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Showing posts with label Trust. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trust. Show all posts

Monday, October 17, 2022

Imagine A Future Beyond Your Fears

Fear is a universal emotion felt by people throughout all times and in every part of the world.  Fear serves a valuable purpose—to help keep us safe when threats arise by motivating us to cope with potential danger.

A fear of heights can be a good thing because if you fall from a great height, you could be injured or killed.  The fear of heights warns you to take care in that potentially dangerous situation.  Other common fears triggers are:

  • Darkness or being unable to see your surroundings
  • Social interaction or rejection
  • Snakes, rodents, spiders and other animals
  • Death and dying

Anxiety is a form of persistent fear where people feel constantly worried without knowing why.  It can be an especially crippling form of fear because the anxious person doesn’t know why they’re afraid and can’t address the cause of their fear.

The Grand Canyon
Though unpleasant, fear is not necessarily a bad thing.  We are told many times in Scripture to “Fear the Lord.”  Fear in this sense counsels us to be careful with God, to respect and revere God, for He is holy and awesome.  We should approach God with care, as one might approach the edge of the Grand Canyon because it is beautiful and inspiring, but a careless misstep could be the end of you.  Fear is useful, but when it rules you, controls you, incapacitates you, fear has exceeded its purpose.

The Bible also tells people again and again, “Do not be afraid.”  And this indicates we are often fearful in the wrong circumstances.  It is when there is a guardrail protecting us from the edge of the Grand Canyon, but we still cannot approach.  It is when the snake is securely behind the glass of a terrarium, but we still cannot look and admire the beauty of a creature God made.  Our fear is out of control and keeping us from the blessings God wants us to have.  

There is something wonderful waiting for you on the other side of your fears.  What is it?  Who will you be and what will your life be like if you overcome your fears?  On the other hand, who will you be and what will life be like if your fears conquer you?  The life God wanted to give Israel in the Promised Land was beautiful and prosperous, but they had to overcome their fears to enter it.  Listen to God’s Word to Israel as they were poised to enter the Promised Land.

Deuteronomy 6:10-13
10 “The Lord your God will soon bring you into the land he swore to give you when he made a vow to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is a land with large, prosperous cities that you did not build. 11 The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce. You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant. When you have eaten your fill in this land, 12 be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. 13 You must fear the Lord your God and serve him. When you take an oath, you must use only his name”

Who Should Fear and Who Should Trust?
There are two groups of people to consider in this story.  The first group is pretty obvious, because it's who the passage directly addresses.  The Israelites, had nothing to fear because God was with them.  They are told the blessings they will receive because they trust God.

The other group in the passage is less obvious.  It is the Canaanites.  God is about to take their land away and give it to the Israelites.  The Canaanites had every reason to fear because they rejected God.  They lived in Canaan for over 2,000 years.  Unfortunately, they rejected the one true God and devolved into evil, sexually immoral people who even sacrificed children as part of their religious rituals.  Furthermore, these evils had been ongoing for at least 400 years.  Finally, God was about to punish the Canaanites and give their land to the Israelites.

So the Canaanites who rejected God had everything to fear.  Their day of reckoning was at hand.  A Canaanite woman named Rahab revealed their fear in Joshua 2:9.  “I know the Lord has given you this land,” she told them. “We are all afraid of you. Everyone in the land is living in terror.”  When you reject God, you have reason for real fear.  That’s a dangerous situation.

The Israelites had nothing to fear because God was with them.  They put their faith in God.  He described the blessings Israel would receive as they conquered Canaan.  They would take possession of prosperous cities, homes already stocked with everything a person could need.  There would be wells, city infrastructure, and farmland already cultivated and producing fruit.  The towns God would give them were built by others and developed over decades and centuries.  Everything was ready for the Israelites to live in the Land.  God was with the Israelites.  They simply had to trust God more than their fear and enter the Promised Land.  

In verse 13, God reminds the Israelites “You must fear the Lord your God and serve him.”  In other words, don’t be afraid of the Canaanites.  Don’t be afraid to enter their land and conquer it.  Don’t be afraid of the scary things of this world.  Fear the Lord and obey Him.  For then you will be on God side and God’s side is always the winning side.

