Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October 23, 2013 From Our Heart to God's: Psalm 23 - Enough

Psalm 23

When I was in seminary, back in the early 80s, one of my professors spoke to our class about money.  He told us that at some point in the course of our ministry a good many of us would be earning in six figures (I think he meant to count both sides of the decimal point).  That brought a lot of excitement to the room.  In the early 80s that was a lot of money.  It’s still a lot of money.  It also stirred discussion about how much is enough?

How much money is enough?  $30,000?  $50,000?  $65,000?  $100,000?  $1,000,000?  Do wealthy people ever worry about money?

As we continue our study of the psalms, this morning we come to the final psalm in our series – the 23rd psalm, which is, undoubtedly, one of the most beloved passages in all of Scripture.

And this may be a strange thing to say, but sometimes I wonder what it is about the 23rd psalm that is so beloved.  I wonder because this psalm really challenges us and asks some very difficult questions of us.  It challenges us to slow down, and we’re not people who are very good at slowing down.  It asks us to trust God and not ourselves, and we aren’t always very good at trusting anyone beyond ourselves.  It asks us to care for others.  It reminds us of the dangers of life and even of our mortality.  It tells us that God wants to set us down at a dinner table with our enemies.  And, in our focus for today, it asks us to find God to be sufficient – to be enough – for our lives.  So much of what this psalm has to say runs completely counter to how we live in our modern age, but, thankfully, we still love the psalm.

This morning, we will focus on the idea of enough.  The psalm begins with this affirmation – the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  That is phrased as a declaration – I shall not want!

Let me ask you a question – does it seem a bit naïve to say, I shall not want?  How many times a day to we say, or think, of something we want?  Usually, we use the word need rather than want, because if we can convince ourselves that something is a need rather than a want, it’s much easier to justify getting it.

But if we are really being honest with ourselves, isn’t it a bit naïve to say I shall not want?  Really.  Who lives that way, saying I shall not want?  Anybody?

What does it mean to say the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want?

1. It means we are the shepherds for others.

In a recent meeting of the Ministerial Alliance we spent a long time talking about the difficulty of meeting the many needs surrounding us in our community.  Why didn’t we just say why worry about it?

Because while this psalm gives the image of God as our shepherd, there is something else that is implied.  A shepherd, in Biblical days, most often cared for sheep that belonged to someone else.  This psalm, then, is a call to care for others, as God promises to care for us.  As God is our shepherd, we are called to be a shepherd to others.  We find this call multiple times throughout the Scriptures.

The book of James, which is so practical as to sometimes be painful, says, If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?  (James 2:15-16). 

In Mark 6 we read of the large crowd following Jesus, and Mark records this in verses 34-37 – When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd (underline emphasis mine). And he began to teach them many things.  And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late.  Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.”

Why does it seem, that in spite of their trust, so many people don’t have enough?  Could it be that God is waiting on all of the resources to be put to use?  Some people ask why God doesn’t do more to help the millions of people in our world who need so much.  I think the better question is why does humanity let such things happen?  Why do I spend my money on unnecessary items when I know that money can make a difference to someone else?

We sometimes want to protest about how complicated it is to be a shepherd to others.  We are tempted, as were the disciples, to push the responsibility off on God, but God’s call is for us to be shepherds and care for others.

This is a very complicated, difficult, task, to be called as shepherd other people.  The shepherd was in constant danger.  There was the danger of attack by wild animals.  There was the danger of others coming to steal the sheep.  There was danger from the elements.  There was the danger of not having enough food and water.  It is very, very difficult to be called to shepherd other people.  I think God has a pretty good idea of how difficult it is.

2.  It means we ask “how much is enough?”  What do we really need in life?

Out of curiosity, I watched a bit of a new reality show – Preachers of LA.  I was really intrigued by one scene, where one of the wives backed her Mercedes out of the garage of this grand home, and as she did her minister husband said be careful you don’t hit the Bentley.  I can’t tell you how many times Tanya and I have had that exact same conversation.

All four of the ministers on the program live in quite a bit of luxury.  Is this what the psalmist meant when he said I shall not want?  That we would have so much that we would want for nothing?

I don’t think so.  I think it’s about controlling our wants.

This psalm is in the language of its day.  If we were to put the 23rd psalm into the language of our own day, the phrase I shall not want might go something like this – Jesus has freed me from thinking I need the latest iPhone or other gadget.  He has helped me to understand that I don’t need a brand new car or rooms piled high with stuff.  He has helped me to understand that I don’t need everything the advertisers say I need.  He has helped me to say “enough.”  

