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 Fring@pexels.com