Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Good News Is Better than Wishful Thinking

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss asks: “Do you ever find yourself thinking this way?”

 

Nancy Leigh DeMoss:

  • “Why am I experiencing this endless financial stress?”
  • “Why can’t my husband get a job?”
  • “Why are my kids turning out this way, and why are they estranged?”
  • “Why do we have this affliction?”
  • “If God is great, why do people seem so much more powerful sometimes?”

What does Isaiah say? “Behold your God. Lift up your eyes. Look at Him. Turn your eyes upon Jesus.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, December 30.

Over the last year and a half, good news has been a rare commodity. The solution to bad news isn’t just wishful thinking. It’s authentic good news based on reality.

That’s what Nancy has for you, continuing in the series, Behold Your God.

Nancy: If you were to ask me to say in one phrase, "What is the mission of Revive Our Hearts, and, Nancy, what is the mission of your life?" I think one way of saying it would be to proclaim the gospel, to proclaim the gospel.

What is the gospel? It means good news—the good news of Jesus Christ and His plan of salvation.

We are looking at Isaiah chapter 40 today, and we have here a reference to the gospel, to the good news. Our calling as God’s people is to proclaim the gospel, to proclaim the good news.

We’re picking up today in Isaiah chapter 40, verse 9. If you’ve not been with us, let me tell you that I’ve been encouraging our listeners to be reading Isaiah chapter 40 each day through this series. As you do, I think it will give you a whole new view of God, a whole new view of yourself, and a whole new view of your circumstances and of God’s plan for you in the midst of those circumstances.

Now, remember that Isaiah is talking to people who will be going into captivity under the Babylonian empire. Because of their sins, they’re going to be chastened. They’re going to experience affliction, but he’s telling them there’s going to be an end to the affliction, and God will bring comfort to you once you’ve been through that process.

So in verse 9 he says to his people who are discouraged; they’ve been hearing a lot of bad news: The Assyrians are on the march, the Babylonians are coming. He says to them:

Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, "Behold your God!"

There’s good news!

Now Isaiah is talking to people who haven’t heard good news in a while. They’re discouraged; they’re disheartened; they’re in despair. He’s saying, “People of God—Jerusalem, Zion—you have a message to proclaim, and it’s a message of good news.”

I want to say that you and I have a message for those who are in despair, those who are discouraged, those who are defeated. We have good news for our world. We have good news for the people of God. We have good news—the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we’re told to proclaim it.

"Zion and Jerusalem, get up on a high mountain, lift up your voice to people who live in dark circumstances, in affliction, in desperation, and proclaim this message with confidence! Proclaim it with assurance! Proclaim it boldly!”

We have a message for people in difficult times. This herald of good news is used twice in this verse. The herald refers to a messenger, someone who comes bringing good news to a desperate situation to people who live in troubled times.

As you look around today, we have so many people who are depressed; they are discouraged. They’re having to live on medications. They are hopeless. Especially during holiday seasons, you’ll find people who’ve experienced a great loss through the course of the year, and they’re discouraged. They need hope. They need good news. They need somewhere to look for hope and encouragement.

In the immediate context, again, in which Isaiah is writing, the good news is that God’s people are going to be liberated from captivity under the Babylonians. If you had lived 70 years under the Babylonians, the news that the end of that captivity was coming would be good news. That would be something worth shouting about.

Now in the broader context, as we read this passage and apply it to our own situation, we are the people of Zion, the people of God, with the message of liberation from captivity. That is good news. It’s the gospel that Jesus has come to set His people free from their sin. What’s our message? Three words: Behold your God.

Don’t look at the Babylonians. Don’t look at all their military might. Behold your God. Look at Him. He has seemed to be absent from your circumstances. A whole generation or two went through this captivity. Where was God? It looked like He wasn’t there. It looked like He didn’t care. It looked like the Babylonians were a lot more powerful than God.

“If God’s so great, what are we doing in captivity of the Babylonians?”

Isn’t it true in many of our circumstances that we start to feel:

  • “If God’s so powerful, why am I stuck in this seemingly impossible situation?”
  • “Why am I experiencing this affliction?”
  • “Why am I experiencing this endless financial stress?”
  • “Why can’t my husband get a job?”
  • “Why are my kids turning out this way, and why are they estranged?”
  • “Why do we have this affliction?”
  • “If God is great, why do people seem so much more powerful sometimes?”

