Faithlife Sermons

19(Psalm 022) Stronghold of Praise

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If a friend advised you, “It’s easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.”  Would their words sting our hearts?  Those words were given to Anna Spafford.

Anna Spafford stood with her 4 daughters on the deck of the sinking French liner S.S. Vill du Havre, Nov. 22, 1873. Two hundred and twenty-six lives were lost - 87 survived. 

Annie, the oldest, helped her mother support Tanetta, the youngest, who had her arms wrapped around her mother’s neck.  Bessie, the second youngest, clutched her mother’s knees.  Maggie, the second oldest, calmly stood beside her mother and said, “God will take care of us.”  Annie added, “Don’t be afraid.  The sea is His and He made it.”  Then the water engulfed them.

Anna Spafford’s last memory was of her baby being torn violently from her arms by the force of the waters.  A plank floated beneath Anna’s unconscious body and propelled her up.  But, her daughters were gone.  Her first reaction was complete despair.  Then she felt a voice speak to her, “You were spared for a purpose.”  And immediately she thought of the advice a friend had given her many times, “It’s easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.”

Nine days later she reached Cardiff, Wales, and cabled back to her lawyer husband in Chicago these two words: “Saved alone.”

He immediately boarded a ship to join her in Europe.  One night the captain called him to his private cabin.  “A careful reckoning has been made,” he said, “and I believe we are now passing the place where the du Havre was wrecked.  The water is three miles deep.”

Horatio Spafford went back to his cabin, and on those high seas that night, near the place where his children perished, wrote the hymn that begins: “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrow like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’”

There is not one of us here who believes we can go unscathed by the disappointments, hurts, frustrations and pains of this life. We know better.

Is there a place for you and I to be able to face such trying times with confidence and assurance?  There is and it is a place where the very person of God inhabits.  It is called the “Stronghold of Praise.”

Psalm 22:3  But You are holy, Who inhabit the praises of Israel.

Can we praise God in the tough times?  Are we a fair-weather friend to God?  Can we accept adversity from God and still give Him praise as when we receive good? Job 2:10

Joni Eareckson Tada says, “A sacrifice of praise will always cost you something.  It will be a difficult thing to do.  It requires trading in our pride, our anger, and most valued of all, our human logic.  We will be compelled to voice our words of praise firmly and precisely, even as our logic screams that God has no idea what He’s doing.”

Tonight we look into two lives and three situations to find the hope of entering into the stronghold of praise.

1.     Running to Praise . . . Psalm 22:1-3

Some suggest that David was on the run from King Saul when he penned these words.  David was running for his life & ended up running to praise God in the midst of his trial. 

Do you ever think that God has abandoned you in your hour of need?  David was feeling God had forsaken him as he cried out amidst the pain and hurt of his life, “God You’ve left me!  You are so far removed from me.  I cannot sense your nearness, nor do my prayers touch Your ears.  Where are you God?”   Admit it, we’ve all had similar thoughts and feeling toward God sensing He has left us in our times of fear and running.

David, still frustrated and bewildered breathes a breath of hope and begins to pen words of praise from his heart.  He sees God has “holy.”  Holy refers to being set apart.  David recognized that God, though silent at the moment was set apart from his problems. It was not that God didn’t care, but that He would not be controlled by David’s circumstances, nor ours.

Many a person has been sent to prison on circumstantial evidence.  We tend to allow the circumstantial evidence of our lives place us in the self-imprisonment of doubt, pity, worry and the likes.  Praise sets us free from the heart burden of our circumstances.

David realized that God inhabits the praises of His people.  In other words when we praise God regardless our circumstances, God lodges and makes habitation with us!  God dwells with us in our praises of Him.  Do you see?  All of a sudden David’s focus was not on Saul nor his running from Saul.  But his focus became running to praise God the One who would go with Him through the trial.

Enter the stronghold of praise by running to God so as to praise Him in all facets of life.

