Real Faith for a Real Life in a Real World.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Forever Secure

13 October, 2013
Psalm 62
Mark 10:17-27


Psychologists tell us we have three fundamental needs: Security, Significance and Self-worth.  And, if we stop to think about it, we'll see that they're right.

We all like to know that we're safe from threat or danger, and that we have sufficient resources to free us from worry.

We all like to feel that we count for something; that we matter to someone, that we make a difference.

We all want to feel good about ourselves, to be able hold up our heads unashamed at the people we are and the way we live our lives.

Psalm 62 speaks to us primarily about the first of our basic needs: security.  It tells us about

•    the believer's security,
•    the futility of independent means, and
•    the sufficiency of God

The Believer's Security

'Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.'  So says the Westminster Catechism, and I think this is true.  We were made by God for his pleasure and glory and to be in dependent relationship with him.  If we divorce ourselves from these facts, then we miss the whole point of our existence, and launch ourselves on a futile search for satisfaction.

These are truths that David has learnt, and he begins his psalm with a clear statement of reliance on God alone.  For David, and for all believers everywhere and in all times, the only true source of rest and peace is found in God and in right relationship with him.

David's security didn't depend on his own ability to surround himself with armies and fortresses.  Even though he had those things, he still knew that his real security depended on the will of God.

David knew God to be dependable.  God alone was the solid rock on which his security depended.  He had such confidence in God that he could say, 'I will never be shaken.'  That's quite a statement!

Because of this confidence, his soul found rest in God.

Now, David was not living in cloud-cuckoo land.  He was only too aware of his enemies, what they thought of him, and the threat they posed to him.  Look at verses 3 and 4 of the psalm.

These verses perhaps also give us some idea that David was aware of his own weakness: without God's help, he was like a retaining wall that was bulging out and ready to collapse because of the weight piled up behind it; or like a fence with rotten posts that wobbled about in the lightest of breezes.  Humanly speaking, his position was precarious—remember how many kings got bumped off and replaced in those days!  He knew there were people out to get him and that they'd certainly betray him when and if they had the  opportunity.

There's that little word, selah.  I was once told it means something like 'pause a while and think on that.'  It's used twice in this psalm and the first time is after verse 4.  David is saying, 'Look, I'm not messing about here; my problems are real and enormous.  Consider them carefully.'

Then David returns straight to his starting point: yes, his enemies are great but his God is greater.  He reminds himself of his source of security and expands on his opening words.  Then he encourages all of us to 'Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.'

And there's that little word, selah, again.  We've taken stock of our enemies.  Now take stock of the utter dependability of our God.

There are enemies of believers today.

Did you hear the recent report in the news about Muslim suicide bombers going to a church in Pakistan and blowing themselves up outside it, killing around 80 Christian worshippers in the process?  We're fortunate not to have those kind of enemies here.

May be some of us have actual human enemies who hate us and oppose us at every opportunity, or perhaps there are just people who laugh at us because of what we believe.

We definitely have a spiritual enemy who opposes us.  Peter writes in his first letter, 'Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith.'  He'll take any opportunity he can to stop you being effective for the kingdom of God, or even to rob you of your faith, if he can.

Enemies aside, even the circumstances of life can bring us to the brink of disaster.  There was a time in my life when that very nearly happened to me, when I was like a bowing wall or a tottering fence.

During a Sunday morning service in September 2000, I was worshipping with my eyes closed, and suddenly saw myself under a black, opaque dome.  Now, while I believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I'm not given to seeing things, so I was surprised when this happened, and took careful notice of it.

In this picture in my mind, the dome that surrounded me was perfectly smooth, with nothing to grasp, and the little light in there was only what leaked in where the dome touched the ground.

It was a striking image but I had no idea what it might mean, so I filed the experience away in my memory and moved on.

In November that year, my mother fell ill.  We found out in the following March that she had lung cancer, and she died in October 2001.  In reaction to my loss, I began a long, slow descent into clinical depression.  Two years later, I reached the depths of that illness.  I was off work for 13 weeks, and my GP prescribed anti-depressant medication.

During the time off work, I sometimes skipped church on the days I just couldn't face it.  Even when I went, I sat there unable to engage, wondering why I was there at all, seriously doubting the existence of God, and somewhat dejected that I had wasted 30 years of my life in pursuit of something that wasn't real.

The day came when I must have hit rock-bottom, and asked myself, 'What am I doing here?  What's the point of all this rubbish?'  I said to God, 'Are you really there?'

And God said to me, 'I warned you this would happen.'  And again, I saw the picture of the dome, with virtually no light, all blackness and with nothing to hold on to: it was a perfect depiction of how I felt.

Suddenly, I knew God was real.  I sat there and wept, so thankful for the care God had taken to make sure I would get through my problem.  I said to him, 'Lord, you'll have to hold on to me because I can't hold on to you.'