God’s Great Plan For You
God has a great plan for you too.  He wants you to live a life of confidence and faith.  He wants you to know He is with you and see His mighty hand at work.  Just as Jesus called His disciples, He calls you, “Come follow me.”  It is an amazing journey for all who answer the call to follow.  We see God’s power at work.  We see lives changed.  We see fearful people find confidence.  We see sinners transformed into saints.  We see the hopeless find hope.  And God supplies all the needs of His people as they embrace the mission of Christ. 

Among the blessings of those who follow Christ is a peace that passed all understanding.  You have peace in your heart.  You are at one with your Creator and His creation.  You know you have nothing to fear, nothing to hide, nothing to lose.  You trust God, not only with your own life, but with the lives of those you care about most.  You know you belong to God’s special family, for God adopts you as His own child.  Regardless of your social status in this world, in God’s sight you are a royal priest—kings and queens in the eternal Kingdom of God.   

There are still storms and trials and troubles.  There may be resistance.  (Look what they did to Jesus; they crucified Him.)  However, Christ is with His followers throughout all the trials of life.  Hebrews 13:6, “So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?””

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave, those who follow Jesus also follow Him through death to ressurection and eternal life.  That means we no longer even need to fear death.  We are free to live with incredible faith and and boldness and confidence! 

Choose Today Who You Will Serve
There is something wonderful waiting for you on the other side of your fears.  What is it?  Who will you be and what will your life be like if you overcome your fears?  On the other hand, who will you be and what will life be like if your fears conquer you?

Whether you live in fear or live in faith all comes down to your choices.  Will you be like the Canaanites who continually rejected God and chose to live for themselves?  Or will you be like the Israelites, whom God chose and they chose to serve and obey God?

If you continue to choose your own way, you are in great danger—eternal danger.  A day of reckoning is coming for you, for we all must face God’s judgment one day.  Those who reject Christ will be rejected by God and cast out of the Good Land into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

But if you repent of your selfish sin and chose to put your faith in Christ, God will save you.  There will be nothing to fear because Jesus has already paid the penalty for your sins.  Now you are free to live in God’s love and share His love with everyone around you.  You didn’t earn these blessings.  Christ earned them for you.  So live a life of grateful obedience.

Who will you choose to serve today?  Will you serve your fear and continue to miss out on the Promised Land God wants to give you?  Or will you choose to serve you own selfish ambitions and reap the wrath of God?  Or will you choose to serve the One True and Living God and be His chosen sons and daughters for eternity?  

As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Take time to pray and chose who you will trust and follow and obey.  Be clear with God and yourself about your decision today.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Fear is and Opportunity

Halloween is just around the corner.  It’s a holiday full of monsters and frightening characters.  Scary movies are shown on TV and in movies.  It's not meant to glorify or celebrate fear or evil.  Halloween is a chance to have a little fun with our fears.  Making light and laughing at our fear and the monsters who scare us is a way for people to cope with real fear. 

The scary monster jumps out on the movie screen, everyone screams, and popcorn flies through the air, but then we laugh.  “They got me!”  We’re relieved and endorphins flood through our body and we laugh, because it’s entertainment.  We know the monster isn’t real and, subconsciously, we’re happy that monsters aren’t real and we don’t really have to be afraid.

However, there are also real fear in life.  What are you afraid of?  When did you first notice your fear?  Was it triggered by something?  Does your fear keep you from doing something you want to of need to do?

Today, we will see that fear is an opportunity.  The Apostle James wrote in the New Testament to encourage a small group of Christians living in a scary, hostile world who faced ridicule, persecution, arrest, exile, and even death simply because they believed Jesus was the Son of God who rose from the dead.  Listen to what he said. 

James 1:2-4
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Fear is an Opportunity
Fear is an opportunity, because fear tests your faith.  When God asks you to do something, it is often scary because it challenges you to step out of our comfort zones and do something beyond our natural ability.   

God called me to preach and pastor, but it’s not natural to me (well, at least it wasn’t natural to me in beginning).  I’m shy.  I’m nervous around large crowds of people.  I don’t even like to go to Walmart if it’s particularly crowded.  Standing up in front of a group people to speak is not normal for me.  If you'd told me I was going to be a preacher when I was 18, I would have said you were crazy.  That's not me.  I even remember one time freezing up at a youth Sunday event trying to give the announcements when I was only 22.   

