No doubt you've seen the cartoon that depicts a cute diaper-clad baby with a curl and dimples receiving a gift from a wizened old man with shaggy mane, long bedraggled beard, and pouches under his eyes — clearly on his last legs. The baby, of course, is the New Year, while the old man is the Old Year about to stagger off into oblivion.
That 2008 has taken a beating is beyond dispute, but I am slightly skeptical about 2009 arriving on the scene fresh and cute and full of promise. I think the 2009 baby will age prematurely!
Now if this sounds pessimistic, I apologize because it is not intended to be. I believe 2009 portends immense problems on an international scale and enormous challenges on the domestic front. And while I am claiming realism rather than pessimism, I know that many people — believers among them — are facing the future with foreboding.
This is perfectly understandable for our friends with whom we ministered in 2008 in such places as India, Congo, Myanmar, Thailand, and Afghanistan (although we were stopped from going there at the last minute). In all their countries, 2008 is bringing death and destruction with no quick solutions in sight. And our brothers and sisters back home, who are facing economic challenges unprecedented in their experience, have good reason to be facing the future with concern.
With all these things in mind, I was particularly thrilled to read again Psalm 11. Apparently David was facing — yet again — troubling times and his burdens were compounded by believing friends who were saying to him in effect, "Look, David, the whole system is in a state of collapse (the foundations are being destroyed) and evil is triumphing over good (they shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart)."
They plaintively asked, "What can the righteous do?" Their unspoken answer was "nothing," and their considered advice was, "Flee like a bird to your mountain." Look out for Number One, David!
I love David's response, "How can you say that to me?" He expostulated, "In the Lord I take refuge. You ask me, 'What can the righteous do?' I'll tell you. They can do what I do: Take refuge in the LORD." David's Psalm goes on to explore what that means:
• "The LORD is in His holy temple." He is holy and that means totally other, distinct, separate, unique, set apart, or in the vernacular, "He is something else, in a class of His own." No one compares to Him including those who are shooting the arrows. He's completely out of their range! Immoveable, untouchable, unflappable!
• "The LORD is on His heavenly throne." He is in charge and completely in control. It may not look like it at times, and there are far too many occasions when evil triumphs over good, when the wicked go unpunished and the godly suffer deeply, when justice is denied and greed, power, selfishness, and violence predominate. But He works to a different schedule from ours. His solutions are ultimate — we like them immediate. And such is His genius that He brings blessing out of cursing, beauty out of ashes, resurrection out of death, and glory out of a cross. He is working to His timetable, at His speed...doing His thing, His way.
• "He observes the sons of men." Fear not. He has His eye on things; nothing escapes His notice. He is keeping track, is evaluating men's actions, and has a particular concern to watch out for His people.
• "The LORD is righteous." And that means, among a lot of other things, that He is right in His motives, correct in His actions, is planning rightly and is right on course. And finally, and irrevocably, He will set all of it right! He is, after all, "The LORD."
Now I know you know all that, and I know that you know Telling the Truth is committed to looking at the world's problems through the lenses of Scripture and seeking to encourage people to look at the immediate rather than the ultimate. We want you to see the here and now in the perspective of the hereafter and to look at earth from the viewpoint of heaven and see mankind as seen by the Lord.
We look towards 2009 in the light of all these things ourselves. And to be perfectly honest, we don't know what to expect beyond the faithfulness of God working out His purposes, and His faithfulness being mediated through His faithful people to support us in the challenges we undoubtedly are facing.
Whatever happens...His work will go on and His purposes will triumph.
Christians who seek to live lives worthy of their high calling are aware that they are involved in a struggle. They need to be clear about the unique nature of the struggle and the way in which God plans for them to stand firm against the enemy and to win the victory.All Sermons by Stuart, Jill & Pete Briscoe