Pastor Luis encourages us to trust in the Lord's promise for our safety, security, and inheritence.
We are talking about the Psalms. I’ve been given the privilege of being able to share a couple of times. One of the things that has impacted my own life is the reality that Jesus is one who is able to meet us exactly where we’re at. He introduces us to something so much wider than simply His love and grace. He introduces us to the reality that wherever we might be in this faith journey, there is something true and real about God being a refuge or a point of strength to us. Some of our psalms allude to this. The scriptures speak to this. The Psalms speak to the reality that God is sometimes described as a rock. A rock is meant to imply that it’s not easily moved. If we are standing on Him or the rock, we will not be shaken. There are other metaphors that are used for Him. God is something of a high tower, and that tower is able to keep us.
When the floodwaters rise, He can hold us above the waters, above the fray. Then, of course, there is the idea of Him being a fortress. Other references refer to Him as a refuge, a place to run to for safety and protection. Whatever is nipping at us or threatening us is not able to penetrate through. This all speaks to an experience that we’re invited into. We find ourselves experiencing the reality that we can discover what it is like to be unshaken when we find ourselves in His refuge. I have to tell you, this is not something that I can speak to from a place of having lived this every day. If anything, this is something of aspiration or desire. Some of us may identify to call on Him as our refuge, fortress, or rock. It’s something that doesn’t just happen once and we’re good. If anything, it happens every day. Sometimes it happens multiple times a day. Sometimes given the dynamics of what we’re walking through, we might call on Him to become our refuge moment by moment. Wherever we might be, some of us are inclined to certain ways of interacting with life and seeing things play out.
In my own life, I’ve discovered the need to learn how to experience this capacity to be on shaking in God because it’s just the way my mind works. I’ll give you an illustration of what I’m talking about. Some of you may or may not know. My wife, who I’ve been married to for eight years in August, is six months pregnant right now. It’s a huge blessing. When we first just found out she was pregnant, we were really excited. I was looking forward to finding out what gender it was. We had a date and time set on the calendar for “This is the sonogram appointment where we find out if it’s a boy or a girl.” I had an early morning meeting I had to attend, but I decided I’m going to get there on time.
I got out of my meeting early. I get on my bike, and as I’m riding down, I hear something vibrating in my pocket. When I got there, I opened up my phone, and my wife was saying, “Hey, honey. They had an opening a little bit early, so you need to hurry. We’re already in. They already started.” I don’t put my gear away on the bike or anything. I just dash into the hospital, make my way, and am given the room where they’re at. I make my way to the floor and start looking for the room. I ran down the hallway looking for this particular room number, and I couldn’t find it. So I ran out the other hallway. As I’m running around, I didn’t realize I was in the maternity ward. There were people actually in labor and heads started popping out, wondering what’s going on. There was this man with a helmet and gear running. Right? So I say, “I’m looking for this room number.” They say, “Well, sir, please. Can you stop running? You’re making us nervous. There’s reception over there, the front desk.” I made my way over there, and she texted me, “Honey, you might want to hurry. They’re about to reveal the gender.” I said, “No. Don’t let them do that.”
I got to the front desk. I asked, “Can you guide me?” They ask me for my ID to make sure I am who I say I am, and then they walk me to the room. They knock on the door. They open it. They make sure everything is okay. Then, they let me in. I’m anxious and excited, and I stand there. I’m just looking at a screen, and I see an alien. My wife is on the bed, and they’re doing the sonogram, and the technician just types in “Girl.” I stood there, and some of what I felt was this weird combination of emotions all at once. It was a feeling of joy, awe, pain, heartbreak, and fear doubled up on the fear. I’m standing there, and my mind just immediately starts racing towards different milestones. It just started going there. It’s like I’m looking into the future of what my life is now becoming. As I start thinking, this prevailing thought starts taking a hold of me. “How do I protect her, and how do I ensure that nothing bad ever happens? What are the different techniques I need to learn now? How do I make her like Katniss?” I start thinking about all these things.
