Tag Archives: Presence of God

God is sovereign!

Genesis 15:12-21 – delivered at Shalom Church on 31 Dec 2019

These are the last few hours of 2019.

I was wondering what would be a helpful exhortation to give in such a short time?

Yes, we should always think about Christ & how his love for us should “…compel or constrain us” in how we should live – 2 Cor 5:14

But today, I want us to be energised by thoughts about the absolute sovereignty of God.

Because when your eyes are opened to this truth, it will affect how you live in 2020 & beyond….

How you raise your children, manage your money, deal with conflict, spend your time & make decisions everyday.

Here in Gen 15, God gave Abraham a glimpse of the future.

God told Abraham that his descendants will not inherit Canaan immediately.

Instead, they will be in a foreign land for 400 years – v13.

Now, why is this the case?

V16 – Because “..the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

God sovereignly decided to let the Amorites continue their wickedness in Canaan.

And, it is His prerogative whether to reveal His reasons for this to us.

But note this – God has also appointed a time when He will bring judgement to these Amorites.

And we are told that this appointed time is after 4 generations of Abraham’s descendants.

And you know what?

We saw history unfolding in exactly the manner that God had decreed & reviewed.

That is the history recorded for us from Genesis to Joshua in the old testament.

My dear friends, this is our sovereign God.

He decreed history.

He brought every event to come pass according to His will, for His purposes and for His glory.

Some of you may now be wondering.

If all that God decreed will come to pass, aren’t we all like puppets?

If all that God decreed will come to pass, why should we even bother to pray?

Wouldn’t God’s sovereign will & decrees come to pass regardless of whether we prayed?

I caution you against taking a fatalistic view on this matter.

The truth is that God is not dependent on our prayers to bring His will to come to pass.

And I thank God that this is the case.

Because I have a poor prayer life.

And if my future is dependent on whether I prayed, I am doomed!

And the beauty of the gospel of grace is that we are dependent on Christ and not our merits to get to heaven.

But let me put it to you this way – it is precisely because God is sovereign that we ought to seek Him in prayer.

Because prayer is not about pleading for our will to be done.

Prayer is about learning to ask for things in accordance to God’s will.

1 John 5:14 “…if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”

Jesus taught us to pray “…Your kingdom come. Your will (not mine) be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Prayer is about seeking God.

And when you have found Him, you will understand His will.

Let me illustrate this with an example. (Some of you may have heard it from me before, but I will say it again).

In 2 Cor 12, the apostle Paul told us that he had a thorn in his flesh.

And We are not told what it was, but we are told he prayed 3 times that this thorn will be removed from him.

Very often, we pray in the same manner don’t we?

We ask & sometimes we “expect” God to do exactly as we dictate in our prayers.

The fact is that God answered the Apostle Paul’s prayer.

But He did not answer it in the manner that Paul asked.

God did not remove his “thorn in his flesh”.

Instead, God changed his perspective of this ‘thorn in his flesh’.

God made the Apostle Paul realize that this thorn was placed there by His sovereign will.

And because God placed it there, He had full control of it.

And because God had full control of it, He will be glorified through how He helped Paul handle it.

And the Apostle Paul finally understood this after much wrestling in prayer – That’s what wrestling in prayer does to you!

He was then able to say ‘when I am weak, then I am strong’.

‘I will boast of my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’

The Apostle Paul learned to align his desires to the will of God.

And he learnt to pray in accordance to God’s will.

And God’s power was made perfect in his weakness.

Now, as 2020 dawns upon us, let us remember that God had already decreed all that will come to pass.

The future will unfold itself day by day.

But you know what?

The bible has already given us a glimpse of what God had decreed will happen.

Jesus will come again to judge the world – Heb 9v28.

And He will bring His people to heaven.

He will come when you least expect it – 2 Pet 3v10.

The event will happen like “a thief in the night”.

The world will come to a sudden end – this will be worst than any disaster that has ever struck us!

And many people will regret because they are not ready for the judgment day.

They will be thrown into hell where there is eternal suffering.

Remember, whatever God revealed to Abraham in Gen 15 unfolded in exactly as it is was revealed.

Therefore, I have not doubt that the future for us will unfold in exactly the way God had already revealed.

If you are His child, you will find comfort because the bible says that “God works all things for our good” – Rom 8:28.

And God says to His people in Jer 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love”.

And in Eph 1:4 “..He chose us before the foundation of the world..”

So, if this sovereign God who controls the future is for you, then who can stand against you?