What does Isaiah say? In the last paragraph we saw that man at his best is fleeting; he’s fading. He’s here today, and he’s gone tomorrow. He’s like the flower of the field. It’s beautiful while it lasts, but it doesn’t last long.

But by comparison, God is great. “Behold your God. Lift up your eyes. Look at Him.”

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and His grace.

Look to Him.

I love that quote by G. Campbell Morgan who was a great Bible teacher in the last generation. He said,

The supreme need in every hour of difficulty and distress is for a fresh vision of God. Seeing Him, all else takes on proper perspective and proportion.

That’s the message of Isaiah 40. The supreme need in your life in every hour of difficulty and distress is for a fresh vision of God. “Behold your God.”

Once you can see Him in His greatness, His power, His wisdom, His strength (and we’ll expand on those things as we go further into Isaiah 40) but as you see God, everything else in your life will take on proper proportion and perspective in light of who God is. That’s your greatest need.

It’s not to get rid of the people in your life who are causing you trouble. It’s to see God. Look at God, and the other things, the other people in your life will seem not so significant.

“Get your eyes off your problems.” That’s what Isaiah is saying to these people.

Niecie Grissom is a woman who was about my age. She was a precious friend for many years. She’s now with the Lord. She died of Lou Gehrig's Disease. She was a woman who, by her own testimony, tended to be a fearful woman. She naturally gravitated toward fear. I think some people tend to be like that.

But one of the things I so appreciated about Niecie, even though she naturally gravitated toward fear, was that she disciplined her mind to dwell on God. She disciplined her thinking to behold her God.

Now it was interesting, God gave Niecie during her short life a lot of ministry to other women. Women were just drawn to Niecie. They would want her to disciple them. She did a lot of one-on-one discipleship. She would disciple women who were in all kinds of life seasons, had all kinds of different issues. Women would come to her for counsel, for encouragement, for prayer.

One of the things that she often did with women was to get them into a particular Bible study, a little workbook called, Behold Your God. It’s by Myrna Alexander. It’s still in print. She would get women into this study. No matter what their issue was, she would say, “You need a fresh vision of God. You need to see God for who He is.”

She’d get their eyes off their circumstances and on to God, and she was so wise in this. It helped her own fears even as she faced dying. She was losing the use of her limbs. She was losing lung capacity.

I was with her just weeks before she went to be with the Lord. She was facing death and facing this horrible, debilitating, killing disease that she had in her body, facing the possibility of not being able to breath. Imagine a woman who was already kind of fearful going through this. But she kept beholding her God. She kept looking at the Lord, and the Lord put her feet on solid ground. He made her a strong and courageous and bold woman because she kept looking at Him.

I don’t know what your problem is. I don’t know what your issue is. I don’t know what makes you fearful. In the rest of the book of Isaiah, there are going to be a lot of references to fear. Over and over again the prophet will say, “Don’t fear. Don’t fear. Don’t fear.” What’s the antidote to fear? “Behold your God.”

What’s the antidote to your problems?

  • It’s not focusing on your problems.
  • It’s not focusing on that person who’s hard to live with.
  • It’s not focusing on that sinful addiction.
  • It's not focusing on that eating disorder.
  • It's not focusing on that financial issue.
  • It's not focusing on that uncertain future.

Those problems are very real. I’m not saying they don’t exist. I’m saying if you focus on those problems, you’ll be overcome by those problems. But if you focus on your God, you will be an overcomer in the midst of those problems.

When you’re defeated, when you’re discouraged, when you’re distressed, what do you do? Behold your God.

I want to tell you, ladies, that is the ultimate cure for every issue in your life and mine. Get a fresh vision of God. Get your eyes off yourself. Get your eyes off your circumstances. Behold your God.

It won’t make your circumstances go away. I’m not promising you that, but I am promising that:

  • You will see your circumstances through different eyes.
  • You will have hope.
  • You will have encouragement.
  • You will have grace.
  • You will have peace as you behold your God.

So we come to verse 10 in Isaiah chapter 40, what are we to behold about our God? This is good news, and we’re to counsel our hearts and encourage our hearts with this good news. We’re to tell ourselves this good news. We’re to tell others this good news.

When you have a friend who’s discouraged, you need to counsel her: Behold your God.

