God is Our Refuge

I used to fly around the country quite a bit for work and on one particular flight into Baltimore I felt like living in a movie. Our pilot warned us early on that we were trying to beat a big storm into Baltimore when we took off and I figured it’d be We had been flying peacefully up above the clouds where everything was bright, beautiful, blue and sunny as soon as we descended into the clouds things became extremely rough. As we broke through the clouds the plane seemed to become almost unmanageable as we were slammed up, down, left and right without relief. It just kept going and going and going – stuff was flying all over the place. At first the kids began to cry, and then even adults began to scream when the plane would do an especially erratic drop. It literally felt like the plane was going to be ripped apart. We were ordered by Air Traffic Control not to land and were put in a holding pattern until things settled down. And for what felt like 20 minutes, we circled the airport feeling like at any minute we were going to fall out of the sky.  People were throwing up into bags, others were crying and this general look of terror was on everyone’s face around me.

I closed my eyes trying to hold back my own barf and felt a feeling I had never felt before… complete helplessness. I had no choice but to just sit and put my confidence in the pilot’s skills and in God’s protection. I prayed, “Lord, please give the pilots the skill they need to land this plane safely!” And a sense peace came over me as I realized that regardless of what happened, even at worst the plane did crash–I could still trust that I was in the Lord’s hands…

Well the good news is that we didn’t crash… and when we touched down the plane erupted in cheers and clapping, it was like we were all best friends which was kind of awkward because the big guy next to me wanted a hug…

Have you ever experienced a situation where you felt completely and utterly powerless? Like you literally had no choice but to relinquish control? Perhaps you’ve been in a car accident and as soon as the car began to lose control you realized you couldn’t do anything about the outcome… or maybe you were waiting for test results from doctor and all you could do was pray and wait…

These are some of the most challenging and trying moment we will ever face, but as followers of Jesus we have an anchor that grounds us. It is that solid foundation that we know that no matter what happens, even if it means that we die–God will always catch us.

And the reality is, every single one of us in this room is going to experience this feeling at some point in our life; if you haven’t already… it is these moment where we find out where our hope really lies. For a man or woman after God’s own heart, there is no reason to fear.

For the last several weeks we’ve been working our way through some of the major events in David’s life, and today we’re looking at how David relied upon the Lord for the things that were completely out of his control… and he learned to trust God that way by being a man after God’s own heart. And that’s what we really want as well, isn’t it? To have complete confidence in God’s care.

But before we dive into today’s passage it’s important to give some background as several years have passed between last week’s passage and today’s. Last week we talked about how Saul became so jealous of David that he tried to pin him to the wall with a spear––≥ TWICE! David, realizing that playing the harp was hazardous to his health, decided it was time to split and had to flee into the wilderness leaving his wife, Saul’s daughter, behind.

And it wasn’t like David simply escaped into the hills and Saul gave up… Saul never stopped pursuing David–his army was constantly scouring the country. So David was always on the run.

But finally, after 4 years of this, Saul unexpectedly died in a battle against the Philistines. Word reached David that not only was the threat of death gone, but also Israel was ready and waiting to crown him king! Talk about a rag-to-riches story!

So out of thankfulness to God, David sits down to write a song… and that song is Psalm 18, which probably more than any other passage shows us why David was a man after God’s own heart. So if you brought your Bible, please turn with me to Psalm 18; the Book of Psalms is right smack-dab in the middle of the Bible.

Starting in verse 1 and 2:

“I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Here we see the first reason why David was a man after God’s own heart: David truly loved the Lord: He did not see God as just someone to fear or appease, instead he understood who God really was–loving, personal, and eternal.

This special love relationship we have with God is something purely unique to Christianity. In all other religions, “god” is seen as either someone to be feared, an impersonal force, or as the Greeks–completely unconcerned with humans.

But the God of the Bible, the one true God, is a God of love who doesn’t want to just rule over us; he created us for a loving relationship with him.

The Apostle John tells us in 1 John 4:19 that, “we love because he first loved us.”

God moved towards us first in love. And this relationship is like a father and son/daughter love–where we as his children realize that our heavenly father has everything taken care of. Just like a child who properly cared for never has to worry about where their next meal is coming from, we trust God to go before us in the matters that trouble us the most. We don’t have anything to fear.

