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Where Are You, O Lord?

• Jim Beilby

Jim Beilby seeks to answer the question of where God is in the midst of the realities of our day-to-day struggles. This sermon addresses the apparent hiddenness of God when we are not experiencing his personal presence.

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Jim Beilby seeks to answer the question of where God is in the midst of the realities of our day-to-day struggles. This sermon addresses the apparent hiddenness of God when we are not experiencing his personal presence.

Jim begins with two stories. The first is of Nate, a young man who has a scientific mind, and is not able to believe the existence of God with the lack of substantial facts to back up God’s presence. The second story is about Christa, a woman who grew up in a conservative version of the faith, but eventually walked away from it because she could never live up to the prescribed ways that the tradition said that she must experience God’s presence. These stories illustrate a common experience of why some walk away from any hope of encountering God at all.

If God loves all people in the greatest way possible, then why does he not make his existence and presence more obvious to people like Nate and Christa? There are two broad answers to this question. The first answer says that God’s existence is obvious, and that this is not a real problem in the first place. This argument is based in Romans 1:18-20. The premise of this argument is that God has made his presence clear in creation and if you don’t see this reality, then the problem is with you. Jim argues that the most we can conclude from creation is that there is a creator, but it does not automatically lead us to see that God is desirous of a loving relationship with us. Even more, he says, to blame a person for not seeing God’s presence is horrifyingly problematic. While personal sin can block us from seeing the presence of God, there is also the pervasive experience of being sinned against. Such experiences create walls between people and God, at no fault of their own. The evil that they experience at the hands of others acts as a barrier to God’s presence.

The second approach is to acknowledge the reality of God’s hiddenness and to explain what is going on. We assume that God could make himself more obvious so that we might give mental ascent to his existence, but God is not merely interested in whether or not we believe the right things. God wants us to live in loving relationship with him and to embrace his ways of life. This is not a matter of believing the right facts about the divine reality.

In this light of this, Jim offers four observations from his own struggles with the experience of God’s hiddenness. First, he states that we must let go of unreasonable expectations. There is no one-size-fits-all way of connecting with God. Each of us must find ways of relating to God and allowing God’s love to pour over us. There are not formulas because God wants a relationship with us.

Secondly, we must acknowledge that personal sin can hinder our ability to encounter God’s presence. This is obvious in one way, but there is another aspect that we often fail to see. The feelings of guilt and self-berating thoughts add additional barriers to God’s presence. While we might think that they are appropriate feelings to have in our relationship with God, they can actually push us away.

Third, it is important not to rely on logical arguments as the foundation to our relationship with God. Logic plays an important role, but God invites us into communion, not into logical exposition.

Finally, the way through the hiddenness of God is to focus on Jesus, the center of our faith and the one who reaches out to us with the love of God.

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Topics: Prayer, Presence of God, Problem of Evil

Sermon Series: Unraveling Truth

Downloads & Resources

Audio File
Study guide
Group Study Guide
The MuseCast: June 27

Focus Scripture:

  • Psalm 10:1

    Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

  • Psalm 13:1

    How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

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2 thoughts on “Where Are You, O Lord?

  1. Darin says:

    At time stamp 52:26, Brother Jim mentions the ESV mistranslation for the word stumble. Looking at other translations, only the MEV comes close to describing, “to cause someone to fall away from the faith”, with the word mislead.

    Can anyone confirm Brother Jim’s interpretation of Mat 18:6. Specifically for the use of sin vs stumble vs mislead vs “fall away from the faith”?

    Thanks much.

    1. Emily says:

      Hi Darin,
      This is a reply from Jim, hope it helps!
      According to Strong’s Concordance, the Greek word skandalizo (Strongs # 4624) means “to hinder right conduct, to cause to stumble.” The basic meaning is clear. But the interpretive question is what is the word being used to indicate in this verse? Specifically, what is the conduct that is being hindered? And what is the nature of the “stumble.” ESV sees it as “sin.” But the extremity of the language (i.e., “better to die a horrible death than…”) suggests that the stumbling is a loss of faith, not merely an instance of sin. No where else in Scripture is such language used for sin. — Jim B.
      —Emily from Communications

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