I love the sound of that tractor firing up. Does my heart good? Cultivating a Living Faith. That’s the sermon series we are in here during the season of Lent. It’s a time when we consider how our hearts are being prepared to receive the good news of Good Friday and of Easter Sunday, looking at how God works in and on our hearts, much as a farmer works in and on his fields. Preparing them to receive good seed, but if you are a farmer or know of one, I think you might realize, if you do dare to admit it, that you’re not always happy or satisfied with planting conditions in the spring. You know what I mean? It’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too wet. It’s too dry. It’s too early. It’s too late. On and on it goes. Show me a satisfied farmer, and I’ll show you a rare find. Indeed. Yeah. You know what I’m talking about. I’ve got a confession to make as a preacher. I’m not satisfied with today’s biblical text. Psalm 1 21. I don’t know. Similar to a farmer, perhaps I have some issues and questions about today’s text. It’s not one that I really wanna preach on. I. Um, upon first reading, don’t get me wrong, it’s very positive. It’s very life affirming, but now I’ll be reading it and momentarily, but listen carefully as I do and ponder on the words along with me. And if, if you do, and especially reflecting on your own life experience, at least for me, something just, I don’t know, it doesn’t sit right, doesn’t seem to square up with my life experience. There’s a group of us that meet every week here at the church. It’s Pastor Lean and myself, our Director of Worship and music, Kristen, and about just a three or four, five, a handful of other people who are dialed in biblically, theologically, and typically. And we go over the texts that is gonna be preached on at the upcoming weekend messages. It’s called the text study. And so when we met this past week, I came in, you know, having wrestled with this psalm, already proposing a different psalm to preach on, and I explained why that I was having a hard time situating Psalm 1 21 in into real life. But get this to a person. Everyone on the text study said, Todd, you have to preach on this Psalm I, you’ve gotta wrestle with it, and then bring the message this weekend for everyone to hear.
And so praying on it. The Lord prevailed speaking through his people, and so I have to preach on Psalm 1 21 today and maybe as a good Lutheran, let me put it, I get to preach on Psalm 1 21. So without further ado, please listen carefully. Eight verses Psalm 1 21, a song of a sense, I lift up my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip. He who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither sleep nor slumber. The Lord watches over you. The Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun will not harm you by day nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm. He will watch over your life. The Lord will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore. The word of the Lord. Thanks in. Join me in prayer. Father in heaven, your word is truth. Sanctify now by your word through the working of your Holy Spirit. Help us to hear your word and that you would grant us the faith to receive it. Prepare our hearts, Lord Jesus, to see you through all of life. I ask in your precious name. Amen. Amen. Well, dear friends, grace to you and peace from God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. See what I mean? Isn’t that a positive psalm? So life affirming or have you thought a bit on it a little further even since just hearing it? And might you be wrestling with it the same way that I have been the, the verses I I. Am wrestling with her verses three and seven that read. He will not let your foot slip. The Lord will keep you from all harm. And here’s why I rest, wrestle with this passage. This past summer, my wife’s foot slipped on wet tile in our house. She went down hard on her left knee and broke her kneecap in half. I still shudder when I come around that corner in our house where she slipped. Remembering the sound of pain in her voice. My wife suffered harm, and so when I read God’s word that says, I won’t let your foot slip, I will protect you from all harm, and it says All harm. How am I to understand this passage from God? And perhaps some of you might relate in a similar way that I am to this text.
