"I Am Not Alone."

John 16:32

Many years ago Art Linkletter was perhaps best known for the TV program in which he conducted
candid interviews with sometimes, outspoken children.
From that show he put together a best-selling book entitled, "Kids Say The Darndest Things."
They certainly do, and sometimes they say wiser things than we give them credit for.

A little boy asked his mother, "Where was I born?"
She replied, "In Arizona."
Then the little boy asked his mother, "Mom, where were you born?"
She answered, "Indiana."

The little boy thought for a while, and then inquired, "Well, where was Daddy born?"
She answered, "In Texas."

After a time of silence the boy exclaimed, "Well, isn't it good that we could all get together?"

Yes, it is good that we can get together as families, as friends, and as a church.
But it is more than "good" – it is essential.
God created us as social creatures.
We were created to thrive on companionship.
Our sense of identity is intertwined with our relationships.
We cannot "do it alone," and at the same time have a fullness of life that God intends for us.

After the Last Supper, and before Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane,He declared,
"Behold, the hour… is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own,
and shall leave me alone; and yet, I am not alone, because the Father is with me
."

Actually, none of us is ever totally alone because we cannot escape the presence of God.
The psalmist weighed this profound concept as we see in Psalm 139:8-10:
"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 thy hand, and thy right hand shall hold me
."

The psalmist understood that there was no way to elude the presence of God.
The prophet Jonah learned that the hard way.
He tried to run from God and from God's call.
Yet he found that even in a great fish's stomach, down in the depths of the sea, God was there.
Nowhere on earth or in the sea could he (or anyone else) successfully flee from the ever-present God.

Although we are never really alone, we all feel lonely at times.
Loneliness burns and stings most painfully when it is associated with the feeling of forsaken.

We have all felt like this at one time or another.
Although we are painfully aware that some people are apt to let us down,
it hurts nonetheless when it happens.
We are living in a "throw-away" society.

Even our "heroes" are often found to have feet of clay.
We learn that a prominent professional athlete is put on probation because of drug abuse
or for driving while intoxicated.
Or, we hear of a religious leader who has been involved in a notorious scandal.
Perhaps a "friend" lets us down by violating a confidence.
A parent or child can deeply disappoint us.

Such betrayals have a devastating emotional, mental, and spiritual impact on our lives.
Worst of all, there may be times when it seems as if God Himself has forsaken us.

During those dark times (hopefully, infrequently), the Bible will seem as dull as dust.
When we try to pray, the heavens will seem closed and gloomy.
In times of worship, we may be bored into a stupor or else constantly distracted
until all worship seems futile and meaningless.

During those dreary periods, if we attempt to discover God in the beauty of creation,
the world will only seem to snarl at us.
Other people will tend to confuse us, and circumstances will almost crush us.

Yet, even as we experience "the dark night of the soul," we must cling to this never-changing truth:
God is still there!
In fact, He also is still here!
We cannot elude His presence.

As one well known saying tells us, "He has not moved, although maybe we have."

If you climb into your car, turn on a local radio station, then drive many miles away from town,
the sound will grow fainter and fainter after a while.
The signal becomes weaker and weaker until we lose it entirely.
But that station is still broadcasting as strongly as ever.
So, what has happened?
We have merely removed ourselves from its outreach signals.

If we feel forsaken by God, it is usually because sin has blocked our sensitivity to His presence.
Sin always distances us from the presence of God.
God is still there, but spiritually we have moved away from Him, and are no longer fully aware
of His presence in our lives.

The Jews, as a people, have experienced this feeling of forsakenness.
When they were carried into captivity by the Babylonians,
they believed that God had turned His back on them.
But the prophets had preached that the fault was theirs, not God's.
For instance, hear Isaiah in 59:1-2: "Behold the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save;
neither is his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
But your iniquities have separated between you and your God,
and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear."

Sin may temporarily disrupt our feeling of God's presence, but the fact remains that He is present.
Jesus testified, "I am not alone."
Therefore, we are never alone when we are in Christ.
God is always with us.

