Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Don't Be a Practical Atheist

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss asks, “Do your actions line up with your beliefs?”

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So what if we say we believe God is all-powerful and all-knowing and gracious and merciful, but we live as if there were no God? We’re practical atheists.

The answer for most of us is not getting some new insight, some new key to life, but it’s exercising faith in what we already know.

Leslie: Happy New Year! You’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Many people are tired today because they wanted to stay up late and welcome the new year, but that’s really nothing new. It seems like everyone is walking around exhausted all the time. Today, Nancy shows you how to enjoy fresh strength and energy. She’s continuing the series, Behold Your God. It’s based on Isaiah 40.

Nancy: It’s been so encouraging to me to hear testimonies of how God has been using this chapter in other people’s lives during this series. I hope it’s a chapter you’ll go back to again and again and again, and not just to the chapter, but to the message of that chapter: “Behold your God.”

We’re coming up to the final verses of Isaiah chapter 40, and we pick up today with verse 25 where God says, “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.”

Now the Holy One, that’s the set-apart One, the One who is unique, who is different, who is infinitely apart from all of us who are not holy. He says, “I’m so holy,” and as we’ve been seeing in the rest of this passage, “I’m so great; I’m so powerful; I know so much.” We’ve seen the wisdom and the power of God, and God says, “To whom then will you compare Me that I should be like him? I’m not like anyone you know. I’m far greater, far more eternal, and everything and everyone other than Me is by comparison insignificant.”

Now, in verse 26, Isaiah so to speak steps out into a dark night when the stars are filling the sky. He says to the Israelites who are facing this captivity, or facing the Babylonian army coming upon them and are facing all kinds of affliction and struggles. He says, “Lift up your eyes on high and see." Look up!

The problem is:

  • We don’t look up often enough.
  • We don’t look up quickly enough.
  • We keep looking down at ourselves and our circumstances.

He’s already told them to behold God. He says, “If you need help beholding God, look up into this night sky. On this clear night with no city lights to keep us from seeing the light of the stars, look up and see who created these. These stars that you see, the splendor of the night sky, who do you think made all this?”

Well, it’s God.

He brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing (verse 26).

Isaiah is just using the natural world to point us to the greatness of God the Creator.

The Babylonians, who were going to be the next dominant world power, practiced astrology. They worshiped the stars; they looked in the stars for messages; they looked in the stars for wisdom. But Isaiah is saying, “Don’t worship the stars. Don’t look to them for wisdom. They point you to the Creator, and they cause us to look to Him for understanding and for wisdom.”

He says, “God is the Creator. He knows how many stars there are. He brings out their host by number. He has called them all by name.” He has named each one.

Now, lest you think that’s an easy task, I’m told there are at least 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone—100 billion stars. I’ve read that there may be as many as 500 billion more galaxies, each with their own billions of stars, and God has counted all of them. God sends them out at night. He knows how many there are, and He’s named every single one of those stars. I mean, scientists with all their lifetimes combined could never count or name all the stars, but God has done it.

In July of 2003 astronomers came out with an announcement that there are approximately 70 sextillion stars in the universe. That’s a seven with 22 zeros. I don’t know how they know, and they really don’t know. But based on the research they’ve been able to do, their report was, “We really don’t know, but based on what we’ve been able to study thus far, that’s how many we think there are.” God knows how many there are. Not one is missing.

The emphasis in this passage is on God’s might, God’s strength, God’s power that created those stars, that orders them, that has numbered them, that names them, and that sustains them in the night sky.

The implication is, if God can do all that, do you think He can handle however many issues there are in your life?

You say, “I’ve got a lot of issues in my life.” How many do you have? How many things are you worried about—ten?

You say, “No, there’s a lot more than that.”

Twenty? Fifty? Have you got 300 worries in your life right now? I know you have at least as many as you have family members, and your job, and things going on around you.

You say, “I’ve got tons of issues in my life, things to be concerned about, things to be worried about.”

If God can count and name 70 sextillion stars in the universe; He can order them; He can keep them all going; He can keep them all sustained, do you think God can manage however many problems and issues you have in your life?

Do you think God can manage your children?

You say, “I’ve got a lot of children.”

God’s got a lot of stars. He can manage them. He knows them. He knows your name, not just the names of the stars.

