The Power of God’s Presence*
God desires that we experience Him always and that we draw contentment, strength, and total satisfaction from our relationship with Him at all times.
1. It is especially important, that we experience God’s presence in the stormy times of our lives, the times when we are keenly aware of our needs or neediness. Such times come for us all.
2. Every person’s life is marked by storms of one kind or another. The reality for each of us is that we are in a storm, have just emerged from a storm, or are about to enter a storm. We need comfort from God’s presence in the darkness, and in the storms.
Elihu, in the Book of Job, asked, "Where is God who giveth songs in the night?"
David in the 42nd Psalm, answered, "In the night His songs shall be with me."
(Rom. 8:35, 37-39)
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Everyone will pass through dark valleys sooner or later.
All will become ill. Some will become permanently ill. It is an illusion that this side of heaven all diseases will be wiped out.
For all of us there will be periods of suffering, bereavement, discouragement, danger and difficulty.
1. There are those who give up their fidelity to God because they do not believe God is fair. They ask, "What have I done to deserve this?" "Why are children born retarded or born dead?" "Why is there cancer?" "Why me?"
2. How will we answer these and similar questions? How will we learn to sing songs at night?
a. By having faith in the sovereignty of God.
b. The world is not being ruled by a chance but by a God who is in control.
c. Even a sparrow cannot fall without His notice. So, He cares about us. Nothing can happen that does not concern God.
Our lives will become stronger and our spirituality deeper when we learn to sing at midnight.
1. The Apostle John sang songs of joy and praise while in exile on the island of Patmos.
2. At midnight, David arose to give thanks to God (Ps. 119:62).
3. Paul said, "When I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).
A. The importance of sensing the presence of God
A man once said,
"I can face anything but the future--and certain parts of the past and present!"
a. None of us can face the past unless we know we are forgiven by the grace of God.
b. None of us can face the present unless we know we are strengthened by the presence of God.
c. None of us can face the future unless we are certain of the love of God.
A. Contentment is the ability to stand constantly and consciously in the presence of God so that he can transform any task into something meaningful.
Awareness of His Presence
In learning to deal with life’s storms, we must turn to Jesus and discover the provision that He makes for us when storms strike us.
The cause of the storm is not the primary issue.
What is your concern in the midst of a storm?
How can you survive the storm?
How can you live through the situation or circumstance?
How can you emerge from the storm?
God’s Word assures us that Jesus provides answers to these critical questions. One example of the way Jesus deals with those who are experiencing a storm is found in Matthew 14:22-34.
Jesus had just finished a full day of tremendous ministry, preaching, teaching, and healing a great multitude of people who followed Him out into a desolate area. Before sending the people away, Jesus had multiplied five loaves and two fish to feed the hungry crowd of five thousand men and their families. Then, no doubt in exhaustion, Jesus
made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. (Matt. 14:22-24)
In the fourth watch of the night, sometime between three and six o’clock in the early morning, Jesus went to His disciples who were struggling in the storm; He walked on the sea to them. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they cried out in their fear, "It is a ghost!" Here is how Matthew told the rest of this story:
Immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, "Truly You are the Son of God." When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret. (Matt. 14:27-34)
The first thing that we are wise to recognize when a storm strikes is that Jesus is present with us in the storm, just as He was present for His disciples in this story. Jesus is present. He is with us at all times, in all circumstances. There is never a single moment of your life in which Jesus is not there for you and with you.
1. When we cannot see Jesus, Jesus sees us. He is atop of the mountain praying, watching, concerned. He reminds us, "Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you." When you can’t see Jesus through the darkness, be assured He’s got his eye on you. "No never alone, no never alone; He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone."
1. When you cannot get to Jesus, Jesus eventually gets to you. He leaves the mountain, walks down to the lake, steps onto the waves, and walks on the water to get to us. He comes to us by praying for us in Heaven (Rom. 8:34) and comforting us on earth by His Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18).
2. When I don’t know what to say to Jesus, He speaks to me. "Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid." Sometimes we don’t even know what to pray, but Jesus says, "Take heart.... Have courage.... Be brave." How do we develop this kind of courage? By verbalizing His truth. Hebrews 13 says: "He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we may boldly say, "The Lord is my Helper; I will not fear."
Why is an awareness of Jesus presence so important?
When we become aware of Jesus with us, several things happen to us. Taken together, these things add up to total assurance. When we are aware that Jesus is with us, we immediately become comforted.
Comforted. Each of us knows that when we are alone, it is much easier to feel fearful, but if we have even one friend with us in a time of trouble, we take comfort in his presence. Jesus is the Friend of friends. One of the terms given to the Holy Spirit is that of Comforter. When you are aware that Jesus is with you in your storm, you can’t help being comforted by His presence.
