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TEXT: Psalm 3
SUBJECT: How to Live Without Fear
People who say the Bible is not realistic have never read it. The Bible describes the Christian life as it really is. We're not angels; we're not heroes. We're bundles of anxiety and guilt and loneliness and envy and other bad things too.
For example, Psalm 73 describes a good man eaten up by envy when he sees the wicked happier than he is. We've all felt this way. If God favors the righteous, why do the worst people live the longest and happiest lives?
Psalm 22 describes a good man who feels forsaken by God. He pleads with God day and night, but heaven remains silent. We've felt this way too. We've humbled ourselves and begged God to do us a favor. But He doesn't lift a finger to help us.
Psalm 116 describes a good man exasperated by the disloyalty of his friends--"All men are liars" he cried. We've all felt this way too. Let down by people we trusted.
In short, the Bible "Tells it like it is". Psalm 3 is a good example. The author is David, maybe the bravest man in Israel. As a boy, he killed a lion and bear with his bare hands and cut down Goliath with a slingshot. As a young man, while Saul has slain his thousands, David
"Has slain his tens of thousands".
As king, he was a man of war--and very successful at it. David was no coward; he wasn't the kind of man who panicked at every little thing. But...
The Psalm opens with him worried sick, vv.1-2.
"LORD, how they are increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, `There is no help for him in God'".
What is he talking about? If the scholars are right, the Psalm was written when David was on the run from Absalom who overthrew his kingdom. The story is told in II Samuel 15-18.
To be hunted down like a mad dog is pretty bad all by itself. But the king's situation was worse than this. It was compounded by other factors. Such as...
1.Betrayal. It was not a hated enemy who drove him out of town, but his favorite son! We've all been hurt by people. But nobody can hurt you like the one you love best. That's what happened to David.
2.Guilt. David was a very good man; but he wasn't much of a father. I Kings 1:6 tells how he brought up another son,
"His father [David] had not rebuked him at any time, by saying, `Why have you done so'".
Hamlet said, "Conscience makes cowards of us all". He's right, of course. Guilt makes bad things a whole lot worse. And when it comes to Absalom, David was guilty.
3.Love. Had his throne been taken by an enemy, David would have known just what to do: Kill him! But he loved Absalom, and this life "tied his hands" and "messed his mind" pretty badly.
David was in a bad way. Because of his enemies, he was scared and confused and hurt and depressed.
He wasn't alone. Job felt that way. Paul had the same anxieties. And even the bravest man, Jesus Christ, was gripped by terror in the shadow of the cross.
Fear is not just for cowards! It's for everyone. To be a human means to experience fear--anxiety, panic, and everything in between. Only the dead have seen the end of fear.
Are you worried? Maybe about your health? Or how you're going to pay the bills? Or what your kids are up to? Don't be discouraged by fear. You're not the first person to worry about things; you won't be the last.
"No temptation has overtaken you
but what is common to man".
The Psalmist is worried sick.
What does he do about his worry? He doesn't deny it and pretend that everything is all right. It isn't all right. He's in big trouble; he's lost his kingdom and could lose his life at any moment. David is not a Christian Scientist! He knows bad things are really bad and cannot be wished away.
He doesn't say, "Well things could be worst". That is true, of course, but it doesn't provide much comfort.
He did three things:
Number One: He thought about God Himself, v.3.
"But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head".
Verse 3 is set in contrast to vv.1-2. In the former David counts his problems. They are "Increased...Many rise up against me...Many say `There is no help for him in God'".
But in v.3, he compares his problems with his God. His enemies are shooting arrows at him, but "The Lord is [his] shield". They're trampling him under foot, but "The Lord lifts up [his] head".
What problem is bigger than God? Sickness? Poverty? Loneliness? The loss of a loved one? The prospect of death? Which one is greater than the Lord?
Paul says none of them!
"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principality nor power, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord".
God knows your every problem. He sympathizes with you in each. He can save you from it if He wants to. If He doesn't, He promises to turn your problem into a blessing, Romans 8:28.
[The "all things" in that verse refer to suffering, groaning, waiting, and confusion].
When your problems seem overwhelming, meditate on God's character, unchanged and unchanging. Asaph had a lot of issues to deal with, he faced them in light of God's great mercy,
"I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times; I call to remembrance my song in the night: I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search. Will the Lord cast off forever? Will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promised failed forever more? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?"
The implied answer is No! Of course, God hasn't lost His grace or forgotten to be merciful! Thinking on God won't make your problems go away, but it will put them in perspective.
Number two: He prayed, v.4a,
"I cried to the Lord with my voice..."
This seems to be an obvious one: The more problems you have, the more you pray. Right? Wrong! Big, scary problems have a way of so dominating our minds that we don't pray at all!
The Greek word for "worry" means "to divide the mind". Because your mind is so "divided" by worry, you can't focus your prayers.
But you need to do just that.
David's prayer was fervent--"I cried to the Lord". It was persistent--in the present tense, it means "I kept on crying to the Lord". It was full of faith. Without visible evidence, David believed God "Heard [him] from His holy hill". He was so confident of His mercy that, after praying--and long before an answer came--He "Lay down and slept". Worry keeps you up all night; faith lets you sleep.
"Stayed upon JEHOVAH,
Hearts are fully blest;
Finding as He promised
Perfect peace and rest".
Number three: He recalled what God had done for him in the past, vv.7-8,
"You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; you have broken the teeth of the ungodly...salvation belongs to the Lord..."
This was not the first time David had been in trouble. King Saul tried to kill him several times; the Philistines were always after him; and so on.
In all of his past problems, had the Lord ever let him down? Not once! He said,
"This poor man cried and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles".
Reflecting on His earlier mercies helped David to trust God with his latest problem. If the LORD had saved him from Saul...and if He had saved him from the Philistines...and if He had saved him from the Amalekites...and if He had saved him from his own sin and folly, then the Lord will not disappoint him this time either.
You need to do this. Is this your first problem? If not, Who helped you with the earlier ones? It was the LORD God! Now, if He was willing to help you then, why do you think He won't help you now?
The Hebrews were always reminded to think about what God had done for the nation in days gone by. To remember the Red Sea; to remember the manna; to remember the conquest of Canaan; to remember the victories of David; and so on.
God wanted them to recall the past--but not for the sake of the past. He wanted them to remember His great works of old, so they would trust Him today!
When you're worried, you need to do that. No matter how hard the years have been for you, they've also been full of God's mercy. If God helped you with your last problem, He'll help you with the next one too.
CLOSE AND APPEAL
Are you worried? I know some of you are; some of you are sick with worry.
Now, what are you going to do about your worries? Most people will hold on to them for dear life. But I hope you won't. You can do better than that.
You can compare your problems with your Savior.
You can pray about them to One who loves you enough to crucify His Son for your salvation.
You can remember the mercies gone by and look for more to come.
God help us to do these things. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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