The God You Need: The God Who Is Great

At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued a new series leading up to Christmas. The God You Need will look at key passages from the prophet Isaiah. Today I shared at the McNeil Campus on The God Who Is Great. Robb Overholt spoke at Gateway South Campus.

You can watch or listen to the message here:

Apply the message to your life using Gateway’s Next Steps.

Here are the notes from the message:

Looking at Isaiah 40, we will discover that God is Greater than our circumstances, greater than what we create, and greater than His creation.

1. We discover in Isaiah that God is greater than our circumstances.

The challenge with understanding the prophet Isaiah is that he is writing about what was happening in his world at that exact time in history plus he was foretelling future events:
• Some would come true 70 years later.
• Some come true 700 years later (the birth of the Messiah)
• Some have not come true yet (the return of the Messiah)

Sometimes it may be difficult to tell which passage is dealing with which timeframe. What does become clear throughout the book of Isaiah is that the God we need is there for us – in the past, the present, and in our future even into eternity.

Consider the circumstances Isaiah and his people faced.

God brought together the tribe of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob also known as Israel. God blessed Israel to be a blessing to all nations. Even in the blessing God had for the people of Israel, they continued to face challenges including slavery, wandering, and war. Finally, they made it to the Promised Land – the most strategic part of the world  just at the intersection of Africa, Asia, and Europe – the perfect place for God’s message of love to spread to the rest of the world

Israel had been at its largest and strongest during the reigns of King David and King Solomon. (1000 BCE).

Since that time, Israel was divided into two smaller kingdoms. In his lifetime, the Assyrians had destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel. All that remained was the Kingdom of Judah.

The people of Israel faced dire circumstances. They found themselves feeling hopeless. The nation of Israel was on the verge of destruction. The kingdom was falling apart.

As the Northern Kingdom faced destruction, the South seemed to be next. Miraculously, during the time of King Hezekiah, God rescued the people, and the people rejoiced!

Even still, Isaiah knew this was a temporary reprieve. The Babylonian armies were gaining strength and would one day pose a threat.

In that context, Isaiah tried to give hope to his people that was bigger than the ups and downs of good days and bad days. Isaiah spoke of a new Kingdom led by the Messiah who was to come. Isaiah tried to give his people a bigger perspective.

Isaiah writes:

1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for… 3 A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” – Isaiah 40:1-5

Isaiah is predicting a time of deliverance but it isn’t for what the people had hoped.

Maybe you recognized this passage in the Christmas story. Isaiah wrote about a voice in the dessert preparing the way – a smooth highway – for the coming Messiah. 700 years later, John the Baptist quotes Isaiah directly letting us know that Isaiah’s prophesy was being fulfilled in Jesus (see Luke 3:3-6).

Before Jesus came to live among us, people were saved by trusting in the God who would come to rescue them.

After Jesus came to live among us, we are saved by trusting in the God who came to rescue us and who will come again.

Before Jesus the Messiah came to rescue us, the Law (The Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures) reminded the people that we cannot live a perfect life, and that we need God to rescue us.

When you and I read the Old Testament it can be overwhelming and even seem incredibly irrelevant when we read these 660 plus laws.

So when Jesus came, He fulfilled the Law, and He summarized the Law with this one statement: “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” Living out one Great Commandment certainly sounds easier than living out the 660 plus commandments, but let’s be honest, even this Great Commandment cannot be done without God’s help!

In summary: before and after Jesus, salvation comes through faith in a God who loves and is just. He is willing to forgive if only we would turn to Him.

“And the glory of the LORD will be revealed….” – Isaiah 40:5

The glory of the Lord revealed is God Himself – Jesus.

In Hebrews, the writer explains this when he writes:

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son . . . the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” (Hebrews 1:1–3).

Isaiah and John the Baptist both used a word critical to understanding the Christmas story. They used the word: “glory.”

The word “glory” literally means “heavy.”

“And the glory of the LORD will be revealed” literally means “And the heaviness of God will be revealed” or “And the weight of God will be revealed” or “And the greatness of God which is beyond our comprehension will be revealed.”

The God who is greater than what we could ever imagine will reveal Himself in Person. The Creator of the universe who is outside of time and space will come to us and as we know now lives within us when we surrender our lives to Him.

That’s heavy. That’s powerful and beyond comprehension. That’s God’s glory.

Isaiah saw beyond their current political and national circumstances to a day when the Creator would come to earth – the Messiah was on His way and a new Kingdom was coming!

This is why we celebrate Christmas!

Isaiah was reminding his people that the Kingdom of Israel may be falling apart, but God’s New Kingdom was even better and coming soon.

The Kingdom of Israel had shrinking boundaries, but the New Kingdom introduced by the Messiah would not be limited by boundaries. The New Kingdom would be made up of people from every nation, from every background, from every tribe.

Isaiah saw the BIG picture!

Sometimes we get overwhelmed with our current circumstances because we are completely forgetting the big picture! That crisis in your life may seem overwhelming, but remember God is writing a bigger story with your life.

Consider the three levels of stories in the Scriptures:

  • The Scriptures are filled with specific stories of specific people. These stories can be read and studied like case studies. Some are great examples and some are terrible examples. We can apply the principles we learn from these specific stories to our lives.
  • There is a level above that though. Every specific story in the Bible is part of a bigger story. The Hebrew Scriptures tell the story of God’s people – the nation of Israel. The New Testament tells the story of God’s people – the Church. Every specific story fits into that story.
  • But there is a level even bigger than that! There is God’s story – God’s creation, humanity’s fall, humanity’s redemption, and God’s restoration of His creation.

