01. God With Us
Thank you so much for those gracious words and for the warm welcome. I must say without the slightest touch of a desire to flatter that there is a special sweetness about the people of South Africa who are following Christ. And it’s great to be here with you and wonderful to be able to talk on this important topic of “Eternal Living Now.” This morning, I want to spend just a little more time at a very practical level with you. We sing, “Our strength will rise when we wait upon the Lord,” and that’s a wonderful song and it’s true, but we need to say a little bit more about exactly how we wait upon the Lord.
Some ways we know we come apart in a special time of service or prayer or something of that sort, but what about the rest of the day? And I want to talk to you in very practical terms today about what we do to live one day with Jesus—one day with Jesus. And you know, prepositions. are the unruly children in the grammatical family because you can’t always be sure what they mean. What is this with, with Jesus? What is it to say that God is with us? And how does that work in daily practice? Actually, some people you know don’t know how to do that, and so they come to church or to some special service and then for the rest, they kind of take a vacation from God while they go about their ordinary business.
What I want to talk to you this morning about is just a few pointers, if you wish, about how we can be constantly with Jesus Christ, and of course, with His Father and the Holy Spirit, as we go through our day. Now there’s an awful lot in the Bible about that. And you could almost say that that’s the whole story: is God with us?
And that’s why the word Emmanuel is so important. It simply means God with us. And of course, there are the big important points like how he came in the form of Jesus Christ His Son to be with us as a historical reality, but we need to bring that down to every day. And ideally, we would like to be able to think about God being with us in such a way that we could practice that moment by moment through the day.
So, let’s just say a little bit about “with” and what it means now. How is Christ with us and how can we be withHim? The main thing that we start with is turning our minds to God and to Christ, keeping our minds centered on Him. And what I want to say has some bearing on how we can do that, because we’re not just going to be thinking of Him and nothing else.
We have to learn to think of Christ with everything else that we do. So, the willingness to keep our minds turned towards Christ is a part of what with means. But another part of it is his action in helping our minds be fixed upon him. Because, with is a two-way street, and so, we should expect him to impress upon us His presence and keep Himself before our consciousness. That would be a part of with.
And then there’s another part which is God acting around us. And one of the things that we want to do as we wait upon the Lord, constantly going through the day, is watch for what He is doing around us. You might think that’s strange, but God’s ways are not necessarily just to run over us.
His approach to us is one that, if we are not attentive, we may miss. We used earlier this week, the wonderful story of Jacob, how he was running from Esau. He had done his brother wrong, and he wound up out in the desert in a ditch at night, sleeping. And as he slept, he had a dream. And it was a dream of a ladder coming straight down from heaven, right into that ditch where he was asleep, and angels were coming and going on that ladder. You know that story. We even have songs about it— Jacob’s ladder. And that’s a case of God coming into and acting where we are, even if it’s in a ditch in the desert. Right? God is acting.
Now, a dream like that is hard to miss, perhaps, but we want to be conscious of what God is doing around us as we go through our day, so we have to pay attention. And then another way that God acts and is with us is by supporting the things that we do by acting with us. Not just around us. We want to watch for that. And we want to be attentive to how He may be impressing himself upon our minds. But we also want to know that when we act, He acts with us.
Well, that’s enough for the proposition, I think, or the preposition. But we need to think carefully about with and what it means and those are the things that it primarily has in mind; consciousness, acting around us, and acting with us. And the mark of [God] acting with us is always that much more is accomplished by our actions than we could possibly account for in terms of our own talents and our own abilities.
Now I’d like to give you just a few verses to help us fix this in our minds and the first one is 1 Chronicles 4:9–10. You might want to mark this or perhaps you’ve already memorized it. This is a verse about a man named Jabez. Some years ago, we had the Jabez Prayer, and it unfortunately got mixed up with prosperity. But prosperity is not the point: it’s the humility that’s the point. Jabez’s Prayer is an expression of humility.
We actually don’t know anything else about Jabez. It’s just he erupts in the center of this rather dry passage in Chronicles. And we see here, Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.”
Now, Jabez—the name just means sorrowful or painful. That’s what it means. And you can imagine what it must have been like as a child to have your mother say, “Come to dinner, Sorrowful.” You know, “Painful.” Now that would mark you, wouldn’t it? But it seems to have done Jabez some good because he took his position as sorrowful and called out to God.
He said, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory. Let your hand be with me. And keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain” (NIVScripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™). He took that name, and he took it to God, and he asked that God would help him be free from pain and sorrow. And very simply, God granted his request. Now, actually it seems like this is so remarkable that even though we don’t know anything else about him, that the writers of Scripture—no doubt under the inspiration of God—wanted just to put that before us.
