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Our Rest In Distress
Watch on YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mRq1IJqMao
There is a quote by Corrie ten Boom, whose family helped escaping Jews from the Holocaust, where she and her family were caught and sent to the prison camps. She wrote a best-selling biography years after her release, and in it she not only quoted what her sister said right before she died in the prison camp, “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.”
But it was what Corrie said that is the basis of our study today. She said, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.” (Corrie ten Boom)
The other week I was picking up a prescription at Walgreens in Las Vegas and met a woman in line and we struck up a conversation. She lived for a while in Mesquite, but then had to return to Las Vegas for her mother’s health. When the pandemic hit, she lost her mother, sister, and another family member, along with both her dogs, and both her car and her mother’s car could no longer be fixed.
To say she was distressed would be an understatement. Now, at that time, giving her a lot of the Christian ease platitudes didn’t seem to fit. She just needed to be heard, and I asked if I could pray for her.
After this encounter I remembered a song that I heard Matthew Ward sing. He and his sisters formed the group “2ndChapter of Acts.” It was from Psalm 61:1-4.
Play Song by Matthew Ward
It is this Psalm, and these first four verses that I’d like to share with you so that we can find that rest in our times of distress.
“Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.” (Psalm 61:1-4 NKJV)
David was a man that often found himself in trouble and in distress. Now, we’re not sure what prompted David to write this, many believe that it was at the time that his son, Absalom, rebelled and David had leave Jerusalem with his family and men just to survive.
Whatever the situation may have been, it was quite traumatic. Notice how he began.
“Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed.” (Psalm 61:1-2a NKJV)
Now, starting out this way in his prayers wasn’t anything new. David often began asking, if not begging for God to hear his cry for help.
In Psalm 86 he starts by praying, “Bow down Your ear, O Lord, hear me … Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I cry to You all day long … Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications.” (Psalm 86: 1, 3, 6 NKJV)
And in Psalm 5:1-2 he said, “Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation. Give heed to the voice of my cry, my King and my God, for to You I will pray.” (Psalm 5:1-2 NJKV)
And here’s my point in sharing this. God said that David was a man after His (God’s) own heart, and a man who would do God’s will (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). Yet here we see him crying out to God, if I could say it like this, for God to hear him, and pay attention to what was going on in his life.
And now notice now what he goes on to say after asking God to hear his cry. “From the ends of the earth I call to You.” Now, David hadn’t hopped on a ship like Jonah to go to what he was perceived the “ends of the earth.” In fact, what we know is that David never traveled far out of the Land of Israel.
So, what does he mean. This was often used as a metaphor for despair, or even when someone felt alienated from God. And while this is most probably the case with David, as it would be with us, I really think that David knew something more about God, that we often times forget, and that is that nothing could separate him from God, neither physically nor spiritually.
I find this reality in David’s life through the Psalm he wrote, Psalm 139.
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” (Psalms 139:7-10 NKJV)
What David knew is that God always heard him, no matter how far out there He may be, as the Lord Himself confirmed from the very beginning in the Law and later by the writer of Hebrews, and that is that God would never leave or forsake His people (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5).
And this is the assurance that we can have and why we can cry out to God in our distress to find rest and peace. We can cry out to God like David, “Hear our cry, O God, give ear to our prayer,” and that’s because God is always there, and that He never leaves us. We may leave Him, but He never leaves us and He is just a cry and a prayer away.
Notice that David went on to say that this cry is coming from the depths of his heart, which he says is about to, if it hasn’t already become overwhelmed. This word can also be translated as being faint, which is how Matthew Ward described it in his song.
Nothing, however, makes the heart faint or become overwhelmed as tribulation. Jesus said how the hearts of humanity will fail them from fear and the expectation of those things that will come at the end of days (Luke 21:26).
Yet, Jesus promised that times of tribulation will be a part of our lives, as it was for David, and thus something that we should expect, and not be so overwhelmed with fear.
And why is that? Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NKJV)
In this world, a world of trouble and sorrow, Job said that all of us are born to trouble, just as sparks fly upward (Job 5:7). In other words, it’s a given. And seeing that this world is filled with trouble and sorrow, it is this world that we must traverse.
In Psalm 84 we are told that we are only passing through this world, but it is a world of sorrow and tears. The Psalmist refers to is as the Valley of Baca, or the Valley of tears. But he went on to say that we can make this into a spring of water, which I believe is what Jesus said in how we can turn our sorrows into joy because He overcame this world filled with trouble.
But thinking about how our hearts become troubled and so easily get overwhelmed, I wondered what causes it, and the main two are temptations and fears.
Temptations come at us like a flood, and they are Satan’s main weapon. They are those fiery darts that burn our very souls if we allow them to take root. It was temptations that Satan used against Jesus to get Him off point.
And here’s the point, Satan isn’t going to give up his favorite weapon to stop our witness, just as he didn’t give up tempting Jesus. Now, many people think that after those first three temptations in the wilderness that Satan was through with that line of attack, but he wasn’t. Look at what we’re told.
“Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13 NKJV)
And if we’re tempted to think that Jesus was above being tempted, we are told in God’s word that Jesus was tempted in the same way as all of us (Hebrews 4:15).
