Friday, April 15, 2016

Life's Unknowns

We face a lot of unknowns in our fallen world. Will I ever get married? Can my marriage be saved? Is my career going to improve? Will I be cured of my health problems? We each have questions that cause us to wrestle and wonder.


Many try to handle life’s unknowns without God. Let’s face it: we will face uncertainties without God or with him. Many of us are spiritually “self-employed.” We work for ourselves. There is one major negative for working for yourself; you have to cover your own benefits. When you work for yourself, you have to pay for your own expenses. You cover your own insurance. You are free to work for yourself, but you will have to bear the entire burden.


I am a living witness that you cannot bear your own burdens and problems. I have no problem saying, “I need God!” I need him to wake up in the morning. I need him to think, feel, act, and breathe. Without a doubt, I need him to live in this uncertain world.


Psalm 37 is a treasure trove for those who are struggling with life’s unknowns. This psalm is long and comprehensive, dealing with issues like character, mortality, wisdom, justice, stewardship, and God’s character. The psalm has also been understood as a prayer of the persecuted who has taken refuge in God.


I think most of us here know that we need God in our uncertain world. We just take God for granted. When you don’t realize what you have, you take things for granted. I have talked to people who have felt that way about their spouse. “I feel that all I do is taken for granted. If he doesn’t appreciate me, then I cannot take it much longer.” We get used to cooked meals, folded laundry, and the taxi service for the children. We take people for granted, especially those we say we love. “I’m a hard worker. I listen to her problems. I don’t feel like she respects me,” one man said.


We take God for granted. Our salvation cost him Jesus Christ, his only Son. We take God’s love and grace for granted. We neglect our time with him. We don’t worship God and adore him for his presence with us in the good and bad of life.


David did not take God’s grace for granted. King David, as an old man, wrote Psalm 37 as an acrostic poem, the stanzas of which begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. He helps comfort those who have become discouraged by the prosperity of those who do not honor God. David is the ideal king to the Jewish people—although he had many flaws; his song demonstrates why he is held in reverence. David knew that he needed God.


We are going to look at a few of the verses from Psalm 37 which encourage us to take refuge in God during uncertain times.


What keeps us “sane” as we deal with life’s unknowns?


Carol enjoyed the mission trip to New York City. They made a tremendous difference while serving the people there. I enjoyed looking through her pictures. She took one picture from the street with the lens pointing straight up toward the tops of the surrounding skyscrapers.


If a person stands on the ground in a city like that, they can’t see too far up or out because the buildings loom so tall. All a person can do is stand on the street corner and look down the avenues.


We all stand at ground level. Problems seem large without God’s perspective. We cannot see over them. Money problems, people problems, work problems block our view of what is around the corner. If we could see from God’s perspective, wouldn’t we feel a lot more confident?


David is going to help us see life from God’s perspective. Let’s look at a few selections from Psalm 37 and our worries will begin to look a lot smaller.


1. Trust in God’s promises.

Psalm 37:1-7 Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
    be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
    and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,

    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,

    and your justice as the noonday.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,

    over the man who carries out evil devices!


God will give us our heart’s desires when he is our delight. In God’s presence, we find intense joy. When we commit our plans to God’s direction, he will act. God is not passive.


Trust, faith, and perseverance in God will be rewarded on God’s time table. The longer we live, the more we can validate these words. The advice that David gives helps us gain perspective in an uncertain world. God keeps his promises!


Most people don’t come to church, stand in front of a chair, and wonder if that chair can hold them up. Most people don’t evaluate the chair or perform a series of tests to determine the strength of the chair. They just sit down when someone says, “You may be seated.” They exercise faith. The faith is not based on a feeling about the chair. It is based on confidence that the chair will hold them up.


The opposite is also true. If a person says, “I believe that the chairs in the auditorium can hold me up. The chairs are beautiful. The seats are comfortable. The chairs are durable.” However, if they never sit down, they are not exercising faith because they did not act on what they said they believed. Faith is acting like God’s promises are true. Do you embrace the promises of God?


Start by praying and believing God’s promises. You’ll experience peace and comfort in your prayer life when you talk to God about whatever is bother you and bring his promises before him. Every moment, every thought, every circumstance is an opportunity to rely on the promises of God. Your prayers express your willingness to rely on God and trust him. His promises provide the basis for your relationship with him.


Take your prayer life to the next level by making praying God’s promises a continuous part of your everyday lives. Practice the presence of God. When I think of this type of constant connection with God, I think of Brother Lawrence, a monk who lived long ago. As he washed the pots and pans in the monastery, he spent time talking with God.


Delight in God, verse four reminds us. Wait patiently for God, verse seven tells us. When we spend time with God, we find that we are no longer preoccupied with our worries, adversity, or problems. We discover that our trust in God helps us to rely on his promises and to keep our lives centered around him.