Then, my mind goes to this place where I think, “there’s going to be a fork in the road down the line and I will end up trusting her to the care of another man.” I didn’t like that. I said something to that effect, and the technician is very excited. My wife is just overjoyed, and I’m standing there. I discovered I married my opposite. She’s the eternal optimist. She sees the silver lining in every cloud. I’ve been given a different gift. I see the darkness and the rain coming. At first, I remember her ability to see the possibility of good in any situation concerned me gravely. It gave me grave concern and a deep reason to pray. Over time, it’s become an enormous point of refreshment. I remember when I started taking her out backpacking when we first got married. We stayed in the safety of California, where there aren’t many wild animals that can harm us. She decided while we were out, “This is nice and all, but I’d like to go to Alaska. There are grizzlies there.” “I know. There are wolves there.” “Yeah, yeah. That’s why I want to go. Can you take me there?”
You don’t understand. She sees the possibility for beauty and good. I want to know the probability for bad and harm. Some of us might be more skeptical by nature. We don’t call ourselves that though. We call ourselves realists. It sounds better. We keep it real. That tension point ends up becoming a place where it can be a strength. If we’re not careful, it becomes a place where all we see is what can go wrong. Before you know it, the possibility of wrong and bad can end up becoming the point of our greatest defeat. It can paralyze and render us immobile. Others of us might be on the opposite spectrum. We might see the good, the beauty, the possibility, and the adventure. We might be somehow disconnected from reality. We live in a world that is broken. Evil is real. It does exist. In the scriptures, when we come to them, Psalms especially, what I have grown to love and appreciate is that they do not hide the brokenness, need, and concern. They express them honestly. They anchor us because they express the same soul. There’s the capacity to acknowledge the danger, and yet be anchored by hope, and be strengthened by the ability to not be defeated, and to walk through it optimistically. It’s a rare thing to discover the holding of the tension of the two.
One of the psalms that strikes me as being able to do this rather effectively is Psalm 16. David ends up opening the Psalm with this phrase, “Preserve me, oh God, for in you, I take refuge.” If we know anything about David, we know that he was emotional. We know that he was passionate. We know that he was a man who had conviction. We know he was a man who’s not passive. Passive would not be his way. He would not write these words in the comfort of his own home. “Preserve me, oh God.” He would be writing these words with deep desire, “Preserve me, oh God. Please. For in you, I take refuge.” Unless we think that he may have been writing this in a moment of confidence and security. Many believe he wrote this Psalm in his earlier years, in the years of his youth. The years of his youth were marked by being on the run and in danger. They were years of being displaced from his land and people, from the place of his heritage, where his king was hunting him like an animal.
There’s one passage in First Samuel that is worth considering in light of what we’re about to read. David comes out and speaks to Saul. He says, “Now, therefore, let my Lord the King hear the words of his servant. If it is the Lord who has stirred you up against me, may He accept an offering. But if it is men, may they be cursed before the Lord.” Then, hear these words, “For they have driven me out this day that I should have no share in the heritage of God.” He’s saying, “Get out of here. Go serve someone else.” These words we’re about to read were easy words to write. Some of us might say, “Some of these Psalms or scriptures are filled with hope. It’s easy to be confident when everything is going your way and the circumstances you’re in are the circumstances you want to be in. When you start to enjoy the fruits of your labor, everything is working out according to plan.” Of course, they would say that, but I’m convinced these are words that David wrote while contending for what he already knew to be true, even if his circumstances didn’t reflect it.
David says, “I say to the Lord that is the God of heaven and earth, Yahweh, you are my Lord. I make you my master. You dictate my steps. You guide me.” Verse two, “I have no good apart from you. As for the saints of the land, they are the excellent ones in whom is all my delight. Love for God translates immediately to love for His people. There is no disconnect. Lord, I treasure you. I delight in your people.” They are the two greatest commandments Jesus declared. The first is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself. Verse four says, “The sorrows of those who run after another god, they shall multiply their drink offerings of blood. I will not pour out or take their names on my lips. Those who run after satisfaction in another place outside of you, God, they’re going to inevitably be let down because there is nothing worse than expectations of being failed. To jump into something thinking, ‘This is the result,’ and to be disappointed, that’s the multiplication of sorrow. But you, Lord, are my portion, my chosen portion, and my cup. You hold my lot.”
