It’s a typical character, in an equally typical narrative.
From determined, single-minded victors, to nervous and unsure heroes, there’s a whole range of characters in every genre - and the pages in all these books tell the story of the character’s… present.
Even though we, as an avid audience, may know every detail of the character’s past and future, we’ll never be able to truly and fully understand their present - their emotions, feelings, and motives.
Yet the ‘present’ is something we all face, regardless of race, culture, home life or anything else. It’s something you’re experiencing as you scroll through this article now. It’s something you’ll experience later on as you carry on with your day, or, depending on the time of where you are currently, it’s something that you’ll later be falling asleep in. It renews itself every single day - every single hurried blink of our eyes, and in every panting breath we take, as our ‘present’ becomes our forgotten past and our future into our living present.
I recall reading a story depicting the past, present and future as each individual character, and it became pretty confusing at times! But that’s the reality in our world of space and time, where we can only change our linear lives by the actions we do in the present.
And we, as Christians, are no exception. In this world we live in, and in our ever-progressing present, every action we take reflects our worldviews and values. So even though we all may be plodding through this one-way trip of life, it doesn’t mean that our experiences and actions in the present are the same as those of the world.
- A Present Experience
“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” (Acts 14:22).
As a child, I always found this verse a bit disconcerting. After all, why would the world hate us if what we were preaching was called the Good News? And even though I heard about the persecution of Christians in distant countries and even in the Bible stories, I always assumed that it would never happen to me.
Why would it?
But the truth is, that the very fact of us being Christians guarantees our suffering. Perhaps it’s not as apparent to us now, but it’s a reality of the present. Persecution isn’t just a thing of the past or only happening out there, but it’s a present living reality. Jesus, Himself states this in John 15:19-21, “ If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”
Maybe it’s not persecution as large of a scale as house churches or the persecuted early church, but it will be present nonetheless. Whether it’s being shunned or looked down upon for having radically different beliefs as others at school, or a personal struggle of your own, it’ll be a part of our present.
But God doesn’t leave us to struggle alone.
- A Present God
When we hear at church that ‘Jesus is alive,’ how do we respond?
Is this something that makes us glad? Or is it something we view with apathy, with the countless times of hearing it at church making us just not care?
Because, in the end, it wheels down to how we truly view God.
Past the beliefs of our family, friends and church community into our deepest and truest thoughts. What do we believe God to be? Who do we believe God to be?
Is He Someone real to us? Can we see His hand working and active in the everyday events of our lives? Is He present in our lives?
Or, deep within our hearts, is He Someone we merely think of as a distant Creator, a God who has left this world ticking like a well-wound clock and doesn’t involve Himself any further? For us, is He just ‘that Great Man Upstairs’?
But does He have to be?
- A Present Help
The Bible is around 4000 years ago, and some sources suggest even longer! With such an ancient text, it’s easy to assume that the words are outdated, and have no rightful place within the post-modern world we live in.
Yet the Bible is more than just lengthy words written on dusty manuscript paper.
It’s the living Word of God.
It’s a Word that was present in the lives of Abraham, Moses, the prophets, and the apostles, and it’s a Word that lives on in the present of so many people now.
Because it’s the Word of an equally eternal and living God.
And with this truth firmly in our grasp as those saved by Him, we can rest assured in the ever-renewing mercies He provides for us. John Piper, Reformed theologian and pastor, aptly summarises the ever-present love that God promises His children which can be inferred from Romans 8:35.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”
Though we still will face troubles and struggles every day, God provides His people with a “present and powerful” love. It’s more than just a memory, or a Bible story from hundreds of years ago - it's a present gift, as He continues, even now, to work in us and “bring us to eternal joy”.
God’s eternal love for us doesn’t start only when we get to heaven.
It’s a present, living, wonderful, powerful, reality.
It’s a present from God.