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Experiencing God When You are Gripped by Fear, Part 2

From the series Finding God When You Need Him Most

Have you ever experienced fear so intense that you couldn’t move? That you couldn’t breathe? We all experience fear but God has an antidote for fear. In this message, Chip explains how you can experience God when you are gripped by fear.

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Message Transcript

His presence has an unlimited supply. Like a river that has streams and it flows and it flows and it flows and it flows. Unlimited supply.

And you say, “Well, Chip, where do you get this stuff that, how did you get that from this? Unlimited supply of joy, protection, deliverance, security, where did you get that?” Let me show you.

Look at verse 4. It said, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.” Did you pick up the contrast between streams here and what the water was like in verse 3? How are the waters in verse 3? They were chaos, they were foaming, it was unsteady, unstable.

And by contrast here, there is a stream, there’s a river whose streams make glad the city of God. What’s the city of God? It’s Jerusalem.

In Isaiah chapter 8 this same phrase for “The stream of God,” or “The river of God,” is identified with His presence. And then in Revelation 22, it talks about the throne of God. And guess what flows from the throne of God that gives life: a river.

You see, in Old Testament imagery, he’s telling these people, in the midst of their trouble, God’s presence, a stream, a river that flows from the very heart of God, from all of His infinite resources, it flows to His people in a place where they are protected and there is unlimited supply.

So, what’s it do? Notice the first phrase. It makes gladness. “The streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.”

Now, I hope you’re saying, “Chip, are you really telling me that in the midst of great adversity, I mean, pressure and trouble and fear, that God’s presence could actually give you joy?” Yup.

I went into the ICU, and a fellow named Will South is having surgery. He’s having a quintuple bypass. His arteries not only need to be opened but they have dried out and deteriorated so they had to replace; it’s like a total plumbing job.

And then they explained all of it to Will and they said, “Do you still want to go through with the surgery?” He said, “Well, sure!” They said, “You need to understand that the chances of success for this surgery is less than a total heart transplant.” He said, “Well, sure!” He said, “The options are if I die, it’s great! I’m going somewhere. And I’ve had seven strokes. I’m ready. I believe God wants me to do it.”

I came home that night, I said, “Honey, I met someone who not only knows God like few people I know but he really understands the reality of heaven and an eternal perspective. It was a privilege; it was a privilege.” God’s presence gives you gladness even in the midst of your greatest trouble.

But it goes beyond that. Notice he says, “God is within her, she will not fall.” God provides protection and security. “He will help her at the break of day,” and for us that’s just a little phrase but out of Exodus 14:27, that little phrase would have clicked into the mind of an Israelite, “Wow! Break of day! Remember when Moses led us out and they were coming, we were at the Red Sea, and God opened the Red Sea, and at the break of day, that little phrase, he prayed, and it closed back up.”

It’s a picture of deliverance. In the midst of your greatest fear and trouble, God will deliver you. He’ll deliver you. He will be your security. He will give you what you need, He will protect you and sustain you. What? One moment at a time.

I got to visit Paul and he had colon surgery, had cancer, and I mention his name so you can pray for him. And they were hoping to get to it early and they didn’t get to it as early as they’d like, and that cancer spread to his liver and we’re all praying very diligently.

And I think it was a day or maybe two at the most after the surgery I got a chance on a Saturday morning to visit with he and Vicky. And I got to witness the presence of God giving protection and a sense of security in a vivid way. And I asked him, “How are you really doing?” And he’s got that smile. I like that smile. He sort of smiles without his teeth, you know? Like that. It’s one of Paul’s. And with his head tilted a little bit he said, “You know, considering where we are, we’re okay.” I said, “Vicky, how are you doing?” And not in all the specific words but basically they communicated, “God has given us grace. We have peace in the midst of a hard time.”

“We’re just going to live one day at a time and God will give us what we need, one day at a time.” You know what that is? That’s someone who says, “The presence of God is within me; I will not fall. He will deliver. He will help. The opposition may be strong.”

“Nations are in an uproar, kingdoms fall; but He lifts His voice, and the earth melts.” All those metaphors, all those pictures, there is joy in the midst of God’s presence, even in trouble. There is protection, there is security, there is peace.

