Allowing God to Redeem Your Past That He Might Sanctify Your Future

Do you have irreparable hurts in your life? Most of us do. Why do you think that is so? Why is some hurt of the past still fresh?  Why does it shape our lives and hinder what God is able to do, not only in the present, but in the future? It is because we have never committed that past hurt to God. Instead, we have chosen to nourish it and cherish it.

As we stand in the first hours of the new year, the past year casts its shadow across our lives. That shadow might be the shadow of past joys, or past sorrows, past hurt, past heartache, past failures, or even past moments of great success never to be repeated. 

The shadows of the past, that cast themselves across our present, can cloud the future or even shape the future in such a way that there is even more sorrow, more hurt, and  more failure.

How do we allow God to redeem the past that He might sanctify our future?

If I approach the past with my emotions or my passions, seeking to accomplish my purposes, I am sure to hinder the purpose of God for my future.

I’ve been talking with some of my friends this wee about the Field Goal Kicker for Ohio State who missed the winning field goal in the last seconds of the game against the Georgia Bulldogs. He will remember that for the rest of his life. No one was more disappointed than he was. And yet, he can’t change it. The shadow of that past failure may shape his life in a negative way. Or, he could determine that he will not allow that moment, that can be measured in seconds, to determine his future or to define his life.

Most of us, have responded very negatively to some small moment in the past so that it continues to shape our lives and our families in a negative way. We must allow God to redeem the past so that He might sanctify our future.

What does that mean? What would it look like in your life or in mine?

First, it would require me to commit my past to God. 

“Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ.” (My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers)

Where do we get the idea of committing the past to God? 

Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13, “This one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching toward what lies ahead…” What would it take for you to forget what lies behind? It would require you to commit the past to God. It would require you to let the past sleep on the bosom of Christ. The past is beyond repair, but unless you commit it to God, it can destroy your future. That is something that doesn’t have to happen.

If you will remember, when it came time to enter the Promised Land, the only ones of the past generation that were allowed to enter were Caleb and Joshua. They buried the past in the wilderness. The past would only hinder their future, defile it and destroy it. In order to reach forward to what lies ahead I must leave the past and move forward.

This week, my reading has taken me into the book of Deuteronomy where the Lord speaks to His people, saying to them: “You have stayed long enough at this mountain.” 

Of course that was Mount Sinai or Mount Horeb. It was a place they had known as the place of God’s presence. But even that past experience, though a good one and a blessing, was not to shackle them from reaching forward to what lay ahead! Paul committed his past to God by forgetting what lay behind and reaching  forward to what lay ahead.

Committing your past to God means leaving every part of the irreparable past at His feet.

This includes your failures. Isn’t it good to know that we can leave our failures there. We can let our past failures sleep on the bosom of Christ and His mercy, and we can, in faith, reach forward to what lies ahead?

Do you have irreparable hurts in your life? Most of us do. Why do you think that is so? Why is some hurt of the past still fresh?  Why does it shape our lives and hinder what God is able to do, not only in the present, but in the future? It is because we have never committed that past hurt to God. Instead, we have chosen to nourish it and cherish it. Paul said, “Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” 

Unless I allow my past hurt to sleep on the bosom of Christ, I will wake up one night and find it fresh on my pillow with me as I try to sleep. I will find the anger from past hurt boiling up inside me. I will find myself still thinking of ways I can put my hands on that which caused my past hurt. As a result, the shadow of that past hurt will be forever cast over my future.

Perhaps the best example of one who discovered the true freedom of giving the past to God was that man of the Old Testament we know as Joseph. His brothers threw him into a pit, later sold him as a slave, and told his father he was dead. Joseph wound up in and Egyptian prison for years—but God was with him. God blessed him. God was able to sanctify his future so that He became second only to Pharoah. When Joseph’s first child was born, he named him Manasseh, saying, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 

But did he forget them. No! He never forgot them. But he laid all that hurt at God’s feet. He committed his past to God—including his past hurt. And in God’s own time and in God’s own way, not only did God sanctify his future—God sanctified those relationships. He healed that hurt in their live and his.

But that would never have happened if Joseph had not laid left that hurt with God. Later, he would tell his brothers, “You meant it to me for evil but God meant it to me for good.” I have come to love that little expression “BUT GOD”. 

Imagine what God can do with your past—your past failure—your past hurt—your past heartache—if you give it to Him. That hurt is real. That heartache is real. 

BUT GOD can sanctify your future.

It hasn’t happened yet for some of you because you are still holding on to the past—still clinging to your hurt and your heartache. Do you suppose that if you laid all of that at the foot of the cross, if you let the past sleep on the bosom of Christ that He might be able to sanctify your future the way he did that of Joseph? Forgetting what lies behind requires me leaving my past at the feet of Jesus.

Reaching forward to what lies ahead requires me to take a step of faith. 

I can’t stand there waiting to see what Christ will do with what I have given him. I can’t wait and wonder how he will work it out or whether he will. I must walk forward by faith expecting Him to work in ways that I can’t see and to do things in my life and in the lives of others that I could never do.

Is God asking you tonight to allow Him to Redeem your past that He might sanctify your future? Is there something that this very night needs to be laid at His feet? Once for all? 

Once for all, place it at His feet, and walk away from that hurt, allowing Him to do with it what He will for His glory—trusting Him to carry it—to understand it—to Redeem it—So that one day you look back and say, “There was a time when I had all this hurt in my life from the past. I carried it for so long. It cast a shadow across my life. BUT GOD spoke to me one day asking me to surrender my past to Him. I don’t know how He did it BUT GOD redeemed my past and He sanctified my future so that who I am today and where I am is all to His glory?”

What lies ahead?  Do you know? Would you know? Are you ready to reach for it, to long for it, to see what God can do in and around your life? Then here on the first day of 2023 you need to allow God to redeem the past so that He might sanctify your future.

13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Things You Won’t Hear on the Nightly News

Where do you get your perspective of world events? Some people follow the threads on Facebook. Your perspective will depend on the perspective of the thread you follow. Others watch the nightly news. Some watch CNN, or CBS, or FOX, or some internet news source that interprets world events for them. Obviously, there are a variety of rumors and rumblings and perspectives. 

But is there another perspective?

I call your attention to an event out of the seventh chapter of Isaiah. The nation was in crisis. The crisis was so severe that the leader of the land lost his nerve. The leader’s name was Ahaz. He was the king whose perspective came from rumors and rumblings concerning a pressing problem facing his kingdom. When he heard these rumors the Bible says, “His heart and the hearts of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind.” Isaiah 7:2 The panic spreading through the social media of the day disrupted the peace of the nation. 

If the only perspective you have on life and world events is the perspective you glean from the news or from Facebook, you will have some of those heart shaking moments. Yet in the midst of the chaos outside and the rumors swirling within the kingdom, Ahaz received this word from the Lord. ‘Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted because of these… ” Isaiah 7:4

From the context of this crisis in the life of Ahaz and his kingdom, I want to share with you some things you won’t be hearing on the nightly news. What I share with you is not news. It simply outlines what God said to Ahaz as he faced his own personal and national crisis.

First, God Is Present in the Present Crisis.

In the face of all the rumors and rumblings, Isaiah the prophet gave Ahaz the perspective of heaven concerning current events. “Thus says the Lord God: “It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass.” Isaiah 7:7 God was in control of current events in the time of Ahaz. God is in control of current events in the present day. God is present in the present crisis, whether that be a crisis in politics or a the Covid crisis or some personal crisis that rages in and around your life.

In the middle of the crisis of that day, it was essential that Ahaz put his trust in God. There were dangers in his world and dangers to his kingdom. But it was important for Ahaz to shut his ears to the rumor mongers spreading concerns of what might happen, and instead to listen to his word from God.

How would Ahaz know that God was present? How would he know that there was nothing to fear? It was essential for Ahaz to walk by faith. The greatest danger facing him and his nation was failing to walk by faith. It was in failing to realize that God was present in the present crisis. The Lord said, “If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.” Isaiah 7:9

The second thing you will not hear on the nightly news is a further word that God gave to Isaiah concerning the fires of fear spreading across his kingdom.

For thus the Lord spoke to me with mighty power and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, “You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’ In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy,and you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread. “Then He shall become a sanctuary…” Isaiah 8:11-14a

Fear the Lord and Not the Future!

Listen to the nightly news, but keep your eyes on God. The government has never been your guard or your guide or your God. Trust the Lord. Don’t fear the future. Don’t fret about events over which you have no control. Trust God to guide the course of history as He has in the past. Remember His word to Ahaz during this time when his knees shook like the trees of the forest shake with the wind. 

There may be a crisis. But leave the crisis to God. Keep your eyes on Him and trust Him to control world events including the climate. We live in a universe filled with terrifying fury beyond our wildest imaginations. Yet the Bible says that God upholds all things by the word of His power. The planets and stars hold their place in keeping with His sovereignty. You can’t control the movements of planets and rouge space rocks that zoom through the universe. You trust God that the sun will rise tomorrow. In that same way, you must trust him in the midst of whatever dark cloud of crisis that shrouds the present day.