Phone manufacturers and gadget manufacturers and other manufacturers know that because so many people feel so compelled to get the latest device they have a ready source of sales for their products.  I hear some people apologize, for instance, for their cell phones – oh, mine’s not a smart phone.  It’s just a basic phone.  Well, why do we need the latest and greatest gadget? Perhaps the deeper question to ask is, why do we accumulate so much?  What spiritual and psychological needs are we attempting to soothe with our incessant buying and accumulating?  Is there some deep, unmet need, or needs, in our lives that drive us to find satisfaction in getting more stuff?  Is a phone representative of the need for communication, a tool to help us in our daily lives, or is it the need to feel we are caught up to and equal with everyone else?

We want to keep up with everyone else.  People will drive themselves to financial ruin trying to look as successful as the next person.  It reminds me of a commercial that ran several years ago.  A man grinned as he said I’ve got a four-bedroom house.  I live in a great neighborhood.  Like my car?  It’s new.  I even belong to the country club.  How do I do it?  I’m in debt up to my eyeballs.  I can barely pay my finance charges.  Someone please help me.

We have to survive.  We need to eat, we need to have shelter and clothing and medical care.  But we also need peace of mind.  We need the ability to step off of the treadmill of earning and accumulating.
What keeps us from saying enough?

3.  Say “enough.”

The image of the 23rd psalm is one of peace – walking beside a quiet lake and lying down to rest in cool grass.  It strikes me as a call to put aside our striving and rest from all of our hurried and frenzied living.  But why is that so hard to do?  Why are we so driven to live in ways that we know are not good for us?

 The call to us in this psalm is to live a life of trust, which is certainly a very difficult way to live.  We want to accumulate enough to know that we will be secure in our lives.  But can we ever really accumulate enough to guarantee our security?  Plenty of people throughout the course of history have lost vast fortunes, so even immense sums of money are not enough to guarantee us security.  The best medical care may not be enough to keep us from disease.  The most secure home may not keep us secure from the evil and violence of our world.

The 23rd psalm, written from the viewpoint of a shepherd, is a reminder that while we live in the midst of uncertainty and even danger, God is always watching over us.  Does that guarantee we are always safe from harm?  No.  What it does mean is that ultimately we rest in God’s care.  Need, danger, and even violence never have the final word over our lives.  Whatever may happen to us in life and whatever struggle we may face, we can live with the confidence that our ultimate security is found in God.

Rudyard Kipling, giving a commencement address at McGill University in Montreal, said there was one striking thing that deserves to be remembered about people. Warning the students against an over-concern for money, power, or popularity, he said, Some day you will meet a man who cares for none of these things. Then you will know how poor you are.

This beautiful psalm, the 23rd psalm, reminds us that none of these things are what really give us life.

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 20, 2013 - From Our Heart to God's: Psalm 90 - Where Has the Time Gone?

Psalm 90:1-4, 10, 12, 14-17

This is a very interesting video clip.  It puts our time in this life into perspective in a very creative way –
We have, on average, 28,835 days in this life (that’s 79 years).  Here’s how we spend those years –
8,477 – sleeping.
1,635 – eating, drinking, and preparing meals.
3,202 – working.
1,099 – commuting and traveling.
2,676 – watching TV.
1,576 – taking care of household duties and shopping
   564 – taking care of the needs of family members.
   671 – bathing and grooming.
   720 – involvement in community activities.
This leaves us, out of 28,835 days, only 8,215 to do what we want.  How will we spend them?

As we continue our series of message from the book of Psalms – From Our Heart to God’s – this morning we are studying the 90th psalm, and Where Has the Time Gone?  Sometime today you will ask yourself a question related to time – where has the time gone?  How can I better manage my time?  Why am I so busy?  Rarely a day goes by that we do not ask ourselves a question about the rush of time.

And after we get a certain number of years behind us, and realize just how fast the time passes, we better understand what verse four says – for a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by.  At some point in life, when we look back on so many years, we feel as if it were just a matter of days.

If you are feeling crunched for time, or find yourself wondering where the time has gone or is going, listen to the 90th psalm this morning.
But before I move onto the points for this morning, allow me to add one caveat to this message – while we live busy lives, there are others who do not.  They are the residents of nursing homes, assisted-living centers, and hospitals.  They are the shut-ins and homebound members of our community.  While we wonder how we will cram all of our activities into our busy schedules, they watch the clock move slowly each day, wondering when they will be visited.  We must not forget these individuals.

