Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. (James 4:8)
What an amazing promise! It is amazing because we know that God is always near. “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18). “The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth” (Psalm 145:18). The truth is that God is present everywhere, and there is no place that He is not.
The psalmist, David, poses the rhetorical question, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:7-13).
If God is everywhere, why should we draw near to Him? How can we draw any nearer than we already are? The separation is not that of proximity, but rather that of relationship. We have all experienced having a strained relationship with a loved one for one reason or another. While we can be in the same room or even next to one another, we feel a separation until we get the matter resolved.
James, speaking to Christians, implies that we may experience a separation from God, not because He is removed from us, but because our sin has erected a barrier that strains our relationship with Him. He still loves us, but there is tension between Him and us. And just like with our human relationships, we must seek to reconcile the rift – “kiss and make up” as it were. Unlike with human relationships, the fault is never with God, but always with us, and unlike with human relationships, God is always ready to forgive and forget. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
“Hands” are the agents of action, and for sin to be sin, it must be acted upon. Earlier in his epistle, James says, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15). So, we need to cleanse ourselves from sinful acts. Thankfully for the Christian, this is not something that we accomplish in our own strength, but through the power of the Holy Spirit within us. However, we still need to call upon that power and submit to His direction.
We purify our hearts and minds through what we “feed” them. If we continue to feed our hearts and minds on the things of this world, our desires will be for those things making us “double-minded.” Double-mindedness is a sad place to live. We want to enjoy our relationship with God and enjoy what the world offers at the same time. Jesus said you cannot serve two masters. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).
The old hymn repeats, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.” So, when you feel far from God, guess who moved. God is nearby, He is not the one that caused the rift in your relationship. It might be time for you to take a serious self-check.