After an especially hard and hurtful day at the office, a worn out, discouraged business man wrote his letter of resignation.
He wrote, “I am hereby officially tendering my resignation as an adult. I have decided I would like to accept the responsibilities of an 8 year old again.
I want to go to McDonald's and think that it's a four star restaurant. I want to sail sticks across a fresh mud puddle and make a sidewalk with rocks.
I want to think M & M's are better than money because you can eat them. I want to lie under a big oak tree and run a lemonade stand with my friends on a hot summer day.
I want to return to a time when life was simple; when all you knew were colors, multiplication tables and nursery rhymes, but that didn't bother you, because you didn't know what you didn't know as you didn't care. All you knew was to be happy because you were blissfully unaware of all the things that should make you worried or upset.
I want to think the world is fair. That everyone is honest and good. I want to believe that anything is possible. I want to be oblivious to the complexities of life and be overly excited by the little things again.
I want to live simple again. I don't want my day to consist of computer crashes, mountains of paperwork, depressing news, how to survive more days in the month than there is money in the bank, doctor bills, gossip, illness and loss of loved ones. I want to believe in the power of smiles, hugs, a kind word, truth, justice, peace, dreams, the imagination, mankind, and making angels in the snow.
So, here's my checkbook and my car keys, my credit card bills and my 401k statements. I am officially resigning from adulthood.”
Have you ever felt like that business man?
Do you ever feel like hope is almost lost? That you are going to never see better days?
Christmas is supposed to be the most marvelous time of the year, but it can also be the most miserable time of the year for those who are hurting and just can’t find the strength to go on. God wants you to know that He is with you in the midst of your suffering. You are not alone.
God speaks to you today through the Prophet Isaiah and wants you to know He understands what you are going through. He promises that if you wait on Him and trust Him you will find your strength renewed.
Let’s look at what God has to say through His Word about how He comforts you in the midst of hurting.
1. GOD COMFORTS YOU WITH HIS SYMPATHIZING PRESENCE (VS 1-11)
No matter the problem, pain, pressure you are facing right now, God cares and is concerned with the things that concern you.
Being a child of God does not exempt you from hurting, difficult times.
Avery Willis who wrote Masterlife recently died and is with the Lord in heaven now after going through many months of suffering from cancer and Leukemia. He gave one of his greatest witness that God gives grace even in the midst of our most difficult times prior to his death. He was one of the Southern Baptists finest Christian leaders.
The people in Isaiah’s day were living as if God didn’t exist. They had strayed far from His will, His ways, His worship and they had paid a heavy price for it. They would end up being enslaved by their enemies, Babylon.
Israel’s rebellion and rejection of God had cost them deeply. It never pays to turn away from God.
The Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible states, “…in the distant future, Judah and its beloved capital, Jerusalem, would fall to Babylon. Tragically, the citizens would suffer the horrors of defeat and slavery. Most of the survivors would be deported and exiled, scattered throughout the Babylonian Empire.
The people of Judah would lose everything: their homes, property, wealth, communities, cities, nation, worship centers, and their beloved temple in Jerusalem. And they would be gripped by piercing grief, because many of their husbands would be slaughtered by the invading army. Everyone would be destitute, and a spirit of hopelessness and despair would continually flood their hearts.
But in the midst of the Jews hardship and sorrow, the Lord gave them a wonderful promise. The day was coming when they would be comforted and set free from their captivity to Babylon and from sin and death.
God had made a promise to save His people and He would keep it. Through His power and the promised Messiah, God’s prophecy of comfort and freedom would be fulfilled. His people would be set free from their captivity to Babylon and from their enslavement to sin and death.”
As you hurt today, always know God sees, knows, cares. Don’t turn FROM the Lord, to TOWARDS the Lord.
A. HIS SYMPATHIZING PRESENCE BRINGS YOU PEACE
God declares, “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended…” (Isaiah 40:1-2a)
God’s Word of comfort brings you peace, today.
Comfort does not necessarily mean that you will not have unpleasant times, but that you will have the Presence of the Lord with you.
One of my best pastoral friends has had the most difficult, demanding year of his life. The pain in his back has been excruciating. He has been countless times to the doctor for injections, counsel, relief, only to find little to no comfort.
I asked him what has been his comfort in the midst of his pain. He said, “My faith in God. God has never abandoned me. When I’m powerless to do anything for God, God has been powerful to be with me.”