There’s a a well-known psychological response that people experience whenever they’re faced with a threatening situation. It’s called fight or flight. You’ve heard of that? I think most of you have fight or flight. You’re faced with hardship or pain, and something within us wants to react in one of two ways. We wanna fight. We wanna rail against the harm. We wanna strike out against the evil. We become angry at most anything and most anyone around us because we’re hurting and we’re fearful. Including even becoming angry at God, fighting or flight, fleeing, running away, shrinking back cowering, or denying what’s going on, or dismissing or downplaying the ship. And while either response is understandable, neither response is helpful. So when I read a passage like Psalm 21, today, God will not let your foot slip and will protect you from all harm. I confess, I kinda wanna fight. I wanna fight against it, and, and I can become questioning, certainly maybe even a bit angry toward God, or I wanna flee from God or, or push him away and even begin to doubt. His goodness, my my dear friends, if any of you are relating along with me, don’t panic, hang in there with me because I want you to know that there is a better way forward, a better way through the trouble that you’ve seen or are experiencing a way better than fighting or fleeing. It’s the way of faith. Yes, faith. The title of this sermon, and we’re not really big on titles, but this was an interesting theological journey for me on the title for the sermon E, even, which is Fight or Flight and Faith. It started with just hyphens or dashes, fight dash flight, dash faith. Then I thought about it and it was fight flight, or. Faith, meaning you choose one of the three, fight, flee, or faith. And where I’ve landed and what I present to you today, it’s actually fight or flight and faith that as followers of Jesus we are called and actually given the opportunity, even if we are wrestling with feelings of fighting or fleeing, we can still through eyes of faith, with our eyes fixed firmly on Jesus. Find a way forward even when life is difficult. And the key is faith. Think about it. Consider a physical disease or kind of a chronic ailment and how that can chip away any erode your perspective on God’s confidence in your life. You ask, where is God? When you suffer from sickness or disability or decline, and I think this is a real question for many of us here at Victory, and you can become angry at God and and even fight him and challenge God about his goodness and his protection, or you can flee from God because of an illness or a disability or a physical decline where the questions of your heart cause you to withdraw from God. Or at least to question his intent and goodness. And yet, despite our own questions and limitations of understanding God’s will and God’s ways, we can still look to God in faith, even while in the midst of difficulty by looking upon Jesus Christ and what he has done with his own life. Death and resurrection and see God’s goodness in his intent for us in Christ Jesus. In fact, God’s purposes may indeed include the very disease or disability or decline with which you are struggling. We are showing season three of the show, the chosen here on Mondays. Uh, a little plug. We’re back in. We’re in season three, episode two, tomorrow, 10 o’clock or late matinee at five 30 with fresh popcorn, and there’ll be some discussion at it in episode two, which we’re gonna actually look at tomorrow.
There’s a scene in there. Uh, about an interchange between one of Jesus’ disciples named James. Now there were two Jameses, and so this one gets di differentiated by calling him Little James, and he and Jesus have a discussion because little James has a walking disability chronic that Jesus hasn’t seemed to notice and certainly has not healed him from. And so Jesus is sending out his disciples two by two with this charge, go and heal the sick, including the lame, proclaiming the kingdom and healing people. And little James finally confronts Jesus about this dilemma. Please watch this clip with me. I wanted to ask you a question please. So you are sending us out with the ability to heal the second lane? Yes. That, that is what you said? Yes. So you’re telling me that I have the ability to heal. Forgive me. I just find that difficult to imagine with my condition, which you haven’t healed. Do you want to be healed? Yes, of course. If, if that’s possible. I think you’ve seen enough to know it’s possible. Why haven’t you? Because I trust you. What? Little James. Precious Little James. I need you to listen to me very carefully ’cause what I’m going to say defines your whole life to this point and will define the rest of your life. Do you understand in the father’s will. I could heal you right now and you’d have a good story to tell. Yes, yes. That you do miracles, and that’s a good story. But there are already dozens who can tell that story and there will be hundreds more, even thousands. But think of the story that you have, especially in this journey to come. If I don’t hear you. To know how to proclaim that. You still praise God in spite of this. To know how to focus on all that matters