Likewise John also writes in verse 18 that, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” We understand that in God’s care, this world is a perfectly safe place for us to be.

David expounds upon his confidence in God’s goodness and protection in verse 2: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

David learned to place his full confidence in God: The Hebrew word that we translate, as “rock” early in this verse is specific to a “cliff” or a “crag.” Then building upon that metaphor, David describes God as his fortress and deliverer–a place that he can take refuge in.

When I was reading this I was reminded of a massive fortress built by King Herod, called Masada.

Masada

This was built long after David’s life, but I think it bares a striking resemblance to David’s metaphor. This fortress was built as the perfect refuge:

  1. It had the advantage of being high and easy to defend
  2. The cliffs surrounding it are virtually unscalable by an army weighed down with weapons and supplies.
  3. The fortress walls are virtually impenetrable.

I believe this fortress brings David’s metaphor to life. With God, David knew that he owned the keys to that type of fortress.

And the fortress is our God-under his care we are completely secure in his love.

One of the most beautiful passages in the Bible is the conclusion of Romans 8 where the Apostle Paul writes:

“For 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.

What David and Paul both understood was that their relationship with God and their security with him far outweighed their physical well being.

David was running for his life, and Paul faced execution. They both hoped and prayed for deliverance, but ultimately they knew that regardless of whether they were delivered or not–GOD WAS STILL GOOD and worthy of praise.

As far as David was concerned, the worst that could happen was that Saul would kill him… that’s it… Now that is an interesting statement isn’t it? But it’s true. Life is much more than just the here and now, or even the years on this earth.

“You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.” -Dallas Willard

That’s who we are in Christ. God’s plan for you extends beyond just this life and thus our approach to life should always have an eternal focus.

With this in mind, death shouldn’t hold any power over us, nor any trial that comes our way. There is nothing for us to fear.

I think of the Christians in the Middle East who bravely refuse to deny their faith and are being murdered every single day. Phil recently posted this picture on Facebook; so maybe some of you have seen this already – but here is a picture of a Christian refugee near Mosul Iraq:

iraq-refugees-erbil

As you’re all aware, ISIS is on the hunt for Christians and mercilessly murdering men, women and children.

Yet this woman, and many Christians like her, bravely places a cross on the top of her tent… and not only that, she wrapped the cross in Christmas lights in order to make it even MORE obvious at night! She in effect saying to the ISIS; come and get me––I am not afraid.

Notice she even willingly and happily sits in the picture with her face clearly identifiable! In a situation where most people would be terrified (myself included), her face shows no signs of fear. This woman knows that God is her refuge and regardless of what happens, she is safe in his love.

I find it striking how at peace these Christian men and women are in the midst of the most trying of circumstances. These brothers and sisters of ours show us what total dependency on God looks like.

They simply cling to God. This is the same love and security that David is speaking of in Psalm 18.

Now in David’s case, he was eventually delivered – but keep in mind it didn’t happen quickly. God allowed him to run from Saul for 4 years. But when he was finally delivered (3) David was quick to give God the glory. He says in verse 3:

“I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death entangled me, the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me, the cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.  In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.”

Moving to verse 16 he continues to point to God as the one gets the glory:

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.”

David gives God all the credit, and rightfully so. He admits that he was incapable of saving himself. This is a theme present throughout the Psalms: David is always was quick to give God the glory for his victories, skills and talents.

God made each of us with individual gifts and talents, and he created us in this time and place with the people and situations around us. We didn’t control or choose any of those things. All good that comes from those things are all because of God.

Think of a seed planted by a gardener. The gardener prepares the soil, makes sure it has enough sunlight and water… he frequently comes out to check on the flower to make sure it is growing and prunes it as needed. When it finally blooms in all its beauty… Who should receives the credit for it? The gardener of course!

We tell them; wow your garden is beautiful! We recognize that the gardener receives the credit for beauty — We certainly admire the flowers… but they simply testify to the work the gardener has done. In the same way God cares for and nurtures us, thus every good thing in life must be attributed to him.

The final attribute that made David a man after God’s own heart was that he offered the Lord his complete and unhesitating obedience.