2.     Delivered to Praise . . . 2 Samuel 22:1-4

Up to this point in David’s life he had experienced disappointments in life in major proportions.

·         After Saul’s death David is crowned King - but not without opposition.

·         David defeats the Philistines but is defeated by improperly carrying the ark.

·         David commits adultery with Bathsheba and loses his son in death.

·         David fails to discipline his children and ends up with a daughter raped and two sons dead.

·         David faces revolt within his kingdom and is forced to run for his life.

Many would agree, David had every reason to not praise God and be thoroughly upset with Him.  But between stimulus and response David chose to praise God.

Why?  Because he saw God as his  . . . Rock, Deliverer, Strength, Shield, Refuge, Savior and Lord.  David was delivered to praise God!  “My Stronghold . . . worthy to be praised!”  Are you delivered to praise God? 

·         What problem are you facing right now that is bigger than God? 

·         What problem are you struggling in that God cannot deliver you out of? 

·         What problem is so pressing that you cannot praise God in the midst of it?

If there is none then get up and enter the Stronghold of Praise and start praising God!

3.     Living to Praise . . . Genesis 29:31-35

Listen to these words from the song, “Praise the Lord.”

“When you’re up against a struggle that shatters all your dreams.

And your hopes have been cruelly crushed by Satan’s manifested scheme. 

When you feel the urge within you to submit to earthly fears,

Don’t let the faith you are standing in seem to disappear.

Praise the Lord. He can work through those who praise Him.

Praise the Lord. For our God inhabits praise.”

Leah was up against a struggle that was shattering her dreams.  Her father had tricked her younger sister’s husband-to-be by placing her in the marriage tent when it was to be Rachel.  Jacob married Leah but she was being cruelly crushed inside as she knew her husband did not love her.  His love was for her sister and she knew it would never be for her.  (Genesis 29:30)

Jacob would care for her, make provision for her, and have children by her, but He would never love her like he did Rachel.  Pain and frustration must have set into her heart and submitted her to the fears of never being loved.  The Bible tells us, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” (Proverbs 13:12) Leah’s heart kept telling her maybe one day Jacob would love her.  And with each passing year her heart was getting weaker . . . she felt she would never be loved.

But a “breakthrough” was coming in Leah’s life to lead her into the stronghold of praise. (Genesis 29:31)

Though Leah was in marriage to which her husband paid little attention to her, God was noticing her.  Oh the thought that the LORD saw her ought to cause us to praise Him!  For if He saw Leah, I know He sees me!  God looked upon Leah and showed favor to her by allowing her to give birth to four sons. 

With the first child Leah pondered in her heart the possibility of her husband now loving her like she longed to be loved . . . “Now therefore, my husband will love me.”.  But it was not to be.  After the second child she hoped her husband’s love would be turned to her.  But it was not to be.  And after the third child was born she once again hoped . . . “Now this time my husband will become attached to me.”  But it was not to be.

Between the third and fourth son the breakthrough for Leah came.  Though God was looking upon her and blessing her,  she was focused upon her husband and her “love-less” circumstances . . . not her God.  Oh it is so hard to praise God when we focus on the circumstances that surround us.

But Leah got it right!  Just like you and I need to get it right.  She began to see the love she needed was to be gained through her God.  She was loved!  And she could praise God! Let Leah’s breakthrough become our breakthrough! (Genesis 29:35)

God removed Leah’s hopelessness, insecurities, frustration, heartaches and replaced them with living praise!

Leah was later to bear a 5th son Issachar and a 6th son Zebulou to Jacob.

Psalms 37:4  Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Can you praise God in the midst of your hurt and pain?    Learn the secret of living to praise!  Focus on God and start praising Him.

Conclusion:

Are you a fair-weathered friend to God?

1 Peter 1:6-7  In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

When peace, like a river, attendeth my say, When sorrow like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’”

Praise God! Praise God! Amen!

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