When I’m discouraged, I need to counsel myself, and I need other believers to come around me and say, “Behold your God.” Now, what are we going to behold about God? Well, verse 10,

Behold, the Lord God comes with might; and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and will gently lead those that are with young (verses 10-11).

I love these two verses next to each other because it gives us two very different perceptions of God—two very different angles, if you will, from which we can behold our God. Let’s look at them in order.

First, verse 10: “Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him.”

This is a description of the power of God. Yes, the Assyrians are powerful. Yes, the Babylonians are powerful. Yes, your circumstances, negative as they are, may be powerful, but who is more powerful? The Lord is! The Lord comes with might, and His arm rules for Him.

It’s interesting to me that it says, “The Lord God comes.”

That says to me that He is active. He is engaged in your situation. He’s aware of what’s going on. He’s involved with you. You don’t have to figure out how to solve these problems on your own. The Lord is coming to your rescue. He’s coming to help you. He’s coming in might and in power, and He is in control. His arm rules for Him.

I was meditating on this passage the other day, and have been memorizing it. “His arm rules for Him.” I thought, “Nancy, that means you don’t have to rule for yourself. You don’t need your own arm to rule in this situation.”

We were dealing with a situation in our ministry where we really needed God to intervene, and I found myself consistently wanting to take matters into my own hands. “How can I fix this?” I mean, flurries of emails and ideas and strategies—it was an organizational issue. How can we solve this?

God just reminded me as I was meditating on this passage, “His arm rules for Him. He doesn’t need my arm to figure this out. He doesn’t need me to rule, to manipulate, to change, to fix this situation.”

Aren’t we women kind of born fixers? We want to rule. We want to change that husband. We want to change that boss. We want to change that situation. We want to fix it.

The challenge to my heart was: Let God rule. Let Him be God. Let Him handle this.

Now that doesn’t mean we just go to sleep and say, “We wake up, and God will take care of it all.”

There are things God is asking us to do, and we need to do what He asks us to do, but who’s the ruler? Who’s in charge? It’s God. “The Lord God comes with might.”

Now again, we’ve said that Isaiah is seeing several things here under the inspiration of Scripture. He’s seeing the time when God would come with might to deliver His people out of the Babylonian captivity.

But I think there’s also a reference here to the Second Coming of Christ, when the Lord Jesus will come on that great white horse. He will defeat all His enemies. He will come as a conquering king to reign and to rule.

We need to keep that in mind as we live life here on this earth in the nitty-gritty of every day problem-filled life on this fallen planet. There’s an end to this. “He will come with might, and His arm will rule for Him.”

He’s going to right all wrongs. He’s going to clean up this messed-up world. Get your eyes off your little piece of this story, lift them up and see the end of the story. It helps if you know how it’s going to end, and we do know how it’s going to end. We know that evil will not prevail, that the kings and rulers of this world—some of them as evil as they are—they will not have the final word. God will have the final word. He is the powerful, sovereign ruler. He is omnipotent. He comes with might.

Now, notice that word might. If you’re reading (as I’ve been encouraging you to do each day) through Isaiah 40 as we’re teaching this, circle the words might and power and strength wherever they appear in this chapter. It’s a thread. God is the one who has all power. God is the one who has all might. Seven times, I think it is, from here to the end of the chapter you’ll read those words.

So when you feel weak, when you feel like the powers around you, the powers of darkness, are strong, remember who is stronger. “He comes with might; His arm rules for Him.”

And He’s just. This God that we’re beholding, He’s just. He’s righteous. “Behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him” (verse 10).

That says He’s going to reward those who do righteously. He’s going to reward the godly. Don’t become weary in well doing. In due season, you will reap if you don’t get weary and give up. His reward will be with Him. We serve the Lord Christ. He’s the one who rewards us.

Listen, your family may never reward you for all the ways you serve them. Your behind-the-scenes serving of your family, the behind-the-scenes work that you do in your work place, the ways you serve in your church, you may never get your name on a billboard or a national radio program, or you may never have lights around your name, but God is bringing His reward with Him.

Your work will be rewarded, and “His recompense is before him.” That’s talking about retribution. He will give evil doers what they deserve. He will come; He will punish evil doers. All wrongs will be righted.

So in verse 10 we see the mighty, powerful, ruling, sovereign God. “Behold your God.”

Now we get a different image of God in verse 11. It’s the other side of that coin. It’s the compassionate, tender Savior Shepherd God.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.