Fear the Lord and not the future. No one on the news will tell you that. It is their job to generate fear. That is the news. That brings them business. There are dangers in this world in which we live. But God is present in whatever present crisis we face and we must fear the Lord and not the future.

There is a third thing you won’t hear on the nightly news. The news only updates us on the progress of the crisis. We hear the statistics. We hear about the sick and the dead. We hear about the efforts of science to bring an end to the crisis. The resources of every nation are being levied against the storm of this present crisis. Here is that third word from God that you won’ t hear on the news. It is also a word that God sent to Ahaz.

Preserve the teaching of God; entrust His instructions to those who follow me. I will wait for the Lord, who has turned away from the descendants of Jacob. I will put my hope in Him. Isaiah 8:14-16

Instead of Seeking an End to the Crisis, Seek a Return of God’s Favor.

Implied, in these verses from Isaiah, is the fact that the crisis itself is God appointed, or at least God allowed, because people have turned away from Him. If you follow the news, you will hear a variety of reasons for the spread of Covid. This week, I heard a new one. The idea has been floated by some that the virus is a result of climate change. For all I know it might be. Or it could be that what we interpret as climate change is an expression of God’s own displeasure toward a world that has turned from Him.

In the time of Isaiah, Ahaz was told the shortest route to the solution for his personal and political crisis was a return to God and faith in God. God is present in the present crisis. The most important thing we can do is look for him and fear him and not the future. But no one on the nightly news is going to suggest that option as a possible solution to your crisis or any other crisis. 

In the Bible, God often allowed conditions to become extreme so that people would realize their need of Him. How many more people will have to die of Covid before national and world leaders will look for more than a vaccine and begin to look for God?

Of course, the wisdom of today tells us to follow the science.

If you have noticed, there are many branches to the tree of science lately. All of those branches seem to be going in different directions. I don’t want to suggest that scientists could in any way be biased or blinded by their own agenda or by the political leanings of one of the benefactors of their research.

In the time of Isaiah there were also branches of science. In fact, it was quite popular to seek out those wizards of science in that day who could predict the future. Some of Ahaz own political advisors suggested he follow the science. Consider God’s response in the verses that follow.

Someone may say to you, “Let’s ask the mediums and those who consult the spirits of the dead. With their whisperings and mutterings, they will tell us what to do.” But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? Should the living seek guidance from the dead? Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. They will go from one place to another, weary and hungry. And because they are hungry, they will rage and curse their king and their God. They will look up to heaven and down at the earth, but wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair. They will be thrown out into the darkness. Isaiah 8:19-22 

Let me share one final bit of advice that you won’t hear on the nightly news.

Trust God’s Word and not the World’s Apparent Wisdom.

The nightly news will dissuade you from following God or His Word. Instead, you should follow science and the trends of popular culture. But popular culture walks in the deception of the world’s wisdom and not God’s.

There are well-meaning leaders of our own day who lean on human wisdom alone to know the future. But you have a word from God. You have an assurance from God. He is present in this present crisis. Look for Him. He is Sovereign over coming circumstances. Trust Him. Fear the Lord and not the future. Instead of merely seeking an end to the present crisis, seek a return of God’s favor. That may well be what brings an end to this present season of gloom and darkness. But you will hear none of this on the nightly news.

Swaddled in His Sovereignty

This will mean the world to you if you have suffered through this year of 2020. It will mean the world to you if you lost someone you loved, or if you are facing sickness or disability, or if things have just taken a bad turn for you during this past year.

And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

I am sure you recognize the verse and perhaps can picture a baby wrapped securely, swaddled lovingly, and lying peacefully in a manger bed, hovered over by the watchful eye of Mary and Joseph, and providentially by God the Father. He was not only swaddled in cloths, His whole existence was swaddled in the Sovereignty of God, and would be from that day forward until his death on the cross. But even then, He would be swaddled in that same sovereignty,although despised and rejected by men.

Sometime ago, I read an interesting verse during my devotional time. I was reading from the gospel of Matthew from the NIV and I read Matthew 10:29.Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of the will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. (Matthew 10:29 NIV)

That verse hit me rather hard! I know you see nothing unusual about it. Nor had I, up until that day. I had to look at it twice to make sure it said what it said. I knew that the Bible said that God knows whenever a sparrow falls to the ground! That part didn’t surprise me. But what did is what the verse so obviously said that I had never seen!

It says…”not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.

Now, what does that mean? Does it mean that when a sparrow falls that God wills it to be so? No. It means that even though a sparrow falls in an apparent accident, it does not fall outside of the Father’s will. So what’s the difference?

Let me say here that the difference will mean the world to you if you have suffered through this year of 2020. It will mean the world to you if you lost someone you loved or if you are facing sickness or disability or if things have just taken a bad turn for you during this past year.

What this verse means is that what appears suddenly, or tragically, or that brings disappointment, has not happened apart from God’s sovereignty. He remains in control. The fallen sparrow is under His jurisdiction. Even a baby bird that falls from its nest is swaddled in His sovereignty. 

That the Father knows this is one thing. You can know something and feel no responsibility for it. This verse says that not one sparrow falls apart from His will. What that means is this: It is His business. It calls for His attention. It is a matter of His concern.

I remember a time when I saw a that illustrated. I was driving down a rural road in Alabama with a friend. As we were traveling slowly down the road, we noticed a tiny bird sitting right in the middle of the road. It was the oddest sight. Here was this tiny bird, facing a two-thousand pound automobile, sitting helpless in the middle of that road. It had obviously fallen out ot its nest. That little bird’s head was turned straight up, in the posture it would assume in the nest, waiting to be fed by its mother. It was as if that tiny bird, in its absolute helplessness, was lifting its head toward heaven to say, “God, here I am.”

Now based on the Scripture I referenced earlier, what did God know about that bird? First, He knew it had fallen. He knew where it was. He knew what it needed. But did God bear any responsibility for that bird? Did He make it fall? Was He allowing it to suffer? Had He forgotten about the plight of this little bird?

Are those silly questions? Well, not in light of what Jesus said. I assume that Jesus knows the heart and mind of God, and He said that not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of the Father.

We stopped the car. My friend got out, scooped up the baby bird, looked around a minute, spotted its nest, and returned it safely to where it belonged. Now, was that a miracle? It was for that baby bird! That little bird had not fallen to the ground apart from God’s sovereignty. Just as the baby Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes and lay in a nest of straw swaddled by God’s sovereignty, this little bird in its nest of straw was also somehow swaddled by God’s sovereignty. 

I share that story, raising those questions, because as you listen, some of you are in some desperate place. You are sitting in the middle of some set of circumstances. Your head is turned upward toward heaven. You are wondering if God knows where you are and what you need, and If He sees that giant problem rolling your way that will surely be the end of you.

Does God know? Does God see? Does He care? Do you and your problems matter to God? Have the sorrows and struggles of 2020 happened to you apart from His will? Lets go back and look at the verse in its context.

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31 NIV)

I have to tell you that I am amazed at God. I looked at these verses, that I thought I knew so well, and I saw things I had never seen before. The more I looked, the more I knew that God was showing me these things so that you could see them. I knew that God wanted to speak to your circumstances—to the unsettling of your nest—to the anxiety in your heart

What message was it that Jesus was delivering at this moment? He was speaking to those who would find themselves in threatening circumstances—perhaps even life-threatening circumstances. He wanted them to know that nothing could come into their lives that would fall outside the Father’s jurisdiction. He wanted them to know that they would also be swaddled in His sovereignty!

What does God know? Well, He knows when one sparrow falls. And not one of them falls apart from His will. You are worth more than many sparrows. So God must also know about you. What does He know? He knows everything. He knows the intimate details of your situation. He knows the minutia, the microscopic, the things that no one else would even bother knowing. Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Those who know you and love you most here on earth don’t know that, and you don’t know it about yourself! Affirming this to be so, Jesus said: So don’t be afraid! What is news to you is not news to the Father. He is saying to you, “I know this. I have it.”

In baseball, the person playing in the outfield has a zone of responsibility. A ball hit into certerfield is not the responsibility of the shortstop or of the second baseman. It is the responsibility of the centerfielder. Out there in that grassy area, is zone of responsibility that is his alone. Sometimes players cross itno another players zone of responsibility, as they both attempt to catch a fly ball. W:hen that occurs, a collision can result, and the ball may be dropped. Tht is why the outfielder will often wave the others away and call out, “Mine!”. The incoming ball is falling into his field of play. It is his responsibility. He knows it is coming, but he also indicates that he isn’t standing still. He has hs eye on the ball. He knows what to do. As that ball falls into his jurisdiction, he closes his glove around it. That ball is swaddled in His sovereignty.

What is God saying to you as you fearfully survey your circumstances? You feel as helpless as a little bird in the path of an automobile. Yet God is saying, “This has not happened apart from my will. Don’t be afraid. I have this. It is mine!”

When I read those verses and I remembered that little bird sitting in the middle of that road—head turned upward as if to say, “God, I am crying out to you. Do you hear me? Do you care? Do you know where I am? Do you know what I face?” All the while, there was a God in heaven who had already said, “Not one of your kind falls to the ground apart from my will—outside of my jurisdiction—apart from my sovereignty.

