Do you feel like your expectations of God doesn't match your experience of Him? This week, Kylen Perry walks us through Philippians 4:6-7 and the relationship between intimacy with God and prayer. Our prayer life will lead us to the peace of God that surpasses all understanding if we submit and confess our anxious thoughts to Him.
Porch, how are we doing? Are we doing good? Hey, it's Thanksgiving week. I don't know if you're out of work yet, but work is going to be coming to an end, which is nice for those of you who are gainfully employed. Hey, listen. My name is Kylen. I was here a little while ago. TA did a little bit of an intro for me.
Listen. I love Dallas, Texas, so much so that I married someone from here. I had to have a piece of this city with me every day of my life for the rest of my life. She's sitting right over here. Everybody say, "Hi, Brooke." She really is the best thing in my life. Get to know her whenever you get a chance.
I'm excited for tonight. It's crazy. I wasn't planning to say this, but just the way the evening has crafted together is so very clearly from the Lord. You'll have to take my word for it. There's a lot that has gone into preparing this talk and visiting with this team and getting ready for this night that God just affirmed for me individually. What I saw over the course of our worship set was this team lead in places that I hadn't previously informed them we would be going.
So, here's what I want you to know from the very beginning of the night. I want you to know the Lord is here tonight. I don't know if you intended to be here this evening or if someone kind of dragged you into it unknowingly or if you're here looking for that certain someone. I don't know what you may be here for, but I know God has brought you here for a very specific reason, and it's that he wants to meet with you. The presence of the living God is here at The Porch tonight.
With that said, I want to lead off with a question. I want you to ponder this to yourself, and then I'll share a story and show you where we're going. Is your experience of God as wonderful as you've heard him to be? That's rhetorical. Is your experience of God as wonderful as you've heard him to be?
A couple of years ago, my wife Brooke and I made a trip to Italy, and while we were in Italy we went to Rome. There are a bunch of different things you can do in Rome, so many different things you can fill up your itinerary with, but there was one nonnegotiable we had to do, one thing that I asserted myself and made sure we checked out, which was the Roman Colosseum. Has anybody in here seen the Roman Colosseum before? Show of hands. Yes.
I don't know if you know this, but the Roman Colosseum was recently listed on the New Seven Wonders of the World. It was voted on by millions of people all across the globe, and it came in second place. So I knew, "Man, we're going to be there, and I've got to see this thing for myself. I have heard the stories. I have read the books. I've seen Russell Crowe fight his way out of it and into his freedom through the movie Gladiator. We've got to go check it out."
But I didn't just want to visit the Colosseum; I wanted to experience the Colosseum. I wanted to maximize my enjoyment of it. So I knew, "I'm not just going to pick up a ticket and kind of meander my way through its hallways. No. I want a certified tour guide, someone who is so obsessed with this place they have committed their life to learning about it." So we did that. We found a young man from Italy named Vincenzo. He was not from Rome, but he had moved to Rome so he could specialize in its archaeology. He wanted to give his life to this place, which is exactly what I was looking for.
So, the day comes, and I am jazzed up. I am ready. We show up, and nothing goes the way we expected it to. It was supposed to be beautiful outside. It was forecasted to be a great day. Then we swing open the cab door, and it is pouring rain. We make our way over to our tour group. I thought we were going to be amongst a small group of specifically invested learners, but we were like a herd of cattle, shoulder to shoulder, clamoring amongst this giant amphitheater.
Not only were we just listed amongst a bunch of different people, but we were put in such a large group that I couldn't ask the questions I'd prepared. I came wanting to learn about this place. I couldn't get the insight from Vincenzo that I was paying good money for him to share with me. Then lastly, Vincenzo, this historian who was supposed to blow my mind, just spent a couple of hours talking about the various different kinds of marble you'll find throughout the Colosseo.