Still, God called me to preach when I was 23.  It was an “opportunity”.  I was afraid to do it.  When I finally got up the courage to say yes, I found out my wife was afraid  too.  At first, she said "no", point blank.  She said she was not cut out to be a preacher's wife.  She felt she didn't have the bubbly personality of the stereotypical preacher's wife.  However, God made my me and our wife the way He did for a reason and then He called us into the ministry.  He chose us for His own reasons. Eventually, our faith overcame our fear and we said yes to God's plan and we’ve ministered now for 21 fruitful years in 4 churches.  

God promised to give the Israelites the Promised Land—a land flowing with milk and honey.  But in order to realize the Promise, they had to trust God despite their fears.  Last week, we learned how their lack of faith (because there were giants and fortified cities in the Promised Land) led to their wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.  Finally, when a new and more faithful generation arose, God led the Israelites to finally enter the Promised Land.  But they still needed faith and courage.  The Lord appointed Joshua as the new leader of His people.  And he said:

Joshua 1:5-9
No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.

“Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Why Must We Face Fear?
Have you ever wondered why God didn’t just give the Israelites the Promised Land?  I mean, If He’s an all-powerful God, why didn’t God just hand the Land to the Israelites?  Why did they even need to be “strong and courageous” and fight to win the Promised Land?

The Israelites had to test their faith in God by facing their fear and overcome trials and hardships through the conquest of the Promised Land.  Yes, God could have just given the Land to the Israelites (He had the right and power to do it), but it would have robbed the Israelites of an critical opportunity.

Looking back at James 1:2-4.  Simply giving the Land to the Israelites would have robbed them of the opportunity “for great joy.”  It would denied them the chance to grow their endurance and to be perfect and complete, needing nothing. 

When you face your own fears, it is an opportunity for great joy.  For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow!  For when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.  When we face our fears, we grow stronger, learn more about ourselves, and draw closer to God.[i]  We learn to depend upon God and we find out God is bigger than any of our fears.  In Christ we see that even death itself cannot defeat God.  Therefore, death cannot defeat us because we belong to God in Christ. 

What is Your Promised Land?
What is your Promised Land?  For the Israelites who descended from slaves who lived in Egypt and then wandering nomads in the dessert, their Promised Land was a place to truly call their home—an abundant land where they could settle down and build homes and grow their own food and live at peace with their children and worship their God.  That was their Promised Land, but what’s yours?

You need a reason overcome your fear.  There are a lot of different fears that can plague a person’s life.  Some are scared of snakes or spiders or flying and maybe you don’t have to face all of your fears.  If your fear of snakes or spiders or flying doesn’t keep you from entering your “Promised Land”, then it may not really be a big deal.  In other words, if your fear of “whatever” doesn’t keep you from living a full life and doing the things God wants you to do, then maybe it doesn’t really matter.  If you're afraid of spiders, but your husband or wife will can kill them for you, then why do you need to overcome your fear.  (So, I’m saying you don’t necessarily have to face ALL your fears.) 

I want you to focus on those fears that are keeping you from being all and doing all that God wants you to do.  So if you’re afraid of flying, just don’t fly.  Simple.  But what if God is calling you to go visit your son who lives so far away that driving there isn’t a practical option.  Well see, now you’ve got to face your fear.  If your fear of standing up in front of people to preach is stopping you from saying “Yes” to God when He says, “I want you to be a preacher,” then you’ve got to face your fear. 

If you can’t live at peace with God and with each other because some “fear” stands between you and your “Promised Land”, then you’ve got to trust God to help you conquer your fear.  Otherwise, you will be stuck "wandering in the wilderness" the rest of your life. 