so much more than the body to show people that you can be patient with your suffering, suffer here on earth because you know you’ll spend eternity with no suffering. Not everyone can understand that. How many people do you think the father and I trust this with? Hmm, not many. You are going to do more for me and most people ever dream. So many people need healing in order to believe in me, or they need healing because their hearts are so sick that doesn’t apply to you. And many are healed or not healed because the father in heaven has a plan for them, which may be a mystery. And we remember what Job said, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed it be the name of the Lord when you pass from this earth. And you meet your father in heaven, where Isaiah promises you will leap like a dear. Your reward will be great. So hold on a little longer and when you discover yourself finding true strength because of your weakness. And when you do great things in my name, in spite of this, the impact will last for generations. Do you understand you a man like you? Healing others. Oh, at a sight. I can’t wait to hear your stories. When you return shall look and James, remember, you’ll be here. It’s only a matter of time for some of you, your physical disease or decline, it may indeed define the rest of your life from this point forward. I. So listen carefully in your understanding. Yes, in the father’s will, you could be healed and that would be a good story to tell, wouldn’t it? But what if God wants to tell a story through you? If he doesn’t heal you, if you do not receive the healing you seek. And yet you continue to suffer all the while still trusting and bearing witness to God’s goodness will and purpose, where your testimony becomes that you continue to still praise God in spite of all that you suffer. Now that is a powerful testimony. To know how to focus on what truly matters more than this life or the body, to show people that you can be patient in your suffering here in this life because you know that you’ll spend eternity with no suffering pain, where all tears will be wiped away way.
Remember the passage that Tamran read for us from the book of Hebrews, it’s called the Hall of Faith. Chapter 11 where God commends all those who throughout the whole history of the scriptures look to God in faith, and then comes with this camper at the end verses 39 and 40. Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised since God had provided something better. So that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect. I can think of a number of Christians in contemporary history, you may as well, whose faith rings out as a resounding testimony of trusting God’s goodness despite their weakness or illness. And then through that testimony, seeing countless multitudes look to Christ in faith. I think of Johnny Erickson, toda, some of you might know who she is. She has a, a global ministry now, but in her teens, she was in a diving accident and lost use of all four limbs. Quadriplegic went through a lot of soul searching. But has come through with a testimony yet in God’s goodness. She paints pictures, beautiful pictures with just her mouth, a paintbrush in her mouth. She still had to wrestle with even more, uh, with cancer and treatments, and yet she has born witness to God’s goodness. And that testimony has touched millions of hearts. I think of Corey 10 Boom. A Holocaust survivor surviving the worst. Tragedy and evil and maybe human history whose testimony of God’s goodness to her and forgiveness has reached thousands of people I know of a couple of twins in the Pacific Northwest, know them personally, who were struck with illness such that all they can do to communicate at all is just with the tip of their tongue. And yet there they are coaching junior high soccer teams, doing cooking classes, speaking at conferences, bearing witness to God’s goodness and have touched countless lives. There are people right here at Victory who continue to suffer with disease or disability or decline. Yes, praying for healing. Not receiving it though, and yet praising God. You touch my soul powerfully and those all around you reminds me of those words we heard in the clip, words spoken by job, who upon losing everything, including all of his family, was still able to say the Lord gives and the Lord takes. Yet still, I will bless his name. You know, if you think about it, even if Jesus had healed little James, it would’ve only been temporary and that James would eventually been taken out of life somehow. We tend to lift up Lazarus, a friend of Jesus dead in the tomb for four days. Jesus raises him from the dead powerful miracle, but only temporary ’cause. Lazarus died a second time. It wasn’t permanent, only temporal only for all of us. Once Jesus broke out of that tomb, have the promise of resurrected life everlasting. But now on this earth, while there’s still suffering, As well as healing at times. It’s all temporal. It’s all temporary. It’s only when we look beyond this life to the everlasting life to come that Jesus will usher in upon a second return. Only then will we realize the ultimate healing that comes after this life.
