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Hanging in my grandmother's house was a picture that has left a lasting impact on me. It was titled "The Guardian," and it featured a very large angel with a comforting expression and outreached hands hovering near a small boy and girl as they walked over a precariously dangerous bridge.

The simple framed print brought great comfort and security to my heart when I was a little girl and propelled my imaginative mind into the awesome arena of angels. In recent years, the study of angels has continued to bring me much comfort and encouragement.

Angels have often been relegated to the shimmer and shine of Christmas, but actually they have been involved with God and His purposes since the dawn of creation. Wherever God is—and He fills every crack and crevice of the universe—you will find angels.

In my opinion, the evangelical world has underemphasized the ministry of angels. They are never to be our primary focus, but what overwhelming encouragement to be keenly aware of the myriad of angels who can be sent to minister to the children of God!

Angels, the Scriptures tell us, are innumerable (Heb. 12:22). There are "ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands" of them (Rev. 5:11). I have been told by people more proficient in math than I am that there are possibly a 100 trillion angels!

What Are Angels?

Angels are inhabitants of the heavenlies—a part of the eternal yet connected to time. They are celestial beings created by God whose principal purpose is to serve Him and help carry out His purposes in the heavens and the earth.

Angels are described in the Bible as mighty, strong, glorious, fearsome, wise and flaming. They move swiftly from place to place. They fight. They shout. They speak. They go before. They go behind. They can bless. They can destroy. They move through lightning, thunder, storms, earthquakes, hailstones and fire.

Angels are fierce enough to make a king tremble (2 Sam. 24:16-17) and tender enough to bring comfort (Gen. 21:17). They have tremendous power because they are propelled by God's Word, but their supernatural abilities are enlisted only at God's command, as we see in Psalm 103:20: "Bless the Lord, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word."

It is almost mind-boggling to realize that these powerful beings are sent to minister to us—mere mortals yet the heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14). But it's true! This knowledge should bring us wonderful comfort and assurance.

To minister means "to serve, care for, attend to, help, aid, assist, relieve, comfort, console, accommodate, befriend." What more could we need on this, the earthly track of our heavenly journey?

Angels as Ministers

Because the invasion of a spiritual entity into our material world is generally unexpected, angels often try to allay fear when they first make their presence known to humans, as these biblical examples show:

"'Do not be afraid, Zacharias'" (Luke 1:13).

"'Do not be afraid, Mary'" (Luke 1:30).

"'Do not be afraid, Paul'" (Acts 27:24).

From that point, their duties—the purposes for which God sends them—are varied.

Paul mentions that the angels observe us (1 Cor. 4:9). They are busy with involvement in the traffic flow of life. They can arrange appointments, as one did in helping Abraham's servant find Rebekah (Gen. 24:7). They can give directions, as they did to cause Philip to intersect with the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-27). They can impart confidence, as one did with Gideon (Judg. 6:12).

Angels can find and minister to a rejected woman such as Hagar in a wilderness of bitter despair (Gen. 16:7-10); deliver a promise to a young woman, Mary, in the obscure village of Nazareth (Luke 1:26-33); or bring a message of comfort to an aging saint named Alma Nolan, in Minden, La.

As had been Alma Nolan's habit for many years, she knelt at the little vanity bench in her bedroom to pray before retiring. A widow living alone, she always closed her prayer with this request: "Lord, send Your angels to watch over me through the night. In Jesus' name, amen."

Turning to get up from her knees, she was startled to see a big man standing in her bedroom doorway, leaning against the doorjamb. Her mind raced to check the doors and windows, which she knew were all securely locked. Fearfully she stammered, "Wh-wh-who are you?"

With a warm, confident gaze, he replied, "You asked for me to come, didn't you?"

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