“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6, ESV).
For dark days and even darker nights, for stretches of hardship that seem never to end, for the everyday problems of real life, we need to cling to this truth:
God is always with us.
More specifically, God is always with you.
Now say it to yourself, “God is always with me.”
“Is your heart breaking today? God is rushing toward you.”
We see this clearly in Moses’ pep talk to the children of God. “Be strong and courageous,” Moses exhorted them. “Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). Whoever the “them” is in Deuteronomy 31:6, “they” don’t stand a chance. Let’s get the context.
Moses and the second generation of the post-Egypt children of Israel were standing on the border of the Promised Land. Moses knew he was about to die. Thirty-eight years before, all the parents and grandparents of Israel had camped on this very spot, but they had doubted God was with them and would protect them when they entered the Promised Land. The verdict? No faith—no conquest, no homeland, go wander. All of that generation had died in the wilderness. God was now going to give to the children what the parents wouldn’t trust Him for. So Moses, standing on the exit ramp to heaven, delivered these marching orders (summarized in my words):
“As you go up to face those giants in the land, you might think they are too strong for you, as your parents feared. But keep in mind—God is with you. You’re going to battle some violent opposition; you might be tempted to retreat. But remember—God is with you. You’ll face overwhelming odds; you’ll be incredibly outnumbered. Fear would be your natural response. But hold onto this—God is with you. This fight is not going to be over in ten minutes or ten weeks; there’s no quick solution. When you think it’s taking too long, remember—God is with you.”
“Be strong and courageous,” the weathered old leader said. “Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” I can imagine Moses adding, “Haven’t we learned this to be true in these forty years? He never left us while we were in the wilderness. He never forsook us but always provided what we needed. Why on earth should you fear now?”
Now as then, the worse the days get, the more God is with you. The harder the trial, the closer He moves toward you. Are you feeling crushed? He is rushing toward you to stand by your side and help you. When you’re going through hardship, or when you’re heavyhearted and burdened, God rolls up His sleeves and moves toward you in a way that’s unlike any other time. It doesn’t matter if you can see Him working. His approach may not cause you to feel any different. But it’s the truth—God is right there with you. The harder the days get, the closer He leans in so you can hear His voice. Sometimes it feels like God backs away from you when you hit hard times, but that’s not true. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Is your heart breaking today? God is rushing toward you. He is always with you.
Father, for all of us who daily need to renew our confidence and faith in You, help us now to lay hold of Your promise that You will never leave us nor forsake us. Help us to speak and live fearlessly because we are aware we are in Your presence. Lord, You are with me. I am never alone. Is there any greater assurance that I should not fear? Your promise stands, spoken over and over again in Your Word and satisfying Your followers throughout thousands of years—You are with me. I commit this truth to my heart right now. In the powerful name of Jesus I pray, amen.
Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young (Isaiah 40:10–11, esv).
Have you ever given much thought to God’s arms? (“God has arms?” you might be wondering.) When God describes His arms, He doesn’t tell us their circumference or how much He can lift—those are human, physical terms, like the jock showing off at the gym. But God’s description of His arms tells us some awesome things about Him. In fact, the dual description of God’s arms in this passage shows us His power and His comfort.
“Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him.” When the Bible talks about God’s right arm, it refers to His powerful, ruling arm—His justice, His holiness, and His strength. God is like that. He is all that and more.
But then the very next verse describes His tender shepherd arm. “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” If you’ve spent any time in church, sadly you’ve probably heard one extreme or the other: a ton of preaching about the transcendent, holy, awesome Judge or a ton of preaching about the tender, loving, merciful Shepherd. But He’s both, right? In this passage we clearly see both. Don’t let God’s nearness minimize His transcendence nor let His transcendence make you think He isn’t very aware of you individually.
Imagine a shepherd in the fields, and this gives you a picture of God. A shepherd can oversee hundreds of sheep, but he holds only one at a time. He gathers the lambs one by one in his arms. The point here is that this awesome God cares for you. Personally. Individually. Yes, He’s guarding a big flock, but when He cares for the lambs, He tends to them one by one. This is God’s love for you. Personal. Individual. Attentive. Aware. Devoted. That’s how He cares for you.
When He carries His lambs, He holds them “in his bosom.” Picture that. He doesn’t hold us awkwardly squirming at arms’ length. No, He draws us close, right to His own heart.
And He will “gently lead those that are with young.” The sheep that is about to give birth is vulnerable, with unique needs. And the shepherd accommodates those needs. In the same way, when our needs are great, the Lord is that much more attentive to us. Some of us are at a point of acute need right now in our business or in our family. God knows what it is. And just as pressing as that need is, His attention matches that. He’s on it! He is right there, gently leading those whose circumstances demand additional care.
So which one is He – mighty or tender? Yes. His arm is a picture of absolute power and unconditional love.
That’s your King. That’s your Shepherd.
As I behold You, my Lord God, I am in awe of who You are. You are the King. You rule the universe with Your feet up. Absolute power. You are also my Shepherd. You lovingly hold me close and tend to my heart. Absolute love. Open my eyes that I may see You more clearly, and stir in me fresh worship and love for You. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
Turning To God In A Crisis
5 More Exceedingly Great And Precious Promises
There appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah” (Luke 1:11–13, esv).
Every time in Scripture when God’s presence is revealed, the person to whom it’s revealed feels fear. And then the messenger, or more often the Lord Himself, says, “Do not be afraid.”
