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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - His Empowering Presence

Charles Stanley - His Empowering Presence

Charles Stanley - His Empowering Presence
TOPICS: God's Presence

When was the last time you felt the presence of God in your life? I don't mean some intellectual idea that, well, God is certainly present because God is omniscient, He's everywhere. But I'm talking about a very personal, warm sense of the presence of God in your life. Well, how did He reveal Himself? That is, what was going on that made you feel the presence of God? And how did you respond to that? How did you respond to being in the midst of the presence of God?

So many people live their entire life and God will always be up yonder somewhere, out there somewhere, never sensing one single time in their life that they stood or knelt or were lying in the presence of Almighty God, because to so many people, He's distant. He's somebody, He's real out there somewhere, but somehow, they never felt worthy or never felt like that God ever loved them enough or God never saw any reason to make His presence known personally within them. God desires that every single one of us be aware of His presence in our life.

And so I want you to turn, if you will, to Psalm 42. And the title of this message is simply this: "His Empowering Presence". God does something in the life of a person who is aware of His presence in their life. The 42 Psalm, and here David is expressing his hunger and thirsting desire for God. Listen to what he says beginning in verse one: "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, 'Where is your God?' These things I remember, and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, with the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence".

God desires that every single one of us be aware of His presence. And if you'll think about it for a moment, as you think about the characters of the Old Testament and how God worked in their life, it's one thing that you're gonna find over and over and over again. And I want to take you through a few of these because I just want you to remember some of them. And I want you to go back to Exodus chapter three. There's so much to be found in Moses's life. And you'll recall when God called him at the burning bush. And of course, Moses did not understand what was going on at the moment until he realized that God was speaking to him.

Listen to what God said to him in Exodus chapter three, verse twelve: "Certainly I will be with you". Now, they carried on a big discussion about the fact that he was not capable of speaking as he ought, and so God came to him again, spoke to him about something else. He said in chapter four, verse twelve, look at that, he says, "The LORD said to him, 'Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD"? Verse twelve, "Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth". He wanted him to be aware of His presence. Very important. Then if you'll look in the thirty-first chapter of Deuteronomy, look at that, if you will, thirty-first chapter of Deuteronomy. And God is speaking to the nation through Moses, and here's what Moses said that God said. He said in verse eight, "The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed".

Their one, listen, their one underlying basis of being fearless and courageous was the fact that God was with them. Not because they were great warriors, not because they had great armaments, but simply the presence of God. Then if you'd turn over a couple of pages to Joshua chapter one, and you'll recall when God called Joshua, He said to him, "You're gonna take Moses's place, Moses is dead. Your responsibility, I'm giving you the charge to take the people into the Promised Land". Here's what He said, verse five: "No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you".

Then if you'll recall, for example, in the twenty-eighth chapter of Matthew. You know this one by heart. When He sent His disciples out to evangelize the world, you recall what He said. "Go into all the nations, preach the gospel". And then He said, "I will be with you, even to the end of this age," in this twenty-eighth chapter and the last few verses there. And then of course, a very familiar verse in chapter thirteen of Hebrews, He said, "I will not forsake you, I will be with you". It's interesting that all through the scriptures that God, when He calls His servants to anything, He reminds them over and over again, "I will be with you".

Now, the question is this: Why is it that God has gone to such great detail to make it very clear to His servants? And not only these that I've mentioned, but others through the scriptures and many people down through the centuries, and all of us. He says over and over and over again, "I will be with you". Now, why would He take such pains to say that over and over again? And He reminded Joshua several times. And so the question comes, why? Well, think about this for a moment. Well, first of all, God created us for fellowship with Himself, so God desires to fellowship with us. He desires not only fellowship with us, but He desires an intimate relationship with us. But now, think about this.

If you're gonna have an intimate relationship with somebody, at least you ought to be able to see them, at least be able to touch them, to feel them, if you're gonna have a real intimate relationship. We cannot see God, we cannot touch God with our hands. There's no physical relationship here. And so what does God do? He makes His presence known in other ways so that you and I can have a loving, intimate relationship with Him, and so He reveals His presence. He wants us to be aware of His presence. He desires that you and I know that He's a loving Father who desires to have an intimate relationship with us, and so He wants to make His presence known. He also understands that you and I will go through difficulty, hardship, pain, trying times, persecuting times, whatever they may be in life.