1.  Be thankful for our time.
Verse 17 – may the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us.

Instead of complaining about having so much to do, and having to choose between so many things in our lives, think of it this way – all of what we have in life that asks of our time is a sign of our blessed lives.

We have a lot of choices in life.  There are millions of people in this world who have no choices as to how they will use their time.  Their time goes to scratching out a barely subsistent existence.  They hope to find a bit of work to earn some money to feed their families.  They hope to earn a bit of money to provide more shelter than the crumbling, leaking home in which they live.  They hope to find some way to educate their children so their children will have a better life.  They wish they could provide medical care for when their children suffer from what to us would be just a minor infection, but to them becomes a life-threatening situation.  They wish they could turn on a faucet and have hot or cold water immediately at their disposal, instead of walking miles to a well for a few gallons of water they must then carry back to their home.  They wish they could turn a thermostat and heat or cool their homes to provide a measure of relief from the elements.  They wish they had a vehicle that could transport them to a store and the money to purchase items needed by their family.

But very few, if any, of those things are available, and their time goes into trying to maintain their meager existence, because the residents of 41 countries, on average, will not live to my age.  41 countries!  (By the way, the United States is 48th on the list of life expectancy, with an average of 78 years – Andorra is number one, with 84 ½ years.  Andorra is bordered by France and Spain).

2.  Make our time count.
Verse 12 – Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

I read a rather strange article the other day.  The article reported on a very unusual watch.  This watch told regular time, but also another kind of time – how much longer you could expect to live.  You entered some information about your life and medical history and it would estimate your life span, and the watch literally begins ticking down your remaining days.

I’m not sure I want that watch, but I have to admit, it would probably make us think very carefully about how we use our time.

To number our days, as the psalmist says, is to take an inventory of the time we have.  Good gracious I don’t want to spend 2,676 days watching TV.  That’s almost 7 ½ years!

We are always seeking ways to “better use” our time, or to use our time “more efficiently.”  The real question, however, is this – are we giving our time to the things that matter most?  It doesn’t matter how efficiently we are using time if we are giving our time to things that really don’t matter.

3.  Why are we so busy? 
Verse 14 – Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

I know, of course, why we are so busy; at least why we’re busy on the surface.  I know we are busy with work and household responsibilities and getting our children from one activity to another.  But still I ask the question, why are we so busy?

I ask the question because I have a suspicion that we create a certain amount of busyness in our lives for a couple of reasons.  Perhaps we are avoiding something.  Perhaps we don’t want to confront a difficult situation so we keep moving.  Perhaps we don’t even want to think about a particular situation or particular issue, so we run and run to the point that we don’t have time to think.  Perhaps we keep ourselves busy because we don’t want to face an aimlessness or emptiness in our lives that would surface if we slowed down for a few minutes.

So we run and run, when perhaps we really don’t need to run nearly so much.  But in running we find we can avoid so much.

Are you running from something?  Are you avoiding something?

4.  It’s never to late to start anew.
Verse 13 – Have compassion on your servants.

I’m not a very good golfer, so I am grateful for a handicap that adjusts my score, and I’m grateful for mulligans, when I can take another shot.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get a do-over, a mulligan, in life?

It’s never too late to start anew.

I’ve heard many people say it’s too late for me to start over.  It’s never too late!  One of the beautiful elements of God’s compassion is that he gives us a new start.  Lamentations 2:22-23 tells us Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.

There are some basic truths about time – it is very fleeting, it is very precious, and we don’t know how much time we will have.

Of my estimated 28,835 days I have lived right at 20,500, give or take a few.  I have lived 71% of my estimated life span, with about 8,300 days left.

Time goes by quickly.  Are you making the most of your time?  What can you learn from psalm 90?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October 13,2013 From Our Heart to Gods: Psalm 42 - Is God Absent?

October 13, 2013
Psalm 42

A friend of mine told me about a very powerful, very spiritual moment in their life.  Some months after losing a parent, they were driving one day, alone in the car, when the sense of loss suddenly became overwhelming.  Stopping the car in the middle of the road, they got out and started yelling at God, even banging a fist on the car while doing so.  My friend was angry with God, wondering why their loved one had to experience so much suffering and eventually, death. 

As we continue our series of messages on the psalms – From Our Heart to God’s, this morning we come to the 42nd psalm, which asks the question Is God Absent?

