The Unrecognized Presence of God

Sermon by David Chittenden

For 12-13-98

Jacob awaked out of his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not." And he was afraid and said, "How dreadful is this place. This is none other but the house of God and this is the gate of heaven." I want to call your attention especially to what Jacob said in the latter part of verse 16, when he said, "Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not."

Let's bow for prayer. Heavenly Father, as we look at your Word this morning, Lord, I don't want to preach a sermon. God, I need a message from you. Lord, we need today to recognize that your presence is with us. Lord, if there is someone here that does not know Jesus as their personal savior, I pray today that they will trust him and that they'll realize that you care about him so much. And Lord, that today that any man or woman, or boy or child that's here, if they are without you, that they would not put it off another day, but they would accept the gift of eternal life that Jesus has provided through the cross of Calvary. In Jesus name, Amen.

Today I want to talk to you about The Unrecognized Presence of God. The Unrecognized Presence of God. As I was thinking on these things, and thinking of how Jacob had really gotten himself into a mess, I mean, there were problems that Jacob had brought upon himself, that now he was having to deal with. As I look at Jacob's life, I realize that Jacob thought that God wouldn't be with him. Somehow Jacob thought that, "You know I've done such terrible things. I know Abraham talked about God. I know Isaac, my father, talked about God, but how could God be with me?" Maybe he thought that it was back there at the altar that was the only place that God would meet with him. So now he was running and now he just somehow got the mistaken ideas that God really didn't know where he was and that God really wasn't there. You know, I look at our situation today and I believe if there is anything that we need to get across to people that have gotten themselves into trouble, is I believe they need to understand that God still knows where they are. I believe that they need to know today that God has not forsaken them. He has not forgotten about them. Even though they may have done some bad things, God has not forgotten His promises.

You see, I believe we need to recognize that God is here with us now. I believe if there is anything we need to be more conscious of is we need to be conscious of the presence of God. I believe that Satan works overtime trying to make people think that God really doesn't care. I believe that Satan does everything he can to blind the minds of men and women, and I'm even talking about Christian people. We need to recognize that God does know exactly where we are, and He hasn't forgotten us. I believe if there is anything that can change your life, is when you recognize the presence of God. I believe if we can see that God is involved in every aspect of our life, I believe as we think about the most intimate details of our life, the things that nobody else knows. I want you to remember today that God knows everything that's going on in your life. As a matter of fact, I look in the 139th Psalm, why don't you turn there. In the 139th Psalm, David begins by saying, "O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me. Thou knowest my down sitting and mine uprising, thou understandeth my thought afar off." Verse number 3, "Thou compassed my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it all together. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it."

David begins asking the question and actually putting forth the statement, he says, "Listen God, I realize that you already know all there is to know about me. Lord, you've been behind me and you've been before me. You know when I get up, you know when I lay down. You know every word that I speak. You know the thought behind every word that I speak." He says, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me."

Can you imagine that God not only knows what you have said, He knows what you're going to say. Can you imagine a God who knew you before that you were born? He says in verse number 7, "Whither should I go from your Spirit? Or wither should I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall your right hand lead me and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the light shineth as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike unto thee." He reminds us again that we cannot go any place that God doesn't know where we are. It doesn't matter where it's at. It doesn't matter where you take your flight to, God knows where you are. It doesn't matter if no one else knows your name, God still knows who you are. He says, this is the kind of God that we serve.

But, you know, he even goes back farther, in verse number 13, he says, "For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members are written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them!" You see, what God is telling us here, is he's saying, "Listen, I want you to know that not only do I know who you are, not only do I know where you are, but I knew all about you before you were even born. He says, "As a matter of fact, I knew what kind of hair you were going to have. I knew what kind of arm you were going to have. I knew what kind of nose you were going to have. All of my members were fashioned before I was born." I believe if we could get a hold of that, and you know in teaching young people, so many times I've tried to make sure you understand that God knows exactly how He made you. God did not make a mistake in how He made you. He knew exactly how you were going to be formed, and that's the kind of God that we serve. You know, God is never surprised, He's never amazed. He never wonders about anything. He never seeks information. Our Heavenly Father knows us completely. Do you know what that helps me with? That means that no tale bearer can tell a tale on me. No forgotten skeleton can come out of the closet that can make God turn His back on me. There is no weakness in my character that can be brought to life, that God's going to say, "I didn't know about that." I want to tell you God not only knew about that, God knew about our weakness and God loves us anyway. God is the one who called us to himself, knowing the very depth of our character. God knew who we were.