God is with us in our circumstances, and He is inviting us into His story. When we trust Him, He can take our current circumstances and somehow and miraculously bring about good.

2. God is greater than what we create – our idols.

Listen to what Isaiah writes:

18 With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him? 19 As for an idol, a metalworker casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and fashions silver chains for it. 20… they look for a skilled worker to set up an idol that will not topple. – Isaiah 40:18-20

You may be thinking: I don’t have idols?!

Consider for a moment: how often do we get sucked into spending all of our time and energy on what we create with our hands? Our careers? Our house? Our relationships? Our toys? Our trips? Our adventures?

As Rick Shurtz has said: “What God gave us as good, we have turned into our gods.”

Have you allowed idols to come between you and God? If so, what is your idol?

Our idols are whatever we go to for salvation – for rest – or when we are anxious!

Some of us even view God with a little “g.” We come to church to feel better. We pray when we are desperate. We see God as something to use to advance our own agenda.

Yet is God at the center of your life? Have you fully surrendered your life to Jesus?

We have a heart that is broken and corrupt. It cannot be fixed with a band aid. What we need is a heart transplant!

You cannot experience the relief and love found in forgiveness unless you admit you need forgiveness…

You need a heart transplant. You need to give all of your life to Jesus. He gave all of His life for you!

Have you fully surrendered your life to Jesus or have you allowed idols to creep into your life? To gauge where you are, consider this verse from King David describing His relationship with God:

“I have seen you… and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.” – Psalm 63:2-3, 8

• Right now, would you describe your relationship with God that way?
• Do you experience the power and glory of God in your life?
• For you, is God’s love better than life itself?
• Do you cling to Him?
• Does God’s greatness (His glory) so move you that you glorify Him? In other words, your life points out God’s greatness?
• Do you live a life that can only be explained by the incomprehensible God in your life?

Motivated by all God has done for us, we are to glorify God to bring others to Him,. This means are pointing others towards God and His greatness.

No matter where you are on your spiritual journey, the solution to have intimacy with God or regain intimacy with God is the same. Get rid of your idols and pursue God!

3. God is also greater than His Creation.

God is greater than people, the nations, and the even the Universe.

Isaiah reminds us that people come and go, but God is here for us forever.

“All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” – Isaiah 40:6,8

The people in our life are a gift from God! But they cannot meet our needs in the way the One who created us can.

For some of us, people have become our idols.

God, our Creator, is the only One who can meet our deepest needs for faith, love, and hope. He created us, came to rescue us, died for us, and rose from the dead!

When God is at the center of our life, He helps us love people better. He helps us bring love, faith, and hope into the lives of the people around us.

We hurt ourselves and others when we move people into the center of our lives.

Isaiah reminds us that not only do people come and go, but we should never put all of our faith in politics, or government, or even in the strongest of nations.

15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. 16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires, nor its animals enough for burnt offerings. 17 Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing. 18 With whom, then, will you compare God?” – Isaiah 40:15-18a

Nations come and go. Political parties come and go. Power comes and goes. Fame comes and goes.

Isaiah reminds us that God is greater than all of His creation –not just planet earth but the universe!

Maybe you struggle to believe in God, consider the vastness of the Universe. Or maybe you believe in God but you struggle to trust Him fully. If either describes you, consider these words from Isaiah:

25 The Holy One says: “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” 26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. 27 Why do you complain…? Why do you say… “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.- Isaiah 40:25-28

The Creator of the Universe – a universe so vast that so far we have discovered billions of galaxies each with billions of stars. And we still don’t understand so much of what we’ve seen, and there is so much more we haven’t even seen yet!

The Creator of the Universe is pursuing you.

The Creator of this open star cluster loves you.


Just as God created these galaxies, God created each of us!

Each “dot” in this picture taken by the Hubble Telescope is its own galaxy! The Hubble Deep Field shows thousands and thousands of galaxies! (For more great pics from deep space, go here).

And just keep this in mind — that’s a picture of a very small, small part of the universe.

Carl Sagan described the vastness of our universe:

“The total number of stars in the Universe is larger than all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the planet Earth.”

Fraser Cain of Universe Today actually clarified Sagan’s statement:

“More likely, there are 5 to 10 times more stars than there are grains of sand on all the world’s beaches.”

The universe is so vast and so awesome, it is God’s way to remind us how real and powerful and Great He is!

Louie Giglio in a message called Indescribable said it this way:

“If the universe is simply a habitation for you and me then it’s way over size. But what if it’s primary purpose is to show off the splendor and majesty and the greatness and the glory of the God who created it all? If that’s true then it’s not too big at all – it’s just about the right size!”

The proof of God is all around us!

The God of the universe created us with a purpose and on purpose. This amazing and majestic God cares for you.

Humanity is but dust yet He cares for us!

Listen to these words from Isaiah:

“See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm…. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” – Isaiah 40:10-11

Do you feel this kind of closeness with God? Do you sense Him gently leading you?

God been pursuing you and revealing Himself to you. Do you see Him? Do you want to see Him?

Our life is fleeting. We don’t have time to waste it! How will you maximize your efforts to point others towards our glorious and great God?!

The invisible God of the universe has made himself is here for you!

28 The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:28-31

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