But right now it is not a bird is it. It is you. You don’t know what to do! You are the one with the questions! What about your circumstances? What about your need? What about your sickness? What about your sorrow? 

How would we know an answer to that if Jesus had not come down from heaven to lie in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes? He was helpless, weak, and needy, but He was also swaddled in God’s sovereignty. He came so that He might remind us that we are also swaddled in His sovereignty. Nothing will ever come into your life apart from His will, outside of His jurisdiction—outside of His sovereignty.

The message to the shepherds was don’t be afraid. Go look for the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. When you find Him, go tell the world there is a loving God who wants to swaddle all people in the loving embrace of His sovereignty. Tell them not to be afraid. God has this.

As another Christmas season nears, and 2020 comes to a close, I pray that you will have a special sense of the Lord’s intimate concern for you. I pray that He will rescue you from your circumstances, just as He rescued a little bird from the middle of the road. But if He should choose to allow those circumstances to remain, I pray that you will have the confidence that you are, nonetheless, swaddled in His sovereignty!

I See Jesus Standing

Do you know what this year has done? It has captured our attention. We have fixed our gaze on a virus so intently that we have lost sight of Jesus. We have fixed our gaze on an election so intently that we have lost sight of Jesus. We have fixed our gaze on some sinful thing so intently that we have lost sight of Jesus.

It’s been a tough year. It’s not the kind of year you planned and certainly not what you needed. In a year like 2020, a person needs perspective. However, the perspective needed is the perspective of heaven. In an effort to help you see your circumstances with a bit more clarity, I would like to tell you about a man in the New Testament whose name was Stephen. On the worst day of his life, and on what seemed to the the worst day in the history of the church up to that point, Stephen saw his circumstances from the perspective of heaven.

Stephen was a great servant of God. He was one of the first deacons. He was said to be full of wisdom, full of the Spirit, full of faith, full of grace and power. In fact, through the hands of Stephen God worked signs and wonders among the people. His wisdom and handling of the Scripture was such that his enemies were unable to cope with the wisdom  and the Spirit with which he was speaking.

They secretly induced men to say that Stephen blasphemed both Moses and God Acts 6:11. They spread misinformation about Stephen in the community, stirring up the people against him Acts 6:12. The brought forward false witnesses who accused him of speaking against the temple and against the law Acts 6:13. And yet, through it all, Stephen’s countenance was like that of an angel Acts 6:15.

Things went from bad to worse that day. I’m sure Stephen had an idea of what would happen when the day began. Stephen’s powerful sermon is recorded in Acts 7:2-53. That sermon condemned his hearers, who were also his accusers, as lawbreakers themselves. That sermon pierced their hearts like a knife. But rather than convicting them and bringing them to repentance, it only deepened their hatred for Stephen and all he stood for. While his face was like that of an angel, they looked like angry demons, gnashing their teeth in murderous fury.

Suddenly, Stephen stopped preaching. It was as if had been interrupted. It was as if he no longer was the communicator, but as if someone was communicating with him. He turned away from the angry crowd, not in cowardice, but with an even greater confidence and conviction than that with which he was preaching. It was as if someone was there—as if someone was with him.

Consider the State of Stephen’s Relationship with God:

He was full of the Holy Spirit. Do you remember those moments when the Spirit of God came mightily upon men in the Old Testament. When the Spirit came mightily upon Saul, he was turned into another man. His life was changed from timid to confident, from a man of weakness to a man of power.

When the Spirit of God came mightily upon Samson, he performed feats of great strength.  Stephen had been preaching in the power of the Spirit, but now that Spirit filled him for a new purpose. He was filled with the Spirit to face death. God empowered him for that journey and whatever it brought. 

Here is a picture of a saved man dying. He is a man filled with the Holy Spirit. He has been empowered to live and serve, and now, full of faith, full of grace, full of wisdom, he is full of the Spirit given power to face the moment of his death.

His countenance that day was like that of an angel. There was a beam about Him. There was a presence that settled on him and around him. That day, as Stephen faced his accusers and as he faced death, he was not alone. You are not alone should you be facing your last days. If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, a disciple whose life is characterized by the same traits as Stephen, you will not be alone when it comes your time to die.

Many times I have heard the story of someone very ill who had been talking with family, but just at the point of death, that person turned their face away, fixing their gaze elsewhere.

Second, Notice Stephen’s Focus.

But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

This is the focus of a believer in trouble. This is the focus of a believer facing death. His gaze was not fixed on his problem. His gaze was not fixed on the trouble. His gaze was not fixed on the crowd or on his accusers. Instead, he gazed intently into heaven. 

Where is your focus in your circumstances? Do you know what this year has done? It has captured our attention. We have fixed our gaze on a virus so intently that we have lost sight of Jesus. We have fixed our gaze on an election so intently that we have lost sight of Jesus. We have fixed our gaze on some sinful thing so intently that we have lost sight of Jesus.

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed intently into heaven and saw something you and I can never see without our focus so fixed. He saw behind the scenes of his circumstances. He saw a prevailing providence overshadowing his life. He saw God’s glory!

Do you remember what Jesus told Mary and Martha at the tomb of Lazarus—distraught as they were by their circumstances—discouraged as they were by their grief? He said, “Did I not say to you that if you believed you would see the glory of God.” They would see the glory of God in their circumstances. Stephen saw the glory of God in his circumstances, and you can see the glory of God in your circumstances, whatever they might be, if you will gaze intently into heaven.

First, I asked you to consider Stephen’s State. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. Second, I asked you to consider Stephen’s focus. He gazed intently into heaven.

Third, Consider Stephen’s Vision

And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”He said, “I see Jesus standing….”

Jesus said in Luke 22:69:But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the Power of God. ” 

But Stephen said, “I see Jesus standing…” He saw Jesus standing sovereign over the affairs of earth and heaven. That is what we have lost sight of in 2020. We must regain our confidence in the fact that Jesus rules and reigns in heaven, and He stands victoriously triumphant in spite of our circumstances. In spite of Covid. In spite of the election. In spite of what is going on in my life or yours. 

That was a statement of Stephen’s faith. He saw Jesus standing!! On one level it was that and nothing more. We can make that same statement by faith in whatever circumstances we face. But we have to know that it is more than a statement of faith. 

For Stephen it was also a statement of fact. He saw heaven opened. Heaven was opened in anticipation of his arrival. But even more, it was open so that he could clearly see the response of Jesus to his injustice. He was standing. Jesus who said that after his crucifixion he would be seated at the right hand of God was standing!

He was standing as a witness to Stephens faithfulness and as his Advocate with the Father. But He was also standing as a swift witness against his adversaries.  He was standing with Stephen in his circumstances. he was standing ready to answer. He was standing ready to help. 

But Jesus was also standing because it was the end of Stephens life. Jesus was standing to welcome Stephen upon his entrance to heaven. Jesus promised His disciples in John14:3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself that where I am, you may be also.” Jesus was standing in Stephen’s honor, in recognition of his service, and as sovereign over his circumstances.

Finally, Consider  Stephen’s Last Prayer.

But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord Jesus and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then, falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:56-60

What do we see here in his final prayer? We see a man praying in trouble.  We hear a man praying in acceptance of his trouble.  We find a man knowing he is about to die in his trouble. He dies with his hope in Jesus.  He dies with the name of the Lord on his tongue. He sees Jesus in heaven, and he prays that Jesus might receive his spirit upon arrival in heaven. 

This man was confident. This man was courageous. This man was in communication with heaven from before the trouble began and through the time of his trouble. He knew a presence and a power that some men simply will not know come their time to die.

Stephen died calling on the name of the Lord, humbly asking for a reception in heaven. Stephen died praying for the forgiveness of those who sinned against God, by sinning against him. He embodied the spirit of his Savior in his trouble. He embodied the spirit of His Savior toward those who brought him trouble. He died with bitterness toward no one in his heart. 

Is that how you will die?  Will you die filled with the Holy Spirit? Will you die with your gaze fixed intently on heaven or on some set of earthly circumstances.? Will your vision be one of Jesus reigning victorious over all your problems even when he chooses not to remove them or remove you from them?  Will you die having forgiven every man remembering that Jesus has also forgiven you?

Finally, what is it that you and I need to see today? What do we need to see as we near the end of 2020, looking into an uncertain beginning of this third decade of the 21st century? We need to see Jesus Standing! We need to see Jesus Reigning! We need to know that Jesus is in Control! He is at the right hand of God, but He is also with me. I challenge you to join me in releasing your future to Him, trusting Him as did Stephen on this darkest day of his life!

Eight Words That Can Change Your Life

Amidst the swirling confusion surrounding the coronavirus and the mounting madness of cultural chaos, these eight words can mean the difference between mental stability and mental breakdown. They can mean the difference between success and failure in your business. These same eight words can save your marriage or hold the potential of bringing revival to your life and to your church.

I am about to share eight words that can change your life. Amidst the swirling confusion surrounding the coronavirus and the mounting madness of cultural chaos, these eight words can mean the difference between mental stability and mental breakdown. They can mean the difference between success and failure in your business. These same eight words can save your marriage or hold the potential of bringing revival to your life and to your church. What are those eight remarkable words? The come from the last verse of Psalm 46. Be still and know that I am God.

