Sermon Message: Alive with Jesus
Sermon Message: Putting Off the Old
Sermon Message: When You Hear God's Call
Sermon Message: Working for the Lord
Sermon Message: Fellowship in the Light
Sermon Message: O Worship the King
"For He Is Good!"
(Delivered Sunday, March 17, 2002 at Bethany Bible Church. All scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James Version.)
Dear brother or sister in Christ; your heavenly Father would like to enter into an agreement with you.
As with most agreements, God has His part; and you have your part as well. In this particular agreement, God promises just one thing that He will do; and asks two things of you. But I believe that, when you see what He promises to do, you'll be eager to do your part and enter into this wonderful agreement with Him. Would you like to hear more?
The terms of this agreement are very simple, and they're found in Psalm 50:15. God says, "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me." Look at this agreement very carefully. Do you see God's part? God says that, "in a day of trouble" - that is, at a time in which you are in desperate circumstances which are greater than your ability to control - God promises to deliver you. Just think of what a great offer this is! The almighty God - the sovereign King of the universe who has made and now sustains all things - the all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful God of the universe, who loves you infinitely and is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (Eph. 3:20) - this very God gives you an unconditional guarantee: He will deliver you in the day of trouble! He doesn't specify a particular kind of "day of trouble"; but instead leaves this promise wide open. That's His part of the agreement. Can you get a better offer than that?
But do you see your part? We would be glad for God to fulfill His part of the agreement to us; but all too often we neglect to do our part of it. There are two things that are being asked of you in this wonderful agreement; and compared to what God is offering you, they are very reasonable things to do. First, you must take the initiative to "call upon" God in that day of trouble. You must make the first move by expressing your dependency upon Him and cry out to Him. When you find that you're in a time of crisis, or that you're trapped in a problem that you can't solve, or that you are in a state of great need, your part of the agreement is to go to Him, open your mouth in prayer, and call out to Him for help. And then, when God has delivered you, you must do the second half of your part of the agreement, and that is to "glorify" or "honor" Him. You must open your mouth again and offer Him your praise and thanks. You must proclaim His goodness so that others may hear. You must bear witness to what He has done for you. You must declare the goodness and lovingkindness of the God who delivered you.
Now to be honest, some folks would like to enter into a different agreement with God. Some would prefer that God simply offered to keep them out of the day of trouble altogether, so they'd never have a reason to cry out to Him in the first place. But God does not offer such an arrangement to us. Others would prefer that God would simply work on their behalf to keep their troubles down to a manageable size, so they can handle things in their own power and resources. But God doesn't offer that arrangement to us either.
Like it or not, the promise of the Bible is that we will encounter the day of trouble in our lives. Job said that "man is born to trouble" (Job 5:7). Jesus promised that in this world, "you will have tribulation" (John 16:33). God, by design, permits trouble to come into our lives; and we cannot avoid it. But the good news is that all the troubles that He permits remain continually under His sovereign control. They are custom-designed, and tailored to keep us dependent upon Him and to help us grow. And He promises that He will never allow us to be tempted or tested beyond our ability; but will with the temptation provide a way of escape so that we might be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10:13). He will keep His promise. He will deliver us in the day of trouble. But He is looking to us to be faithful and do our part. He is looking to us to call out to Him with an attitude of dependency and trust, and to glorify Him for His goodness in acting on our behalf.
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I believe that this wonderful agreement God offers to enter into with us is what's behind Psalm 107. I'd like to draw your attention to this psalm and introduce it to you; because I believe God gave it to us to buttress our faith in the reliability of this wonderful agreement. I believe He gave it to us as an encouragement to enter into this agreement with Him.
This psalm follows two very interesting psalms - both of which testify to God's faithfulness in delivering Israel in particular times of trouble. Psalm 105 is a song of praise to God for His deliverance of the children of Abraham from their bondage in Egypt. Psalm 105:42-45 says, "For He remembered His holy promise, and Abraham His servant. He brought out His people with joy, His chosen ones with gladness. He gave them the lands of the Gentiles, and they inherited the labor of the nations, that they might observe His statutes and keep His laws."