The hurting that you are facing today, God is with you through it all.
Jesus spoke these comforting words, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” (John 14:16)
B. HIS SYMPATHIZING PRESENCE BRINGS YOU PARDON
One of the primary sins that had Israel in trouble was failure to obey God in His call to be a light to the surrounding Gentile nations.
Isaiah calls for obedience to the mission command of the Lord, “Go forth from Babylon! Flee from the Chaldeans! With a voice of singing, Declare, proclaim this, Utter it to the ends of the earth; Say, “The Lord has redeemed His servant Jacob!” (Isaiah 48:20).
God Himself declares, “Speak comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry to her, that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:2)
Israel received the exact discipline she needed from the Lord. God does deal with His people who remain in sin.
A bulletin blooper stated, “The Senior Choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoys SINNING to join the choir.”
The reason you and I have full pardon from sins penalty, power, and one day presence is because of the price the Lord Jesus Christ paid on the cross of Calvary.
The Apostle Paul writes, “In Him (Jesus) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Ephesians 1:7)
C. HIS SYMPATHIZING PRESENCE BRINGS YOU PREPARATION
Rev. Todd M. Kindle shares, “When a king was to visit a region or a city it would be announced well in advance so that the people could prepare the way for him, making the roads worthy of His presence.
The coming of the king was not a one day event. It was an extended season of time of unfolding revelation. Here, the way is made smooth, clear, level, and straight as is characteristic of God’s holiness, purity, and righteousness. When He comes, He will come in the fullness of His glory and nothing will get in His way.”
John the Baptist would come and prepare the way for the coming Messiah to enter the earth. John called people to turn away from their sins and be baptized.
Just as John preached faithfully the truth of God’s Word, calling people to turn away from their old life and exhorting people to new life, preparing people to know and walk with the Savior, God calls each of us as His people to prepare our lives for the coming again of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
You are not going to live forever on this earth. You are temporary, God is everlasting.
There was a tombstone on which was engraved: Pause now, stranger as you pass by; As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so soon you’ll be. Prepare yourself to follow me! Someone had placed a piece of wood next to the tombstone. On it was written, To follow you I’m not content, Until I know Which way you went!
2. GOD COMFORTS YOU WITH HIS SHEPHERDING PRESENCE (V 11)
Our worship leader, Tim Chapman, shared with the choir this past week that we were hoping to have live lamb on our Christmas stage. However, the cost for the was too expensive.
Tim asked the owner about having just one lamb.
The owner replied, “You do not want to have just one lamb. It will cry and cry if it is all alone. It must have another close by to be comfortable.”
Isaiah writes of our Lord’s shepherding presence, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom. And gently lead those who are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11)
Micah brings these assuring words, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” Therefore He shall give them up, Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; Then the remnant of His brethren Shall return to the children of Israel. And He shall stand and feed His flock In the strength of the LORD, In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God; And they shall abide, For now He shall be great To the ends of the earth; And this One shall be peace.” (Micah 5:2-5)
What will a good shepherd do? Among other important duties, he will:
Keep the Sheep Together
Protect the Sheep from Potential Enemies
Guide the Sheep to Green Pastures
Comfort the Sheep with His Presence
Guide the Sheep through Difficult Valleys
Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd.
Jesus states, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
Jesus declares, “As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” (John 10:15)
A friend of mine struggled for years with alcohol, was a terrible father, example, husband, etc. Nevertheless, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, did not give up on him.
God continually showed his everlasting, shepherding love through faithful, loving Christians who lived out the comforting mission of their Shepherd.
Today, because of our Great Shepherd, this man’s life is totally changed. His marriage is restored and his life has meaning, purpose because of his relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the greatest ministries God calls you to is the ministry of comforting, encouraging others. Who needs your comforting presence today?
The Apostle John shares of a future day, “And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:13-17)
3. GOD COMFORTS YOU WITH HIS SUSTAINING PRESENCE
To Israel, God seemed so small and her problems seemed so large.
To help His people with their perspective, God asks His downtrodden people.
