SHARING FAITH

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge”.

Psalm 62:8 NIV

Sixty or so years ago there was a song on the hit parade entitled “Secret Love”. In it there was a line that went, “All at once my secret love became impatient to be free”. Romantic love has to give itself to the loved one by its very nature.

It is the same with faith. When a person comes to know God there is an inner compulsion to tell the good news abroad. The psalmist, having found renewal, salvation and security in God, and having stood up to his enemies through the strength God gave him, and having found hope in God, now has something to tell other people about. He calls on those who worship with him to try this God out. “Trust in him at all times, O people”, he calls. Not just the good times, nor just the tough times when your back is to the wall. Behind this appeal is the experience of the psalmist. “He has been my salvation, peace, security and hope. He can do the same for you”.

The Christian’s faith is a sharing faith too. When Jesus met Andrew, the Bible says, “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (Jn 1:41 NIV). The greatest thing you can do for anyone else is to introduce them to Jesus Christ. He can become the pattern for wholesome living for them as he has for you. God’s greatest gift to anyone is the gift of himself and you can pass that gift on by sharing your faith.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, help me to commend my Saviour to other people. P. Brooks

HOPE

“My hope comes from (God)”.

Psalm 62:5 NIV

A British Methodist minister, Colin Morris, said, “The Christian gospel … sees things whole and sees them steadily and yet still insists that there is a saving possibility in the most desperate situation” (The Hammer of the Lord, p86). This statement describes the quality of hope. This is not the same as optimism which looks on the bright side of things, sometimes ignoring ominous warning signs to the contrary. Hope sees that the situation is desperate but looks to the power and grace of God and believes that he both can and will act in ways beyond the understanding or reckoning of humans. “Towards the end of his life, the founder of the Salvation Army, General William Booth, summed up Christian hope. He was already blind, but was on his own in his study one beautiful summer’s evening. Opening the door and finding him there alone his daughter took his arm and took him to the west-facing window. Then she said, ‘Dad, can you see the sunset?’ He replied, ‘No, my dear, I can’t see the sunset. But I shall see the sunrise’” (The Soldier’s Armoury, 1978, p23).

The psalmist had previously referred to God as his salvation and his fortress. Now he changes one word. God is now his hope. We do not hope because we are “sunny” people. We hope because we know that God has done mighty things, and can do them again. He has done mighty things in our lives, too, as well as in his world. He is not about to pack up tomorrow. Hence our hope comes from our knowledge of who God is and how he works. Place your hope in him. Look for the sunrise.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, inspire me to hope in you.

EVIL IS AFOOT

“They fully intend to topple him from his lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse”.

Psalm 62:4 NIV

One of the problematical states of mind that some people develop is that of paranoid delusions. The person subject to this problem can easily imagine opponents who don’t really exist at all, and can impute sinister motives to perfectly innocent people. With the frequent expressions of hatred and fear in some of the psalms it is possible that this might have been a problem. Be that as it may, a person in a position of power needs to be wide awake to the jealousies, plots and conspiracies that might well be brewing. And people with treacherous intent are adept at concealing their real motives.

The psalmist knew about the mischievous plot that was being hatched against him. Enemies were intent on “toppling him from his lofty place”. Was this David referring to an attempt to overthrow him as king? Nevertheless, the contrast between the enemies and God is clear. Whilst God is his salvation and fortress, these conspirators not only lie, “they take delight in lies”. Furthermore, whilst the enemies speak complimentary things with their mouths, underneath their hearts are full of curses. The king sees right through the subterfuge to the evil lurking beneath and he unmasks it for what it is.

Christian believers too need to be aware of the evil around them. It can work its mischief especially in the workplace. But it can happen in churches too! We will seek to spread love wherever possible, but always remember that Jesus warned us to “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16 NIV).

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, make me keenly aware of evil.

ARE YOU LEANING ?

“How long will you assault a man? Would all of you throw him down – this leaning wall, this tottering fence?”

Psalm 62:3 NIV

Occasionally we get a glimpse of the inner struggles and frailties of famous people. Some years ago a world-famous cricketer confessed to having engaged in match-fixing activities. It was a sad revelation of a flawed personality. A high-ranking international financial figure was found guilty of immoral activity with a hotel chamber-maid. Many people are equally frail in different ways. And not only the famous!

