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The Nearness of God!

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By David Wilkerson
November 11, 1996

I want to share with you two verses from Helen Spurrell's original Hebrew text:

"When designing pursuers approached me, who are far from thy law; then Thou, O Jehovah, wast near, with all thy faithful commandments..." (Psalm 119:150-151).

There is a glorious truth in this passage that can change your life, bringing you peace and giving you rest beyond anything you have yet experienced. You see, once you understand the truth of God's constant nearness to you -- that he loves you and is continually near you -- all fear and anxiety must go!

In this text, David sees the wicked coming closer and closer in an attempt to ruin and destroy him. He is saying, "Vile, corrupt, plotting sinners are gaining on me. They're all around me, and their power is mounting. They are bent on my total destruction!"

We all have such an enemy -- the enemy of our souls, the devil. And he has always had one purpose in mind: to destroy God's work, and to seduce and discourage His people. Indeed, Satan uses all of his power and craftiness to cut Christians off from the favor and presence of the Lord. And that is exactly what he is trying to do right now in your life -- attempting to discourage you, seduce you, wipe you out!

"...Come, and let us cut them off ...that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance" (Psalm 83:4).

The principalities and powers of darkness are always at work, designing and plotting our ruin. They're saying, "Let's destroy God's people. We'll make them no more than a passing memory!"

The Edomites came to destroy Jerusalem with the war cry, "...Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof" (Psalm 137:7).

They were saying, "Cut the city down to its foundation. Level it, wipe it out -- take it down to the very ground!"

Likewise today, Satan will not be satisfied until he sees the total ruin and downfall of every godly ministry, church and true lover of Jesus. The devil is not merely some cosmic jester or jokester, plotting and playing tricks on us just to make things difficult for us. His demonic spirits are not just imps who go around making life miserable.

No -- Satan's purpose is much more serious than that! He is bent on the total destruction of the church of Jesus Christ. His one goal is to raze us, cut us down and leave nothing more than a memory.

The devil was boldly blatant in this purpose even with Jesus. He tempted the son of God outright, urging him to turn against his own father and set up an earthly kingdom. What a liar -- what horrible thinking to take such boldly wicked steps! Yet Satan will try everything in his power to destroy all that is righteous and holy. And he never stops; he is always pursuing. There is always a design out of hell!

You simply cannot ignore such a devil. Yet, please understand: I am not in any way glorifying Satan. Legally, he has been stripped of all his power. He can't damn anyone to hell by crossing the blood line that Jesus draws. But the fact remains, the devil has a hellish design for all Christians -- and he is at work in this world implementing it. If you don't believe that, you're already in trouble!

The Devil Is Encouraged by All His Past Victories!

In New York City, you can find the ruins of many ministries that started out with God's power and blessing. Satan has cut them down, leveling them to their very foundation!

Consider Columbia University, founded as a college to train godly ministers. I have a book of sermons by the school's first president -- and it is full of Christ-centered preaching! The founders were holy men, full of Christ, burdened for a lost world. And they had a ministry that was blessed. Powerful holiness preaching poured from the school's pulpit.

Today, Columbia is the devil's playground, a hotbed of humanism and decadence. God is but a distant memory on campus. The ruin of that institution has gone down to its very foundation!

The same is true of Harvard, Yale and other universities nationwide. They were founded by men of God as training institutes for ministers of the gospel. Those schools once enjoyed great revivals -- but now humanism is in full control. They have become darkened, idolatrous institutions.

New York City also once had many on-fire churches and powerfully effective ministries to the poor and downcast. But many of these have been brought down by Satan's designs and devices:

The devil has succeeded in bringing these once-godly works to ruin, right down to their foundations. And he is out to bring you to ruin as well! You may even feel the designing pursuers of Psalm 119:150 approaching you right now -- determined to cut you off and make your present walk with the Lord a mere memory.

Not long ago, I was on the corner of 49th Street and 8th Avenue, buying a newspaper, when two drug addicts walked up and said, "Hi, pastor!" They both were stoned.

One of them put his arm around me, and I recognized him. I said, "Hey, you were at Timothy House, weren't you?" He answered, "Yes, for six months. But one day a friend and I walked out. My friend got busted yesterday. He may get five years."

Then he turned and introduced me to the man with him. The man was president of the Suicide motorcycle gang in Brooklyn. This killer gang has been in the newspapers for its exploits. And now its leader said to me, "Mr. Wilkerson, I know you. My dad's a pentecostal preacher."

The man from Timothy House began to cry. He fell against me and said, "I love you." Suddenly, I felt the great love of Jesus flow through me for these two men. And I said, "I love you too." The crying man said, "Pastor David, the devil's trying to kill me. He's trying to destroy me!"

