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God has promised to ‘go with us’

05 Feb

There are specific places revealed in scripture that show us that God specifically promised to go with us…we need to realize and remember then and begin to acknowledge His pres­ence in those situations, learning to share them with Him. He will be pleased, and at the same time things will go better for us.

He Is With Us in Temptation.

A man had a sign on his door which said, “Lead me not into temptation, I can find it for myself.” We can all make that statement. Temptation will make itself known on a daily basis. May God go with you, OgilvieWe will never triumph over temptation pretending it doesn’t exist. We cannot afford the luxury of thinking it can’t happen to us. Thanks be to God who can give us the victory over temptation.

The Apostle Paul taught us that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit lives within us and goes everywhere we go. That should provide an added incentive for us to flee from sin. As Paul put it, “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:18‑19).

The believer’s body is a mini‑temple, a sacred dwelling place for the omni­present God, and we must treat it as such. Sexual relations outside of marriage defile the temple of God. They dirty up God’s dwelling place. To be conscious of God’s presence is to guard the purity of His home.

But respect for God’s home is not the only deterring power of this doctrine. If we love our Lord and want to please Him, the knowledge that He is with us is going to have an influence on where we take Him and what we do in His presence. We usually try not to offend someone we truly love. While we may be tempted to do something of which they disapprove when we are separated from their watchful eye, we seldom entertain the thought of doing it when they are standing right there looking at us. The next time you are tempted to disobey God’s Word and disregard His will, visualize Him standing there watching the whole scene. He is there, you know, so we might as well think about it. Sometimes we act like ostriches with our heads in the sand. We think that because we cannot see God, He cannot see us. But He does.

The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3).

He Is With Us in Need.

The writer to the Hebrews had something to say about God’s presence. Some of the folks to whom he was writing had lost their jobs because of their faith in Jesus Christ, and they were facing desperate needs. They were probably worrying about how their needs would be met and, worse still, they were envying people who had every­thing they needed. They would benefit from this pertinent exhortation: “Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

We may not have everything in life we want, but we do have the Lord. He is right there with us all the time. He sees all our needs and He will meet every one of them in His own time and in His own way. Some may be saying, like those Hebrew Christians of old, “But I have this bill due tomorrow that I can’t pay.”

That situation could be God’s way of en­couraging you to reevaluate your lifestyle. He wants us to be diligent, to work hard, to seek His wisdom about every penny we spend, and to stay out of debt. Unpaid bills sometimes reveal that we have been overly enthusiastic about gratifying our desires rather than merely meeting our needs. The next time you are tempted to spend money on something you do not need, remember that the omnipresent Lord of the uni­verse is right there with you. Ask His advice before you move ahead. Then trust Him faithfully to supply every need. That is what He promised to do (Philippians 4:19).

He Is With Us in Loneliness.

I want you to meet a lonely woman. Hagar was a slave, uprooted from her home in Egypt and taken to be the handmaid of Abraham’s wife, Sarah. She had gotten pregnant by Abraham at Sarah’s suggestion, and the resultant situation had brought such tension and turmoil to their household that she finally ran away to the wilder­ness—unloved, unwanted, pregnant, and absolutely alone in a strange land, the victim of someone else’s sin.

That was when the Lord appeared to her with tender words of encouragement and advice, and she called His name El Roi, the God who sees (Genesis 16:13). She had come to the comforting realization that God was right there with her, that He saw her in her loneliness, and that He cared. Ezekiel called Him Jehovah‑Shammah, the Lord who is there (Ezekiel 48:35).

He is the same God today. He sees us in our loneliness and offers us words of encouragement and advice. He is the God who is there, and He still cares. Most of us prefer a warm body near us when we are lonely, a hand we can touch, and a voice we can hear. God may provide that for us in His perfect time. But meanwhile, He is with us, and the very fact that we are physically alone can make His presence more precious than it would be if there were people around us. To believe that He is with us can help to dispel the aching loneliness.

Hope (looking with courage to the future) prevents us from clinging to what we have and frees us to move away from the safe place and enter unknown and fearful territory. [1]

He Is With Us Through Difficult Service.

Many godly people in Scripture faced tasks which they believed were beyond them, but the confidence to carry on came through the assurance of God’s presence. For example, when Moses was called by God to return to Egypt and deliver the people from bondage, he shuddered at the enormity of the task. When he tried to beg off, God said, “Certainly I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12). That was just the encouragement he needed to go on.