Is Jesus Your Lord
The biggest fear of all (something that I pray will keep you up at night until you finally make peace with it) is whether or not Jesus is truly Lord of your life.  The Truth is, Jesus is Lord of all.  “He existed in the beginning with God.  God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.” (John 1:2-3)

Unfortunately, not everyone accepts Jesus as Lord.  They may say Jesus is Lord with their lips, but they do not obey Jesus as Lord.  Their allegiance is not to Him above all else.  Some reject Christ all together.  Others pay lip services, claiming Jesus is Lord, but they try to control what parts of their life they give to Jesus and what parts they keep for themselves.  “But to all who believe in him and accepted him, he gives the right to become children of God.” (adapted from John 1:12) 

If Jesus is truly your Lord, you have nothing to fear.  Even when death comes (for it comes for us all), we still have nothing to fear because we have eternal life.  For those who reject Jesus as Lord, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  You won’t be able to excuse yourself by saying, “I never rejected the Lord!”  If you never intentionally gave your life to Jesus and chose to obey Him as Lord, you may hear Him say to you as He said in Matthew 7:23, “I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws."  Or you may hear as in Matthew 25:30, “Throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

It doesn’t have to be that way.  You can face the biggest fear today.  Chose  to serve Jesus as Lord.  Chose to let Him be your only Lord and Lord of your whole life.  Don’t try to hold back different parts from Him.  Let Jesus be Lord of all.  Choose to obey Him, 100%.  Go where He leads you.  Do what He asks.  Let His mission be your mission—even if it scares you.  Trust Him to see you through—all the way into eternity.  Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  “Love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.” (1 John 4:18) 


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Jesus' Questions for You

My hope for this message series was to answer your questions about God and Christianity. 
But so far, I’ve only received on question (and I answered that one a couple weeks ago.
So even though I’ve offered you a chance to write your questions on the tear off in the bulletin and announced it from the pulpit each Sunday (and I’ve also sent out numerous emails and solicited questions on Facebook), I haven’t received any other questions.

But as I prayer about your lack of questions, Jesus laid something else on my heart.  Jesus said, “If they don’t have any questions for you, I’d like to ask them a few questions."  So that’s what I’m gonna do today for the sermon.  Since you haven’t asked any questions, Jesus has some questions for you.  The first question comes from Mark 8:27-29.

Mark 8:27-29
27 Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
28 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”
29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”

Who Do You Say I Am?
Jesus actually asks his disciples two questions in this passage: “Who do people say I am?”  And “Who do you say I am?”  Jesus asks you the same questions this morning.  Who do people say that I am and who do you say that I am?  These are critical questions.  Your answers will influence everything you do in this life and even eternity.

Almost everyone has some opinion about Jesus.  In America, you would have to live under a rock to have never heard something about Jesus. So, who do people say that Jesus is?  A prophet?  A revolutionary?  A truly gifted religious leader? A fictional character people made up?

Most people, unfortunately, have a very inaccurate idea of Jesus.  Their notion of Jesus is just what they've picked up from popular opinion or myth.  Perhaps they have some vague ideas that he is loving and nurturing or merciful and forgiving, but they aren't necessarily clear of what all this entails.  Unless people read and understand the Bible—both the Old and the New Testaments—they probably only know of the popular image of Jesus, an image that is woefully inadequate.

CS Lewis once wrote that Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord.  Lewis argued that when people claim Jesus was just a good man, they disregard what he said about himself.  Lewis claims we must listen to what Jesus said about himself in the Gospels.  Jesus claimed to be the Son of God who was going to die on the cross and rise from the dead to save humanity from sin and grant eternal life.  Now if Jesus was just a good man, he was lying when he claimed to be the Son of God, Lord, and Savior.  Furthermore, thousands of people in his day (including his closest friends) died because they believed him.  Therefore, if Jesus was lying, he was anything but a good man.  He was actually evil if he was lying.  Or another option was that he believed his own lies; which means he was a deluded lunatic, not a good man.  The other option left to us is that Jesus was really telling the truth and he is indeed Lord.

What Jesus really cares about is not what other people say about him.  What he really wants to know is: “Who do you say he is?”  That’s what really matters.  You can’t control what other people think and do.  But you can make up your own mind—and you must decide about Jesus.  Who is Jesus to you? 

I’ll tell you who Jesus is to me.  Jesus is Lord, the Son of God, the Messiah, my Savior!

The second question Jesus asks you today comes from Mark 4:35-40

Mark 4:35-40
35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.
38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Why are you afraid?  Do you still have no faith?
Again, Jesus ask two questions; but this time the two questions are really the same thing asked two different ways.  Why are you afraid?  Do you still have no faith?

