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Through it All

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Through it All

Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfill my vows to you— vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble. I will sacrifice fat animals to you and an offering of rams; I will offer bulls and goats. Selah Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me. I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me! (Ps 66:8-20 NIV)

Introduction: This psalm is about someone who encountered hard times, but trusted God and remained faithful and true to him, in spite of the troubling times, for He knew God himself was faithful.

If we are to be counted among the faithful in the end, we must remain true when it really counts.

I.        Remain True Through Difficult Passages

[For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.]

A.      Trusting God’s Examination under Pressure.

***If God has made your cup sweet, drink it with grace. If he has made it bitter; drink it in communion with him.

   Oswald Chambers (1874-1917)

~Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” (Mt 20:20-23 NIV)

- Peter was Told in the last chapter of the book of John that to follow Jesus would cost him his life, but he took upon himself the apostolic office, knowing that the one whom he died for had overcome the grave. Though trial may come, God is to be trusted.

***   Afflictions, when sanctified, make us grateful for mercies which before we treated with indifference. We sat for half an hour in a calf's shed the other day, quite grateful for the shelter from the driving rain, yet at no other time would we have entered such a hovel. Discontented people need a course of the bread of adversity and the water of affliction to cure them of the wretched habit of complaining. Even things which we loathed before, we shall learn to value when in troubling circumstances. We are not fond of lizards, and yet at Pont St. Martin, in the Aosta valley, where the mosquitoes, flies, and insects of all sorts drove us nearly to distraction, we prized the little green fellows, and felt quite an attachment to them as they darted out their tongues and devoured our worrying enemies. Sweet are the uses of adversity, and this among them--that it brings into proper estimation mercies which were before lightly esteemed.

   -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)

B.      Trusting God’s Extension of Protection

***   Several months ago our family went to a swimming pool. I was down in the deep end by the diving board swimming around, and my four-year-old, Savannah, came tottering into the shallow end of the pool. She can't swim yet, but she wears these big orange "floaties." She can't sink with these huge orange floaties on.

   Savannah came down the steps, and as soon as she got out there in the water, she said "Daddy, I'm scared. I want to come where you are."

   I chuckled at her naivete and said, "Savannah, it's a lot deeper down here."

   She said, "I don't care. I want to be where you are."

   "Okay, come on," I said.

   She began dog-paddling across the pool ... three-foot ... six-foot ... nine-foot ... 12-foot-deep water. When she came up to me she grabbed my neck, and her look of panic gave way to relief. Next to her father she felt secure, and it made very little difference how deep or how dangerous the water was.

   -- Dave Stone, "Keep the Dust Off the Highchair," Preaching Today, Tape No. 143.

C.      Trusting God’s Exercise of Providence

***   Chrysostom says, the way is good if it is the way to a feast, even though it goes through a dark and miry lane. If it goes to an execution it is not good, even though it goes through the fairest street of the city. Non qua sed quo. Not the way but the end is to be mainly considered.

   -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)

II.      Remain True Through Dedicated Prayer

[I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!]

***An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers.... But if he is a Christian, he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the man who was God-that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying-the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on-the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers.

   C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)

A.      Praying with Praise

***Adoration is the highest form of prayer.

   Louis Cassels (1922-1974)

B.      Praying with Purity

***   In Bulgaria, the head movements for yes and no are just the opposite of those with which we are familiar. A nod of the head means no. Shaking the head from side to side means yes. Sometimes when we are tempted we say no but mean yes. We say no with our lips but say yes in our hearts.

*** In his book Why Prayers Are Unanswered, John Lavender retells a story about Norman Vincent Peale.

   When Peale was a boy, he found a big, black cigar, slipped into an alley, and lit up. It didn't taste good, but it made him feel very grown up ... until he saw his father coming. Quickly he put the cigar behind his back and tried to be casual.

   Desperate to divert his father's attention, Norman pointed to a billboard advertising the circus. "Can I go, Dad? Please, let's go when it comes to town." His father's reply taught Norman a lesson he never forgot. "Son," he answered quietly but firmly, "never make a petition while at the same time trying to hide a smoldering disobedience."

   -- Kirk Russel, DeForest, Wisconsin. Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 4.

*** When Jesus says that everyone who asks will receive, he is assuming that those who pray will be disciples who are right with God and not cherishing iniquity in their hearts.

