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

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