There is not a name attached to the authorship of the psalm.  We simply don’t know who wrote this psalm.  But we do know that the psalmist was not in his usual place, which was Jerusalem.  He was in the area of Mount Hermon, far to the north.  It sounds as though he was there against his will.  Perhaps he was there because he needed to go into hiding or perhaps an enemy had carried him away to this region.  Being so far from his place of worship, and far from his home in Jerusalem, made him feel far from God, and made him feel that perhaps God had moved far away from him.  And it’s not just being away from home that is difficult; he is being taunted.  Listen to verse 3 – My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, "Where is your God?"

There is a four critical dynamics that we see in this psalm –

1.  Discouragement.
One of the most amazing passages of Scripture, to me, is John 11:21.  Jesus and his disciples are traveling to Bethany, the home of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha.  As Jesus and his disciples are traveling, they receive word that Lazarus has died.  John says that when Martha heard that Jesus was coming to visit them, she went out to meet him.  It may be unwise to try and read between the lines of Scripture, but I get the impression that Martha had a few things on her mind to tell Jesus. I picture her coming to Jesus with that look about her.  Do you know what I mean when I mention the look.  A friend of mine in Alabama invited me to speak at his church.  I decided to open my message with a joke.  I thought it was a good joke, and quite funny.  Most everyone in the congregation thought it was funny.  One woman did not.  After the service, as I was greeting people, I could see her coming.  She was walking past everyone standing in line and I believe she had steam coming from her ears.  Before she got to me she lifted her finer into the air and began shaking it at me.  She was not happy and she very plainly expressed her unhappiness.  I think this is exactly the manner in which Martha approached Jesus.  Martha walks up to Jesus and she tells him, very pointedly, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  There’s a lot of emotion in that statement, and one is discouragement. Discouragement is really tough, and it will lead to many other difficulties.  It will lead to anger and frustration, which we see spilling out of Martha.

Discouragement is like a vortex that draws us further and further in, and the further in we are drawn, the more difficult it is to pull ourselves out.

Discouragement can then lead to –

2.  Depression.
In this psalm we find an atmosphere of discouragement, which leads to depression.  Depression is very real, and very common.  Depression is not something that is the fault of the person, it’s not something you can “snap out of,” and it is not something you are imagining.  

There are 19 million people in this country struggling with major depression, and millions more who struggle with other levels.

There is, unfortunately, a stigma that remains about depression.  Do not allow the opinions of others to keep you from getting help.  Depression is very real, and it is very difficult, and I would estimate that every one of us here today knows someone with depression, but we may not know it, and they may not know it, in a diagnosed capacity.

3.  Doubt.
This psalm is interesting because this is not a skeptic charging that God is absent; this is a person of belief asking the question of whether or not God is absent.  It is a psalm that combines doubt and faith at the same time, which seems contradictory.  In verse 9 the psalmist says I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me?”  How does one feel forgotten by God but in the same sentence refer to God as my Rock?  It’s similar to the father who brings his son to Jesus to be healed.  Jesus says, “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).  It seems contradictory to say I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief, but that is what struggle does to us – it allows doubt to creep in to our hearts and minds.

Doubt about God and his presence with us is not a sign of losing your faith; it is a sign of being human.  We find this mixture of doubt and belief all through the Scriptures, and especially in the psalms.

I think many people believe it is wrong to ask difficult questions of God. Part of the reason may be a result of how skeptics often use suffering as evidence of God’s absence and any doubt we may express as an acknowledgement of that absence. 

Many people believe it is wrong to express doubt.  But this psalm, psalm 42, certainly demonstrates that it is legitimate to ask questions of God.  All through Scripture we find people asking questions of God.  We find people expressing doubt that God is present.  This is part of the beauty of the psalms, as they express the full range of human emotion.  We are emotional creatures, and there is nothing inherently wrong with expressing those emotions.

But our feelings are not an adequate measure of truth about God.  Just because we feel that God is absent does not mean that he is absent.  Just because doubt at times creeps into our lives, it doesn’t mean that God is not present in our lives.

Most people would classify doubt as a mental position, as when people compare evidences and arguments and then make a rational decision.  I believe doubt to be more of an emotional condition than one that is based in rationality and thinking.

Doubt is not an expression of uncertain or shaky faith, but an example of healthy faith, because healthy faith is not afraid to entertain difficult questions, it is not afraid to ask difficult questions, and it is not afraid of uncertainty.  On the contrary, it is a less secure faith that is afraid to ask questions, afraid of challenging points of view, and insists on absolute certainty.

