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By Mark Chen

Preached at / Published Life BPC Weekly, 2005-01-09

Text: 2 Corinthians 4:6-9

What can cause a person, despite having great loss, burdens, and difficulties in life, to be able to have an unmovable confidence in God? No doubt it comes from a knowledge of God's sovereignty and the saint's safety in God. But the life of the Christian is filled with snares. Satan is always seeking to destroy us - with even seemingly innocuous things - with our work life, our family life, our fears, our desires, and even our spiritual walk. Many Christians know that they must surrender to God, but many of us do not know how. 

We know we are to shine for Christ, to have victory - but how many of us actually do? We feel weighed down, troubled on every side, and much distressed. But we need not be. We can experience the bliss of having these burdens lifted from us. 2 Corinthians 4:6-9 tells us, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed."

Psalm 91 addresses this issue -this restlessness and all the fears that come with living in this sin-torn world. God gives peace, and He gives direction. And why would He do that? It is because it is in His nature to do so - it is who He is. 

It Is God's Nature to Comfort Us

"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust." Psalm 91:1-2

The Psalm describes God as the Most High. This tells us that God is the highest of those who are high, that nothing surpasses his rank. The very first time this is used is in Genesis 14:18,19. Melchizedek blesses Abram and says, "Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth." And that is the thought that is connected with this title - that God, being the Most High, is possessor of all things and owns all things. All things belong to Him. There is nothing that belongs to us - we are not the owners of ourselves because God is possessor of all.

Secondly, He is the "Almighty" - Shaddai. There is nothing that God cannot do - He is omnipotent. This word was first used in connection, again, with Abram. In Genesis 17:1,2, we see God revealing Himself to Abram once again when Abram was 99 years old, and still without a child. But God Almighty promised Abram that He would make a covenant with him and bless him, multiplying his seed after him. And it came to pass - after one year, God provided Abram with a child - Isaac was born. God the Almighty provided for Abram when it seemed hopeless. Almighty God is the provider of all - He is someone who by nature blesses. 

Thirdly, He is "the LORD" - Jehovah. This was the name that God identified himself with when He told Moses to deliver his people out of Israel. Exodus 3:7 says, "And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows." The LORD would not forget the covenant He made. He loved these people, He loved them even before they were born - and now because of their plight, because of their troubles, He could not help but desire to deliver them. He is the lover of His people.

The last title is "God" - Elohim. This word is the most frequently used with its first occurrence in Genesis 1:1 - in the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth; and this is used 34 times in the creation account. It is a name linked to the creation of the world. Elohim is the creator of all.

So what do these titles tell us about God? They tell us fundamentally who He is - that He, being the Creator of all, possesses all, and hence is able to provide for all, especially those whom He loves. And if this is truth, why would we, His children, continue to remain restless? Why would we remain burdened? 

There are other reasons why we ought not to be burdened. God is a refuge and a fortress to His saints, He is a shadow that shades them. These three things are synonyms - they basically refer to the same thing. Simply put, the underlying sense of these words is that of comfort. God is the saint's comfort - the chief comfort - the greatest comfort. No other comfort would ever compare to Him.

How Does God Comfort Us?

"Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler." Psalm 91:3-4

If God is creator, possessor, and provider to all those for whom He loves and comforts, and He is a refuge and fortress and shade to those who would come unto Him; surely, doubtlessly, unquestionably, with much assurance, would He not do more? Absolutely, because He is these things and more, God will surely deliver; God will surely cover; God will surely assure His children. This is what God does for His saint - delivers them, covers them, and assures them.

Firstly, God delivers them. The word for "deliver" can also be translated as snatch or pluck; and while God holds us tightly, powerfully gripping us, prepared for anyone who would try to snatch us away, God Himself is able to snatch the saint away from the despairs of trouble. No matter how strong the trap, no matter how virulent the disease - God is able to lead us through it. And who's the fowler? Is it not Satan and his agents? Those from without - circumstances, problems, people. The noisome pestilences destroy us from within - weakening us, tearing down our resolves - our besetting sins, our fears, our unclean motives. 

And these little things when unchecked and un-dealt with result in us being snared and diseased. The fowler doesn't just aimlessly set traps. He knows what we are attracted to. But yet camouflages them so as to trick us. The disease doesn't indiscriminately attack the body, it has a pattern - certain kinds of diseases attack certain body systems after lying dormant for some time. They're strong and insidious. But God will snatch us away from the power of these things.