Here is a simple, humble person, but their cry was for God to be with them. And I hope that will encourage every one of us. Whether we’re like Jacob down in a ditch in the desert, or whether our life has been painful, sorrowful, that we would simply call out for God to be with us.
That song that we sing, like so many of the songs that we sing, “Our strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord.” To wait upon the Lord means to expect Him to do something and that’s one of the things in going through our days with Jesus and with God that should mark those days. We should expect God to do something with us.
Another passage is in the book of 2 Chronicles, and this is a story about the nation of Israel and about the King, Asa. King Asa was one of the good kings of Israel, and he had just won a battle against incredible odds, as we say. And the Lord had stood with them—with them and had acted with them and an incredible army that had come against him was defeated because God was with them.
Now, here are the words. “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord, his God. He removed the foreign altars and the high places. . . . He commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and obey his laws and commands” (NIV). And the prophet Azariah then comes in Chapter 15, verse 2 and says, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him.”
Now, one thing to remember, that word with is a two-way street. The Lord is with you when you are with Him. And the prophet goes on to say that “He will let you find Him if you seek Him. If you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” Verse 4 of 2 Chronicles 15, “In their distress they turned to the Lord. And they sought him, and he helped them find him.”
I love that language especially because it puts it in terms of Him letting us find Him. God doesn’t usually run over us. He doesn’t jump down our throat. But He lets us find him when we seek him., and actually, He seeks us. He is seeking people, as Jesus said in John 4:23, “to worship him in spirit and in truth.”
Well, just one more verse, and this is from the New Testament, the book of Hebrews chapter 13, verses 5 through 6. This is a wonderful passage. “Keep your lives free from the love of money.” Now, you know, a lot of people seek to be with money. Did you know that? They seek to be with money, and they say, “Oh money, wouldst thou be with me? and would your hand act with me?” And it’s very tricky, you know, because money encourages us to think that perhaps we don’t need God. And you’ll remember Jesus talked about that at length in Matthew 6 and about how important it is for us to lay up our treasures in heaven “where neither moth nor rust doth not corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal”Matthew 6:20, KJV. Scriptures marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.
You see, actually, money is not a bad thing, unless you come to trust it. And when you cry out for it to be with you, there’s some help there, but it’s really very cold comfort. So the teaching here is keep your lives free from love of money. You may have it; just don’t love it, and “be content with what you have, because God has said, “I will never leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we [may] say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can [man] do to me?”Hebrews 13:5–6, NIV See, this is the greatness of the with that God brings to us.
02. Spending One Day with Jesus
Now, I want to spend the rest of my time just talking about a few steps that we can actually take in being with God. And the idea is, you know, if we can live one day with Jesus, we can live the next day with Jesus, and then the day after that. And so, in talking about just going through one day with Jesus, I’m really talking about every day, but every day is a little bit overwhelming. So, let’s take it one day at a time and just think about how we would go through one day with Jesus.
Well, there’s a lot that can be said about this, but you must decide to do it. You must have faith that God is there, that this is not just a dream, but a reality. And if you count on it, it will prove itself. So, there’s a lot of things that could be said about that. We really don’t have time for this, this morning, and I have sort of afflicted the people with that over the past days. So let me just say some of the things that we can do practically.
One of the things you want to know about the Biblical day is it begins at night. We have it the other way around. We think the day begins at morning. But the Biblical day begins at night. And so, it’s important how we end our days in learning how to go through one day with Jesus.
So, at night, when we go to bed, we start our day. We start our day by turning our lives over to the Lord, very consciously, and asking Him to heal any wounds that we have from the day, that we settle any kinds of issues that we may have in our family. We don’t go to bed with unresolved issues. We ask forgiveness, if we need to do that, or we receive it, and we ask that God’s peace would rest upon us while we sleep.
Sleep is an important time, you know. It isn’t like sleep is nothing. Sleep is one of the main ways that we can turn our lives over to God and when we go to bed at night, we want to make sure we do that—that we release everything to God.
The little child’s prayer that some of us may know. “Now I lay me down to sleep. I ask thee, Lord, my soul to keep.” And actually, it might not be bad to stop there for a while because when you go on to the next phrase, it gives children a little something to worry about—”if I die before I wake.” And of course, the adults who teach that understand that means it’s a committal. Actually, it means something that we should lie down to sleep with—and that is the resignation of our souls to God—our willingness to be taken by Him at any time, and our dependence upon Him to do that. In any case, you need to start your day by going to rest with confidence and resignation to God—everything, and then sleep comes. He gives His beloved sleep.Psalm 127:2 That’s in the Bible.