  • He knows your name.
  • He knows your situation.
  • He knows your worries.
  • He knows your concerns.
  • He’s God. He’s able to handle it.

So in verse 27, we read:

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”?

The Children of Israel were in exile when this was coming true, and they thought that God had forgotten them, that He was unaware of what they were going through. So they spoke against God. They complained.

That word, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and why do you speak, O Israel,” in some of your translations is, “Why do you complain?” It’s a tense that suggests they don’t just do this one time, but it’s persistent, ongoing action. This is a pattern they have developed in their lives of worrying, of being anxious, about being concerned that God doesn’t know what’s going on.

It’s a pattern in their choice. They feel abandoned. They feel as if somehow God has forgotten them or God has failed to do what is right, and they say,

My way is hidden from the LORD [God doesn’t know. He doesn’t see, or He’s left me alone to deal with this situation by myself], and my right is disregarded by my God (verse 27).

That word disregarded means to pass over or to pass by. It’s the picture of someone who walks right by you without even noticing that you’re there, oblivious to your need. It’s like being stranded on the freeway and having car after car after car go by and ignore you and ignore your problem.

That’s what Israel was saying about God. “God is just driving by. He’s not paying attention. He’s not stopping and doing anything about our issue—my way is hidden from the Lord, my right is disregarded by my God.”

So they complain. They speak against the Lord. They develop this pattern of anxiety.

I want to tell you ladies—and I know it out of my own life—if you don’t train yourself, discipline yourself to behold your God in the midst of your life circumstances, you will become a frustrated, resentful, fearful, demanding person. You’ll end up accusing God, bitter at God.

You say, “I’m not bitter at God.”

You’ll end up there if you don’t learn to behold your God in your life circumstances, and you’ll give the world a wrong impression of God. The world will look at your attitude or your response to your circumstances, and they will draw the conclusion that God, the God you say you worship, cannot be trusted.

I’ll tell you that’s what breaks my heart sometimes when I think about my own responses to pressure and to problems. I think it’s one thing for me not to trust God, but then for others to watch me being worried or anxious or fearful, and to realize that they might think less of God because of my response to pressure and problems.

Our job, John Wesley said, is to give the world a right impression of God. The way we respond to our circumstances, if we behold our God, not only will we be strengthened, but we’ll be a source of grace and strength and courage to others.

The problem with those Israelites in that day was that they had forgotten who God was. They’d forgotten what He was like. They needed to be reminded, and Isaiah is saying, “How could God forget you? He knows all the stars. He knows every time a common, worthless, ordinary sparrow dies. The hairs of your very head are all numbered. How could God forget?”

So he says in verse 28,

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

What is Isaiah saying to the Israelites, and what is God saying to us through this passage? “Learn to counsel your heart according to the truth. Remind yourself of what you know to be true.”

We need to remind each other of what we know to be true. That’s what Isaiah is saying to these people who say, “God has forgotten. God has disregarded my cause.”

Isaiah says, “Don’t you know? Remember. The Lord is the everlasting God. Go back to what you know to be true.”

Some of us have so much theology, but what good is it doing us in the course of every day life if we fret or we’re anxious? So what if we say we believe God is all-powerful and all-knowing and gracious and merciful, but we live as if there were no God? We’re practical atheists.

So the answer for most of us is not getting some new insight, some new key to life, but it’s exercising faith in what we already know.

And what do we know? “The Lord is the everlasting God.”

That means He has no beginning; He has no ending. He was here before you were; He was here before your problems were here; and He will outlast you and your problems. He’s the everlasting God.

I know I get a little intense when I’m talking about this, but the reason is I know I need to preach to my own heart. As I become fearful or anxious or worried, I need to go back to what I know is true.

He’s the everlasting God. He’s the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary.

What does that mean? There are no limits to His capacity for pressure.

  • God has no limitations.
  • God has no weaknesses.
  • God never gets depleted.
  • God never gets fatigued.
  • God never gets drained.
  • Nothing ever strains or stresses Him.
  • God has a limitless supply and store of power.

Now, keep that in mind because we’re going to see the contrast here, the fact that we do faint and grow weary. Verse 29 says:

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (verse 29-31).

