Sometimes in life things do not go as well for us as we would like and we may become concerned about what could happen next. We could discuss all the possibilities and still not cover every contingency. We prefer the good times and the blessings that are part of our covenant experience and want to avoid the realities of life that we do not like—but they happen.
I was going through a rugged time many years ago and acting like a spoiled brat having a good old pity party. I cried like a baby and all but yelled at God asking Him why didn’t He do something about my problem and He so gently replied, “I did! 2000 years ago” and ministered wonderfully to me. He gave a gentle rebuke and immediately “invited me to sit on Daddy’s lap and gave me a big hug”. After I quit my little tantrum, He showed me what to do about it and the matter was resolved.
A group of people had embarked on a slander campaign and gossiping about me so badly I sought legal action. I could have kicked the door of the ringleader’s house down and punched him out and the Lord told me to let it alone and allow Him to deal with it. He did in a radical way and that group of people split up, the ringleader’s marriage broke up and he lost his home.
On another and later occasion, I watched my son Gary die and it naturally devastated me for a while until the Lord graciously helped me by letting me see Him with my mother in Heaven. What He said to me will forever ring in my ears until the time I stand beside my son in glory. The account is found on my web site on the page called from the gates of hell to the door of splendor. I could tell many more stories like that to illustrate that I am not talking loosely, but am able to share by first hand experience that God is real and that He does care and that He does intervene in our lives when necessary. Many of you can also testify of the goodness of God.
What I would like to share in this presentation is how God can and does do things for us in those difficult times. It shall be a kind of bible study that concentrates on Psalm 46. This well known Psalm reads-
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1
Often times we read part of a passage only and stop prematurely. We may see a nice part and get excited over that and not continue. As a result, we can miss seeing the full and bigger picture.
Before I go on, I want to digress a little and take you to something that Jesus said.
without me ye can do nothing. John 15:5
Whatever needed to be done, has been done. When Jesus was on the cross, He cried out in triumph-
Teleō (it is finished)
It was a declaration of faith and a declaration of truth. He was saying that He had fulfilled His mission.
The sin issue has been dealt with once and for all time and there is no need for sacrifice ever again, but whilst we live here in our present bodies, we have to handle life, just as Adam had to. He failed, but we do not have to fail. God has given us the ability to live in the way that He intended, but the choices are ours. Often times God does not intervene, because He expects us to do something in a given situation and He has given us the ability to do it. Admittedly there are times when it is beyond our ability to handle it and only a miracle will work, but there are times when some work has to be done on our part. Thankfully the hard labor has been taken out of the equation—to a point. Our labor is to appropriate what Jesus did for us. He is now resting from His labor and our part is to enter into that rest. We see this in Hebrews chapters 3 and 4.
The issue for many folk is how we do that.
It is a simplistic approach but true nevertheless and it is to abide, just as Jesus said-
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
This is where there is work to be done. That word abide is menō in the Greek and it certainly means what it says—to abide. The meanings are to accept and act in accordance with a rule, decision or recommendation given to us. It also means to tolerate, bear, stand , put up with, endure, suffer, cope with, live with, conform, adhere to, handle and so on. Most of those words are action words. We have to be actively engaged in this thing and to be honest, it is sometimes sheer hard work. The old flesh nature wants to break out and take over, so we have to work on keeping it in submission. Paul battled like this until he had the revelation of what I am trying to convey to you. He discussed this in Romans chapters seven and eight.
Where it fits together
You may wonder where this Psalm fit into it all. Let us look at the first verse-
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
The Hebrew word for refuge is maḥseh or machǎçeh and it certainly means a refuge, but in several powerful ways. We can take refuge or shelter from a storm, so this meaning is obvious, but the part we must play it to actually do it! Often times plain old fashioned common sense is all that is required—things like not standing under a tree during a lightning storm.
I know some big ministries that often talk about speaking to a storm and commanding it to go away and I have experienced divine protection in a cyclone, but...come on....let’s be honest about it. They talk big, but do not fly in bad weather! We can sound “spiritual” at times in unrealistic ways and so need to be completely transparent as well as being practical as we apply the principles of life God had given us in His word.