And He knows that the one thing that you and I need above everything else in those difficult, stormy, trying times, we need to be aware of the presence of God. No one can do for us what God can do. No one can help us like God can help us. No one can rescue us like God can rescue us. No one can undergird us, encourage us, comfort us, strengthen us, give us the peace and contentment we need in our life like God can. He knows that we need to be aware of His presence. And so God is willing to make His presence, listen, not only known intellectually, because we know that theologically He is omniscient, but to make Himself known to us experientially; that is, emotionally, spiritually. We know we stand, sit, lie, whatever it might be, in the presence of Almighty God. He's a loving Father who desires that the first relationship you and I have, that is, first in priority, is our relationship to Him. He wants us to realize that He's present in our life whether we have somebody, a whole family, or no one.

Because you see, the most important person in our life in the eyes of God is the Lord Jesus Himself. God Himself is to be first and foremost in our life. And yet, many people fill their minds and their hearts with so many things, and oftentimes when they get lonely, they get busy. Now, I don't mind saying to you, I've been there at some point in my life, and realizing that some of my busyness was to fill up something in my life. Did I love the Lord? Yes, I did. Was I aware of His presence? Yes. But you can also, if you're not careful, you can also find yourself moving in a direction to fill your life up with other things, not just God. You know what He wants? He wants absolute priority on presence.

And when I recognized what was going on in my own heart, that I was trying to fill up time, trying to fill up space, trying to fill up desire with something other than the very presence of God alone, it was only then that I learned something that I'd been preaching for years and years and years. I've always said He's sufficient and He's adequate. And you know what? You and I learn the reality of that when you discover that nothing else and no one else can fill up that spot in your life that God has assigned only for Himself. He has a reserved place in your life that only He can fill. And no matter what you fill it up with, let me tell you something: there'll always be a sense of something missing. There'll always be a little bit of absence, a little bit of estrangement, maybe. Or if not that, a little bit of loneliness.

Because you see, God created us for Himself. And therefore, if my relationships and my associations and my things in life and all the surroundings in life, if all of this begins to be a part of my life to the absence of my Lord Himself, then what you're gonna realize is after a while, none of that works. And then people sorta blame themselves and say, "Well, I guess I just haven't found the right thing or the right person or the right this or the right that". No, there is only one person who can fill the gap in your life, that can heal you of loneliness, fill up the absence. You don't have to see Him, you don't have to touch Him, you don't have to feel Him with your fingers or your body. He is absolutely more real than any living person on the face of the earth.

And the tragedy is, most people will live their life thinking, "I have to have somebody, I have to have this, I have to have that, I do not want to live by myself". You know what? Once you trust Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can't live by yourself. You know why? Because you have a loving, wonderful Father who is right there every single moment. What did He say? "I'll never leave you nor forsake you". Either that's true or it's not true. If it's true, then I know that I'll walk and live in His presence every moment. If it is not true, then it is a lie, and I want nothing to do with Him anyway. And so that just makes it all that much worse. But I know He's real, and I know what He promises He always keeps. He says, "I'll never leave you nor forsake you, no matter what".

Now, it's a legitimate question to ask, and that is, well, how does God make His presence known in our life? So, what I'd like to do is to give you some examples, and I'll have to give you those examples from my own life because that's the only ones I know for sure. That's the only ones I know for sure except the Word of God. I hear people tell me about their experiences of the presence of God, so I just want to give you some that I hope will be helpful to you. And certainly one of them is this, and that is that sometimes God speaks so clearly, so forcefully, quietly, silently, but very clearly, we know that it's God. I can remember the man who called me and said to me, "I was thinking about you all day yesterday". And he said, "I had this strong feeling, this strong urge to call you". And so he said, "I didn't know why".

Well, the end result was, we were up in the mountains praying and asking God to answer a prayer for us, and this man said, "Somehow, I just knew God was telling me to call you". Well, the end result was an absolutely fantastic gift that he gave to the ministry. But do you know what he kept saying to me after I would talk to him on the phone after that? He said, "You know, I will never forget the fact," and he was in his seventies when he said this, he said, "I will never forget the fact that all these years of my life, for the first time, I knew I had heard from God".

Are you gonna wait until you're in your seventies or eighties or whatever it might be before you understand for the first time you've ever heard from God? That you've been in His presence, that God has spoken to you very clearly? I hope not. He's so willing to speak today, if you will let Him; right now, if you will let Him. One of the ways He speaks, He speaks very clearly, very forcefully, no question in our mind about it. We know that God is speaking because what He says will always be consistent with His Word. What He says will always be consistent with the life of our Lord. Whatever the Lord Jesus Christ, if you'd look at His life. Sometimes the way God makes His presence known to me is He will awaken me in the middle of the night. No warning, wake up, God is right there.

