Losing Contact with God

Oh that I knew where I might find him," cried the distraught Job. Have you lost contact with God? The third in a series of worship talks given at the General Conference, Washington, D.C.

H. M. Tippett, Associate Book Editor, Review and Herald

Oh that I knew where I might find him," cried the distraught Job. When we read the thirty-first chapter of Job and realize what a wonderful man Job was, we are puzzled to hear him admitting that somehow he had lost contact with God. That thirty-first chapter of Job is called by Biblical scholars Job's oath of clearing, in which he justified himself in the matter of all the charges brought against him. He hadn't taken bribes. He had been a good father, a merciful ruler to his house­hold of servants. He had dealt bread to the hungry and been hospitable to the stranger. He had kept himself morally pure—he had worshiped God. But now God seemed far off. How easy it is to lose contact with God —in the nation, in the church, in the home, and in the human heart.

And perhaps we lose Him because we are so self-sufficient that we fail to take hold of His wisdom and power. Instead of a "Thus saith the Lord" we choose our own authorities—human wisdom instead of God's counsel, organizational power in­stead of God's strength, material wealth and social security instead of God's provi­dence. It is no wonder that so many people lose God when their source of reference is their emotions—the way they feel about a thing; or in their learning—what their ma­jor professor said at the university.

Some lose God because their frame of reference is their experience, and they flout the experience of anyone else. Some lose God in private interpretations of the Bible. Some lose Him in private interpre­tations of the Testimonies. Their own in­terpretations become the authority. Some find their authority in the church paper, and see all its statements as ex cathedra

The third in a series of worship taMs given at the General Conference, Washington, D.C. pronouncements of truth. It is surprising how many letters F. D. Nichol gets asking him to arbitrate in matters of dispute. Some find their authority in tradition, as did the Pharisees. It was a long time, when I was on the staff at Emmanuel Missionary College, before we could get away from the authoritarianism of what was done at Battle Creek College in the 1880's.

And all the while the Lord is saying, "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteous­ness, in the earth: for in these things I de­light, saith the Lord" (Jer. 9:23, 24). Why do we so constantly grope for God when He says He is not far away from any one of us?

Some seem unable to see God other-where than in the church. They feel close to Him at the chancel rail but not around the family altar, maybe because it is a per­functory chore. They find Him in a vesper organ mood but not in the song of a cardi­nal on a spring day. Paul said, "God that made the world and all things therein, see­ing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands" (Acts 17:24). How astonishing a statement indeed. What! these beautiful memorial churches of the land, with their Gothic stone traceries, their art-glass windows that filter the sunlight into beautiful sanctuar­ies where altar cloth and silver chalice and golden crosier combine with the brooding silence to invoke the devotional mood—these, you say, beloved Paul, are not God's dwelling places? And to my dim under­standing comes the revelation that while these sanctuaries built to His praise are God's meeting places with men, He does not dwell within the walls of man-made edifices, though they be built of marble and the cedars of Lebanon.

Where, then, may we find Him? Isaiah gives us the answer: "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eter­nity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit" (Isa. 57:15). Yes, God dwells in human life, and par­ticularly with those whose hearts are yielded to His will. Although he dwells in eternity He condescends to dwell with us in time, and even as Christ was made flesh and dwelt among us, so may we be made spirit and fellowship with Him.

One time when I was in great physical anguish, which I will not take time to re­late, my attention was attracted to 1 Corin­thians 10:22—"Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?" And I thought of the many times I had tried to work out problems in my own strength. I trusted in experience, in pride of intellect, in varied resources at hand, to solve my problem, and overlooked the fact that I had been brought into a strait place that God could reveal Himself to me. And there was the good Lord standing with folded arms on the side lines, jealous of the means I was using when with a word He could bring me out into a happy solution of my troubles. And when I yielded my will to Him, He did.

But in that connection I have always marveled at the simple means God so often uses to solve a seemingly impossible prob­lem. I think of the native Christian pastor in an African jungle, who was importuned by a woman with only a sketchy knowl­edge of God to pray for her son, apparently dying with a jungle fever. He was no physi­cian, but had had one contact at a Durban hospital where he had seen them use ice packs on fever patients. He told the woman it would be presumption to pray for ice out there in the 1000 temperature. But she asked, "If He is God why can't He do it?" The poor distraught man knew nothing else to do than to honor the wom­an's faith, and while he was praying a sud­den storm piled hailstones as big as eggs all around the hut. He used the cooling hail on his patient, and the boy fell into a sleep and was saved. Now the Lord could have saved the boy without outward means, but His Word says, "According to your faith be it unto you."

James Gilmour of Mongolia was not medically trained, but like so many mis­sionaries he had to set bones and extract bad teeth, and so forth. One day an ex­tremely fat Mongolian had fallen and ap­parently fractured some bones. Gilmour was importuned to attend the man. He didn't know how to find where the frac­tures were. He was not skilled in anatomy. There was no X-ray or fluorescent light out there on those North China plains. What to do? The natives stood around with clubs, ready to kill him if he didn't help the man. How did the Lord solve that problem? He sent into the circle the most emaciated man Gilmour had ever seen. You could tell all his bones. And by means of this walking cadaver the missionary was able to do a fair job of restoration to his patient.

God is not a denominational God—a Methodist, or Presbyterian, or Adventist God. He is not a God of organizational procedures, a God of creeds and ritual, a God of forms and ceremonies that pro­duced the Pharisee, or a God of fastings and vigils that produced the hermit and the celibate. But it is wonderful to think of Him as He speaks through Jeremiah, "Be­hold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me?" (Jer. 32:27).

Paul says that God "hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, . . . if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us" (Acts 17:26, 27).

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H. M. Tippett, Associate Book Editor, Review and Herald

July 1962

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