I believe if we can understand that God is close to us today, that God is there with us today, that God is concerned about the smallest detail of your life. You know, God knows about that pain that you feel right now. He knows about the tears that you shed. God knows about the ache of your heart. God knows every detail about you today. I believe if there is anything we weed to understand, we need to understand the presence of God in every detail of our life. You see, He's close to us. As I read the 139th Psalm, it just reminds me of the closeness of God. You know, as we look back over in Genesis chapter 28, think about how that God is with us now. He knows every detail, God knows things so carefully that He even watches over the sparrows that fall. Remember that when Jesus said that not one sparrow falls but the Heavenly Father knows about it. You remember Jesus told His disciples that as He spoke, He said, "God so clothed the grass of the field." Now what does that mean? Well, I'll tell you what it means to me. I look out over a field and I see the beautiful array of colors and I realize that God reached down and He colored every flower. As I see the grass and the beautiful leaves of the trees, I realize that God is the one who colored those leaves. And if God cared so much about the leaves and about the sparrows, in fact, it talks about the beasts of the field, and how that they looked to Him. It talks about the hills and how they sing and they leap for joy. If God cared so much for these things, how much MORE does our Heavenly Father care about you and I?

If Satan has made you think today that your life isn't really that important, I want to tell you, that is not coming from God. That's coming from the father of liars. When Satan has made you think that what you do really doesn't make any difference, I want to remind you that God loved you so much that He sent Jesus to die on the cross for you. Your life IS important as far as God is concerned. I tell you, it really bothers me that some people just THROW AWAY their lives and say it really doesn't matter, I can live any way I want to live. Listen, your life IS important as far as God is concerned. GOD CAN USE YOU! You see the problem today is not ABILITY. The problem is AVAILABILITY. The problem is yielding ourselves to God and saying, "God, how WILL you use me? You use me just like I am." You know, sometimes people get the idea, you know I can't be a preacher, so God can't use me. That's a bunch of hog wash (that's what my grandpa would say). Some people get the idea that God only uses people in a few ways. Listen, there are people that you come in contact with every day of your lives that this preacher will never talk to. Only you can reach them. Only you can talk to them. If we can understand the Presence of God in our lives, that God put us in the place that we are for a specific purpose, what a difference it makes. By the way, while we're talking about the power of God and the knowledge of God, let's remember that God is the one that sets up kings, and God is the one that takes kings down. God is STILL IN CONTROL. I don't care what kind of spin the world puts on it, I believe we need to remember that God is the one that sets them up and God is the one that takes them down.

You remember Nebuchadnezzar? When he began to be so proud of all of his power, he looked over all that he had. He looked over that kingdom and he thought, "Look at all that I've done here." God sent Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar and said, "Because of the pride of your heart, you're going to eat grass like the beast of the field." And God put him out. You see, God is still the One. In fact, in Hebrews Chapter 13, it says there is no power but of God. And by the way, the government that God allows to be set up, is allowed by God. Hebrews 13 also says that they are ministers. They are servants of God. I'll be quite honest with you, you know sometimes standing before the "law of the land," is not a very pleasant experience. I believe at that time, we have to realize that God's the one that put them in charge. He still knows what He's doing. He knows exactly what is going on.

