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God's providence

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Providence

A few months ago I preached on the reason why believers go through troublesome times. Tonight I want to show you from Scripture how a believer must respond if they in trouble.

Turn with me to Psalm 57

Now this Psalm was penned by David while he was hiding from Saul in the caves of Adullam. David at the time of penning this Psalm was fleeing from one end of Israel to the next. Saul was not merely trying to catch up on him and have a chat...he was trying to kill David. In fact, though Saul did not know it, he had David trapped in the cave. David, understandably, was in fear of his life and had nowhere to turn.

I don’t have to tell you that we all go through times like these. We might not have someone trying to kill us, but our distress is as intense as what David experienced. The world we live in is in a desperate situation:

·        From nature in upheaval with global warming.

·        To tension between nations like India and Pakistan.

·        The Global credit crunch and national economies in serious danger of collapsing.

·        Closer to home our own economy is in decline with banks failing, pension funds with “black holes” where funds should have been

·         Giant companies in trouble whose collapse could affect us all.

·         Some of us fear for our jobs, our “security” in jeopardy. Interest rates are falling causing those who depend on income from investments, to despair as their income dwindle. The cost of living is souring. Add to this turmoil the risk from terrorism, the degrading of society and suddenly our security seems very fragile. Frankly, we do not know what tomorrow will bring and a lot of us are extremely worried about the future with some even on the point of despair.

Exactly the emotions that David experienced trapped in that cave. How did David handle the situation? What can we learn from that godly man when we experience the same distress?

Note that David did not deny the fact that he was troubled. The whole Psalm gives the very real impression of a person in desperate need! Though he was a man of God, the anointed king, no less, still he was experiencing severe turmoil. His distress was real! What this Psalm shows is that in the mist of his distress, he did not despair:

I intend to show you tonight how Psalm 57 gives us 3 important steps in handling a difficult situation; three spiritual principles believers have to apply in order to stand firm when things go against you, with an emphasis on the providence of God

No 1 David PRAYED to God and number 2: He Trusted God 3: He PRAISED God.

PRAYER

Now most people, even if they are not believers, respond the same when they are in deep trouble: have you not noticed that most people would cry to God for help? You see, it is natural to turn to God for help when things are outside of your control, but most would ask God to do what they want; what they cannot do they expect God to do. God for them is nothing but an impersonal being to help them out of trouble.

David also turned to God, but with a difference:

He starts: Be gracious to me, God! My soul takes refuge in You. He does not merely say: “help me out of this mess, God!” His soul took refuge with God: it is the picture of his soul bonded with God’s. David had the relationship with God before he was in trouble. His soul did not take refuge in God only because he was in trouble, but, because his soul took refuge in God beforehand, he could legitimately cry out: “Be gracious to me” and confidently say : “in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until the trouble is past”. You see: God is not the genie that you rub the lamp when you want three wishes. David did not pray to God to provide the way out when he could not handle it any more but his relationship with God naturally made him move closer to God when there was danger. You see a small child holding his dad’s hand, INSTINKTIVELY move closer to his dad’s protection when a large dog for example makes the child feels threatened. That’s the picture of dependency David conveys here: His soul was already bonded to God to whom he now turns for protection.

Look at verse 2: “I will cry to God Most High, To God who fulfills his purpose for me”. He did not cry to an impersonal god: He cries to “God most High” using the Hebrew words: “Elohim ’elyon” meaning the God that is all-powerful, transcendent! Far above anything He created: “God Most High!” David was acknowledging God’s Sovereign power. He, in effect was saying: “the all-powerful Sovereign ruler is in control, to Him I will cry out for deliverance!” But David did not only see God as the God most High, far removed from what He created. Someone to whom he had to beg to pay attention to his distress: he knew that God was also involved in his life in an intimate, personal way.  He says: “I will cry to God Most High, to God who fulfils His purpose for me” The NASB renders the verse: “God who accomplishes all things for me”. The Most High God, cares for each of us individually! He is involved in the minutest details of our lives. Note that David did not say that God did some things for him, no...he realized that God accomplished ALL things, Everything for him. All God’s purposes are fulfilled! In this verse there is contained an amazing doctrine that allows you to remain calm in the most distressing of circumstances. As David knew, you can know this: “God is in control of everything in your lives. The God Most High accomplishes all things for you. That, my friends is the doctrine of GOD’S PROVIDENCE. David understood this when he cried to God for help. He realised that God rules everything by the power of His WILL and that all that He will is fulfilled.

 Scripture is abundantly clear of God’s providence, both in the OT and NT:

·        God providentially allowed Babylon to take Judah into captivity as his judgement on the adulterous nation.

·        We see how God providentially protected the Davidic lineage against destruction throughout the books of Kings and Chronicles.

·         We see how Ruth providentially gleamed wheat in Boaz’s field, who was Naomi’s kinsman redeemer and became the grandmother of David, from whom Jesus would come.