After the nation’s sin with the golden calf, God told Moses to lead the people on to their promised land. But he was afraid to go until the promise was reaffirmed. Finally it was: “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14).

The promise of God’s presence was the inspi­ration he needed to do the job he was called to do.

When Joshua took over the leadership of the nation after Moses’ death, he struggled with the same lack of confidence. But God was right there to encourage him: “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (verse 9). If God would be with him, he could conquer the land against insuperable odds.

When our Lord’s disciples heard His commission to make disciples of all nations, they must have trembled at the vast­ness of what they were being asked to do until the Lord added, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). That would make all the difference in the world.

He Is With Us in Danger.

 The Apostle Paul faced many dangerous situations in the course of his apostolic ministry, one of which was in Corinth. The Jews there were disturbed at the great numbers of people turning to Christ and the situation seemed to be as potentially explosive as a barrel of TNT beside a campfire.

Paul seriously considered leaving. “And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city’” (Acts 18:9‑10). The key to Paul’s courage was in those words, “I am with you.”

God said much the same thing to the tiny nation Israel when she was surrounded by giant world powers which threat­ened to destroy her. Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).

That is also His promise to us. There is nothing to fear for the child of God. He is present in all the places people sometimes fear. He is on that airplane, in that elevator, in that cramped room, on those high places, in that wild animal infested jungle, in that new and strange situation with people we do not know, in that operating room during delicate surgery, in the recovery room where the pain and discomfort are fierce.

Why should we fear anything when God is there? The Psalm­ist put it so beautifully: God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea (Psalm 46:1‑2).

He Is With Us in Death.

Death is the ultimate source of fear and anxiety for many people. But again, God is right there with us.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; 

Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4).

When we face the death of a loved one, this thought brings greater consolation than all the well intentioned words of our human friends put together: God is with us. And when we face our own departure from this earthly scene there is no reason for alarm. God will accompany us right into Heaven’s glory.

Sometime ago someone handed me this interesting account: I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord and across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to me, the other to the Lord. When the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of my life there was only one set of footprints. I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in my life.

I questioned the Lord about it. “Lord, You said that once I decided to follow You, You would walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why in times when I needed You most, You would leave.” The Lord replied, “My precious child, I would never leave you during your times of trial and suffering. When you see only one set of footprints, it was then I carried you.”

What more can we ask? Wherever we go, whatever we face, our omnipresent Lord is with us. Ignore Him no longer. Let Him be part of every situation and circumstance. The awareness of His presence will add an exciting new dimen­sion to the quality of your life and to the confidence you enjoy in living.

Let me repeat an earlier point for emphasis and application here: Knowing this fact about God’s omnipresence is sufficient to give me the courage, confidence, and comfort I need to be courageous each day I have upon this earth, “…because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Tim Hansel reminds us that “the Bible is a first-hand story of goose-bump courage in very ordinary people who were invaded by the living God.”

Faith and Courage

If there are two words that should be said in the same breath and said regularly to ventilate our hope, that should be flamed together, branded as a signature of our faith, they are the words “faith” and “courage.”  It takes courage to believe, and in order to have that courage, we must believe.

From time to time, lobsters have to leave their shells in order to grow. They need the shell to protect them from being torn apart, yet when they grow, the old shell must be abandoned. If they did not abandon it, the old shell would soon become their prison–and finally their casket.

The tricky part for the lobster is the brief period of time between when the old shell is discarded and the new one is formed. During that terribly vulnerable period, the transition must be scary to the lobster. Currents gleefully cartwheel them from coral to kelp. Hungry schools of fish are ready to make them a part of the food chain. For awhile at least, that old shell must look pretty good.

We are not so different from lobsters. To change and grow, we must sometimes shed our shells–a structure, a framework–we’ve depended on. Discipleship means being so committed to Christ that when he bids us to follow, we will change, risk, grow, and leave our “shells” behind. [2]

In A Pretty Good Person, Lewis Smedes writes:  A federal judge had ordered New Orleans to open its public schools to African-American children, and the white parents decided that if they had to let black children in, they would keep their children out. They let it be known that any black children who came to school would be in for trouble. So the black children stayed home too.

“Except Ruby Bridges. Her parents sent her to school all by herself, six years old.

“Every morning she walked alone through a heckling crowd to an empty school. White people lined up on both sides of the way and shook their fists at her. They threatened to do terrible things to her if she kept coming to their school. But every morning at ten minutes to eight Ruby walked, head up, eyes ahead, straight through the mob; two U.S. marshals walked ahead of her and two walked behind her. Then she spent the day alone with her teachers inside that big silent school building.

