Recently I spent a few days alone with the Lord meditating and seeking His presence and direction. One of the themes of my time alone was “being occupied with God.” What does it mean, what does it look like, how does it happen? Being occupied with God isn’t something that comes naturally. The Spirit of God indwells us, but most of the time we are very good at pushing His presence to the background. We are occupied by so much, and so many things are vying for our attention, and they are not all bad.
However, good things that take the place of God are idolatrous. So what does it mean to be occupied with God? One day I was riding my motorcycle home and it began to rain. Rain and motorcycles can be a dangerous combination. The wind from trucks pushed me from side to side. Standing water threatened to cause my tires to hydroplane. Spray from cars splashed my helmet visor obscuring my vision. These treacherous conditions were like perfidious predators, crouching to pounce at any moment. The key was concentration. I had to occupy myself with nothing but the task of riding my motorcycle. There was no any room for watching the passing scenery. I could not allow errant thoughts to distract me from this one task. The stakes were too high. One slip and the bike would slide out from under me and the results would be disastrous. Every muscle, every skill, every thought was dedicated into one action – riding the motorcycle.
Being occupied with God is similar. Peter says that the devil is like a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour. Even in our best moments he desires to bring destruction to our lives. When we let our guard down, when we become occupied with anything but God, we are open to his schemes. All our spiritual skills, disciplines, and thoughts must be occupied with the one task of knowing God and being occupied with Him.
Whenever I have imagined a total, God occupied person pictures of monks praying in continuous silence come to mind. We need not cloister ourselves away to be occupied by God. In fact the disciplines of occupation are a mixture of isolation and presence in the community of believers. In a fast paced culture there is a need to be isolated from its distractions so that we can be totally focused and occupied with God. Silence and meditation is a lost discipline in the Christian life. We rush, rush, rush and think that we can find God in the seconds we offer Him each day. We have bought into the lie that 5-minute devotions are sufficient to hear the voice of God. We need to spend extended time thinking deeply on His Word and listening to His voice. For most of us this can’t happen everyday. But regular times of silence and meditation are essential to truly hear what God has to say.
Silence and mediation, however, are not enough to keep us from the devils schemes. To truly be occupied with God we are called to live in authentic, healthy community. Most Christians don’t live in healthy community. We pick and choose what we want from a smorgasbord of activities and walk away losing out on true community. The New Testament letters were either written to churches or to leaders who were leading communities. American Christianity reads the New Testament as a letter to them personally and they tend to apply it in isolation to the community. The reality is that these letters were written to communities of people, and though individuals will apply the principles, it should be done within the context of community. We are occupied with God when we are occupied with His body. Jesus said that when we minister to the least of these we are ministering to Him.
This does not exclude our involvement with work, family, and leisure. Never the less, if our focus is not on the disciplines and practices of being occupied with God, we have elevated good things to the status of idols. So how do the two worlds collide? That is for another blog. I’m just saying….