I told him, "You can pray with me right now. But if you don't want to do that, you know you can always go just down the street to our Upper Room, and they'll pray with you. You know where it is."

Suddenly, the gang leader -- the preacher's son -- began backing away. He said, "Hey, man, I'm out of here!"

This man had demon powers all over him. I could sense it, and he knew it as well. Yet even as he tried to flee from God's presence, I felt Jesus reaching out to him with His awesome love.

Right now I'd like to ask you: How is it that Jesus can show such love to those who shoot drugs and commit crimes, and yet you can say to yourself, "God couldn't possibly love me because I've failed Him!"

You bet God loves you! If His river of love flowed through me for these two men, how much more does it flow toward you? How is it that you can offer grace to a world dying in its sin, and yet not offer it to yourself?

There Are Times It Appears as If
the Devil Is on the Verge of Gaining Victory!

The devil succeeded in binding the apostle Paul with chains and taking him to Rome to be murdered. But God intervened and delivered Paul! Satan also stirred up some Jews from Antioch, who railed against the apostle. They stoned him and then dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead.

Can you imagine the multitudes of demons looking on from the spirit-world -- laughing gleefully, counting the great preacher's last breaths, waiting to attend his funeral? Can you see Satan himself boasting, "We have cut him down, razed him to the ground, ruined him! Paul and his preaching soon will be just a memory. We have destroyed the gospel. The greatest enemy to us on the earth has been brought down!"

"Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he [Paul] rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe" (Acts 15:20).

Paul was raised up immediately. And he marched right back into the city, his head held high. Can you imagine what those demons must have thought? They probably fled in all directions!

Paul explained why God permits the devil to try us so severely: "But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead" (2 Corinthians 1:9).

I believe Satan's most powerful weapon against God's people is temptation and lust that leads to sin. His purpose is to engulf believers in guilt, fear and condemnation -- to make them discouraged and downcast. And the more they love Jesus, the hotter and heavier their temptation will be!

Perhaps you think the reason you are tempted so heavily is because you have an evil spirit. But when you love Jesus -- when he is the savior of your heart and Lord of your will -- you are a marked person in hell. And Satan will try to cut you down to the ground!

You may be saying, "Brother Dave, I can feel those designing pursuers you're talking about. They're closing in on me. And Satan is wanting to ruin me, to cut me off from Jesus. He has put me in a lion's den -- a fiery furnace of temptation!"

David said, "...If it had not been the Lord who was on our side ...then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us" (Psalm 124:2-3).

Let me warn you, especially if you are a new follower of Jesus Christ: It doesn't matter how holy, pure or spotless you feel, or how secure you think you are. You are not above being tempted! If you think you are untouchable, then watch out, lest you fall into great temptation and sin.

Like Paul, I have no confidence in the flesh. Some of the godliest people I've known have failed God miserably. And I think of the awful temptation and failure of David, a man after God's heart.

David was sorely tempted, fell into adultery, lied and murdered an innocent man. I'm sure that when the prophet Nathan exposed him, Satan was convinced David was down for the count. He expected this man to throw up his hands and say, "What's the use? I have disgraced God! I have sinned against the light, committed the very sins I've preached against. God can never use me now. My heart is too black. I've been overpowered by sin!"

Yet how wrong Satan was! Listen to David's cries after he repented: "The Lord hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death"(Psalm 118:18). David said, "I was tempted and tried -- but God would not turn me over to Satan's power!"

Dear saint, if the devil comes at you with powerful temptations, it is not always because your heart is wicked. He could be attacking you because you have turned to the Lord! He's bringing fiery trials of lust and temptation against you to try to destroy your faith.

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you" (1 Peter 4:12).

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).

There is nothing strange at all about what is happening to you. Yet you may be discouraged because the enemy has come against you like a flood. The attack could be through temptation, lust, marriage problems, a financial crisis. And you may be saying to yourself, "Here I am trying to serve the Lord, doing my best to love him and be faithful to him. But things just keep getting worse. Is there something wrong with me? Why can't I get out of this hole? Why do my problems keep piling up?"

I urge you to look to your right, to your left, in front of you, behind you: Everybody is going through something! Behind the smiles of your dear brothers and sisters in Christ are many tears. They are hurting with trials you know nothing about. No, you are not alone in your suffering -- and your trial is not some strange, unusual circumstance. What you are going through is common to multitudes!

Now, let me give you the good part of this message. Here is the glorious news:

The Devil Is Not as Anxious to Destroy You
as God Is to Deliver You!

God is more prepared to keep his promises to you than the devil is to ruin you. Indeed, the nearer the enemy comes to you, the Lord is all the nearer!

