Sermons from Yesteryear | Paul Cain
God has His own peculiar way of apparently disappearing at the times when we seem to need Him the most–times when He seems to hide His face. I have experienced the Lord hiding His face from me.
Years ago when I first began a public ministry, it wasn’t long before thousands of people were coming to hear me speak. Within one year, we had 26 healing and revival services in Los Angeles, and wonderful things were being said about me. It didn’t bother me, though, because my humility was intact. I was very proud of my humility.
Believing I was immortal, I would pray for hundreds of people in a single service, having had little or no sleep. I would fast from food or water for long periods of time. Proudly boasting one night about the accuracy of my discernment, I said, “I can tell every one of you what’s wrong with you. I know your names; I can tell you who your children are and where you are with God; whether you have been converted or not, and whether you are a spiritualist or a New Ager.” I was so proud.
When I began the prayer line, I said to the first lady, “I know who you are.” But I did not! The anointing was gone. God had hidden His face from me, and it was terrible. I looked at all of those hungry people lined up for prayer and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have made a terrible mistake. His anointing is gone, so I’m leaving. If He comes back, I’ll be back tomorrow night, but if He doesn’t, you won’t see me again.”
I stayed on my face before the Lord all night. He had withdrawn from me the intimacy of His conscious presence that I loved and along with it, the wonderful confidence and ability He had given me. He was there, but I didn’t have the benefit of knowing His presence or feeling Him. I think that John Newton understood this when he wrote these words in a hymn: “How tedious and tasteless the hours when Jesus no longer I see. Sweet prospects, sweet birds, and sweet flowers have all lost their sweetness to me.”
“Surely I Am with You”
In biblical terminology, the hiding of God’s face refers to this withdrawal of His conscious presence. Isaiah 45:15 says, “Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel.” David said in Psalm 13:1, “How long, O LORD, will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” In Psalm 10:1, he said, “Why, LORD, do you stand afar off? Why do you hide yourself in time of trouble?” Psalm 44:24 says, “Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and our oppression?”
When there is no conscious presence of God, no visible means of support, no tangible way to see the Lord meeting our needs, then it is time for us to rejoice and acknowledge that this is an opportunity to trust the Lord to reveal Himself in an even a greater way when He shows Himself again. On such occasions, God is really there. Just because we cannot see Him does not mean that He is not present. He is with us all the time!
In order to survive the times when God hides His face, we need to know Scripture. The New Testament speaks of reaching out for God and feeling for Him so that we might find Him “not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). Perhaps we may not feel Him at first, but when we persist in reaching out and seeking Him, we will find Him.
The accuser of the brethren will always try to separate us from the Lord by telling us that God is not with us: this is not the truth. The fact is that God is present with us all the time. He is testing us to see how we will react and what we will do under the set of circumstances in which He has hidden His face from us. The Lord has said in His Word to us, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Even when we cannot feel and see and taste and handle the sweetness of God, He is still there.
In Joshua 1:5-6, the Lord told Joshua, “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous.” He says in Matthew 28:20, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” God never withdraws His promises, His power or Himself from us; He may allow us to feel that He has withdrawn for a specific purpose. However, He is always with us even when we do not believe that He is there.
When I was a little boy, I would listen to “The Midnight Hour–Songs in the Night,” and God’s presence would fill the room. It was a wonderful feeling that reminded me of Psalm 77:7-9, when David said, “Will the LORD reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” The answer is, “No!” Regardless of how bad we may feel, the Lord is still there. He is omnipresent: He is here, there, and everywhere, all at the same time.
When Moses told Aaron and his sons how they should bless the Israelites, he instructed them to say, “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26). The “face of the Lord” became the symbol of a smile, approval, or a sense of His presence. When it does not seem that the Lord’s face is turned toward us, the best thing for us to do is acknowledge that He is there, even though we may not feel Him. When the sense of His presence is withdrawn, we may not know the reason why, but God does not have to reveal His reasons. He is omniscient; He knows why He is allowing us to have this experience.
When God Shows His Face
Our desire must be to have His presence remain and abide. When His presence and His power come, they are worth everything. His presence is like having Jesus right there with us, just like a husband or a wife. When the Lord reveals His face and shows Himself, it is like when the Holy Spirit decided to reveal Himself and came on the day of Pentecost: the disciples were there together, and suddenly the sound of a mighty rushing wind came from heaven (see Acts 2:1-2).
In Acts 3, there is a man, lame from his mother’s womb, whom they carried and placed at the Gate Beautiful every day. When God decided to show His face, He healed him. Rejoicing, the man leapt up and went into the temple, shouting and praising and magnifying God. A crippled, mangled body was straightened out immediately. This is what it is like when God decides to show His face.
However, there is a warning in II Chronicles 7:19 that we must remember:
But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples.
It should not surprise us when we commit blatant sins and lose the sense of God’s presence. When we sin, we must repent and turn our backs on evil if we hope to experience His presence with us again.
Trials and Disappointments Will Come
Each of us will go through trials. Paul said in I Thessalonians 3:3, “So that no one would be unsettled by these trials, you know quite well that we were destined for them.” In his letter to the Philippians, he writes, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (1:29). The end of every trial is at hand, though, because every trial has a built-in time limit. “And no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). God knows just how much we can bear. In I Corinthians 10:13 we read,
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
The Lord is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love. He will not always withdraw Himself, nor will He harbor His anger forever (Psalm 103:8-9). We may think that God is never going to show up again or that He is never going to come through for us anymore. Trials or difficulties may seem like they will last forever, but they will not. We must understand that God our Father has compassion on us, His children. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust”(Psalm 103:13-14).
Many people only want the brilliance of God’s presence–the fun, the spiritual food and the fellowship. Christians tend to want to be happy and jovial all the time. When we are not, we sometimes lie about it and don’t want others to know that we going through difficult times.
Let us be honest with each other. Trials and disappointments will come, but Jesus is always standing nearby, ready to step in. Just when it seems we cannot bear anymore, He will say, Your shoulders weren’t built for more than you could bear, and I am going to shoulder this for you. I am going to take your problems; I am going to take your burdens, and I will carry them for you.
This is what happens when He reveals Himself. In a moment, everything changes. Our Father is merciful and loving. “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:6). Seeing Christ will make everything we have suffered worthwhile–all the midnight of the soul, all the pain, all the trials. We will realize that all the suffering and adversity we experienced were for a purpose; they will pay innumerable dividends in these last days as we meet our Lord and our Savior.
With joy, we can thank the Father for times of pain, the times of not enjoying His conscious presence, nor seeing His face. In all things, we must seek His face and not His hand. When we take Him for granted and believe that we should never feel bad or have a dull moment, we are acting like spoiled children. We can thank Him even for painful times or dull times, for the times when we aren’t gushing with joy or filled with happiness. At the end of our journey, we will look back and be able to say, “It was all for a reason. It was all for a purpose. It was all for my benefit, all to the glory of God.”