You see, I had such great expectations of what would happen at the Colosseum, but my experience was underwhelming. It's this wonder of the world, but it just left me wondering where the nearest gelato shop was. I share this with you for this reason. Did my individual experience of the Colosseum invalidate that the Colosseum deserves to be listed amongst the New Seven Wonders of the World? No. Of course not.
It is amazing, but despite the fact that I showed up and gave my best effort toward enjoying it for all that it was, I found it to be underwhelming. It wasn't wonderful to me, but that didn't mean it wasn't, in fact, as wonderful as the world, literally the globe, had deemed it to be identified as. In the same way, so many of us have failed to experience the one true wonder of the world, which is God, in a way that lives up to our expectations.
We even do everything we know we're supposed to. We show up to church. We read our Bible. We lift our hands during worship. We show up to Community Group. We engage in Bible study. We confess our sins. We do our best. We show up and give our utmost, yet we find that no matter how hard we try, it still feels underwhelming. Why is it so hard?
I have sat with so many young adults just like you who are wondering, "Kylen, I've done everything. I've tried to run all of the right plays, yet it's just underwhelming for me. God is not as wonderful as everybody claims him to be." So what's your experience of him? Is your experience of God as wonderful as you've heard him to be? If your answer to that question is "Honestly, no," then tonight is for you.
I want to answer why God is truly wonderful and how you can experience him for who he is. The way we'll do that as we get into a passage that the apostle Paul speaks from is we're going to see it's through what I would claim to be the most essential, the most fundamental aspect of the Christian life, which is prayer. You know, that thing you cursorily say you're going to do for people when you're not really sure how to help them out. "Man, that sounds super hard. I'll be praying for you." But then you may not, in fact, actually do so.
Or it's the thing you do whenever you show up with a group of friends and sit around a dinner table. "Hold on, guys. Before we eat, we need to do the right thing. We need to pray to God and bless the food, even though we don't know what, in fact, we're doing. How am I blessing this food? I don't know how to impart such powers to the bread on the table." Right?
Or it's the last-ditch Hail Mary pass we heave whenever we've walked out of that interview and we're not sure how they feel about us, or we sent that text message, and we see the dots, and we're not sure what they're going to say, if they're going to say anything. It's the thing we feel whenever we know, "Man, Thanksgiving is coming up, and I've got to see those people in my family." We pray, right?
You see, prayer is a frequented and familiar part of the human experience. Data from Pew Research Center shows that almost half of US adults, as broadly as we can describe it, say they pray daily despite the fact that we live in a post-Christian America. Gallup Research reveals that more Americans will pray in a given week than will exercise, drive a car, have sex, or go to work. Everybody prays…everybody…across religions, across the globe, no matter your socioeconomic status.
Every single person prays. It doesn't matter where you come from. It doesn't really matter what you believe…across religions. Even the staunchest atheist has lifted a half-hearted prayer in a moment of deep need and hurt. You see, under the hood of humanity is this instinctive inclination to pray whenever times get tough. This is true for everyone.
So, here is the question for you tonight…Why don't we enjoy it? If it's built into me, why don't I enjoy this? Why isn't it more life-giving? Well, I think a lot can be said about this, but we only have a little bit of time together, so I'm going to boil it down to one idea, and then we're going to work through that idea together.
I would say this is why we don't enjoy it. We do not enjoy prayer because we don't think it works. We're not convinced it works. We're convinced it's boring and obligatory and customary and even confusing, but we're not sure it's actually effective. It stands in contrast to other varying aspects of the Christian experience that are immediately gratifying.
Like, if you sit down in the morning and read your Bible, you may not enjoy the experience (I pray you do), but you may, in fact, learn something. There's an opportunity for you to walk away and be like, "Man! That's an idea I didn't have." There's an opportunity for gratification in that moment. When you fast, you walk away hungry. Your body lets you know, "This is working."
Whenever you show up to church and confess your sins to one another, there's a sense of relief that happens as you divulge the worst parts of yourself and find amongst the body of Christ people who look at you and say, "We love you and we're still for you." Prayer is different than all of these, because prayer is not immediately gratifying. It doesn't offer you immediate results. You lift up prayers, and you hope to God he hears, and "I guess I'll wait and see."