And so, we want to make sure that we lie down to sleep in the arms of God. And then we can ask Him to work in us while we sleep, because after all you’re not just nonexistent when you sleep. You’re still there and God can do good things and he actually does set us forward in our sleep by the things that He brings to us then and we should ask for that. We should ask that he would teach us and give us instruction in our souls when we’re not even conscious. And He will help us in that way.
And now then, when you arise in the morning, the first thing I would say is, since you’re retired in faith, is to awaken with praise for God. You can just start with a simple affirmation. God is here. God is here. That simple affirmation—you can take a little time; you don’t need to take a long time. Often, before I get out of bed, I have run through the Lord’s Prayer and the Twenty-Third Psalm a couple of times, peacefully, carefully, just lifting my heart in praise to God because of His presence with me.
You affirm it. You ask Him to remove all fear and fill you with His love for your life and everyone that enters into it. This is something to do. It doesn’t take long. You can do it before you get up even. But it should be something you do [before you get up], or do it as you get up. That’s up to you. You can decide how to do it, but the important thing is to affirm the presence of God and thank Him for being there and ask Him now to walk with you through everything that you have to do in the day.
And one of the things that will help us here is if we will try to take God’s eye view of our life and what we’re going through to see how He sees it—not just how we see it—and to see it for His purposes and for His blessing and all that we’re going to do. And usually, we have some idea of what we’ll be doing in the day. And we want to, after we praise Him and thank Him for His presence, then we want to ask Him, from his point of view, to guide us and be with us in everything that we do.
And then as we go on through the day, we can make a habit of inviting Him into every new situation. This is what I try to do. For example, if I’m going to class to lecture, then I use that as an occasion to remind me to invite Him to be there in the lecture and to be with the students. That’s what I spend most of my time doing, so I’m mostly concerned about that.
Or a committee meeting. A committee meeting is a good place to have God and to invite Him in. Say [to him], will you be a member of the committee? We invite Jesus into each new situation or relationship as we go through the day. And now, as we do that, then we will be able to will His peace and His joy and His truth into the lives of those we meet with. I’d better spend a minute there because I think a lot of folks don’t think about that.
You can actually “will” the peace and joy that is in you into the lives of others. Now you’ll have to experiment with that to convince yourself of it, if you haven’t found that to be true; but you can send your peace into the person of another human being. And it’s really important to do that because, most people don’t have much peace or much joy.
And committee meetings are bad, but they’re especially bad when you’ve got a bunch of angry people. So, you need to come to that meeting in peace. And just say, “Lord, let your peace go from me into these people. Let the joy that I know from you enter them.” Jesus said that. You remember? He said, “My peace I give to you.”John 14:27, NRSV. Scripture quotations marked (NRSV) are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. And He prayed that our joy, that He would send His joy; He’d give His joy to us.See John 15:11
And when He said to His people, “I give you my joy,” that was a very substantial gift. They didn’t say, “Oy vey, pass the aspirin, quick,” you know. They knew that His joy was real. It was real joy. Jesus was a happy man, and we need to remember that because he went through some tough times, but we’re apt to just think of the tough times. Most of the time, He was a joyful, peaceful person, and He sent that into the lives of others. You can send your peace and your joy into others. You can just say, “Lord, let the peace that is in me go into George, or Trevor, or Bill, or Sally, or whoever. My names kind of run in the American vein, and I forget all the names you use here, but you get the idea, I hope.
You say, let it go into them, especially troubled people. If you’re in positions where you have to talk with people who are troubled, it’s so important, not just to try to fix them, but to send your peace and your joy into them. And that’s one of the main ways that we can go through the day with Jesus is affirming that for the people who are around us. We can will the peace and joy which we are experiencing to pass from you like living waters.
Now, that brings us back to things that Jesus said, doesn’t it? He said, “the one who drinks of the water that I shall give him, it shall be in him a spring of water rising up to everlasting life.”See John 4:14 He said, the person who believes on me and trusts on me that there shall flow from him or her rivers of living water.See John 7:38 And you know, often we have to stop with the things that Jesus said and just say, “Well, that must really mean something.” You know, he’s not just saying pretty words. He’s talking about something real.
And, of course, that passageJohn 7:37–39 tells us that He was referring to the Spirit that dwells in the person who drinks of the water that Jesus gives. And now we can send that to others. And now that’s a primary way of Jesus being with us, and it falls in that category of acting; Him acting with us. We act, and He acts.
