How do you experience God when you feel like a nobody who is going nowhere? God’s got a plan. 1988, I had a two-year span of feeling like a nobody going nowhere.
I had made a five-year commitment to be at Country Bible Church and I finished my schooling, and we started out with about thirty-five people and God blessed and the church grew.
But in year number six, my commitment was over and, “Okay, God, well what do You want to do with my life?” And I loved it and the people were awesome and they loved me and they loved my family and it couldn’t have been a better place to live except I went to seminary after going through more school than I wanted to, to be a missionary.
And then God switched my path and said, “No, I want you to be a pastor.” That didn’t go well. But being a pastor in a rural area of forty-five hundred people, with no stop light, this is that life of impact I dreamed about?
One day I remember in my car in a half-mile radius I counted sixteen churches in a half-mile radius. I thought, “People want to hear about God in Kaufman, Texas? There are plenty of people to tell them. Why do You have me here?”
And I just felt like, when God went through the rolodex of eternity and everybody’s names popped up, when He got to the “I’s,” He just sort of skipped down to the “J’s.”
And I just felt stranded. Great people. I wanted to be on the cutting edge. I had these dreams in my heart that I thought were from God and now I was doubting. I thought, “Maybe they’re not God’s dreams after all, they’re just me.”
And then I went from there to thinking, “Well, maybe I’m not competent. Maybe this is it. Maybe I just don’t have the wherewithal that is needed to make an impact like I believe God wants me to.” I started to doubt.
I remember going to a McDonalds with a close friend who, I’d just kind of tell him this stuff and he kept my faith alive, but, boy, I felt like a nobody going nowhere.
At the core, later on, I learned I had some wrong perceptions of God, wrong perceptions of myself, and wrong perceptions of my circumstances. And that was at the core of feeling like a nobody.
I’d like you, if you would, to pull out your teaching handout and before we jump into the text, I want to tell you a very silly story but it’s a silly story that’s true, that God used to break me out of my self pity party when I felt like a nobody.
On the front, and you’ll notice, there was a ferocious bark, I’m sitting on the floor of my house with my kids, it’s about six thirty, seven, time of the year, it was pitch dark. And I hear this ferocious bark and then there’s this pounding at the door, not like knocking, just, like, “Let me in! Let me in! I’m about to die,” type of pounding.
And then I opened the door, flip on the light, and the eyes of a terrified child, his name was Michael, one of my son’s good buddies. And his eyes are like this and he’s saying, “Let me in!” And it was like, “I’m going to die! There’s this huge dog.” And you’re waiting for a Doberman Pinscher behind him or a German Shepherd that’s salivating and the kid, we’re going to save his life.
And as I flipped on the porch light, we all turned to see, because it had a big bark, a new dog in the neighborhood. It was about this big. And you could just see his heart start to, and we all turned around and we laughed. We shut the door, Michael came in, we goofed off. But that little thing happened when I was in my 1988 to 1990, “I’m a nobody going nowhere,” living on the treadmill of life funk.
And I remember just a little picture came into my mind. And the picture was this principle: Our perceptions determine our responses. It was like God brought Michael as a word picture. Our perceptions determine our responses. He perceived a big, strong, vicious dog. His response: Run, terror, fear, get help.
But as soon as the light… just adding a little light, his fear turned to laughter. All he needed was just a little bit of light to see his predator, himself, his circumstances in the light, and his whole world was changed.
If you happen, for whatever reason, this morning to feel like a nobody going nowhere, I want to suggest that what God wants to do for you, as a gift, because He loves you is to turn on the porch light of your soul, through Psalm 139, and help you see five things, five truths, that will pour light into your soul, and your perspective, to get a right picture of God, a right picture of your circumstances, and a right picture of yourself that will give you hope, that will remind you that you’re not a nobody. You’re a somebody. And you’re not going nowhere, but you are going somewhere very special if you open your ear, open your heart, and cooperate with God’s plan.
So, open the notes, if you will, and what I want to give you are five things to remember every time you feel like a nobody, okay? Every time you feel like a nobody going nowhere, I want you to turn to Psalm 139 and read it over and you might even put notes in your Bible or jot some notes here and then transfer them.
The first thing you need to remember is that God knows you. You know He knows everybody, but God knows you. Follow along as I read verses 1 through 6.