But where does it come from? It comes from His presence. Let me show you how powerful this is. Now, there’s the imagery of river but five times in these four verses, I circled them in my text, it says, notice what it says, “The city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells,” circle that, that’s number one; “God is within her,” circle that, that’s number two; “God will help her at the break of day,” circle “help her,” He has to be there to help her.

Skip down to verse 7, “The Lord Almighty is with us,” circle that. Literally, it’s “for us.” It means He is there. “The God of Jacob is our fortress.” A fortress is a high positioned place where enemies cannot reach and where you are protected and it’s impregnable. All of His resources, He’s the God of hosts, all of His armies are available, all of His strength, all of His power is available to meet you where you’re at. That’s what it’s teaching.

And notice who for. He’s not just the God, the Lord Almighty, He’s the God of Jacob. Did you ever wonder why that’s in here? The God of Jacob. Why not the God of Abraham, or the God of Isaac, or at least the God of Israel. I mean, when they changed his name. Do you remember who Jacob was of the three patriarchs? He’s the not very good one. His name means, literally, the grasper of the heel or deceiver.

Jacob’s the guy who couldn’t get it right. Jacob’s the guy that was always messing with people, lying to people, and manipulating, jockeying for position. Jacob was the guy that was always doing people in. I believe there is a clear message here. See, down in my heart, I feel like, “Oh, God’s presence and His power and all this stuff I’m talking about. Oh, that’s really good for those people that live up here, but I’m here.

But, you know what? It’s a message of grace. He’s saying, “I’m the God of Jacob. I show up for manipulators and schemers and people that are living double lives and hypocrites and people whose lives aren’t together.”

In fact, God will actually use your time of greatest need often to do the most radical transformation of your heart, to identify some pride that you didn’t want to look at before. But I’ll tell you what, you hurt so bad there’s nothing else to do but look. To look at your priorities like never before, to look at your relationships like never before, to look at your values like never before.

And most of us learn to trust, not because we’re noble and more godly and have it together, we learn to trust because there’s no other option, because we just hurt so bad.

But unfortunately, when some of us hurt, instead of running to God, we run from Him. And so notice, finally, he’s going to teach us: How does it work? How specifically can you enter in? And in verses 8 through 11, God is calling us to experience His presence.

What I’ve told you is what’s true. The first three verses are the “what.” It’s a promise. Verses 4 through 7 are the “why.” It’s the reason. The reason you can trust Him, it’s His presence is available for you, right now, where you’re at, regardless of your circumstance.

Verses 8 through 11, now, are the “how.” It’s an invitation. How do you enter in and experience His presence? Let me read it and then we’ll make some comments.

Two commands, the first one, “Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations He has brought on the earth. He makes wars to cease to the ends of the earth; He breaks the bow, He shatters the spear, He burns the shields with fire.”

Second command, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth.” And then the refrain, “The Lord Almighty is with us,” or, literally, “He is for us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

We have learned we don’t have to be afraid because God is for us. We have learned that God’s presence provides an unlimited supply of joy, protection, security, and deliverance, even in the midst of our most severe adversity.

And here we learn, God implores us to come and experience His presence in our time of greatest need. He implores us, He invites us, He commands us.

There are two commands and two things we’re told to do at the end of this Psalm that – here is you and your problem and here is God with His resources.

There are two things you have to do for your problem and you to be interconnected and experience His resources. Number one, command: “Come and see the works of the Lord.” You’ve got to come! You’ve got to come to Him! And you’ve got to see.

The word “see” here is very interesting. It means not only see, objectively, with your eye, but the word is used throughout the New Testament for a seer or for a prophet. It’s the idea of looking at life with the inward eye, the spiritual eye. Looking at the facts but drawing back from the facts and saying, “What is God doing? What could God be doing?”

“Come and see,” and what are you to see? “The works of the Lord.” Now, what did that mean to the Old Testament saints? What were the works of the Lord? They would come and see and in their trouble and they’re surrounded by an army, or someone is threatening their lives, or their children have a disease, and they would open up the Old Testament and say, “Now, let’s see, the works of the Lord. Genesis: God created all there is. Exodus: He delivered the people. David: He made him king. We had battles with the Philistines!”

And they would recount the works of the Lord, His faithfulness in the past. That’s why, notice the phrase. It says, “The desolations He has brought on the earth.” “Hey, He has delivered us in the past. God has come through for us in the past.”

