Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"In times of distress, where do you turn but to the Lord, our God!"

Day #291:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - October 15th

Scripture Reading:  Psalms 120 - 121 …

Every person will face distress, trials and suffering in this life.  No one is exempt.  The difference between those who know the true God and those who don't … between those who trust in the God who reveals Himself in His Word, the Bible, and those who trust in themselves or in other gods of their own making … the difference is FAITH and HOPE!  Some who don't know God says things like, "God helps those who help themselves," but while God calls us to be responsible, to do our part to avoid troubles and to resolve problems, we all arrive inevitably at the place where we can't help ourselves and we need someone wiser and more powerful to deliver us.  Where do you turn in those times?

Some might answer:  to friends and family.  Again, that is a good source of help in times of trials and distress (at least for some).  Others might turn to the church.  God's people help many in their times of struggle and despair.  Yet, ultimately, each of us will arrive at moments where help is nowhere to be found and deliverance seems far away.  It may be in the circumstances and situations of everyday life, or it may be as we approach death and engage in the dying process, but whatever it is and whenever it is, we all get there.  Where do you turn in times of distress, in times of trials, in times of suffering?  The Psalmist turned to the LORD, the one true God, the great "I AM" who revealed Himself as the God who created the world and everything in it and who rules over the lives of ALL people on the face of the earth.

It has always amazed me that when unbelievers go through trials they will often say to believers something like this:  "Where is your 'God of love' now?"  We could say to them, "You mean, the God you don't believe in?"  WE know where our "God of love" is … He is with us and all those who turn to Him.  That's what the Psalmist is saying.  He begins Psalm 120 with a statement, a declaration:  "I call on the LORD in my distress, and He answers me" (120:1).  Perhaps he is saying this to himself or perhaps he is giving a testimony to anyone who may sing this song (the Psalms were songs written to be sung by God's people). He is declaring that THIS is what HE does in times of distress:  he calls to the LORD and receives an answer.  He then goes on to call on the LORD in his present situation.

People were lying about him, slandering him, wanting to be "at war" with words.  "Save me, O LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues" (120:2).  We who know God need to understand that claiming to know the true God and declaring to the world the truth about sin and judgment and the one way of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ will produce a reaction.  Remember again that Jesus said, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of ME!" (Matthew 5:11).  He told the disciples that the world hated Him and the world would hate them.  Think of the thousands of ways that true believers are slandered today … we can expect worse in the future.

He writes, "I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war" (120:7).  Do you ever feel like people just want to argue??  God says some things about that and how we as followers of Jesus should respond.  Paul writes in Romans 12:18: "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."  Sometimes that requires walking away!  We read Paul's instruction to Timothy in II Timothy 2:23-26:  "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.  And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will."

Too often Christians are distracted by foolish arguments and never get around to proclaiming the truth, the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We should want people to know the God we know, who has revealed Himself to us as the God of comfort for those who turn to Him in their distress.  All the trials and suffering of this world are a result of mankind's rebellion against God, and it is only through the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross in our place and the work of His Spirit within us that we are able to approach the throne of God's grace with confidence and believe that He hears us when we pray.  We have the answer to those who wonder where God is!  He is on His throne, ruling over all things, calling His children to trust in Him.  Sometimes He grants a miracle, other times He works through other people or arranges circumstances to bring about a positive outcome, and then there are those times when it seems that He is not answering, that He is being silent … but it is then that He is at work in us and through us to testify that we live by FAITH, not by sight.

So where do you turn in times of distress?  The Psalmist answered, "I lift up my eyes to the hills … where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth"  (121:1-2).  What better place to go than to Him who holds you in the palm of His hand, who has promised that He will never leave you or forsake you, who has given His own Son to bear the penalty for your sin and who by His Spirit has given you the gift of faith?  In those times when it seems that there is NOT an answer, you need to turn to Him in faith, believing His promises and trusting in His grace.  The temptation … the temptation is to stop believing, to doubt, to fear, to become anxious, to give up, to give in, to waver, to run away from God rather than toward Him … all foolish choices!!

Satan wants to make you think that you are all alone, that God doesn't care, that He doesn't hear your prayers, that He is somehow missing from the scene of your trial and suffering.  That is a lie from the father of lies!!  "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, HE will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it" (I Corinthians 10:13).  The way out is FAITH!!  The Psalmist declares his faith in the remainder of Psalm 121:

"He will not let your foot slip … He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD watches over you … the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.  The LORD will keep you from all harm … He will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore" (Psalm 121:3-8).

We who know God know this to be true.  We have experienced it ourselves.  Our trials and suffering have taught us to trust in God and we find HOPE and comfort and strength in our God!  "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God" (II Corinthians 1:3-4).  No one escapes this life without distress, trials and suffering.  But WE who know God, who have come to Him through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, and who are now "filled with His Spirit" find meaning and purpose even in the midst of it all, for our God reigns and all of this is temporary!

To those who know God and who are His true children, Jesus says, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).  Have YOU found rest in Jesus?  Do you know the one true God who never slumbers or sleeps, but who watches over you and protects you in thousands of ways that you are not even aware of?  Do you understand what Peter wrote in I Peter 1 about the "living hope" that we have kept for us in heaven as we live by faith in this world?  (I Peter 1:3-9).  Peter says, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (verses 6-7).

Whatever you are going through right now and whatever you will go through in the future, GOD is the only source of true comfort, strength and hope!  "Therefore … we also rejoice (boast) in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given to us …" (Romans 5:3-5).

You can know today that God is with you and that He will give you what you need to endure the trial, perhaps even removing it … but always giving strength and wisdom to those who call upon Him in the name of Jesus.  Draw near to Him today in faith; turn to the Lord, our God, and He WILL deliver you, in His time and in His way … and for His glory!!

"My Father in heaven, I thank You for Your grace to me in times past, for You have delivered me from fear and worry and have set my feet upon the solid rock!  I trust in You, for I know that You are faithful to all of Your promises.  I have seen Your hand at work and I know that You have a purpose in the trials and suffering I am called to bear.  As Jesus took up the cross for me, so let me take up my cross for Him, enduring and persevering by the strength You provide, that I may point others to You, the one true God, and continue to praise You in the midst of the storm.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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