We back onto a nature park and have a problem with peacocks that come into my garden. They like eating my flowers. There are 6 males that I have counted and I am not sure how many females there are and they have bred! So far I have counted about 8 babies that are growing rapidly. I’ve seen two mothers taking them on walks and when danger threatens, they call the chicks who run to mother and hide under their wings. I tried talking to them, but they kept coming! Rebellious dumb, disobedient birds!
Sometimes we need to learn lessons like that and either actively get involved or stop doing what we should not be doing. God could warn us about some danger and it could be such a simple and seemingly trivial thing, but Father knows best and we can get hurt if we ignore His promptings. Often times it is in the area of personal relationships. The story of Sampson and Delilah is a good example. If God tells us not to touch something, we should not touch it. If He tells us not to go somewhere, we simply should not go there.
When we ignore His counsel and advice, often by the mouths of His prophets, we are fools and then wonder what happened or why things went wrong. A common trait many folk have is questioning God! They then cry when it hurts.
When troubles come our way, God is always there, but sometimes rescue is not automatic. Sometimes He does not take us out of it, but comes to us in the middle of it. He did not save the four Hebrew boys from the fiery furnace, but joined them there and preserved them in the middle of if all. He burned the ropes that bound them and they had a party in the middle of the flames together, but He did not take them out. Sometimes God does not take us out, but gives us what is necessary to do what is needed on that occasion. In case you think that you are the only person in the world to be going through what you are going through, I am going to burst your bubble—you’re not. Paul spoke of this in 1 Corinthians 10:13-
You have been put to no test but such as is common to man: and God is true, who will not let any test come on you which you are not able to undergo; but he will make with the test a way out of it, so that you may be able to go through it.
Look at the very next verse-
For this cause, my dear brothers, give no worship to false gods. 1 Corinthians 10:14
We can worship anything (even church stuff). We can place our trust in anything. If it takes first place in our lives, regardless of what it is, that is a false god. When problems come and we do not take shelter beneath His wings, we are turning elsewhere for help and that is idolatrous. That made me stop and thing twice when I read it. Other people can and do come to our aid of course. That’s why we are family and care for each other; pray with and for each other, render practical assistance if possible and love on each other. Nevertheless, God is our refuge and we can run to Him, not from Him—but we are the ones who have to do that running. Boaz told Ruth-
The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust. Ruth 2:12
Ruth made a deliberate choice to trust God, by doing something. She made a choice and acted on it. She chose to abide in the vine that Jesus spoke of. It often comes down to a choice making process.
This Psalm and many others speak of taking refuge in God and it is a wonderful thing to be able to do that.
I felt His presence during the flight and on one occasion, I turned to see who had sat down in the vacant seat next to me as I had seen the seat literally move, but no one was there (visibly). Angels were in the sky around the airplane as we circled around a big storm and when the storm dissipated, they departed. The Lord told me what to do and what to say on my arrival and I did as He instructed. I fully expected to see a full recovery, but Gary died and I did not understand it.
In the bedroom of my daughter’s home that night as I was crying and asking the Lord what happened, what went wrong, He spoke so wonderfully to me and let me see him with my mother. I shall see them again, but what I want to say is that I made God my refuge and He did not fail me.
You can read the story on the page From the gates of hell to the door of splendor.
Taking refuge in God is not passive
Such refuge is not always “passive”. David said in Psalm 133:1-2
Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight: My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me.
When his foes wanted to kill him, David took refuge in a cave. He was seeking shelter and protection. The enemy came into that very same cave and never saw him! He had made God his refuge, his fortress, his high tower and his shield and his strength. As you know, he was also a mighty warrior, so his life was a mix of the natural and the spiritual. Speaking of war and “taking refuge in God”, there was a group of US marines in battle during the Gulf War who had been cut off from their comrades and surrounded by a superior force of Arabs. The enemy fired their weapons aiming above them and when they ran out of ammunition, threw their weapons down and surrendered. When asked how they missed hitting the Americans, the Arabs replied, “We were not aiming at you. We were aiming at the big men in white behind you”.
What David said may have several Hebrew meanings. One is bāṭaḥ that means rely on, or take refuge in by taking definite action about something. This means that it is not an automatic thing, but the result of a choice making process.
Isaiah chapters four and twenty-five describes how God can be a refuge in troubled times.
Scriptures show us that we can shelter from a rainstorm (Job 24:8: Isaiah 4:6; 25:4) or from danger in hilly country.
