When God Visits You
April 1, 2007
“When [Jesus] came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Luke 19:37-38
“Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in Him.” John 12:37
“…You did not recognize when God Himself was visiting you!” Luke 19:44
Today’s questions . . .
Has God ever visited you? If so, which ____________in the _______________ did you take?
Sometimes God visits us . . .
… When we glimpse the _____________ of life.
… When we’re in the depths of a personal ____________.
… When we long to be part of something __________ than ourselves.
… When we see ______________ in the lives of others.
Bring your __________ to where God will _______ ______
When God Visits You
April 1, 2007
Here we are at Palm Sunday which is about commemorating Jesus riding into Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowd. In fact, this was a fulfilment of a prophecy that was made hundreds of years before it occurred and is found in the HB in Zechariah 9: 9. In our reading this morning, Jesus is riding into Jerusalem and this is going to set into motion a series of events that will lead to His betrayal, His crucifixion and then to His resurrection. We’re going to pick up these last days in the life of Jesus, in the services this week beginning this Thursday of Holy week – details of time and places are on the Intimation sheets – and I hope you’ll join the journey.
An amazing thing happened as Jesus was riding into Jerusalem. It was pandemonium. People were waving palm branches to welcome Jesus because many believed He was the long awaited Messiah; the Saviour of Israel and the world. By the crowds actions, Jesus was being hailed as King as He rode into town.
Here’s the thing about Jesus. Whenever and wherever Jesus appears, he calls to those he encounters to make a decision. Whenever Jesus visits someone whether it was 2000 years ago or whether it’s today, it’s as though they’re facing a spiritual fork in the road. And Jesus is urging them to make a choice. Either take God's fork in the road or continue on their own fork that they’ve been on.
The crowds that were running alongside Jesus as He was coming into Jerusalem faced a spiritual fork in the road. The question was: were they going to follow Him or not? Were they going to honour Him or not? Were they going to accept Him as their King and leader or were they going to denounce Him as an impostor. The Bible says that some who were faced with this fork in the road, made the decision to take God's fork and follow Jesus’ path.
Luke 19: 37-38 “When Jesus came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives the whole crowd of disciples began to joyfully to praise God for all the miracles that they had seen. They said, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.’” They chose the fork in the road that was the way of Jesus.
But we need to note this as well; there were many other people who had witnessed Jesus’ ministry, but chose to reject him and go their own way instead, away from Jesus. John 12:37 tells us, “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in Him.” Many chose the dead end path and Jesus knew what the consequences for them would be.
In fact Jesus wept, as it says in Luke 19:44 because He said, “You did not recognize when God Himself was visiting you.” They didn’t recognize when God Himself was visiting them. The questions I want to ask you today are these, Has God ever visited you? And if He has, which fork in the road did you take? Because every time He visits He forces us to make a spiritual choice – God's road or our own.
I’m talking about these moments when you’re really open spiritually, when you’re receptive to God. These moments when you almost feel that God is tapping you on the shoulder, you almost feel His breath on your neck; when you feel something inside of you that is nudging you toward the spiritual, that is nudging you toward God. When it seems to you that God is just a whisper away. I’ll bet that God has visited you many times in your life.
But the question is, How did you respond? When you were faced with that visitation from God, did you take His road or did you take the fork that represents your own?
So how does God visit us? Here are some ways that maybe you can relate to:
1. Sometimes God visits us when we glimpse the brevity of life.
Let me tell you a true story of an 18 year old girl who with two of her friends were involved in a car accident in which the car they were travelling in turned into a fireball and both her friends were killed instantly. She was partially flung from the car and suffered horrendous burns over 95% of her body. Rushed to the nearest hospital, it was soon apparent that nothing could be done for her except to take her to a burn clinic about an hour’s drive by ambulance where at least they could care for her in the final hours of her life. They put her in the ambulance with a nurse. Question: If you were that nurse what in the world would you talk about to that young girl who knew that she was dying during that one hour ride in the ambulance? What would you say? The girl wasn’t in horrendous physical pain at that time because the burns were so severe they destroyed her nerve endings. But emotionally she was in incredible anxiety and turmoil and fear because she knew she was dying. Her parents were not with her. Her brothers and sisters weren’t there. Only some stranger in the back of an ambulance in the final hours of her life.
The nurse said that it started out as a nightmare. There was nothing she could say. There was nothing she could do that could relieve the anxiety and fear that had gripped the young girl until she mentioned something about Jesus. And the nurse realized that this girl was like her, a Christian and so, with tears running down her cheek she recited from memory a Bible verse that came to her mind. It was from Isaiah 43 that says this: “Do not fear for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers; they shall not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.”
As soon as the nurse spoke those words, there was a calmness came over the young girl that was beyond human understanding. Because she had been reminded that she belongs to God and nothing, not even fire could destroy what belongs to God.
