Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Power of God's Presence

When we face trials in our lives, which we all do because the Bible tells us we will, it is imperative to remember this one very important fact...God is with us! All throughout the Old & New Testament, God tells people "do not be afraid, I am with you". He doesn't say "don't be afraid, I'm going to fix this", or "don't be scared, I will take all your troubles away". No, instead, He promises to be with us.

Example, when Shadrach, Meschach & Abednego were in the fiery furnace, Jesus (or the Angel of the Lord) was right there in the fire with them. When God commissioned Joshua, Gideon and Moses to do His work, he said "don't worry, My presence is going with you". Moses became so dependent on God's presence, he wouldn't even go where God told him to unless He promised to come with him. He didn't want God's blessing, he wanted His presence!

In the NT, when Jesus was preparing the disciples for his departure, He comforted them by saying "I will not leave you like orphans, but I'll send someone (the Comforter/Holy Spirit) to help you."

Why is the promise of His presence sufficient in all situations? I think we can look at Jesus' life as the key. Jesus went through more pain, suffering, shame, disgrace, rejection and betrayal than anyone can imagine. He not only suffered physically, but the emotional and mental pain was enough to cause Him to sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. Still, the Bible says He was led like a "sheep to the slaughter" without opening His mouth. Some may think he endured this kind of pain because He was God, but I can assure you, He was also fully man! He had humbled himself to become man, subjected himself to all the same weaknesses, limitations, and possible emotions that we all face, only without sin. I believe the only thing that allowed Him to endure this level of torture, was the presence of His Father with Him through the power of the Holy Spirit. It was the same with Stephen when he was being stoned to death...he saw Heaven open and he had God's presence with him. This is the same relationship that is available to us today.

Jesus got His commission from the Father, submitted Himself completely to His will, then He stayed connected with Him through it all. When people spit on Him, with clenched fists of anger and hatred called out "crucify Him!", when the disciples rejected, denied and abandoned Him, when the guards pierced His side, placed the crown of thorns on His head, striped Him of His clothes and beat Him beyond recognition, then ultimately hung Him to die on the cross...His Father in Heaven was with Him. I know this because He didn't protest at all until one moment...the only time Jesus cried out...

The moment when God the Father turned away from Jesus because of the sin that had been placed upon Him (my sin, your sin, the entire world's sin). That was the only time Jesus didn't call God "His Father" - instead, He cried "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" The first and only time Jesus was ever separated from His Father's presence - that was the only thing he couldn't bare. Of course God had to turn from Hm for a moment, but not only restored Jesus to His presence, but crowned Him with all honor and authority both in Heaven and on earth.

This tells me that I can endure anything in life, as long as I have God's presence with me. I heard a teaching by Beth Moore one time where she said when it comes to trials and tribulations, there are typically 3 ways God deals with them.

1) He will take them away,
2) He will walk through it with you, or
3) He will deliver you from them by taking you on to Heaven.

Obviously we all pray for the first scenario, but when that doesn't always happen, we shouldn't think that God has abandoned us. We must trust that He is working in our situation for our good, just as He didn't spare His own Son, but instead had a greater purpose.

May we all come to say in the good times AND the bad, His presence is "better than life" and "I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength."

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