What is there to fear?

What is there to worry about how the future will unfold?

Whether it is 2020, 2021 or beyond?

The fact that this Sovereign God is on your side should bring you the greatest comfort & assurance you ever need.

And the fact that you did nothing to deserve this would also keep you very humble when handling all the situations in your life.

And your response to everything in your life will based on whether it pleases Him and not yourself.

But all these will be so different if God does not know you.

Because this effectively means He is against you.

And if that is the case, then all that you will have is a fearful expectation of the future.

If this is your situation, repent and seek help now while you still have life.

Come to Him through the way He has prescribed – which is through His Son Jesus Christ.

The Amorites were given 400 years to repent, but they didn’t.

They squandered away all the opportunities given to them.

On the other hand, God sent Jonah to preach to Nineveh, and the city repented.

So are you going to be like the Amorites or the Ninevites?

Would you say like Joshua did – As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

I want to tell you that the greatest pleasure you can have on earth is the experience of God’s presence with you.

That was the experience of Enoch when he walked with God in Gen 5.

And he was taken to be with God without even experiencing death.

So, my wish for you in 2020 if you are not a Christian is that God will grant you repentance & faith in Jesus Christ.

And if you are a Christian, may you be so conscious of the presence of God with you with every step that you take.

Then you will live your life “energised” by the love of Christ.

Then you will be energised by the truth that this sovereign God is with you and for you.

And you will find great joy, strength & purpose in all that you do.

Have a blessed 2020 ahead! To God be all glory!

Judges 16:20 – He did not know that the lord had departed from him…

“And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.” ‭‭Judges‬ ‭16:20‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Samson did not realise that the LORD had departed from him. Let us ask several questions related to this matter:

Is Samson a believer, a Christian in the Old Testament?

Heb 11:32 named Samson as one of the heroes of faith. This confirms that he was a believer, an Old Testament saint. The scriptures tell us that his life does not reflect well of a believer. Yet, God used him to bless Israel. But God also heavily chastised him to bring him back to the right path. This is a key sign of a believer – he will repent of his sins because God will work is us to do so.

What does it mean that God “departed” from him?

If we believe that Samson was a believer, how could it be that the LORD departed from him? Would the Holy Spirit ever leave a believer? No! But a believer can be living in sin and grieving the Holy Spirit. In this case, his sense of the presence of God in His life can be so weak that it could feel as if God was not with Him at all. The Holy Spirit could be grieved and withhold His grace in influencing us. How sad a situation! Samson did not even realise that the LORD was not with him. May God help us that we do not decline to such a state.

How can we avoid this experience of Samson?

“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.” ‭‭James‬ ‭4:7-8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬.

JuJThe bible teaches us to “put off” our old ways and “put on” Godly practices. We are not to “put off” and be left with a void. We are to actively “put on” that which is good. The Apostle James teaches us to “resist and flee from the devil”. He did not stop there. He exhorted us to “draw near to God”. This is the simple prescription to avoid the sad state that Samson fell into.

1 Kings 18:15 – Consciously living in the presence of God

1 Kings 18:15

Then Elijah said, “ As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely present myself to him today.” (‭NKJV)

Elijah said “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand….”. He was conscious that the LORD was God. He was convinced that God is alive. He was very conscious that he was living in the presence of God.

The Apostle Paul told the people of Athens in Acts 17:28 “..In him we live and move and have our being..” God is present wherever we are, even though we may not be conscious of it. But Elijah was keenly aware that he was living in God’s presence. His priority was that God should be pleased. He knew that his every action was seen by God. And if his enemies threatened him, his God would also be aware of his situation. This resulted in Elijah being fearless of his enemies. Hence he said “..I will surely present myself to him (the evil King Ahab) today. What will Ahab do to him? Elijah was not concerned. He knew that the presence of God will guarantee protection and the fulfillment of His will.

Are you conscious of God’s presence with you every moment of the day? Our sinful mind makes this impossible because we are constantly preoccupied with what pleases us instead of God. But Jesus has reconciled us to God. He has made constant communion with Him possible. Through repentance and faith, we can be aware of God’s presence. What sweet comfort that can bring us. Seek Him today for He says in Zech 1:3 “…return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you…”.

Questions for meditation:

1) What is the main cause of me not being conscious of the presence of God in my life? What am I doing about it?

2) What is the pre-occupation of my mind most of the time? Are the thoughts appropriate?