“O Lord,” O Yahweh, “You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down, You are familiar with all my ways.” All my traits, all my tendencies is the idea of that word.
“Before a word is on my tongue, You know it completely, O Lord.” Imagine that. Think of that. Before a word gets out on your tongue, the thought process, every single thought, every single day, God knows it before it even comes out of your mouth. “You hem me in behind and before, You have laid Your hand upon me.”
The response is verse 6, “Such knowledge is too wonderful; too lofty for me to attain.” It’s the idea, it’s too incomprehensible, it’s too overwhelming, it’s too other, “Wow! God! You know everything!”
In fact, pull out a pencil if you want to do a little Bible study. Look at the words here, “Searched,” circle that. Verse 1, “Know me,” circle that. Verse 2, “Know.” Verse 2, “Perceive,” circle that. Verse 2, “Discern, familiar,” circle that. Then, “You know,” in verse 4. “Hem me in; laid You hand upon; knowledge.” Ten different times, various Hebrew words. The author wants you to understand, he wants me to understand, inspired by the Holy Spirit, God knows you! And these words are a variety of words, did you notice? “Familiar; discern; perceive; knowledge.”
They’re a plethora of words to let you know it’s not a cognitive knowledge, it’s not just God knows about you, He knows you. He understands you. He knows how you think. He knows your dreams. He knows your motives. He knows your fears. He knows the things that happen on the dashboard of your life that send off a light for the future, He knows exactly how you respond and why you respond. He knows your dreams.
In a word, you could say, jot this down, “You are understood by God. He is there, He is interacting, He is working, He knows you infinitely more than you know yourself.”
In 1988, I was really struggling because, to be candid, God put some grandiose dreams in my heart. I had traveled throughout South America a couple different times, I’d been through the Orient, the Philippines, I saw the needs of the world, I had no desire to be involved in ministry. You know, “Just let me be a basketball coach or a teacher. I like that.”
And I went around the world and I saw needs and God gave me little opportunities where He used me in ways I had never dreamed He would use me. And I saw scores of people come to Christ and I came home and said, “Okay, I’ll do whatever You want me to do. But I want to do something that will make an impact, that will really change how the world is in some small way.”
And here I am stuck. And the hardest part of being stuck when you feel like a nobody is that no one understands. I mean, they sympathize and they empathize and they give you, “Well, I remember when I was your age.” It doesn’t help me to know what you were thinking when you were my age. You know what I mean?
I mean, I’m sure people mean well but you don’t understand the dreams in my heart. You don’t understand the frustration. You don’t understand how abandoned I feel. You don’t understand how stranded and stuck I feel.
You know what I didn’t know? The porch light in my soul didn’t remember, “God knows. He understands.” The most private thoughts, the deepest frustrations, He knows the private things that you think about your marriage, about your job, about yourself. He knows of your deepest self-doubts.
He knows every corner, every cranny, every secret, every closet. You are fully understood.
Now, I don’t know about you, that’s awesome on the one hand but it’s frightening to me. If God knows that much about me and I know, theologically, it’s true, my response is like David’s in the next section. I want to run.
But I want you to underline something in this first section, the phrase, “You have laid Your hand upon me.” Underline that, will you? It’s a picture of God’s protection and blessing.
See, it’s one thing for someone to know everything about you in order to use it against you. It’s something quite different for someone – an infinite, eternal, unapproachable, in-light being, who is infinitely holy and compassionate – to know everything about you, in order to lay His hand upon you. It’s a picture of a father. What did they do when they gave you your blessing in the Old Testament? They laid their hands upon them. The hands of protection, of security, of blessing.
If you feel like a nobody, you can choose to feel that way but here are the facts. The facts are you are understood completely by God and He wants to lay His hand upon you to bless your life and to protect you. That’s pretty exciting, isn’t it?
And I know, you’ve got all those tapes like I had, you had all those childhood experiences, you’ve got all those things that have happened that tell you, “No one would want to do that for me.” Yeah, there is. One person. God would. God would. So much so that He sent His son, Jesus, to prove how much He loves you.
