Sermon \ Pastor Terry Defoe \ January 25th, 2015 \ New Beginnings Lutheran Church \ Psalm 62 \ Calm in the Storm
1 … my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. 2 … he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. 5 … my hope comes from him. 7 … he is my mighty rock, my refuge. 8 Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him… 11 One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, O God, and with you, O Lord, is unfailing love” (N.I.V.)
It’s good to be with you folks this morning. It’s a privilege to share God’s Word with you. This morning, as God’s people do in worship, we’re looking for insights – insights found in God's word – insights that relate to our Christian life. No matter where we are, and no matter what congregation we’re a member of, God wants us to fulfill the Great Commission. God wants us, as members of his church, to preach the Good News – the Good News of Salvation through faith in Christ. This morning, our text contains words of advice and also challenges from the Lord. I pray that Psalm 62 would speak to our hearts this morning. May God bless our consideration of his Holy word this day!
There are people in our community -- outside these walls -- who have questions about faith. There are people – in our community – who want to know if the Christian faith really does makes a difference in our lives. So what do you think? Does the Christian faith make a difference? Or is it just words in a book? Bible scholars tell us that Psalm 62 was most likely written during a time of great conflict in King David's life. This Psalm is "A Psalm of Trust" and it's not hard to see why. In this Psalm, David tells us about his life. He tells us about the challenges he’s facing. And, most importantly, he tells us how he dealt with those conflicts – with the help. Psalm 62 can help us apply our faith in everyday life. And for me, that's what Christianity is all about.
Pastors in our Lutheran Church – Canada are responsible for proclaiming God's word in all of its truth and purity. And that, of course, is a huge responsibility! But preaching the Word isn’t all that pastors do. Pastors also help God’s people to live out their faith in a God-pleasing way. Pastors are responsible for helping Christians take their faith out of the abstract world of doctrine and theology, and put it into the concrete world of everyday life.
The story is told of a famous professor who had several lovely children. He loved those children very much and he had a great relationship with them. One day, however, he and some friends worked hard in the hot sun pouring a concrete driveway in front of his home.
After the job was done, and the freshly-smoothed concrete had begun to set, the professor and his friends, went into the house for a cool drink. When he came out later, to his dismay, he found a set of small footprints right across the concrete slab. The professor was very angry. And his anger prompted one of his friends to gently remind him,
"Professor, I thought you loved children."
The professor replied, "In the abstract, yes! But, in the concrete, no!
Some people, like that professor, think that Christianity is great in the abstract, in other words – they really like it when it’s words in a book, but not when it’s in the concrete, that is, when it affects everything they do. In Psalm 62, King David tells us that some of his former friends had forsaken him. They were now openly persecuting him. Their words issued from hearts full of malice. Psalm 62 reveals that – like a lot of people today – David's life was full of stress. Because of this, David’s strength was sapped. He felt like a wall – ready to collapse. He was preoccupied with the troubles in his life. His enemies were relentless – they never gave up. David was in a bind and he knew it. But he never lost his faith. As a matter of fact, with God’s help, David learned how to apply his faith and let it change his life.
In this Psalm, King David lets us in on some of the lessons he learned through all these things. In spite of all he had to deal with, he was still able to say,
My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. (N.I.V.)
David describes God as his rock. That rock allowed him to stand firm despite his troubles. In this Psalm, David speaks of trusting God. He reminds us how important it is to pray, and the joy that comes when our prayers are heard. When David considered his situation in light of his faith in God, he came to the conclusion that his enemies were "nothing." When David looked at his situation from the perspective of his faith, things looked completely different. With God’s help, David re-interpreted his situation. He turned a negative appraisal into a positive one. And, as a result, he was able to find rest.
King David wrote these familiar words, found in the 23rd Psalm:
You prepare a table before me, in the presence of my enemies. (N.I.V.)
David's “table” – a picture of his life – like our lives, too – was enriched with many wonderful blessings from the Lord. While David enjoyed all these things, his enemies were never far away. Despite his troubles, he was able to find "rest" in God. He was able to be still, to be at peace, to let God deal with the anxiety that threatened to overwhelm him. You’ll notice that David's “rest” involved both body and soul. There are some in our world who appear to be at rest, but inwardly, their minds are going "a hundred miles an hour." David's faith allowed him to rest – in the midst of a very stressful situation. His faith allowed him to get control of those disturbing negative thoughts. David's "fortress" was his faith in God. In that relationship, he found a place of protection and safety. In that relationship, he experienced peace – Hebrew people call it “shalom.” By virtue of his faith in God, David experienced hope – and found strength to carry on. Notice however, that God didn’t remove David from his troubles. He enabled him to deal with them. Alexander McClaren, writing in a publication called The Christian Reader says, quoting Psalm 27, verse 1:
Only he who can say,
"The Lord is the strength of my life,"
can also say,
"Of whom shall I be afraid?"