The psalmist was facing opposition from a group of people who may have been slandering him or seeking to end his life. The attack was mounted on him by a number of people simultaneously. It seemed to him that they were coming at him from all sides. This combined onslaught was sufficient to undermine his confidence in his own ability to withstand the pressure. He felt he was about to give way, like a wall leaning over and only being held up by a wooden prop or two, or like a fence that was already tottering. These are graphic descriptions of human frailty. They point to two realities. One is that we ourselves can become vulnerable when we are put under sufficient pressure. The little securities with which we surround ourselves can be quickly weakened by hitherto unknown influences. It also shows us that other people have a breaking-point, and we can never predict when that will come. The psalmist wisely looked to God for solidity and strength to hold up under the pressure.

Look to Christ for strength to remain upright in all respects. Don’t lean over – lean on God!

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, support and strengthen me in all the pressures of life.

UNSHAKEABLE

“He is my fortress, I shall never be shaken”.

Psalm 62:2 NIV

The newspaper headline read: “ENGLAND SHAKEN BY ICELAND”. People waking up after a peaceful night’s sleep were puzzled as there had been no bumps in the night that they had been aware of. In fact, all that had happened was that the Iceland footballers had scored more goals than their English counterparts. There are many kinds of shaking. Directors of a company get a shake (in the sense of a shock) when the profits suddenly drop. A political party is shaken when some prominent leader suddenly resigns. A family is shaken when a relationship that has stood for years suddenly breaks up.

Ancient Israel had been the scene of many military actions, both by its own armies and by those of foreign powers as they passed through. It had led to the building of many fortresses in strategic positions. David, the soldier-king, had used many of them and had probably erected some of them. Most were defensive positions and were fairly impregnable to attackers. He had good reason to have a positive attitude about these fortresses. Some are still visible today. They didn’t shake or tremble and they gave the soldiers inside them a sense of solid security. When he considered God and the sense of spiritual security God gave him, David noted the fortress-like nature of his Lord.

We too can be shaken. An unexpected death rocks us. An accident, a “fall from grace” by some prominent person, a loss of employment – all these and many more – can shake us, as can doubts and fears. Recognize in Jesus your fortress. Make yourself secure in him. Draw from him a sense of solidity, depth, hope and peace. And don’t be shaken.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, I need you as my fortress – help me not to get shaken.

SALVATION

“My salvation comes from (God)”.

Psalm 62:1 NIV

In the late nineteenth century the Salvation Army took as their catchy slogan, “SOUP, SOAP AND SALVATION”. And the degraded people who were the main target of their mission in the slums of London needed all three. It was a very effective strategy.

Originally salvation was the state of being victorious in battle and had the idea of being rescued from defeat, dangerous illness, or serious loss. It came by virtue of strength, the strength God used and the strength he gave to his people to overcome enemies. It was also the fruit of deliverance from captivity and therefore included the idea of freedom and security. Implicit in the meaning of salvation is the fact that we are in many respects unable to help and redeem ourselves, and therefore salvation comes from God. It is a divine accomplishment. It involves a new and deeper relationship with God, and in the New Testament this means know- ing Christ, following him, and benefitting from his love, grace and reconciliation. It is never something we can accomplish ourselves.

In a broader sense it embraces all we receive from God, the annulling of guilt, the forgiveness of sins, the peace of heart, Holy- Spirit imparted joy and hope. But since we are still beset and hampered by the limitations and weaknesses of this earthly existence, salvation also means the future culmination of God’s work in our lives beyond this world. It has a strong sense of a future work God will complete in our souls and hearts. Christ accomplished our salvation on the cross. The Holy Spirit works God’s saving work in our hearts, beginning a work he will eventually complete.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, help me to find peace in you.

PEACE ONLY IN GOD

“My soul finds rest in God alone”.

Psalm 62:1 NIV

Robert Louis Stevenson told a story about a storm at sea. The passengers were ordered to remain below deck. The storm was violent and tossed the people around until it seemed that they would perish. Then, against all orders, one of the passengers forced a door open and made his way upstairs. He clutched the handrail and clambered from step to step. At last he made the deck and worked his way round until he could see the bridge. The captain was lashed to his post at the wheel, skilfully steering the lurching ship. He turned and saw the man trying to move along the deck and sent him a reassuring smile and a nod of the head. It was all the man needed. Turning round, he fought his way back to his fellow-passengers, and told them, ‘I have seen the face of the captain; and all is well’” (A. L. Glegg, Conquering the Capital I, p 58).