This is our experience with prayer, which is why so many of us have lost the desire for it, which brings me to my second question…Why should we even desire it if this is the case? Why is this something worth pursuing? Because I think it's through prayer that you actually experience God to be as wonderful as you've heard him to be. That's what the apostle Paul is going to tell us in the book of Philippians.
If you have a Bible, you can turn with me to Philippians, chapter 4. We'll read through it together. Here's what I need to say as you're turning to this passage. If you've grown up in the church, this is going to be a very familiar text. It's going to be one you've turned to in moments of great anxiety, in times when stress has felt heavy. While this passage says so much for the sake of your anxiety relief, I think this passage is actually speaking so much more that I'm looking forward to us getting into.
So, here's what it says. It says this in Philippians, chapter 4. We're going to pick it up in verse 5b, which is going to be the second half of verse 5. This is what it says: "The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
Let me just ask…How does that verse leave you feeling? Does that feel sensible? Does it feel frustrating? I know for myself, as a young man, when I would read this verse specifically, it felt frustratingly ridiculous. "Thanks, Paul! Man! I'm dealing with a lot right now, and I was hoping to maybe get some practical insight, some steps I could take in order to get out of this situation, but you're right. I'll just pray about it, and we'll see how that goes."
If that is your reaction to this verse, then just know that's not an uncommon response to this verse, yet there's an explanation for why you may, in fact, be misreading this. You see, so often when we come to this passage we start in verse 6, which is a command from Paul. "Do not be anxious." "Hey, I know things are hard. Suck it up. You're going to be okay. Just pray about it. Just talk to the Lord. You're going to make it out all right." That's the way we read it, yet here's what you need to know.
Verse 6 is an imperative statement. It is a command, but it's preceded by an indicative statement, a statement of fact. Paul wants you to know, "Hey, there is something that is true, and as a result of that truth you then do these things." So, what is he saying? He's saying, "Hey, the Lord is at hand." Some versions say, "The Lord is near." "So don't be anxious. God is here. Don't worry about it. He's close by. Talk to him about it. Go visit with him."
This is an amazing truth for us to know, that prayer is the passage to God's presence. That's what Paul is trying to communicate to you. If you want to come into the presence of God, this is the way you do it. You talk to him. You pray to him. That's how you get close. God is always available. His door is open. He has time on the calendar. You're never bothering him. He's not too busy for you.
When you come to him and you pray, you literally are crossing heaven's threshold, and you get to engage with the living God. You get to meet in his presence. Prayer is the passage to that place. That's why Paul is echoing the words of David from Psalm 145. Psalm 145:18 says, "The Lord is near to all…" To whom? To everybody, non-discriminatorily. God is available to everyone who calls on him, to anyone who prays to him. "…to all who call on him in truth." God is near to you.
When we call out to God, God comes near to us, and when God comes near, everything comes into perspective. It's like if you were to stand at the bottom of the Grand Canyon or at the height of a skyscraper or were adrift in the open ocean. (Pray to God that never happens to you.) Everything comes into perspective in that moment. Right? You realize how small you are.
When God is near, you realize how dominating and everlasting and transcendent he is, and you also realize how infinitely small and urgently expiring you are. This is what happens when we come close to the Lord, when we get near to his presence. The nearer we come to him, the clearer he becomes to us. So then why do we feel so far from him at times?
I'm not too naïve to believe that some of you have walked in here tonight and are like, "Man! God feels a million miles away. He couldn't feel farther off. You're talking about him being near? That is not at all the case for my reality. What are you even talking about?" I've been there. Let me tell you what I wish I could tell myself in past moments like that.
God hasn't moved. God has only and always moved in one direction, and it's toward us. God wants to be near to us. That's what the Bible is trying to tell us. That's what the culmination of the person of Jesus is making clear. God wanted to be so close to us that he would send his only Son to remove any obstacle, to remove any imposition. God would do anything to get close to you. So why does he feel so far off?