But lest you, like David, and like people like me, run from that, look at verses 7 through 12 where we learn that God not only knows everything about us, but God is, get this, pursuing you. Isn’t that a wild thought? He’s pursuing. I mean, He’s after you! He’s pursuing you! He’s seeking you out!
We’re going to learn thousands of times a day, thousands of times every day, your name comes to God’s mind and He thinks about you and He is pursuing you.
Notice verse 7, David writes, “Where can I go from Your Spirit?” Rhetorical question with the answer implied: Nowhere. “Where can I flee from Your presence?” Nowhere. “Well, if I go to heaven, You’re there.” Mm-hm. “If I make my bed in the depths,” or, “Sheol,” the heart of the earth, “You’re there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn,” go as far that direction, “if I settle on the far side of the sea,” the other direction, “even there, Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.”
Hypothetically, “If I say, ‘The darkness will hide me, and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to You, the night will shine like the day. For darkness is as light to You.” That’s one of the most profound things, I think, in all of Scripture.
Do you get it? Now, it’s obvious God is omnipresent. It’s taught here. And he says, “If I went as high as I could or as low as I could; You are there. If I went as far east, far west; You’re there. If I hypothetically, even in my own mind said, ‘I could find a place.’”
Remember little kids? How little kids would hide? If you’ve got a two year old, three year old, you play hide-and-seek, what do they do? They shut their eyes. “Can’t find me, Mommy!” What they don’t know is that even though their eyes are shut, yours are open.
You see, what this passage teaches, darkness and light are alike, God is other! Our problem when we think about God is we think He’s a grand, big, better version of the best person that we know. He is not! We are tiny replicas made in His image, with the capacity to love and feel and choose. But He is other. That’s what the word “holy” means. He is totally other. He is outside of time.
He is all-knowing, all-powerful, He is the first cause. We are His creatures, He is the Creator. The galaxies, the stars, the solar systems, on and on and on. Light, darkness, He is outside that category. They’re both the same to Him.
But notice what it says, “He is pursuing you.” There is nowhere you can hide. But notice again, underline a couple key phrases. Why is He pursuing you? “Your hand will guide me.” Put a circle or a line under that, will you? And then make an arrow and write the word “direction” on your notes.
God is pursuing you because His hand wants to guide you, He wants to give you direction for your life. Wouldn’t it be great to get direction from someone who knows everything about the past, the present, and the future and has all power to do anything with it that He wants? This sounds like a good position to be in.
Notice the other thing. Underline the words “will hold me fast.” Draw an arrow and write the word “security.” Not only does He want to seek you out, to pursue you, to find you, and to find me, but He wants to do it in order not just to give direction, but to give security.
He won’t let you down. When His right hand takes hold of you, no one, nothing has the power, according to Romans 8:28 to 39, “Not angels, not principalities, not life, not death, nothing can separate you from His love.”
God is seeking you, He’s pursuing you, a regular person. It’s true! You’re not a nobody because He wants to give you direction and He wants to give you security. You sang about it. His arms of love. It’s true.
In fact, the New Testament teaches it, John chapter 4, Jesus, woman at the well, conversation: “The Father is pursuing,” or, “seeking worshippers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.” See, we have a part, we have to be honest.
Luke 15: They’re trying to figure out, “Jesus, what are You doing?” He says, “I came to pursue, to seek and to save” - what? “the lost.” He said, “You know, physicians don’t come for well people. I came for messed up people. I came for drug addicts. I came for perverts. I came for liars and stealers. I came for people from dysfunctional backgrounds. I came for people that all society thinks is an F. I came for them. And for all the people who think they’re As, if they’re willing to admit they’re not. See, I came to seek and to save that which was lost.”
In the Psalms, listen to this. Here’s how God describes believers in the Psalms, “As the apple of His eye.” Let’s put your name in there. Imagine today, the sovereign God of the universe, He looks right at you and He says you are the apple of His eye.
The Psalms also talk about us as the object of His affection. Colossians chapter 3 pushes it a bit farther and says, “You are chosen, you are holy, you are dearly loved because of Christ.”
Let me help you get your arms around it because your faces are telling me, “Yes. This is true but I can’t quite get it from my head down to my heart, I mean, this is true but…”
You got all these tapes and all this baggage like we all do and, “Could God really feel that way about me?” He more than feels that way, He is that way about you, by His sovereign choice, not because you’re good, but because He is good.