Recently, the Lord has led me to return to a book that I first read more than two decades ago. It was written by Austin Phelps. It was published in 1859. The title of the book is The Still Hour. Today, we would come nearer referring to “the still hour” as a quiet time—a time of personal devotion. When I think of a quiet time, I think of the person whose quiet time made an impression on me. We were staff members together in the 1980’s. Jeff had a deep commitment to a personal, private, daily meeting with God. For him, it was an appointment. Nothing interrupted it. Nothing was more important. From my observation of his life, nothing ever had a larger and more lasting impact that those moments he spent daily with God.

What is a quiet time? Very simply, it is an appointed time each day that you set aside to meet with God to seek guidance, direction, and refreshing from His presence. It is a time of Scripture reading and prayer. It should include both, but after that, a time of quiet waiting before the Lord—a time to be still and know that He is God.

These eight words urge you to plan a time into your day when you come aside from the business of everyday affairs, setting aside all other concerns, that you might turn your heart toward God seeking to benefit from time in His presence. Be still and know that I am God.

Those Words Serve as a Statement of Faith

The most extraordinary faith that God may ever require will be in the privacy of your own quiet time. That is where God calls you to simply be still, leaving all the problems and complexities of life to Him. The NASB translates this verse: Cease striving and know that I am God. God is saying, “Don’t do anything. Trust Me to do it for you! Don’t make plans. Pray! Don’t run. Rest in Me!” In your quiet time, you will grapple with your fears and your failures, with your sins and your sorrows, your desires and your destiny, learning to release it all, placing it in the Hands of God.

The very fact that you take the time to “be still” will be a statement of your enormous faith in God. You will be still for a portion of every day because you trust God to do for you what you can’t do for yourself. When the children of Israel stood between the waters of the Red Sea and the crush of Pharaoh’s chariots, there was nowhere to run. There was nowhere to hide. Yet, what was God’s command through Moses?  And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. Exodus 14:13

It takes great faith and great courage to stand still in the face of great danger, choosing instead to leave matters in the hands of God. It was to Jehoshaphat that God sent this word: You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’” 2 Chronicles 20:17 In essence, God was saying to Jehoshaphat, “Be still and know that I am God.

These Words Require a Sense of Expectancy

If you take the time to be still, God will honor your appointment. He will not interrupt you in order to meet with you, but He will have no trouble scheduling you onto His calendar if you will schedule Him into your own. If you set aside a time to meet with God, you can expect Him to meet you there. If you bring your Bible, you can expect Him to speak to you from His Word. You can expect direction for your life. You can expect hope for your heartache. You can expect strength for your weakness.

Some years ago, I was the pastor of a young couple who owned their own business. The wife managed the books with great precision. She managed her house with the same precision. She managed affairs at the church with the same precision as well as those at the school where her children were involved. If you wanted something done well, give it to Sally, and she would accomplish it! Sally’s car was graced with a personalized tag. The letters read: “TOO BUSY”. It was a good busy—and she needed to be, because just a few years later her life was cut short by an unanticipated bout with cancer. BUSY LIVES end too. Most of us have no plan for the unexpected. That is why we never need to be too busy to pray, or too busy to read God’s Word, or too busy to spend time with God.

The frenzied hurry of life rushes you toward many uncertainties for which you are unprepared. You have only navigated the past. You have no idea what lies ahead. But God does! Every day, you must leave the rushing current of life’s frenzy, and be still before God. You must seek His guidance and his direction. In 1 Chronicles 16:11, David said, “Seek the Lord and his strength, seek His face continually!” 

If you will seek God, you must of necessity be still! In the wilderness, as Moses led the children of Israel through their daily wanderings, life was slow and unhurried. But even in the days when life was slower—when it was still measured by hours and not by nanoseconds, there was a need for stillness to seek direction from God. To those wandering Hebrew people, Moses spoke these words: “Stand still, and I will hear what the Lord will command concerning you.” Numbers 9:8. Every day that you are too busy to be still before God, will be a day that you will miss His direction for your life. Be still and know that I am God.

Those Words Call for Confident Faith

In the O.T. book of Ruth, Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, gave her a bit of critical guidance. An important matter concerning both their lives was pending. Naomi urged Ruth not to fret, but to leave the matter in the hands of her redeemer. 

Then she said, “Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not rest until he has settled it today.” Ruth 3:18

In the KJV the word Wait is translated sit still. Her advice to Ruth was to simply be still and know that the matter was in confident hands. Can you rest your concerns confidently into the hands of your Redeemer?

T.W. Hunt was a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He wrote a study called PrayerLife , The Mind of Christ, and also a book called The Doctrine of Prayer.

In the fall of 1974, Hunt’s family went through a financial crisis. They were unable to pay their daughter’s tuition at TCU, even in monthly installments. Although they prayed desperately, the situation only seemed to get worse. During that same time they had outstanding medical bills. Ultimately, they began getting second notices from the University. In spite of continued prayer, the load of debt became even heavier.

One weekend, their daughter came home from college. She seemed unusually distracted. Hunt’s wife probed her to discover the problem. She confessed that that she had been suffering with an awful toothache for weeks. with a head splitting toothache for three weeks. Knowing their financial condition, she was trying to bear the pain without causing them further expense. Dealing with a tooth required a visit to a specialist. That bill was also more than they could pay, and they had no dental insurance.

Hunt was broken, not so much over his financial condition, as he was over the strange delay in answer to their prayers. He searched his own heart for something in his life that might be holding back God’s answer.

His wife suggested that since he taught students that the Lord was their Friend, perhaps he should talk to his Friend Jesus about their problems. He took his wife up on that suggestion. He took two cups of bouillon to their prayer room and invited his friend. He talked to the Lord just as if they shared the room together. There he poured out the details of his problems.

At the end of November, he received a letter from his daughter’s university stating: “This is to inform you that a friend, who wishes to remain anonymous has paid your daughter’s tuition for this semester.” The other bills were all paid before Christmas. Hunt’s needs were met because he responded to these eight words that we have been talking about. Be still and know that I am God. They call for confident faith.

Finally, Those Words Require Absolute Surrender to God’s Authority.

Your burden may involve more than just your family. You may the leader of a large corporation. Who leads you? Have you considered that the God whose Word is life to your soul, is success to your business? If you will allow Him, if you will trust Him, if you will be still before Him, He will guide you as you guide your business. He will guide you through an unsettled economy and an unsettled culture. Will you give Him the opportunity to lead you?

Be still and know that I am God. Those eight words that can change your life. Those words can mean the difference between mental stability and mental breakdown. They can mean the difference between success and failure in your business. Those same words can save your marriage or hold the potential of bringing revival to your life and to your church.

So what do you need to do? You need to find a place. You need to set a time. Go there, and be still and know that He is God. Cease your striving.  Surrender your fears and your failures, your sins and your sorrows, your desires and your destiny, releasing it all to Him.

Amazing Grace

Is there anything in your life that you have been asking God to take away? Is it a problem to you? Does it hinder you spiritually? Is it a trial? Is it a temptation? Is it a weakness? Is it a worry? Is it a sorrow you can no longer carry or a sickness that can’t be healed?

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Most gladly, therefore I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

These are the words of Jesus. If you are a student of the New Testament, they seem almost out of place. Words of Jesus normally appear in the gospels, but here they appear in one of the letters of Paul. This was a personal promise Paul received from Jesus in a period of his life which was unexpectedly difficult and overwhelming. Paul found himself so overwhelmed, that three different times he asked for the difficulty to be removed. The Lord refused. Instead, He offered Paul His Grace. It is also what He offers to me in my difficulty and to you in yours. 

Jesus wasn’t telling Paul that his own strength was enough. It was not enough. He was not able. The problem was too big. The thorn was to deep. But what the Lord did say is that He would give Paul His Grace, and His Grace would be enough.

Grace enough. My Grace for you. Grace enough for every circumstance! Grace enough for every trial! Grace enough for every temptation! Grace enough to live! Grace enough to die! My Grace for you!

First, what is Grace?

It is God’s favor. It is undeserved. It can’t be earned. It can’t be bought. It is the fullness of God’s favor expressed most fully in Christ. It is such an important word that Paul could say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”   (Ephesians 2:8)

In Paul’s weakness, Jesus didn’t say, “Paul, try as hard as you can to endure, and when you have done all you can, My Grace will do the rest.” Jesus didn’t say, “Paul, work with Me here. You do part, and My Grace will do part.” He said, “Paul, you can’t. You are weak. But set against your weakness is My Grace, and My Grace alone is sufficient. My Grace alone is everything you need.”

When Christ offers us His Grace, He is not offering us a substance. He is not offering us His sympathy or compassion. He is offering us Himself and all that He is and all that He has. My Grace for you! Me and all that I am and  have for you! My presence, My power, My provision, My providence, My protection. My Grace for you! 

My Grace in your weakness. My Grace in your worry.  My Grace in your weariness. My Grace in your wandering. My Grace in your woe. My Grace for you in your present circumstances, whatever those circumstances may be!

14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17)

That is what He offered Paul. That is what He offers me. That is what He offers you. My Grace for you!

Second, what is unique about Grace?