But not only will He deliver us, He'll also cover us. The word "cover" means "to shelter." The imagery here is of a mother hen who covers her chicks under the feathers of her wings. They're safely tucked in there. When the destroyer passed over Egypt, the Israelites were not harmed, because their homes were covered in the blood of the lamb. The coats of skin that God provided for Adam and Eve covered their nakedness and their iniquities. Noah's ark was covered with pitch, that the waters of destruction might not penetrate its hull. They were all covered - insured at the expense of another. Christ is our sure insurance - He has paid the penalty, and hence we are covered.

You see, the Lord doesn't promise a life without problems. In fact, we are supposed to go through problems and suffer, because these things purify us. We are told in Psalm 119:71 that it is good for us to be afflicted, that we might learn God's ways. And the promise here is not that we will never have problems, but that God will snatch us and insure us from the power of these problems and from Satan. And this truth ought to grant us assurance that He will be true to His word. 

And that is what we're told. The phrase "his truth shall be thy shield and buckler" can be translated as "his trustworthiness, his staying true to himself, shall be your shield and armor." The fact that God never lies and will always remain true to Himself, keeping His promises and being consistent - should not the one who believes and finds comfort in God be assured that nothing will harm him? The buckler is an armour that encompasses the soldier and the full-length shield ensures that a person is doubly protected. The soldier will not go into battle unless he knows he is well protected. Likewise, unless the Christian has the assurance of God's trustworthiness, he will not be comforted. But because God is creator, possessor, provider, and lover; one who provides comfort; one who will rescue us, cover us, and even assure us; why would we not take Him at His word?

We Can Be Fearless At All Times!

"Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday." Psalm 91:5-6 

And we ought to take Him at His word. His trustworthiness should cause us to be fearless. And to the saint who believes, he shall not fear. Here we see two things that we should not be afraid of: 1. The terror by night and the pestilence that walketh in darkness, and 2. The arrow that flieth by day and the destruction that wasteth at noonday. 

There are things that come our way that are expected - things we can see and know the cause of. But there things that are unexpected - which come at us without our knowledge. So what is this expected thing? What is this arrow and destruction? The snares and problems that come our way can often times be identified. We know what they are. We know where they come from. We know it is that colleague that seeks to destroy us, we know it is that difficult boss, we know that it is the stress of our work; we know the where, when, how, and the why of the problems that we face, but we just do not know how to handle it. 

Even though it is so bright during the day and we know the reasons for the problems, it doesn't make the problems any less difficult. Arrows are swift and sharp. Destruction, even if it happens at noonday, is still destruction. But we have an assurance from God. Isaiah 43:2 says, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." 

But this confidence is foolishness to the world! Who in their right mind can be fearless in the face of so much opposition? But the Christian can - the one who trusts in God. His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. This is the wisdom of God, and we all know that the wisdom of God is foolishness unto those who do not believe. But what sadness when we Christians treat it as foolishness as well.

And if the day is that bad, what of the night? The terror by night and the pestilence that walketh in darkness. These things represent the unexpected. They represent those things which are shrouded in mystery - the things that we have no knowledge of - we do not know the when, what, how, and the why. But we do know one thing - when such uncertainty comes into our lives - we do not know what our future is, we do not know how things will turn up - during such times of uncertainty, there is usually one certainty - and that is anxiety. The Christian can get so anxious over things unknown. And that is what terror is. We are affected by our anxiousness. We are wrecked with fear. We fear the fear - we get all worked up because we do not know what will happen. The child fears the darkness and what may lurk under his bed - but we know these are irrational fears and indeed they are. 

We Can Be Fearless in All Circumstances!

"A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked." Psalm 91:7-8

And how much should we be fearless? Even to the extent where a thousand may fall at our side and ten thousand at our right hand. You see, trouble has abounded and it will continue to abound. The troubles we have now, as bad as they may be, may even get worse.

Martin Luther when he was faced with great opposition, yet he was able to write these words: "And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us: The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him." 

And why is that? Well, we did say it was God's truth that will be our shield and our buckler. It is belief. But more than just belief, there is hope. It is a hope that evil will not always reign. This is what we are told here in verse 8. The trouble that is confounding us - the fowler trying to trap us - the fears that we have of the unknown - all these things shall not last. If the wicked will have it's just reward, then the domination that it has now is only temporary. In other words, your trouble will not last forever. God will take it away. 

Indeed, God is a caring God and we can experience His care. He shows us His tender care and promises us all things good. We need not fear at all times because of His sure word of promise, neither shall the power of evil overwhelm us, because our confidence comes from our hope in God. 

Jonathan Edwards said, "God's people, whenever they are scorched by afflictions as by hot sun-beams, may resort to him, who is as a shadow of a great rock, and be effectually sheltered, and sweetly refreshed." 

But we must go to Him. God yearns to comfort His people and will comfort His people. But in order to have any comfort, to experience any of these things, His people must go to Him. (To be continued)

 

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11