Monday, November 26, 2018

Where is God When You Need Him?

Two weeks ago, our furnace went out while we were under a severe winter weather warning. After a couple of days suffering while a technician tried a number of fixes, they pronounced the furnace dead. The cost of the new furnace busted our budget.

This discouraging incident was very tough financially, but there are so many others around us who suffer so much worse things such as being homeless in freezing weather and the loss of a loved one. In difficult times we can often become discouraged and wonder why God seems so far away.

“Where is God when we need Him?

St. John of the Cross, went through a time of feeling totally separated from God, coining the phrase "Dark Night of the Soul." If you are seriously trying to follow God, you will go through your own "Dark Night of the Soul" at some time. What can you do in difficult times?

Adverse circumstances discouraged God’s chosen people.

Seventy years after the Jewish nation was taken into Babylonian captivity, a remnant returned to their homeland. These were not bad people, they were a holy remnant. Hundreds of thousands had been taken to Babylon, but only fifty thousand returned to Israel. These were the ones most committed to the Lord and to the restoration of Israel. 

Their work was hard to rebuild and restore after 70 years of neglect.  They didn’t have a lot of money or manpower. They suffered crop failures, hostile enemies resisted their work, and they remembered easier times in Babylon. Each of these circumstances made them feel that God was far away.

Eighteen years after they returned they had made little progress due to any number of difficulties and setbacks. They were completely discouraged and wondered, "Where is this God we are serving? 

"Why was He so far away? Where is God?”

We have to remember that God has not moved! He may be waiting for you to do something.

Return to Me

The Lord responded to their questions through the prophet Zechariah.

"Therefore say to them, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts: "Return to Me," says the Lord of hosts, "and I will return to you," says the Lord of hosts." [Zechariah 1:3 (NKJV]

God assures them that He is not distant. If they would return to Him, He would return to them. In all of Scripture, this is the one prerequisite to receiving God's blessings and is stated in various ways; "Seek the Lord while He may be found," "Call upon Him," "Turn to Me with all of your heart," "Return to Me and I will return to you."

Turning back to the Lord is repentance. Personal repentance is always a prerequisite for fellowship with the Living Lord. Once they returned to Him, they would receive the spiritual blessings promised to Israel in Zechariah’s the eight visions that follow these words of God.

This is one of the strongest and most intense spiritual calls to repentance to be found in the Old Testament. God would not bestow comfort on unrepentant hearts. God's covenants with Abraham and David rendered certain the fulfillment of His purposes for Israel. But these covenants did not nullify the need for each generation of Israelites to be obedient to God in order to experience His promised blessings.

In today's church, there are some who would say, “We are New Testament Christians, that is Old Testament law and is no longer applicable.” But Zechariah’s words remind us of the words in the New Testament book of James;

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. [James 4:8 (NKJV)]

4 Steps to Back to God

James 4:7-8 (NKJV) Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 

1.     SUBMIT  to God

There are too many that believe submission is letting people walk all over them. Submission is not being a “Doormat.” Submission is being an “Elevator."

 Jesus submitted to the Father out of His Strength. [Phil 2:5-8] In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus submitted to die for the church.

We submit to the Lord by elevating Him above ourselves - Putting His agenda above our own, His will above our will, and His desires above our desires.

2.   Draw Near  to God

For many of us, it is extremely scary to come near to God, the creator of the universe, the all-knowing, all-powerful, and always present. We come near with trepidation, fearing He will strike us dead. Jesus provided us a way into the holy of holies, through His cross. We do not need to fear His wrath. Our fear is of losing contact with the one who loves us more than any human can love us and wants to help us.

Prayer, fasting, scripture reading, meditation, and other spiritual disciplines are all ways in which we come near to God.

3.    Wash your hands

We rebel because we want control over our situations.  There may be areas of sin that we do not want to give up. Or there may be areas of our strength where we do not think we need God. Sinfulness keeps us from fully repenting. How do we deal with our sin? Confession and repentance from sin! After healing many Jesus told them, "Go and sin no more."

1 John 1:9 (NKJV)  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

James 4:4  Every list of sin in the New Testament begins with sexual sin.

4.    Purify Your Hearts

We touch two separate kingdoms - the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of this world. You do not become purified by ceasing to sin. We have a problem obeying the "Ten Commandments" let alone following Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount." We purify our hearts by being So filled with God that there is no room for anything else. Worldliness is being so full of the world there is no room for God. Check your calendar, where do you spend your time? Check your checkbook. where do you spend your money? Check your heart and mind, where are your thoughts?

Return to Him

Sometimes we might wish that God would force us to return to Him, instead of wooing us to return out of our own choice. Nevertheless, God wants our freely given love, so He prompts us to choose Him and return to Him.

Are people today any more heavenly inclined than those of Zechariah's day? No, we - like the people in Zechariah’s day - must be responsive to the lessons of history if we do not wish to be destroyed:  

God is genuinely and deeply concerned about the state of His people. God solemnly promised to restore Jerusalem and the cities of Judah. This was an especially comforting promise considering the lowly condition of the cities of the "Promised Land" in Zechariah’s day. About four years from the time of this prophecy the temple was rebuilt. The Jewish people took the prophecy seriously.

As we prepare for the birth of that child in Bethlehem, let us prepare ourselves by returning to the Lord! 

Do not get caught up in the worldly activities surrounding Christmas, but become caught up of the anticipation of God coming.

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