Paul noted that this was a personal promise from the Lord Jesus.  “He has said to me…” And in saying it, He was not saying His Grace would be barely enough. He said, “My Grace is sufficient.” How sufficient is Grace? 

When it comes to my sin, how sufficient is Grace? Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more! (Romans 5:20b) It is more than enough.  It is enough with Grace to spare. When Jesus Christ offers me His Grace, He offers me Himself. In the New Testament, He was never insufficient for any need. When there were five thousand to be fed, He took five loaves and two fishes and fed them with food left over. His Grace was sufficient.  He was never at a loss to meet a need whether it was  a man in bondage to a legion of demons, or the need of a man wrapped for four days in the windings of death inside a dark tomb. He could have stood outside the tomb of Lazarus, and said the same thing to him in his deadness that he said to Paul in his weakness. “My Grace is sufficient for you!”

His Grace is sufficient for salvation! It is sufficient in temptation! It is sufficient for sanctification! It is sufficient right now amidst any situation you face in your life!

Third, who can be a recipient of this Grace?

This was a personal promise to Paul. But it is also a personal promise to you. My Grace for you in your particular circumstances. My Grace for your bondage, for your deadness, for your depravity, for your darkness, however dark it may be. Can you sin past the point of forgiveness? My Grace for you sinner, regardless of how sinful you may be!

Paul talked to God about this thing, this thorn, this problem that overwhelmed him, that overcame him, that was too much for him personally. It was a problem for him spiritually. He asked God to take it away. Is there anything in your life that you have been asking God to take away? Is it a problem to you? Does it hinder you spiritually? Is it a trial? Is it a temptation? Is it a weakness? Is it a worry? Is it a sorrow you can no longer carry or a sickness that can’t be healed?

Three times Paul asked God to take that thorn away. And HE didn’t. HE wouldn’t! Instead, He offered Paul something to go along with his thorn. He has said to me, “My Grace is sufficient for you!” Sufficient for the thorn. Sufficient for the trouble. Sufficient for the tragedy. Sufficient for the trial. Sufficient for whatever it is in your life that overcomes you and overwhelms you!

Fourth, where should I expect to experience this Grace?

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

What is the weakness that Paul was facing? We don’t really know. But whatever it was, against that weakness, in the face of that weakness, the Lord Jesus offered Paul His Grace. He was not offering Paul His sympathy. He was not offering Paul His compassion. He was offering Paul Himself!

Power is perfected in weakness! What does that mean? It means there is no better place to experience Christ, no better place to know His presence, His strength, His deliverance than in weakness. Paul said, “Most gladly, therefore I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9b)

Christ in my weakness. Christ in my worry. Christ in my weariness. Christ in my wandering. Christ in my woe. Christ in my trial. Christ in my tragedy. Christ in my temptation. When Jesus Christ offers me His Grace, He offers me Himself, His strength, His presence, His power, His protection, His provision. My Grace for you! Where? In your weakness—whatever it is.

Finally, when can I expect to experience that Grace?

There is one word in this verse that I want you to see. That one word may come to mean more to you than all the rest of the words in this verse. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you… (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

This is a promise. It was a promise made to Paul. But it is also a promise made to you. In the original Greek, the first part of this verse is written in he perfect tense. Written in the perfect tense, it comes with a sense of finality and absolute authority. It is unquestionably true. My Grace is sufficient!

But we still have not answered the question of when. When will I know this grace? When can I know this grace? How long will I have to bear under the weight of my trial? How long will I have to struggle against my temptation? How long will I have to face my weakness before I know that Grace? When will I know it? When can I claim it?

The promise was made in the past as Paul reflects upon it. However, the promise itself is written in an abiding present. Jesus didn’t say, “My grace will be sufficient.”Paul didn’t say, “His grace has been sufficient.” Paul wrote the words exactly as Jesus said them because the truth remains. “My Grace IS sufficient!”

That little word “IS” should mean all the world to you, because it means right now! Whatever your circumstances. Whatever your weakness. Whatever your worry. Whatever your weariness. Whatever your sorrow. Whatever your struggle. Whatever your suffering. The promise of the Lord Jesus is: My Grace for you!

“My Grace is sufficient. My Grace is power perfected in weakness.” When Christ offers you His grace, He doesn’t offer you His sympathy or His compassion. He offers you Himself. To know the Grace of Christ, is to know the power of Christ dwelling in you. When can you know that? When can you experience that Grace all sufficient? Right now! My Grace for you IS! His Grace is sufficient for anything you might be facing in your life!

His grace IS right now! Right now Christ offers you Himself, His  presence, His power, His protection, His provision. Do you need His help? Do you need His strength? Do you need the deliverance that only He can give?

What must you do? Let me take you to one more verse of Scripture that may drive home the point to your heart. And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe thatHe is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

HE IS! HIS Grace IS! His Power IS perfected in weakness! If you seek Him in your weakness, you can experience the power of Christ dwelling in you right now! When Jesus offers you His grace, He offers you Himself! It is my sincere prayer that the Lord will reveal Himself and His Grace to you in your personal journey!

Between the Little Whiles

Are you facing some uncertainty, some suffering, some sorrow? In the space between the little whiles, we don’t know what God is doing. But it is good to know God is doing something. He says so in His word.

Some of you are passing through difficult circumstances. Your night of difficulty is long. You, like me, know the Lord Jesus. You are a believer. But you are in one of those “in between” moments of life. You are in between the Lord’s promise, and the realization of His promise. You are in between crying out to God for deliverance, and waiting for that deliverance to come. You are in between the dark night of trial, and the glorious morning of being on the other side of that trial, where you can see how God worked all things together for good.

Some years ago, I grappled with a set of verses that left me wondering what they might mean. As a matter of fact, as I read them, I realized that even the Lord’s own disciples were having hard time understanding what He meant. He was talking to them about some “in between” moments in their lives.

16 “A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.” 17 Some of His disciples then said to one another, “What is this thing He is telling us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, “Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.21 Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.22 Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. John 16:16-22

Seven times in four verses, we meet this phrase a little while. There are two distinct little whiles in this conversation between Jesus and His disciples. There is the little while before His departure, (that is between that moment and the cross) and there is the little while between His departure and His resurrection. He speaks of what will happen to them in between the little whiles and at the end of the little while.

The disciples were clearly confused by the little whiles and just what Jesus might be saying. But what was He saying, and is He still saying it to us? Is He telling us what to expect and how to live between the little whiles?

I will let you draw your own conclusion. But the matter peaked my interest some years ago. So I began to investigate. Here are the questions I asked as I began my investigation.

  •  How Long is a Little While?

I don’t think there is an answer to that, but on the other hand, we have several illustrations of periods the Bible refers to as a little while.

First, Jesus own life on the earth was referred to as a little while.

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9

In light of eternity, the thirty-three-year life-span of Jesus, was just a little while. In fact, so is your life and mine.

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. James 4:14

Of course, your age will determine how you relate to that verse. If you are a younger person, say in your teens to your thirties, you can’t see how life could be short. You have so much ahead of you. Yet, if you are older, you know how fast time passes, and how it seems to go by faster and faster. So you understand how an entire lifetime could be characterized as just a little while.

You might like to know that in each case the Greek word is the word from which we get our word Microscopic. It means very small. And yet, a little while, from the perspective of heaven, can cover many generations.

For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. Hebrews 10:37

How long has it been since those words were written? Well, in light of the verse itself, just a little while. But chronologically, it has been almost 2000 years. I share these things to show you how impossible it is to put a time on a little while. So what was Jesus trying to tell his disciples? He was preparing them for what was going to happen between the little whiles.

  • What Happens Between the Little Whiles?

He compared what happens between the little whiles to what happens to a woman in labor. There is pain between the little whiles. There is sorrow between the little whiles. There is weeping between the little whiles. Life happens between the little whiles.

For someone passing through one of these little whiles of sorrow or suffering, it can seem overwhelming. …even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials… 1 Peter 1:6

You might find yourself in the little while of suffering or sorrow. How long will it last? There is no way to know. God governs the days and hours between the little whiles. God has a purpose in these little whiles. That is what Jesus was telling his disciples. Life between the little whiles was going to be difficult. But God was working His purpose.

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

The suffering, sorrow, pain, and weeping of the little while, falls under God’s sovereignty. Jesus was alerting His disciples to these things, that they might not lose faith between the little whiles.

  •  How Should I Live Between the Little Whiles?

In the Old Testament, we are told of the time the nation of Israel experienced a three and a half year drought. From the perspective of the people who endured it, it was agonizing. All through that little while, Elijah lived under the protection of God, who engaged the ravens to feed him until the brook ran dry, and then chose to provide for him at the home of a destitute widow. The widow was destitute because there was a famine in the land during the little while. Eventually, Elijah emerges from his God imposed hiding place and finds himself atop Mt. Carmel praying for rain.

But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. 43 He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back” seven times. 44 It came about at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you.’” 45 In a little while the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower.  1 Kings 18: 42b-45a

I refer to this passage because I want you to see that Elijah endured the little while on Mt. Carmel the same way he endured the years of famine. He exhibited an absolute dependence upon God during that little while of waiting for answer to prayer. Between the little whiles, we wait in patient faith in God, who is sovereign over the little whiles.