In other words, he is saying, “You’re the treasure of my life. You’re what I treasure most,” which reminds us that this is the benefit of experiencing degrees of lack. It is when we experience lack that we discover, at the end of the day, what we truly have is the love, grace, and the goodness of God. It is always available to us. Some have said that loneliness could be God’s nudge. You think you’re alone. Come and see. I am with you. You are my chosen portion. You are my cup. You hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. The boundaries of my life, the places that surround me, I don’t see them as confining. I see them as pleasant. Why? Because you’re, you’re in the picture.
An inheritance. What does an inheritance speak of? It speaks of something we cannot earn, and it speaks of something we have not yet received. Amid his situation, David says, “The truth of the matter is you have drawn up boundaries for my life that protect me, keep me, safeguard me, and what awaits me.” Oh, it’s so good. It is a beautiful thing that the best things are ahead of me, not behind me. They’re ahead. As long as God is involved, the possibility for a beautiful inheritance is real.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel. I discovered this in the night. Also, my heart instructs me almost as if he’s saying, “Listen, I have buried His word into my soul,” and he ends up reflecting the very thing that the scriptures tell us. Where a person has continued to dwell on His word and meditate on it. It, in turn, doesn’t just sit there static. It births life. It gives us the capacity to be reminded of His goodness. David is discovering while being on the run, in danger, is having a good night’s rest. “God, I’ve discovered you to give me counsel, and the words that you’ve spoken into my soul, they instruct me at night. They keep me. They remind me. They whisper into my soul.” David ascends to this level and says, “I have set the Lord always before me because He is in my right hand. I shall not be shaken. I have set the Lord always before me. A way of life is the way I’ve been conducting my life. I have set Him always before me.” I wonder what would it be like for us if we were able to step into that place, those footprints, and say, “I am setting you always before me?” If we had a sense of God’s nearness at every moment in our life, what would change? What adjustments would we make?
Some of us might hear that and say, “I don’t think I like that. God with me at all times?” I was talking with someone this week, saying, “No, that actually scares me.” The more we talked, the more it was apparent. “Why is it scary?” “Oh, because there are things I say I don’t want Him to know about. There are things I do that I don’t want God to know about. Those are areas I don’t want anyone to see, anyone, to be a part of.” For others, it might be something that causes us a degree of fear. Why? Because there’s something within us, shame, whispers, and guilt says, “Do not draw near. You should be afraid. Judgment is coming.” When David declares a man who is filled with flaws, weaknesses, and contradictions, that definitely ended up showing up in his life is saying? “I’ve discovered something about God. The more I draw near to Him, the more I discover His goodness. I discover that God is for me, not against me. When I invite Him into the dailiness of my life, in every single aspect of my life, He does not condemn. He does not shame. He does not reject. He stands with me, and I discover that I am unshaken. Because He is in my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”
It’s confidence, not in his capacity, strength, wisdom, or resources. It’s confidence in God’s ability to keep him. He says, “Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices. My flesh also dwells secure. I know not just my mind and my soul, but my entire physical being will be fine.” Verse 10, “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol or let your holy one see corruption.” He is pulling the bow of his life, looking into the distance, and the arrow of his faith launches him to a place. Sheol, it’s a word we may not recognize. It means death. It’s grave. It’s where the dead go. He says, “Listen. I looked. He goes to the place where it does not matter what gender, creed, ethnicity, faith, location, or nationality you have. It does not matter. Every single person is going to have to step to the threshold, the last square on our calendar.” He looks at death and says, “I’ve discovered you are too good to let death have the final word. I don’t know how this is going to work out, God, but there’s no way this whole thing ends with death. There is no way.”
The arrow that is launched is an arrow that around a thousand years later, the apostle Peter takes. He stands in the temple, and says to those who are listening, “These words that David was talking about, I assure you, he wasn’t talking about himself. We know where he’s buried. He was talking about his descendant whose name is Jesus. God raised Jesus from the dead and gave Him resurrection. Life overcame death and swallowed it up, and His word has been fulfilled.” God is too good to not allow life to overcome. Because of that, he says, “You make known to me the path of life in your presence. There is fullness of joy at your right hand or pleasures forevermore. I discovered this God not knowing exactly how this would play out, not knowing exactly what this would look like.” David anchors his desire to be preserved in the amazing hope that the one who grips him will not let him be shaken.
