Psalm 91:1-6 & 14-16
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
September 29, 2019
How many people have lost their faith when, after deciding to serve God, they suffered defeats, disappointments, and duress!
Yet, God never promised He’d take the faithful around all troubles and trials. Instead, God promised to take them through their troubles and trials, and make their difficulties serve the improvement of their character and conduct.
Today’s scripture is realistic. Even as it promises God will preserve His own against all adversity, it presumes He will not protect them from all adversity. In fact, the assurance that life’s hurtful blows will not ultimately harm them assumes they will undergo such blows! Who but those under attack need to be assured that God will be their “refuge” and “fortress”? And who but those with one leg trapped in “the snare of the fowler” need to be assured that God will “deliver” them and enable them to escape? Who but those shot at with the “arrows that fly by day” and exposed to “the pestilence that stalks in darkness” need to be assured that God “will be with them in trouble” and “rescue” them? Who but those under threat of death need to be assured that God will “satisfy” them with “long life” and “show” them his “salvation” in all its everlasting glory and grace?
God is being good to us even when He allows bad to happen to us!
God allowed bad to happen to Hannah Peterson. One month before her wedding in Ontario, Hannah was in a car accident that broke her pelvis, fractured some ribs, punctured one of her kidneys, gave her a concussion and led to a partial loss of hearing. But despite all that she was resolved to fulfill her every dream for her big day.
So, when it came time for her to walk down the aisle, her father pushed her in a wheelchair halfway, whereupon her fiancé, Stuart, picked her up and carried her in his arms the rest of the way. Though she had to sit on a chair for most of the ceremony, she was determined to stand for the exchange of vows. In spite of the difficulty and pain of staying upright even while Stuart supported her, she says it was one of the loveliest moments of her life; and many in the pews described it as the most beautiful wedding they’d ever witnessed.
In the months following her wedding, Hannah continued to experience great grace. As in a long slow process she learned anew how to walk again, Stuart showed how much he loved her. He never left her side, and never complained about his extra workload. She says, “He was strong for both of us. He made me see how blessed I am.”
And that’s how God fulfills this promise from the Psalms to take good care of us!
Thus, letting us enter tough times doesn’t mean God isn’t as good and faithful as we thought!
Nor does it mean that we haven’t been as good and faithful as we thought. Sometimes bad things just happen even to the best of us. So it may not be our fault that we are in a down time, but it could be our fault if we don’t get back up like Hannah.
An Italian woman had always admired from afar the monks who lived in a monastery high on a hill above her village. One day she bumped into one of the monks on a mountain road, and decided to take advantage of the opportunity to satisfy her curiosity. She said to him, “I’ve always wondered what you men of God do up there on the top of that mountain that looks so close to heaven. What is your life of holiness like?” The honest monk smiled and replied, “We fall down; we get up. We fall down; we get up. We fall down; we get up.”
That’s how progress is made. We sometimes stumble but God does not let His faithful fall headlong and break their neck. He keeps us moving forward, and does it before we get it together, let alone get it perfect. In a long steady process, He works with us in our weaknesses and failures, and maintains our momentum.
Moreover, as it turns out, God can do the most for us when we stumble and feel our need of His help. It is then when we will trust Him, if only out of desperation. God will meet us where we are and deal with us as we are, and from there propel us to where we would better be to become our better selves.
One classic devotional writer, Oswald Chambers, compares God to a master archer and each believer to a bow in His strong hands. God takes an arrow and aims for a target the bow cannot see. He stretches and strains its string to the point the bow protests, “I can’t take any more.” But God does not heed. He goes on stressing it until the target is in sight, and the trajectory is just right – and it is time to let the arrow fly.
God’s shooting us forward may in the moment feel awful, but it feels wonderful when the bullseye is hit!
The first four years of the nineties, the Buffalo Bills suffered four consecutive Super Bowl losses. The string began in Super Bowl XXV when Bills kicker Scott Norwood missed a field goal as time ran out. His team was one point down with 8 seconds left on the clock. From the 47-yard-line Scott attempted a kick that he normally made and that would have won the game, but the ball sailed wide to the right.
Scott felt the weight of the loss fall heavy upon his shoulders. He described his emotions this way: “Sorrow … disappointment in letting down the teammates there with me on the field of battle. I get choked up just thinking about it.” That dark January night seemed to Scott an unmitigated disaster.
Nothing prepared him for the greeting he received in Buffalo at the team’s homecoming. He expected, and thought he deserved, hatred and condemnation. But nearly 30,000 adoring fans showed up to honor the team they loved and to chant, with cheers not jeers, “We want Scott! We want Scott!” Scott had wanted to hide from the rage he thought awaited him. But as the chants intensified and his teammates pushed him forward, he knew he had to take the mic and say something. Stunned by all that grace, he blurted out, “I have never felt more loved than I do right now.”
The God who does not protect us from all harm preserves us for all His best blessings. Let us trust Him, and so face all the ups and downs of life with peace in our hearts!