Posted by: lepages | August 21, 2011

The Struggles of Life

Meant to post this last weekend after preaching it twice, in the morning at Rutland Road Church (preach not yet online following recording difficulties) and in the evening at Renhold Chapel, based on Psalm 10

Somehow or other failed to get round to it. Think my head still not quite on the ball at times following my accident. Next blog will probably be on recovery journey so far, before going back to post some of my other preaches from the psalms.

Anyway, here are my notes from my preach last Sunday.
God bless you as you read.

Introduction

How does God manage to move the hearts and minds of his people, so that things that they plan, come to pass at the right time?

As I read this psalm some 10 days ago and prepared notes for our cell groups, I had no idea that the words of the psalm would become poignant in our society with the events that have occurred during the last week. I’d thought about how they might apply to individual lives where we struggle with difficulties and wonder at times where God is in the midst of it all.

I was also somewhat stunned to receive this book in the post,

entitled ‘God on Mute – engaging the silence of unanswered prayer’ by Pete Greig, who initiated the 24/7 prayer movement… the book having been posted over 6 weeks earlier…..

God is faithful, God is just, but the way he works out his faithfulness and his justice doesn’t always make sense to our human way of thinking….

and the psalm writer knows that and so begins his Psalm, v1

‘Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?’

I guess many people of faith, or no faith, Christian or otherwise, might well identify with those statements – those who have seen their homes and businesses wrecked by wanton lawlessness, violence and robbery, those who have been pulled from their cars and beaten, those who lost family members as they were killed by a mad driver driving a car straight at them as they sought to protect local businesses and homes.

V2 is very real
‘In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises.’

The Malaysian student, Mohammed Asyraf Haziq, pulled from his bike, beaten, left on the pavement bleeding with a broken jaw, and then robbed by people who made out they were coming to help him.

‘In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises.’

We’ve seen that portrayed in our society this week.

V3 ‘He boasts the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD.’

Looters posted YouTube videos showing what they had done – even more amazing and I want to show you this BBC clip, 2 girls in Croydon, who are prepared to boast to a BBC interviewer about what they have done.

Show video clip – ‘London rioters – showing the rich we do what we want’

‘We do what we want’

Therein is the human problem, summed up in 5 words

v4-11 provide a good analysis of the heart and mind of those who live in rebellion to God.

V4 ‘In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.’

There was a wonderful interview on Sky.com with two former gang members – talking honestly about the issues that surround some of these communities and estates. Questioned about what changed them so that they were now working to see people set free from this prevailing gang culture which abused others and engaged in criminal activity without any guilt or thought for others, they were clear it was through meeting with God and becoming ‘born-again Christians’.

Previously in their thoughts, ‘no room for God’ – now he is at the centre of their thoughts motivating them to serve and work for good and see change in people’s lives.

V5,6 ‘His ways are always prosperous; he is haughty and your laws are far from him; he sneers at all his enemies. He says to himself. “Nothing will shake me; I’ll always be happy and never have trouble.”’

Many looked proud, and went without fear in front of cameras, some even happily having others posting video clips on YouTube. This guy walks proudly with his Plasma flat screen TV.

v7-11 ‘His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue. He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent, watching in secret for his victims. He lies in wait like a lion in cover; he lies in wait to catch the helpless and drags them off in his net. His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength. He says to himself, “God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees.”’

Such, in part was the scenario for 68 year old Richard Mannington Bowes, who sought to put out a fire that had been lit by rioters.

Attacked by some of them, he received head injuries which led to his death.

‘His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength.
He says to himself, “God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees.”’

I doubt that there was any thought of God as the rioters laid into this man who was trying to spoil their fun by putting a fire out.

So, how do we respond?
Blame somebody?
Blame the police?
Or perhaps as the psalm writer did in the first instance, question God?
It’s okay to question God.

But the writer of the psalm shows that we fail if we stop there.

In v12-14 we see that having examined the awful things he sees before him, that the right response is to call out to God to act.

V12 he calls out, ‘Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless.’

When we see awful things happen, a fitting response is to cry out to God!
He is our Creator and Sustainer, He is our Deliverer and Saviour.
He is passionate about caring for the poor, the destitute, those who suffer, and his word resounds to that theme throughout both Old and New testaments.

So it’s right to call on him to act.

That’s why, prompted by others, I sent out a call to pray for our nation early on Tuesday morning, and some of us were able to gather and pray together that day…. and I know others have done so in their groups as they have met during the week.

It’s why the elders from Russell Park are calling their church to pray at 6.30pm this evening, and inviting others from across our town to join them. So, if you’re free why not go along to Russell Park and share with our brothers and sisters in praying for our nation.

The guys on the Sky interview got to the point in acknowledging that what had changed their lives and their perspectives was meeting with God through Jesus Christ.

The psalm writer says v13
‘Why does the wicked man revile God?
Why does he say to himself, “He won’t call me to account”?

The truth is the only hope for our nation is not tougher policing and sentencing on the one end, or improved social care and provision of training and work for those from impoverished backgrounds – though both of those things are valuable – but the truth is, those things do not change people’s hearts. As one of the former gang members said, he was working with gang members who got involved in crime who came from wealthy family backgrounds.