Because we have impeded our prayers and obstructed our passage to his presence. We've blockaded our nearness to him because we've become preoccupied with things that are not of him, because we've become anxious. That's where Paul goes next. As he keeps going, he says, "Hey, the Lord is at hand, so do not be anxious." Don't become so absorbed by that future possibility that you forget or neglect God's present proximity, that he's here, he's nearby.
In the Greek, the word Paul uses here for anxious is a really interesting word. It's a word that means to divide or to tear apart. It's literally the idea of two opposing forces pulling something apart. Something that was whole is now being divided into two, which is a really good word picture because that's kind of what anxiety does to us. It leaves us torn up.
It's like, "Oh my gosh! I'm split in half. I don't feel whole at all. I feel like I've given part of myself to this thing and part of myself to this thing and maybe another part of myself to that thing." This is what anxiety does to us. A.J. Cronin says our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it only empties today of its strength. Your anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it only empties today of its strength.
When you're anxious, it does nothing to help you in the future, and it does everything to hurt you in the present. This is what anxiety does. Anxiety is like a rocking chair. It takes an initial investment of effort, and as you worry it may feel nice, but it is terribly unproductive and takes you nowhere you're wishing to go. This is what anxiety does to us.
So, what does Paul say? What are we supposed to do with that? He goes on. "…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Paul is now echoing the words of Jesus. In Matthew 6:31 and 33 it says, "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' […] But seek first the kingdom of God…"
Seek the things of God and everything else will be added unto you. Everything you need, whatever is clamoring for your attention…it's taken care of whenever you're one of God's own kids. Whenever you trust him and seek his things, what you learn is "I worry about nothing, but I pray about everything."
This is the way that we, as the children of God, are meant to engage the world, engage our adversity, engage our anxiety. We're supposed to worry about none of it but pray about all of it, because we have a God, a Father in heaven, who looks after us, who takes care of us, who knows what we need and meets our needs in ways we know not to meet for ourselves.
So, this is all really good in theory, but the truth of the matter is we're pretty bad at this. I'm pretty bad at it. I'll throw myself into the lot. We know we should go to God, give things to him, and trust the fact that he's going to take care of us, yet instead what we do… Instead of giving ourselves to him, we often give ourselves to other things.
We lend ourselves to anxieties over our performance or our singleness or our addiction or our reputation or something that happened in our past, some trauma we've incurred. What happens whenever we feel anxiety about these things, about my performance at work, like, my desire to do a good job… I could give this to God, but instead, what so often we do is we just suppress it.
We push it down. We bury it down deep. We try not to let anybody know that things are not actually okay. "Hey, how's work going?" "Work is great. It is so good. I love my cubicle and my team. They're critical sometimes, but you know what? I think they're just trying to help me be the best version of me I can be." We just push it aside. We suppress it as much as possible in the hopes that in doing so it will go away.
When you do that, when you suppress your anxiety, it doesn't go away; it just changes shape. Now it becomes something different to manage. Or maybe it's not suppression. Maybe that's not how you deal with your anxiety. Maybe, instead, it's something like obsession with my dating life, with my singleness, with the fact that I don't want to be alone forever, with the fact that my relationship isn't where I want it to be.
So you know what I'll do? I'm going to help it along. I'm anxious about this, so what I'm going to do is I'm actually going to take some of myself, and I'm now going to focus on my appearance. I'm going to give myself over to the gym or to that Pilates class or to CrossFit or whatever it may be that's going to make me more desirable physically. But I'm not just going to do that. I'm also going to give another piece of myself away to being socially acceptable.
So now I'm going to reject some of these friends and engage more with these friends because this is what it looks like for me to be more desirable to my boyfriend or my girlfriend or that guy or girl I like who hasn't yet asked me out, yet I'm going to continue to do it. Then maybe it's not just that. Maybe I'm going to change my behavior. I'm going to make some compromises in life. I'm going to bend my physical boundaries. I'm going to be willing to go places I know I shouldn't, do things I know I shouldn't, and spend more time than necessary in things I wish I could take back.
