>>
2CH sermons

Jesus brings calm in troubled times

A sermon by Harry Goodhew

INTRODUCTION

Good morning. Let me ask you, “What things trouble you most?” Do you have issues that cause you anxiety and concern?

Most of us, at some time or another, have matters that perplex and distress us. Acknowledging God as our Father does not bring us complete immunity from life’s cares nor exempt us from the concerns that arise from inhabiting a mortal body and living in a world that cannot always be safe and secure.

In some situations the effort of being loyal to our heavenly Father produces tensions and conflict. With a sort of back-handed encouragement, Paul told Timothy that “all who want to live a godly life in Christ will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

There may well be people who think that fear really has no place in the life of a child of God. In the ideal they may well be right but who attains to the ideal?

SEGMENT 1

If you are a reader of the Psalms you will be aware that a number of them begin with an introduction or heading. The heading often gives an indication of the circumstances that produced that particular Psalm.

Psalm 56 is like that. As well as giving directions of musical significance and indicating its connection to David it says: “When the Philistines seized him at Gath.”

There are two incidents in the Book of 1 Samuel to which the Psalm might connect: one in Chapter 21 and another in Chapter 27. They both relate to the threat generated for David by the intense and murderous jealousy of King Saul. David was forced to flee from his own territory and live among the Philistines in Gath where, I think, he was far from being popular.

The opening verses of the Psalm express his concern:

Be gracious to me, O God, for people trample on me;

all day long foes oppress me;

my enemies trample on me all day long,

for many fight against me.

He repeats his complaint a few verses later saying:

All day long they seek to injure my cause;

all their thoughts are against me for evil.

They stir up strife, they lurk,

they watch my steps.

These were genuine threats to his life and well-being. How did this Old Testament man of God deal with his fears? Listen to his prayer.

O Most High, when I am afraid,

I put my trust in you.

In God, whose word I praise,

in God I trust; I am not afraid;

what can flesh do to me?

And a little later:

Then my enemies will retreat

in the day when I call.

This I know, that God is for me.

In God, whose word I praise,

in the Lord, whose word I praise,

in God I trust; I am not afraid.

What can a mere mortal do to me?

There are things here worth noting for our own use when moments of alarm arise for us.

First of all he names his fear before God. He opens his life and his heart to Him. He does not allow his fear to drive him away but lays his concerns at the feet of the Most High. He is convinced that God will hear and respond.

He is a little like the disciples on the storm tossed Sea of Galilee. Their fear of perishing drove them to waken their sleeping Master. Yes, it earned a gentle rebuke – “Why are you fearful?” – And a question about the maturity of their faith – “O you of little faith” – but it did bring their deliverance and with it an experience of the power and authority of Jesus which by its very nature was faith building for them.

SEGMENT 2

David was clearly alarmed by his circumstances. Nor were his fears groundless. Yet he had learned to look beyond the immediate moment to the One whom he called upon as God “Most High”.

In so doing he drew two things to his aid. The first is the promise of God. He uses the phrase “whose word I praise” three times in this prayer. If we ask what the word was which he praised, and by means of which he put his trust in God to counteract his fear, we should probably answer, “The word of promise he was given in the anointing he received at the hands of Samuel”.

That anointing carried the promise that God would install him as king in Israel. In the strength of that promise he spared the life of Saul when it was in his power to kill him. He would not raise his hand against the king but, confident in God’s promise, he left the implementation of God’s purpose to the One who had promised.

This willingness in David to leave the fulfilment of the promise to God and to cry for protection in a place of danger was founded secondly in his confidence in God’s capacity to do what he had promised. The God of Israel and of David is, as this translation of verse 2 has it, addressed as “O Most High”. Even if that translation is not followed there is no doubt that people of faith like David saw God as able to do what he promised. Psalm 75 says:

For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up; 7 but it is God who executes judgement, putting down one and lifting up another.

(Psalm 75:6-7 NRSV)

God’s promises and his sovereignty are our refuge at all times but especially in times of anxiety.

If you know John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress you may remember that Bunyan had Christian, at one stage of his pilgrimage, imprisoned by Giant Despair in a dismal dungeon in Doubting Castle where he constantly beat the pilgrim within an inch of his life. Escape came when Christian found a key called “Promise” in one of his pockets. That key unlocked the door of his cell and allowed him to escape the clutches of Giant Despair.

God always keeps his promises. He gives us his word and promises so that by them we may trust in him. When we rely on them we can be sure of his willingness to hear us when we call on him and to deliver us in the very best way. He has plans for each of his children that are for their good and his glory. What he does in response to our prayers works towards those two outcomes. So when anxiety and fear assault you look in God’s word for what he promises. Remember he says “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5). God has the capacity as Sovereign over all to accomplish whatever he undertakes to do in his word.

SEGMENT 3

Then my enemies will retreat

in the day when I call.

This I know, that God is for me.

In God, whose word I praise,

in the LORD, whose word I praise,

in God I trust; I am not afraid.

What can a mere mortal do to me?

The words of this psalm “This I know, that God is for me” have a wonderful New Testament counterpart. St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans in chapter 8, writes:

28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? (Romans 8:28-32 – NRSV)

That God is “for us” is an astounding truth. Sinful, foolish and rebellious our consciences say that he must be “against us”. But such is his love that in grace beyond comprehension he is so “for us” that he has given Jesus for our sins and to be our “head over all things”, and his Spirit that we may be conformed to the likeness of his Son.

Any fears that we might properly hold because of our sins and our sinfulness are allayed if we take God at his word. Any fear that we might have that we may not make it to the end as faithful followers of Jesus needs to be placed before the promises of God. Our prayers to be able faithfully to serve and follow the Lord Jesus to the very end need to be based on God’s gracious promise and purpose. If we depend on our own resources we will certainly fail. The world, the flesh and the Devil are just too formidable for any one of us. But God has promised to save and keep us and, in the light of those promises, we continually look to him for all we need to be faithful and fruitful.

So too, in any physical extremity such as prolonged illness, disability, or continuing pain or weakness, we, in the last resort, must rest our lives and circumstances in the arms and purposes of a sovereign and loving Father and trustingly go on looking to him. That may be easier to say than it is to do but the alternative has no comfort.

David’s trust was in God. That was how he dealt with his fears and we are to follow his example blessed, as we are, by the even greater light of the New Covenant

CONCLUSION

I do not know your circumstances as you listen to my voice this morning. Your situation may be unimaginably difficult and painful, ongoing, and with little relief anywhere in sight.

I am sad if this is your situation, but as a fellow human being and as a brother in Christ I say to you as I say to myself, “God must be our final and ultimate resource and hope.”

His sovereignty, his love and his saving purpose in all that befalls us are the foundations upon which we are called in Scripture to base our living and dying. We are called to replace fear with faith in God. So I commend to you David’s prayer:

O Most High, when I am afraid,

I put my trust in you.

In God, whose word I praise,

in God I trust; I am not afraid;

what can flesh do to me?

Discussion

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Archives

%d bloggers like this: