Faithful Afflictions

 

I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. -Psalm 119:75

I doubt that we very often view the afflictions in our lives as God's faithfulness (I know I don't). I think the common idea is that if things are going good, then I must be living in a way that is pleasing to God. Or, if things in life are going bad, then I must be doing something that is making God angry. It's this view that God is a ticking time bomb, and he's hovering above us just waiting for the wrong move to be made so that he can afflict us with some sort of malady.

But the Psalmist doesn't view God like this. Instead, he startles us with the above verse, saying that God's afflictions are a part of his faithfulness. How is it that the Psalmist can think like this? How can he possibly believe that the suffering in his life, the difficult things he faces every day, are a part of God's faithfulness?

The Psalmist can think this way, because his every thought is shaped by God's words to him. Let me give you two verses that demonstrate this.

 

Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. -Psalm 119:76

The Psalmist view of God's affliction is that this is God's way of showing his steadfast love. It's God's way of showing that he alone is the ultimate comfort in life. How often have you attempted to look for comfort in things? Material possessions or relationships? Every time, these things fail to comfort us. Relationships are hard and everything material in this world is wasting away.

God wants us to see that true comfort comes only from him. His afflictions upon us are faithful to show us this.

One more verse.

 

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. -Psalm 119:92

This verse directly reveals the Psalmists secret to making it through these afflictions–the law of the LORD is his delight.

For the Psalmist, the truth of God's words always trump his experiences in life. Not the other way around. So the Psalmist is able to go through trials. He's able to live with his life hanging in the balance as his enemies pursue after him, because he believes more in what God has promised than in what his present circumstance is presenting to him. 

Jesus would do the same thing, only perfectly and in our place. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, it was the truth of God's word that saw him through the circumstance. When Jesus was ready to face the cross, it was his reliance on God's faithful words that saw him through the agony. 

And he has done this for us. Where we are quick to believe lies, Jesus fully believed the truth. Where we are quick to believe that our present circumstance proves God to be unfaithful, Jesus believed that his present circumstance was underneath the sovereign and faithful hand of his Father.

God is always faithful. His promises have been fulfilled in Christ. You will make it through your afflictions. Do you believe this? 

 

 

 

 

Dirt

We've recently moved back to the little city of Twin Falls, Idaho. Our reason for moving back (as many have asked, Why would you do that!?) is to establish a new church in the city. We love Twin Falls and are thrilled to be here.

God has blessed us with the opportunity in this season of life to live on a farm. We're surrounded by acres of grass, dirt, and cows. The field behind us has begun to see the green buds of soon to be full grown potato plants. The field in front of us is a pasture filled with cattle. Our mornings are frequently filled with coffee cups in our hands and smiles on our faces as we watch the little calves frolic and play in the tall grass.

It's a joy to learn again how to enjoy the simple things. Watching potatoes grow. Watching baby cows sprint after each other through the grass. The sound of a pivot turning in a field. The feel of dirt in my fingers. The scrapes on the knees of my little boys. I love it.

The world wants us to be busy. We're told that there is always something to do, and we never have time. Our calendars are often full and our eyes are often glued to little 3-inch screens that dictate our every thought and move. So often, we're simply distracted.

I believe our God wants us to learn simplicity again. He wants us to know how to rest. To be free from distractions and truly know who he is. I'm reminded of the Psalm of the Good Shepherd. "He makes us to lie down in green pastures. He leads us beside still waters" (Psalm 23:1-2).

If you haven't done so lately, take a moment to slow down. Stop worrying about what's out in front of you and focus on what's before you. Stop to enjoy the sounds and smells that nature provides. Live the moment that God has given you right now to know him. Stop worrying (don't stop planning) about tomorrow. He already has it taken care of.    

Jesus is our Refuge

Cities Of Refuge

In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy (Deut. 19:9-13), there is a passage that talks about cities of refuge. These cities were places where people who had accidentally killed someone could go. At first glimpse the passage is a little comical. I'm not sure exactly how often these accidental killings occurred? The Deuteronomy passage is especially interesting. It gives a specific instance, like if you're out with your friend chopping wood, and the head of the axe flies off and hits your friend in the head and kills them, you then are a person who can flee to one of these cities of refuge. 

Last night my church was given the opportunity to party with refugees from Iraq. We had a big BBQ, played games, and made some good friends. It was a sweet time of laughter and fun. It's impossible to put yourself in the shoes of these refugees. Their country is torn apart by war. And yet, being with them for hours, learning their stories and playing with their kids, it's hard to understand why. It doesn't seem fitting that such a happy and hospitable group of people would need to flee their country to another for refuge. But they have. 

My Need For A City Of Refuge

My new refugee friends have got me thinking a lot about my need for refuge. You see, every single human being is in need of a city of refuge–a place to run because of their sin torn lives. We've all sinned against the holy and perfect God who created us, and because of this sin, we deserve death. 

But God is unbelievably merciful and he has given us a refuge. 

Jesus Is Our Refuge

That refuge is a person and his name is Jesus. The New Testament tells us that Jesus became our city of refuge for us by going outside of the city, hanging on a cross, and dying the sinners death that we deserve. Because of this, he is the one we run to. He is our ultimate refuge.

I'm thankful for my Lord and Savior who I can run to for refuge. I've made a mess of my life. It's been torn apart by sin. But he died for me. He is the one we must run to. The one we must follow.

Thinking About The Wrath Of God

The wrath of God is not a subject to be taken lightly. It's not something we should ever laugh about and it isn't something that we should see as a joking matter. 

It also isn't something we should ignore. The wrath of God is a truth that every Christian should think about on a somewhat regular basis. Doing so will radically transform your view of God, your own salvation, and the lost. 

The writer of Hebrews says that "our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29). In light of this, he is to be worshiped with reverence and awe. All too often my worship is lackluster in its quality. I'm not in awe of the consuming fire that God is–his holiness, majesty, splendor, and glory. 

Arthur Pink wrote a little book called The Attributes of God. In his chapter on the nature of God's wrath, he gives three reasons why the Christian should meditate on this particular attribute of God.

The wrath of God is a perfection of the Divine character upon which we need to frequently meditate. First, that our hearts may be duly impressed by God's detestation of sin. We are ever prone to regard sin lightly, to gloss over its hideousness, to make excuses for it. But the more we study and ponder God's abhorrence of sin and his frightful vengeance upon it, the more likely are we to realize its heinousness. Secondly, to beget a true fear in our souls for God: "Let us have grace whereby we may serve acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:28-29). We cannot serve him "acceptably" unless there is due "reverence" for his awful majesty and "godly fear" of his righteous anger; and these are best promoted by frequently calling to mind that "our God is a consuming fire." Thirdly, to draw out our souls in fervent praise for our having been delivered from "the wrath to come" (1 Thess. 1:10).*

So though it isn't a popular subject to talk or think about, it's a healthy one. Think for a moment today about this God, the creator of all things, who is a consuming fire. Behold his majesty and glory, be in awe of him, and praise him for his wonderful grace upon your life. Furthermore, praise Jesus for his finished work. He took upon himself the wrath of God in our place. What a wonderful Savior he is.

*Quoted from The Attributes of God by Arthur W. Pink (pg. 109).

 

Refuge

Humanity longs for comfort, security, and safety. We have the need to find something or someone to take refuge in but we often look for that refuge in the wrong places. 

Last week I began my at least annual trek through the Psalms. There is a theme that has stood out to me; the theme of refuge. The Psalmist, on several occasions, says, "In the LORD I take refuge" (Psalm 11:1; 16:1). As I've been reading, I've been forced to stop and ask whether or not my refuge is the LORD?

Refuge In The Wrong Places

We aren't naturally inclined to take refuge in the Lord. We're prone to take refuge in our current circumstances. We might attempt to take refuge in relationships, job security, material prosperity, or success of our children. But all these things are false refuges. They simply don't provide the covering that we need–the covering that we can really only get from God. 

These things, or refuges, are all bad refuges because they are imperfect. They're like a house with a crumbly foundation. When you take refuge in a relationship, you really only feel secure when things are going well. Your spouse might provide a good refuge for a while, but eventually he or she will have their shakiness revealed. Suddenly they aren't as strong as you need them to be. Your refuge might be in your secure job. But a jolt in the economy can take that away in an instant. You might find great comfort in your material possessions, but you very quickly realize that all of those things are breaking down very quickly. Furthermore, you realize that once you finally have whatever it is you "must have," you almost immediately become dissatisfied and must have whatever has most recently become better.

On and on we could go.

Refuge In The Lord

The God of the bible is a different refuge entirely. 

When you meditate through the writings of the Psalmist, you realize that his circumstances were often very dire. Enemies were after him. His king (before he was king himself) wanted to kill him. His own son wanted his throne. Etc. But over and over he writes in a manner that, though often despairing at first sight, often turns into a testimony of praise to God. Repeatedly the Psalmist finds himself crying out to God because of the suffering he is going through.

But astonishingly, we also see him giving his praise to God. Why?

I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken... You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fulness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. - Psalm 16:8, 11

The Psalmist could still praise the Lord because it was the Lord who he took refuge in. You see, when our eyes are set on finding refuge in things that aren't meant to be taken refuge in, our eyes are taken off the Lord. This makes it easy for us to blame God when we perceive things as going wrong. But, when our eyes are continually on the Lord, when we see him as always before us and always at our right hand, we will begin to become overwhelmed with joy.

The Lord is a refuge who will not fail. 

Jesus experienced this for us. The night before he was headed to the cross, Jesus was in the garden praying. His prayers were so intense in this moment that he was sweating drops of blood. Jesus was overwhelmed with what was before him. But he prays a remarkable prayer. "Father, if you will, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done." How could he do this? Just as the Psalmist, Jesus's refuge was in the Lord. Only Jesus is the better Psalmist because he took refuge perfectly in his Father.  

Jesus would of course go on to die on that cross. But he would also rise from the dead! This victory over death gives us great confidence. Jesus not only suffered for us, but he took complete and perfect refuge in God for us too. Now, because of Jesus, our eternity is secure. There is nothing that can take us from God's hand. He is our refuge.