We are not the first people to need respite from the pressures and storms of life. The psalmist did, three thousand years ago. He sought rest and renewal in God. He did not seek to escape the hassles. He sought the face of God to enable him to cope with them.

If you are being tossed about and buffeted by the storms of this life, seek the face of Christ. You can, under immense pressure, go to pieces. You probably will if you trust in your own resources. But you can know peace if you place your trust in God and seek the companionship of Jesus. Let him put his steady hand on you and hold on to you throughout the turmoil. Then you will pull through.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, help me to find peace in you.

GOD AND THE KING

“Set (the king’s) throne in the full light of God; post Steady Love and Good Faith as lookouts”.

Psalm 61:7 EHP

It has often been said, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”. In many countries the head of state knows that many of his subjects believe in and worship God and see their human leader as a secondary ruler. But in many others the ruler, be he king or president, believes that he should be first in the respect of all his subjects. The early Christians faced a difficult choice since the Roman Emperor was deemed to be divine and the Christians gave their first loyalty to Christ. The crime those Christians committed who were martyred was the crime of failing to accord divine honour to the Emperor because of their love for Jesus.

The Hebrews of the Old Testament had a good theological understanding of the king. He was in their estimation a servant of God and the authority he wielded was only a derived authority that was granted to him by God. God had priority in all things and the king served the nation under God. Whoever was the leader of the people was second to God. It was therefore essential that the king be humble in his own estimation and that he sought the guidance and help of God. The prayer for the king therefore was a good one. He needed the constant love of God to help him and support him. He needed God’s faithfulness to enable him to be firm and steadfast.

Christian believers should have a similar respect for the office of the head of state. He, or she, is only human and is entitled, barring inexcusable crime, to the respect and honour of the people.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, guide our head of state in the right path.

HERITAGE

“You have heard my vows, O God; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name”.

Psalm 61:5 NIV

By heritage we understand traditions and customs that have been handed down, some of them through a long passage of time. The literature of Shakespeare is part of the heritage of those who speak English. The concepts of freedom and democracy are part of the heritage modern Americans inherit. And no doubt good food is regarded as an element in the heritage of French people.

In ancient Israel there was another element. When the Israelites settled back in Israel they parcelled the land out amongst the twelve tribes who in turn allocated a piece of land to each family to farm. This piece of land was known as the “lot” or heritage and was regarded as God’s gift to the family. They farmed it, not only for their own benefit, but as a response to God and to his glory.

The heritage of Christians is all that has happened since the life of Christ onwards. The great missionary journeys of the apostles and the inclusion of the Gentiles is part of our heritage. The New Testament as the defining of the life of the church is a huge component of Christian heritage, as is the sacramental worship of the church. A rich heritage of hymns has come down to us, as have architecture, liturgical worship, preaching, and the custom of managing church affairs by means of great gatherings in synods and conferences. The Christian education of children through Sunday Schools is a huge part of our heritage. But heritage is not only what we receive. It is also what we pass on. What will you pass on?

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, thank you for the rich heritage that you have given us.

REFUGE AND ESCAPE

“I long to dwell in your tent for ever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings”.

Psalm 61:4 NIV

The Christian faith is a religion which offers love – God’s love – to those who have faith. Often its approach is “Are you struggling? God will help you”. It emphasizes the positive fruit of the Holy Spirit and talks much about love, joy, peace and other strong qualities. Often believers go on camps or retreats to commune with God and get a “spiritual boost”. And it is possible to develop a liking for and enjoyment of this kind of withdrawal into a “place of quiet rest”. This can create a problem. God does not want us to become “soft-pillow Christians”, for ever seeking an escape from the harsh realities of life and the tough situations into which our normal life in the world often pitches us.

David, the writer of Psalm sixty-one, was a king and an army commander. His normal life was tough and he was a tough person, what today we would describe as a “professional soldier”. In this verse he expresses his longing for the comfort of the refuge away from the battles of life. But he goes a step further. He doesn’t just want a temporary refuge, an opportunity to re-charge his batteries, he says he wants to dwell there “for ever”. To do so would be to give in to his desire for ease and comfort. And it would be to turn his religion into a form of escapism.

Don’t allow your faith or your church life to deteriorate into escapism. Any variant of the Christian faith that does this is a sick religion. Guard yourself and your church community from this form of false faith.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, give me a healthy fear of escapist religion.