"When designing pursuers approached me, who are far from thy law; then Thou, O Jehovah, wast near, with all thy faithful commandments..."(Psalm 119:150-151, Spurrell). David said, in other words, "God, if my enemies are drawing so near to destroy me, You must be all the nearer in my time of need!"

The Hebrew word for near in this verse connotes "defense." It means, in essence, "I am near you to defend you." God says he is especially near to defend the downcast and brokenhearted:

Are you a child of God? Does the Lord Jesus live in you? God says he is near to you in your anguish! Here is his promise to you:

"...I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

"For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour... Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life. Fear not: for I am with thee..." (Isaiah 43:1-5).

David saw God as holding him " my right hand" (Psalm 73:23). He said, "God not only is near me, but he is walking with me, hand in hand, through this whole mess. Let all my enemies come after me. I've got my hand in the father's!"

Moreover, David said God talked to him, giving him counsel and guidance: "Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel..." (verse 24).

Many dear Christians tell me true stories of incredible hardships -- problems that keep piling up, discouragements that keep coming at them. Humanly speaking, they all seem to be impossible situations. And my heart goes out to every believer who experiences such trials.

But every Christian has to be convinced that he or she is precious, loved -- and that God is near! In fact, the nearer the enemy comes, the more faithful God is to reveal his nearness -- and the more tightly he will hold his precious child's hand!

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). The root word for trouble here is "a tight place." Are you in a tight place? Read God's promise to get you out of that tight place:

"Blessed be the Lord: for he hath shewed me his marvelous kindness in a strong city. For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: neverthless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee. O love the Lord, all ye his saints: for the Lord preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer.

"Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord" (verses 19-24).

If You Can Believe That God Is Near You,
You Must Believe He Will Act for You!

Do you think the Lord is going to sit by passively and let the devil do to you what he pleases? If God didn't act on your behalf when you needed him, He would be nothing more than the false god Baal!

Elijah had a showdown with the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel, where an altar was built. The test was: "The God who answers prayer today will be God!" Elijah prayed that fire would fall down supernaturally on the sacrifice he laid on the altar. And that is exactly what happened.

But before that, the prophets of Baal danced from morning till noon, crying, begging, pleading with their god to answer. "...But there was no voice, nor any that answered..." (1 Kings 18:26).

Elijah mocked those false prophets: "...Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked" (verse 27). Elijah was saying, "Where is your god? Is he on vacation? Is he sleeping? He must be out walking somewhere."

We would have to make the same mockery of God if he did not answer when we cry! You see, his honor is at stake when we pray -- and he will not be mocked for not answering! The Bible says of him: "He will not suffer thy foot to be moved...he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep" (Psalm 121:3-4). Our God is awake at all times. And he is attentive to our every need!

In closing, I have a word from the Lord for many who read this message: There is a powerful promise in God's word that you must lay hold of right now. I believe that if you act on this promise from him, you'll witness a great, new kind of victory in your life.

The promise is: "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you...." (James 4:8). But now you must read the rest of the verse: "...Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded" (same verse).

This is a great promise of victory over all sin. Yet you cannot produce this victory yourself. You can't cleanse your own hands or purify your own heart. No -- James is saying, "If you want clean hands and a pure heart -- if you want victory over guilt, temptation and every evil pursuer coming against you -- you must draw near to God and believe he is near you!"

It all hinges on the nearness of God! Simply draw near to him. Believe he is near you. And he will take care of all the enemies in your flesh!

You may ask, "But how do I draw near to God?" The answer is a very simple, childlike thing: Simply go to the Lord and talk to him -- anytime, anywhere, all day long. In the shower, on the way to work, on the job, everywhere -- talk to him, drawing near in full assurance of faith.

Years ago I worked with the late Kathryn Kuhlman. That dear woman of God used to work seventeen hours a day. I often wondered, "When does she ever have time to shut herself into her secret closet and pray?"

Then I realized -- she always seemed to be muttering to herself. She was praying! She prayed as she drove her car, as she rode in elevators. Everywhere she went, she always talked to the Lord.

One day she told me, "David, the Bible says to pray without ceasing. I talk to the Lord all day. He's just as real to me as you are. I don't have to run somewhere to try to get in tune with him, because we talk all the time. We're friends."

And, dear saint, God is always there for you as well! I believe in secret-closet praying. But your secret closet can be on the subway, in your car -- anywhere you shut yourself in with Him.

Here is what God promises you, if you will practice drawing near to him all day long:

"Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.

"But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice. Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him" (Psalm 68:1-4).

Talk to God -- practice his nearness -- and he will do all these things for you! He will scatter your enemies. He will drive away all demonic pursuers. And you will know the grip of his hand at all times. Hallelujah!

Used with permission granted by World Challenge, P. O. Box 260, Lindale, TX 75771, USA.

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