2. Trust in God’s provision.

Psalm 37:23-26 The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
    when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,

    for the Lord upholds his hand.

25 I have been young, and now am old,
    yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
    or his children begging for bread.
26 He is ever lending generously,
    and his children become a blessing.


Our steps are “established” or made firm. God will not allow us to be utterly destroyed. Even when we sin and fall, God is there to help us get back on our feet again. David knew this from personal experience. David was guilty of pride, deceit, sexual sin, and murder. Although David’s failures created painful circumstances, God’s grace brought David back to righteousness.


When we face the unknown, we are tempted to question God’s provision. At times, we feel like we will go lacking. When our provisions are lacking, our faith can be shaken. Jesus commanded us to pray for our “daily bread.” Paul reminded us that we walk by faith.


2 Corinthians 5:7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.


A missionary friend told me, “Where God guides, he provides.” The same missionary who reminded me that connecting with certain cultures meant speaking their language and eating their food. His motto became: “Where he leads me, I will follow. What he feeds me, I will swallow.”


God has always been a provider. When Jacob’s family faced famine, he called them down to Egypt. When the Jews wandered through the desert, he provided manna for them to eat. Jesus fed 5000 with five loaves and two fish. Even when God’s people have been ungrateful, God has provided.


The economic circumstances of Israel were relatively good during David’s reign. Rich and poor lived in the land. The Israelites would lend with no interest. In the year of Jubilee, all debts were forgiven, and the land was returned to the original owners. Israel was to be a light to the nations, preparing them for Jesus Christ. They did this, in part, by working hard and providing for one another.


God is our provider. His support to us in trouble and provisions for our needs remind us of God’s faithful presence. When we face the unknown, we have difficulty believing that God will provide. God always proves our doubts to be wrong.


God is a giver by nature; giving is the nature of those who are closest to God. As God provides for us, we are to observe his nature and take on his ways. The stingy, greedy person has not taken the time to learn from God.


Think about your present life circumstances. The Scriptures tell us that even when we fall, we are not cast headlong; in other words, we are not allowed to plunge to destruction. God is holding our hand. His greatest provision for us is himself. What about your current level of trust in God? Be honest with yourself. Is your level of confidence where you want it to be? 


3. Trust in God’s protection.

Psalm 37:39-40 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
    he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
    he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,

    because they take refuge in him.


God will sustain us when we face trials. He has given special protection to his own. When we trust in God, he saves us. The Psalm answers that the prosperity of those who reject God is only temporary. God will reverse things, rewarding the good and punishing the wicked here on earth.


“In one of the Superman movies, Superman saves a man from a burning building. He rescues him from the top floor and is carrying him to safety by flying through the skies. The man looks at Superman and then looks down to the ground. ‘I’m scared. Superman. Look how far down that is.’ Superman gives him a great answer. ‘Now, if I delivered you from the burning fire, what makes you think I am going to drop you when I’m carrying you to safety?’”[1]


When God saves us from a burning hell, what makes you think he will let you go before he safely puts you down?


The more confident we are in God, the less we need to know all the details.


In our uncertain world, we serve a God we can trust. He offers to us his promises, provision and protection. In the midst of giving us these, he meets our deepest need and desire. Every person, down in their heart, has a passion for something. They want to do, be, or attain something. Some want a loved one to become a believer. Many are praying that a prodigal will come home. A few want to be loved and understood. What is your desire? Do you trust God to meet your needs?


God has offered us his promise, provision, and protection in Jesus Christ, his only Son. Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again to give us eternal life. If we trust in him, we have forgiveness and peace with God. We cannot earn salvation. The fact that we need God’s promises, provision, and protection are reminders that we cannot save ourselves from the judgment to come.


If we were going to have a jumping contest and try to touch the ceiling of the worship auditorium, no one would win. I’m sure you would jump higher than I can jump. Nevertheless, I guarantee you that no one is going to meet the standard by reaching the ceiling. If the ceiling is the standard, then the fact that you can jump higher than me is irrelevant. You would fail in attempting to meet the goal.


We need God to save us. We cannot attain salvation on our own. We cannot lower the standard so that we may attain it. God wants to raise us up to where we need to be through Jesus Christ. 


I watched the news recently and discovered that a teenaged boy in Florida was posing as a doctor. I was amazed. He had an office in a storefront—the whole nine yards. He was arrested![2]


If a person wants to be a doctor, he doesn’t go out and buy a white coat and a stethoscope. That decision would have been made years in advance, and it requires a process of preparation. A person doesn’t go out and try a case as a lawyer without taking the bar exam. You don’t decide at the age of 65 that you want to retire as a millionaire in a week.


My point is that there will be a day of judgment. We will all stand before God, and we will give an account for ourselves. And when that day comes, it will be too late to make any preparations. Your decisions and preparations should have already been made by that moment in time—long in advance.

[1]Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book. . . (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2008), 90.
[2] (Retrieved on April 4, 2016).