Publication:Pastoral Letter, November 2013
Dear Friend in Christ,
No one wants trouble, but it is often the instrument that brings us to truth and the rediscovery our foundations. That was the case with King David in Scripture, and was the case with me in late 1970. Late 1970 was a time of transition for me and my family, and transitions often pose difficulties. The Lord was showing me two serious challenges: One was that I should give up my salary and the other was that we should move to another city. Either change would have been enough to cause us concern.
I had pastored a local church for fourteen years, and had no desire-and seemingly no need-to move. Everything, including extended family, was there geographically. I could walk from my house to my office. But the Lord made His will clear in several ways in those days.
In addition to those changes, I was invited to minister in New Zealand. I had to leave my wife and children for several weeks with very little money. Not long before leaving for New Zealand, I was verbally attacked by a fellow minister who had also influenced some of our church leaders. That is when I took a three day prayer retreat to a small isolated cottage. It was on that retreat that the Lord gave to me Psalm 27: “In a time of trouble….” I cannot describe all that Psalm 27 said to me then, but I’ll share some words that I hope will be strength to you now.
Security (Psalm 27:1-5)
King David, the psalmist, begins by declaring, “The Lord is my light.” He is the source of revelation and guidance, which are especially needed in out time today. Continuing: “The Lord is my salvation.” He is the One who delivers us when we are vulnerable. “Whom shall I fear?” He is the source of courage and confidence when things look bleak. “The Lord is the strength of my life.” Those that wait upon the Lord renew their strength to endure.
In verse 2, David says: “When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh.” The wicked always attack us in our vulnerability. Wickedness is beastial; its intent is to devour.
“They stumbled and fell.” Wickedness stumbles and falls in its own foolishness. My son Stephen said recently, “The most dangerous place to stand is between the one that God anointed and the mission that God has appointed them to do.”
“Though an army encamp against me, I will not fear. I will be confident.” Our confidence is in the Lord, not the circumstantial odds. “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek.” Trouble can help us focus on seeking God.
What is David seeking? “That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His Temple.” The countenance of the Lord, His manifest presence, is always beautiful, but especially in times of trouble. Seeing Him high and lifted up is the vision that gives us guidance.
“For in a time of trouble He shall hide me.” The presence of God is a safe place. “He shall set me high upon a rock.” Promotion comes from the Lord and when He promotes, our position is on a solid foundation.
Our Response (Psalm 27:6-10)
In verse 6, David gives this good news: “And now my head shall be lifted up above all my enemies.” We get a new and higher perspective as regards to trouble and enemies. We see everything redemptively. “Therefore, will I offer sacrifice of joy in His Tabernacle. I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.” When we realize God’s salvation and how God used difficulty to promote us, we can rejoice in what He has done in a way that we could not before.
“Hear O Lord when I cry with my voice, have mercy and answer me.” Here in verse 7, David requests two things: hear and answer. It is the covenant mercy, or grace, that allows us to enter a new conversation with God. This is much more than our Western Christian concept of cheap grace.
“When you said seek My face, my heart said to You, Your face, Lord, I will seek.” David’s response to God’s call to prayer allowed him entrance into a new secure place. Did you know that God is calling us in the same manner, today?
Verse 9 is poignant and vital: “Do not hide Your face from me…do not leave or forsake me.” David truly comprehends that his life depends upon being able to seek and see the Lord. He makes this declaration in verse 10: “When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.” God’s faithfulness is our ultimate salvation. His faithfulness, His covenant nature, exceeds human love and care.
Discipleship (Psalm 27:11-13)
David cries out, “Teach me your way, O Lord.” (See also Isaiah 55:6-9.) God’s ways are higher than ours and we need to be taught the ways of God. Trouble can show us the insufficiency of our ways and open us to learn God’s ways.
We continue reading with this great promise in verse 13: “I would have fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Faith in God’s goodness sustains us in times of trouble.