You know, I look at Jacob, and Jacob came to the realization that God is with him NOW. He began to see all the angels and how much that we need to realize that God has His messengers, His servants, His ministers of righteousness (according to Hebrews) even though we don't see all the things that they do. God still uses them in our life. Now for some of you, I think they're really overworked. Sometimes for me, I think they're a little bit overworked. Some of the things and some of the difficulties, I'm glad that God has His ministers, that God is still very much involved in what is happening in our life. As he became aware of all these things that was going on, as he became more aware of the presence of God, he said, "I didn't realize that God was in this place." You see, so many times people are just plain "blinded." They just can't see it. They just look around and they just can't see that God is working here and God is working here and God is working here and God is working here. And maybe it's because they misunderstand. I think the funniest story I ever read about that was a young lawyer that his firm gave him a turkey every Christmas or every Thanksgiving. You know, being a single young man, he didn't have a need for one of them big o' turkeys. So he gets on the bus to ride the bus home. He lived in a big metropolitan area, and he got to thinking, "You know, I'm going to do something nice." Well, unbeknownst to this young lawyer, his buddies also knew he was going to get that turkey that day and they decided to play a trick on him. Instead of that turkey, they put a bunch of rocks and some paper mache' and they weighted it down to look like a turkey. They snuck his turkey out and put this old paper mache' turkey in there. So, he's carrying what he thinks to be a turkey home, and as he's on the bus, he's thinking of how much he doesn't need this turkey. And there was a man on the bus who looked like he was down on his luck and he said to him, "Hey, fella." He said, "What are you doing for Thanksgiving?" He said, "Man, I just lost my job, and I've got three kids. I'm, on my way home and we really don't have anything." He said, "Hey, I've got this turkey that's been given to me and I'm just going to give it to you." He didn't even know it wasn't really a turkey. So the fella thanked him and got off the bus. And so he goes home feeling good about himself. He went back from the Thanksgiving holiday and sees his old buddies up there at the law firm. They say, "Hey, how'd you like your turkey?" They were poking one another and he said, "Well, I gave it away to this fellow on the bus." And the story goes on, that he spent the next month riding the bus every day, looking for that guy. You talk about misunderstanding. Can you imagine when the guy got home and opened that up, and wondered who that guy was who gave him this fake turkey?

You know, I think sometimes, in dealing with the Lord, sometimes things happen and we don't understand them. We really don't understand what is going on. You see what happened in Jacob's life, is Jacob really didn't understand all the things that were going on. So what he needs to do, he needs to recognize the presence of God and not be blinded to what was really going on. You know, I believe many times that the problem is we do not expect to see the presence of God. We do not expect to see the hand of God, and this is what I believed happened with Jacob. You know, when Jacob laid down on and used those stones for a pillow, and he began to sleep that night, he did not expect to have to recognize the presence of God. You know, I think if we look around, I believe we would realize that God is very active. You see, there are no accidents with God. God knows exactly and precisely what is going on and that was true in Jacob's life. As God was working with Jacob, as God had brought Jacob to this point, and, yes, he had done wrong, but what Jacob needed to know, is that even though Jacob had done sinful things, God's promise still hadn't changed. You know, I think of what Jesus said, when Jesus said in Matthew chapter 28, He says, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. And lo, I am with you always." I believe we've got to learn that our disappointments many times are His appointments, that His train never comes in late. But then I believe sometimes we have to ask ourselves why that sometimes people don't recognize the presence of God. I think about when Jesus was here and how that He spoke parables, and how that many people didn't understand what He was saying. There were places that Jesus did not do many miracles and it was because people didn't believe Him. And I feel like in our lives, many times the reason God doesn't want to do the things that He wants to do in our lives is because people don't believe that God is present, that God really wants to change those circumstances. You know, I see sometimes people have difficulties at home and they don't recognize that God is the one who established the home. Many of the problems created in our homes, are because we have not followed the directions that God has already given us. We have not looked at the boundaries that God gave us. When God says we should draw certain boundaries, we say, "Well, God, I'm an exception to that. It really doesn't matter. You know, I can live like I want. God, I don't have to go to church and be a good Christian." Well, I believe you can be a good Christian, but you can't be an obedient Christian. Say, "Well, I know part of what the Bible says." But I believe if we do not feed on the Word of God, then we're going to wither and we're going to dry up. You see, often people get involved in all kinds of problems and they just don't recognize that God wants to help us, that God wants our home life to be the kind of home life that would honor Him. You know, God tells us how husbands and wives are to treat each other. It says, "Husbands love your wife even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it." I believe as the Word of God teaches us how to raise children God tells us that we are to love our children, but in loving our children there are certain disciplines that have to be brought about. There are certain things we have to say "No," about, we can't just let our children do whatever they want. But we have to be responsible and we follow what the Scripture says. We see God's hand as He begins to work. I believe also in our finances many times we get into difficulties because we have not recognized what God has done and what God has said. You see, I believe God is still greater than all of our problems and let me say this today: I believe there is no problem too great that you get involved in, with which God cannot deal. And some people get the idea, "But Preacher, you don't know how bad my circumstance is!" I want to tell you somebody who does know how bad it is and that's the God of Heaven. He knows exactly how bad it is, and it's not too bad for Him. There is no circumstance that God cannot understand. There is no difficulty too great for God to overcome. But sometimes, people just don't recognize it. I believe that's why we are to live in the constant conscience presence, to be constantly conscience of the presence of God. That means that we are to absorb the Scriptures and to live in such a way that the wonders and the promises as we begin to understand what God has done in the past that we would expect that God would do the same thing in the future. As we read the World of God, as we daily set aside enough time to spend time with God, to unburden our heart and talk to Him about all of our difficulties, to commune with God of all of the things that are holding us back, I believe if we have that constant expectation that God is going to work, it helps us to live in God's conscious presence.