He who has the final say in life will be the word that prevails. This Psalm is rich and deep. There are so many aspects for us to dive into. Time does not allow, but I think there are a couple of things for us to settle into, to anchor ourselves with as we explore and walk through this together. Firstly, this reminds us that God preserves those who call on Him, that God is in the business of preserving. Jesus said He came not to take life, but to give it. God sent Him not to condemn the world, but to save it. God’s desire for us is preservation. Preservation is the ability to make sure that corruption doesn’t take hold. It’s the ability for something to not become rotten. It’s an amazing thing. I don’t know where we might be right now or what we’re currently walking through. Some of us are battling something of our past. Others are fighting out of an addiction or have wounds that fester and seem to never heal. Some look into the future and what we see is probably a blessing, but also, the possibility of something else. Some of us are in a situation we’d rather not be. Wherever we might be, I suggest it is never a bad idea to begin our day, our moments, our points of anxiety in verse one to declare, “Preserve me, oh God, for in you, I take refuge. Preserve me. Save me. Keep me. Strengthen me. Wherever we might be, preserve me, God. Preserve me.”
I have a chair in a room in our home. There’s a table, a lamp, and a Bible that just sits there. I have to say it’s not one of those things. A lot of times, it’s in the rush of the morning. We’re waking up, and it just feels like the projects, tasks, or the different things up ahead could be overwhelming. I find myself just walking into that room, sitting down, or going on my knees, putting my elbows on the chair, my hands on my head. It’s not David’s situation. I don’t need physical preservation. That’s not my situation. God, will you preserve me from what’s going on internally? Will you speak peace into me? Will you settle my mind and soul? Will you do this?
As Peter said, this desire for preservation is a desire for salvation that only one person can give. His name is Jesus. He told them in Acts 4:12. He says, “Listen, there is salvation in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved, and no one else is capable.” Some of us may not understand everything we’re walking through. We may not know what exactly we’re facing or how this is going to pan out. Some of us want to just quit, run away, or escape. What we need to do is say, “Jesus, will you save me? Will you preserve me? I call on your name. Will you keep me?”
I can tell you if David started out there, the footprints he lays out for us is that that starting point leads to the place of discovering that courage flows from a heart that is settled in him. It flows from a heart that is settled in his refuge. It may start with anxiety and fear, but it will lead to a place where courage keeps us. It will not be courage that keeps us. Courage does not mean the removal of fear. Otherwise, there’d be no need for it. Courage means the capacity to face our fears. It doesn’t mean challenges are made easier. It means we have the strength to walk through our challenges not defeated, but knowing that the one who we take refuge in is with us every step of the way. A lot of times, life’s challenges can be so magnified. They look much larger than this quiet whisper and the stillness of His voice that tells us, “I’m right here. I’m right here. I have you.”
It was a little under a year ago in August where my wife and I found ourselves in Rwanda. One of her lifelong dreams was to serve children in Africa. We spent some time with these orphans that reminded us of what it looks like to step into the words James says, “The poor are rich in faith.” Beautiful children. Beautiful country and culture. One of the things about Rwanda is that it has a refuge, one of the few wildlife refuges for gorillas. We made our way out there and decided to take an excursion to see them. There are no cages. The gorillas are out in the wild. We saw a gorilla that looked really friendly, but he’s a massive animal. He’s a beast, and he was just sitting there. This happened to be a silverback gorilla that left his tribe for the outskirts of the mountain we’re about to scale. The guy that was with us said, “Why don’t you take a picture?” So I took this picture, and he says, “No, no. You take a picture with the gorilla.” You could see my smile, it’s not real. It was a nervous smile because it was only about a second later that I decided, “This was a bad idea. I don’t trust this animal. I need to keep my eye on it.” That wasn’t a weapon I was holding. That was a walking stick, but it could become my defense mechanism.
I remember sitting there, enjoying the outdoors. We had guides with us who had weapons. They had machetes, and they had guns. They were the ones, and I thought, “Okay. This makes me comfortable.” They let me know, “These aren’t for your protection. These are to protect the gorillas from the poachers and hunters that try to take advantage of this refuge. We’re going to take you up to the mountains. We’re going to hack our way through.” They call it The Bush. I discovered this because you don’t see the ground. All you see are leaves, trees, and vines. You’re just walking on it all the way up.
