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About this series
Finding God When You Need Him Most
In Finding God When You Need Him Most, Chip Ingram reveals how you can meet God in the midst of your most difficult moments. Through Chip's teaching from some of the most comforting and encouraging Psalms, you will move from "knowing about God" to profoundly experiencing His presence and power in your life. Whether you're struggling with a rocky relationship, an unexpected crisis, depression, or injustice, this series will remind you that the Lord is faithful to hear your heart's cry and will be there for you, time and again.More from this series
I had a guy come up to me after a service, and uh and sometimes we say, “Oh, God, show me. God, show me. I got a big decision,” and with him it was in a relationship with a big job that was coming up. And he said, “I’ve prayed, I’ve prayed, I’ve prayed, I’ve prayed. God won’t speak to me.”
I said, “Well, tell me a little about any struggles in your life.”
“I’m having a struggle.” I said, “Well, what’s it in?” He said, “Well, I’m sleeping with my girlfriend. And I know it’s wrong, I know God doesn’t want me to, and I’m trying real hard, and I’m still sleeping with my girlfriend.”
“Well, how long is this going on?” “A couple years.” “Oh. And I opened to 1 Thessalonians 4 and it says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality.”
“Now, this says right here it’s God’s will right?” He says, “Yeah.” I said, “Are you keeping this part?” He said, “No.” I said, “Do you think God is going to show you His will about an area that is a little bit grey and vague when you aren’t keeping the parts that are absolutely black and white?”
Moses said the way it happens is the nature of sin is so deceptive. And until you get clear, then you can’t hear God’s voice. “Am I right with God?” is the first question because it gives perspective. “Am I ready to die?” is the next question because it aligns priorities. “Am I taking sin seriously?” is critical because it has to do with purity.
And until we’re pure with what we do know, God is not going to clear the confusion about what we don’t know.
Now, the fourth thing is he tells us why and how this happens. The fourth basic is that wisdom is essential. Listen to what he says. He’s concluding.
He says, “Who knows the power of Your anger!” Now, this is a guy that’s seen God do some powerful things. “For Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due You.” See, Moses has a high view of God. Moses has seen water from the rock, Moses has seen what happened even when a good man on a bad day speaks, just speaks, in a way that violates the honor and the name of God and realizes, “You don’t get to go into the Promised Land.”
See, we have lost the sense of reverence in God’s holiness and how serious He takes some things. And so Moses, understanding this, says, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we might gain a heart of wisdom.”
“God, it’s a fallen world!” And a heart of wisdom, by the way, here, it’s not, he’s not praying, “God, make me a smarter person.” “God, give me wisdom. Teach me to number, and allot, and arrange my days so that I can present before You, one day after a day, one day at a time, a life that honors You.”
Wisdom is – the Hebrew word has to do with skill. Wisdom is – the whole world does relationships like this (in fact, most of the Church is doing that way, by the statistics). Wisdom is – “I’m going to do it God’s way even though it’s counter-culture.”
Most of the world sees money and finances and position and power this way, including the Church, and, “I want God’s wisdom and I want to know how to navigate that in a way that honors You. Lord, in this fallen world, will You teach me to number my days, to align my life, so that You would look down on me now and one day greet me with, ‘Great job. Great job. You lived well.’”
See, wisdom is essential. God understands it’s very…. everything I’ve talked about so far, this is not hard to do, it’s impossible. It’s impossible to do on our own.
And so, the question I think we need to ask ourselves, “Am I spending or investing my life?” Am I numbering my days? Is my life, am I building relational and spiritual capital where there will be eternal return?
Now, I actually take this pretty literally. And so, I did a little math for you. Are you ready? Just lean back, relax. Some of you look like you could use it.
If you’re in this room and you’re fifty-five years, if God should give you the seventy years, you have about five thousand five hundred and fifty-seven days.
And if you’re sixty-five years old, you’ve got about nineteen hundred and twenty-five days left. And anything after that is gravy.
When you’re confused, and you’re wondering, “What’s going on?” It’s an amazingly sober thing that happens when you ask God to teach you to number your days.
Think about how short two thousand days go. And then ask yourself, “Am I living the kind of life that two thousand days from now, I would look back and say, ‘Lord, take me home, I’m ready. I have fulfilled the purposes for which You’ve called me.’”
When you ask whether you’re spending or investing your life, you’re dealing with the issue of purpose. Purpose is the key word there. Stewardship.
If you’re eighty-four years old, I had some people at the first service go by and one guy said, “I’m over eighty, is my time up?” I said, “No, you’re in gravy, grace time. But make all the benefit that you can. You probably have more to offer now than you’ve ever had to offer in your life for the years that you have lived and where He has positioned you.”
But the question is: Do we think with the TGIF? People live with a TGIF mentality. Except it’s, “TGIR.” Thank God I’m retired. As though, as though the whole goal of life is to somehow get to where you don’t have to do anything.
The purpose and energy… You know, I don’t have any verses that say, “When you get certain age, just check out.”
