on a few occasions. I’ll be honest with you, as a Christian, I’ve had times of great loss in my life where I skittered a little bit on my road of life following God and wondered, are you still here, God? Are you still in control? Are you still with me? Because that one caught me out of the blue. I didn’t see that one coming at all. And, God, this is really hard. Where are you God? One of those times happened many years ago when my grandfather died. It really just kind of caught me completely off guard. My grandfather was this great guy. I mean, just from the old school of grandpas, you know? He was like superman to me. I mean, he seemed like he was, you know, infinite himself. I couldn’t even imagine my grandfather dying. What could ever possibly hurt my grandfather? He was just bigger than life, you know?
And then, all of a sudden one day he had a massive heart attack and he ended up dying a few days later. And it was just traumatizing. I didn’t expect it. He was the first person I’d ever been really close to in my life that died. And I just didn’t know what to do with that. And so here I was, a pastor at the time, and I’m up there every week telling people, “Trust in God. And, you know, He’s with you and you don’t have to worry and blah, blah, blah. And here I was, the whole time, secretly, hypocritically, inwardly dying, saying, “Oh, my gosh! God? Are you still here? God, this is so painful. God, this is so hard. And I didn’t see this coming. I can’t see You anymore. I can’t feel You anymore!”
I admitted to my wife, Annette, “You know, don’t tell anybody else, but I can’t find God. I feel like I’ve lost Him somewhere. You know, just a couple of weeks ago, I knew exactly where he was. I had this very visible image of, hey, God’s right here, He’s right here with me, so nearby. But now in this time of loss, I’m really struggling. I feel like I’m looking for God and I can’t find him. During that same time, we were doing a big cookout fundraiser at our church in North Carolina. Every year we would cook nine pigs and two hundred chickens and then we’d sell barbeque plates to raise money for our building project. I was out there with the men. The men were in charge of cooking the pigs all night long. We’d burn these giant piles of wood down into coals and shovel the coals underneath these grills where the pigs were and we’d cook them. And it was an all-night process. And so I was out stoking this massive fire. Most of the night the fire was real bright and I was staring at it most of the night. You know how your eyes adjust to a bright light.
So, I took a break at one point, went over and laid down the hood of my car and was trying to just look out and gaze at the stars for a while and kind of be alone with my thoughts and I was still really mourning the loss of my grandfather at that time. I was praying and saying, “God, you know, I just I still feel so far away from you. I just. Are you still there? I feel like you’re missing. I feel like you’re gone.” And as I was laying there, I was trying to look at the stars. I noticed I couldn’t see any stars at all. It was like a completely starless night, which was really bizarre. How can there be no clouds and still no stars. And I thought, this is strange. I can’t see any stars. The longer I laid there, though, my eyes begin to adjust to the different level of light than when they were looking at the big fire.
And as my eyes adjusted, the stars began to appear one by one until eventually there were a ton of stars visible. And in that moment I felt like God spoke to my heart. And he said, “Greg, just like you were laying here feeling like there were no stars, you couldn’t see any stars, you were really just unaware that the stars were really there. You just had to focus your eyes a little bit more and wait a little while, and then the stars came into your field of vision again. Right?”And I was like “Right! Lord, I saw that.” He said, “Greg, that’s that’s what’s going on with you and Me right now. You are looking and you’re saying, I don’t see God, He’s not here. He’s not here. He’s not here. I’m here Greg. I’m still here. I’ve been here all along. You have just been focusing so hard on your grief it is keeping you from seeing Me. I’m still here. Even when you can’t see me, I’m still here. I’m still nearby. Just keep focusing on me and waiting and I’ll become clear to you again.”And He did.
Maybe you can relate to that a little bit. Maybe you’re dealing with something like that right now in your life. See, loss of any kind sometimes calls the existence of God into question for us. And in our pain we’re tempted to reject God, to stop looking for Him, to stop speaking to Him. All we need to do to solve the situation is look more closely for Him, focus more intently on Him. And yet for some reason, we often hesitate to take that course of action. We are angry at Him, disappointed in Him, frustrated with him, so we try to move away and we wrestle in our souls to believe. Yet, even when we aren’t aware, we are being omnicomforted by the omnipresence of God. Eventually we come out of that grief cloud and we discover that God, in His sovereignty, never stopped being in a relationship with us. God has said, I will never leave you or forsake you. It’s a promise that He is always and everywhere present. This is the way the prophet Isaiah says it. He’s speaking for the Lord, he says.
But now thus says the Lord, your creator Jacob, and he who formed you Israel. Do not fear for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you and through the rivers they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire you will not be scorched. Nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior. ~ Isaiah 43:1-3a And He goes on and on and on throughout that entire passage of Scripture in Isaiah. Forty-three. It’s the speech of a proud, loving and involved father. This is both the omnipresence and the omnibenevolence of God that we talked about last week.
And to get the gist of this passionate view of God towards his children, you can imagine a father walking down the road with his son’s hand in his own hand, and the child is there enjoying the presence of his father, knowing that he is loved by his father. And then all of a sudden the father reaches down and scoops his son up off of his feet into his arms and gives him a tight hug and showers him with kisses and tells him he loves them more than life itself. And then he sets the boy back down again and they continue walking together hand in hand. The child already knew his father loved him, there’s no doubt. But then, for no particular reason at all, his father swoops him up and showers an added measure of assurance and comfort on him. In that moment, swept up in his daddy’s arms, the joy of knowing that this extra love being showered on him by his father isn’t based on anything he has done to earn it or deserve it, but simply is flowing out of the heart of his father to show him comfort. Always with us, always for us, always loving us. That’s what it means for our Father God to be omnipresent and omnibenevolent. What will you do with the truth of the omnipresence of God?
The God who is swooping us all up into His arms right now, is near, even right here, right now. He’s the God we worship, not some distant deity, not the deist God whose sits far away on a porch, dispassionate and uninvolved. No. No way. Our OmniGod is a personal God, omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent and omnipresent. Our is with us and promises He will never leave us. If you will just allow that truth, to saturate your mind, it will truly confront you and challenge you but it will also give you profound comfort today. AMEN?
~~~~~ LET’S PRAY ~~~~~