Patience (Psalm 27:14)
The powerful conclusion to this Psalm is in verse 14: “Wait on the Lord and be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.” Answers do not always come immediately. In fact, they most often do not. Waiting is an act of expectation, not mere passivity. It speaks of a faith that is active.
The prophet Isaiah said something about this: “Those that wait on the Lord will renew their strength” (see Isaiah 40:28-31). Waiting is so important that the Lord says it twice in Psalm 27:14.
In the beginning of this letter, I described a time when I was in trouble and the Lord led me to Psalm 27. Let me tell you the rest of that story. Because I sought the Lord when He called me to prayer, there were numerous good results. One result was that He supplied all of my needs as He had promised when I first entered the ministry. When I gave up my salary, finances actually increased. God provided for my family.
Another result was that I had a wonderful ministry trip to New Zealand. Many people came to Christ and were filled with the Holy Spirit. I love Psalm 126: “Those that sow in tears will reap in joy.” A third result was that the minister who had attacked me soon stumbled and fell. He gave a false prophesy before a large crowd. His prediction failed. I had nothing to do with his fall, but the Lord had vindicated me.
When that season had passed, my family was safely moved to the new city, we were well provided for, and I had become a better servant of God. I saw “the goodness of God in the land of the living.”
Now I do not want to leave the false impression that if you pray, God will always give you more money or that things will always go the way you want them to go. What you will receive, if you diligently seek His face, is the immeasurable blessing of His presence and guidance to fulfill your mission.
Too many Christians have been “sold” the benefits of faith without the whole truth. They have gotten into places for which they were unprepared. They are surprised by difficulty and adversaries and become offended at God or others (see Matthew 11:6; First Peter 1:7). Their motive may be a better life, but not the will of God. When people are merely “sold”, they often get “buyer’s remorse.” The culture is full of such disappointed religious people.
Jesus did not preach cheap grace (see Matthew 16:24). The apostle Paul preached the “whole counsel of God” (see Acts 20:17-27). The New Testament message gives the whole truth about the Christian journey. The difference is that the true believer gets to see God’s salvation in it. He sees trouble redemptively. When Israel left Egypt, they had a party on the Eastern shore of the Red Sea. But in a few days, they were grumbling. That generation did not reach the promises because they failed to see the difficulty as preparation, and they perished. Many Christians fail in the same way. They do not reckon with “the giants” that occupy the promises. Giants are no problem to God, as David proves. The problem lies in our unbelief and idolatry. If we will trust in the Lord, we will see His goodness “in the land of the living”!
A Personal Note
I want to announce that our oldest son, Stephen, has resigned his position as Senior Pastor at Covenant Church of Mobile, in order to devote full time to our work here at CSM. He remains as a local church elder, but focuses on our work in publishing. He is also now more available to speak and minister among churches, camps, conferences, and events. Our primary focus, in addition to publishing Bible teaching, is to reach the younger generations with solid teaching.
Stephen grew up knowing his grandfathers; one a doctor, the other a pastor. He grew up in our home, a minister’s family. He understands the burdens of ministry and has a deep desire to encourage Christian leaders and their families. He knows our history and values as well as anyone that I know.
In college, Stephen majored in Communication, and communicating Biblical Truth is his passion. Of course, I plan to continue to be involved in CSM and am delighted to have him work alongside me in my remaining years. We want to be anchored in Truth, then sail in faith. We desire your continued prayers and support.
On another note, our CSM Gatlinburg Leaders Conference will be May 14-16, and our guest speaker will be Bill Wilson, who is one of America’s foremost speakers and leaders in youth work. He founded Metro World Child, a ministry based in New York City and ministers globally. We’d love to see you in Gatlinburg – watch www.csmpublishing.org and our social media for more information.
P.S. Please continue to remember us in your prayers and in your giving, especially during this season of transition. We appreciate your support and friendship!
Scripture Reference: Psalms, Isaiah, Matthew