She gained comfort in the knowledge that God had not abandoned her, that she wasn’t alone, that He would comfort her, that He would minister to her, that He would give her peace and courage and strength in the last moments of her life on this earth. Then for all of eternity He would embrace her and hold her securely and lovingly in His arms forever. And she died with a grace that astounded all of the doctors who witnessed it. PAUSE
Is there not something inside all of us that longs for that kind of security and comfort and peace and strength in the midst of the storms of our own life? Those last moments when we’re going to face death too, because we all are. We’re not guaranteed 72 years, or whatever the average life span is now. We’re not guaranteed that. We’re going to face it, each and every person here. What are we going to do when those moments come and we’re racked by anxiety and we’re racked by fear? What are we going to do if we don’t have God who offers us peace that passes human understanding?
You know if you’ve thought about that question, maybe you’ve also felt God reaching out to you at that moment.
Sometimes God visits us in the midst of our fears and apprehensions and we can sense Him offering a hand of comfort and peace and courage and security and the hope of eternal life.
Have you ever felt that? Did you take God's path in the fork in the road or your own?
2. Sometimes God also visits us when we’re in the depths of a personal crisis.
When you’re desperate and you turn to God and shout - God! If You’re there do something. If You do, then I’ll follow You. I'll be Yours forever. Have you ever made a bargain like that with God? Have you ever, in the midst of the worse thing you’ve experienced, say, “God, I don’t know what to do. Help me.” And somehow you get through it but you walk away forgetting about that prayer you just prayed.
Can you relate to that? When everything got back to equilibrium in your life, after the crisis that caused you to call out in desperation to God and the promises that you made and then after everything gets back to normal, life goes on. And you forget. And instead of choosing His path you went back to your own. I’ve done that. Maybe some of you have done it too.
The third illustration of the way God sometimes visits us:
3. When we long to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
If you’re involved in a career, have you ever found yourself so immersed in your career, so focused on your job that it’s like you have blinders on to everything else in your life. You begin to loose perspective. You job becomes your own world that is so all encompassing and all important and all consuming that everything takes on this huge significance in this little world of your job. And the next deadline that you have in your job becomes the most important thing in the history of mankind that you meet that deadline. And the next contract that you need to get signed, the next deal you need to close becomes so monumentally important that nothing else in the world even approaches it in terms of how significant it is. And your world becomes so dominated by the day to day details of your job that you just loose perspective.
And then, through a series of circumstances something changes and all of a sudden the most important things in your world don’t matter any more. In fact they seem shallow and you realise life has got to be more than this and you sense this longing inside of you to look for a purpose in this life beyond eating and sleeping and doing your job.
It’s almost as if God were visiting you and gently whispering to you, “You were made for more than this. Don’t settle for a trivial and a one-dimensional life. You were made for something bigger.”
Have you ever sensed that? Have you ever sensed that life is more than making money? Have you ever sensed that life is more than just a bag of shopping receipts? or a wall full of plaques? or a portfolio full of stock options? or notches on a bed pole? or empty bottles of alcohol? Have you ever sensed God visiting you and whispering to you in the longings of your heart, that you were made to relate to Him to be part of a place where people love each other and love God in ways that you can’t imagine? And that God could use you for a purpose in this life that’s bigger than yourself.
I believe that sometimes God does visit us at those moments when we realize that there’s a difference between success and significance and the true quest in this life is for significance to make a contribution that the God of the universe had specifically carved out for you to make.
Have you ever felt that? Maybe you’ve said No. I’m going to choose my own fork again. Thanks anyway, but I can control this little world I’ve got going here. And it’s predictable. I know where it’s headed. I know if I work hard I’m going to have rewards. So I just want to live in this little world. I don’t want to take a risk to walk down this other fork that I don’t quite understand where it’s supposed to lead. Have you ever done that?
One last scenario. Sometimes God visits us in another way.
4. Sometimes He visits us when we see Jesus in the lives of others.
It’s a paradox but it seems to me that people mired in poverty in third world countries, despite their poverty, often have a deep faith in Jesus; a faith and hope in the midst of a situation that other people would look at and say was without hope. And it’s like they had everything. That’s the great irony of the situation. Physically, materially they have nothing and yet it comes across so strongly that they’ve a faith in God and they have richness in their life that you and I would struggle to even imagine. We have everything we want materially but we lack faith in God. Sometimes it seems it is we who are mired in poverty of the soul.
Some of you may be thinking as you look back on your life maybe you can identify times in your life when in retrospect you could see God visiting you. Maybe it wasn’t the kinds of things I talked about. I don’t know what you had as your experience, but I'll bet you God has visited you and maybe you’ve said to Him No, I'll take my own fork. Maybe you’ve said, “Perhaps later. Maybe someday when He visits again.”
If you’ve already made the choice to follow the path of Jesus Christ, then the most important application you can take from this message is this. Bring your friends and your family to where God will visit them.
The application for all of us here today regardless of whether we have faith or not is that if you have looked back in your life and recognized those times God has visited you in the past: take God's fork in the road. He’s nudging you right now. He’s visiting you. I would urge you not to walk your own path.
Lord Jesus, as we enter into Holy Week we want to take Your path. We acknowledge that You are the Son of God who died for our sins and we sense right now that You’re visiting us and You’re calling out to us. Open our hearts to respond to that nudging in our heart. We want to follow your way because our way leads only to a dead end. May we leave this place acknowledging that you alone are our Lord, our Saviour and our Redeemer – you have the words of eternal life and we choose you! I pray this Lord Jesus, in Your name. Amen.