But Psalm 106 tells the sad story of how these same people repeatedly disobeyed God. It tells the long story of how the people rebelled against God while at the banks of the Red Sea (vv. 6-7); of how they complained against God in the wilderness, lusting after meat (vv. 13-15); of how they rebelled against Moses' authority (vv. 16-18), and bowed down to the golden calf (vv. 19-20); of how they despised the land God promised them (vv. 24-27); of how they joined themselves to the false god Baal (vv. 28-31); of how they strove with God in their thirst for water (vv. 32-33); and of how they adopted the evil ways of the nations around them (vv. 34-39). We read that God grew angry with them, and allowed them many times to be delivered over to their enemies. But we read that "He regarded their affliction, when he heard their cry; and for their sake He remembered His covenant, and relented according to the multitude of His mercies" (v. 44-45). We read that He did this when His people cried out "Save us, O LORD our God" (v. 47).
Psalm 107, then, follows after these epic accounts of God's deliverance of His people. It builds on the record of God's faithfulness to respond to His people whenever they call out to Him for rescue. It begins with these words:
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Dear brother or sister; are you facing a time of trouble? Do you need God's deliverance today? He invites you to enter into an agreement with Him. He gives us, in His word, the record of His great faithfulness to keep this agreement with all who enter into it with Him. He has never failed those who truly cry out to Him, and who set their hearts to glorify His name. He will fulfill His part of this agreement faithfully. Will you fulfill yours?
Look carefully at this psalm and you'll see that ...
1. WE CAN CRY OUT TO HIM IN A TIME OF TROUBLE AND KNOW HE HEARS US.
There's a remarkable repetitiveness to this psalm. It tells four different stories of people in times of trouble and distress; and in four verses, we find the following statement repeated -almost word-for-word: "Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses." We find this statement in verses 6, 13, 19 and 28. This repeated affirmation is intended to assure us that we, like the poor, troubled people in these stories, can cry out to God in our troubles, with the absolute assurance that God hears us and will deliver us out of them all. It's intended to assure us that, when we enter into this wonderful agreement with God, He will faithfully do His part.
And what's more, God gives us this repeated affirmation in these four different stories, to teach us that God is faithful to this agreement in any kind of situation - concerning any kind of trouble.
Look at the first story God gives to us. It teaches us that God has kept this agreement to those who have cried out to Him at a time when they were desperately lost and helpless in the wilderness.
Perhaps this draws from the story of the people of Israel during their wanderings in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land. There they were - vulnerable, hungry, thirsty, homeless, helpless. They didn't know where to go. They didn't know what to do. Left to their own resources, they would surely die. But they cried out to God in their day of trouble, and He delivered them.
Have you ever felt like them? Do you feel that way now? Do you feel as if you are wandering in a dessert land, with no idea what to do or where to Go? Do you feel helpless and hopeless? Do you feel as if you are without direction? God has a great record of rescuing those who "wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way". He has heard the cry of all such wonderers; and has faithfully led them forth by the right way; so that they might go to a city for a dwelling place. And like them, He invites you to enter into this agreement with Him. Cry out to Him in your day of trouble, and He will deliver you.
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But perhaps you might be thinking, "Yes; God rescues people who are in trouble who cry out to Him. Good people. Faithful people. Obedient people. But I have disobeyed Him. I've rebelled against Him. I did what He told me not to do; and now I'm suffering for it. I'm in the fix I'm in because I wouldn't follow His instructions. I brought my own "day of trouble" on myself because of my sinful rebellion against Him. I have no right to ask God to rescue me."
And perhaps you're right that your own sinful rebellion has gotten you into the fix you're in. Perhaps you dabbled too close to sin and fell into its trap. Perhaps you're where you are because of the disciplining hand of God. But even if that's true, I have good news for you. God's mercy and goodness is great enough for you too. God offers to enter into this agreement to you. Yes, even to you! The psalm goes on to say;
Perhaps this is a reference to the troubles Israel brought upon themselves because of their sins. Psalm 106:40-42 says that "the wrath of the LORD was kindled against His people, so that He abhorred His own inheritance. And He gave them into the hand of the Gentiles, and those who hated them ruled over them. Their enemies also oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their hand." But it also says, "Many times He delivered them" (v. 43). God never turns away those who cry out to Him - no matter how many times they fail Him; and no matter how undeserving of recuse they might be.