“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand. Measured heaven with a span. And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?” (Isaiah 40:12)
“Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as his counselor taught Him?” (Isaiah 40:13)
“With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:14)
“To whom will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?” (Isaiah 40:18)
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?” (Isaiah 40:21)
Speaking of the Lord, Isaiah says, “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.” (Isaiah 40:22)
Two Harvard astronomers have discovered a “great wall” of galaxies that they estimate to be 500 million light-years long, 200 million light-years wide, and 15 million light-years thick. (One light-year is 5.88 trillion miles.)
God created all of those galaxies and sustains everything that exists by His powerful hands. Yet that same mighty God, the one and only God, uses those hands to gently touch the lives of suffering men and women.
The Psalmist describes our great God, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars. He calls them by name. GREAT is our Lord, and mighty in power. His understanding is infinite.” Psalm 147:3-4.
The God of the galaxies is the Great Physician who lovingly ministers to our needs.
4. GOD COMFORTS YOU WITH HIS STRENGTHENING PRESENCE (VS 27-31)
Todd Linn explains, “The meaning of the word “wait” there is much like we use it today when in a restaurant. We come into the restaurant and we sit down. After a few moments, a “waiter” comes over to our table. He may even say, “My name is John and I will be ‘waiting’ on you.”
What he means is that he is going to be serving you, coming into the room periodically, looking at you expectantly, seeing if there is anything he can do.
That is why, in helping us understand the meaning of the phrase, “wait on the LORD,” the Amplified Bible offers the parenthetical words, “expect, look for, and hope in Him.”
To “wait on the LORD” means we do something. It is an active term. We turn to Him, we look up to Him, we place our faith in Him.
The word “renew” there is a word that is best translated here as “exchange.” Those who, when they become stressed, go to God, will “renew,” will “exchange” their dwindling strength which has become faint and weary with God’s strength, the God who never faints or becomes weary.
This is precisely why we must, we must, turn to God and be empowered by the God Who strengthens us. Exchange your strength for God’s.
And when you do, you will “mount up with wings like eagles, you will run and not be weary, you will walk and not faint.” Why? Because you will be flying, running, and walking in the strength of God rather than the strength of man.
Author Carl Sandberg shared honestly, “There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.”
Practically, how can you “wait on the LORD?” Here are four ways:
The first way is through PRAYER. Spend time with Him with God in prayer.
The second way is through spending time in the WORD OF GOD. Open His love letter, the Bible, and let it speak to your heart. The Bible is not going to do much for your life if all it does is sit on your shelf and collect dust.
Isaiah declares the power of God’s Word, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)
The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword…” (Hebrews 4:12)
Nothing feeds your soul more than finding time each day to let God’s Word speak to your heart.
The third way to wait on the Lord is through offering PRAISE TO THE LORD. God inhabits the praises of His people.
God said, “This people I have formed for Myself; They shall declare My praise.” (Isaiah 43:21)
The fourth way to wait on the Lord is to be led by the HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD.
The Apostle Paul writes, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Romans 8:14
If you will “wait upon Him,” turning to Him, looking up to Him, expectantly and you feel the pressures of life crowding in around you, God will exchange your strength for His.
Pastor James Merritt gave this illustration, “In storms, most birds fly away. However, the eagle seems to long for the storm. The thermal under-drafts of the storm cause the eagle to soar higher and higher than it can under normal conditions.
The storm also compels the eagle to fly higher and faster. Normally an eagle can fly about 50 miles per hour. But when he is in the strong wind currents of a storm he can fly up to nearly 100 miles per hour. The eagle uses the turbulent winds to stay up longer because, rather than using his own strength, he uses the strength of the winds, and he glides through the air.”
George Dye shares his testimony of how God comforted his family through the hurting times, “My son Russell was downsized from FedEx after 24 1/2 years. He was out of work for a year. He lost his home through foreclosure. He and his wife Kathy came to live with us. Because of the distance of his work, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Alaska, we have had little meaningful time of fellowship. We were able to work through some of the past issues of his childhood, re-bond, and have our relationship strengthened. Russell and Kathy have found solid jobs and have recently been promoted to Jackson, Mississippi. After being out of church for several years, they are now back in church and are renewing their relationship with the Lord.”
God sometimes uses crisis to help us give our best testimony. Or a crisis may be used to bring us back closer to the Lord as in the case of my son.”
God is there for you in the midst of your hurting. He offers you His Sympathaizing, Shepherding, Sustaining, and Strengthening Presence.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He is calling your name today. Come and give your life to Him.