The Most Comforting Words in the Holy Bible
September 13, 2009
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Our topic today is “The Most Comforting Words in the Holy Bible.”
I woke up one morning this summer with an insight on my heart, and as soon as I had this insight I knew I wanted to share it with you. The insight was this: there are two words that occur in the Bible that are so beautiful and powerful and so much at the heart of things, that I believe they are the most comforting words in the Bible.
They occur in the Old Testament, and they occur in the New Testament. These words occur in the twenty-third psalm, that beloved piece of scripture. And the words occur in one of the most towering moments in the book of Isaiah. These words were spoken by the angel Gabriel to Mary, when she decided to become the mother of Jesus. These words were spoken by our Savior, Jesus Christ, from the cross. And, these words, these very words, were spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ just before He rose to Heaven. They were the last words that He spoke to His beloved disciple friends.
What are they? Let’s discover them together. I want to read to you just a portion of those words of the Lord Jesus, from the book of Matthew, these words that He spoke to His friends just before He ascended. Matthew 28, verse 20: “‘Be sure of this,’ said Jesus. ‘I am with you, always, even to the end of time.’”
Friends, what are the words that I believe are the sweetest words, the most beautiful words, and the most comforting words in the Bible? These two: “with you.”
Would you take a moment to link your hands together and say, “I am with you always”? That’s what Jesus said, and I believe that is a core truth of the Bible. “I am with you.” When will you need to think about those words? Friends, maybe it will be in a time of desperate prayer. Maybe it will be in a time of great worry and confusion. Friends, in those times, make room for God. Remember that His great promise in the Holy Scripture is contained in those two words, ‘with you.’
“I am with you”…when? Always. Not just sometimes; not just now and then; not just when you’re doing a good job; not just when you’re in the depths of prayer. “I am with you always,” said the Lord Jesus.
Let me tell you about some other places in the Bible where these powerful words occur. A group of rabbis once got together and had a discussion about what they felt was the most important part of the Hebrew Scriptures in the Old Testament. There was a remarkable consensus about what that was. It’s from the book of Isaiah, Isaiah 43, beginning at verse 2. (I remember this as ‘Isaiah 4-3-2-that’s the one.’) So hear this, won’t you?
The Lord says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name. You are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you.” This mountaintop of Hebrew scripture tells it so beautifully.
Also, in the 23rd Psalm, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” We see those words again. And I invite you, as you read the scripture, to look for that notion coming on through.
When our Lord hung upon the cross and the good thief said to Him, “Lord, have mercy on me,” Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” The promise came to them, to all of them, and the promise comes to you and me. And that’s the simple message I want to share with you today. Take those words of comfort and power to your heart, won’t you? Jesus’s promise, the rock-solid foundation of the Bible, is found in these words: “I am with you always.”
When is God with us? I’m thinking of three times in particular – when we pray; when we have a problem; and when we praise. In other words, I believe that God is with us when we know it, when we forget it, and when we’re in church. Let’s talk about that.
God is with us when we know it. Isn’t it beautiful when we take a little time for prayer? I know I need it very much at the beginning of the day, when I’m first getting up. Take time to listen for the comforting words of God speaking to the clamoring voices within us. Listen to God telling you how beloved you are, how important you are, and how precious your life is. Take some moments of prayer. Take some moments to thank God for everything. You will know that He is with you. In times of prayer, God is with us, and we know it.
But God is also with us when we don’t know it. I love this part—God is with us when we forget that He is. Have you ever been so frazzled, so worried and concerned, and so desperate, so upset and so anxious that you don’t even think about God being with you? Of course. We’ve all been there. But here’s the good news – God is with us even then. Isn’t that wonderful? Can I have an “Amen!” there? God is with us when we know it and God is with us when we don’t know it. That is the good news. That’s what grace is about. When we’re at our best, and our prayers are beautiful and confident, and when we don’t pray because we just can’t muster the energy, God is there. God is still with us.
Have you ever sat on the bed next to a child who isn’t feeling well? Perhaps the child has a bit of a fever, a bit of an illness that has overtaken him. He’s sleeping, and you’ve got that cold, wet washcloth on his forehead. You’re praying for him; you’re loving him; and you’re placing him in God’s care. And even though he’s asleep and not conscious that you’re there, you most certainly are. Even though he might not be aware of your love, is it there? You bet it is, with every breath in your body that love is there. That’s the way it is with you and God. Even when things aren’t going well, even when you’re not feeling so great, God is still there loving you. He’s just waiting there for you to open the door to Him and let Him in and make some room for Him to let Him bless you. He’s there. He’s blessing you, even when you don’t know it.
God is there when you’re doing great, when your deeds are noble and very Christian. And God is there when you’re not doing so well. God is there when we’re not doing so well. His love never lets us go.
And God is there when we praise. God is there when we’re in church. I say ‘hallelujah’ for you, that you are here today, because this is the place where you can know that God is with you. God is here when you pray; God is here when you open the door to the scripture; God is here in church with you when sing and when the songs of faith touch your heart. People have come up to me and said, “Pastor, I don’t know whether you’ve noticed or not, and I hope I didn’t upset anybody, but during one of those hymns in the last service, I cried, and I wondered if that was weird.”
And I say, “Oh, my dear friend!” and I give him a hug. And I say, “If only you knew how many people come up to me and ask that very question!” How God touches us through the music! How God touches us through the hymns! How God touches us here in church in so many ways! What a gift God has given us in the powerhouse of the church! What a gift God has given us to remind us of His presence here in church!
And, my dear friends, God wanted so much for you to know that He is with you that He gave us this gift, this Holy Communion table. God gave us this gift in that Christ broke the bread in that last night of His community with His disciples, before He went to the cross. And He said, “This is my body.” This is my substance. When you do this, I am really, really, really with you. He said, “Take this cup.” This cup is like my life energy. Take it into you. Be touched by it. And know that I am truly with you.
And so, my friends, may you know it deep within your hearts. May this central truth bless you and comfort you and uplift you. Hear the Lord Himself saying to you, “I am with you always, even to the end of time. He is, because He loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2009 Anthony J. Godlefski