Fear From Present Pain
First in a Series of Three – Whom Shall I Fear?
Psalm 27: 1-4, Romans 8:31-39, Mark 5:35-36
September 8, 2019
Psalm 27:1-3 – The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Some time ago, I went into the dentist for what they like to call a deep cleaning, and pretty soon into the conversation, I asked if I could have the laughing gas, also known as nitrous oxide. The dentist’s assistant indicated that it would be $20 extra, to which I replied, “no problem.” She asked if I wanted the nitrous oxide instead of Novocain, to which I responded, “No, in addition to the Novocain. And then I added, “I’m not a fan of pain.” To which she said, “no problem.” I say I’m not a fan of pain. Debi would tell you that I’m a big baby. Which seems a bit harsh to me.
We are starting a three part sermon series today, “Whom Shall I Fear?” Next Sunday is “Fear of Future Worries”, the Sunday after that, “Fear of a Guilty Past”, and today “Fear of Present Pain.” Today, we focus not so much on our regrets out of the past which are haunting us, not so much on the anxiety we have with regard to our future, but rather the troubles and the tribulations that face us here and now, in these very days. Three Scriptures we would explore today, three comforting truths that would help us not to be afraid in these days, three lessons we would learn about what it means to be, as Paul declares, more than conquerors through Christ who loved us.
Truth #1 that would help us not to be afraid in these days is that Again and again, David would flee for refuge to God’s (dwelling place)
In Psalm 27, David would teach us that if you put the presence of Almighty God on one side of the scale and all the armies of his enemies on the other side of the scale, the presence of the Lord would win the day every time. He specifies two great blessings of what it means that his sins have been forgiven and his soul has been saved. Blessing #1 is joy, which is symbolized by light, and Blessing #2 is security, which is symbolized by words like stronghold / shelter / hiding place / cover of his tent.
Even though it was true that David’s enemies were lurking in all kinds of dark corners, one thing matter more than all of that, that he was free to worship in the house of his Lord. One thing mattered more than all of his troubles, that he could gaze upon and revel in the beauty of the sanctuary. One thing mattered more than all of his present pain, whether it be self-inflicted or otherwise, was that God was with him and that he could flee for refuge to his dwelling place any time that he wanted to do so.
Story of Mom fleeing for refuge to her Bible and her big green prayer book when she was afraid. When any of us kids were out and about on a Friday or Saturday night, she wouldn’t go to bed until we came home. We knew that she would be drinking warm milk and crackers (an old remedy for not being able to sleep), she would be reading her Bible, she would be worrying, she would be saying her prayers. Again and again she would flee for refuge to the presence of her God.
Fast forward four decades, and now it’s Debi and my turn to sit up and worry and pray until our kids came home. Except Debi refused to do that. I would say, “don’t you think we should stay awake and pray until they come home?” She would say, “No, they’re God’s kids too. He loves them even more than we do. He will stay awake. I’m going to bed.” One more time, Debi got it right – she rested in the promises of God, she trusted that their Father in heaven neither slumbered nor slept, God was with them.
Romans 8:31-32 – What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can e against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Truth #2 that would help us not to be afraid in these days is that Not only is God with us, He is (for us). In Romans 8, Paul argues from the greater to the lesser. If God has already done the greater work, why would you think he couldn’t do the lesser? If God has already sacrificed his one and only and beloved Son for us, why would we think he wouldn’t be fighting on our behalf in the midst of pain and suffering here and now. If Christ was willing to suffer and be crucified until he was dead and buried for us, why would we think he wouldn’t be sitting on the right hand of his Father in these very days interceding for us?
Romans 8 has sort of a “bring it on” mentality that well equipped soldiers might have as part of a well trained army. If God is for us, who can be against us. Bring it on! If the devil tries to tell us that God is punishing us with present pain for sins we have committed, our Father fires back with the fact that he has already punished in full his only Son and we walk away declared not guilty. Bring it on! The world will try to condemn us with every weapon in its arsenal, but Jesus fires back that he is holding the whole world in his hands, and that nobody nowhere no how is going to separate us from his love. Bring it on!
The problem we have so much of the time is that we try to take on our enemies with our own strength instead of putting on the full armor of God. (Story of Laurie Paulson, a well built and strong running back from Hankinson, leading the charge against my team, the Wyndmere Warriers. At one point he came right at me, an outside of linebacker, and instead of going low and tackling him, I tried to hit him high and he flattened me. To make matters worse, I smarted off before the next plan and said something like, “Laurie (a girls name if I ever heard one), try that again!” And he ran my direction and right through me a second time, and then a third. To make matters worse, the ref was irritated me, as well as my coach. Not one of my shining moments, I’m sure you would agree.
Dear friends in Christ, it is only by the grace of God that we dare say to the devil, bring it on. It is only when we immersed ourselves in the Word of the living God that we dare say to the world, bring it on. It is only when we spend time in prayer that we dare think of ourselves as “more than conquerors.”
Mark 5: 36 - Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe….39 -And when he had entered, Jesus said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping….41 -Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was 12 years of age.)
Truth #1 that drives out fear is that God is with us. Truth #2 that helps us not be afraid is that God is not only with us, he is for us, and Truth #3 that would help us not be afraid in these days is that Even when it seems as though all is lost, in Christ, (it isn’t)
For the synagogue ruler named Jairus in today’s Gospel lesson, all was lost. His 12 year old daughter was dead, his friends were telling him not to trouble the Teacher, his family was already hiring the professional mourners to do their weeping and their wailing, the funeral director of that day was getting ready to do a burial, but Jairus insisted on believing. He seemed to have a little spark of faith in the midst of the kind of pain only a parent who loses a child will understand
To Jairus, Jesus declares, “Have no fear, only continue to believe.” To the professional mourners and the scoffers, Jesus says, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” To the little girl, Jesus says, I say to you, arise. Even when it seems as though all is lost, in Christ, it isn’t.
In closing, I take you back to my mom sitting on her couch, reading her Bible, saying her prayers, worrying, not sleeping. Wednesday night, September 4, 1968. That night her worst fears came true. Her son Curtis didn’t come home, he didn’t just fall asleep while driving his car, he died by way of a one car accident. Could life get any worse? Could the pain be any more intense?
And yet in the very next day, her Pastor took her and her family by the hand, he read Psalm 23, he read Scriptures that spoke of their son being in the presence of Jesus, he read Scriptures that spoke of resurrection, he invited her to not be afraid, only to believe.
The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town full of folks whose lives include all kinds of bumps and bruises, some days mere annoyances, other days they are rocked by tragedy. On their not so good days, they worry, they lose sleep, they pray, and they wonder if their prayers will be heard. But on their good days, they fear, love, and trust in God above all things. On their good days, they know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. On their good days, they stand up straight and say, The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? t\They are still and know that God is God, they hold their heads up and say to one another, “God’s got this.” On the days when they gaze upon the beauty of the Lord in his sanctuary, they are bound together by a confidence that looks forward to the day when Jesus Christ will take by the hand little girls and little boys, he will take by the hand old men and even older women, they look forward to the day when he will take by the hand all who have believed and been baptized into the Name of the Triune God, and he will say to every one of them, “Arise.”
The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther