— Brother Phil Enlow: Well, praise the Lord. I appreciate the Lord’s presence. The thoughts that I’ve had this morning, almost, in the natural, I would have said, well, Lord, here we go again, same ole, same ole. But I don’t believe that’s the case. I believe the Lord has exactly — what’s on His heart is what He knows we need, and certainly there’s been a lot of confirmation with the songs that we’ve sung this morning.
And I guess if I had to characterize the thought that came to me the other day, and I haven’t been able to shake it so I’m just gonna go with it, is very simply this, “When Faith Is All You Have.”
You know, a lot of times the Gospel is preached in such a way that it’s almost like, come to Jesus and your life will be filled with joy and happiness and peace and, it’s just gonna be like sunshine and roses the whole way. And yet those of us who’ve come to the Lord and walked with Him any length of time know it’s not that way.
Thank God, there are times like that when we do experience His joy in this world. But the reality is, there are many, many times in the life of God’s children when He calls upon us to walk by faith. And truly, what Paul says, “…we walk by faith, not by sight.” (KJV). Right?
( congregational response ).
I mean, that’s the reality of it. That’s the principle—that’s the governing principle of the Christian life. It’s not a confidence — it’s where we throw off all confidence in ourselves. I can’t make myself righteous. I can’t fix what’s wrong with me. I cast myself completely upon Him. My hope is transferred from anything in me to Him. And that’s faith and only God gives the ability to do that.
But the reality is, more than we would like to admit, we lean on other things. We want confirmation, don’t we? Do I really have faith? What’s — you know — and so, we’re all the time looking for God to pat us on the back and put His arm around us and say, it’s gonna be okay, and I’m really here, I didn’t lie to you when I said I was gonna be with you. But, psychologically we lean on those things.
And God, like I say, is not that way. I remember — some of you will remember many times, or a number of times, Brother Thomas telling the story, and I honestly don’t know if this was a dream, vision or somebody made up a story to illustrate this. But as I recall the story, some of you can correct me if I’m wrong, there was a man who was observing a scene in which three people were on their knees praying.
And Jesus came up behind the first one and leaned down and just got down on His knees beside him, put His arm around him, was just constantly whispering in his ear and just really spending a lot of time, giving him a lot of attention. And so, finally that ended and Jesus got up and He went to the second one, just laid His hand on his shoulder and went on. The third one He just walked right on by.
And of course, in the estimation of the observer of this scene, boy, he thought the first one was — that was the guy that really had the goods. This is the one who’s really got some standing with God. The Lord is pleased with him. He’s just strong and a wonderful, and it was just the other way around. The one who needed this continual reassurance in some fashion was the one who was weak in their faith. And the one who didn’t need Jesus to do anything, to be able to stand fast and be who he was meant to be. and to constantly put his faith in God, that was the one Jesus didn’t even have to give him that assurance. And, you know, the scripture says, the scripture we’ve used many times, “…without faith…”
( congregational response ).
“…Impossible to please him…he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
So, if God is going to work in His children, He is going to have to work in a way that brings us to a place where we truly are living by faith and not by something else. I mean, you can live by tradition, you can live by rules, you can live by self-effort and a lot of things, emotional feedback. And, if God’s going to grow us up in Him, He’s gonna have to take us beyond that.
But I mean, we have but to look at the scriptures to know that some of God’s choicest saints — I say some, how about all — of God’s champions of the faith, every single one of them was put in many places where they didn’t have anything to go on. Every natural consideration was taken away. Now, it isn’t always that way where it’s so dire. Robert, it’s not about you.
( laughter ).
But it — where the situation is not so extreme where there is nothing! I mean, I personally think of situations where my health was okay, the bills were paid and there’s still something that was really causing me to have to — wait a minute, I don’t have any feedback here. My feelings are dead. If I pray, it just doesn’t feel like anything’s going beyond the ceiling. I just come, and I go through the motions and it just doesn’t — where’s God in all of this? What’s going on?
I mean, I know — I see a lot of heads shaking. I know you know what I’m talking about. And it’s not that, oh, God, I’m about to declare bankruptcy and my health — I’m dying! It’s not — it could be in any area of our life.
But I’ll tell you, we serve a God who knows the path that we take, like Job said: “…He knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
You know, I thought about a scripture that we use many times and I’ll refer to — well, let’s go ahead and read this one in Psalm 13. This wasn’t exactly the text I had in mind, but I didn’t have a particular text anyway, so this will work. But I’ll just use the first part of it right now.
But this is David. This is a man after God’s own heart. This is somebody God singled out and said, you are My king, I have anointed you and I am with you, and you are going to rule My people Israel. Okay, he’s a young man at this point, probably late teens, I’m guessing. I don’t know the exact chronology of this but, he was not a boy. He was a young man.
But he was thirty years old when he came to the throne and then he had a lot of battles. So, between the call and the position that God had for him, there was a lot he had to go through. And one would suppose, by the way some people preach it, that you get on ‘Sunshine Mountain’ and then you just climb and it just gets better and better and more and more exhilarating!
And a lot of people’s religion consists of trying to work up emotions. That is, it’s at least a big part of it. As long as I can work up an emotion and feel good, then I’m good. If my emotions collapse, then “Oh, God, where is God?” as though, that’s the measure.
How do we — you know, we have our own ways of measuring our standing before God and it just doesn’t work! And if that’s the situation we’re in, God is going to put us in a place where that ain’t gonna work. And He’s just gonna stay back. And that’s what happened here, when David, a man after God’s own heart said, “How long, O Lord?” (NIV). How long? “Will you forget me forever?” Now, did the Lord forget him?
( congregation inaudible ).
But David sure felt like that, didn’t he? As far as he was concerned, he was abandoned! Something is wrong! God has gone and left me and I’m in a dire situation and I just can’t — I can’t cope and when I pray about it, He doesn’t hear me! What’s going on? I know nobody here has ever experienced that, right?
“How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have…” Every day! “…Have sorrow in my heart?”
You know, we don’t have a push-button religion. God absolutely doesn’t give us formulas for feeling good! Oh, we would like them! That’s the natural man wants to feel comfort in circumstances and emotions and all of those kinds of things. We want to, we want to have a sense of earthly well-being. And here’s God, setting out to rescue us from a nature that is absolutely addicted to that. It’s addicted to it! Folks, you and I are addicted to feeling good and wanting feedback.
( congregational amens ).
How is God going to deal with that and how is He gonna grow us up and get us to the point where we walk by faith and not by sight if He doesn’t put us in places where we have nothing that we can grab a hold of? And now we’re — faith is all we have. Is that a bad thing? Of course not.
“How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” I mean, that’s the sense that he had. I’m running for my life here! It looks like I’ve lost the — I’m not just losing, I’ve ‘lost’ the battle. Oh, God! And You won’t answer me. I don’t get this! I don’t understand it.
And so, David’s just pouring out his heart. “Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, I have overcome him, and my foes will rejoice when I fall.”
Thank God, the rest of this really goes into the answer to this! It shows where David really was. And I’m not gonna deal with that right now, but this is just one of many illustrations in the scriptures that shows that this is not, this is not unusual!
If you’re in a place like that, God doesn’t want you to look and say, what’s going on? I don’t get this. God’s singling me out! Because when we’re in that place, of course we question, of course we wonder, of course we say, oh God, is there a need? Well, there’s nothing wrong with asking Him. But it’s like I’ve said in the past, sometimes we get the feeling that God is so mad at me, He will not even tell me what’s wrong!
( laughter ).
You know, we come up with all kinds of crazy ideas in the face of these kinds of situations. It tends to bring out a lot that’s in us, doesn’t it? And so, one of the dangers at these times is the Devil will do everything in his power to sow something of his wisdom in our hearts. Our hearts are like soil, remember? That’s how we got — came to the Lord in the first place. He sowed the seed of His Word, Word that had life in it. And we open our hearts to that, invite Him to come in and do the work that He has promised. And that seed grows into something, into Eternal life, is what it grows into!
But I’ll tell you, the Devil can plant all kinds of weeds in our lives if we’re not careful! And, you know, weeds of bitterness! My circumstances — God’s not being fair. And how easy it is to project onto God when we’re not doing good and something — He’s not doing things quite right.
You know, Job kind of went through that. In a way — he was so — anyway, I’ll just summarize what he went through. But, the Devil challenged God about Job and so the Lord allowed Job to experience what he did. The terrible loss of his family, his possessions, and, he had no help from anybody around him. His wife said, curse God and die. You’re a fool.
And his friends got their theology books out. They gave out the theological tradition in which they had been raised. Now, this was in the post-flood era. And so, all they knew is, God blesses the righteous and He punishes the wicked! We know it! We had that terrible flood and so many of our ancestors, they’re gone because God judges the wicked! So, if you have suffered adversity and catastrophe, there is only one possible explanation! You have committed a wickedness and God is punishing you! And they went on and on and on and on and on and nothing could dissuade them from that position.
But you know, we struggle to explain things, don’t we? In our own way, we do the same thing. We come up with, everything I know about God tells me it should be this way but it’s this way. Something’s wrong! And Job was so insistent that he hadn’t done anything, that he almost came to the point where, God, I really don’t know about You! I’m walking in everything I’ve ever heard and I’ve tried to serve you the best I know, and I just don’t get this! Is there something about you I don’t know?
And, you know, I see the Lord’s goodness and mercy in that whole story. I guess everybody does. It’s kind of obvious. But, here is Job, who had a degree of knowledge about God. The Devil is given permission to put him in a horrible, terrible trial where nothing seems to work, nothing makes any sense at all. What is he gonna do? And all he can do is just try to wrestle with it like David did. I’m wrestling with what’s happening. I don’t understand it.
And so, he comes to the point, almost, where he’s beginning in his mind, a little bit, I just don’t know if God’s really treating me right.
But you know, there’s an interesting little comment he made that gives me a clue of what God was trying to accomplish in this. He said, “…the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me.” (KJV). Do you catch from that a little bit of what was behind his serving God? He had such a vivid appreciation, if you will, for the flood and what God had done to punish the wicked, that man, he wasn’t going anywhere near doing wrong. If my family’s having a party, I’m gonna offer a sacrifice. Maybe they sinned.
There’s this fearful — I just see God as this awesome being and if He’s ready to strike me down if I don’t do right. Is that the kind of service that God desires from us? No! It isn’t at all. And I believe with all my heart that God wanted Job to come into a deeper place of knowledge of Him and His goodness and His mercy.
And so, at the end, I believe Job came into a much better place. We know he does, that’s what the scripture says. When God turned this all around and met him and expressed to him the greatness of His understanding — God’s saying, I’ve got something that I’m trying to accomplish here. I know you don’t understand it, but I do. I’ve got this! I know exactly what I’m doing. I know why I’m doing it. And so, Job not only met the Lord in a deep way, he came to a place where he was blessed more than he was in the beginning!
It isn’t that God wants to withhold blessings, even earthly ones, but God is most concerned with my faith, my relationship to Him. That’s the thing! It’s not about this world! It’s about the one to come. It’s about what He’s doing. Everything about me, everything I see, is gonna be gone. Everything that is real, that He has put in here, that’s what will live on. And I’ll tell you, I need something beyond what I have in my own understanding. He needs to take me deeper. Anybody here needs to be taken deeper?
( congregational response ).
Yeah! Do we want to go to a higher place? Folks, this is the way! A lot of people will say, come down and get an experience and you’ll instantly be elevated to another place and then you will just go — it’s just sailing to Heaven, in the glory and the euphoria of this relationship.
Well, thank God, that He can do those kinds of things when it’s appropriate. But I’ll tell you, the things that deepen us in the Lord are like David experienced right here. When He pulls back everything and He allows us to experience this sense of, where is God? everything is gone to Hell in a handbasket, and I can’t seem to reach Him and it doesn’t feel like He cares! I’ll tell you, we’re gonna discover things about ourselves in those times.
You know, I talked about how Satan would sow seeds of bitterness. Why is it this way? Why is somebody else being blessed and I am not? So you see these negative feelings, this accusing God of not treating us right, or being jealous of somebody else, or just, all kinds of negative things can come into your heart and into your life that just amount to rebellion, really. And unbelief, if we really step back and take a look at it.
And I’ll tell you, the Devil is gonna be faithful. I know that many here can testify. You’ve been in dark places. And how did it cause you to look at God? How did it cause you to look at yourself? Did it affect how you looked at things?
( congregation inaudible ).
Yeah, sure it does. He’s gonna take you down a dark place of depression if you let him. You’ll just — or he’ll take you to a place of unbelief. Maybe I don’t even know God. If I knew God — if everything was right, according to my concept of things, it wouldn’t be like this! I wouldn’t feel like this!
And yet, every saint of God, in the scriptures, went through dark times like that! How do you think Jesus felt when He went into the wilderness? Do you think He went out there to have a euphoric time of alone-time with God? Scripture says He went out there, “…to be tempted by the devil.” (NIV).
And everything — I guess He drank water, but that was it. He was there with the wild beasts and the Devil. And the Devil did everything possible to cause Him to question, to bring Him down, to bring Him, cause Him to be separated and to attack His faith!
Do you think Jesus had emotions? Do you think He felt like His Father was close? I mean, we know on the Cross He said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is part of serving God, is having times when we feel alone and forsaken. We ‘feel’ alone and forsaken. That’s the thing.
I’ll tell you, I want to, I want to have something, and I want to be brought to the place where I can be like the third man who was praying, where it doesn’t matter what happens. If God wants me to go through a time like that, it’s not gonna change one iota what I do or how I feel about God. You think that’s what God wants from every one of us?
I’ll tell you, there are gonna be times. You think about Joseph in the scriptures. All the promises that he had, and everything from that point on went south, didn’t it? Did he have reason to feel like God’s promises have failed? God has abandoned me. He has allowed my own brothers to sell me as a slave into Egypt! And there I just did the best I could, and my reward was to be lied about and thrown into prison, where they put me in irons!
Now Job didn’t exactly have anything but — Joseph didn’t have anything but faith to go on, did he? And I’ll tell you, what a lesson there is for you and for me in the fact that he did not change what he did or how he did it! He continued to just put one foot in front of another and continue to maintain his integrity, his honor.
But here was a — one of the main characters in the Old Testament story about how God began to build His people and get them ready to be a nation. And God put him through hell, as far as the earthly circumstances were concerned. Do you think God had a purpose in it?
You know, if you’re in the middle of that, you’re thinking, what in the world is going on? What kind of a fool am I to put my faith in God and then this happens?
How many of you know that a lot of the atheists, who are really militant atheists in the world, are atheists because they went through something and instead of humbling themselves, they immediately attacked the very idea of God? If there was a God, He wouldn’t have let something like that — or if there is a God, He’s evil!
But I’ll tell you, we’re not gonna, absolutely, we’re not gonna come into the Kingdom of God without having a faith that’s tried.
( congregational amens ).
We’re gonna have to stand when nothing else makes sense! Certainly, we gave the example last week of Abraham. And we read the story of Abraham like it’s just a few pages. It’s just all strung together and it just flows, it makes sense. But how many years were there? How many years were there when nothing was happening? He wasn’t hearing visions and God wasn’t coming to him in any manifest way. He was just putting one foot in front of another and nothing was happening.
And the scripture even tells us, as we mention so often, it was against hope that he hoped, that he believed, he continued to stand fast. That’s what God is looking for from every one of us. But I’ll tell you, if you’re in that kind of a place today, you better be thankful to God. God is bringing you to a deeper place.