Maybe we should cut the disciples a little slack.  We have the benefit of looking back on the story already knowing a lot more about Jesus than the disciples had figured out by the 4th chapter of Mark.  They were still getting to know Jesus.  We’ve already heard the end of the story.  We’ve heard about all his other miracles—healing the sick, driving out demons, giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, raising the dead, and (most important) rising from the grave himself.  Also understand this: if you’ve been a Christians for more than three years, you’ve been walking with Jesus a lot longer than the disciples did.  Jesus was only on earth with His disciples for three years.  If you’ve been a Christian longer than that, you’ve already got more experience with Jesus than they did. 

And that’s why Jesus wants to ask you the same questions today. 
Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?
Storms come in all our lives.  They may not include wind and rain.  They may include: health problems, financial troubles, losing your job, grief over the death of a loved one.  Sometimes our fears aren’t even brought on by actual events.  More often, we worry about things that haven’t even happened yet, things that might never even happen.  What if my son/daughter gets hurt?  What if I get sick?  What if I never find someone to marry?  What if my marriage doesn’t work out?  What if I lose my job and can’t pay my bills? 

We worry because of sin.  It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.  Genesis 3:19, “By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made.  For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”  I always thought the reference to "sweat of your brow" was talking about how hard work will be.  But a study of ancient middle eastern phrases shows that when they used the phrase "the sweat of your brow" they were almost always talking about worry and anxiety.  Think about how Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane was praying that God would take the cup of suffering from him if it was possible and he was sweating like drops of blood from his brow.  Because of Adam's sin in the Garden of Eden, ancient farmers would always worry that their crops would fail because of drought, or pestilence, or failure to thrive and so they and the people they loved would starve to death.  It was a a very real possibility in an agricultural society.  And though today, in America, few will starve to death because of a crop failure, we still worry that we will lose our jobs or something else terrible will happen.

Worry and anxiety was a curse humanity received because of Adam's sin in the garden.  Praise be to God, Jesus came to set us free from the curse.  That’s why the angels who announced Jesus birth said, “Do not fear!  I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 2:10-11)  That’s why Jesus could say, “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”  (Matthew 6:31-33)

Just a few minutes ago, Jesus asked each of you, “Who do you say I am?”  And many of you affirmed with me, “Jesus is Lord, the Son of God, the Messiah, my Savior!”  If Jesus is your Lord, the Son of God, the Messiah, your Savior, then:
Why are you afraid?  Do you still have no faith?
If Jesus can calm a storm on the sea of Galilee, if He can rise from the grave, don't you trust Him to take care of you and your problems?

Jesus’ Questions
What has been bothering you lately?
Is Jesus asking you to do something?  (Forgive someone?  Answer a call to do something for Him?  Serve in some way?)
Are you worrying about something that might happen (but probably won’t)?  
Are you struggling with worry and anxiety?
Are you going though a very real and difficult storm in your life?

I want you to set aside your worries and concerns for just a moment and answer Jesus’ questions for you this morning. 
Answer His questions first and then pray about what’s bothering you.

Jesus’ questions for you this morning are:
Who do you say I am?
Why are you afraid? 
Do you still have no faith?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Proverbs Day 25

Read Proverbs 25
Wise people learn who to trust. Not everyone who claims to be your friend is really your friend. Kind words are sweet to hear and most will offer to help, but you find out who you can count on through experience.

Pastor Chris' Paraphrase of Proverbs 25:4, 14, 18, & 19
4 You have to remove the impurities from silver before it’s ready for the silversmith to make something useful.

14 Someone who makes a big deal about a gift they never really give is like rain clouds that never give any rain.

18 Telling lies about people is like assaulting them with a deadly weapon.

19 Relying on an untrustworthy person when you need them is like chewing with broken tooth or running on a sprained ankle.

Test people with small challenges to see what they're made of. Are they all talk and no action? Are they honest? Can they keep a confidence? If you can't trust someone with something small, you can't trust them with something big. However, if you've found someone who is faithful with small matters, they are more likely to handle something more important. Someone who walks through fiery trials with you is a true friend. Hold on to that friendship. It's worth more than silver or gold.