Now, we’ve seen that God never runs out of energy. He never faints. He never grows weary. We can’t even comprehend that with our human minds. I mean, I find I have to get a nap most every day just to make it through a long day. I get weary. I get faint. Physically, I give out, and you do, too. We need to get replenished, but God never needs to be replenished. He never runs out. He never gets depleted.

To the contrary, He gives power. He gives strength. He’s always pouring it out into His people. He’s a generous God, isn’t He? He gives strength to us, and when He gives out strength, He’s not any weaker for it. We give out. You give out to your children or to your husband or at work; you come home at the end of a long day, you’re exhausted. You’ve given out. But when God gives out, He’s not diminished in the least.

“He gives power to the faint. He gives strength to those who have no might.” What is that strength He gives? What is that power? It’s the supernatural life of Christ who lives in us. He is our strength. He is our life. It’s Christ alive and at work in me. That’s what gives us the power and the strength.

We read about this in 2 Corinthians chapter 12 where God said to the apostle Paul who was plagued with a physical or human weakness or limitation. God said to Paul when Paul said, “Could You please remove this thorn from me?”

God said, “I won’t remove the thorn, but I tell you what I will do: I’ll give you My grace."

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore [Paul says] I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses (verse 9).

Boast of your weaknesses, Paul? Make a big deal about your limitations? "Yes." Why?

Because then the power of Christ rests upon me (verse 9).

Ladies, you’ll never know the power of God until you’ve come to the end of your own resources.

Moms—some of you have a lot of children, some of you are homeschooling your children, some of you have a job that’s very demanding, you have things that take a lot out of your life, some of you are caring for elderly parents. You’re physically drained, physically depleted; you’re exhausted at times, but you’ll never know the power of Christ in its fullness in your life until you have come to the end of your own strength.

Sometimes I get in the middle of a ministry experience, a Revive Our Hearts conference over a weekend, and I’m speaking and giving out and counseling. Sometimes in the middle of a recording session I think, “I can’t go any longer. I can’t go any further.” That’s one of the most important points I can come to, to recognize that, because then I cry out to God, and I say, “Lord, I am weak, but You are strong. Would You be strong in me? Would You give me Your strength for my weakness?”

That’s exactly what God does. He says we are weak, even youths and young men . . . Some of us who are not so youthful or young anymore, we’re feeling our physical limitations, and we look at these young people, and we think, “How do they do it?” These little kids, they can run and run and run. They wear us out. We think, “How do they have all that energy?” God says they have a limit to their energy. They crash into bed at night, exhausted. Listen, the strongest of men or youths are weak and frail and limited.

Olympic athletes wear out at some point, but compare the Ancient of Days. He never gets weary. He never gets weak. He never runs out of steam.

So what are we to do? Verse 31, Isaiah says, “They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength.”

Waiting for the Lord—that’s not a passive waiting like I’m waiting for summer to come, or you’re waiting for your kids to grow up. That’s an active waiting. The word means "to adhere," "to tarry," "to long for God." It’s the thought you read about in Psalm 130: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits for the Lord more than the watchman for the morning” (verses 5-6).

Some of you have worked those late night hours, or you’ve been up with a sick child during the night hours, and you think, “Oh, I wish morning would come. I wish it were morning,” and you just try to prop your eyes open—you’re waiting for morning.

That’s how our souls need to wait for the Lord—longingly, expectantly, clinging to Him. Psalm 37, verse 7: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”

What’s the opposite of that? Relying on ourselves—self-sufficient. “I can handle this; just pull myself up by my own book straps. I can do it; just kick it into high gear.”

Listen, you’re going to run out of steam. You’re going to run out of energy. That’s where you need to learn to wait on the Lord. It means to put all your confidence in Him, to hope in Him, to trust in Him.

What happens when you wait for the Lord? You’ll renew your strength. He’ll give you strength for your trials. He’ll give you strength for your weariness. He’ll give you strength for your weakness.

That word renew doesn’t mean like He just pumps up your adrenalin so you can keep going. It’s a powerful word that means "to exchange." He gives you His strength in exchange for your weakness. It’s not that all of a sudden you become strong. It’s that God becomes strong in you. He gives you His strength.

It’s like taking off an old outfit and putting on a new one, not just giving you a second wind, but giving you His strength for your weakness.

And what will happen when you wait on the Lord, and He renews your strength? You will mount up.