I took me another two years to recover and get off the medication but, however low I felt, I could never again doubt the existence of God or that he loved me and cared for me.

I learnt from the experience that, actually, God had always been holding onto me; my walk with God had never been about my being able to hold on to him.  It's a wonderful thing to know that I'm forever secure in the love of God.

I know God loves me and I know he loves each one of you every bit as much.

The Futility of Independent Means

David takes care to advise us against two of the things that people relied on for security in his day, and which people still rely on today: status (verse 9) and wealth (verse 10).

An uncle of mine used to say that money can't make you happy but at least you can be miserable in comfort.  Those who are highborn in our land may be a bit more comfortable than we lesser, lowborn, mortals but, at the end of the day, they're really no better off than us.

Whether we are monarchs in a palaces or a tramps in cardboard boxes, we amount to nothing.  'Our days are as grass.'  We are here today, gone tomorrow.  What do we have for security then?

Criminal gang leaders assert their status through ruthless behaviour.  They acquire wealth by foul means.  But they too come to nothing in the end, and when they've gone others fight over what they've left behind.  And they leave everything behind.

We've heard young people on the telly saying their ambition is to be rich and famous, and the so-called reality shows holds out that empty promise to them.

As Jesus said elsewhere, 'What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?'

David says, 'Though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.'

In our New Testament reading, we saw the encounter between Jesus and a rich young man; an apparently godly young man, a religious man who genuinely wanted to know how to attain eternal life.  His problem was not that he was rich but that his riches meant too much to him.

David was a King.  He was rich.  He was lowborn but had risen to great heights.  He knew that God had put him where he was, and he knew where his real security lay: 'Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall not be shaken.  My salvation and my honour depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.'

There is no substitute for God; not the practice of religion, not even knowledge about God.  It has to be God himself.

The Sufficiency of God

Now, there are many troubles in this life, and Jesus himself told us to expect them.  Some of us will face troubles that threaten and even take away our very lives.  God has never promised to keep troubles away from our door but he has promised to be with us all the time.  And, as I hope my testimony demonstrates, he is dependable.

David encourages us to 'Trust in [God] at all times.'  I'm not saying we shouldn't put sensible precautions in place against risk but, whatever we do, we need to recognise our ultimate security is in God.  Trusting in God isn't a matter of living in denial of our very real problems.  Trusting in God includes taking our very real problems to him.

Our God is approachable and interested.  In fact, he wants relationship with us.  David encourages us to, 'pour out [our] hearts to [God].'  I'm happy to report that God has broad shoulders; he can cope with our anxieties and even our complaining.  Whatever your troubles are, you can take them to God and tell him how you feel about them.

David tells us that God is strong, and that he is loving.  This is encouraging news. 

I'm glad that God is both strong and loving.  If he were not loving, we'd live in fear of his strength and see little point in bothering him with our problems.  If he were not strong, we couldn't have any confidence in his ability to help us, however sympathetic we may feel him to be.

He is strong.  He's the maker of all things.  He's sovereign over and in all circumstances.  Our God is well able to carry us through all the difficulties of our lives because of his great strength.

He is loving.  He cares about what happens to us.  We matter to God.  As well as being secure in him, we are significant to him.  He sent Jesus to be our saviour, and gives us his Holy Spirit so he can be with us in our circumstances all the time and lead us to safety.

Whatever happens to us, if we are Christ's, then we are eternally secure.  As Paul writes to the Romans, 'I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.'

Summary and Challenge

The psalm ends with a promise.  'Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.'

Perhaps David has one eye on his enemies again.  Is he saying, 'I trust God and will be rewarded accordingly; they do evil and will be rewarded accordingly'?  He may well be looking forward to the day of his vindication.

Whatever David was thinking, there is the promise of reward according to what we do.  I'm not talking about working to earn our salvation because, as the psalm tells us, that depends on God alone.

Given the security we have in God, what should we be doing?  Does that security give us freedom to take some risks of faith, to be daring and bold for God?

I have a vision to see all the churches in Tynedale

•    growing, not shrinking;
•    taking some risks and stepping out in faith;
•    trying new ways of expressing the kingdom of God in our times;
•    reaching out to their communities with love and compassion;
•    helping people find faith in God.

I'm preaching and praying to that end.

Tynedale for God” is my vision.  What's your vision for your church here?

On a more personal level, are any of you facing opposition from enemies, or struggles and trials in your life?  Pour out your heart to God.  He is your refuge.  He is strong and loving.  He is able to sustain you, and he loves you more than I have words to explain.

Whatever level this psalm touches us at, let us all have confidence in God.  Let our souls find rest in him.  Once we are in God's hands we are eternally secure.

Our God is utterly dependable.

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