"Jesus, teach me who to trust. Help me be wise enough to look beyond the kind words and promises and discover who I can really count on. Help me to invest in those relationships. And help me every day to remember You are the one friend who will always be there. And may I be a true friend to You. Amen."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Proverbs Day 20

Read Proverbs 20
Wise living takes discipline, persistence, and trust. Some are tempted to indulge in extra sleep or to procrastinate. Others are tempted to act impulsively or try to control it all. Wise people take a broader view of life and work steadily toward success.

Pastor Chris' Paraphrase of Proverbs 20:4, 13, 18, and 24
4 Lazy people don’t plan ahead or prepare and they don’t have what they need when the time comes.

13 If you love to sleep, poverty will take over your life. Get up and get to work so you’ll have enough to eat.

18 Get lots of advice while you’re making your plans. Let people guide when you go to battle.

24 Only the Lord knows everything about our journey. We can’t see or understand everything that’s going on.

Don't be lazy. Plan ahead. Seek guidance. Work hard and be persistent. And don't be a control freak. You can have a great deal of influence over your own success, but are never in complete control and you do not know everything that is going on in the grand picture. Trust God.

"Lord, help me to be a wise planner and a diligent executor. Most of all, help me to trust You with it all. Amen."

Monday, June 20, 2016

In God We Trust

The Word of God urges us to trust God.  It is better to trust God than anything or anyone else.  Do you trust God above all else?  You might think so, but take a moment to reflect on this crucial question more deeply.  Listen to the Psalmist and then read this blog as you ask yourself, "Do I trust God more than anything else?"

Psalm 118:1-9 (Key verse: 8)
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever.
Let all Israel repeat:
    “His faithful love endures forever.”
Let Aaron’s descendants, the priests, repeat:
    “His faithful love endures forever.”
Let all who fear the Lord repeat:
    “His faithful love endures forever.”
In my distress I prayed to the Lord,
    and the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.
    What can mere people do to me?
Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me.
    I will look in triumph at those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in people.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.

            We are so very blessed to live in America, a country where we are free and have so few worries.  We are relatively safe.  We have the opportunity to earn a living and take care of ourselves and our family.  This is in contrast to Christians who lived in NT times, who struggled just to get by in a world very hostile to Christianity and where it was already hard to live (no medicine, no insurance, no grocery stores or refrigerators, let alone electricity or cell phones or air conditioning or other modern conveniences).
            Some would say: with all we have and all we have accomplished, we have outgrown our need for God.  We in the church would never say such, but I think subconsciously many believe it. Certainly, many in the church live as if we do not need God. We can count on ourselves, our prosperity, and all the available resources at our disposal in our world.  We live as if we have less need of God than our ancestors. We have so many more things we can depend upon.
            And yet, Scripture urges us: It is better to trust in the Lord than anything else. It is better because:
  • It gives us peace of mind. We all need assurance that life is dependable. And there is nothing more dependable than God.
  • Depending on God helps us to avoid trouble, for His precepts are true and eternal, and His faithful love endure forever.
  • This morning, I especially want you to understand trusting God (above all else) is a matter of eternal significance. 

