The Promise of God’s Presence
January 10, 2024 | Brian Bill
I’m speaking on a topic today that I really need to hear because I struggle with fear. I was reminded of this on Monday when my wife and I were out driving. When we came to one of the railroad crossings in town, the lights starting flashing and the arms came down. When I realized a train was traveling down the tracks, I stopped about 50 yards from the crossing. Beth asked me what I was doing and I didn’t even realize that I was so far away from the train. I told her that I didn’t want the train to tip over and hit us.
Apparently she had never seen me do this before. I told her that I was just sharing one of my 12,000 thoughts (from last week’s sermon) and she wondered instead if I had 12,000 fears. Don’t get me started about my fear of water or my phobia about Bears fans.
My guess is that many of you also struggle with fear. What are some of your fears? Anyone care to share with the class?
Last Sunday we learned that the antidote to anxiety is the peace of God. Our text today teaches that the solution to fear is the presence of God. Here’s our main point: The Lord will never leave those who belong to Him. We could also say it like this: Because God is here, we should have no fear.
Since most of us didn’t bring a Bible to the park today, the text from Isaiah 41:10 is printed at the top of the bulletin. Let’s read it together: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
This verse gives us two commands to obey:
- Do not fear
- Do not be dismayed
And two reasons to obey:
- For I am with you
- For I am your God
We also see three promises that God will keep:
- I will strengthen you
- I will help you
- I will uphold you with my righteous right hand
He tells us what not to do – don’t fear or be dismayed and then He tells us why – because He is with us and because He is our God. And then He tells us three things He will do – God will strengthen, help, and uphold us.
The context here is that God is promising to bring His people back from captivity. The crazy thing is that Isaiah is writing about what will happen 180 years in the future from the time of his writing. Even before God’s people sinned and were judged and were sent to Babylon for 70 years, God is telling them that they will return and He will bless them once again. He is such a gracious God!
Isaiah has been referred to as the Bible in miniature because it has 66 chapters and the Bible has 66 books. The first 39 chapters correspond with the Old Testament as they speak of judgment and the final 27 echo the New Testament’s emphasis on grace and comfort and restoration. These chapters were written to afflicted people who were filled with fear.
Check out the tone in this section as found in Isaiah 40:1-2: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for…” God still speaks tenderly to those going through trials and He offers comfort to the discouraged and dismayed, the hurting and the helpless.
God promises His presence in order to free us from fear in our families, in our jobs (or lack of jobs), in the middle of our marriage messes, with our school stresses, with our health situations, with our friendships, with our finances, problems from our past, worries about the future, or in any other situation.
The word fear comes from the word phobos, which initially had the meaning of “flight” or “fleeing.” Instead of fleeing from our fears, Isaiah 41:10 gives us a five-part formula to help us face our fears.
1. I will live without fear because God is with me.
Notice that it doesn’t say God was with me, or that He will be with me but that He is with me. This can be translated as, “There is nothing to fear because I am with you.” It’s been said that the phrase, “Fear not” or “Be not afraid” is found 365 times in the Bible, one for each day of the year.
Friend, in order to face your fears, the first thing to remember is that God is with you. Moses needed this reminder in Exodus 33:14: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Psalm 23:4 says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” And after giving the Great Commission, which involved going and making disciples and teaching and baptizing (by the way, our next baptism service will be held on September 11th), Jesus promised His presence in Matthew 28:20: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” When you’re filled with fear, remember this truth and declare it out loud: I will have no fear because He is here!
The problem for most of us is that we are not aware of His presence as we stumble through life oblivious to the fact that He is with us and will never leave those who belong to Him.
If you’re filled with fear today it may be because you’re acting like Jesus is not here. Declare this first truth: I will live without fear because God is with me. Let’s look at the second part of the formula for overcoming fear
2. I will not be dismayed because He is my God.
To be dismayed means to be broken and filled with fear. It literally means, “To look around anxiously as one does in a state of alarm.” Would you notice that the key to not being dismayed is to make sure that He is your God? 1 Samuel 30:6 says that David was distressed because the men were talking about stoning him but that changed when he “found strength in the Lord his God.”
He is my God today
Is He your God? This promise becomes activated when you personalize your relationship with Him by trusting in Jesus for forgiveness of sins. Can you say, “He is my God today?”
I’m convinced if each of us would see God as big and grand as He really is, most of our fears would go away because when we fear God, we won’t fear other things. To expand your view of the Almighty, read Isaiah 40 and Isaiah 41 this week.
Here’s a sampling from Isaiah 40:10, 15: “See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him…Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.”
I will live without fear because God is with me.
I will not be dismayed because He is my God
These two promises give us confidence to make the next proclamation…
3. I will lean on God to strengthen me.
Jesus does not break us when we’re broken nor does He smash us when we’re smoldering
I love what Corrie ten Boom once said: “In times of fear I don’t wrestle, I nestle.” Psalm 29:11: “The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”
I find great comfort in Isaiah 42:3. This passage is quoted in Matthew 12:20 when referring to Jesus: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” Jesus does not break us when we’re broken nor does He smash us when we’re smoldering.
4. I will trust God to help me.
Because God is always present, He promises His strength and He promises to help us. After being reminded that the Lord will never leave us or forsake us, Hebrews 13:6 says: “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” God will never “unfriend” us when we do something stupid or when we sin or when we’re stressed out but instead He promises to help us.
5. I believe that God will uphold me with His righteous right hand.
The word “uphold” means to hold up or grasp, to support. The idea is similar to the word undergird which means to make secure underneath. We are upheld by His “righteous right hand.” This is His hand of promise.
Do you feel like you’ve failed? Do you wonder why you fall so many times? Hold on to the truth that He upholds you when you feel like you’re barely holding on. Psalm 145:13-14: “The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” He helps us and He holds us when we’re shaking like a leaf.
The Lord will never leave those who belong to Him. Because God is here, we should have no fear. God upholds the hurting and He also reveals His presence through His people who reach out with His love.
Friends, I have to level with you today. If you are not in Christ, you have not been made righteous and you have every reason to be fearful.
In the Old Testament God’s presence was demonstrated in the tabernacle. That’s where people would go to meet with God. When Jesus came, John 1:14 says that He “tabernacled” among us: “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us…” He was sent from the presence of the Father and He is the presence…and He takes us into the presence of the Father when we put our faith in Him for forgiveness of sins.
If you have not yet been born again, that is the decision you need to make. Profess Him as your Lord and Savior and then the promise of His presence will be fulfilled in your life.
- God is with you
- He is your God
- He will strengthen you
- He will help you
- He will uphold you
I like how John Piper restates these promises using five different prepositions…
- I am your God – over you.
- I am with you – by your side.
- I will strengthen you – from inside of you.
- I will help you – all around you.
- I will uphold you – from underneath you.
God is over you, by you, inside you, around you, and underneath you. Even when a train is about to tip over on you.