1 August 1999

26And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: 28For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Acts 17:26-28 Our text is taken from Paul's sermon on Mar's hill to the idolaters at Athens. Not only were they idolaters, they were also deists. A deist is one who believes that God is up in the heaven somewhere, doing something, but has nothing to do with the earth or its inhabitants. He watches all events from a distance. But Paul declared God to be everywhere present and nowhere absent. By His majestic power and wisdom He created the whole universe. But by His tender mercies He lovingly watches over the objects of His grace. David, and countless others, have found Him to be a very present help in time of trouble because "he be not far from every one of us." There is nothing more comforting to a child than to know that the father is near. When the darkness of the night hovers around our cots the father's voice will drive away every fear. This was my place of refuge when I was young and the closet monsters hunted my soul. I would slip through the darkness and find my comforts in my father's big arms. But as we grow older, we too, become fathers of little ones and our place of refuge must be a higher source. In every distress there is nothing more comforting than to know that our heavenly Father is "not far from every one of us". It is easy for us to see Him and acknowledge His divine presence when a special token of divine favor has been handed down to us. And it is easy for us to forget all about Him in the day of prosperity, in the brightness of morning. But we must we see Him as well, when our faith is tried and the closet monsters hunt our souls; when friends can not comfort us; when we feel to be a sparrow alone upon the house top; the pelican in the wilderness; or the owl in the desert. He is not far. When Shimei cursed David, and threw stones his way, David could have said, "I deserve all of this and God has forsaken me." He could have commanded his valiant warrior to bring him the man's head. But in his affliction, David saw the hand of God and said to Abishai, and to all his servants, "let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him. It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day"- 2 Samuel 16:11-12. Instead of becoming bitter, David became better. I believe it was from this very experience that David penned his 39th Psalm. One of the verses reads, "I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it"- Psalm 39:9. In this psalm, David teaches us to take our afflictions without murmuring; to see God's hand in them; and to ask, "What might I learn from this experience." What a comfort we may find in every distress when we acknowledge that our Father knows all about our circumstance. He knows, and He could have done something about it. He was present. He could have changed every event. But He allowed it to happen. Perhaps to wake a sleeping soul; to remind us of our frailty; to bring us to the place that we will call upon Him effectually and fervently. Whatever His reason may be, let us remember that He is not far from every one of us. Consider Joseph. Hated by his brothers; sold by them into slavery; unfaithfully approached by his master's wife; and thrown into prison for his chastity. Yet, in all of his calamities we read that "God was with Joseph". Surely, He is with us today! Joseph could have become bitter towards his brothers; toward Potiphar and his wife; toward the butler in prison; towards life itself. Few of us have had a childhood with so many disappointments. But Joseph, too, became a better person from it all. What was Joseph's secret? He saw God, every moment, every breath and in every place. In the pit, in the prison, and in his temptation, Joseph believed that God was not far from him. As we view all of creation, it could be easy for us to become deists like those at Athens. As we view the teeming millions of Adam's race we might feel to be just a drop in the ocean of a long forgotten humanity; that God is up there some where and could not and does not have much to do with our personal affairs. That is just what the devil wants us to think. We have put a limitation on God. We must do as Paul preached, we must "feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us." Lord, we acknowledge thy divine presence! Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church, at Donaldson, where God is sovereign, and salvation is by His abundant and amazing grace. Services begin at 10:30 each Sunday morning. By His mercy and grace, Neil Phelan, Jr., Pastor