#7 The “Names of God” Series
(“The Lord is There”)
TEXT: Ezekiel 48:35; Psalm 22:1-31; Rev. 21:3
INTRO: Have you ever gone through a great difficulty and felt like you were alone, that even God didn't care or hear you, that He had even abandoned you?
Have you cried out to God, feeling like He wasn't interested and there never seems to be an answer to your cry, your struggle, you pray, you beg God ... but nothing!?
If you have ever felt this way you are in good company … men like David experienced this … Moses knew the feeling, Job knew it, Peter and the other disciples went through this after Jesus’ crucifixion, Paul said everyone had abandoned him at one point (2 Tim. 4:16), Elijah felt that he was alone ... he hid because he was afraid that he too would die just like he thought all the other prophets had (Romans. 11:2-5). Even Jesus felt the emotion of abandonment, first by His disciples, and then by God the father when He was alone on the cross; He cried, “My God, My God why has thou forsaken me” ... you see you are in good company when you experience this pain, yes the pain of feeling alone ... but do not forget this one fact: GOD IS THERE ... no matter how you feel!
ILLUS: Never fear shadows. That just means a light's shining somewhere nearby. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 21.
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that God's presence is more that just a feeling, it is a reality of fact, THE “LORD IS THERE” NO MATTER WHAT WE THINK OR SENSE OR FEEL!
I. IN TIMES OF TEARS Psalm 22:1-5
A. Feelings of Being Forsaken Psalm 22:1
1. David felt alone! “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?”
2. He wondered if God really cared. (sound familiar?)
a. His faith was low when his feelings were high!
b. Cannot understand how or why God allowed bad stuff to happen to him!
ILLUS: Fear is the darkroom where the devil takes you to develop your negatives. -- Vern McLellan, The Complete Book of Practical Proverbs and Wacky Wit (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1996).
c. Why doesn't God hear me and be there?
3. This is a rather common experience among believers at some point in their walk with God. Even Jesus experienced this on the cross … He quoted from this verse when hanging on the cross.
B. Frustration and Fear Psalm 22:2
1. Left at this stage, despair and bitterness will set in and continue to develop. “O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.”
2. We might lose a proper perspective of God at this point, we might forget that though we don't feel His presence, He is still there.
a. This is the natural result of letting one's feelings take over!
b. Fear drives us away from God ... (“God has not given us the spirit of fear…” 2 Tim. 1:7); (“Perfect Love cast out all fear” ... 1 John 4:18)
ILLUS: 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. -- Max Lucado, Christian Reader, Vol. 32, no. 3.
c. Frustration left to develop leads to fear!
d. And fear developed leaves us feeling alone and abandoned by God.
3. Most of us do the dumb stuff at this stage, it is here that we often make the wrong choices.
C. Focusing on Facts Psalm 22:3-5
1. God is on the throne - always!
2. People in the past trusted in God and were saved!
a. Israel cried out for 430 years in Egypt for deliverance.
b. God did deliver them.
c. God didn't disappoint them; He was there, even in their captivity!
ILLUS: In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells about an incident that taught her the principle of giving thanks in all things. It was during World War II. Corrie and her sister, Betsy, had been harboring Jewish people in their home, so they were arrested and imprisoned at Ravensbruck Camp.
The barracks was extremely crowded and infested with fleas. One morning they read in their tattered Bible from 1 Thessalonians the reminder to rejoice in all things.
Betsy said, "Corrie, we've got to give thanks for this barracks and even for these fleas."
Corrie replied, "No way am I going to thank God for fleas." But Betsy was persuasive, and they did thank God even for the fleas.
During the months that followed, they found that their barracks was left relatively free, and they could do Bible study, talk openly, and even pray in the barracks. It was their only place of refuge. Several months later they learned that the reason the guards never entered their barracks was because of those blasted fleas. -- John Yates, "An Attitude of Gratitude," Preaching Today, Tape No. 110.
3. God is the same yesterday, today and forever! (Heb. 13:8)
II. IN TIMES OF TROUBLE Psalm 22:6-21
A. Faith in the Father Psalm 22:6-11
1. Despised by others and forsakened.
2. Made fun of ... "Where is this great God now that you need Him?"
3. David hangs onto his faith in God in this time of trouble. Psalm 22:9-10
a. God was there before.
b. Never forsakened him before.