That word is "to ascend," "to rise." It’s sometimes used of going from one elevation to a higher one. Mounting up with wings like eagles—the picture here is of being able to soar above the storms.

Eagles are actually carried to higher plains by storms, higher elevations. The stronger the wind, the more fierceful the storm, the eagles let that storm come under their wings, and they let it raise them up to a higher elevation. You see a lot of birds that fly by flapping their wings. Eagles don’t flap their wings. They soar above the storms.

What a picture of what our lives are when we’re trusting in Christ and His strength. We’re allowed to soar above those storms. It doesn’t mean we don’t experience storms, the disappointments, the trials, the heartaches, the hurts, the long hard days that seem like they’ll never be over. You mothers know that just day-to-day life can be a storm. The eagles let those storms cause them to rise up higher, above the storms. By God’s grace and the power of His Spirit in us, He will cause us to soar above the storms.

It’s one thing to soar above the storms. It’s another thing to keep going through the course of tough every day life. Isaiah has a word for that, too.

He says, “If you wait on the Lord, He’ll renew your strength. You’ll mount up; you’ll soar with wings like eagles, but you’ll be able to keep running and not be weary. You’ll be able to walk and not faint” (see verse 31).

It takes strength to plod, strength to be faithful, strength to keep going day after day, doing the same thing, fulfilling your responsibilities in your home, in your work place, in your church, to keep going when you’re discouraged, to keep going when it seems like nobody appreciates what you do, to keep going when you say, “I just don’t have any strength left to be the caregiver for this person in my family.”

Scripture says God will give you strength. It’s supernatural. He will give you His supernatural strength to rise up above that storm, to keep running, to keep walking without fainting or growing weary.

I love that gospel song that to me pictures this life of an eagle rising above the storms, letting the storms take us to new heights and new planes. The songwriter says:

I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
"Lord, plant my feet on higher ground."

My heart has no desire to stay,
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;

Though some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim is higher ground.

I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.

I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till heaven I’ve found,
"Lord, lead me on to higher ground."

Lord, lift me up [Lift me up on eagle's wings],
And let me stand
By faith on heaven’s table land; 
A higher plane than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.1

Isn’t that what you want, to be able to ascend above the pettiness of every day life, above your flesh, above the things that pull you down, above those storms that threaten your life? You want to rise up with the wings of an eagle? You want to go to higher elevations, closer to the heart of God? You want to run and not be weary? You want to walk and not faint? Go to Isaiah 40.

Learn to wait on the Lord, and in the midst of every storm, every circumstance, every trial of life, no matter how great it may seem, learn to behold your God.

  • Fix your eyes on Him.
  • Set your faith in Him.
  • Set your heart on Him.
  • Place your faith in Him.
  • Rest in Him.
  • Wait patiently for Him.
  • Make Him your preoccupation.
  • Make Him your focus.
  • Dwell on His name.
  • Dwell on His character.
  • Dwell on His power.
  • Dwell on His greatness.

Get God’s perspective on life here on this fallen earth. Realize He’s the Creator. He’s the Everlasting God. He never gets weary. He never gets tired, and as you behold your God and wait on Him, He will strengthen you.

I’ve seen it happen over and over and over again in my own life. Many times when I felt I did not have another ounce of strength to go on, I cried out to the Lord: “I can’t do this.” And God said, “Let Me give you My strength.” As I wait on the Lord, as I behold Him, He becomes my life. He becomes my strength. Supernaturally I’m given the power to rise up, to mount up with wings as an eagle, to run and not be weary, to walk and not faint.

Behold your God. Wait for the Lord. You’ll never be disappointed.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been pointing us to solid hope in the greatness of God.

Isn’t it comforting to know the God who never gets stressed or tired?

That message wraps up the series, Behold Your God. The entire series is powerful. It will put your fears and problems in perspective. If you missed any of the teaching days this week, you can hear them at ReviveOurHearts.com. You can listen online or read the transcript. When you order the series on CD, you’ll hear longer versions of Nancy’s teaching segments. Again, all those resources are at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, the apostle Peter told us to add to our faith. On Monday, Nancy will explain what we’re supposed to add. Have a happy New Year’s Day, and then join us again for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture was taken from the English Standard Version.

1 "Higher Ground." Johnson Oatman, Jr.

 

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