In verses 20 and 21 he boldly says:

“The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God.”

Now I’ll be honest that at first I really struggled with David’s words here… I thought he came across as being proud and self-righteous, and his statement that the Lord rewarded him according to his righteousness is, (at it reads), not even theologically correct. Romans 3:10 clearly says, “There is no one righteous, not even one.”

However, looking at other Psalms written shortly before and after this one helps us to understand that David is not gloating in his “perfection”… Psalm 14, which was likely written around the same time period says,

“All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Those are David’s own words. Thus we understand that David is declaring that to his utmost ability: he sought to be obedient to God. This doesn’t mean he was perfect, but it does mean that he was intentional about being obedient –– and God recognized it.

David wanted what God wanted… the way God wanted it, and when he wanted it.  This was the main thing that God really loved about David. We read:

“God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’” Acts 13:22.

As a Christian, this is the life we are called to. We surrender our own desires to God and trust that he knows what is best for us. In this way we build upon a firm foundation.

Jesus says in Luke 6:46-49

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.

Notice here the similarity to David’s own description of God being his rock and foundation.

But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

Obedience is foundational to being a man or woman after God’s own heart.

Yes, loving Him, having confidence in him, and giving him the glory are all pertinent–but obedience is where we live out those attributes in practical reality. It is where the rubber meets the road.

It is the natural result of a loving relationship with God. Because we understand that Jesus was the smartest person to ever live and we can trust that he knows what is best for us. We understand that a life lived in obedience to Christ leads to the best possible life we can live this side of eternity.

And this is the beauty of the Gospel message. When we cross the line of faith, we get to relinquish trying to run our own lives and enter into the Kingdom of God where we are deeply loved and cared for.

We obey Christ’s commands because it brings peace and restoration to our soul… and that’s really all we need. In Christ’s loving protection we are simply free from the burden of looking out for ourselves…

Then when things come our way, whether they are good or bad, we understand them as either being sent or permitted by God. But in every situation, whether it is a blessing or a trial, we rest in God’s loving care.

This is what it means to be a man or woman after God’s own heart. We love him… we place our confidence in him… we give him the glory… and we do our best to actually do the things Jesus told us to do. When these are our focus, the uncontrollable things in our lives are simply placed in God’s hands. We know that he loves us and that he’ll take care of us.

Maybe today you find yourself struggling to trust God, especially if you’re going through a trial right now. It can be hard to simply trust God to know what is best for us, especially when he leads us somewhere that challenges our comforts or desires.

But I promise you, when you hand those things over to God—he is with you every step of the way and offers all of his tender love and eternal security. Even David had it pretty rough… he had to hide in the caves for 4 longs years before he was delivered… and He honestly didn’t even know if he would ever delivered– Yet he continued to trust that God knew what was best, because he does. He’s God… he knows what he’s doing.

A few weeks ago my good friend Jeremy came up here and shared his testimony, and he shared with us that at one point he struggled to trust God with everything… then a mutual friend of ours challenged him to trust God with JUST ONE THING–if you were here to hear his testimony, God came through in an amazing way!

So today I want to give you that same challenge. Regardless of whether you would consider yourself a Christian or not, I encourage you to trust God with just one thing this week. And I would make it the one thing that is really eating you up… the biggest thing you are struggle to trust him with… Something that only God could handle.

Spend some time today with God and just be honest with him—God welcomes us to speak to him just as a little child confides his fears, failures — pains and struggles to his daddy. The Lord already knows what’s going on in your heart, so don’t be afraid to be honest with him–still be respectful, but openly admit any reservations you have to trusting him.

Then… relinquish the matter into God’s care and just hang out with Him this week and see what he does…  I’m not promising he will give you exactly what you want, but I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he will give you peace. When we hand over the things we can’t control to God, we are free to simply trust that he knows what he’s doing and he will watch over us.

The things we can’t control are best left in the hands of our loving Lord, not ours.

The Lord is our rock, he is our fortress and our deliverer; our God is our rock, in whom we take refuge, he is our shield and the horn of our salvation, our stronghold and mighty deliverer. Whom then… what then… shall we fear?

Let’s pray.

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