The Bible puts this truth insistently, persistently, and consistently.
Let's look at three consoling concepts that we need to have in our thoughts.

First, God's presence gives us comfort.
Second, God's presence gives us courage.
Third, God's presence gives us conquest.

The Lord is always with us, as He promised:
"… And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world…" (Matthew 28:20)

Paul reminded us that God cannot be separated from us and vice versa:
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers,
nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord
." (Romans 8:38-39)

The author of Hebrews reiterated and underscored that promise in Hebrews 13:5:
"For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."

God's Presence Give Us Comfort.

Exodus 33:14 tells us that God revealed a mighty promise concerning His presence,
namely, that it brings comfort:
"And he [the Lord] said, my presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest."

Comfort and Reaffirmation

After the Israelites had sinned in worshiping the golden calf, Moses prayed.
And God answered with this promise of encouragement and comfort, thus affirming His care,
His presence, and His provision.
Again and again, God restated His covenant commandments to His people.
Why did He do this?
He did so because He recognized their propensity to doubt and fear.

One rather callous husband flippantly remarked during a marriage-enrichment retreat,
"Why does my wife think I should keep telling her that I love her?
I told her one time.
Wasn't that enough
?"

Of course not!
God continues to remind His beloved ones, "I love you.
Because of that you can count on me.
I will be with you, never to let you down
."

The Godhead recognizes the absolute necessity of our being comforted.
The Holy Spirit is divinely appointed as Comforter, Paraclete.
The equivalent word in the Old Testament means "one who reinforces or strengthens."

Paraclete, often translated as comforter or helper, means "one called to plead another's case or cause."
(An advocate or defense attorney) or "one called alongside."

John's Gospel records Jesus' promises that comfort with reaffirmation is one
of the major ministries of the Holy Spirit.
For in John 14:16-18 we read, "And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Comforter,
that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive,
because it seeth him not, neither believeth him: but ye know him;
for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you, I will not leave you comfortless;
I will come to you
."

John 14:26 says, "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost whom the Father will send in my name,
he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you
."

John 15:26 says, "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father
even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me
."

The indwelling Holy Spirit gives comfort, along with reaffirmation of God's presence in truth.

Comfort and Reinforcement

Oh, that we had a sanforized faith.
For years, the term, sanforized, on garments label meant: "This will not shrink."
We should pray, in the lyrics of that old hymn, "Oh, for a faith that will not shrink!"

But our faith does waver occasionally.
We sometimes feel spiritually sapped and weak and may even wonder if we have an ounce of faith left.

Edgar Page Stites mirrored our sometimes-diminished faith.
"Simply trusting every day,
Trusting thru a narrow way;
Even when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate'er befall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all."

Even when our faith is small, it is still there, and the Holy Spirit reinforces us
when we begin to faint and falter.

Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans about the dynamic of living in the Spirit:
"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you…
And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin;
but the Spirit is life because of righteousness…
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God
." (Romans 8:9-10, 14)

The Comforter, then, not only convicts (reproves) the world of sin, righteousness and judgment;
and not only regenerates the repentant sinner; not only lives inside the believer – but also comforts us
by reinforcing his witness within.
In other words, "the Spirit itself beareth witnesses with our spirit, that we are the children of God."
(Romans 8:16)

What else is the Spirit do, according to Paul?
"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought:
but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered…
he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God
." (Romans 8:26-27)

It is no wonder that Jesus called the Holy Spirit "the Comforter."
He is ever-present with the Christian – reinforcing and reaffirming.

Comfort and Restoration

God's comforting presence is also a source of restoration.
No matter how severely we believers may have sinned, God is always ready to mend
our broken relationships with Him.
After King David had sinned grievously against God and man, he cried,
"Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit." (Psalm 51:12)

In this penitential Psalm, David poured out his heart and repentance and confession:
"Have mercy upon me, O God." (Verse 1)
"Blot out my transgressions." (Verse 1)
"Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity." (Verse 2)
"Cleanse me from my sin." (Verse 2)
"I acknowledge my transgressions." (Verse 3)
"My sin is ever before me." (Verse 3)
"Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." (Verse 4)
"Purge me with hyssop." (Verse 7)
"Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." (Verse 7)

And David continued to pray with deep contrition, beseeching God to "hide thy face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities
." (Verse 9)
And to "create in me a clean heart… and renew a right spirit within me." (Verse 10)
Even then he was not through with his pleas.