In Isaiah, God’s people are in crisis. It is a crisis that Isaiah compares to the crisis of a woman in labor who can’t bring her child to birth. Listen to Isaiah describe it, and then listen as God instructs His people how to endure the little while.

16 O Lord, they sought You in distress; They could only whisper a prayer, Your chastening was upon them. 17 As the pregnant woman approaches the time to give birth, She writhes and cries out in her labor pains, Thus were we before You, O Lord…. 20 Come, my people, enter into your rooms And close your doors behind you; Hide for a little while Until indignation runs its course. Isaiah 26:16-17; 20

Here again, we see God calling for patient faith in the life of His people during the difficult days of the little while. Do you find yourself between the little whiles? Are you facing some uncertainty, some suffering, some sorrow? In the space between the little whiles, we don’t know what God is doing. But it is good to know God is doing something. He says so in His word. God showed me, just this week, how He was working during the little while of this COVID-19 crisis. Do you also need to see how God is at work during your little while?

Did you know that even the saints in heaven endure the little whiles?

10 And they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. Revelation 6:10-11

How do the saints in heaven endure the little while? They rest themselves in God’s sovereignty. How long is the little while? Only God knows. God governs the days and hours in the little while. The little whiles serve His purposes in ways known only to Him.

  •  Finally, What Can We Expect on the Other Side of the Little Whiles?

…you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.21 Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. John 16:20-22a

What can you expect on the other side of the little while?  There is a joy there—a joy that only be fully appreciated by those who have endured the little while. In the midst of the little while, those of us who keep our trust in God are…  protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:5-7

What is on the other side of the little while? A tested and approved faith, having passed through the fiery testing of the little while, and found to result in praise and honor and glory at the coming of Jesus. God has something for you on the other side of your little while. There is always something on the other side of the little while!

Life should not be measured by the little while of suffering. We look beyond the present life, which is, at its best, a vapor, only a little while. And instead we look to things eternal, although we see them only through the eyes of faith.

Between the little whiles we live by faith and not by sight. We rest in the knowledge of God’s unseen presence and in the comfort of His love. Meanwhile, God is sovereign over the little whiles, working His purpose for our good and His glory. God will bring an end to this present crisis. He will do it in His own time and in His own way. For this little while, let’s keep encouraging one another to put our trust in Him.

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

When God Visits His People

In our nation and in our world, we are in a time of crisis and a moment of great need. What we need in this moment is a vaccine. We need a cure. We need healings. We need miracles in the lives of those who are sick. But what we need more than anything else is for God to visit His people! I will tell you why. We need the experts, the doctors, the scientists, the politicians, the church, and a watching world to see something only God can do.

I want to take you to a passage of Scripture in the New Testament. It tells us of one of the miracles of Jesus. Today we are listening to government leaders and this expert and that expert and their different opinions on our present crisis. The passage of Scripture we will look at also concerns a crisis. It is the crisis in the life of one woman. The story is found in only one place in our Bible. Why is that significant? Well, sometimes Matthew, Mark, Luke and John will tell us the same story. You can find it in four different gospels. But this story you find only in the gospel of Luke.

Why are Luke’s stories different? Well, for one, Luke was not a Jew. He was a Gentile. That would say to us that Luke was, for a time, an unbeliever. He became a Christian, likely through his association with Paul. Luke, after having heard Paul preach the gospel, became interested in the stories of Jesus. Luke was not present when any of the stories in his gospel happened. Luke researched these stories. In the beginning of His gospel, he writes:  Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us,  just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4

Remember, this is a story only Luke tells. As he tells it, he tells it from the perspective of eyewitnesses. Luke was interested in the exact truth. Why? Because Luke was an expert. He was a doctor. We have heard a word used a lot in recent days. It is the word anecdotal. It means hearsay, circumstantial, unreliable, sketchy. Doctors and other experts don’t like evidence like that. That is why Luke made it is business to search out the exact truth.

He didn’t make these stories up. He researched them, sought out the eye-witnesses, and then he laid out the facts. Let’s take a moment to consider the facts about what Jesus can do in a crisis. I am especially interested in how the eye-witnesses interpreted what happened. I also want to ponder the message of the miracle that came through loud and clear to all present.

Soon afterwards, He went to a city called Nain: and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and, “God has visited His people!” This report concerning Him went out all over Judea and in all the surrounding district. Luke 7:11-17

When an expert does research and presents a report, he or she not only gives you the facts, but draws a conclusion. Look at the conclusion Luke presents based on his research. In that incident at Nain, something amazing took place. God visited His people! Is that conclusion significant? Not only will you find this story nowhere else in the Bible. You will find this specific expression nowhere else in the Bible. “God has visited His people.” 

I remind you of the circumstances. It was a time of crisis. It was a moment of great need.  In our nation and in our world, we are in a time of crisis and a moment of great need. What we need in this moment is a vaccine. We need a cure. We need healings. We need miracles in the lives of those who are sick. But what we need more than anything else is for God to visit His people! I will tell you why. We need the experts, the doctors, the scientists, the politicians, the church, and a watching world to see something only God can do.

That is what happened that day there at Nain. I want to walk you back through these verses and show you some things that spark my interest. First, the story begins with the words Soon afterwards.

Why so soon?

As you know, Jesus was never in a hurry. Why did He leave when He did? Jesus was in Capernaum. It was a twenty-five-mile walk to Nain. That’s quite a journey. What prompted Him to leave so soon? Did He know what was going on in that widow’s home? Did He know about the illness in the life of her boy? You will notice that no one called Him. There was no messenger that approached Him. It was at His own initiative that He began this journey. He obviously knew where He was going and why. That leads me to draw an assumption about how God works:

When God Visits His People, It Will Be at His Own Initiative

It will be because of what He sees and what He knows and it will be according to His timing. There is no indication that when He left Capernaum there was a crisis or that someone sent for Jesus. He left at His own initiative. He was on His way to visit Nain. He left, knowing what He would find when He arrived, and knowing what He would do when He got there. In fact, it is possible that Jesus began His journey in advance of the existence of this need in Nain.

How long does it take to walk twenty-five miles? A person walks about 3 miles an hour. Walking with a crowd of people it might take longer. But it was long day’s journey.

What I am proposing is that this mom in this story may not have had a need when the day began. In those days, they buried people the same day they died. How did her boy die? Was it an accident? Was it an illness? Was it something she didn’t expect to face as the day began? Was it something Jesus knew she would face before He left Capernaum? Was Jesus travelling because He knew her boy would die?

When God visits His people, He does so at His own initiative. He does so because He knows something we don’t. We all began this year with no idea that we would be in the middle of this crisis. Do you suppose God knew? Do you suppose God knows what the need is in your life and knew of it before you knew it yourself? The Bible tells us that God knows what we need before we ask. He knew what this mother would need before she knew she had a need about which to pray. So, with a sense of urgency, He left Capernaum headed for Nain. When God visits His people, it will be at His own initiative, and it will be because of what He sees and knows.

When God Visits His People, He Will Invite Others to be Involved in His Activity

We discover in this story that His disciples were going along with Him. Why did Jesus take the disciples with Him or others for that matter? It was because there was something He wanted them to experience. There was something He wanted them to see and to witness so that they could experience something only God could do. There was an encounter with God waiting for them in Nain. 

What prompted you to read this post? Could it be that there is an encounter with God waiting for you, just as there was for His disciples as they made the long walk to Nain? Just as God visited all those people in that cemetery that day, perhaps today is the day God intends to visit you.

When God Visits His People, It Is His Intention to Impact Many

A large crowd accompanied them. Imagine a large crowd taking a twenty-five-mile walk just to follow Jesus. I have discovered that Jesus never touches a life for the sake of that life alone. The ripple effect of that touch goes out in every direction around that person’s life. The effect of God’s work in that person’s life becomes widely known, and many more lives are touched and changed as a result.

You will notice that there are two multitudes here. There was the large crowd that came with Jesus. Perhaps they had seen what Jesus could do, or perhaps they had heard anecdotal evidence, and they needed to see with their own eyes. They needed their own experience with God. First, there were those who had no crisis. They were just curious. Then there was the other crowd. The crowd from Nain was making their way out of the city with this mother. They were all shocked and shaken, their lives having been shattered by the crisis of death. Two entirely different groups of people were about to have an encounter with God.

As you are engaged in reading this post, God knows your need—needs you have at the moment—and needs you don’t even know will arise. But your greatest need is for a visit from God. That is the way they all described it after the fact. God has visited His people. I pray that God would visit you even as you read.

When God Visits His People, His Timing Will Be Perfect

A visitation from God will always coincide with a deep need in the lives of His people and a purpose known only to the heart of God. Where were God’s people when God met Moses at the burning bush? They were in deep need. Desperation and hopelessness filled their hearts. God knew that need. He knew their hearts. His purpose in speaking to Moses corresponded with that need in the lives of His people. Story after story in Scripture makes us aware of God’s advance awareness of needs that exist in the life of His people and of His perfect timing in meeting them in their need.