Are you in a "day of trouble"? And have you hesitated to cry out to God because that "trouble" was a product of your own sin? Then wait no longer! The promise of God's own word is that "where sin abounded, grace abounded much more" (Rom. 5:20). Don't delay. Enter into this agreement with God. He is ready to bring you out of darkness and the shadow of death, and to break your chains in pieces - if you will but humbly confess your sin and cry out to Him.
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Perhaps it wasn't so much "rebellion" and "wickedness" that brought you into the day of trouble, as it was just plain old foolishness. Perhaps you have bumbled and stumbled along thoughtlessly and unwisely. Perhaps you've been walking on a path that leads to destruction for years, and didn't even know it. Perhaps you believe that you wouldn't be in the fix you're in if you hadn't been so stupid. Perhaps you think that there's no hope for a fool. Perhaps your own carelessness and unwise choices have caused you to suffer miserably. Perhaps you think that it's too late for you.
But it's not. God holds out this wonderful agreement to all those who have acted foolishly and unwisely. The psalm goes on to say,
We're left to wonder what sort of a situation this might describe. But I think that it's very instructive that we're told how God solved the problem. "He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions." This makes me think of what it says in Psalm 32:8-9; "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you."
Have you been like a horse or a mule? Has God had to put a bit and bridle upon you - perhaps in the form of illness or affliction - because you kept wandering foolishly into ways that lead to destruction? Have you not been paying attention to His instruction in His word; and have you been suffering as a result? Have you been going your own way, and seeking to solve your problems through your own efforts; and have you been making a greater and greater mess of things? Do you wish you could start over? If so, then it's time to stop being so foolish. God holds this agreement out to you. God promises to deliver you out of the day of trouble. The first step is to repent of your foolishness and cry out to Him.
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Perhaps you are experiencing a day of trouble that has nothing to do with any of these things. Perhaps you're cast about by circumstances that are outside of your control - like a ship tossed at sea. Then this psalm has something to say to you too.
I can't think of a better picture of being utterly at the mercy of circumstances outside one's control than that of a ship out on the sea, tossed about in a violent storm. And look very carefully at these words and you'll see something amazing. Verse 25 tells us that God "command and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea". In other words, it's not a matter of being in a day of trouble because one is lost and doesn't know the right way to go, or because of one's own sinful rebellion against God, or because of one's own foolishness and disregard for God's clear instructions for life. I say this very, very carefully; but this appears to be a day of trouble that comes about only because God has willed it to be so. It's a day of trouble that God sovereingly permits so that we might have a reason to cry out to Him.
When I read this, I think of the story that Luke tells us about our Lord. He said,
Dear brother or sister, think with me about this. Who commands the winds and the waves of life? Doesn't our Lord control them? And if He permits them, doesn't He do so in order to move us to cry out to Him? And isn't He able to stop the storms of life as soon as they serve their divine purpose?
I think it's instructive how many stories there are in the Gospels that feature Jesus, His disciples, a boat, and a storm. There's something God is trying to tell us in them. May I share another one with you? On a different occasion, He sent His disciples away on a boat while He waited on the shore. Then, the sea arose because a great wind was blowing. They were straining at the oars and getting nowhere. That's when Jesus came out to them, walking on the waves. They were very afraid; but He told them, "It is I; do not be afraid" (Mark. 6:50). And we're told that "He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased" (v. 51). What a picture! As soon as Jesus came on board, the storm was over!
If you're feeling tossed about by a "storm" - that is, by circumstances that are outside your control - then know that they're outside your control, but not outside the Lord's control. The moment you cry out to Him, then the very One who controls the storm enters into the boat with you. He calms the storm when the time is right; and brings you safely to a haven of rest. He invites you today into this agreement with Him: "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me."