But God forgave David, and God restored him.

No genuine Christian is going to delight in sinning.
Misery accompanies the sins of any believer in Jesus Christ.
Yet Isaiah the prophet recorded this breathtaking promise from the Lord:
"As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you…" (Isaiah 66:13)

Paul introduced his second Epistle to the Corinthians with words that should strike a responsive chord,
calling God "The Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation."
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Also, we should remember this musical phrase from the Shepherd Psalm:
"He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. (Psalm 23:3)

God is in the ongoing business of comfort and restoration.

God's Presence Gives Us Courage.

Truly courageous men and women admit to being afraid, but they have learned to call forth reserves
of bravery and stamina when they are confronted with crises.
For example, a petite woman lifted the front end of a heavy four-door sedan off her son,
who would have died if she had not acted immediately.
When asked how she performed such a feat, and whether she was afraid, this petite mother replied,
"God gave me the strength; and I didn't have time to be afraid."

No Fear of Defeat

The Bible is replete with accounts of how God's presence strengthened His people by giving them courage.
Because He was with them, they did not fear defeat, even when facing seemingly,
insurmountable odds in combat.
For we read in Deuteronomy 20:1: "When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies…
be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt
."

Perhaps Franklin Delano Roosevelt's most famous quotation was, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

The fact is, the believer is not even to fear -- fear.
God has promised that victory is ultimately ours.
We may lose a few skirmishes here and there, but we will win the war.

Paul exclaimed, "But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
(1 Corinthians 15:57)
He also exalted, "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."
(Romans 8:37)

No Fear of Disaster

Every conscientious minister wishes he could make this promise:
"Come to Christ, and it will guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen to you."
Unfortunately, a few over-zealous pollyanna preachers do make that claim.

But the heroes of the Bible eloquently illustrate that calamities and disasters will come
to all the ranks of the righteous.
For example, remember Job and John the Beloved.
Tradition has it that all the apostles, except for John the Beloved, suffered martyrdom
for their faith in their Lord Jesus.
And John was exiled to the barren Isle of Patmos.
This sin-benighted world has always been a "vale of tears."

From his misery Job wailed, "Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward." (Job 5:7)

Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, erroneously taught,
"There is no sin, disease, sickness, or death."
Of course, she was subject to all of them, and she became sick and died like ever other mortal human being.

One prevailing cause of fear is dread, an undefined foreboding about the unknown – about the future,
about people who are "different," about science, and about knowledge.
We usually fear persons or things that we do not know about or understand,
and circumstances over which we have no control.

Jacob traveled to an unknown country, to unfamiliar people, and unaccustomed experiences.
On his first night away from home, Jacob was given a vision by the Lord,
and thereby assured of God's divine presence.
When Jacob arose the following morning, he walked into the future with courage, in God's will,
and eventually became the leader of the nation that would be named after the new name
that God would give Jacob – the name, "Israel." (See Genesis 28:10-22; 32:34-32)

Centuries later, Joshua was faced with an awesome task – of succeeding Moses.
As Joshua was about to lead the Israelites in the conquest of the Promise Land, God encouraged him:
"Have I not commanded thee?
Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest
."
(Joshua 1:9)

Belligerent heathen tribes awaited the Israelites in the Promised Land of Canaan.
Forty years before, Joshua and Caleb were the only two of ten Israelite spies who scouted out the land,
and reported that Canaan was theirs for the taking.

But the majority report was: "There are fierce giants in the land.
Peril lurks behind every stone and tree.
Disaster awaits us
."
They were partly right, but their cautious, "no," ignored the fact that the battle of the righteous is the Lord's.