ILLUS: While traveling in Ghana, I learned that in the dominant language of Ghana the only way to ask the question, "What is your religion?" is to ask, "Whom do you serve?" I like that. Regardless of denominational loyalties and official creeds, your true god is the one you serve. -- Don McCullough, "Whom Do You Serve?" Preaching Today, Tape No. 110.
4. When no one else can help, God will be there! Psalm 22:11
B. Fretful & Fainthearted Psalm 22:12-21
1. Nothing seems to be going right! Psalm 22:12-14
a. Everything is falling apart.
b. Nobody understands.
c. No one cares.
d. Everyone has abandoned me or they are against me.
2. I have no more strength left! Psalm 22:15 “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.”
3. I am at my wits end!
4. Ask God to be near. Psalm 22:19-21
a. He is near and will stay near!
b. God never leaves us or forsakes us; God is there in the time of trouble!
c. Give Him the time to work it out, in His time, not yours!
d. Keep trusting in Him; don't fret unless you plan to faint!
ILLUS: A young soldier who was fighting in Italy during World War II jumped into a foxhole just ahead of some bullets. He immediately tried to deepen the hole for more protection and was frantically scraping away the dirt with his hands. He unearthed something metal and brought up a silver crucifix, left by a former resident of the foxhole. A moment later another leaping figure landed beside him as the shells screamed overhead. When the soldier got a chance to look, he saw that his new companion was an army chaplain. Holding out the crucifix, the soldier gasped, "Am I glad to see you! How do you work this thing?" -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 254.
III. IN TIMES OF TESTING Psalm 22:22-31
A. Footsteps of Faith Psalm 22:22-24
1. Declare His name anyways! Psalm 22:22 “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.”
2. Keep going to church and being with God's people!
3. Keep praising God in spite of your feelings. Psalm 22:23 “You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!”
ILLUS: The story is told of Will Rogers who came to his friend Eddie Cantor for advice. Will wanted to make some important changes in his act -- but was worried about the danger of such changes. He wasn't sure whether they would work. Eddie Cantor's response was, "Why not go out on a limb? That's where the fruit is!" -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 130.
4. Faith gives a new focus -- He has not left us, HE IS THERE! Psalm 22:24b “…he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”
B. Following Faithfulness Psalm 22:25-26
1. Fulfilling vows to God in front of all others: Psalm 22:25b “…before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.”
a. Doing for God what we said we would do ... in spite of the circumstances and trials, don’t be quitters!
b. This is also true of the vows we make to God's people, follow through and be faithful!
ILLUS: In marriage we don't quit when the going gets tough, we promised to be faithful in sickness and health, riches or poor, etc. We stay faithful! (Or at least we should!) This is true with God as well!
2. Our faithfulness in spite of how we feel will result in God's blessing on others and their praise in God. Psalm 22:26
3. Instead of following how we feel we act in faith, trusting in God instead of how we feel at the time. We do this in our relationships with those we love all the time … or we wouldn’t have any relationships left on earth!
a. If every time we acted out our feelings we would have no friends left, instead we discipline our actions in moments when our feelings are flowing strongly.
b. We realize that our actions must be guided by more than our feelings.
c. This is how we build a healthy marriage and friendships, and it is how we walk with God also.
C. Faith for the Future Psalm 22:27-31
1. God was there in the past.
2. God is here in the present.
3. God will be there in the future!
ILLUS: Karl Barth was invited to deliver one of the distinguished lectureships at a theological seminary in the East, and while he was there a group of ministers and theologians and dignitaries of one kind or another sat down with him in a kind of question-and-answer period. Someone asked the question, "What is the most profound thought that you know, Dr. Barth?" This is what he said: "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." -- W. Frank Harrington, "The Love That Brought Him," Preaching Today, Tape No. 51.
a. The world will one day recognize His presence!
b. Many will see the “LORD IS THERE!”
4. Those yet to come will know God is there for His people!
CONCLUSION: No matter how alone we feel, or how frustrated we become with trials, how fearful or tearful, the fact remains -- GOD IS THERE! He will never leave us nor forsake us! Let this fact rule your life, not your feelings!