We give ourselves away. What happens is we don't get rid of our anxiety. We just multiply it. Now instead of one thing you have multiple things you have to worry about. Just as anxiety is described in the Greek, it has torn you, not just in two, not just in three, but maybe into four, five, six, multiple pieces. This is what we do. We suppress. We obsess over our anxiety in the hopes that "This is how I'm going to fix it. This is how it's going to get resolved."
Do you know what Paul is telling us to do? Do not suppress. Do not obsess. Just confess it. Just come to God. Just come talk to him. His door is open. He's available. He's close by. Just pray to him. Just engage with the God of the universe. I love that he says here, "Let your requests be made known." That verb is a passive verb, which just means it's not something you're actively doing. You're not actively requesting of God; you're instinctively requesting of God, which is what we all do whenever times get hard.
We want to talk to people about it. Work is tough. I want to engage with someone about that idea. I want to process it. I need a sounding board. I need someone to help me process through my venting. Right? Or in a relationship. I need my girls and my guys to help me out, to process through these things. We want to talk about them. That is instinctual. You're meant to let it out.
But here's what Paul is saying: you don't just let it out; you lift it up. You lift it up to God. You do. You absolutely go and talk to someone about it. You talk to him. That's who you talk to. He wants to hear from you because he is the only one who can truly help you. Charles Spurgeon says the best style of prayer is that which cannot be called anything else but a cry.
It is instinctual to pray. Like we said at the beginning, it's hardwired into our human nature. What's fascinating, as I was thinking about this idea… If you think about prayer, the concept of it may have been taught to you by someone else, maybe someone like me, teaching you about this concept of prayer, but the practice of prayer was likely not taught to you by anybody. More than likely, times got tough, things got hard, and you just reflexively started talking to God about it.
"God, help, please! What's happening in my work? What's happening with my family? God, I didn't even say that, but look at what's happening to my reputation. Lord, please, would you help me in this area?" That's hardwired into you. God has put it into you because he wants you to engage with him. Do you see the love of God in that?
He said, "Hey, I designed you for me. I didn't design you for all of these other things. You're not supposed to get sidetracked and swept off your feet with a myriad of other anxieties, concerns, or worries in life. No. You're supposed to be fixed upon me. All of these things that are demanding your attention… I'm the only one deserving it. I'm the only one who deserves your attention. I'm the only one who can help you in it, and I want to." That's the heart of God.
I know for myself, just to get really practical… Like, "Kylen, how do you even do this?" When I wake up in the morning, I sit down, and the first thing I do is I take an inventory of how I feel. Where are my emotions? That's what I want to know. Like, did I get up off the wrong side of the bed? Am I nervous about what's coming today? Am I in a fight? Is there conflict in my home between my wife and me? Like, how do I feel right now?
What I do as I assess my emotions is I reverse engineer back from them. I try to figure out why I feel that way. So often, what I find is they're rooted in anxiety. I'm nervous. I'm anxious. I'm stressed about something that is coming for me later in the day. So, what I do in those moments is two things. I admit them to God and I submit them to God.
"God, I admit this is where I'm at, Lord. I wish this weren't the case, but, God, this is the truth. God, I submit it to you. I wish I didn't, God, yet, Lord, I know even at my worst Christ died for me, so I'm loved and accepted and you're capable of changing me." This is the way I approach it. What I don't do is I don't spiritualize my complaining.
I don't come to the Lord and say, "God, I wish you would help me at work because my boss hates me and my coworker is so critical. God, I never thought I'd still be stuck in this job. I'm never going to amount to anything. Oh my gosh! I'm never going to make a difference." I don't just start complaining to God. That's not what I do. That's indulging my anxiety. That's permitting it. We don't permit it. We admit it, we submit it, and then we move on.