You know, human beings were never meant to be alone. They are meant to be inhabited by God. And it’s when we practice these things that we come to understand the power of living with Jesus day by day. Now, every few hours, it’s a good thing to find a place—ten minutes, five minutes, and just go back to a very special concentration on Jesus.
And you can do that just by sitting and bringing the image of Him, perhaps in a scene that you are especially fond of in the Gospels. You might see Him talking with His apostles and His disciples as he walked along. And imagine you’re walking with them. That’s just a way of meditating that helps you keep your mind focused on Him. We need to do that every so often because everything else is hollering at us. And so, we need to find every couple, three hours, just a moment or two to step aside and do that.
Maybe just take a phrase from the Lord’s Prayer. One of my favorites is, “Hallowed be thy name.” Don’t you find it interesting that that’s the first request in the Lord’s Prayer? And I think it’s first because it’s most important. If that request is answered and people regarded the name of the Father with joy, with a desire that it [his name] would be lifted up, most of the troubles of the world would be healed; because nearly all of the troubles of individuals and nations come from thinking wrongly about God.
And that’s what that prayer is for—“Hallowed be thy name”—I often use that phrase as I go through my day. “Hallowed be thy name.” In traffic, where, you know, that can be a rather chaotic situation, can’t it? That’s a good place to pray, “Hallowed be thy name.”—to pray it down on the people who are driving alongside you and to give a blessing to them.
Every so often, we can take a special time to just return our hearts to a focus on Him with expectation. And that’s a primary way that we wait upon the Lord, by turning our minds back to Him, and we need language to do that. We can take some of the words of Jesus or other things that we’ve heard, or images that we’ve been given perhaps in church to help us. We have many wonderful things around here. Just an image like this—the Shepherd taking the sheep out of the briar patch. And very often we feel like we’re in the briar patch and we need to turn back to the image of the rescuing shepherd.
Now, if you suddenly wake up and realize you haven’t really done anything about turning your mind back to the Lord or watching for his action on your behalf, don’t berate yourself. Don’t say, “Oh, I’m a terrible sinner.” God already knows that anyway, so sometimes we need to remind ourselves, but we have to be careful about making ourselves hopeless. And what we’re talking about here isn’t a law of righteousness, it’s simply a wisdom about how to live. And if we find that, “Oh well, the whole morning got by, and I didn’t have a single thought of Jesus. And I didn’t turn my mind, I didn’t look for His hand,” don’t come down hard on yourself. This is a matter of establishing a habit, and I will guarantee you if you will practice that, you will get the habit. And habit is fundamental to the spiritual life.
You want to come to the place to where you don’t have to think about what you’re doing to be living with Jesus in the moment. And it’ll come. It will become a part of your body. It will become a part of the habits of your mind.
And everyone has habits of their thought. I mean, just think about worrying. Now, if you’re worrying about something, do you have a problem concentrating on it? No. See, that’s a habit.
Now, if you can worry without ceasing, you can pray without ceasing. It’s just a different habit. It’s a different habit, now. You welcome the habit of turning your mind back to Jesus, of watching for what He’s doing around you. I guarantee you when you start doing that, you’re going to see it and then going into action, counting on Him to act with you—willing your peace, willing your joy into the lives of other people. It’ll certainly come to pass.
And at the end of the day, it’s a good time to go back and just be thankful. Just be thankful for what God has done. Be sure to do that, and it will help you keep your mind fixed on Him all the time. But at the end of the day, just take a few minutes, and go alone and look back on the things that have been done in the day for which you can be thankful. There may be some things which you won’t be so thankful for. Well, that’s okay. You can say, God will work that out and we’ll keep looking for His hand.
There may be some lapses on your part. You simply ask for forgiveness. The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin. And so, we just go back with that, with that assurance. God is not a hard taskmaster. He loves to forgive. Did you know that? He loves to forgive. He doesn’t love for us to fail, but when we fail, it’s a great relief on both sides that there is forgiveness. His mercies are new every morning, the song says. We want to accept that and go on. But the important thing is to be thankful. Look at the things that God has done with you, how He has kept you, how He has brought His presence to mind, and be thankful that God has walked with you through the day.
Now when you do that, your days are going to be so rich, that you won’t want to do it any other way. That’s how it will turn out. And so, Paul’s teaching in Philippians 4:6, which echoes Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 6, “Be anxious for nothing.” And one can say, “Well, I have got plenty of things to be anxious for.” Yes? Well, no, actually. Now you will have learned that Christ is with you; God is with you, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God that passes understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4:6