·         How Esther was placed as Queen inside the royal court of Xerxes so that she could protect the Jews from alienation when Haman wrote the decree to that effect.

·        God providentially provided the great fish to swallow Jonah and return him to dry land.

·        In the NT we see Herod’s Census providentially timed so that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem instead of Nazareth to fulfil the prophecies.

·        Provisionally there was the grave that no one had used before to take his body

·                                           In modern times we see the English Channel being calm for the days needed to remove the soldiers from Dunkirk.

·                                We see the right man with the right background to be prime minister when the credit crunch came.

·                                You see: just look with believing eyes at the big picture and God’s providential care becomes obvious.

·                                Look a bit closer to home: Rick was available at the right time when Ted retired. At that point, providentially, we could afford to pay him the stipend when before this was impossible. God provided the funds at the right time.

Take it closer still:  your life. I for one can see God’s providence in the meeting of Lynette when neither of us used to go to the place we met;, not before nor since; The timing of the meeting, the circumstance thereof. But it goes so much further than that: He is involved in the most minute detail of your life...the smallest detail thereof is controlled and ordained by His Sovereign will. There is not a place you can turn to be away from God’s gaze. Remember Psalm 139?

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.

     2           You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

You understand my thought from afar.

     3           You scrutinize my path and my lying down,

And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.

     4           Even before there is a word on my tongue,

Behold, O Lord, You know it all.

     5           You have enclosed me behind and before,

And laid Your hand upon me.

     6     Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

     7     Where can I go from Your Spirit?

Or where can I flee from Your presence?

     8     If I ascend to heaven, You are there;

If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

     9     If I take the wings of the dawn,

If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,

     10     Even there Your hand will lead me,

And Your right hand will lay hold of me.

     11     If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,

And the light around me will be night,”

     12     Even the darkness is not dark to You,

And the night is as bright as the day.

Darkness and light are alike to You.

     13     For You formed my inward parts;

You wove me in my mother’s womb.

     14     I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Wonderful are Your works,

And my soul knows it very well.

     15     My frame was not hidden from You,

When I was made in secret,

And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

     16     Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;

And in Your book were all written

The days that were ordained for me,

When as yet there was not one of them.

Friends: there is not one part of your life He does not control. It is not that He has to make a plan to sort out where things have gone wrong! His providence goes hand in hand with His Foreknowledge: Not knowing in advance what will happen, but ordaining everything to happen in accordance to His will, even before you were born! There is nothing that can happen to you that God has not ordained: neither good nor bad. This may sit uncomfortable with us when bad things happen to us but when our focus is right then knowing that these things are ordained by a loving God, and trust God to be faithful to His promises, then it is possible to bear and glorify God even in the midst of difficulties.

                  And that is exactly what David did: He trusted God

TRUST

David understood God’s character and therefore he TRUSTED GOD; that is why he said with confidence verse 3

He sends from heaven and saves me,

rebuking those who hotly pursue me

God sends his love and his faithfulness.

David trusted in God’s character. God proved His faithfulness throughout the Torah, which was the Bible David, had and knew. David meditated on Scripture as we see many times in his Psalms and that gave him the confidence to trust God to be faithful to him as well.

WE also can look to the Bible for God’s promises for our care, can’t we?

Remember

·        Luke 12? Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

·        Rom 8.28: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

·        Phil 4.6:   Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

PRAISE

Knowing that God is in control, trusting in God’s faithfulness caused David to burst forth in praise even when, or perhaps because of being surrounded by danger. He knew God, He trusted God and therefore when surrounded by danger, he knew that it could not touch Him outside of God’s will and therefore He burst forth in praise:

I am in the midst of lions;  lie among ravenous beasts—

men whose teeth are spears and arrows,

whose tongues are sharp swords.

 

*                  Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;

*         let your glory be over all the earth.

*                  They spread a net for my feet—

*         I was bowed down in distress.

*            They dug a pit in my path—

*         but they have fallen into it themselves.     Selah

  My friends: Having gone through these spiritual disciplines of acknowledging your distress in prayer to God, asking for mercy; trusting God to be in control of everything and to be faithful and lifting your head in praise to the God Most High, makes you able to withstand in the days of trouble.

Note now that David moved

from being begging for mercy,

 

            to resolutely trusting God;

 

*                        to praising God with a heart which is                                                                           steadfastly anchored in faith in his God                                                                      and Father:

 

*My heart is steadfast, O God,

*            my heart is steadfast;

*            I will sing and make music.

*8                      Awake, my soul!

*            Awake, harp and lyre!

*            I will awaken the dawn.

*9                      I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations;

*            I will sing of you among the peoples.

*10                   For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;

*            your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

*11                   Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;

*            let your glory be over all the earth.

                              You too friend, whatever the circumstance you are in can trust in the Lord to be faithful to His promises. He keeps you in His hand. Ultimately nothing can harm you. Your future is secure even if you have to go through a period of difficulty if that is His providential plan for you.

Pray                     Trust                      praise

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