18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[a]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[b] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[d] (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Where is God? This Scripture tells us He is with us. Toddlers can ask challenging questions about “Where is God?” “Is God under my bed?” “Is God in Minnesota with Grandma?” “Is God in our car?” “Can I hide from God?” “Is God like air?” God is something like air. He is all around us. His presence is inside us, and we breathe in life from Him. (Parent Life, July 1998, pg. 30) Jeremiah 23:24 says, “Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see Him?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” Are we conscious of Him being with us? Just how do we experience the God who is with us?
God is with us in times of despair.
We read in I Kings 19 about a time in Elijah, the prophet’s life, where he was so discouraged and afraid and tired that he wanted to quit life altogether. He actually prayed that he would die. It hadn’t been that long before those moments of desperation that he had experienced major victory. In a showdown between God’s power and the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel in I Kings 18, God sent fire from heaven to consume Elijah’s sacrifice, proving Him to be more powerful than Baal. It all happened just as Elijah prophesied. That wasn’t the only victory Elijah had experienced. He had predicted an awful famine and God was faithful to suspend the rain for three years until Elijah prayed for rain later in chapter 18.
There was no question that Elijah was being used in incredible ways by God, but along with being used of God comes opposition. Ahab and Jezebel didn’t appreciate all Elijah was accomplishing and in I Kings 19, Jezebel sent word to Elijah that she had plans to take him out.
Even though Elijah had seen and experienced God’s limitless power, he let his mind go to the darkest possible place. He ran away and hid. He let himself be put to death in his mind. Since he believed it was inevitable, he just asked God to go ahead and kill him right there on the spot.
He hadn’t done anything wrong. He had actually done everything right. He had been speaking and acting just as God had instructed, but when opposition arose, he was ready to give up. He was ready to quit. Listen, there will be times in your life when you are absolutely doing and saying the right things, but you will face opposition for doing so. Don’t let that discourage or defeat you. Opposition is nothing for God. There is nothing which can oppose Him that He hasn’t already overcome! Psalm 138 reminds us, “The Lord will work out His plans for my life!” (NLT) In times of despair, trust God’s Word! Romans 8:31 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” And it goes on to say in verse 37 “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Elijah forget he was a conqueror.
Instead of trusting God to deliver him, Elijah fled into the wilderness where he was isolated and began to wallow in self-pity. But God was there. He didn’t leave Elijah alone to drown in despair. He refreshed him by giving him something to eat and drink. (I KI. 19:5-7) He let Elijah nap on and off that day in order to renew his body and mind. What followed was a re-commissioning of Elijah for God’s service. God reminded him that he still had plans for Elijah. Elijah’s life wasn’t in Jezebel’s hands, but in God’s.
Listen, don’t give up on anything God has shown you or promised you. He is with you to sustain you while you walk out His plan, even in the face of opposition. Elijah’s problem was that he let Jezebel’s voice drown out the voice of God. Don’t look at the obstacles and circumstances. Don’t listen to the words of the enemy. Listen for the still small voice of God.
There is a beautiful moment in I Kings 19:9-18. Elijah was isolated in a cave on Mount Sinai and God came to him again and simply said, “What in the world are you doing?” Elijah listed all of the reasons he thought his life should just be over, and God told him to quit talking and to go out and stand before Him on the mountain. God allowed a mighty windstorm to hit the mountain. Elijah took cover in the entrance to the cave. An earthquake followed. After the earthquake there was a fire. And after all of that drama, there was the sound of a gentle whisper. Elijah peeked out of the cave and he and God had another heart to heart talk about his situation where God assured him everything was going to be alright.
Don’t despair when the winds of life begin to blow. Don’t quit when the earthquake hits and things begin to crumble around you. Don’t give up when the challenges you face cause you to feel overheated and exhausted. God is there! He wants to refresh you and speak to you in a way that will renew and sustain you for the coming days. When the drama is stilled and His still small voice is heard, you will have the courage you need to get up and go on. He is there. You may not have the power to quiet the storms that rage around you, but you can get yourself quiet enough to listen for God’s whisper.
God is with us in times of need.
The bills are due and you can’t pay them. The problems are bigger than you have answers for. Your health has broken and your future is uncertain. You can’t do the things you used to do and need assistance. You have to juggle too much and are needed in three and sometimes four places at one time. These are all real needs we face in this life. Yet God promises in Philippians 4:19 to supply all of our needs! What peace!
The Apostle Paul knew God was with him. It was God’s abiding presence that had brought Paul to a place where he could say that God was enough. He spoke in Philippians 4:11-13 about being content. Contentment comes as we acknowledge Immanuel. It comes as we practice being aware that God is with us. Paul never said God would supply all of his wants, but that He would provide what was needed and Paul found contentment in that reality. Just as Elijah needed to be still and listen for God’s voice in His time of despair, we too need to connect with God, but in a different way when we are in need. Rather than listening when we are in despair, we need to speak when we are in need.