We trust it with him. We come to the Lord and say, "God, here's what has my heart." We spread it on the table. We trust him with it, and then we go forward and believe that he will work it for our good, because that's what he has done all along. As we do these things, what we find is what happens in verse 7. "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
It's interesting. This expression peace of God only appears one time in the entire New Testament, which is right here. That feels weird. Right? Peace and God. They kind of go together. You would expect to see that somewhere else. It's a match made in heaven. Yet what you need to know is Paul is saying something very specific about God's peace in this moment.
You see, what Paul is saying about God's peace is "This isn't a transactional peace. This isn't just a quid-pro-quo relationship where, God, I give you my anxiety and you give me your peace." That's not how this works. It's not a transactional peace. It's not even a constitutional peace, that I have peace with God through my justification in Jesus Christ, though that's true. That's not what he's talking about right here.
What he's talking about is an existential peace. So, what does that mean? I'll illustrate it to you like this. When my wife and I went on a honeymoon, we went to an all-inclusive resort. (This is an aside, not part of the lesson, but I recommend an all-inclusive. You just spent the last several months planning the biggest party of your life. It's nice to go make some impulsive decisions with no cost to you whatsoever. Go make an impulsive decision. Go to an all-inclusive resort.)
What we did when we were there was we spent money on one thing. The one thing we spent money on was we went to the resort spa. I had never been to a spa before, and I don't know that I've been since, but that experience was unlike anything I had ever had before. It was otherworldly. We walked into the spa, and everything changed.
The music in the air wasn't whatever party music was playing outside. Instead, it was the sound of raindrops and birds chirping, which doesn't sound that enticing, yet it was incredible. The look of the room… The room was enveloped in this soft white glow, and the smell in the air was fresh, like citrus and mint. The lady at the front desk even spoke in an otherworldly way. "Hello. Welcome to the spa. It is our joy to serve you today. Would you like one of our complementary robes?" "Sure." Two men appear and robe us in warm blankets.
It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. That's what happens when you come to the presence of God. That's what this is saying. When you give your anxiety over to him, you step into his peace. You come into his presence, an environment that befits him. God by his very nature is not morally erred in any way. From God comes no disorder, no disruption, no deterioration. He is peace-giving, perfect, and whole, which is, in fact, what this word means.
The word here for peace doesn't just mean tranquility or calm; it means wholeness. When you come to God and find that he is as unified, complete, not disordered but ordered, and perfect as you have been told, he takes all of these broken, separated, torn-asunder pieces of you and begins to make them whole together again.
He unites the parts of yourself you've given away. He takes that obsession you have with your performance, that suppression you've applied to your addiction, that focus you have on your reputation, and he blends them back together. He makes you as he himself is: whole…not divided but united. This is what this verse means. The result of prayer is… It doesn't change God. Prayer changes you. That's why we pray. That's why we come to the Lord.
What we find is that God is available and capable for us. He's available. He loves you. He has been waiting for you to come. And he's capable. He's strong enough for you. He can fix whatever it is you need help with. This is his heart. Does that mean that as you pray you're going to get everything you want from him, that he's going to answer your prayers the minute you ask? Maybe. Maybe not.
He may answer that prayer. He may not answer that prayer. He won't answer all of them, but what you can take confidence in is in Matthew, chapter 6, Jesus looks at his disciples and says, "Your Father in heaven knows what you need before you ask it." Why am I even praying then? If he already knows, why do I need to talk to him about it? For this reason.
Prayer isn't about convincing God of your needs; prayer is about convincing you of your need for him. That's why you come to him. That's why you pray to him: because you and I need to be reminded it's him we need and nothing else. This is what we need to know, and this is why he has called us to himself to meet with him in a place that promises to guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Last story. Horatio Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman who lived in Chicago in the 1800s. He was part of a family of six. He was a husband to a wife named Anna, and they had four beautiful girls. A hundred fifty years ago today, on November 21, 1873, he sent his family across the Atlantic to England to go on vacation for the holiday, but 150 years ago today, November 21, the French vessel which his family, his wife and four daughters, were aboard collided into another seafaring vessel, and in the middle of the Atlantic their ship sank.