4.  Determination or denial.
We often talk about “crossroads” moments in life; those moments when we know something must change.  We think intently about one choice versus another and of the repercussions to our choices.  What will we do?

The situation for the psalmist came down to a choice – was he going to hold on to his faith or was he going to abandon faith?  He made his choice for faith, but recognized there was still a tough road ahead.  He ends the psalm on a note of optimism, but one that is also tempered with some realism – why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (verse 11).

Life is not always easy.  Life can be very, very difficult, and the difficulties that visit us in life can wear us down and can even bring us to the point where we consider abandoning faith, and may think we are justified because it seems God has abandoned us.

Going back to my friend, whom I told you about at the beginning of this message; in spite of the fact that he argued with God, pounded on his car in anger, and shouted to God, was not losing faith, but expressing faith, although in a way that is much different from how we generally do so.  I think what he did that day was actually saving his faith. 

God never abandons us.  In spite of how difficult life may be, we can affirm that God is ever with us.  The psalmist, in the midst of life’s terrible difficulties, says put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

October 6, 2013 From Our Heart to God's: Psalm 46 - Finding Refuge in God

October 6, 2013
Psalm 46

We begin a new series of messages this morning, From Our Heart to God’s.  It will be four to six weeks and will end with the 23rd psalm, which may take several weeks just for that psalm.  Then we will take a few weeks to talk about our personal role and mission in God’s kingdom.  Then we’ll be into Advent.

The messages in our new series all come from the book of Psalms, which contains some of the most beautiful passages in all of Scripture.  I chose the title From Our Heart to God’s because the psalms, as a collection, express the full range of human emotions unlike any other book of the Bible.  The psalms express the highest joys and the deepest lows, the greatest expectations and the most devastating disappointments, the greatest sense of security and the most ominous fears.  All throughout the psalms we read of the full range of human emotions as they are expressed to God.

Reading the psalms will give you a very real sense that it is unlike the other books of Scripture.  The prophets, for instance, speak the words of God, warning of the consequences of ignoring or forsaking the people’s covenant with God.  They speak the voice of God, mostly, and not their own.  The writers of the psalms, however, speak from the human heart, and sometimes the words they speak are very raw.  Consider this passage from Psalm 3:7 – Arise, O Lord!  Deliver me, O my God!  Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.  It’s doubtful that we would find anywhere else in the Bible a passage where someone is imploring God to act like a defender on the school playground, asking him to punch out the school bully.  An even more raw passage comes from the 137th psalm, verses 8 and 9 – O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us – he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.  That’s a tough passage to read, but one that expresses the deeply felt emotions of being, in this case, a people captive in Babylon, far from their homeland and wishing they could exact revenge on their captors.

I want you to think for a moment about the greatest challenge you faced in life.  Got it in mind?  What is one of our first inclinations in times of trouble?  To formulate a plan.  We feel compelled to do something about the challenge we face. 

Now, imagine that your plan is – let your plan go.  In essence, that is the message of the 46th psalm, as the 46th psalm tells us we should trust God with our circumstances.

Now, we like to use that kind of language – I’m going to trust God – but then we do whatever we believe we have to do to take care of ourselves.

The first psalm that we will study – psalm 46 – is one that was born out of great fear and uncertainty.  Its setting takes place when Israel was a divided kingdom – Israel in the north and Judah in the south.  Sennacherib, the fierce leader of the Assyrian empire, was marching through the Middle East, conquering everything in his path.  As he marched toward Egypt, his path took him through the northern kingdom of Israel, which he conquered in 701 BC.  Next in line was the southern kingdom of Judah.  Judah was not, on paper at least, any match for Sennacherib and his mighty army.  He sent a letter to Hezekiah, the king in Jerusalem, telling him exactly when he would invade the city.  Hezekiah took the letter into the Temple to spread it out before God.  The prophet Isaiah warned Hezekiah not to attempt to strike a deal with Sennacherib, but to trust God.

Hezekiah listened to Isaiah.  He trusted God, but it could not have been easy.  Under the circumstances, it would have been easy to send negotiators to Sennacherib, seeking to spare the city of Jerusalem and its people from harm.  The Assyrian army approached Jerusalem and set up camp outside the city.  By appearance, it seemed as though the city was on the verge of a terrible invasion.  Sennacherib was set to invade the city at midnight.  Fear ran rampant through Jerusalem.  Imagine the pressure that Hezekiah must have felt to make a deal to spare the city.  He did not give in to the pressure, but continued to trust God.  Almost at the moment of battle, a plague swept through the Assyrian army, and they withdrew from Jerusalem, and the people were spared. 