So first we had the reigning, ruling, conquering king who comes with power. Now what do we have? A tender shepherd. “He tends for His flock”—a personal God, a God who knows my needs. He knows me. He knows my circumstances, and He cares. He is a God who is personally and individually involved in my life; a great God who cares for me. Oh how that thought brings comfort and encouragement to my heart. God cares. He knows.

Do you see the reference to God’s arm, both in verse 10 and in verse 11? What is His arm doing in verse 10? His arm is ruling for Him. What is His arm doing in verse 11? He’s gathering the lambs with tender arms.

As I thought about that, the fact that the same arm that rules for Him now gathers the lambs, I thought about the President of the United States. You’ve seen him, perhaps, use his hand to sign a major piece of legislation into law. That’s his arm that rules for him, his arm of authority, his arm of power. It’s a powerful signature. But then you’ve seen, perhaps, our president put his arm around his wife, a tender arm of compassion, personal care.

The same one who rules tenderly gathers us. When we are weak, when we are needy, He gathers us in His arms. He carries us in His arms when we can’t walk ourselves. He gently leads those who are with young, those who need to be cared for in a particular or personal way. He’s that tender, caring Shepherd.

I love that song; I’ve sung it many times over the years:

Savior, like a shepherd lead us;
Much we need Thy tender care.
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us;
For Thy use Thy folds prepare.

Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.

We are Thine, do Thou befriend us;
Be the guardian of our way.
Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us;
Seek us when we go astray.

Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Hear, Oh hear us when we pray.1

So as we behold our God in our life circumstances, we lift our eyes up to one who is powerful. He’s the King; He’s the Ruler; He’s the Sovereign; He’s the powerful God. We also lift our eyes up and behold a God who is a tender, compassionate, caring Shepherd. He will carry you in His arms through whatever your life circumstance may be this day and any day for the rest of your life.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been pointing us to a verse in Isaiah that tells us “Behold, your God.” It’s a powerful command, and I appreciate the way Nancy has been bringing it to life.

At Revive Our Hearts, we have to live out the message that Nancy was just delivering. We know how weak we are and how much we need God’s direction and provision. It’s true for the coming year as we prayerfully make some big plans. Here’s Nancy to explain.

Nancy: As 2009 comes to a close and we look ahead to 2010, one of the things I’m most excited about is what God is doing in what we have begun to call “The True Woman Movement.”

This is a movement in the hearts and homes of Christian women who say, “I want to be God’s true woman, and I want Him to use my life to further His kingdom purposes in my world.”

That movement includes women like Clarabelle from Puerto Rico. She discovered the books and resources that Revive Our Hearts has to offer, and she wrote and told us: “I am really blessed with Revive Our Hearts especially because it brought me to the True Woman Movement.”

Clarabelle has been sharing materials from Revive Our Hearts in her community, and she’s been writing about biblical womanhood on her Spanish language blog. She listens to Revive Our Hearts on a radio station in Puerto Rico, and she says, “I am fascinated with the True Woman Movement.”

You can help us connect with more women like Clarabelle in the year ahead. In fact, we’re asking God to raise up 100,000 hungry-hearted women who want to be a part of this True Woman Movement; women who have a passion for God’s purpose and His calling in their lives; women who are living out the Word of God and sharing His Truth with their friends. That’s what the True Woman Movement looks like.

When we launched the first national True Woman Conference just a little over a year ago, it took a substantial financial commitment, but we’ve watched God multiply that effort around the globe. Because we’ve been hearing from so many women who have been eager to get this material, we’ve once again moved forward in faith by scheduling three True Woman Conferences in 2010.

We need your help, not only to make those conferences possible, but also to support the many other daily outreaches of Revive Our Hearts.

Almost half of the donations that we receive throughout the entire year arrive in the month of December, and a high percentage of that comes in the final days of the month. I’m so thankful for the many listeners who’ve already sent a gift this month. We’re praying that as this week comes to a close, the Lord will prompt many other hearts to join in giving to meet those needs.

Would you just take a moment and stop and ask the Lord if He would want you to send a gift to help move us forward into 2010?

Leslie: Here’s how to reach us: Just call 1-800-569-5959 and make your donation by phone, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com to donate on line.

What is the biggest problem facing you right now? To God, that issue is no problem at all. Find comfort in the God who can solve anything, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

1 "Saviour, Like a Shepherd Lead Us." Dorothy Thrupp.

 

 

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