Ponder the need of this woman. She was a widow with an only son. That is who she was at the beginning of the day. At the end of the day, she was a hopeless widow who lost her only son. And where was the God who promised to be the defender of widows? He was on His way!

I don’t know what your need is as you listen today, or how your need compares with hers. But I know this. I know that God knows.  I know that God cares. I know that God wants to visit you in your need just as He visited that woman in her need. 

Now consider the perfect timing of our Lord’s arrival. He made the twenty-five-mile journey with twelve disciples and a large crowd of people. I believe He made that journey just in behalf of this widow. He knew her need. He knew where she would be at the end of this long, painful day. 

Ponder the moment. Two crowds meet at the city gate. One just leaving the city carrying the body of a widow’s only son. The other crowd had walked all day. What are the chances of them meeting at the city gate? Historians tell us that it is just a ten-minute walk from the city gate to the cemetery just outside of Nain. Ten-minutes later and Jesus would have missed her at the city gate. If she left ten-minute earlier, she would have missed Him. But this was a Divine Appointment. This was God, in His perfect timing, showing up to meet the need in the life of a woman.

That is not my opinion. That was the conclusion drawn by those who were there. That is also the conclusion drawn by Luke as He examined and researched the story. This was God visiting His people. It was perfect timing! Perhaps there is something God wants to do in your life that He has waited until this exact moment to do. He knew you would be reading. He knew your need. This is a Divine Appointment.

When God visits His people, it will be at His own initiative. When God visits His people, He will involve His people to be a part of His activity. When God visits His people, His intention is to impact many. When God visits His people, His timing will be perfect.

What a moment that must have been. First, the Bible says, “When the Lord saw her, he felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” v. 13

Do you suppose He sees you? Knowing your circumstances, does He feel compassion for you? Can He dry your tears? Can He restore your hope? Those are things that only God can do. But on that day, God visited His people. Is God visiting you right now? Is He speaking? Is this your Divine Appointment in the midst of this crisis?

When God Visits His People, He Does So to Restore Something That is Lost

What was it in this woman’s life? It was her boy. It was her hope. It was her future. I also believe that it was her faith. Sometimes, a crisis devastates our faith. We blame God. We decide God doesn’t know or care. But look at this story. In perfect timing, Jesus steps into the middle of her circumstances. Listen as Luke tells it: And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” The dead man (the corpse) sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave Him back to His mother. V. 14-15

What a moment. It would have been better to her to lose her own life than to lose her boy. But Jesus stepped into the middle of her circumstances and gave her back not only her boy, but her hope and her faith in God. What about you? Are you in a period of crisis in your life? Has this present crisis shaken you? Has it shaken your faith? Where is God in your circumstances?

The great need of the hour in this crisis is no different than the great need of the hour in that crisis. We need God to visit His people. We need God to step into the middle of our circumstances and display His glory to His shaken people and to a watching world. But like then, that is something only God can do. The church can’t manufacture God in the midst of this crisis. It is up to God to do reveal Himself. It will happen at His initiative and in His perfect timing.

Only Jesus can speak to a corpse and it rise to life. Only Jesus can speak to your circumstances and make sense out of them. Only Jesus can speak to your hopelessness and restore your hope. Only Jesus can speak to your dead faith and ignite revival.

Listen to the expert, Dr. Luke, as he gives us the exact truth about the rest of this story: 1The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. 16 Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and, “God has visited His people!” v. 15-16

When God Visits His People, He Does So to Display His Glory to a Watching World

Fear gripped them all! Two multitudes were shaken by that encounter. That often happens in the stories of Jesus’ miracles. When Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples were terrified. “They said, “Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” When Jesus healed the man with the legion of demons, the people ended up more afraid of Jesus than they were of the demon possessed man. What accounts for this? Why in this story did fear grip them all? 

It was a Holy Dread. When God visits His people, His people along with a watching world are overcome with a sense of His presence and a Holy Dread comes over them. It was not just the miracle. It was the Holy Dread that prompted them to conclude that God had visited His people. That is the need of the hour. We need God to visit His people. But not just to bring an end to some crisis. We need Him to manifest His presence in such a way that His church and a watching world have no choice but to conclude that it was God.

We need a sense of Holy Dread that accompanies the manifestation of God’s presence. We need God to step into our circumstances, into our church services, into our homes, into the mess of our government, and we need Him to manifest His presence there is such a way that we are more shaken by an encounter with Him than the crisis that has shaken our world. We need God to visit His people!

Photo by Matthew DeVries from Pexels

A Defender in Difficulty

Do you stand in need of a fortress? Are you in danger? Are you vulnerable? Are you in that high risk group in danger from COVID-19? If you are one of the defenseless and vulnerable, how would you go about entering the fortress of God’s Presence?

O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress.  My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies. Psalm 59:9-10 ESV

While looking through some old files, I found a few notes from my personal Bible study. Notes are precious to me. They take me back to moments when God spoke to me. These notes took me back to a time in 2009 when God spoke these words to my heart, showing me three very simple truths from His word.

I would like to share these truths with you and the verses that inspired them. When God speaks to me, He does so in very simple ways. After all, we are very simple people. We are like children. God gives us the basics. Then we take those basics to our everyday life. It is there He helps us live them out in the midst of our circumstances.

You would think that the older we get, that we would be so much wiser, and the deep things of God would enrich us. And yet, I find that the older I get it is the simple, basic, truths that tend to get lost in the forest of some difficulty. I will give you an example out of my practical experience. 

In 2016, after I had a knee replacement, I was having trouble walking. We had two grandchildren, six and seven, living with us at the time. They took care of me with a tenderness that touched my heart. But I was having trouble making the artificial knee work right. I was going to trained therapists who were trying to help me as well as my surgeon.

But then, one day, while holding my little seven-year-old granddaughter’s hand, she looked up at me and said, “Beep” (they all call me Beep) she said, “Beep, you have to pick your leg up like this.” And she showed me. It was the simplest little thing. But it was the thing only she had observed that I was not doing. It was basic. It didn’t take a rocket scientist or a surgeon to understand it. My seven-year-old granddaughter helped me walk again.

Let me help you walk through your time of personal difficulty by offering some precious truths a seven-year-old could share. These truths aren’t profound, but they may help you walk through whatever valley, whatever darkness, whatever forest difficulty you might be facing. You too can trust God to be your defender in difficulty.

First, To Know God as Strength, You Must Stand in a Position of Weakness.

Is that so hard to understand? No. You understand it perfectly. What kind of weakness has invaded your life? To you, the weakness has hindered you. It is holding you back. Yet, have you considered the weakness itself as an opportunity to experience God as your strength? Listen to what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 

His power is made perfect in your weakness. His strength is perfect when our strength is gone. We have to get where we don’t know how to walk, before we will let a little seven-year-old girl teach us to walk. We also have to be weak before we are ready to depend on God’s strength.

How then can I access God’s strength?

First, acknowledge your weakness. Is it a physical weakness? Acknowledge that weakness to God. He is not surprised by it, though you might be. Is it a spiritual weakness? Do you not suppose that He also knows that weakness? The promise is the same regardless of the weakness. Simply acknowledge your need.

Second, ask God for strength. Did He not promise to have the supply which you were need? In Isaiah 40:29 God promised: He gives power to the faint,and to him who has no might he increases strength. He gives power to the faint.Are you just about to faint? Are you ready to give in and give up? God waits for you to realize your weakness and to ask for His strength.

Third, once you ask, anticipate the provision of God’s strength. Remember His promise that: they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;they shall mount up with wings like eagles;they shall run and not be weary; Isaiah 40:31

What God promises, He gives. Would you know His strength? Acknowledge your need. Request His strength. In faith, receive it.

By the way, God’s answer to prayer rarely comes with feeling. It comes by experience, as we walk in faith. David didn’t know God’s strength to face Goliath until He made the journey. Likewise, God’s strength is experienced in your weakness as you continue to walk by faith. When you receive it, against whatever enemy that comes against you, it will be obvious that the victory belonged to God and not you.

The fourth thing I would tell you is to personalize the promise. The words of David must become your words. “O MY strength I will watch for You.”

David also said: for You, O God, are my fortress.

2. To Know God as Your Fortress, You Must Stand Defenseless and Vulnerable.

Only those facing trouble and danger need a fortress. A fortress is not a place from which to fight. It is a place to hide. David also called God his hiding place.

Do you have a hiding place? The other night when our phones rang out a tornado warning, my wife and I went to our hiding place. We closed ourselves in, defenseless and helpless against whatever was coming.

Do you stand in need of a fortress? Are you in danger? Are you vulnerable? Are you in that high risk group in danger from COVID-19? If you are one of the defenseless and vulnerable, how would you go about entering the fortress of God’s Presence?

First, Surrender. Just as I was preparing this, I received a message from one of our members whose granddaughter was being taken to the hospital desperately sick. I know how he feels. He is helpless. Right at this very moment, his family needs God to be their fortress—their hiding place.

What can you do? Nothing! Surrender the battle to the Lord. 

Second, take up the position of prayer. You have heard it said that a man is never taller or stronger than when he is on his knees. But while you are there, let me encourage you to spend less time telling God about the size of your problem, and spend more time considering the greatness and majesty of the God you serve. He is a God who sees. He sees you in your hiding place. He sees you in your need. He sees your little granddaughter whether she is holding your hand or whether a doctor is holding hers. You are helpless. You are weak, but He is strong. Didn’t you sing that as a child. Then practice that on your knees.