We’re walking and have a group of about 15 people together with these guides, my wife, and me. We’re making our way up the mountain. The incline is gradually increasing. We’re getting up to the top, and it’s an amazing view. We’re sitting there in the jungle and seeing the gorillas. We see the tiny babies, and they’re eating. They’re just so adorable. They’re talking to each other. Whenever you approach a gorilla, you have to speak their language to say, “Hello. I come in peace.” I enjoyed saying that everywhere. We came across the patriarch of the family, the silverback, and there was a crowd. Everyone rushed to go see it. I couldn’t find my footing. Everyone found a place to stand and balance themselves. I was hanging on a vine. The guide says, “No, you come to the front.” I said, “Yes.” I made my way up to the front, and I thought, “Man, this is incredible. I get to see this up close and personal.” There’s this log, and he says, “I want you to straddle on that log.” I sat down and straddled the log. I realize now why he wanted me in the front and everyone else is behind me.
The silverback gorilla was three rows away from me right there. I just did my greeting. It’s just eating, looking at me. Their eyes are amazing. I got lost looking at this gorilla and forgot you’re not supposed to look into the eyes. That’s a challenging look saying, “I come here to take over.” So the gorilla decides he’s going to let me know that’s not happening. He puts his food down and starts coming toward me. They don’t move slowly, and he’s moving. I’m panicking, and I start backing up. My wife is right behind me, and I’m starting to think, “How can we escape? Let the other 15 stay. I don’t care. You and I are going down this mountain.” So I start backing up, and as I start backing up, the gorilla is getting closer, and I feel this hand press on my shoulder. The guide says to me, “No, sir. Do not panic. Please do not panic.”
I sit there, and there’s this conflict inside of me. Part of me says, “You’re crazy. You have the gun, not me.” Another part of me says, “This guy knows what he’s doing. He’s with him every day.” So I sit there, and he says, “Please, sir. Please. Do not panic. You will only make it worse.” How much worse can it get? It comes, and I sit there. This happens in seconds. It felt forever, but the gorilla looked at me, turned to the left, and went back up. I’m like, “Okay. That was unbelievable.” Everyone else is excited. I’m thinking, “I’m good, alive?” He says, “Sir, panic only makes it worse. When you panic, your fear will happen.”
He wasn’t talking about faith. He wasn’t talking about God or spirituality. He’s talking about life with gorillas in the jungle. “Don’t panic.” For me, it just penetrated me so many times. We might have heard it before. I know Pastor Terry has said it to me. It is not what happens to us. It’s how we react to it. All we need is God to keep us. “Preserve me, oh God, and because you are at my right hand, I will not be shaken. You have me. My security is not in my capacity. You have committed to keep me. It doesn’t mean everything pans out perfectly, but no matter what comes my way, you have committed to keep me.”
We move in that place, being settled, having the courage to remain, to not quit or run away, but to move forward and get back up. When we think we failed, or feel weakness take the better of us, we get to discover over the long arc of our life, that a life is defined by seeking out refuge in Him. Holding Him before us in our right hand, that He may make sure we will not be shaking is a life that is able to declare with David. You make known to me the path. In your presence, there is pleasure. The fullness of it. There’s joy and goodness.
I thought I don’t know where we’re at. For some of us, this might be easier to say. For others, this will be a statement we say by faith. We declare it to be true. We want it to be true. We ask God to make it true. I thought let’s read verse 11 out loud together. “You make known to me the path of life. In Your presence, there is fullness of joy. At your right hand, our pleasures forevermore.” We make Him our refuge, lasting pleasure is our inheritance. Death is swallowed up. Our weaknesses are swallowed up. It is a destination, an inheritance we will one day receive. Jesus said it is so much more than that. “I do not come just to give you eternal life. I come to give you abundant life.” A life that will inevitably be overcome is a life that is being birthed within us even now. Our destination and no matter how the details fair it out, it is a true joy and true pleasure because He makes known to us the path of life.
Lord, thank you. Thank you that you are the one we can run to. Thank you that you are the one who’s able to empower and strengthen us. Thank you that you are the one who promises us, not because of what we’ve done, but because of what your son, Jesus, did. Life here, life tomorrow, and life forevermore. May it prevail, and may you keep us from shaking. In Jesus’ name, Amen.