He Walks With Me! ~ June 10, 2018 ~ Generation Sunday ~ Ms. Vicki Huffman
I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses;
And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.
Little did I know when I picked the title for this message how profound it would be for me personally. The reason I picked it originally was because of our tagline for children’s ministry: “Sowing Seeds at South;” The Garden; my favorite hymn, “In the Garden;” and because the bells song we were doing was “In the Garden!” So, of course I picked the title, “He Walks With Me.” Today it’s meaningful for so many reasons.
In the Bible study I’m currently doing called “The Quest,” by Beth Moore, we learned that a trip is quite different than a quest. On a trip, you plan. You have a starting point, you have an ending point, you know the roads you’re going to take, you know how much gas you’ll use, you know where you might have a traffic jam, you might know where to stop for a break on your trip. A quest, however, is much different. It’s defined as “an investigation; an act of seeking.” It’s more than a trip. Being on a quest brings up a lot of questions. A trip is not a quest without questions. Hebrews 11:8 tells us:
It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.
Beth Moore uses the example of an exclamation point and a question mark. How many of you use exclamation points all the time? I do! Every sentence, exclamation! Kind of takes the meaning out of it, doesn’t it? But I guess I’m always excited. We think of life as an exclamation point sometimes – we’re going to go on the straight path and everything’s going to go in line the way we want it, and then we’re going to put that dot at the end of it. So, everything is good, right?
Many times, God will use a question mark instead of an exclamation point. So, with a question mark, you start out and all of a sudden you’re going in a different direction than where you thought you were going to go! You start up and then you go off! Has that ever happened to you, where you were going in one direction, and then all of a sudden God took you in a totally other direction? But the good news about the exclamation point and the question mark, is that eventually we get down, and we get to have that dot.
Life, unfortunately, is more like a question mark than an exclamation point. A quest, many times, turns into the question mark. Now, for my personal question mark.
I have known my friend Dorie since 1968. We went to high school together, she was one of my closest friends then. After high school we went on to the same college for two years, Eastern Connecticut State Teacher’s College it was called back in the day, and now it’s Eastern State University, I believe. We even took a trip to Bermuda together. She had to go home early from the trip due to homesickness, which she accomplished by running her little motorized bike into a wall. I think she set that up because she really wanted to go home. There were several years since high school that we hadn’t seen each other. Then, she showed up at First Church, where I used to work before here, and became a volunteer Sunday School teacher for second graders for several years. Speaking of Sunday School teachers, I already did give them a big shout out. They don’t get the thanks and the appreciation that they deserve, so please, parents, thank those teachers who have been helping your kids all year long. Just a thanks is enough. They have been planting seeds of faith in our children and youth.
But back to Dorie. Again, she disappeared for a few years, and although we lived in the same town we weren’t in the same circles. In the past couple of years I have reunited with Dorie, taking the yoga classes that she taught through the town. She and I and three other friends from high school started getting together every few months to socialize. It was like a day hadn’t gone by since high school. It was a joy to be together again. We always had fun and we made plans: we’re going to get together again. Just two months ago (I looked back at my texts), April 2nd, I reached out to Dorie to meet the group for one of our regular get-togethers. She said she had a stomach ache and she would check back later. Two weeks later, in mid-April, she said she had to have a cat scan. She had tumors. When the results came, they weren’t good: it was cancer. She didn’t want any visitors, and at first she said, “I’m going to die!” and I asked her, “Who told you that?” because in our Bible study, one of the five questions we’re told to think about when we’re lost is, “Who told you that?” If you can’t say it was God who told you that, then it’s suspect. It might be true, but if God hasn’t given you that word, we’re not sure if it really is true. So, just because the doctors say you’re going to die, did God say it? If he didn’t, then we don’t need to accept that until God says, “It’s time.”
So, we started praying for a miracle. I shared with my church family, I asked for prayer. The Bible study that I’m in, we were praying for Dorie, and she was seeking God in the Scriptures. I met with her a few times and I bought her a Bible like mine, that she loved. The last time I got together with her was ten days ago, on Thursday, May 31. We spent two hours together and talked a lot about going to church together in the fall when I retire, and she asked for a prayer team to gather once a month during the summer. I left that Thursday feeling optimistic and hopeful that Dorie’s healing was going to come on earth. I immediately, when I left that Thursday, contacted some women and invited them to come and pray once a month, once in June, once in July , once in August.
Unfortunately, that Thursday would be the last time I would talk to Dorie, and I would see her alive. She passed away this past Tuesday, two months from diagnosis. I have been grieving deeply ever since. The shock of it – such a vibrant, healthy, beautiful woman, 64 years old – it just couldn’t be! We had more to do, we had more to pray about, we had more to talk about. Dorie had mentioned other appointments, and she would say, “I have an appointment at one and I have an appointment at three, so could you come in between?” so I assumed that she had been meeting with many other people, as well as me, during this difficult time in her life. Well, it turns out, her brother informed me, that she didn’t see anyone else but me during the time that she was diagnosed with her illness. She didn’t want anybody to see her sick, but she needed a spiritual person in her life. Wow, that shocked me. What an honor, and also, what a responsibility! Again, why me, God?