Third, while you are there rest and trust. I know the panic of a distressed heart, distraught over weakness and helplessness. Not able to do what needs to be done in your own life or in the life of someone you love. Just today, I read another verse that means much to me. Let it speak to you as you ponder how to respond to your circumstances.  For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,“In repentance and rest you will be saved;in quietness and trust is your strength.” Isaiah 30:15

As you lay out the situation before the Lord, whatever it is, allow Him to carry it. Don’t try to carry it on your own. You’re not able to fight this battle. Surrender it to the Lord. Take up the position of prayer. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.

Fourth, personalize the promise. Speak it out to God. You are my fortress. You ae my hiding place in times of trouble and uncertainty.

To know God as strength, you must stand in a position of weakness. To know God as your fortress, you must stand defenseless and vulnerable.

Third, In Order to Experience God as Love, You Must Stand Personally in Need of His Mercy.

David said:My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies. Psalm 59:10

Let me caution you. When you come to God for help, helpless as you are, in your utter and absolute weakness, the enemy will tell you that you have no basis on which to approach Him. You are too sinful. You are not good enough.

In one way, your enemy is right. You are not good enough. But we never come to God on the basis of our goodness. We come to God on the basis of His steadfast love. We come as those in need of Mercy. 

The Bible tells me that God’s mercy is new every morning. It is not like some limited stimulus a government might give. It is not like some human affection that depends on who I am and what I look like in another’s eyes. God’s love is steadfast and unchanging.

So what should I do? First, affirm it, just as you did as a little child. Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong! Have you lost sight of God’s love in the forest of some difficulty? God is still your strength in time of weakness. He is your shelter in times of storm. He is your forgiveness in times of failure.

To know God as strength, you must stand in a position of weakness. To know God as your fortress, you must stand defenseless and vulnerable.To experience God as love, you must stand personally in need of His mercy.

There is a song I dearly love because it speaks of God’s greatness and my great need. It is called Made Me Glad. The chorus says this: You are my Shield, my Strength, my Portion, Deliverer, my Shelter, Strong-tower, my Very Present Help in time of need.

May He be all of that and more to you today! May it be your delight to depend on Him! May He shelter you in His fortress and comfort you with His love! May He be your Defender in Difficulty!

Photo by Gustavo

Comfort in Crisis

Some of you have lost loved ones over the course of the last year. It makes things very hard. It brings a loneliness and an emptiness that makes it even harder to pass through this particular time of difficulty.

I think all of us are experiencing a general gloom in this climate of uncertainty. And that is all it is. It is uncertainty. It is uncertainty no different than that we face every day. The present situation just brings our uncertainty to the surface. I told someone the other day I felt a little like Pig-Pen, the character off Charlie Brown, who walks around with the dust cloud hovering all around him. I feel like I have a cloud of gloom following me through these days of contagion and economic calamity. But just the other day, I read back through the 27th Psalm. I hope it will help you like it helped me. Let me walk you through it, giving you the outline I penciled for myself on a notepad.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? (Psalm 27:1)

The Lord is My Light in My Darkness.

His presence alone can banish my gloom. That is not only true for me, it is true for all of us as we pass through this season of uncertainty. Remember, there is no uncertainty with God! He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

When I was a small boy, I came to know Jesus as my personal Savior. From that moment, many of the things that made me afraid, caused me fear no longer. The Lord was my light in whatever darkness that surrounded me. Still today, I have to remind myself of verses like these when darkness threatens to close in around me.  The Lord is my light in my darkness.

The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?   When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.( Psalm 27:1b-2)

The Lord is My Defender in Difficulty

This present crisis is causing difficulty for many people. But that may not be your only difficulty. As a result, your situation might be compounded by what is happening in our world. For many of you, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. But here it is. Difficulty added to difficulty. 

Do you think God is surprised by what is happening? Did He know your situation before COVID-19? Does He know your deadlines and the despair they bring to your life? I am convinced that God knows everything about my life! I have experienced His defense and His deliverance in difficulty. The word, defense, or strength, as it is is written in some translations, means a place of safety. In other words, there is no safer place to be amid the COVID-19 outbreak than simply trusting God for His protection. That is true in the midst of any other problemThe Lord is my defender in difficulty. 

Though a host encamp against me,My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me,In spite of this I shall be confident.  (Psalm 27:3)

The Lord is my Confidence in Calamity. 

Some years ago, Jeremiah 29:11 became a precious verse to me. I want to assure you that verses become precious to you when you read them for yourself from the pages of Scripture and God speaks them to your heart. This one became so special to me that I had it affixed to my office door where I worked for almost twenty years.  For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope.That has always been God’s plans for His people. Yes, calamity does come. We face it from time to time. But in that calamity, the Lord remains our confidence.

David looked at his calamity and said: In spite of this I shall be confident.

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,To behold the beauty of the LordAnd to meditate in His temple. (Psalm 27:4)

As more and more time passes off the calendar of a person’s life, it becomes clear that we are very frail creatures. Our strength is so limited. But here, David reminds us: 

The Lord is My Focus in My Frailty.

I choose to keep my eyes on Him. When I see how Strong He is and how Glorious He is, it helps me not to focus so much on me and my weakness.

I realize that some of you are more afraid than others during this crisis. Try to keep your focus on the Lord and not on the news, and not on the slender thread of life itself. Life is fragile when we are at the zenith of our strength. Go back to that previous verse where David said: The Lord is the strength of my life. He has always been, and He will always be.

This is so because of this next verse:

For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;He will lift me up on a rock. Psalm 27:5

The Lord is My Shelter in the Storm. 

This is true because He is Lord of the Storm. In the New Testament Jesus proved to be able to calm the storm on the sea of Galilee and the storm in the hearts of His disciples. He got out of the boat that day and met a man filled with a legion of demons. He conquered the storm that raged in Him. He got back in the boat and crossed a calm sea to the other side, finding a man whose daughter was at the point of death. On his way to that man’s house, he was stopped by a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years and no one could help her. He healed her, calming the storm of sickness. In the meantime, the little girl died. But Jesus went to her room and raised her up, displaying his power over the storm of death. What, do you think He is not Lord over Covid-19 and whatever other storm might enter our lives? He is our Shelter in the Storm because He is Lord of every storm.

And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. (Psalm 27:6)

What circumstances join Covid-19 in becoming the enemy of your life. David said: 

The Lord is My Praise in the Press of My Circumstances

I don’t fear any enemy because my Lord is greater than any enemy who can come against me. I love to tell the story of my friend Greg Hardin, a deacon at a previous church, who one day made a discovery about God that shaped my life from that day to this. It is something you also need to remember. Greg said: “Now I know that God is not God. Almost. He is God Almighty.” That is the God we serve. He is our praise in the press of our circumstances.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice,And be gracious to me and answer me.  When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” (Psalm 27:7b-8)

Because the Lord is my light in my darkness, my defense in my difficulty, my confidence in calamity, my focus in frailty, my shelter in the storm, my praise in the press of my circumstances, 

The Lord Will Also Be My Passion in My Peril.

Now is the time to seek His face. If you have needs, seek God. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given unto you, seek and you will find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” Ask the Lord, seek the Lord, and knock on the door of heaven. He should be your passion in your peril.

Some of you have lost loved ones over the course of the last year. It makes things very hard. It brings a loneliness and an emptiness that makes it even harder to pass through this particular time of difficulty. David even had something to say about that in this Psalm.

Do not hide Your face from me,Do not turn Your servant away in anger;You have been my help;Do not abandon me nor forsake me,O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me,But the Lord will take me up. (Psalm 27:9-10)

We lose people we love. But we do not lose the Lord. He will never leave us or forsake us. That is His promise. Therefore, David said, 

He Is My Lord in My Lonliness

The Lord will be present with you in your home tonight. Invite Him to sit at your table. As you drink your coffee, open your Bible. Talk to Him and let Him talk to you. He will be with you in trouble, now and always.

Finally, down in the last part of this psalm David said: 

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LordIn the land of the living.Wait for the Lord;Be strong and let your heart take courage;Yes, wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:13-14)

In other words, there were times when he would have just given up had it not been for the knowledge of God’s Presence and love. Therefore, I want to leave you with one final point that David makes about God. In doing so, I use a word that has become very special to me over the course of the last couple of months: It is the word HOPE.

The Lord Is My Hope in My Hopelessness.

The Bible says that those who put their hope in the Lord will never be disappointed. Waiting on the Lord is an expression of Hope. Because of the Lord, we should never be hopeless. Even if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us. He is with you right now in the midst of this present crisis. Who does David say the Lord is to Him through the words of this Psalm?

The Lord is my light in my darkness, my defense in my difficulty, my confidence in calamity, my focus in frailty, my shelter in the storm, my praise in the press of my circumstances, my passion in my peril, my Lord in my loneliness, and my hope in my hopelessness. He is not God Almost. He is God Almighty! I will trust and not be afraid!

Photo by Brian McGowan