I have one good friend who happens to be in a situation where he ended up extraordinarily wealthy. And so, he took early retirement and had all this money. And the fellow is not a believer. But in a moment of confession he said, “You know something?” He said, “If I would have had any idea I would be in great health and live from sixty-two to eighty-four, I would have not spent twenty-two years or a fourth of my life improving my golf game. What a waste.” So, how about you? Spending or investing?
Some of you are thinking, “Did we ask this guy to come here and talk on purpose? I could get depressed at home! I could do this at home! I don’t need this at church!” Some of you are elbowing yourself like, “Mr. Happy News! Boy, this guy is really fun!”
Let me tell you that unless you face the hard news and come out of denial and see things clearly, you’ll never embrace the happy news and understand what it can really do for your life.
There is a complete pivotal change and it is true, God is great and He better be the center of your life. And it’s true, life is short and so we better get our priorities in order. And it is true, sin is serious so we need to get pure for our good and for the body’s sake. And it’s absolutely true that we need wisdom. It’s a fallen world and we can’t do it so we need to ask, “Am I investing or spending my life?”
But here’s the deal: Mercy is available! Moses looks at all that he’s learned and then he turns and he prays. He says, “Relent, O Lord; how long will it be? Have compassion on Your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love” – why? “that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”
That’s not negative, is it? “Make us glad for as many days as You have afflicted us, for as many years have we seen trouble.” There are three specific verbs and three requests. He tells us mercy is available. God isn’t down on you. If some of the things I have said so far have pricked your heart and you realized, “Man, I’ve got to address some issues,” address them.
But understand who you are going to come to when you want to address them. He says, “Relent.” Literally, “Please, God, have mercy. Please don’t give me what I deserve. Don’t give me what we deserve.”
And you, far more than Moses, know that you don’t have to. There is a man that hung on a tree in your place to pay for your sin and lived a perfect life and was put into the earth and was resurrected three days later and walked for over forty days with five hundred eye witnesses to let you know that everything you deserve and everything I deserve was placed on Him as a gift. And God’s wrath, just wrath, was poured upon Him and your sins are paid for and mercy is available for every person who would cry out, “Save me.” It’s for you!
But notice, he doesn’t just ask for mercy. Notice then he says, “Have compassion on your servants.” It’s the word that means, “coming out of the bowels.” It’s the idea of how a mother feels for one of her tiny babies when she has a temperature and she’s fearful. This is how God feels about you.
He’s praying, “Have compassion, O God, even though You are so holy. What Your holiness demanded, Your love provided. Have compassion. Have mercy. Be tender. Restore. Encourage” – why? “So that,” what’s it say? “so that you can satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love.” Do you hear the wisdom?
He didn’t say, “Satisfy me with my 401k going back up.” He didn’t say, “Satisfy us with, oh good, now we don’t have a war, everything is okay.” He didn’t say, “Satisfy me with my family. All being exactly like we want it to be and all my kids are in good marriages and upwardly mobile and making good money and we sing Kumbaya around the Thanksgiving table.”
I hope you get all that, God bless you, walk with God and be a good steward of all that He gives you. His third request is, “Satisfy us and make us glad by Your unfailing love.”
“God, I don’t know what’s going to happen with the economy, I don’t know what’s going to happen with my family. But here’s what I know: There is an infinite reference point that never changes, that is personal and powerful and loving and You delight in me. I want You to satisfy me. And I want to learn where I get weaned off of all the temporal stuff and I want You to satisfy me with Your unfailing love.”
And the evidence? “Make me glad. Cause me to sing. And cause me to sing when circumstances are terrible because I’m in Your presence. Because You’re my source, not stuff. You’re my source, not my wife, my husband, or my kids. You’re my source, not circumstances working out the way I want them to.”
Jot down, if you would, Psalm 16:11 in the corner. “In Thy presence is fullness of joy, and at Your right hand are pleasures forever.”
As you spend time with God, and I hope you do it at the beginning of your day. Do it anytime but especially then. I want to encourage you to, as you talk with Him and ask Him to teach you to number your days and you begin to walk through what God is doing in your heart, encourage you to spend some time singing to the Lord. Spend some time rejoicing in Him for who He is.
We are in such a consumer-oriented society, basically we have unconsciously gone into our prayer life and in reading the Bible and saying, “God, what have You done for me lately? God, how are You going to fix this? God, when are You going to take care of that?”
And Moses is saying, “God, I’d like to come before You, in the midst of a fallen world where You know I messed up, and I want to ask You, first, to forgive and to cleanse. And then I want You to have compassion and let me feel and know that You understand. And then I’m asking that You’ll satisfy me, not with anything out there, but with Your unfailing love.” And the evidence of unfailing love, in the heart of a believer, is joy. “Make me glad.”
The Early Church revolutionized the world because they had an amazing marketing plan. You know what their marketing plan was? Loving one another.
And they didn’t have any background, they didn’t have prayer in school. They didn’t have anything. Their marketing plan was, “Let’s love one another so radically that they will testify that the Christ has come, is risen from the dead, He lives in us, and we’re outwardly, lovingly focused, only by supernal empowerment.