I realize now that God’s timing had me doing The Quest Bible study at this point in my life for a reason, because if I hadn’t been walking closely with God through this season of my life, I don’t think I would have been able to walk through it with Dorie, or even be able to stand here and share what I’m sharing with you right now. Now that she is gone, I feel the enormity of what my role was, and I question daily, “Should I have said this?” “Should I have done that?” Questions and questions and questions are coming.
Dorie had been on her own quest for most of her life, but she admitted to me during one of our visits that the Bible was the one book she had not searched out much. But she wanted to now. I imagine that’s why I was brought into her life at the end: to share the light of Jesus, to encourage her to trust God, no matter what the results. I know she is healed and whole now in her Savior’s arms. We who are left are hurting, and left with a lot of questions, but I don’t feel as troubled knowing how God feels about our questions. It’s not a failure to have questions, it’s seeking him.
Did you ever wonder, if God is all knowing, why does he ask questions of us? Here are some examples that I got from the Bible study. In Genesis 3:9, God asks Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” God knows, why did he ask? Genesis 3:11, again, God asks, “Who told you that?” The serpent. The serpent had told Adam and Eve what they were saying, not God. Again, that’s where my question came to Dorie, and I want to encourage all of you: When someone says, one of your children or a friend says, “I’m worthless,” or “I can’t do this,” ask them, “Who told you that?” If it’s not God, it’s suspect, because we know what God thinks about us. We are his precious ones. Now here are three questions Jesus asked: John 1:38 he asks, “What are you seeking?” He already knew! In Matthew 8:26 Jesus asks, “Why are you afraid?” In Luke 11:13, Jesus asks, “How much more?” and he’s talking about the Holy Spirit there. How much more of the Holy Spirit that I want to give you, that you can receive.
I was interested to learn that the word walk is interchanged with the word live in Scripture. Isn’t that interesting? Walk and live are the same word. So in Ephesians 5:15, it says in the NIV:
Be very careful, then, how you live, not as unwise, but as wise.
Then, in the New American Standard, it says:
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise.
So, walk and life can be the same word. Makes sense when you think about it, right? Our walk with Christ is our life. It’s our life walk.
Here are some examples of people who walked with God. Genesis 3:8:
When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden.
Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God.
Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.
And now a New Testament reading, 2 Corinthians 6:16:
I will walk among you. I will be your God and you will be my people.
Repeating the words that were from Leviticus, but this time we know that God walking with us is his Holy Spirit. Jesus said when he went away, when he was ascended up to be with the Lord – he was resurrected from death and when he went to sit with the Lord, we know that he said, “If I don’t go away, you will not have me with you always.” Isn’t that odd? Because when he went away, the Holy Spirit was given.
The love of Dorie’s life, my friend, her soulmate died suddenly almost a year ago to the day from her death. She told me in one of our visits that God got her through her grief so beautifully that she had recommitted herself to him. Through that grief she struggled. She talked to him at 10:30 in the morning, he was dead at 12:30 from a massive heart attack. She wondered, and asked me, “Why did I get this cancer right when I told the Lord that I want to reconnect with him and give my life to him?” That’s a good question.
Life is full of questions, and it’s a quest. Is it okay to question? Well, according to God’s word, absolutely. God uses questions to teach and to communicate often. There are over 3,000 questions in the Bible, anybody know that? Over 3,000 questions in the Bible. Many are asked of God by his people, “Why me, God?” And God asks questions himself, and again, why does he ask us questions when he already knows the answer? Because he wants us to participate, he wants us to seek more, to ask more questions, to get into a close relationship with him. And isn’t it true that the people that you listen to, who you say, “They really listen to me,” you would call them a friend, wouldn’t you? Not someone who talks over you, or interrupts you, or has their own agenda 100% of the time, but someone who really cares that listens. That person is a friend, is a dear one. Well, God wants to be that kind of friend.
Life is filled with mysteries. Just remember, as I have to remember right now as I struggle with losing my friend, questioning his ways is different than questioning him. It’s not the same. Here are things we don’t question: God is the creator; he is the sustainer; he is holy; he is graceful; he was, he is, and he will be forever more. But we can question why things happen, and the way that they happen, and it’s okay to question. Cry out, seek him, even be angry with him. Eventually, he will give you his peace, and strengthen your faith as you question.
One last point: this really surprised me: The hymn, “In the Garden,” how many of you is that your favorite hymn? Anybody, favorite hymn? Love that song. Well, where do you think that that song was written, “In the Garden?” In the garden? The author was sitting in a damp, dark basement with no windows. Yes, out of that environment, a dark, damp, no-window basement, came this beautiful hymn, “In the Garden,” because the writer wasn’t physically in that garden, but that writer was spiritually and emotionally connected with God in that place of beauty. That was where he could meet Jesus as he walked in the garden. That was all in his mind.
May we have that same kind of passion to walk with him.
He speaks and the sound of His voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me, within my heart is ringing;
And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me that I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.