They are often used figuratively of seeking refuge and thus putting trust in any god other then Jehovah. Deuteronomy 32:37 is an example-
And he will say, Where are their gods, the rock in which they put their faith?
Isaiah 30:2 is another example-
Ho! uncontrolled children, says the Lord, who give effect to a purpose which is not mine, and who make an agreement, but not by my spirit, increasing their sin:
Egypt, as you know speaks of sin and the world system. Judges chapter 9, especially the first half speaks of making false trust in anything and not in God.
When times get tough and things go wrong, it is imperative that we are making God our refuge and succorer.
We live in an era when simple tasks like going shopping or going to church (or any place of worship) can be risky. Extremist and terrorists for example go on killing rampages. As I write hundreds of people were killed in carefully planned and orchestrated bombings in Shri Lanka, targeting church services and hotels. A man recently went on a killing spree in New Zealand, killing scores of people. Civil unrest in Paris is rampant. I could continue, but this illustrates how you and I must have our lives firmly fixed in God. Marjorie and I have escaped assassination in our travels. I have stared down the barrel of a gun pointed at my head and been teargassed, so I am not talking hypothetically. The theme of this message is thus very relevant.
There are too many scriptural examples I could share to substantiate my statement. You may wish to peruse the few I have listed here later. Psalm 14:6, 17:8, 36:7, 46:1, 62:7=8, 71:7, 91; 94:22, Psalm 144:2; Proverbs 14:26, 30:5; Ruth 2:12.
When we take refuge in God in the way He has ordained, we can be blessed (Psalm 2:12), find goodness (Psalm 31:19), saved (Psalm 17:7) and possess the land (Isaiah 57:13). Therefore, this is not a mere “religious exercise” but a definite assurance that “it works”.
To bring this to a conclusion and see what Psalm 46 means to us in real terms, let us see the meaning and I shall share the Psalm in its entirety from a Jewish version. Please notice the references to warfare, natural disasters and civil unrest...
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we are unafraid, even if the earth gives way, even if the mountains tumble into the depths of the sea, even if its waters rage and foam, and mountains shake at its turbulence. (Selah)
There is a river whose streams gladden the city of God, the holy habitation of ‘Elyon— God is in the city.
“Desist, and learn that I am God, supreme over the nations, supreme over the earth.”
Adonai-Tzva’ot is with us, our fortress, the God of Ya‘akov. (Selah)
When I saw the word “Desist” it hit me.
God can be telling us to desist—to stop our struggling and striving and our worrying, begging and complaining and turn to Him so that He can tell us what to do. If He told Moses where to find water for a whole nation of people in a desert and fed them for 40 years, He can do the same for you...
We do not ignore the realities and hardships of life; the shortages; droughts and famines; unemployment and lack of money. They are real, but if we really trust and believe what God has told us He can do, He wants us to stop panicking and desist from our fears and phobias. It’s not easy, but it is possible. In the 50 years I have been with the Lord, He has never failed me. I have failed, but He has not. I have been unfaithful, but He has been faithful. I have learned to put the things of God to the test as I keep encouraging you and learn to put my trust in Him and not in man. I am learning how to desist!
Then there is another aspect. It is possible that God is telling the failing system, the unbelievers, the enemy and the religious activities of people to desist!
God is about to do something radical and I mean radically radical on the earth and He is priming us up for the event, by telling His servants the prophets ahead of time about it. I am doing just that!
In the original the phrase “be still” means to let go! The original Hebrew is harpu (רפה) meaning “to let go, to release”.
Rather than merely being passive and succumbing to what we deem the inevitable, to accept our lot in life or complain about it as if we will never rise above our conditions and circumstances, we are instructed to actively let go of whatever we are holding onto in order to know that God is in control and let Him do what He alone can do.
When you think that you are backed into a corner with nowhere to go, that you have no future, that you have nothing as many do thinking of money and the like, God wants you to learn how to tap into the source (the vine) and learn that He is in charge.
What this part of Psalm 46 says to us is the same message God told Moses when the nation had their back to the wall (the Red Sea) and the enemy was bearing down on them, “Be still” “The Lord will fight for you, and you only have to be silent”.
Adonai will do battle for you. Just calm yourselves down!” Exodus14:14.