Psalm 46 was written in response to the deliverance from the Assyrians.  It is a psalm of grateful assurance to God’s salvation and deliverance.

1.  Don’t fear others.
I don’t mean to get into the politics of all that is happening in Washington, DC these days with the government shutdown, but imagine the pressure those individuals are feeling.

Can you imagine the pressure Hezekiah faced?  He had the entire city of Jerusalem paralyzed with fear and what was he doing?  Nothing, it appeared.  No gathering of his military.  No display of weaponry.  No battle plans being considered.  Outside the walls of Jerusalem was camped the most fearsome army of the day, and Hezekiah appeared to be doing nothing.

Can we stand up to the pressures from others?  Tomorrow morning students will walk into schools and worry about what others think about them – what they are wearing, who their friends are, how they act, and many other matters.  People will walk into their workplaces and worry about what their coworkers think about them.  It’s hard not to fear others and their opinions.  I’m not recommending that we ignore wise, and needed, counsel from people we trust, but I think we give people far too much power over our lives because of our fear of their opinion.

2.  Don’t fear the situation.
Rudyard Kipling wrote the famous poem If, which begins If you can keep your head when all those about you are losing theirs.  It’s a magnificent poem, and one person has rewritten the beginning – If you can keep your head when all those about you are losing theirs, you obviously don’t have a good grasp of the situation.  That might have been how some of the residents of Jerusalem responded to Hezekiah when he appeared to be calm in the face of the Assyrian army.

How do we maintain faith and hope in the face of our fears and the pressures of life?  How do we maintain faith and hope when we face an uncertain future?  How do we maintain faith and hope when we don’t know if we’ll have a job tomorrow?  How do we maintain faith and hope when we receive difficult news from the doctor?

In verse 10 we are told to be still and know that I am God.  We don’t do still very well in our world.  We’re 21st century Americans who are rarely still.  The word for still, however, does mean that we sit and do nothing.  In our busy world, it certainly doesn’t hurt us to be still for a while, but the meaning is really that we stop depending upon our own resources and learn to depend upon the resources of God.  It means that we drop our arms and hands and stop clawing away at life with our own plans.  It means that we stop thinking and believing that our destiny resides in our own efforts and our hands.  This is an immense challenge for those of us who are proud of our self-sufficiency and ability to take care of ourselves.  Being still means that we are willing to place our trust in God rather than trusting in our own abilities.  That’s still a tall order, as it is hard to let go, but psalm 46 is a reminder that God is, indeed, trustworthy as our deliverer.

3. Don’t fear the future.
I don’t know how I got to this point in my life so quickly.  Wow, it’s gone fast.  Where did the time go?  And you know what?  A lot of what I feared about the future never came to pass.  I know there were many nights when I was awake with worry, but I don’t remember what those worries were.  I know there were situations that brought great stress to my life, but I’ve forgotten about them in the passing of time.

Jesus famously said in Matthew 6:34 do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.

Psalm 46 is about getting the best out of our troubles, not getting out of trouble.  We all want to avoid trouble, but we also recognize that we can’t always avoid it.
This is a psalm of triumph – you can triumph over your circumstances.  You might not be out of your circumstances, but you can still triumph over them.  You have a bright future ahead, and one that is filled with hope.

4.  Don’t be afraid to live.
I think that we too often accept a dimmer life than what God has in store for us, and it’s because of our fear.  We feel deep within our heart what God is calling us to do with our lives, but we are afraid to act upon it.

Several weeks ago, I read a few lines from this book, Kisses From Katie, by Katie Davis.  Tanya had been telling me for a number of weeks that I should read this book.  I’d seen it in bookstores but the title sounded like a romance novel and I didn’t pay it much attention.  I finally picked it up recently and have found it to be very moving.  Katie Davis, after graduating from high school, went to the African country of Uganda.  Now in her early 20s, Katie has adopted fourteen orphans.  She founded a ministry that helps to educate, feed, clothe, and provide medical care for hundreds of children.  Katie says that people often say to her that she must be a very special person to do what she does, but her reply is that she is the same as everyone else.

I believe the primary difference between Katie Davis and others is that Katie has not been paralyzed by her fears.  There is so much that all of us are capable of doing, if we were not paralyzed by fear.
Psalm 46 has so much to teach us.  It teaches us that we need not be afraid, because we can trust God with our present and our future.  It asks us to receive a life that is far greater than we often accept. 

Don’t be afraid.  Receive the life God has in store for you.