The Trustworthiness of God
            First let me say why you can trust God.  You can trust God because God is all powerful.  He created the vast expanse of the universe.  There are 100 billion stars in our galaxy.  It’s hard to understand the magnitude of that number.  So let me put it in perspective.  Suppose you counted all the stars—counting one star every second.  It would take you over 3,000 years to count them all if you counted 1 star every second.  And that's just in our galaxy!  There are 100 billion galaxies in our universe—each containing about 100 billion stars.  And that's just what we know about; there could be more!  God simply spoke and all this came to be.  And God not only created it, He keeps it all working. We cannot even fathom the power of God.
            And, God is all knowing.  One might think with so much to oversee, God would forget about us, but hallelujah!  God does not forget!  Psalm 118:5 – “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me...”  Jesus said, "Not a single sparrow dies and God doesn't know about it." And he said, "God even knows how many hairs you have on your head." (Matthew 10:29-30).   God knows everything.  He knows everything about you, even your secret thoughts.  He knows you better than you know yourself.  But all of this—being all-powerful and all-knowing would not guarantee we can trust God if it weren't for one more crucial factor.
            God loves us completely.  John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life."  There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).  It is not that we loved God, but that he first loved us. While we were still sinners [ie. had totally ignored God, turned our backs on Him, rebelled against Him, and forgotten Him], Christ came and died for us (Romans 5:8).  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”  So we have this God of unlimited power, who knows everything and everything about us, and who loves us completely and unconditionally.  If we can trust anything, we can trust God. Psalm 118:1 – “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!  His faithful love endures forever.
            But some would ask, does God really exist?  That is more question than I have time to address fully in this blog, but I should at least touch upon the idea. Though most reading this probably accept the existence of God, there may be some who question or who might question in the future.
            First, I would say, that every culture that has ever lived, from all eras and all parts of the world, have all had some concept of God. Some have imagined an ultimate being very similar to the Christian idea of God. Others have conceived of multiple gods or spirits. Though there are variances in people's understanding of the Divine Power, the fact is:  all have perceived there is a God (or gods); and this is strong evidence that our collective human consciousness is aware that God does indeed exist. It would seem there is more out there than just what meets the eye.
            Second, I would add what has been most convincing for me. Look at the complexity of our world.  Look how different humanity is from all other animals. We are more than just animals who accidentally evolved to be more intelligent and self-aware than other animals.  Consider how all the world functions together as an intricate system. If the planet were not tilted on its axis at just the right angle, just the right distance from the sun, spinning at just the right speed, none of this life would be possible.  Consider how complex the workings of the electron, protons, and neutrons that make up the atoms and molecules of matter.  Consider the intricate functioning of just one single cell organism in our world; and then consider the infinite complexities of the human body—far more sophisticated than the functioning of the most complex machine.  Is this not powerful evidence of some supremely intelligent Creator who designed it all?
            If you found a watch lying in the sand on the beach, wouldn't you assume someone had dropped it?  Even though all the elements necessary to make the watch are present in the ocean, it would be ludicrous to believe all those elements accidentally came together to form the watch all by themselves.  To say this world and life is only an accident (not under the intelligent direction of a divine Higher Power) would be crazier than saying an auto parts store exploded and all the parts fell to the earth randomly, in just the right order so as to create a working car.  And not just one, but many—a Ford, a Toyota, a Chevy, a Chrysler, a Volkswagen, a BMW, a Honda...  So I think there is very strong evidence that a supremely powerful God exists.

For what can we trust God?
            So we can trust God.  But for what is it that we can trust Him?  We can trust God to supply all our needs.  We don’t have to worry (about life, what we will eat, what we will wear, where we will live, how we will survive).  God will take care of His people. 
            I don’t mean that He will give you anything you want.  When I was 5-years-old, I saw a movie about Godzilla--this giant monster as tall as buildings who could breath fire and was invincible.  Maybe it apealed to me because a 5-year-old feels pretty insignificant and powerless.  Anyway, we went to church and the preacher said you could pray for anything and if you believed it, God would give it to you (I'm sure I must have misunderstood the preacher, but that's what I heard). So on the way home from church, I got this idea to pray for a giant robot Godzilla in which I could drive around and rule the world.  I prayed and believed that giant robot would be in my front yard when I got home.  It wasn't, of course. Thank God.
            God will give you what you need.  We should work—with the help of the Holy Spirit—to get our desires under control.  It is a spiritual exercise (that leads to a great virtue) to turn our desires away from wanting more and more, and better and better stuff and learning to be satisfied with what God gives us.  What a blessing it is to be satisfied with what God provides and desiring nothing more!
             We can trust God’s forgiveness.  Through Christ, all our sins are forgiven.  Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23); yet praise be to God, we don’t have to carry that guilt and shame. Because of Christ, we are forgiven.  We do not have to tremble at the mention of God’s name—at least, not because we fear retribution.  For God holds nothing against those whom Christ has forgiven.  Have you recognized your need of forgiveness?  Have you cried out to Jesus for forgiveness?  Then He has forgiven you and there is nothing within you to anger God.  Your sins have been taken to the edge of the universe—13.7 billion light-years away—and flung over the edge into nothingness.
            And for all who trust in the Lord, He grants eternal life.  This is a promise from the God of the Universe—the all-powerful, all-knowing, who is Perfect Love.   “This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life.” (John 6:40, The Message)  But there is more!
            We can trust God to love us.  Didn’t you hear the Psalmist’s refrain?  “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  His Faithful love endures forever!"
            God’s love for us does not depend on our goodness, our talent, our achievements, our possessions, our power or influence.
            God loves us when no one else does.
            God loves us when everyone else does—but God loves us for the right reasons.
            God loves us when we are completely unloveable.
            God’s love endures forever.  He will never stop.  He will never leave us or forsake.
            Romans 8:38-39 – “…nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
            There is but one more thing I must mention (there are many more things I could mention, but for the sake of time, just one I will mention).  We can trust God’s justice.  We can trust God to right all the wrongs of our world. We don’t have to hold hatred in our hearts.  We don’t have to hold a grudge against others.  We don’t have to seek vengeance.  We should seek to do good and help others and right the wrongs we see—when it is within our power and when God calls us to do so—but we don’t have to worry that evil will go unpunished or that the wicked will get away with sin.  God knows all and has the wisdom to deal with evil in the right way at the right time.  We can trust God to meet out justice perfectly at the perfect time and in the perfect way.