Citation: Alexander McClaren, Christian Reader, Vol. 32, no. 3. As seen in www.PreachingToday.com
David's faith enabled him cope successfully with life's troubles. During this turbulent period in his life, David was reminded that God is the source of all the good things he had. His faith helped him see things in a whole new perspective. David knew – as we know – that he couldn't control everything in his life. He learned how to re-interpret the things that were happening to him – how to reinterpret them in a Scriptural way. In modern counseling language, David learned how to "reframe" the events in his life. You and I have seen individuals facing similar situations in life, but reacting to those situations in very different ways. One person, for example, may interpret a situation in a negative way and, as a result, experience a great deal of stress. On the other hand, another person interprets the same situation in a positive way, and experiences very little stress. Christian people are told by the Apostle Paul, in Romans, chapter 8 verse 28 – that
… all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose. (N.I.V.)
Psalm 62 reminds us that God wants us to learn how to interpret the events of our lives, not by their outward appearance, but by the standards of His Word. When David began to see his challenges in the light of God's word, his stress level dropped dramatically. Outwardly, his situation didn't change. But, inwardly, it did. Each one of us faces difficulties from time to time. We all have to deal with conflict. No one can completely avoid these things. Some have to deal with a sudden illness. Others are facing a chronic disability. And, when these things happen, we wonder how we’re going to cope. We may feel, like David, like a "leaning wall" or a "tottering fence." Cracks may appear in the walls of our lives. David’s enemies pushed hard on the wall – hoping it would collapse. David's enemies didn’t trust the Lord. Their hearts were elsewhere. In Matthew chapter 6, verses 20-22, Jesus said:
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be also. (N.I.V.)
In Psalm 62, verse 8, David says:
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (N.I.V.)
That thought is found throughout the Bible. In the New Testament, in the book of Philippians, chapter 4, verse 6, the Apostle Paul says,
6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (N.I.V.)
In Psalm 62, David tells us that God is faithful. As Christians, we know him as Emmanuel, God with us. God doesn’t let his people down. He keeps his promises. God is the divine warrior who fights for his people. David learned how important it is for God’s people to build their lives on a solid foundation. As Christians, our solid foundation is Jesus Christ – the one who died on the cross to forgive our sins and was raised from the dead for our justification. As Christian people, our peace comes from the Prince of Peace. The Apostle Paul said, in Romans, chapter 5, verses 1 to 3:
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God – through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 … And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 … we also rejoice in our sufferings, because … suffering produces perseverance… (N.I.V.)
So there you have it. Peace with God. Through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. As Christian people, it's our privilege and also our responsibility to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to our community and to the world. We tell all who have ears to hear that Jesus Christ died on a cross to forgive their sins. He tore down the wall that stood between humanity and a holy God. As Christians, Jesus Christ is our strength. He is our peace. He’s our Savior and Lord. David learned – in the school of hard knocks – that faith is a powerful antidote to despair. He learned that faith connects God’s people to his vast power. The God that King David trusted is the same God you and I trust today.
According to Psalm 62, verses 11 and 12, God is both "strong" and "loving." God is strong. His Law brings us under condemnation. His Law reveals the pervasive nature of our sin. But God is also loving. His Gospel does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. In and through Jesus Christ, his Son, God has rescued us from the curse of our sins. It’s true. God is strong – he’s holy – righteous – Sovereign. But, thankfully, he’s also loving – He’s gracious, and merciful, and compassionate. His grace in Christ restrains his wrath. His grace in Christ brings us rescue, not destruction. God’s strength and his love come together in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Psalm 62 tells us about a very important life-skill that David learned – a life-skill that God wants all of his people to learn. In the last few minutes, we’ve seen that, as David re-interpreted his life-situation, as he did that in light of God's holy Word, his sense of peace returned. David learned that there’s incredible strength in Biblical faith. David learned that it's possible to live in a world of conflict and strife, and still have peace. You know, when you and I have an opportunity to share our faith, we can do what David did. We can point out the difference that faith makes in our lives. We can describe the peace and joy that it brings.
Christian writer J. Oswald Sanders, quoted in Today’s Christian Woman, says
“Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of God.”
Oswald Sanders. Today's Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart." As seen in www.preachingtoday.com
When you think about it, this life we live is very much like a spiritual "boot camp." Every day, every hour, God is giving us opportunities to put our faith to work. Every day, every hour, God is giving us opportunities to love people – to forgive – to reconcile with them. He’s giving us opportunities to speak his word. God’s will is that we put our faith to work. May God teach us the critically important skill of re-interpreting the events of our lives in light of his Word. May God grant it. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Let's Pray: DEAR HEAVENLY FATHER – In this new year, help us reconsider the basics of our faith. Help us apply what we have learned so that our lives will be enriched and we can cope with whatever comes our way. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.