The big day comes. You expect someone you care about to attend this important event. Then word comes: "I cannot attend your party, but I will be with you in spirit." Like a deflated balloon, you feel empty because your well-intentioned friend won't be physically present.
It is sometimes scant comfort to know that someone might be thinking of you when he is away. Nothing can match one's physical company. Sometimes, the desire to be with someone is so strong, we say we can sense his or her presence. This is often the case regarding departed loved ones.
Only one person in history has given true substance to the promise, "I will be with you in spirit."
When Jesus gave his final talk to his disciples before his crucifixion, he spoke of his departure, saying, "Because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you" (John 16:6, 7). Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit, "whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39). In speaking of his eventual return, he promised, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you" (John 14:18). Messiah pledged to return physically one day, proved it by his bodily resurrection (Luke 24:39), and promised his followers to be with them in the meantime, in the person of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:17). The Spirit dwells within each believer as teacher and comforter--it doesn't get more intimate than that!
But what of believers who lived before Christ came? What comfort did they have?
In numerous passages, God told His people, "I will not leave you or forsake you" (Joshua 1:5 et. al.) Did He physically walk among them? Of course not, because God is Spirit (John 4:24). But just because He was not touchable doesn't mean He wasn't with them in His fullness. He was no less present than He will be in the new heaven and earth (Revelation 21:3), and no less present than He was in Jesus Christ: "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority" (Colossians 2:9, 10).
Christians wait with patience and security for the physical return of Christ to establish his kingdom: "The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom" (2 Timothy 4:18). But we don't wait alone. Although the present age is replete with confusion and conflict, dark and deceptive doorways, and temptations and tenets galore, there is an experienced guide to help us through life: "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:26).
As if that weren't encouragement enough, Jesus also said, "Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him" (John 14:19-21). Because Jesus Christ rose bodily from the grave, he can be with us forever. Nothing can keep us from his love (Romans 8:35-39).
God loves--and offers His presence to--the whole world (John 3:16), but He wants to be loved in return so He can live in you. If anyone will worship Him "in spirit and truth" (John 4:24), He will be with him or her "in spirit."
Alan is a freelance devotional writer for Lifestyles Over 50 and the Allentown, PA, Morning Call. He is also the Peer-less Reviewer (General Editor) for Bridgeway Homeschool Academy in Catasauqua, PA, a Christian homeschool academy. Passionate about reviving theology and church methodology.
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