But just to get your arms around it, here’s how it works. Do you remember back maybe junior high or high school depending on how your social skills were working, or for some of us, maybe even college.
Do you remember the very first time that a person of the opposite sex got interested in you? Do you remember that? I mean, just, that they liked you. And the way it works in junior high is Betty tells Billy who is a friend of Suzy, that Mary is interested in you and she tells Shirley, who tells Billy, who lets you know during break. And then you go to the lunchroom and when you look at her, she smiles. And you go, “Oooohhh.” Do you remember that? Do you remember the first time that happened? Do you remember it?
Didn’t that feel good? I mean, most of you did not marry that person so it wasn’t permanent. But it did feel good.
Why? I want to suggest that we are made to be attracted to the opposite sex, most of you have no problem with that, but I’d suggest beyond that, it was the first time with a significant other, probably outside your family, you felt wanted. Wanted. You were valuable, you were precious, you were wanted.
For some of us it happened in different ways. Do you remember being out on the sandlot, guys or girls, and someone says, “Oh, I’ll take so and so and so and so,” and then someone took their finger and pointed at you and said, “Hey, I want him to be on my team.”
“So what if I was chosen number nine? I got on.” You know? Do you remember what it was like?
Have you ever been in a job interview and they broke off the interview and said, “You know, we’d really like you to work for our company.” All I’m saying is this: God is pursuing you. And here’s what you can write down: You are wanted by God. You’re not a nobody. You are wanted by God. He’s taking all the forces of the universe and orchestrating people, and events, and clips of this, and a slash of that, and the Holy Spirit working in your life.
If you’re here today and you’re not a believer in Jesus Christ, I’m telling you, the God of the universe is pursuing you. As someone made famous, “He’s the hound of heaven.” He’s seeking you, He loves you, you are wanted, you are valuable.
If you’re a child of God, if you have a relationship with the eternal God, through the shed blood of Christ and His resurrection, I don’t know what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling, discouraged, depressed, you got ups, you got downs, you got struggles. Welcome.
But the God of the universe wants you. And however much He has of you, He wants more. And He wants to give more. And He wants to be close. That’s who you are.
The third thing you need to remember is that God made you, verses 13 through 16, the first half.
Listen to this, “For You created,” he writes, “my innermost being.” Not just my physical body but my psyche, all that I am. “You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Those two phrases: Fearfully and wonderfully made – powerful words. Strong words. One commentator says, “The best English word we can to get the level of what it really means is the word “awesome.”
We are made awesomely. We’re the crown of creation! I mean, the best sunset you’ve ever seen, the most beautiful sea, the most majestic mountains, they are like a tiny thimble of nothing compared to the grand creation that God made. Life. You are awesome, you are magnificent.
I remember at a graduate course at West Virginia University, and I had a teacher in physiology. And I never in my life, she taught me what the word “holy” meant. And she would talk, she had such an awe of the human body that when she talked in class about the human body, she would talk about how individual cells and the inside of that cell, the ATP and then the mitochondria. And how those things worked and the nervous system, and the cardiovascular system, and how the self-healing properties of the body worked.
And she would talk about it in almost hushed tones, “This body is such a magnificent, not a machine, creation.” And I remember her one day holding up a bone that was a part of a compound fracture. She said, “You want to know how magnificent, how magnificent the body is?”
And it was bent like this. “Before we ever set bones, back in the old days, I want you to know that when this bone would heal, it may take ten, twelve years and never get fully right. But every year, when there was a compound fracture, the bone would multiply, always on the side where the break was so, over time, in self-healing, it was attempting to straighten it out.”
And she would talk about the body as the most magnificent. And she talked about, “You know what happens when you are cut? Did you ever wonder what has to happen, specifically why it clots, when it clots, how it happens, how it heals?”
And you know what she understood? She understood, at the physical level, what God was saying about you. You are awesome, you are precious, you are unique. But it’s more than just your body.
He said, “My innermost being.” Your psyche, your dreams, your gifts, your passions, how you process information, your bents, your ways, the dreams that you have in your heart. God made you!
Your DNA, both spiritually and physically, is different than anyone else’s. He made you, they broke the mold! You are awesome in God’s sight.