   -- Christianity Today, Vol. 32,  no. 4.

C.      Praying with Promise

***Don't expect a thousand-dollar answer to a ten-cent prayer.

***   I know not by what methods rare,

   But this I know: God answers prayer.

   I know not if the blessing sought

   Will come in just the guise I thought.

   I leave my prayer to him alone

   Whose will is wiser than my own.

      Eliza M. Hickok

***If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.

   Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843)

***The promises of God are certain, but they do not all mature in ninety days.

   -- Adoniram J. Gordon

***   Once a song leader stopped the congregation in the middle of the gospel song "Standing on the Promises." He asked people to volunteer some promises on which they were standing. One said, "Lo, I am with you always." Another quoted, "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." Still another said, "Where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst." Soon a dozen promises had been quoted. When the singing resumed, there was a marked increase in enthusiasm, and surely there also must have been a marked increase in understanding.

   -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).

***You can never break God's promises by leaning on them.

***If man is man and God is God, to live without prayer is not merely an awful thing; it is an infinitely foolish thing.

   Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)

III.   Remain True Through Discharged Promises

[I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfill my vows to you— vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble. I will sacrifice fat animals to you and an offering of rams; I will offer bulls and goats. Selah]

 

*** You may depend on the Lord, but can he depend on you?

A.      Keeping Promises of Material Sacrifice

-          The two calves, one for me, and one for God, Can’t understand why God let his die.

-          The piano given to the church. The piano no one else could play. The piano that was taken back. The piano that was never really given.

-          Promises to give, but never followed through. (promises to give to and support the church are often withdrawn or neglected).

B.      Keeping Promises of Personal Service

***   After a great gathering of Christian youth, the offering was being counted. At the bottom of the offering, the counters found a picture of a teenage girl. They all made the same immediate assumption. Some boy had taken a girl's wallet, taken out the picture and thrown it in the offering basket as a practical joke. That's the kind of thing teenagers sometimes do. Then someone turned the picture over. There was something written on the back. "I have nothing to give, but I give myself."

   -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).

- Many have taken vows to support the church with their attendance, but somehow, it becomes a promise that is to be kept only when it is convenient.

*** Attendance is not for the building of records but for the building of Christians.

C.      Keeping Promises After The Storm

***   Vows are made in storms and forgotten in calms.

   -- As quoted in Bob Phillips, Phillips' Book of Great Thoughts & Funny Sayings, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1993), p. 324.

- There are no atheists in Foxholes, and many promises made to God during times of fright, when we plead for protection from God are forgotten as soon as the danger is past, and dark skies become bright. God answers our prayers, and we return the favor with broken promises.

*** We rate ability in men by what they finish, not by what they attempt.

IV.    Remain True Through  Delightful Praise

[Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.  . . .And in v. 16

Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.]

A.      Praising God Personally

- It is not enough to praise God and sing to him as a machine or a jukebox. Just as he is personally involved with us, we must be personally involved in our praise. It is not just singing and shouting, it must be a personal act of devotion that flows from a love for a person. It must be praise that is relational, that is based on a relationship.

B.      Praising God Audibly

-          A song that is sung today goes like this: “With my mouth, I will make known, thy faithfulness, thy faithfulness, with my mouth, I will make known, thy faithfulness to all generations. I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever, I will sing, I will sing.

-          A Christian lifestyle should be accompanied by an audible testimony, for if you only live as a Christian before others but do not speak, how will they know what gives you the power to live as you do?

C.      Praising God Gratefully

*** We should spend as much time in thanking God for his benefits as we do in asking him for them.

   Vincent De Paul (1580-1660)

Conclusion:   Fred Craddock, in an address to ministers, caught the practical implications of consecration. "To give my life for Christ appears glorious," he said. "To pour myself out for others ... to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom--I'll do it. I'm ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory.

   "We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1,000 bill and laying it on the table--'Here's my life, Lord. I'm giving it all.'

   "But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $1,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there. Listen to the neighbor kid's troubles instead of saying, 'Get lost.' Go to a committee meeting. Give up a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home.

   "Usually giving our life to Christ isn't glorious. It's done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out in  a flash of glory; it's harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul."

   -- Darryl Bell, Maple Grove, Minnesota. Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 4.

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