And so, Satan will come at us again and again with these fiery darts of temptations. And he won’t quit. And that’s because Satan has a strategy when it comes to this battle we’re in. The Apostle Paul said for us to put on the whole armor of God so that we can stand against the “wiles” of the devil (Ephesians 6:11). The Greek word used is “methodeias” which is where we get our word for “methods.” This refers to the schemes of Satan, or better yet, methodology or strategy. In the Greek also means craftiness, or a form of deceit.
Concerning these temptations Satan brings, I like what Martin Luther said in our need to combat them. He said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” (Martin Luther)
In other words, we can’t keep the Devil from suggesting thoughts, from chucking these fiery darts our direction, but we can choose not to dwell or act on them. And we do this the same way that Jesus did there in the wilderness, and that is through the Word of God, or what Paul describes as the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).
There are many things that we fear, and what I can easily say is that fear is a real killer, it is a killer of faith. Fear has the ability to paralyze our potential, keeps us from launching out, and keeps us from having the type of faith to move forward into God’s will.
“Fear” is a four-letter word that has stopped a whole lot of people dead in their tracks, especially Christians, even though we’ve been told that God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
Fear is therefore a part of our everyday lives, and it always has been from the very beginning.
After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they hid themselves when they heard God calling for them.
Adam said, “I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:10 NKJV)
How sad is that, when we are unwilling to face our fears, like Adam and Eve we try to hide ourselves from God. Now do you see why I say that fear is a faith killer.
But to this fear, the Lord says to us, what He said to Joshua when he and the children of Israel were about entering into the Promised Land.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NKJV)
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord said, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 NKJV)
And what did Jesus say? He said, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b NKJV)
And so, it is our faith in Jesus that overcomes the fears of the enemy.
Which is what David goes on to say, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61:2b NKJV)
No matter how great David was, He knew that there was someone greater, and no matter how high he went, he could never go high enough. So, he sought his rest in the Rock, who was none other than the Messiah, who would be king. As the Lord Himself declared through David, saying, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool.’” (Psalm 110:1 NKJV)
And so, that rock that David is speaking about is none other than Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ. We see this in several areas.
The Rock that Provides
For this we have to go back to the Rock that the Lord had Moses strike at Rephidim, when the children of Israel had no water to drink.
“Take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” (Exodus 17:5-6 NKJV)
Now, you might say, how does this speak of Jesus being this rock, or for that matter any rock.
The Apostle Paul talks about how the children of Israel all ate the same spiritual food, which was the Manna, and they all “Drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:4 NKJV)
The Foundational Rock
And while there are several references to Jesus as our foundation, like when He said that He was the foundational cornerstone that the builders of God’s temple had rejected, and Peter declared Jesus as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy saying that Jesus is the stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation, and therefore, whoever believes in Him shall not be put to shame (Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 2:6).
But the place that speaks of this more than any other place is when Jesus said, “Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25 NKJV)
And the Apostle Paul said, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11 NKJV)
And so, Jesus is that rock, that place of stability and security, and who provides all that is needed for our spiritual nourishment.
But not only is Jesus our foundational rock, and rock of provision, but He is also our High Rock, that is, He is higher, and hence greater than everything else in this entire universe.
“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61:2b NKJV)
Jesus is greater than all creation. As the creator of all things, He would have to be.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John 1:1-3 NKJV)
Jesus proved His supremacy over creation when He calmed the raging storm (Mark 4:39), multiplied the loaves and fish (Mark 8:6—9), gave sight to the blind (Mark 8:22—25), and walked on water (Mark 6:48).
The Apostle Paul said, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16)
In fact, His name is above everything in creation, making Him greater than angels, human beings, and demonic forces.
“God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11 NKJV)
And just in case we’ve missed it, that is, Jesus being greater and thus higher, when God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, look at what Paul said.
“When He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things.” (Ephesians 1:20-22 NKJV)
And then David ends up by affirming that God is that place of rest providing safety and security.
“For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.” (Psalm 61:3-4 NKJV)
As that shelter and strong tower, God is the one in whom we run to find refuge and safety when the enemy comes. And it was in the Lord God that David ran to find safety in the times of His distress.
We see this in Psalm 27 where he said, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1 NKJV)
David goes on to say that when the enemy encamps against him his heart will not fear. He said, “For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:5 NKJV)
And the same is for us today when we put our trust and faith in Jesus, the Rock of our Salvation.
When Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy, we can run to Jesus, the Rock of our salvation, the Rock that is higher than any created thing, of which Satan is. And it is here in Jesus and under the shelter of His wings that we can find rest in our distress.
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29 NKJV)
As I thought about this whole subject of finding rest in our distress, I saw how people try to find rest in so many things. They try to rest in their finances and possessions trying to find contentment, but such a rest never satisfies. And that’s because finances fluctuate, as we see in this present inflationary period that has gripped our country, thus making our finances far less than they once were. And as far as our possessions goes, have you ever noticed how there’s aways the new and improved that advertisers pay big bucks to tell us that we need.
Other’s rest in their religion, that is, in the rituals and rules that religious leaders tell us we need to keep. The only problem is that they don’t lead us closer to God, and are a hinderance to our salvation, as we’re told that it is by grace through faith that we’re saved, and not from any work that we might perform.
In the end, to find that rest in times of distress, we will only find it in Jesus, the rock that is higher than everything and everyone. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6 NKJV)
Wednesday Evening Bible Study