More courageous. We take courage that we can face what lies before us. Who comes to us in our storm? The King of kings, the Lord of lords, the almighty, all-sufficient, all-powerful, all-wise, all-loving Savior and Deliverer! With Jesus beside us, who can stand against us? We cannot help feeling more courageous when we are aware that Jesus is by our side.
More confident. We become confident that God will see us through. Confidence is directly related to our knowing that a current trial or time of trouble will come to an end. When Jesus appears throughout the Gospel books of the New Testament and in every instance we can cite in our lives today. He comes as Victor. The devil cannot remain where Jesus dwells. The enemy cannot succeed when Jesus arrives on the scene. Our confidence is no longer in ourselves to be able to survive, to endure, or to conquer; our confidence is in Jesus. Our confidence is based upon who Jesus is and what He will do for us, which always will be for our ultimate and eternal good. (See Rom. 8:28.)
The power of God’s Prescience
Let me give you a very practical example. A woman was telling of her reaction when her family physician said to her, "You have cancer." She said, "it was as if my doctor had just thrown a black blanket of fear over me. I could hardly think. My eyes wouldn’t focus. My ears seemed to ring. I was so stunned I felt paralyzed, incapable of moving. I didn’t even hear the rest of what the doctor had to say, which was to tell me that he thought this cancer could be stopped with radiation treatments since it was in very early stages. If my daughter hadn’t been with me during that appointment, I’m not sure I could have made it out of his office and to the car. I was that much in a fog.
"The next week, I made my first visit to the radiologist that my physician had recommended. I walked into his office and then into the radiology room filled with fear. What I hadn’t expected at all was that this man might be a Christian, or that he might be aware of how I was feeling inside. I was completely surprised when he asked me, Are you afraid? I admitted to him that I was fearful, not only of the cancer but also of the radiation. Then he said to me, I am a Christian, and I believe that prayer can help a person in times like these. Would it be all right with you if I said a prayer for you? I said, Most certainly. He prayed a sweet but very powerful prayer and as he prayed, I could feel my body relaxing. He took time to talk to me about both the cancer and the radiation treatments. I sensed that he truly cared about me, and I became more confident about what I was facing.
"The next time I went to see him I was less afraid. I told him how much his prayer had meant to me, and he asked if we might pray together again before my second treatment. Of course I agreed! This happened each time I went for treatments thirty-two in all. I tell people now that I had thirty-two radiation treatments and thirty-two prayer treatments!
"By the time I had my last treatment, I was almost sorry it was my last visit to see him not that I wanted more radiation, mind you, but I had come to appreciate this man s prayers and his calm and reassuring faith. It was a few weeks later that the thought struck me. Why, that was Jesus coming to me through the form and, skills of that radiologist! The love and power of Jesus in him gave me hope and eased my fears. The presence of Jesus in him had become a part of my healing process!"
The 1992 Olympics in Barcelona featured memorable moments of sports history.
Derek Redmond of Great Britain was on the way to fulfilling a lifetime dream, that of winning a gold medal in the Olympics. He had earned a spot in the semifinals of the 400 meter race, and as the gun sounded to start the race, Derek got off to a great start. He was running the race of his life, and the finish line was in sight, when suddenly he felt a stab of pain in his right leg. He feel face first to the track with a torn hamstring. The race was over for Derek.
He struggled to his feet before the medical team could reach him. Though every runner had passed him, he began hopping forward, tears of pain and disappointment streaking his face, determined to finish the race. Suddenly, man plowed through the security guards on the sidelines and ran onto the track.
He raced up to Derek and hugged him, "You don;t have to do this," Jim Redmond told his weeping son.
"Yes I do," Derek answered.
"Well, then," his father said, "we’re going to finish the race together."
Derek’s father gripped his son around the shoulders, and they faced the finish line, resolutely waving off the security men who hovered around them. They limped and hopped together, Derek’s head sometimes buried in his father’s shoulder, and stayed in Derek’s lane all the way to the end.
The watching crowd gaped at first at the unusual scene. Then one by one, they rose to their feet, and began cheering and crying at the son’s determination and the father’s support.
„h In the storms of life Jesus is there with us, to help us cross the finish line togrther.
Receive His comforting presence!
1. Jesus will show Himself to you.
2. If you are eager to experience His presence, He will enable you to experience Him.
3. He is already present. Ask Him for spiritual eyes to see Him at work, and spiritual ears to hear His words to you.
*I have used study material from Dr. Charles Stanley’s Book (The reason for my Hope)