The only person to survive the collision was his wife. She wired him and said these six words: "Saved alone. What shall I do?" To which, as the record books recall, he quickly booked passage to meet her where she was and process through their grief and make their way forward. As he set sail to find her, to be reunited, some four days from landfall, the captain of his ship, aware of the crisis that had befallen Horatio's family, called Horatio to his captain's quarters, because he knew the place upon which their vessel was now traversing was approximately the place where his family's vessel sank and he wanted to tell him himself.
So, he tells Horatio the news that this is where it happened. "This is where your family was taken from you." What's amazing is what happens next. Alerted to the news, Horatio steps outside of the captain's quarters and finds some space there on the boat. In response to tragedy, worry, concern, adversity, and anxiety, he penned these famous words:
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well with my soul.
In the depth of Horatio's horror, the hardship of his circumstance, the depths of his grief, and in the midst of your own, there is a superior, transcendent, yet immanent peace, which you can find from a God who is equally superior, transcendent, and immanent to you. Horatio knew, "There is one place where peace is freely given, and it's in the God who freely gave his only Son for me."
Friends, I don't know what you walked in here tonight dealing with, but I do know there is peace for you in the person of Jesus. There's peace nowhere else in this world. You won't find it elsewhere. You need only come to him to receive it. The presence of God, the fullness of his wonder, which many of you have been longing to experience, is available to you tonight, because the presence of God became the person of God in the form of his Son.
You see, when we knew not to pray and seek God's presence, the very presence of God…the image of his glory, as Hebrews would say…sought us out in the person of the Son. When we knew not to lift our worries to him, Jesus nevertheless brought God's peace down to us. When we knew not of our need for change, evil at heart, darkened in the understanding of our minds, God never lost sight of the fact that something needed to change in us that we might be reunited to him. He gave it all that you might come close to him. The question for you tonight, Porch, is…How much of him do you want? Let me pray for us.
The Lord is near. In the quietness of where you sit with your eyes closed, can you just take a moment and register with that reality? God is not distant. He's not dormant. He's not some idea or concept to study. He's living, he's breathing, and he's here tonight. He's near to you now. Come awake to it.
God, we know you're close, for it has been your heart all along to be near to us. When we were unworthy, undeserving, God, chasing after all manner of evil instead of you, you never lost sight of what we needed. You swept in, the hero of heaven, racing through the halls of history to be reunited to a people that knew not to want you. You came in the most unsuspecting of ways through Jesus, coming in a form that we would not look to admire or respect but looking like ourselves, a king deserving of worship become a servant to even the worst sinners of men.
It has been in your heart, God, to be near to us. You, God, have pursued us, and you have finished it. You've made passage possible again. When there was no way, you, God, made a way by the death of your only Son, bearing in him all the consequence of our sin, that every one of us might be justified before you, cleansed of our wrong, washed clean of our iniquity.
But, God, not only did our sin bury him and did he absorb the punishment due us but he rose forth from the grave, bursting from death, declaring to the world, "I am who I say I am. I am the Son of God. I am a son from on high come to seek sinners down low, that those down low might believe in me and come back high where I have returned."
Brother, sister, do you want to experience the wonder of God? That wonder is found in one man and one alone, and it is Jesus' name. Come to him tonight. Place your faith in him. For those of you who have already done it, now is a moment for you to do whatever it means to engage with him who is near.
Maybe you need to sing. Maybe you need to raise your hands and lift your voices and declare to God how wonderful he is, but maybe you need to pray. Maybe you need to sit close by him who has come close by and you just need to know he doesn't need anything from you. He wants everything for you, and everything finds its fulfillment in him.
We love you, God. We sing to you now. We're grateful. It's in Jesus' name we pray, amen.