And then, when you got close to a New Testament believer after the marketing plan started working, then they all had business cards. And you know what their business cards said? Three letters: J-O-Y. They had joy. They had a supernatural sense of wellbeing, in the midst of absolutely terrible circumstances, of persecution and rejection and financial loss.
And the first twenty-five or thirty years, the whole Church was all Jewish. And if you came to Christ as a Jewish believer, you got disinherited. And what do we do? We’re whining to God because everything isn’t lined up exactly how we want it. And Moses says, “Here’s the question to ask: Am I experiencing the joy of the Lord?”
When there is no joy, my focus has gotten off of my relationship as a son and I’m into duty as a soldier. When my joy is really down low, then I’ve gotten into all that I have to do and how important I am and my job and my work and all these new challenges and what… instead of understanding, “It’s God’s deal and I’m His son and He, ‘Delights in me and He is singing over me,’ and if I’ll take the time, He’ll hold me in His arms every day.”
And the world may be difficult out there, but He holds the whole world in His hands and He cares about one, little, insignificant guy, named Chip. And I either choose to focus on how valuable I am to my Father and rejoice in that, or I end up going down the trail of rejoicing in accomplishments and activity and performance. And so, my joy or happiness is always dependent on other people coming through or how well I can perform.
And when I perform well, I become a self-righteous jerk. And when I perform poorly, I suffer from condemnation and feel like I’m the worst person in the world. Anybody have those continuums in your life?
Or I can ask myself, “Am I experiencing the joy?” And when I do, it takes me back to relationship.
The final thing he says, really good news, basic one, “God is great;” basic two, “Life is short;” basic three, “Sin is serious;” basic four, “Wisdom is essential;” basic five, “Good news! Wisdom is available;” and then basic six, “Success is possible.”
He says, “May Your deeds be shown to Your servants.” Literally, it’s a command. “Reveal, I’m asking, reveal, make known Your deeds to Your servants; Your splendor to their children. May the favor,” or literally, “the beauty, the magnificent beauty of the Lord our God rest upon us.”
And then notice the repetition, “Establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands.”
In today’s translation he’s praying, “Lord, I want to see You work in a mighty way among us. Lord, I want to leave a legacy for my children to see that You worked in me, and, Lord, I want to impact my world every day, in every way.”
And so, I think the question to ask is: “Am I impacting my world for good?” The key word is productivity. Not activity. Productivity. He says, “Lord, I want to know You. I want to make You known. And I want You to do something so powerful and dynamic that my kids would see the reality of You in my life because I live Your way. I’m numbering my days. They see how everyone else handles their money and then they see how I handle mine.
“They see how everyone else spends their time and what they watch or don’t watch, they hear what comes out of other people’s mouths and then they see what comes out of mine, and they see when it comes out wrongly how I own it and confess and then apologize for the negative modeling.
“God, I want my kids to see that I am not a religious person. God, I want my kids to see, that there is a group of people that the Spirit of God pours forth, and changes the spiritual climate of this city because Christians live radically and they love radically.”
And when the market is up, there’s joy. And when the market is down, there’s joy. And when you’re single, there’s joy; and when you’re engaged, there’s, for a while, even more joy; and when you’re married, there’s joy! And when you’re married for a while and it’s not going so well, there’s joy. And when you work it through, there’s joy.
“God, would You let my children see that it’s not, would You establish the work of my hands?” Do you hear what he’s praying? Unlike us, Moses is saying, “When a mother cares for a baby, when a trash man is picking up the garbage, or when a pastor is praying, before God, it is done unto the Lord, it’s an act of worship.”
Establish the work of our hands. Take the things that we do, day in and day out, as I’m putting in software, as I’m cutting a business deal, as I’m coaching some little league kids. Take every moment, of every day, and give it eternal permanence because I’m doing it as an act of worship to You.
There are no special people. Francis Schaeffer said there are no little people. He’s right. There are not real smart, special, important, spiritual people and then us regular people. There is no clergy and laity. Not in God’s eyes.
There are regular, ordinary people made of stuff like you and like me. And the ground is level. And as I understand my calling, and do what God wants me to do, He establishes the work of my hands.
And when a plumber fixes a pipe to the glory of God with an attitude that honors God, He establishes the work of his hands. When a mother has three kids biting at her ankles and she can only get fifteen minutes of just saying, “Kids, be quiet,” and tries to pray for a while, He establishes the work of her hands.
And when you cut the biggest business deal in the world, and do it for the right reason, in the right way, with the right motives, and make a lot of money and use it for God’s glory, He establishes the work of your hands.
These are the basics. He wants to take an ordinary person like you and me, and do extraordinary things so that people would scratch their head and say, something happened to him. Something happened to her.” And we constantly go back and say, “Well, it’s really not about us. The God who raised Christ from the dead gave His Spirit to dwell in us. And the only explanation I have is the grace of God.”