Tough policing, good social care, does not change people’s hearts – only the Gospel, by the grace of God changes people’s hearts and gives them a hope and motivation to live their lives in a different way.

V14 ‘But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand.’

We can question God when violent things happen…. but God has done something… he has taken it to hand…. he looked out at the evil and decided to deal with it. Dealing with it outright would have meant destroying all of creation, because evil lies in the heart of each one of us,
so instead he set out to turn his anger away from us, by putting it on his Son, Jesus, as he bore, not only the worst that we as human beings can give, as he was put to death on a cross, but bearing the weight of our sin – all the stuff that we have seen in our nation this past week – all the stuff, which if we’re honest, lives in our own hearts and lives – and Jesus bore not only the weight of our sin, not only the physical agony of the cross, but the judgement of God against that sin.

Why?
So that God in his mercy can give us a new heart, a heart which is moved to want to live his way, that wants to honour him, rather than revile God and think that we will never be called to account.

God is doing something about the evil in our world, by transforming one life at a time.
And he has entrusted to his people the privilege and the responsibility of taking that gospel, that good news to all people, everywhere… and that includes to folk who have rioted across our nation…. and the lovely folk…. or horrible folk… who live next door to you.

When we pray for our nation, when we pray for anything, supremely what we should be praying for is God’s grace in salvation to be poured out – that’s why we meet on a Saturday morning to pray for revival, because what this nation needs is for God to stir the hearts of people to turn back to him again.

It is only the Spirit of God who can change hearts and lives so that injustice doesn’t exist in our nation… where the wealthy in our nation get richer, whilst the poor get poorer. It is in truth only the Spirit of God who can enable the impoverished and oppressed to look with hope and confidence to the future, trusting in their God….. all our human schemes and projects may do some good… but they will not change the heart of people.

It’s when that happens that the psalm writer can say
‘The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.’

We live in a nation where so many do not know what it is to have a loving father, so many have never known a father, and where they have their father may not have been a good model for them to follow, and may even have given a negative view of fatherhood. This has come out again and again in news, discussion and debate during the last week.

Fathers – we have a responsibility to stand up and be counted.
To be good fathers to our children; to bring them up in the fear and love of the Lord.

Do you know this fathers?
It is not the responsibility of the church to teach your children about Jesus and the gospel and salvation… it is your responsibility!

Throughout scripture the command to fathers is to bring them up in the fear of the Lord and to teach them about God’s law.

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 sums it up well:-
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Fathers, you need to model yourself as a man of God, be devoted to God, be devoted to his Word, be devoted to your wife and children, so that your child, by God’s grace will grow to know the love of God and the good news of salvation through seeing it modelled in your life.

The psalm writer is honest in concluding his psalm.

He calls for God to deal with the evil and wicked once and for all.
And acknowledges that he will.

V15 – 18
‘Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out. The LORD is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land. You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.’

We need to work for justice.
It’s fitting that the courts have stayed open 24 hours to pursue justice.
It’s fitting that police took action to quell the rioting.

But one day, God, the judge of all, will judge for all time, so that human beings may no longer terrify others. All unrighteousness, all that falls short of God’s standards will be dealt with once and for all.

Galatians 5:19-21 spells it out:-
‘The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.’

But God holds back from that day, because he wants as many as possible to come to repentance over their past behaviour, to turn from it and to turn to God and receive from him the gift of new life through faith in Jesus Christ.

The reality is that that list in Galatians 5 applies to us all at one level or another.
If we are honest with ourselves we would all have to put our hands up and acknowledge that we are guilty of at least one of the things in that list.

But one day God will judge, and his sentencing is for life – of much greater eternal consequence than any sentencing which may go on through the courts at this time.

Conclusion
So how should we respond to all this?
Repent
Firstly, we must check that we are in right relationship with God, that we have truly come to a place of repentance where we recognise the wrong stuff in our lives, recognise that Jesus has taken our place on the cross, apologise to God for the mess we have made, determine that we will go his way now, rather than our own, and then we must ask God to come into our lives by his Holy Spirit to enable us to live in that way. You can’t do it on your own.

Salvation is a gift from God, you can’t do anything to earn it, you just have to receive it, and as you do so God will change your life for the better.

Worship
If we’re in a right relationship with God, then we need to worship him, acknowledge who he is.

The psalm writer does that:-
‘The Lord is King for ever and ever.’

Intercede
And having worshipped our God, we then need to cry out to him for the things we see around us. We need to cry out for justice and righteousness, for changes to hearts and lives, including our own. We need to cry out to God for our nation to turn back to him again. We need to come to God and acknowledge how we have failed to fulfil our responsibilities as Christians and seek his help that we might speak the gospel, the good news of salvation, which is the only hope for our nation.

So in our worship, I feel we should do that, come and cry out to our God for our nation.
We have two songs to provoke us in our worship, and then lets come with our prayers, with our worship, lets share anything God stirs in our hearts and minds and lets use the gifts God has entrusted to us to build one another up, to strengthen and comfort one another – if God gives you a prophetic word or image speak it out, if he leads you to a scripture, speak it out, if you feel the only way you can express your heart to God is in a tongue, speak it out and we’ll look to the Holy Spirit to give us the interpretation.

Potential songs:-
483 Restore O Lord
682 Can a nation be changed

Communion

655 And he shall reign

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