Tuesday, June 14, 2016

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

Day #167

Scripture Reading:  Psalms 120 - 121 …

Every person will face distress, trials and suffering in this life.  No one is exempt.  Where do you turn in those times?  Some turn to friends and family.  Others turn to their brothers and sisters in Christ.  God's people help many in their times of struggle and despair.  Yet, ultimately, each of us will arrive at moments where it seems that help is nowhere to be found and deliverance seems far away.  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).   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??   In II Timothy 2:23-25, Paul said to his young friend,  "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments ... 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 ...”

Too often Christians are distracted by foolish arguments and never get around to proclaiming the truth, the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We 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.  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. Don’t give in to the temptation to doubt, to fear or to worry!

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!!  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!  (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?  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!  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 and I trust in You.  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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