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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
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 Your 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.”
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. 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 A's, 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 the self-healing properties of the body.
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 the 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. Here’s what I want you to jot down: You are awesome in God’s sight.
The person that it counts the most looks at you and, I’m telling you, from His Word, you are precious in His sight. You are awesome. Now, I don’t mean to make light and I pushed that to the extreme because I wanted you to see it.
I understand that you can grow up in a home and people tell you you’re a nobody forever, it’s hard to shake that. You can be abused, you can go through rough relationships, you can be through difficult times, and you can live in a world system where everyone is telling you, “If you don’t look like that, if you don’t have these kind of smarts, if you can’t do this and if you can’t do that, you are a nobody.”
And I understand there is a massive world system knocking on your door saying, “You are a nothing, you a nothing, you are a nothing.” And Chip at one hour a week saying, “Hey, God’s Word says you really are someone.” Uh, it’s not working.
I have watched my wife decide to take this passage as truth and memorize, and think, and ponder, and read, and begin to believe that she is precious in God’s sight. I married a very shy person who did not like themselves very much at all. And I thought, “How could…” You know, the eyes of the beholder, but I thought she was winsome, funny, beautiful, attractive. But that wasn’t her mental picture.
And I’ve watched her, like a flower, bloom with the hard work of renewing her mind with Scripture and understanding that she is precious in God’s sight.
This isn’t the kind of thing that you change after hearing a forty-minute sermon. This is the kind of thing where you get some tools, and you begin to think rightly, and you begin a journey.
And this time next year, you won’t see yourself the same. And the year after that it’ll be even more different.
“Do not be conformed,” or, “molded to this world, but be transformed,” metamorphosized, “by the renewing of your mind, that your life,” or, “your lifestyle could demonstrate, prove, or test that the will of God is good, acceptable, and perfect.”
And so I’ve really, I’ve pounded on this one a little bit because ultimately, you are not going to be precious in God’s sight, in your heart and your mind, you won’t be awesome in His sight unless you believe what the Bible says is true instead of what the world says is true. And until you do, you’re a slave. And that breaks the heart of God.
Fourth, you need to understand, God has a plan just for you. Is that exciting? Not only are you wanted, not only are you understood, not only are you awesome in His sight, but He’s got a plan for you!
Now, it’s a plan not for somebody else, it’s not a generic plan. It’s a specific plan just for you. When He created all the universe, in His infinite wisdom, He has a plan.
Now, you don’t have to follow the plan. You can stiff-arm God. You can say, “Look, I know You know all things. I know You’re orchestrating this for Your divine purposes. I know that You love me, You died for me, You care for me, You have all power, and You can produce good things and if You’re a good God, all Your plans must be good.”
But you can say, “But I’d rather do my own plan, my own way, trust my limited knowledge, do my own thing, but at least I get to stay in control.” It’s called pride. God has a plan that you don’t have to cooperate with but it’s a lot better if you do.
Notice what it says, verse 16, second half, “All the days ordained for me, were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” Is that wild? All the days. God knows the day you’re going to be born, He knows the day you’ll die. Is it fatalism? Not at all. Do your choices matter inside that? Completely.
He gave, you are a free choosing agent, but He knows what your choices will be. All the days ordained for you, before one of them came to be, He knows the beginning from the end. And yet, in His sovereignty, every choice you make, every decision you make matters and has significance.
“How precious to me are Your thoughts,” he goes on to say, “O God! How vast is the sum of them!” He not only has a plan for you, but thousands of times, each day, your name and picture and photo I.D. pops up on the divine mind of the eternal God and because He is infinite, He loses no energy to have a thousand thoughts, moment by moment, about every person in this room, and all over the globe, simultaneously.
See, He’s not a bigger one of us. He’s a totally other. And so, the Psalmist says, rightfully so, this is a rendering, it’s mine, “Whoa!” I mean, that’s almost what you get here. “I mean, whoa! You mean, You created all that there is and there are all these people?” “How precious to me are Your thoughts.”
“You mean You’re thinking about me?” “Yeah.” “You’re orchestrating my life, you’re highly involved, and you care? I’m wanted?” “Yeah.” Isn’t that amazing?
“Were I to count them, in fact, they would outnumber the grains of sand.” And now he says the plan doesn’t just involve the now. It’s not just this life. Notice the next phrase, “When I awake, I am still with You.” God’s plan for you begins in this life, then you die, and when you awake, resurrection. He says, “I’m still with You.”
God has an eternal plan for your life that begins, for some, maybe today. You are, you can fill this in, indispensable to God. Now, theologically, that’s not correct, okay? If God never made you, if you never existed, if human beings never existed, if He never created anything, in the godhead, He is self-sufficient. He needs, by needs, like, actual needs, nothing or no one. But He created you, made you and me the object of His affection.
And so, in His divine plan, you are indispensable. In other words, His plan factors in every, single person in this room, and His plan for the universe, and for your life and they’re intermeshed. You matter.
You must find your spiritual gift. You must find where and how to get connected in His body. You must put into play the you He created to be a vessel to love and to care for other people.
If you don’t, will God get it done? Of course He will. You’re not going to Shanghai the plans of the eternal God. But will He do it in the way He originally intended? No. Because you’re indispensable in that you are a part of His plan.
There are a couple problems there and let me highlight them. The first one is some of you haven’t signed on. In other words, you haven’t invited Christ to be the Savior of your life to say, “I would like Your plan to be accomplished in me.”