It’s like, for example, when Jesus revealed Himself to His first disciples by causing a miraculous catch of fish. Peter said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8), but Jesus said to him, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10).
Or in Revelation, when He revealed Himself to the apostle John, who said, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last’” (Revelation 1:17).
I think the angels must have been watching Him, because when they appear at various points in the Bible, and the person doesn’t know what to do with their scared, startled emotions, the angels always do what Jesus did.
Don’t be afraid, they say. What a comforting word.
Have you experienced the comforting presence of the Lord in your life? If you’ve been sad and someone’s given you happiness, that’s comfort. If you’ve been confused and someone’s given you wisdom, that’s comfort. If you’ve been fearful and someone’s said to you, “Don’t be afraid”—that’s comforting, isn’t it? “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (Isaiah 40:1). The Lord comforts His children.
He always has.
One of the classic books on the Christian bookshelf was written in the 1870s by Hannah Whitall Smith, a 43-year-old housewife at the time. It’s called The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, but don’t let the title fool you. It’s not a light, cheesy, be-happy, self-help, pop psychology kind of thing. This woman lost a preborn child. She lost a daughter to bronchial pneumonia. Her grown son, while a sophomore at Princeton University, died of typhoid fever, leaving her broken-hearted. Her husband had emotional problems, was in and out of sanatoriums, bankrupted the family’s wealth, and then—just when things started to go better—was caught in multiple marital infidelities.
But out of these dark places, she wrote of God’s comforting nearness. They weren’t insights learned on a mountain. They were realities experienced in the valley, where His comfort is actually felt the greatest.
I’ve gone through some deep valleys in my day, and, as a pastor, I get to go through some deep valleys with other people, too. I’m not generally the person they call to say their kid is doing great in baseball. My phone rings most often when the heartache comes. But as a result—like almost every pastor—I’ve gotten a front row seat to God’s comfort. I’ve seen people experience the reality of His presence.
Know this: God is awesome in the comfort category.
If you’re going through difficult circumstances, there’s a way. If you’re in the middle of the darkest night, He gives peace and assurance and a confidence from His Spirit that can’t be explained.
Don’t be afraid. The Lord is near. Be comforted.
Lord, You know my distresses and the pains of my heart. You know where I’m needful of Your comfort. Thank You that You always provide comfort at exactly the right time and in exactly the right way. Thank You for the precious truth that, “In your presence there is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). So I won’t be afraid, because You will give me everything my soul requires. And out of Your comfort, You will give me an overflow to share with others. In the strong name of Jesus I pray, amen.
“Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low…” Isaiah 40:4
What are the ‘hills’ in your life? Those common things that hinder access to what the Lord wants to do? They’ve gotta come down… #getready
“Every valley shall be lifted up and every mountain and hill be made low…” Isaiah 40:4
Prepare the way of the Lord by raising the low places, filling the potholes of false security – the things you thought you could count on – with reliance upon Him alone.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6, esv).
The message of faith permeates not only Hebrews 11, but the entire New Testament. You’ll find faith on every page and in every story. Every step with God is a step of faith. Every lesson learned is a lesson of faith. Every victory won is a victory by faith.
The point is this: faith is not a part of the Christian life; it’s the whole thing.
Faith is unlike the fruit of the Spirit, such as patience, kindness, and gentleness; unlike spiritual gifts, such as teaching, service, and acts of mercy; unlike spiritual disciplines, such as worship, prayer, and meditation. Faith is not one part among assorted components. The Christian life is a life of faith.
Genuine followers of Christ trust God and exercise active confidence in Him. They believe His Word and act on it no matter how they feel, because He promises a good result. When we exercise our faith, we have forward spiritual momentum. When we let our faith atrophy, we lose ground and fall away from Him.
Some Christians wonder if this contradicts 1 Corinthians 13:13, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Yes, love is the greatest element relationally—and in that sense, love is greater than faith, because it influences others powerfully.
But biblical love is built on the foundation of faith. We can’t even begin to love as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13:13, or as Jesus describes in John 13:35, until faith in Jesus Christ has bridged the gap between God and us. Because faith forms our basic relationship with God, it is the foundational element of the Christian life. Love for others flows out of that faith relationship.
Every good thing God wants to bring to our lives comes through faith.
Faith is essential… because of its centrality, the cry of the Reformation was sola fide, which means “by faith alone.” According to Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please [God].” No faith means no relationship with our Creator. With faith, we begin an eternal relationship with Him and grow closer as our faith increases.
Which begs the question—assuming you have faith in God, how do you increase it? Paul gives a clear answer. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Mystery solved! That’s what increases faith: the Bible.
If a spiritual thermometer could measure the level of your faith, what would cause it to rise? The minutes, hours, and days you’ve spent immersed in God’s Word. Conversely, shallow faith, a fear-filled heart, or coldness toward God would indicate little time in the Word.
Faith grows by hearing the Word of God. Let’s close our computers, put down the devices, and start logging more time in His Book!
Lord God, I want to please You, which begins with faith. Thank You for the first dose of life-giving faith that began my relationship with You. I pray You would grow my faith as I do my part by spending time in Your Word. In the pages of Scripture, I see You clearly and know You act faithfully on behalf of Your people. Every evidence of You grows my faith. Thank You for who You are, a constant, true, good God in whom I can place unwavering confidence. You never fail me. In the name of Your Son Jesus Christ I pray, amen.