During the throes of the Reformation in Germany, Martin Luther was continually encouraged
by a sensitive, awareness of God's presence.
Armed with the power of the Holy Spirit, Luther appeared before the Diet of Worms,
where church officials, some even threatening his life, demanded that he recant and withdraw his writings.

In defense of his position, Martin Luther courageously declared:
"… Unless I am convinced by Scripture or by right reason – for I trust neither in popes or in councils
since they have often erred and contradicted themselves – unless I am thus convinced,
I am bound by the texts of the Bible.

My conscience is captive to the Word of God.
I neither can nor will recant anything, since it is neither right nor safe to act against conscience.
Here I stand.
I can do no other.
God help me.
Amen
."

Luther's courage in the face of possible disaster changed the course of Western Civilization
and the history of Christendom.

Three of John Wesley's expressions are carved on his memorial in Westminster Abbey.
One is: "The world is my parish."
Another is: "God buries His workman, but continues His work."
The third is Wesley's affirmation from his death-bed.
"The best of all is God is with us."

No Fear of Death

Not even are we to have fear in the face of death, for here, also, God's presence gives us courage.
The Psalmist sang exuberantly:
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod, and thy staff they comfort me
." (Psalm 23:4)

Our own Lord Jesus called on all of the Father's assurance as He stared at the hideous reality
of betrayal, trial, and crucifixion, Strengthened by the presence of the Father He was able to comfort
the arresting soldiers with the courageous statement, "I am he!" (John 18:5)

On the cross His final cry was, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." (Luke 23:46)

If we are not to fear death, why did Jesus pray that he would not have to drink "this cup"?
"O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me," he prayed, "nevertheless not as I will,
but as thou wilt
." (Matthew 26:39)

And again: "O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done."
(Matthew 26:42)

Does this mean that Jesus was afraid?
Jesus recognized that He would have to taste death for the sins of every man, woman, and child
in the history of the human race.
Certain commentators have conjectured that it was Jesus' manhood that recoiled from the death of the cross.
More specifically, however, it would seem that His divinity shrank even from the idea of becoming sin,
dying on the cross that all the sins of the world would be laid on Him.

In Gethsemane, Jesus, no doubt, was considering the stark reality revealed by Paul:
"He [God, the heavenly Father] made him [God, the Son] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf,
that we might become the righteousness of God in Him
." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

And because Jesus was willing to die on our behalf, and then miraculously rose from the dead --
there is no longer fear of death.
Christ has drunk the cup, died the death, paid the price.
Because He conquered death and hell and sin, we no longer need to be afraid of them:
"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive…
For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death…
O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?…
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ
."
(1 Corinthians 15:20-22, 25-26, 55, 57)

In World War II, a young soldier lay wounded on the battlefield, and given up for dead.
He slipped into unconsciousness.
Later, as he awoke, a chaplain was bending over him, and the soldier reported
that he had been wounded on Good Friday.

The chaplain answered: "Do you realize how long you have been lying here?
Why, this is Easter morning
."

"That's great!" Replied the wounded soldier.
"For me, also, it is like a resurrection.
Out there on the field, I died a thousand deaths, but somehow I don't mind the crucifixion
when I am sure the resurrection
."

Charles Wesley sang ecstatically of why we no longer need to fear death.
"Love's redeeming work is done, "Alleluia"!
Fought the fight, the battle won, "Alleluia"!
Death in vain forbids Him rise,"Alleluia"!
Christ hath opened Paradise, "Alleluia"!

"I am not alone, "Jesus affirmed.
Because He lives, we live, and we are not alone.
He is with us now and forever.
As believers, we have inherited all of His promises.

God's presence gives us comfort, courage and conquest.
God has promised to be with us providing all that we need.
That is a fact – not merely a feeling.

I am not alone!

"I've seen the lightning flashing.
I've heard the thunder roll.
I've felt sin's breakers crashing,
Trying to conquer my soul.

I heard the voice of Jesus
Telling me still to fight on.
He promised never to leave me,
Never to leave me alone…

No, never alone,
No, never alone!

He promised never to leave me,
Never to leave me alone!"

Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White