We’re told in Matthew 7 to ask for what we need. Let me flesh that out for you. If you want to experience God with you when you are shopping, ask Him to bless your choice and help you find the lowest price. If you want to get your bills paid, tithe on your income and live on what you make. You’ll see Immanuel, God with You, stretching your money farther than you ever could. If you have a problem, take it to God in prayer and ask Him to show you a solution in His Word. And when you pray, ask God to help you pray for exactly what is needed and not what the world prescribes or just anything your flesh would crave.
Jesus said, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24). God wants us to ask because being a Giver is part of His nature. Our asking enables Him to express who He is. He loves to give to His children! “For God so loved the world that He GAVE His only Son.” (John 3:16) Immanuel wants to be with you when you have a need.
One thing we have to remember, however, is He wants us to receive from Him in His timing. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Timing is everything.” That phrase is true in many ways. Galatians 4:4-5 tells us that Jesus’ coming to earth as a baby was ordained for a particular time. “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.[a]” Christ’s birth was timed. Romans 5:6 tells us, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” His death was timed. And just as God moved and performed His plans through the timing of Christ’s birth, ministry, and death, He also has a timeline in mind for His plans for you. Contentment is part of patience. Contentment is also part of trust. Trust God’s timing to meet your needs. It will be perfect, but as you are waiting patiently and as you are exercising trust and faith, ask for what you need from Him.
God is with us when we are in trouble.
Psalm 50:15 tells us to call upon God in the day of trouble and He will deliver us. He is Immanuel when we are in trouble. Psalm 46:1-3 tells us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” A lot of times our friends and even family will scatter when we find ourselves in trouble, but God is our constant presence. He is the “friend that sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)
Being in trouble is accompanied by a specific feeling, isn’t it? It’s not a pleasant one. I’ve gotten two speeding tickets in my 43 years of life and every time, I felt the physiological effects of being in trouble. Can anyone relate? Your heart races, your palms sweat, and there is anxiety and sometimes fear! Our daughter Hannah and Brooklyn Williams experienced that feeling just about a week and a half ago. They were called to the school office individually where they were told Mr. Cook, the principal, needed to see them. They had never met Mr. Cook face to face. They never desired to meet Mr. Cook face to face. When the confrontation took place, Mr. Cook in a very animated way asked Hannah, “What’s your name?” With her insides shaking and her knees knocking, Hannah, with her eyes as big as saucers said, “Hannah Pratt.” The principal then said, “Do you know a Craig Gobel?” Hannah felt the blood drain from her face as she realized Craig had set her up. He is overseeing the school building project there and has been messing with her ever since school started! He used the principal to scare the pants off of her and Brooklyn and then to deliver a full size Crunch candy bar to them.
Trouble! It causes an instant “Oh no!” in our spirit. We know God is with us in trouble because throughout Scripture we see how God causes trouble to be purposeful. It grows us and shapes us into the people He desires we become. Trouble without God is crushing and produces great sorrow. Trouble with Immanuel is purposeful, helpful, preparation for all of the rest of our lives and many testify to experiencing the blessing of God during even the most troubling of times.
Joseph experienced lots of trouble in his life. His jealous brothers sold him to slave traders. They took him to another country where he was sold into slavery. But Scripture says because God was with Joseph in trouble, he was elevated to a position of authority in his master’s house. After being falsely accused of trying to seduce his master’s wife, he was thrown into prison. He found himself in trouble again, but Scripture says God was with Joseph and he rose to a position of authority in the prison. Eventually, he became the second in command in the country. It was the preparation he received while he was in trouble that prepared him to be a great leader.
Experiencing God in the midst of trouble involves our willingness to let God work. He’ll eventually guide us out of trouble. He’ll protect us in the midst of trouble. He will strengthen us and teach us new things, but we must be willing to look for Him and stay out of the way. In despair, we listen for Immanuel. In need we talk to Immanuel, but in trouble, we get out of Immanuel’s way by allowing trouble to shape us.
Isaiah 43 depicts times of great trouble. There we read the about the abiding and protecting presence of God when we are in trouble. (verse 1b) “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
When trouble comes and that “Oh no” feeling comes over your spirit, look for God. He is like a lifeguard who will jump in to hold your head above the waters. He is like a firefighter who will bring rescue to you. You will make it if you keep your eyes on Jesus, the One who is with you.
God is with us when we are lonely.
Psalm 68:6 says “God sets the lonely in families.” Even if you live alone or if you just feel alone, if you are a Christian, you are part of a huge family, the Family of God. We are supposed to look out for one another and to relieve the loneliness of those in our big family. Who can you reach out to that may be alone this Christmas? Let them know God sees them and that you care about them.
