Faithlife Sermons

Responding in Faith Not Fear

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I want to avoid the obvious. this is a challenging time. Understatement of the century, huh?
Our futures.
Our fragility.
Our families.
They are all on the line.
But what about your faith? Is it on the line?
Angelina Friedman survived cancer, miscarriages, internal bleeding, sepsis and now not one, but two pandemics. More than 100 years after living through the 1918 influenza pandemic, the 101-year-old woman just beat coronavirus.
An administrator at the Mohegan Lake, New York, nursing home where Friedman lives said Friedman is back to her old self and celebrating life as if nothing ever happened."It also just goes to show how much the world needs hope that you can beat this at 101," Amy Elba told CNN.Friedman's daughter, Joanne Merola, told CNN affiliate WPIX that her mother is a survivor."She and my dad had cancer at the same time. She survived. He didn't," she said
In 1918, Angelina Sciales (now Friedman) was born on a ship that was transporting immigrants from Italy to New York City. It was in the midst of the 1918 pandemic. It's not believed that the baby contracted the disease.
Her mother died giving birth, and her two sisters helped her survive until they could reunite with their father in New York, where they lived in Brooklyn, Merola told WPIX.
One of 11 children, Friedman is the last surviving.
"She is not human," Merola said. "She has superhuman DNA."
Faith in the pandemic. Or fear in the pandemic? Where are you?
Psalm 66:8 ESV
8 Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard,
God is good. Bless Him. Praise Him. Listen, the Psalmist says, to what God has done. And let someone else hear what you say.
Psalm 66:9–12 ESV
9 who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip. 10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. 11 You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; 12 you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
Psalm 66:10 ESV
10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
Notice the 10th verse… You, O God, have tested us… you’ve tried us.
Psalm 66:11 ESV
11 You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
Interestingly, the word “net” is translated “prison” in many Bibles. It carries a metaphorical meaning of alienation and duress. So, the trials, says the Psalmist, have been like we’ve been separated, stressed, and afflicted… as if we were in prison.
The hardship- this crushing burden- has been placed on our very backs.
Psalm 66:12 ESV
12 you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
Look real closely at the 12th verse.
You “let”, or allowed or permitted all of these things to take place. The trials, the separation, the burden- while not being inflicted by God they were certainly permitted by God.
And it would be very possible for the recipient of all of this to believe that the burdens had prevailed and God had abandoned them.
When the Psalmist says “we went through fire and water”, it is reminiscent of Isaiah 51:23,
Isaiah 51:23 ESV
23 and I will put it into the hand of your tormentors, who have said to you, ‘Bow down, that we may pass over’; and you have made your back like the ground and like the street for them to pass over.”
Think about that. The picture being painted is of total demoralization and loneliness and separation.
And the Psalmist, remember, has said that this is a trial from God. The permitting of these outside forces to so be inflicted on his people, while not directly coming from Him, but being permitted by Him became a test or trial of his people.
So what was the purpose of those triaal’s?
To allow God’s people to look for Him, his grace- in a more purposeful and direct way. To look harder for Him.
Psalm 66:9 ESV
9 who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip.
Don’t miss the 9th verse. He “kept” them. He preserved them. He did not let the trials to kill his people, but He did let them grow and develop his people.
Paul would develop this theme in 1 Corinthians 10:13 when he would write,
1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV
13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
You see, God did not let them… and He will not let us- be destroyed by the trials. He will however grow them through it.
Because faith is not faith unless it’s gone through the fire. In 1 Peter 1.7, we read the following:
1 Peter 1:7 ESV
7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
You see, the Psalmist is telling us that God led them through the adversity- only to bring them to a better place.
Because at the very end of this section, look at what He says, in Psalm 66.12
Psalm 66:12 ESV
12 you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
To a place of abundance. To a place of abundance. A spacious place.
that is why one portion of a very familiar Psalm reads like this:
Psalm 23:4–6 ESV
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
So, up to Psalm 66.12, the Psalmist has been talking about a corporate, a familial, a national approach to trial. When the big trials come- like world wars, and plagues, and incursions, and captivities.... nation of Israel- God allowed those to come, so he could test you and try you … to see if yuou would continue to pursue Him and search for Him and ultimately find Him.
And in time , that led you to the land of abundance.