Do I see Him? No. Can I touch Him? No. Is it absolutely dark? Yes. Do I sense His presence? Absolutely. And oftentimes, it is something, He will answer a petition that I've offered Him either many times or maybe right before I went to bed. Or it'll be some solution that I've been looking for for a period of time. Or it may be something that God wants to speak to my heart about that I'm not even aware of. Right out of the absolute darkness and unconsciousness of my whole being, God will waken me and speak to me. I know I'm in the presence of God because so oftentimes has nothing to do with anything I was thinking about. Has to be the presence of God.

Is that a fearful time? No, it is an awesome time to know that God loves you enough to waken you to say, "This is the solution, this is the answer, this is what you're to do". Am I an exception? No, God loves every single one of us. He's willing to do that for anybody who is willing to make themselves available, to anticipate and to expect God to work in our life. But if you don't expect it, then more than likely you don't anticipate it, you won't get yourself in a spiritual position where God is willing to or ready to speak to your heart. Sometimes He will say something very clearly to you that you know is exactly, has to come from God. For example, sometimes, I will wake up in the middle of the night, or sometimes I will have been studying and maybe moving around doing something else, and it's like God says, "I'm ready to give you the message. Go, go right now".

Well, I made the mistake a couple of times of deciding when I would go, and when I sat down in front of the computer, it was flat zero, nothing. I promised God I would never do that again. Now, when I sense His presence and He says, "I want to give you the message now," sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes in the daytime, sometimes the afternoon, it can be any time, "I want to give it to you right now," I know to get up no matter what time it is, go sit down. And here's what I've discovered: my fingers, and I can type pretty fast. I cannot type fast enough because my mind is so far beyond because God is speaking. I know that's the presence of God.

Oftentimes it's something I hadn't even thought about. Maybe an aspect of the message never crossed my mind before. Has to be God. God wants us to know His presence. He wants us to sense that He is, listen, He is for us. Not just in us, but for us, on our side, willing to meet every single possible need that we have. And so sometimes, He will give you a very clear word that you have, absolutely know that it has to be Him. Sometimes it's meditating upon a passage of scripture. The message last week, I'd been meditating upon that passage for about a month, every single day. Couldn't get away from it. Going back over and over and over again. God's speaking to my heart. I knew that I was in the presence of God. And each time He would give me some aspect, something to my own heart; maybe something to share for others, but primarily for myself.

So, sometimes He'll bring you to a passage and you can't get away. What's God saying? He's saying, "I'm here, I wanna say something to you, I wanna speak to you". He's, listen, He's not gonna speak audibly, more than likely. Somebody says, "Well, I heard God, I heard the voice of God". Well, I want to say amen and praise the Lord. I've never heard His voice, but I've heard it loud enough in silence that it couldn't have been any louder. And sometimes He'll get you to a passage of scripture and you'll think, "God, what are You saying"? And God will begin to show you something that maybe you had not felt before.

Now, in light of all that, how does God empower us with His presence? That is, what's the effect of this in our life? Well, I think there are several ways, and let me just give you a list, and you might just want to jot these down and you can add lots to them. I wouldn't try to exhaust it, just to give you a little bit to get you thinking in your own mind. You're going through some very difficult, painful, painful circumstance in your life. What does His presence do? One of the ways His presence empowers us is He empowers us with comfort. He comforts us. Listen, when you're going through real hurt and pain, there is not any substitute in the world for the awareness of the presence of God, because in His presence, you're gonna sense His love.

And so, one of the ways He empowers us is with comfort. He comforts us with a promise and the awareness of His presence. "I am with you. I'm here. I'll never leave you, I'll never forsake you. I promise to go with you. I'm here. You're not going through this by yourself. I'm gonna walk with you through this no matter what". Not only that, He empowers us with peace. When you go through the storms of life and everything around you is breaking loose, the sides are falling apart, the top's fell in, the clouds are dark, waves are high, winds blowing at a torrential speed against your life, and you think, "God, what in the world am I going to do"? And what happens? When you're aware of His presence, there's a peace that Paul says is past all human understanding. Because the very word in the Greek, "eirene," peace, means bound together. And what is He doing? He is building intimacy within our life.