“Harvard professor Robert Coles was curious about what went into the making of courageous children like Ruby Bridges. He talked to Ruby’s mother and, in his book The Moral Life of Children, tells what she said: “There’s a lot of people who talk about doing good, and a lot of people who argue about what’s good and what’s not good,” but there are other folks who “just put their lives on the line for what’s right.” [3]

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat. [4]

The only fight which is lost is that which we give up. [5]

In June l955, Winston Churchill, who was then near the end of his life, was asked to give a commencement address at a British University.  At this time he was physically infirm; he had to be helped to the podium.  Then he held on to the podium for what seemed an interminable amount of time.  He stood with his head down but then finally raised that great leonine head of his, and the voice that years before had called Britain back from the brink of destruction sounded publicly for the last time in history.

“Never give up.  Never give up.  Never give up.”  With that, Churchill turned and went back to his seat.  I’m told there was silence, and then, as if one person, the whole audience rose to applaud him, because he was a man whose life and words were together. Again and again throughout Churchill’s political career, he had known setbacks.  Three times, his career apparently was over, he was sent off to oblivion, and yet somehow he had a sense that there was still something left after the worst. [6]

Fear doesn’t want you to make the journey to the mountain. If he can rattle you enough, fear will persuade you to take your eyes off the peaks and settle for a dull existence in the flatlands. [7]

Henry Ward Beecher is credit as saying that “God planted fear in the soul as truly as he planted hope or courage. It is a kind of bell or gong which rings the mind into quick life on the approach of danger. It is the soul’s signal for rallying.“

Once you’ve faced the very thing you fear the most, it is no longer quite so fearful. [8]

Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitude toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.

Being positive is part of being a hero–maybe the hardest part, because if you are a hero you’re smart enough to know all the reasons why you should be discouraged.

The best decision-makers are those who are willing to suffer the most over their decisions but still retain their ability to be decisive.

Maybe we need the confidence of Alexander McClaren, who courageously replied, “Only he who can say, “The Lord is the strength of my life,” can say, “Of whom shall I be afraid?”

During World War I, a British commander was preparing to lead his soldiers back to battle. They’d been on furlough, and it was a cold, rainy, muddy day. Their shoulders sagged because they knew what lay ahead of them: mud, blood, possible death. Nobody talked, nobody sang. It was a heavy time.

As they marched along, the commander looked into a bombed-out church. Back in the church he saw the figure of Christ on the cross. At that moment, something happened to the commander. He remembered the One who suffered, died, and rose again. There was victory, and there was triumph.

As the troops marched along, he shouted out, “Eyes right, march!” Every eye turned to the right, and as the soldiers marched by, they saw Christ on the cross. Something happened to that company of men. Suddenly they saw triumph after suffering, and they took courage. With shoulders straightened, they began to smile as they went. You see, anything worthwhile in life will be a risk that demands courage. [9]

We certainly want to avoid the charge being leveled toward us that we were neutral at a crucial point of our life. Dante said in the 13th century that “the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality. “

Today our culture is far less likely to raise up heroes than it is to exalt victims, individuals who are overcome by the sting of oppression, injustice, adversity, neglect or misfortune. … Success, as well as failure, is the result of one’s own talent, decisions and actions. Accepting personal responsibility for victory, as well as for defeat, is as liberating and empowering as it is unpopular today.

Ed was a motion picture producer who had finished his most recent film. During the next year as every independent film producer does, he had been working hard to try to sell his picture to one of the majors.  Being unsuccessful in his attempts to sell the majors, he had then approached many of the minor motion picture distribution companies.  He had finally aroused some interest in a smaller motion picture distribution company and had arranged for a showing of his picture to their top executives.

At the conclusion of the showing, the president of the motion picture distribution company turned to Ed and said, “There is nothing particularly wrong with your picture.  The story is all right, the quality is fine, the acting is acceptable, but if it is going to be a money maker there are three changes that need to be made.  There are three different locations in your film where we need to add sex scenes so that the picture will have some kind of box office appeal.  With the addition of these three scenes, we can assure you of a million dollars in profit for your share of what this picture will gross when released by us.”

Ed needed to make a sale badly because of the current conditions in his own company, but he responded by saying, “Thank you for looking at my film.  I appreciate your taking time to consider this as one of your projects for distribution, but I am sorry that we will not be able to make the changes that you have suggested.”  Ed knew to whom to say “No.”

