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A Peace That Passes Understanding

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A Peace That Passes Understanding

Psalms 13:1-6 (NIV)

Several years ago I took a mission trip to Haiti with a group from the church I was pastoring in Kansas City. Throughout the 12 hour ride up the mountain all we heard from one older lady in the group was: "are we there yet?" Or "how much longer?" or "are we ever going to get there?" Or maybe you’ve heard those questions from your kids.

Did you ever notice that those kinds of questions never come when the kids are having a great time? If you take your kids to the Zoo, or some other place that is fun, do they never ask "How much longer?" "Are we done yet?" "Can we go home now"?

"Are We There Yet" is a question for hard times. And even though I doubt that King David had ever gone on a road trip in a car with a grumpy old lady or children, he captures the essence of that question remarkably well in the first line of Psalm 13, "How Long, O Lord?"

Now I know that that’s a question none of you have probably ever asked, but it’s a question that I’ve asked the Lord more than a few times. So I’m going to preach to myself this morning and just maybe what the Lord has to say to me through His word will speak to some of you also.

As we read Psalm 13 I think we’ll find that what David has recorded is a process, a change in his attitude and thinking as He waits upon the Lord. He provides a path upward, out of despair and into hope and trust. But David begins that journey at a place where probably all of us have been and a place that perhaps some of us are right now. …

1. David is Stewing

Vs. 1-2, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”

One of the great lessons of the Psalms that David writes is that it is OK to be honest with God about how we feel. God already knows and it doesn’t really make sense to try to hide it from Him. Intimacy with Him means opening up our hearts.

David faced many trials in his life. Perhaps he wrote this psalm during the time that he was on the run from King Saul--though he knew God had a plan for his life, it seemed to be on hold and he was living as a refuge. Maybe it was written as he experienced the sting of God’s displeasure with him after he had sinned so terribly by taking another man’s wife. Whenever he wrote it, it’s a striking picture of a frustrated heart crying out again and again how long, how long, how long and once more how long.

Phillips Brooks was a great New England preacher of another age, he was known as a man of great his poise and quiet manner. At times, however, even he had his moments. One day a friend saw him feverishly pacing the floor like a caged lion. "What’s the trouble, Mr. Brooks?" he asked. "The trouble is that I’m in a hurry, but God isn’t!"

In the early years of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln became so angered at the inactivity of Union commander George McClellan that the president wrote his commanding general this one-sentence letter: "If you don’t want to use the army, I should like to borrow it for a while. Respectfully, A. Lincoln."

And the Psalm writer, David said, "How Long, Oh Lord." Maybe you’re asking that same question this morning. It’s OK to ask. But we can’t live in that place. I think that David realized that and so he moved on from pure complaint to the next level of waiting.

2. David Went From Stewing to Stirring

Vs. 3-4 “Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”and my foes will rejoice when I fall.”

We could say that this is a move from peevishness to prayer. At this point he’s not merely complaining but really reaching out to God for answers. He knows he can’t stay stewing and complaining forever, He says, God I need to know you’re there. I need you to give me some understanding or I’ll die.

Maybe you’ve felt that way too. But my Bible says that God has a secret weapon in these circumstances, he offers a peace that passes understanding: Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

If we can learn to reach out to God from the valley, He promises a peace to us that doesn’t even require understanding because we know we can trust the Lord. There’s an old song by Ira Stanphill that sums it up this way: "Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand, but I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand."

Dr. Mark Rutland, president of Southeastern College in his book God of the Valleys writes: "From the mountaintops we view life; in the valleys we live it." While we are living life in the valleys we’re learning great lessons. The Bible tells us that these times allow us to stretch and grow our faith and to develop our maturity. Waiting on the Lord is not a time of inaction, rather it is the time of the kind of action that matters most in our spiritual development.

G. Campbell Morgan wrote, “Waiting for God is not laziness. Waiting for God is not going to sleep. Waiting for God is not the abandonment of effort. Waiting for God means, first, activity under command; second, readiness for any new command that may come; third, the ability to do nothing until the command is given."

That brings us to the last step in the process of faith that is waiting on God. David began by stewing, but when he began stirring himself to cry out to God in prayer, he experienced the final summit of the journey…

3. David Went From Stewing to Stirring to Surrendering

Vs. 5-6 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for He has been good to me.

Just as the Apostle Paul recorded God’s promise, King David experienced that when we bring our requests before God with thanksgiving, we receive the blessing of a peace that passes understanding.

Notice that in David’s prayer this newfound or re-found peace and trust is not anchored in the future, but in the past, and in the revealed character of God--in God’s love that never fails, his covenant love, his salvation. "I will sing to the Lord," says David, "because He HAS BEEN good to me." If He has been good, then He will be good. No matter what my circumstances may look like today.

We experience the Peace that passes understanding of our circumstances because we gain understanding about the God who holds our circumstances. The God who holds your hand today, who will guide you through tomorrow is the God who gave His Son to die for your sins yesterday.

So What? Ultimately, I think there is a factor of eternal focus here. When we get our eyes up, we gain an eternal perspective that makes present circumstances seem of less importance. If you have trusted in Jesus, for salvation, If you know that the price he paid on the cross cleanses you from sin and purchases your place in heaven, then earthly things loose their ability to drag you down to the pit of despair.

If you have not trusted in Jesus for salvation, you need to do that today. I can’t imagine how you can have peace in the present circumstances if your eternal destiny is in doubt.

Tommy Dorsey is known as the Father of Gospel Music. He had enjoyed a career as a successful Jazz musician but his life fell apart. After taking some time off from music he surrendered his talents to be used for the Lord. In 1931, just as he was coming to the peak of his success he and his new wife were overjoyed to learn that she was due to have a baby. It was almost time for the baby to be born when he left his apartment in Chicago early one morning while she slept to go play at a series of meetings in St. Louis. That evening when he finished playing as he came down from the platform a boy brought him a telegram with only four words on it, "Your wife is dead." He rushed to a phone and all he could hear on the other end was "Nettie is dead. Nettie is dead." When he got back, he learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. He swung between grief and joy. Yet that night, the baby died.

Tommy Dorsey buried Nettie and their little boy together, in the same casket. And then he fell apart. For days he isolated himself. He felt that God had done him an injustice. He didn’t want to serve God any more or write gospel songs. He just wanted to go back to that jazz world he once knew so well. And then a friend led him to a piano, as he lay his hands upon the keys Something happened to him. He felt at peace as though he could reach out and touch God. He found himself playing a melody, it just seemed to fall into place along with the Lyrics: Precious Lord, take my hand, Lead me on, let me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn, Through the storm, through the night Lead me on to the light, Take my hand, precious Lord, Lead me home.

As the Lord gave him the words and melody, He also healed Tommy’s spirit. He later wrote, "I learned that when we are in our deepest grief, when we feel farthest from God, this is when He is closest, and when we are most open to His restoring power."

He found that by reaching out to God--by turning from Stewing, to Stirring, that God brought him to the place of Surrender.

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