When God gives us peace within the storms of our life, what is He doing? In His presence we sense, listen, we sense that being bound together with Him. We sense that peace that Paul spoke of as being beyond human understanding. Another way He empowers us is by giving us courage. We face some difficult situation and we're afraid, and there are circumstances in life that at first, probably our first response may be a matter of fear. God, what am I going to do? How am I gonna handle this? Isn't it interesting that when He spoke to Joshua, He knew what Joshua was gonna be feeling? So He said to him three times, "Be strong and of a good courage, be strong and of a good courage, be strong and of a good courage. I will be with you, I will go with you". And then, to make sure that no question in his mind, He appeared to him.

Later on, after that first chapter, He appeared to him, and Joshua wanted to draw his sword until he recognized it was the very presence of the Lord Himself, and he fell upon His face before God. There's nothing that gives courage like the awareness of the presence of God. You are walking in His presence. You are doing the will of God. You're being what God wants you to be. You're doing what God wants you to do. Listen, there's no fear. There is nothing that can so threaten you, that can steal your courage, when you are sensing the presence of God in your life. He empowers us with confidence. God has given you a challenge, and you have some trepidation about that. You're not sure about how you're gonna be able to do this, and I'm not sure I can handle this. And you know what? You get on your face in the presence of God, and what happens? You sense His presence, and with His presence comes confidence.

Listen, what God does, listen carefully, He tailors the empowerment of your life with whatever you need at that moment. That's what His presence does. He tailors, listen, so that His presence meets that need in your life, whatever it might be. And sometimes we need confidence. We need confidence to be able to speak out for God. We need confidence to be able to take the challenges that God has given us. Listen, His very presence, we all need His presence. We all want His presence. He empowers us, as the scripture says, with His confidence. Likewise, He certainly will give us a sense of contentment. And this is how you and I can face the most difficult, trying times in life. And yet somehow, even we wonder why we're not upset. Even we wonder how we can feel such absolute completeness when maybe that which we desired or that person we desire is not there. And yet, God does what? He, listen, He knows how to complete our life.

Listen, His very presence, listen, is His way of completing whatever we need in life, no matter what it is. He gives us a sense of contentment. But likewise, I think about all the ways He empowers us. He gives us strength. There are times when you may feel very, very weary, worn, and think, "God, I can't keep going any further. I'm tired, I'm weary, I'm exhausted". Then what happens? And how many times have I been in this position, thinking, "Lord, I just need You"? Get on my face before Him and tell Him I need to feel His presence. And before long, there comes this awesome surge of physical, spiritual, emotional energy in your life that you cannot explain. There's no explanation about it except you've been in the presence of God. You know what happens? When you're in the presence of God, you're going to get whatever you need, no matter what it is.

There's this awesome sense of renewal, of renewing, of refreshing, of a re-energizing. It's like your spiritual, physical and emotional battery gets an absolute supercharge. And what's happened? You've only been in the presence of power itself. You've been in the presence of an omnipotent God who loves you, who knows your need at that moment, and who's there to meet it. Then I think one of the ways that He certainly empowers us is with joy. Look, if you will, and there are lots of these verses, but just look, if you will, in the sixteenth chapter of the Psalms. He says in verse eight, "I have set the LORD continually before me". You know what he's saying? He says, "I'm living in the presence of God. I'm making sure that I'm living in the presence of God. I've set the Lord continually before me". "Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken". Presence of God.

"Therefore my heart is glad," and he says, "my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely. You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, to the grave; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy". My friend, you'll never experience the joy of the Lord until you experience His presence. Listen now, you say, "Well, I'm a happy person". Not the same. Happiness, happiness is the result of circumstances with which we agree, with which we desire. Joy makes, listen, joy gives me an overflow of an affirmative glee in my heart that has nothing to do with the circumstances. And it is the presence of God that gives us joy in the midst of difficulty and hardship. I want you to turn to one last passage in Isaiah forty-three, and you wanna mark this one. Let's begin with verse one: "But now thus says the LORD your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: 'Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; and you are Mine!'"

Now, watch this: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Saviour". What did He say? "When the waters get deep, I'll be there. When the fire gets hot, I'll be there". Notice He didn't say when you run through the fire, he says when you walk through it; you know why? Those of us who know Jesus Christ as our Savior, we don't have to run through the trying times trying to get out, though that's human nature. We can walk through them because we're walking hand in hand with a God who controls the depths of the waters and the temperature of the heat in our life. He is sufficient no matter what.
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