The way we get an accurate view of God, first of all, is from the Scriptures. But we have to go back. The reason we need to read the Bible is to get a clear picture of who God is and what He has done in the past, He is eager to do in the present.

But notice how the tense of the verb changes. It’s from what He did do, it says, “How He makes,” present tense, “wars to cease to the ends of the earth; He breaks the bow.”

It’s not only a picture of His works in the past but the confidence that one day, He is the Warrior-King! The Warrior-King with all power, and His hosts and His armies, and He’s going to bring about justice and He’s going to take care of all of life.

And the invitation is, “You come and you look and remember who God is, what He has done in the past, and what He is going to do in the future.” He’s going to bring peace. He’s going to take care of everything.

How do we do that? Well, first of all, I think, I don’t know where you’re at but if you think you can experience the presence of God without being a person of His word, you are mistaken.

God does not reveal Himself in a vacuum. His Words are life. When you hurt, open His Word and read and cry out in desperation and I guarantee you, He will speak to you.

When we hurt, we spend way too much time on the phone. We spend way too much time listening to talk radio. We spend way too much time on the Internet trying to find out, “What are all the details of the diseases we’re fighting, the situations we’re hearing about, and trying to figure out how we can make it through this on our own.” Research is good but the works of the Lord are in the Scripture.

The second thing you need to do is recount the works of the Lord in your own life. One of the reasons I keep a journal is because I get discouraged a lot, believe it or not. I get discouraged a lot.

And you know what? I keep a journal and I write down my prayers. And I’ll tell you what, about every three or four days, I go back four or five days or sometimes a month and I look at check mark, check mark, check mark and a little in red and the date and how God answered, God answered, God answered, God answered, God answered, God answered, God answered, God answered, God answered. And what He did in my past, He’s going to do in my future.

That’s how you come and see the works of the Lord. And you get up next to people who have seen God work in their life and you rub up against them and you talk with them and you pray with them.

At the end of the service we’re going to give people a chance to come together and to pray and get help. You know what will keep you from doing that? Your pride.

Some of you are desperately hurting and God would want to reveal Himself by another person and get you connected and loved today. But some thought about what someone might think if, after the service, you walked down in the front, and just met with someone or went in the prayer room and prayed, will keep you from experiencing God.
It’s a shame, isn’t it?

Well, there’s a second command, not only are we to come and see the works of the Lord, we are to be still and know that He is God.

Now, this is a passage used in lots of texts, it’s very devotional, kind of nice, “Be still and know I am God…” You know? In all the devotionals, “Be still.” Now, meditation is great. Getting quiet before the Lord is wonderful. That is not what this passage is teaching, however.

Literally, this word “be still” means, “cease striving.” Stop! Knock it off! Get your hands off the deal! Hold off! Surrender.

See, when we’re in trouble our tendency is to go and try and find. The Israelites went and found a foreign power to deliver them. And we jockey, and we manipulate, and we try and cut deals, and we try and do, “God, I’ll do this if You do this!” And we play all these games.

And God says, “When you’re in real trouble, I’ll tell you what. You will meet Me on My terms. Be still.”

It’s the same kind of phrase that, remember when Jesus was in the boat and the disciples said, “Don’t you care that we’re perishing? Lord, what are You going to do?” And He said, “Peace! Be still.” Whoo. The waves went like that.

That’s the idea of this word. It’s when you say, “I’m going to stop, I’m going to quit pretending, I’m going to know that He’s God. I’m not God. I’m going to know He is bigger than what I fear. He is God, not a paycheck. He is God, not another person who is not responding right now. He is God.”

Why? “He will be exalted in the earth; He’ll be exalted among the nations.” He is sovereign. This is a picture of the righteous, warrior judge, in control. Stop and surrender!

Practically, this means for us, you pray. A prayer of absolute surrender and dependency. And where you take all the chips of your life, all the cards, all the hidden things in the closet, you open it all up, you push it all to the middle of the table, and this is what it means to be still. “It’s Yours, God. I give. You call the shots. I need You and whatever it looks like, I’m in.”

And when you do that, the Lord Almighty will be with you. The God of grace, the God of Jacob, He will be your fortress.