Hagar was a slave. She had been removed from her home in Egypt and had become the servant of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Sarah was barren. She couldn’t have children and had arranged for her servant, Hagar, to have a sexual encounter with Abraham in order that he might have a son. Things didn’t work out so well. Though Hagar became pregnant, and though it was Sarah’s idea, Sarah became jealous and grossly mistreated Hagar. Hagar couldn’t take the stress and strain and ran away to live in the wilderness. She felt unloved, unwanted, and alone.
But Immanuel didn’t leave her alone. He appeared to her and spoke tender words to encourage her and help her know what to do. Hagar called God “El Roi,” which means “The God Who Sees” (Genesis 16:13). She may have felt alone, but God reminded her that He was with her.
Some of you are heading into a first Christmas without a spouse or other loved one. Others of you may have lived alone for several years now. God sees you. He is with you. He wants to comfort you through His presence. Loneliness is actually a tool of God to draw us closer to Him. If you are feeling terribly alone, check your relationship with God. How is it? How much are you talking to Him, praying, and reading His Word?
He is with us, and the very fact that we are physically alone can make His presence more precious than it would be if there were people around us. I remember when I lived in the Middle East on the island of Cyprus for two years. I was only 22 and 23. There were many times that I was aware that I was physically alone, but what an amazing time of spiritual growth and richness with my Heavenly Father! Believe that He is with you and respond to His presence by nurturing your relationship with God. It will help to dispel the aching loneliness.
One night while conducting an evangelistic meeting in the Salvation Army Citadel in Chicago, Booth Tucker preached on the sympathy of Jesus. After his message a man approached him and said, “If your wife had just died, like mine has, and your babies were crying for their mother, who would never come back, you wouldn’t be saying what you’re saying.” Tragically, a few days later, Tucker’s wife was killed in a train wreck. Her body was brought to Chicago and carried to the same Citadel for the funeral.
After the service the bereaved preacher looked down into the silent face of his wife and then turned to those attending. “The other day a man told me I wouldn’t speak of the sympathy of Jesus if my wife had just died. If that man is here, I want to tell him that Christ is sufficient. My heart is broken, but it has a song put there by Jesus. I want that man to know that Jesus Christ speaks comfort to me today.” (Today in the Word, MBI, October, 1991, p. 10)
If you will let Him, Jesus will come into your loneliness and grief and be an anchor and sweet fellowship for your soul.
God is with us when we doubt ourselves.
Remember what Moses said to God in Exodus 3 when God told Moses to go speak to Pharaoh and demand he release God’s people from slavery? Moses said, “I’m a nobody. Pharaoh won’t listen to me.” Moses continued the self-doubt talk in Exodus 4. He tried to convince God he wasn’t qualified for the task. He asked in verse 1, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?” After God addressed that question and showed Moses how He would convince Pharaoh that God had commanded the release of His people through His spokesman, Moses, Moses exposed even more self-doubt in verse 10. “10 Moses said to the LORD, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” Every time Moses opened his mouth to tell God he couldn’t do something, God refuted such nonsense and told him He could.
Have you ever felt inadequate for the task to which God called you? “God, I can’t be a successful parent. I don’t know how to teach and train a child.” “God, I can’t lead a ministry. I don’t have as much training as other people in leadership.” “God, I can’t be your mouthpiece in my workplace. I wouldn’t know what to say. I would only mess things up.” Excuses often are the result of self-doubt.
The truth is we can do anything God calls us to do because we can do “all things through Christ who gives us strength!” (Phil. 4:13) Our focus must never be on ourselves and our limitations and weaknesses, but on the strength and power of our God.
A very busy mother went into her room one day at twilight to write a letter. She sat at her desk absorbed in filling page after page of notepaper. After some time she heard a sigh close at hand and turning her head, she saw her little son cuddled up in an armchair. “Why, Son, how long have you been there?” she asked. “All the time, mamma,” he said, “but you have been too busy to notice me.” Ask God how long He has been with us, and He will say, All the time; His presence undiscovered because even the Christian people have been too busy to notice the fact—busy with their own affairs, and losing sight of the presence of God.
Two more Scriptures speak about God’s abiding presence in our lives. Matt. 28:20 “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Hebrews 13:5 “For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Brothers and sisters, we have a responsibility to be aware of Immanuel. We need to interact with His presence. We need to acknowledge Him, engage Him, ask Him for what is needed and open our hearts to receive what He offers.
Watch this video as we close: http://www.churpedia.com/Christmas_g97-God_With_Us Christmas_Church_Media_Worship_Videos_Sermon_Illustrations_p2018.html
Will you invite Him into your journey wherever you find yourself? Let Him in to your despair. Let Him in to your trouble. Let Him in to your need. Let Him in to your loneliness. Let Him in to your self-doubt. Make room for Him wherever you find yourself. Make room for Him in your heart today.