Listen to these words from one Corinthians The Apostle Paul writes, I’ve been able to say them at many grave sides of followers of Jesus as we’re about to lay the body in the ground. You may remember a certain situation and loved one yourself. When we say, for the perishable must put on the imperishable and the mortal. To put on immortality. That which is laid in the ground, mortal, and perishable will one day be raised immortal, imperishable, and in glory. You know, our psalm begins with the writer saying, I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help comes from? And he says, ah, my help comes from the Lord, the creator of the hills. He’s saying that his ultimate help does not come from the mountains or anything in the world. His help does not come from creation or this life. It comes from the creator and giver of life. The apostle Paul writes in first Corinthians 15 verse 19, if only for this life. We have hope. We are of all people most to be pitied. That’s an interesting verse, isn’t it? But think about it. It’s true. In other words, we have to keep that long view in perspective and focus, and that can change our perspective on the temporal. And what goes on in the here and now, listen to these scriptures from James. Would’ve been Big James, I suppose, of Jesus’ Disciples, chapter five, and remember our series title, cultivating a Living Faith. He writes, be patient then brothers and sisters until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too. Be patient and stand firm because the Lord’s coming is near. This past week as I’ve been preparing for this message, had the opportunity to catch up on the phone with a dear friend I haven’t spoken to for a number of years, and he told me about the challenging path that God had been leading he and his family on over the course of these last five years, and how he had kind of a similar experience to job. Were suddenly in one day losing his livelihood and nearly losing his family. I. And now though, today looking back on what has happened, he gave testimony of seeing how God is used and continues to use what was going on difficult as that was for good in his life now and in the life of his wife and daughter. Her, my friend, told me that God had given him. The strength and faith he needed to see what God was doing through what God was allowing. And then my friend said something that that penetrated deep into to my heart. He said, you know, Todd, I used to ask, why me? Why me, God? And he said, now, by God’s grace, I’ve learned to say, why not me?
In other words, why not? Have this be my story that I can continue to trust in God despite the hardships that continue and to bear testimony that I still believe that God is still yet good. It, my friend says, it’s, it’s easy to accuse God of not being good when times are hard, when disease or disability or difficulty comes upon you, that you can turn away from God and fight him or flee from him. My friend says that’s a, that’s a lie that the devil whispers in our ear that God doesn’t love us. That the enemy of our soul will do anything to pry us away from a, a trusting faith in Christ Jesus. That the devil does not play by the rules, but how critical it is to believe that God triumphs over all evil. And we will see that if not in this life, certainly in the life to come. And that God can use even bad things in life now for the good of his people. And there may well be some of you here listening to me right now who’ve been asking, God, why me? Why Lord, why me? You’ve been hard pressed by life. You’ve been asking questions, even questioning God’s goodness or his mercy. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, what if your question could become, why not me? Why not have this hardship be part of my story where then I can still yet have enduring faith and praise God? And is this not what Jesus did for us himself? And to which he now commends us. Listen to these words in Romans eight. Paul writes, what then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Now listen, he who did not spare his own son, this is God our father. He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all. How will he not also along with us, with him graciously give us all things. And then he caps his hymn off of this wonderful praise. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No. In all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. I’m convinced that neither death nor life, nor 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. And so my dear friends, Fellow believers in Jesus Christ, let us lift up our eyes beyond the hills, beyond the framework of this temporal life and let us fix our eyes on Jesus, trusting in his plan and his goodness while patiently waiting for his return when he and he alone will put all things to right. Then we will be given the understanding and perspective that we so desperately need, but yet now can see through the eyes of faith that God indeed does work all things for the good of those who love him, who’ve been called according to his purpose. Let’s pray. Lord God, your ways and thoughts are higher than mine, than ours, and so we look to you with hearts of faith, trusting in your promises and in our lives. We don’t always experience the kind of victory or release that we seek. In each moment for each person. Lord, may your grace abound and your strength prevail to hold us fast in your hand and to lead us through until we see you one day face to face when all pain and suffering will be gone, and may our testimony now in this life be one of praise to you no matter what goes on to the glory of your name, Jesus, in which I pray. Amen.