by J. Grant Swank, Jr.
I was in tenth grade. More than anything in the world, I wanted to know that I abided in the Lord. I needed to know that He was with me. I had read testimonies of other Christians who related how near God was with them. He went with them to work. He directed them in their decisions. He was a real friend who could be counted upon.
I wanted that kind of relationship with God, too.
To prove to Jesus how serious I was, I set my alarm for 3 o'clock in the morning. Then I would tiptoe out of my bedroom down the stairs into the family room. With a small light on, I would kneel by a large couch. In front of me was my open Bible.
In the quiet I beseeched God to abide within me. I needed to know for certain that He was taking complete charge of my life. Night after night, I kept my vigil with the Lord. After an hour, I would return to my bed and fall back to sleep till morning.
During the school day, I would fast my lunch. While other students went to the cafeteria, I went to a storage closet on the second floor of our huge high school. Opening the door, I turned on the light. There was no chair in that room, so I crouched down alongside a wall, preparing myself to fast and pray for the Lord's abiding presence.
Day after day, I kept faithful to my earnest desire to experience God within.
One day, my math teacher opened the door. Was I surprised! "What are you doing in here?" she asked sternly. I told her the simple truth: "I am fasting and praying for the infilling of the Holy Spirit."
She made a U-turn, shut the door, and never bothered me again.
After awhile, I became frustrated. I wondered why I had to try so hard to know God in His fullness.
Then I thought back to some of those saints' testimonies. Why was it so difficult for me to come upon that same real awareness they related?
Then it was that God spoke to me within my heart. "I was with you the first night you sought me. Do you not remember? I was there in that family room. You knew My peace and power in a very special way."
It was true. The room, that first night, had seemed to fill with His holiness. There had been a splendor in that space which had come from without. It had to have been the Lord Himself.
It then dawned upon me that I had been seeking others' experiences rather than allowing God to be personal with me. He had not held me aloof. He had not kept His distance. He had been most faithful-punctual to the nighttime hour.
From that moment to this, I have thanked God for His abiding presence-heart to heart. It has been over 50 years since He proved Himself to me in that remarkable manner.
Now when others ask me how to know God within, I simply tell them to ask. He will answer if they are earnest. Time after time, they have returned to tell me that it has been true with them as it was with me.
God keeps His word. He has promised to abide within us if we but ask.
J. Grant Swank, Jr., pastors New Hope Church in Windham, Maine.