Wrongly placed Trust
           So you see, we can trust God.  We should trust God.  We should trust God above all else.  And yet the Word of God warns us: It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. (Psalm 118:8)
            If the Word of God needs to urge us to trust God, it must mean people tend to trust other things more.  And that is what we find in our lives.  We are worldly people.  We put our trust in the things of this world more than we trust God. 
            We depend upon our money to buy our way out of trouble or to insure against it.  We depend upon our job to provide the money we need.
            We trust our country's military might to protect us.  We live in the most powerful country in the world.  Our military is second to none.  We are thankful for soldiers who serve to protect us.  We are proud of the incredibly advance weapons of war we possess. Surely, nothing could come against us.  Yet all this is nothing and could fail in a moment.  Our true help comes from the Lord, not our military.
            We trust our politicians to fix the problems of our nation.  “Ha!” You laugh.  “Who could possibly trust our politicians in Washington?”  Then why are we putting so much stock in them?  Why are we so worried about who will be the next president?  Why are we so concerned everything is going to fall apart if Trump gets elected?  Or if Hillary gets elected?  Are we trusting in the president when we should be trusting in God?
            Others trust in drugs or alcohol.  We need something to soothe the pain of this world—to take the edge off our worries.  Yet these substances dull us to life until we are little more than zombies walking through the world missing out on real life.  Eventually, the drugs and alcohol will kill our bodies.  There is a better way.  Trust in the Lord.  He will never let you down.  He never runs out.  His high never wears off.  His peace is more than a sedative—it is real peace, a peace that passes all understanding, a peace that can carry you through any storm because He is the maker of the storm and perfectly capable of carrying you through it or banishing the storm into thin air.
            Some trust in their religion.  This is a very tricky thing, for it almost seems like you are trusting in God.  But when you trust in religion, you are trusting in your actions to guarantee your well-being.  It is thinking, “I will be fine, because I am a good person.”  It is thinking, “God will take care of me, because I have done what He said (or done the right things in life).”  The subtle difference is you are really trusting in yourself, not God.  And that is religion, not faith in Christ.
            We cannot and should not trust anything above God.  And this is crucial.  It has eternal significance—which I will explain in just a moment.

            But first, I would say, it should not be assumed that you cannot trust anything in this world.  It would be a sorry life to go around mistrusting every person and every thing.  That is no life to live and not God’s intention.  What is needed is for our trust to be prioritized correctly.
            This is a matter of eternal significance.  It is faith in God that saves us.  The Truth is: if you trust anything above God, you are on dangerous ground.  God will not be your backup.  He is Lord and will accept nothing less than first place in your life.  You must put your whole trust in Him through Christ.  If you are trusting in your job more than you are trusting in God, watch out!  God may take away that job to teach you to trust in Him instead.  But even more significantly. if you have been trusting something else ahead of God, you are not really trusting God—He is merely a backup plan.  God must be first.  He deserves to be first.  He will be first or He will not be in your life.
            So what are you to do today?  I say, listen to what the Word of God says.  Examine your heart.  Is God really first?  Are you depending on Him above all else?  Have you been depending on the wrong things for your happiness? Your security? Your comfort? Your peace of mind?  Your salvation?  For love?  For Hope? For wisdom?  For eternity?
            Then repent and heed the words of the Psalmist:  "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.”