You see the Psalmist is talking here about a national understanding of the trials that Israel had faced. God allowed them, God used them, but He also brought them to an end so you would be in a better place.
Think of the captivity in Egypt. Until the time of Moses. Those years of slavery to Pharoah came to an end- and they walked out of Egypt free.
They encountered the Egyptians purssuit at the Red Sea- and watched as their worst fears became nothing as the Red Sea parted and the Egyptians were swallowed up in their waters.
They encountered the challenge of hunger but were given Mannah.
They encountered thirst but were given water from a rock.
They watched a generation die off in the wilderness but multiplied like the sand of the seashore and the stars of the night sky, just as Abraham said they would be.
They walked out of their home land.... and ultimately led to Canaan land, flowing with milk and honey and fruit beyond belief..
You see time and time again there were trials and testings- matters that caused them to look deeper at what they believed and ultimately led them to a deeper relationship as a nation with their God.
A better place.
But now the Psalmist will shift.
Look at Psalm 66.13-16:
Psalm 66:13–16 ESV
13 I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will perform my vows to you, 14 that which my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble. 15 I will offer to you burnt offerings of fattened animals, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah 16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.
You see, now, it has moved from a corporate, national issue- to a more personal issue.
The Psalmist is going to personalize the experience of his people throughout history with an expression of personal gratitude or thanksgiving.
He’s going to talk about coming to the temple to present burnt offerings in fulfilment of his “vows”.
He will praise the Lord before “all who fear God”.
As he tells what God has done “for him”. Remember Psalm 22.22
Psalm 22:22 ESV
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
What was this “vow” he says he must perform? Often when adversity comes our way, we make promises to God. Get me out of this foxhole and I will..... Get me through this sickness and I will..... People do that all the time. And they did in Israel’s history as well.
In Judges, Jephthah made a tragic vow to offer the first thing that came out of his house if he could win a battle. A/nd the first thing out of his house was his daughter- tragic.
In the story of Jonah, Jonah made a vow in Jonah 2.9 He finds himself in the belly of the whale and has to own up to do what God had called him to do in the first place!
Jonah 2:9 ESV
9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!”
And so here, the Psalmist, while coming before God with the congregation- the corrporatae family. He also comes individually, with his own vows to be fulfilled.
Read again, in Psalm 66.13-15. He is very specific. He is very committed.
Psalm 66:13–15 ESV
13 I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will perform my vows to you, 14 that which my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble. 15 I will offer to you burnt offerings of fattened animals, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah
And in Psalm 66.16, he says, I have to tell somebody.
Psalm 66:16 ESV
16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.
Listen to my story.
And in closing, the Psalmist tells how he thanked God. Look at Psalm 66.17-20
Psalm 66:17–20 ESV
17 I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. 18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. 19 But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!
Let’s take this a verse at a time.
Psalm 66:17 ESV
17 I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue.
First, Lament. “I cried out”.
Second, praise. “high praise was on my tongue.”
Psalm 66:18 ESV
18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
He declared his innocence. “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart”. Stop and get this. He isn’t saying “I’m a good person” and I don’t deserve this. Please get this… the trials he speaks of earlier, they are not a result of something he did.
So many times something bad happens, and we say, we must be punished for something. That’s not at all what the Psalmist is saying.
Rather, he is saying all of this suffering has come, and this has been my response- I won’t blame God.
Remember Job- his wife told him to curse God and die. Job said, The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, I will continue to curse God. You see the Psalmist was focusing not on what has happened , but rather on what his response is to what has happened.
and finally, listen to Psalm 66.19-20
Psalm 66:19–20 ESV
19 But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!
Look at what the Psalmist just said.
I will bless God, praise Him, because he has listened, he has not turned a deaf ear to my prayer, and he has continued to love me. Please, please note this- he doesn’t necessarily say that the adversity was pleasant- he is saying that while in it, beffore the nation got to the better place- God was there with him, hearing him, loving him, and carrying him.
Bottom Line:

Our Response To Our Circumstances Reveals the Depth of Our Faith

Alex the cocker spaniel… sick, to the vet, died in the back of the car.
Benji- he knew it from the time we took him to the car.
Isaiah 53:7 ESV
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
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