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Recognizing God

As a Christian, it can be hard to recognize God. We are comfortable with believing in God and talking to Him, but we are not use to simply recognizing Him—even when He appears in our lives.

Think of the often-quoted story about Elijah in 1 Kings, chapter 19. In this dramatic story, it was not easy to recognize God. Elijah was afraid for his life, afraid that some of the followers of Baal would kill him. He was hiding in a cave on the side of a mountain. In his fear, he looked for God in fierce wind, in an earthquake and in fire. He was very afraid, his emotions were fierce and he was searching for a fierce God. But God came later, after the earthquake and after Elijah’s emotion. God came to Elijah in a whisper. Elijah did not need to endure fire, an earthquake and wind to discover God. God was with him all along. Elijah had done many miraculous things for God, but he had failed to recognize God’s presence in his tribulations. He feared for his life and did not expect God to be part of the conflict. God was in Elijah’s life, both in the miracles Elijah performed and in the suffering Elijah faced. And what it took for Elijah to realize that fact was a mere whisper.

I think perhaps it is so hard to recognize God because we are afraid of why the Creator of the universe would be in our individual lives. Think about it. If an all powerful, all knowing God is interested in you, are you not going to be a little nervous? It’s easy to thank God when we get what we want, when we heal from an injury or even if our favorite team wins the Super Bowl. It becomes harder to think that God is paying attention when a close relative dies of cancer or a good friend contracts the AIDS virus. And when we are able to perceive God in the good and the bad, the world becomes in some ways much less comfortable.

Think of Elijah; once he recognized God’s presence in all aspects of his life, Elijah had a lot of work to do. The same is true with us. Once we recognize that God is in our lives, once we understand that God really is in our joys, our love, our accomplishments, as well as in our fears, challenges and disappointments, then we must begin to live as we ought to with God standing beside us. We can no longer imagine that good things come from God and bad things happen when God is away taking care of someone else. God is present in our lives through good and bad, and while this brings us comfort, it also brings great challenges.

When God whispered to Elijah after the prophet had crawled to the mouth of the cave, the words Elijah heard were comforting. Elijah rejoiced in being told that he was not the only faithful person left, that there were thousands of others who had not turned away from God. But God did not tell him everything was okay so that Elijah would crawl back into his shelter and sleep better at night. God instructed Elijah to get back to work, to go and make kings out of ordinary men. The recognition of God in his life forced Elijah to listen to what he was supposed to be doing. He then had to make a decision to either follow that calling or not.

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Yet, even with this call to action comes additional comfort. God really was there in Elijah’s persecution. God called Elijah to go and anoint leaders. Those leaders would fight, and people would die in the battles, but God promised not to turn away. God called Elijah to action and at the same time promised to always be with Elijah and the other faithful people. God is in our lives. Recognizing God is risky business because when we do, God will call us to act on behalf of what is right. And when we do, God will continue to be there with us. God will continue to whisper to us as we stare out from the mouths of our sheltering caves. All we need do is listen.

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