3) What can I do so that I have a greater consciousness of God’s presence with me?What you can pray for:

Lord, help me be ever conscious of your presence with me & let this create a fear in me that will help me shun sin.

Esther 3:1-2 “…Mordecai would not bow…”

After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and set his seat above all the princes who were with him. And all the king’s servants who were within the king’s gate bowed and paid homage to Haman, for so the king had commanded concerning him. But Mordecai would not bow or pay homage.  Esther 3:1-2

Here’s a quick summary of the situation – Mordecai was the hero, but Haman got a “free ride” and was mistakenly promoted by King Ahasuerus. Have you encountered a similar situation in your life? How did you feel about it? What did you do?

Do we feel that, out of charity, Mordecai should have just accepted what happened as God’s will and responded graciously? If he had done that, perhaps Haman may not have hated the Jewish people so much. Should Mordecai just “swallowed his pride” and not “kick such a fuss” over the matter?

This is a major lesson for us – we should withhold our judgement of situations when we don’t have clarity of the entire picture. We could have said that Mordecai should have been more charitable. Or we could also have said that he did the right thing because there should be justice done – so that the right people get the credit.

Whatever the case, we need to remember is that “God works things out for the good of His people and for His glory”. For some reason, God allowed Mordecai to insist on not paying homage to Haman even though he was under Haman’s authority. This act by Mordecai resulted in Haman’s hatred of the Jews and the plot to annihilate  the Jewish race.

As the story continued, we see even Esther’s life on the line. But it was in the final hour when it looked like a lost cause for God’s people that they were drawn to fasting and prayer. And with a mighty hand, God turned the entire situation around and rescued His people. Ultimately, the glory did not go to Mordecai, but to the God of heaven – who worked all things according to His will and good pleasure and preserved the heritage that eventually traced to Jesus Christ.

There are many lessons for us here: 1) never look short-term and make conclusions. Instead, turn to God and seek His counsel. 2) The most important thing to do in every situation is to pray and seek wisdom to handle every situation wisely.

Mordecai reacted negatively to the apparent “injustice” he faced. But this was used by God to initiate a situation where the existence of the Jewish people was threatened. But this caused them to humble themselves, fast and pray. And God heard their prayer. And He led them out of the potential disaster.

We need wisdom to know how to respond in every situation. When we pray, we have the confidence that God will lead us. Even if it results in short-term pain, we have confidence that He will use the situation to work good for us in the overall scheme of things. But this will be true only for “those who love Him and are called according to His purposes”. How important it is therefore to have God on our side. If He is not, we have absolutely no assurance and will be doomed for disaster.

Ezra 8:22 – Insurance?

For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.” Ezra 8:22

Ezra had a dilemma. He was to return to Jerusalem to re-construct the city with a group of Jews. There will be danger on the journey home. Should he “buy insurance” by asking the king for an escort of soldiers to protect those travelling with him against bandits & robbers? If he did, would this show that he had no faith in the God whom he worshipped? If he did not, what if they were indeed ambushed along the way? Hence, he got those who were with him to fast and seek God’s hand of mercy and protection.

This is is a good example of the exercise of faith and diligent seeking of God. However, it does not represent a direction that we should shun insurance or seek medical attention when required. Faith must be held in balance with human responsibility. We need to weigh all our situations before God and seek His guidance on these matters. Even if we used the means provided by God, eg medicine, our faith should not rest with these means, but in the God who provided these means.

Daniel’s friends who were thrown into the fire testified to King Nebuchadnezzar that they had confidence that their God will rescue them – Dan 3:17-18. But even if that did not happen, they will still not bow down to idols. This is the essence of true faith.

2 Chr 32:31 – Why did God withdraw from Hezekiah?

However, regarding the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, whom they sent to him to inquire about the wonder that was done in the land, God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart. 2 Chr 32:31

There is a reason for everything that happens. We may not know how events are inter-connected one to another because God may not reveal that to us.

But this verse tells us the reason for God withdrawing from Hezekiah. The reason was to test him – to see what was in his heart.

Sometimes we may ask the reason as to why we fell into sin. Perhaps it was because God withdrew Himself – so that we may be tested – so that He may know what is in our heart, just like the case for Hezekiah. And when we fall, we know what is in our heart – that there is nothing good. We are utterly sinful and fully dependent on the grace of God to sustain us, or we will fail miserably. That reduces us to dust and helps us to appreciate the sustaining grace of God.

If we have fallen into sin, may we find grace through our Lord Jesus Christ who gave Himself to redeem us because we are totally unable to help ourselves.