Then, as David said, "He set out to live in the house of the Lord." You know, the thing that really strikes me about this particular incident, is he was out in the open, he only had those stones for his pillows. Some people get the idea that if they're going to talk to God, they've got to come to church to talk to God. Now I don't know how exactly they've gotten that idea, but let me tell you today that you don't have to come to church to talk to God. You can talk to God anywhere. You see, what Jacob had to realize was that God wasn't just at the altar that his grandfather and father had built, that God was right there on the stones where he was using those for a pillow to lay his head. And by the way, that bothers me. I can't imagine a guy using a stone for a pillow. He was desperate. He was in bad shape. I mean, here he was out in the middle of a desert with stones for his pillow, but to recognize that God knew exactly where he was, to be conscious of that presence, to realize that God really cared about him and he needed to come to that realization that the promises of God were still good. You see, once that you are saved, once that you are a child of God, God doesn't abandon you. God doesn't abandon His children. You say, "But Bro. Dave, you don't know how far I've gone." God knows how far you've gone. As we see that wonderful story of the Prodigal Son, we find that no matter how far in sin that the Prodigal Son got, the Father never ceased to love him. The Father never ceased to look and to long for the day that he would see that son coming back to him. And if you can realize today that God wants you to be near Him, He wants to have a relationship with you. It was God who came down in the cool of the evening to talk to Adam and Eve, it was God who initiated the fellowship with us. He's the one sticking out his hand. He's the one holding out his arms. So often, people pull back and say, I just don't know. What do you not know about? Do you think that He's not going to treat you with kindness? Do you think He really doesn't care? Do you think that God really can't meet the need? You see, Rev. 3:20 says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." When I read Rev. 3:20, I believe it can apply to those that are lost, because you that are lost today, He is always seeking, because we have a seeking savior. But when you look at the contents of Romans 3:20, you find that he's talking to Christians, when he says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any man will hear my voice I will come in to him and sup with him and he with me." I say to you today, that the Heavenly Father is knocking. Won't you let Him in? I know we get busy with so many things. He wants to have a relationship with us. Let's don't get to the place that Jacob got, where he was not recognizing the presence of God.

Annie Johnson Flynn talks about the pressure of life, and sometimes I believe those pressures are designed to get us to realize that God really cares about us.

Pressed out of measure and pressed to all length.

Pressed so intensely, it seems beyond strength.

Pressed in the body and pressed in the soul.

Pressed in the mind till dark surges roll.

Pressure by foes and pressure by friends,

Pressure on pressure till life nearly ends.

Pressed into loving the staff and the rod,

Pressed into knowing no helper but God.

Pressed into liberty where nothing clings.

Pressed into faith, for impossible things.

Pressed into living a life in the Lord,

Pressed into living a Christ life out poured.

Today, if you're under a lot of pressure, I want you to realize who the God of all pressure is, and that is our loving, kind and gracious Heavenly Father, who wants you to be conscious of His presence.