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That leads me to a second thing I'd like to point out to you in this psalm. It teaches us the second half of our part of the agreement ...
2. WE SHOULD THANK HIM FOR HIS GOODNESS AND HIS WONDERFUL WORKS.
Perhaps you've noticed that there is another affirmation that's repeated four times. We find it, word-for-word, in each of these four stories. The psalm says, "Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!" We find it in verses 8, 15, 21, and 31.
It's not enough, you see, to simply cry out to Him. He certainly desires that from us, and it's a part of the agreement that we do so. But as you recall, the full agreement reads as follows: "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me." This is the intention of that second repeated phrase. Oh indeed! - That we, to whom God shows such goodness, and to whom He displays His wonderful works, would praise Him for what He does!
Oh, that we, whom God delivers from wandering in the wilderness in a desolate way would praise Him! As this psalm says, "He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city for a dwelling place" (v. 7). "He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness" (v. 9). No one is lost who cries out to God.
Oh, that we, whom God delivers from the results of our own sinful rebellion would praise Him! As we're told, "He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their chains in pieces" (v. 14). "He has broken the gates of bronze, and cut the bars of iron in two" (v. 16). No gates or bars can imprison those who cry out to Him.
Oh, that we, whom God delivers from the foolishness of our own ways would praise Him! As this psalm testifies, "He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions" (v. 20). Therefore, "Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing" (v. 22). Not even our own foolishness can destroy us when we cry out to our wise God.
Oh, that those He rescues from the storms of life would praise Him! "He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven" (vv. 29-30). "Let them exalt Him also, in the assembly of the people, and praise Him in the company of the elders" (v. 32). Indeed, all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).
And I wonder; do these words remind you of a debt of thanks to God you owe? Is He waiting for you to thank Him and give public testimony to the way He has kept His end of this agreement toward you? Have you kept the first part of the agreement with Him, but failed to keep the second? Oh, that YOU would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!
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An agreement like this has a great strength and a great weakness. God, who never fails, is its strength. We, who are often not paying attention, is its weakness. This leads us, then, to a final thing we should learn from this psalm ...
3. WE SHOULD OBSERVE HIS WORKS AND LEARN OF HIS GOODNESS.
This psalm closes off with two more stories that affirm the sovereign strength of the God who offers this agreement to us. He here gives us His credentials. First we're told,
He turns rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground; a fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of those who dwell in it. He turns a wilderness into pools of water, and dry land into watersprings. There He makes the hungry dwell, that they may establish a city for a dwelling place, and sow fields and plant vineyards, that they may yield a fruitful harvest. He also blesses them, and they multiply greatly; and He does not let their cattle decrease (vv. 33-38).
The mighty, sovereign God who makes this offer to us is able to turn a paradise into a wasteland because of the wickedness of those who dwell in it. But for those who cry out to Him, He is able to do the opposite - and turn a wilderness into a paradise. He is more than able to help those who cry out to Him. He is more than able to help you and me.
He is not only able to do this to the lands in which people dwell; but He is able to do this to the people themselves. The psalm goes on to speak of the wicked who oppress the poor, and say,
This almost sounds like that first of those four stories; doesn't it? We know that He is able to rescue those who wander in the wilderness in a desolate way; because He is able to take princes and the mighty people of the earth - those who "diminish" and "bring low" the poor "through oppression, affliction and sorrow" - and "cause them to wander in the wilderness where there is no way". But He is able to do the opposite for the poor who cry out to Him - that is, set them on high, far from affliction, and make their families prosper.
The history of God's dealings with man prove that this is so. He is able to come marvelously to the rescue of those who cry out to Him. He is teaching this lesson all around us, if we will pay attention to it. And so, the psalm closes with these words:
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Dear brother or sister, this wonderful agreement is being offered to you today. Will you accept its terms? Will you do embrace God's offer to you, in whatever situation you're facing? God will be true to His part of this agreement. Will you be true to yours? He says, "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me."
Will you enter into this agreement with Him today? Will you fulfill your part of it?
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