God is never pushy, He’s a gentleman, He’s sensitive, He has high regard. He has so much regard for your will and your choices that you can say no to God, no to God, no to God, no to God and He even created a plan where you can say no to Him for eternity. You don’t have to be with Him, you don’t have to follow His plan, but that comes out of His respect for you.
But to have Him be a part of the plan where He orchestrates this knowing, being wanted, your design in a way that brings you incredible joy, and fruitfulness in the life of others, and brings glory to Him, you start by asking Jesus to forgive you for your sin, to be your Savior, to come into your life.
And He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone,” regardless of background, wherever you’ve been, “if anyone hears My voice and will open the door of their heart and their life,” He says, “I will come into them and fellowship with them, and he with Me.”
Have you ever done that? See, all these things are true but we have a responsibility. It’s to respond, by faith, and ask Christ to be our Savior and then tell Him, “Now, I want you to be the CEO of my life, I want you to be the Chairman of the Board, I want you to be my Master, I want you to be my King, I want you to call the shots because I’m a smart Christian. And what I’ve thought is I could either do it may way, but if You are all knowing, all powerful, good, loving, compassionate, and You already have a plan, I’d like to follow that plan because Your plan would be a whole lot better than my plan because of who You are versus who I am.”
Here’s the catch. “And so, even when it doesn’t feel like it’s a good plan, by faith, I follow what Your Word says, prompted by the Holy Spirit, in the unity of the fellowship of believers, and I’m going to do it Your way. And I understand there are seasons of sowing and seasons of reaping. And I understand that it may not feel good all the time. And I understand that my allegiance is to You and that I will look back and I will see.”
In fact, David, in the final point will make a very drastic, drastic response. He’s going to say that God has this for everyone and each person needs to respond. But what he’s also going to say is that there is a cosmic conflict at war in the world and at war in your heart to keep you from experiencing a God who knows you and understands you.
To keep you from experiencing how much He wants you and is pursuing you. To keep you from experiencing how precious and awesome. There’s a cosmic conflict going on to keep you from that, to keep children from hearing about it, to keep relationships not what God wants them to be.
And so, people say, “If it feels good, do it!” And they break all the boundaries, all the commands of God. And you know when people do that it always ends in death and destruction because people don’t want to do it God’s way. He’s got a great plan but it’s not always popular. It’s not always politically correct. But it’s divine and it’s good.
And so, when David begins to see these great truths that the Spirit of God has revealed, now, in verses 19 to 24, he’s going to respond with a prayer. But he’s going to respond with a prayer that when you first read it, you’re going to say, “Whoa! Man, this guy is really going off.”
He’s going to respond with a prayer that feels very angry. It’s not piety, it’s going to be a prayer of zeal. What he’s going to step back and say is, “All these forces are working. I’m getting on God’s side. I want to do it God’s way.” He’s affirming his loyal, covenant love to Yahweh and he’s doing it from a Jewish mindset in the time.
Follow along. He’s going to tell us God’s world is warped with wickedness and so there’s a battle. “If only You would slay the wicked, O God.” He said, “All these things I’ve just talked about,” they’d work except there’s people working against them. “Away from me, you bloodthirsty men.” He was thinking the people that are evil. The people that just bring death and destruction. The people that pour chemicals into rivers and they don’t care how many kids get cancer. They just care how much money they get.
The people that orchestrate tribes warring against tribes and take all the money that the United Nations or relief groups give to those countries. They go in there and butcher them.
He’s talking about those kind of people and he’s mad about it. He says, “They speak of You with evil intents and Your adversaries, they misuse Your name. Do not I hate those who hate You,” that’s loyalty, “I’m on Your team,” “O Lord, and abhor those who rise up against You?” That’s loyalty. “I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.”
Now, we read that through our New Testament eyes and our sugarcoated Christianity and we say, “Oh, how terrible. How terrible.” I got news for you. You ought to hate some things that are evil. And, I know, hate the evil but not the evildoer.
But, you know, all over the globe there are bloodthirsty people, people that are abusing kids, people that are killing tens of thousands as we speak, people that have robbed the food out of mouths for money and children will die of starvation.
I’ll tell you what, God is against them and you know what? We need to be against them as well. It doesn’t make good, nice, lovey-dovey, “Christianity” teaching but it’s biblical.
But lest you get pious, lest you think this is a holier-than-thou, this is a loyalty to God’s purposes in saying, “I’m willing to pay the price.” Look at verse 23 and 24. David starts not with somebody else, he starts with himself.
David says, “Hey, this is not I’m better than. This is, ‘God, we’re in a battle and I want to be on Your team.’”
But here’s where the battle starts, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Literally, my misgiving thoughts, my failures. “And see if there be any offensive way,” literally, it’s a way of pain, “in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.”
Do you hear what he’s praying? He’s saying, “God, I haven’t arrived. God, I know now that You know me and understand me. God, I’m grasping that You really want me, that You’re pursuing me. I’m precious and awesome and You have a plan just for me. So, God, I want You to search my heart. I know that I can’t experience this unless I’m following the everlasting way.” Did you notice the contrast? Instead of the other way, the way of pain.
Let me ask you, which way are you following? You are a somebody. If you’re a Christian, you’re going somewhere. But you have a choice to make. Experiencing God when you feel like a nobody means you turn to Him with all your heart. You ask the penetrating questions.
And you say, “God, I surrender my agenda to You and I, today, choose to believe that I’m wanted, I choose to believe that I’m understood, I choose to believe that I’m precious in Your sight, and I choose to believe that You have a plan for my life. I’m indispensable. Now, God, I choose today, by faith, to follow You with all my heart.