He had the courage to act on his convictions.

However, taking a stand against the crowd is not easy. This is a struggle that exposes our strength or weakness. In past years South Africa was a climate of racism and black men often suffer humiliation from white inhabitants.  A Bantu was sent to the theater to get tickets for his  white employer.  There was a single line and upon inquiry he was told to get in the white man’s line although in South Africa this is forbidden. Suddenly a black haired youth elbowed him out of line.  This haughty action was followed by similar actions of a teenage girl.  Then a real bull of a man with closely cropped hair seized the native and hurled him into the street.  The theater manager told him to get back in line, but again he was thrown out. Then a voice sounded clear above the rumble of the complaints.  A man of about fifty, with whitened temples and in the open neck attire of a farmer, shouted with a voice ringing with threat and authority,  “Let this fellow in. What’s the matter with you?”  The crowd cowered and the lowly native was placed in front.

The South African farmer risked his reputation and the crowds disapproval, but he stood firm.  This is goodness.  And, it costs. Contrast this with the Indiana teenagers arrested for shoplifting.  They admitted they did not need the merchandise, but stole it because everybody was doing it.  Investigation revealed they did not feel they had done wrong since the crowd had placed a sanction on it.

I have always appreciated the ‘dry bones’ message of Ezekiel 36-37, when God revealed His plans for the deliverance of Israel and the restoration of His name among the nations. His motives were clear: “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone….’For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land….I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

“You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.  I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine. Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices.”

(Ezekiel 37:1-14)  “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. {2} He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. {3} He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” {4} Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! {5} This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. {6} I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.'” {7} So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. {8} I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. {9} Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.'” {10} So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet–a vast army. {11} Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ {12} Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. {13} Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. {14} I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.'””

God revealed His power and might, and the reality that literally nothing is outside of His control; He can do what He wills when He wants! He needs us to realize this and be willing participants! He who loves God with all his heart dreads neither death, torment, judgment, nor hell, for perfect love opens a sure passage to God.

In the midst of a storm, a little bird was clinging to the limb of a tree, seemingly calm and unafraid. As the wind tore at the limbs of the tree, the bird continued to look the storm in the face, as if to say, “Shake me off; I still have wings.”

Hope prevents us from clinging to what we have and frees us to move away from the safe place and enter unknown and fearful territory. The only fight which is lost is that which we give up. We must be careful for nothing, prayerful for everything, thankful for anything.

We must have plenty of courage. God is stronger than the devil. We are on the winning side. Success is never final; failure is never fatal; it is courage that counts. The great need for anyone in authority is courage. Courage is almost a contradiction in terms:  it means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.

Courage is not limited to the battlefield or the Indianapolis 500 or bravely catching a thief in your house. The real tests of courage are much deeper and much quieter. They are the inner tests, like remaining faithful when nobody’s looking, like enduring pain when the room is empty, like standing alone when you’re misunderstood

A sailor was given liberty to go ashore when his ship docked at a large southwestern American city.  He visited a park famous for its trees and tropical flowers. As he walked across an open grassy sunlit area, he noticed bees flying all around him.  Suddenly, all the bees began to settle upon him. They were all over his clothes, his hands, and his face. Panic gripped him, and though he wanted to run in fear, he forced himself to stand stock still. There were hundreds, maybe thousands, of bees all over him.  He hardly dared to breathe. “Look at that sailor,” he heard a woman’s voice say. After what seemed an eternity to the sailor, slowly the bees departed one by one until they were all gone.  His uniform was soaked with perspiration, but he had not been stung once. Sometimes it is better to stand stock still in the midst of danger than to run in panic and fear and possibly to bring about the very end one wishes to avoid. Scripture says,  “”Whoever flees from the terror will fall into a pit, whoever climbs out of the pit will be caught in a snare; for I will bring upon Moab the year of her punishment,” declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 48:44)

———————————————–

[1] Henri J. Nouwen in The Wounded Healer.  Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 13.

[2] Brent Mitchell in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker) from the editors of Leadership.

[3] Bob Campbell in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.

[4] Theodore Roosevelt, Marriage Partnership, Vol. 7, no. 3.

[5] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Christian History, no. 32.

[6] John Claypool, Birmingham, Alabama, Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 2.

[7] Max Lucado, Christian Reader, Vol. 32, no. 3.

[8] Ruth Senter, Christian Reader, Vol. 32, no. 2.

[9] Gordon Johnson, “Finding Significance in Obscurity,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 82.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2015 in Encouragement

 

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