"I can't seem to find God at work anywhere in my life? Where is he?"

"Has Jesus abandoned me?"

"Look at all that is going wrong with me and with my life and with my church — how could God be anywhere in this mess of my life?"

"How can I trust I'm not abandoned by God?"

You've probably heard something like these questions from someone you love. You may have felt those sentiments. You may be drowning in things expressed. So how do you hang onto hope and onto God?

Paul promises us that the Lord is near![NOTE] As he closes out his letter to his beloved Philippian brothers and sisters (Philippians 4:1), he makes three promises about the nearness of the Lord (Philippians 4:4-9):

  1. The Lord is near.
  2. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  3. And the God of peace will be with you.

These promises sound too good to be true, yet when things are doing well, they are easy to accept. However, let life come crashing in on us, let temptation lead us to stumble... again, let our health take a dramatic turn for the worse, let something happen to one of our children, or let our country and culture go into the sewer then the "Yabbotts" come knocking at the door of our hearts.

You know the "Yabbotts", don't you? They are those concerns that crowd into our heads and hearts that give momentum to our doubts. The "Yabbotts" voice their concerns with this introductory thought: "Yeah... but..."

"Yeah, those are great promises for the Philippians, but they aren't really meant for us today!"

"Yeah, I believe those promises are for good people, but you have no idea how big a mess I've made of my life!"

"Yeah, but those are for spiritual people, not everyday kind of ordinary like me!"

"Yeah, those sound nice, but I don't see any of that happening in my life!"

"Yeah, but the problems they were facing aren't as big as mine!"

Doubts come in all sizes, shapes, and forms. They nearly all come calling with a "Yeah... but..." for every good and encouraging promise or gift of goodness from God. Don't believe me? Go look at the Fall as it's told to us in the Bible's first book (Genesis 3:1-3). When Satan as a serpent came to Eve, she was confident in God's goodness until he hit her with the first visit of the Yabbotts. To paraphrase, the evil one spoke doubt into Eve's confidence by saying, "Yeah, but did God really say...?" twice!

The evil one does that with us today. Our messes, disasters, illnesses, and heartbreaks do not erase the promise that God is with us in those messes. Jesus is our living reminder that God meets us in the middle of life's worst moments and redeems. Jesus is our loving reminder that we have permission not to let the Yabbotts in the door when they come knocking with their doubts.

These early believers in Philippi were struggling. They were discouraged because they faced opposition (Philippians 1:27-30). They were divided over the argument between two women who had brought many of them to Christ (Philippians 4:2-3). They were worried that their beloved apostle Paul was imprisoned (Philippians 1:12-14) and might be executed (Philippians 1:18-24). They were upset because some were taking advantage of Paul's imprisonment to preach rival messages (Philippians 1:15-18). They worried that the messenger they sent to help take care of Paul in his imprisonment had become so ill that he was a burden to Paul rather than a help (Philippians 2:25-29). They realized that they were having a hard time getting along with each other (Philippians 2:3) and were in deep spiritual trouble, giving false teachers an opening to spread their gangrenous teaching (Philippians 3:1-4).

Now I know some of you already have the Yabbotts at the door saying, "Yeah, but did the Philippians really have all these problems? Isn't Philippians Paul's letter about rejoicing? How could they really be having all these problems?"

I've been asked that exact question before. My response was to remind the questioner of this key point: "Do you have to command people repeatedly to rejoice in the Lord if they are full of joy?" The truth is, the Philippians and their church were caught in the same messes we face today!

Satan wants to use the Yabbotts to make God's promise that "The Lord is near!" feel like it is for someone else — someone better, someone with fewer problems, someone who has it all together, someone who isn't struggling with faith in the midst of a personal life-storm and a congregational struggle.

So here's an important concept we must never forget: We don't have to believe everything we think, especially the things that begin with the words of doubt, "Yeah, but..." We don't have to let the Yabbotts into our hearts nor do we have to allow them to run out the promises of God!

Paul's three promises are rooted in the real world. His promises were made to real people like us — people who were imperfect and were part of an imperfect church. They faced our kind of problems — illness, life, death, persecution, disagreements, false teaching, and possible church splits. So when Paul gave us promises, he didn't make them for super saints or people free of problems. Despite what the Yabbotts try to whisper in our hearts, these promises are for us!

Despite apparent circumstances...

Despite our imperfections...

Despite our messes...

Despite our doubts...

Despite what the Yabbotts suggest...

  1. The Lord is near.
  2. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  3. And the God of peace will be with you.

Let's look for the signs of our Father's presence. Let's notice Jesus' touches of grace in the middle of our storms. Let's listen for the Spirit's whispers of hope as we struggle with the issues of life in a complicated and fallen world. Let's trust the Lord's promises and not the Yabbotts and their desire to sow Satan's doubts into our hearts. We don't have to believe everything we think or the doubts that arise in our hearts. We can choose to hold onto the promises of the God who has proved himself faithful. Let's hold onto the truth:

  1. The Lord is near.
  2. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  3. And the God of peace will be with you.

Let's trust the Lord's promises and not the Yabbotts' doubts!

NOTE This is the third of six thoughts on the promises that Paul makes to the Philippians as they face their challenges to rejoice in the face of difficult and trying times. Here is the list of encouraging posts on the LORD's abiding presence with us. The series of messages is called, The Lord is Near!

  1. Longing
  2. Promises
  3. Doubts
  4. Acorns
  5. Farewell
  6. ShalomUpcoming

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