Teays Valley Church of God what is your story? “I am created by God and am re-created by the Holy Spirit to become like Jesus. I trust God, seek Him, follow Him, worship Him, and tell others about Him. When I sin, I will ask for forgiveness and move on in victory. That’s my story, and I am sticking to it.“
Psalm 116:1-71 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. 2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. 3 The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. 4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, save me!” 5 The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. 6 The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. 7 Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.
It is turning into a hard winter, isn’t it? Between the chemical leak and the cold weather, we have all had some plans changed. We have all had some interruptions in our schedules. When it is as cold as it has been, you don’t want to go out if you don’t have to. Not even people who like the winter want to be out in what we have been enduring. There is a sense that we have to just hunker down and get through it. Winters like this can cause us to hibernate and isolate ourselves from one another.
We’ll do anything to avoid the intense cold because it is unpleasant. If you are like me you’ll dig into the recesses of the refrigerator, freezer and pantry and pull out whatever scraps you can find to avoid going to the grocery store for just one more day. One day last week we were getting low on anything new I could prepare for dinner, so we had a little bit of chili, some green bean casserole, a few mini hamburgers, some chicken and rice, and blueberry muffins on what I just called a buffet. (I even considered heating up leftover macaroni and cheese, but thought I better save that for the next meal!) My family said it was the oddest dinner EVER, but I wasn’t about to go to the store! We were going to eat whatever we had left! I was going to protect myself from the cold!
There are times when we can hunker down, hold on, and get through things by making due, getting by, and being willing to go without something for a minute, but there are other times when life is so hard and harsh and the conditions last so long that there is nothing we can do in our own power to get through our circumstances. We can feel ourselves going under, and if we don’t get some outside help, we aren’t sure we will live to tell about it. I’m not being dramatic. I’m being real this morning about where many people are living right now. We have ministered to a lot of people in crisis in the past couple of months, and if you talk to very many people yourself in the course of a week, you know life is overwhelming for several people you know personally.
That is where the writer of Psalm 116 was at one time. He described his situation in verse 3: “The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.” Let’s look at his experience. Let’s analyze how he responded to his situation, how God responded to him, and how he responded back to God. The Psalmist helps us understand first that:
God hears your whispers.
Have you ever been in so much pain that you could hardly speak? That you weren’t even making sense as you talked? That you were crying while you were trying to talk and the person listening to you couldn’t make out what you were saying? Or that you were so overwhelmed and stunned and in shock about your circumstances that all you could do, was whisper, and the people trying to hear you had to lean in and get close to you so they could try to hear what you had to say?
We know that God knows our thoughts, so He doesn’t have to hear our words in order to be aware of what is going on in our spirits, but the picture here that the Psalmist is painting is that God is bending down and turning his ear (vs 2) to him in order to intently hear what he is saying. Isn’t that beautiful? I think verse 2 is one of the sweetest verses in the Bible. It should comfort all of us to know that God will come close to us in our time of trouble, and that He is so interested in hearing our problems that He is leaning in close to hear us.
Some of the sweetest times I have had with the Lord have been the times I was overwhelmed by life’s circumstances. In times of trouble and sorrow, that’s when I knew He really cared for me. While those moments are moments of earthly pain, they can become moments of precious spiritual food, moments you will cherish when you whisper about your prayer to Jesus. You don’t even have to make sense when you are talking to God about your problems. He can put your words together just fine. That reminds me of a story about a broken-hearted little girl who was overheard praying one night in her bedroom. As her dad walked by he heard, “Dear Jesus, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and so on as his little girl recited the alphabet.” He leaned in the little girl’s room and asked his young daughter if she was in fact praying. She assured him she was and explained that she wasn’t even sure how to pray about her situation, so she just thought since God knew her and her need so well if she just gave Him the letters, He would put the words together for her.” You might not even know what to whisper, but if you whisper to God, He’ll know what to do with what you share, and He will let you talk as long as you want to. He will listen. He will listen attentively to you.
Why? Why is God willing to bend down and listen to us talk to Him about our pain? Verse 5 holds the answer: “The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.
God is gracious, righteous, and filled with compassion. God can’t deny Himself. He can’t not be what He is. He can’t not be gracious. He can’t not be righteous. He can’t not be compassionate, and yes I know I just used a bunch of double negatives, but what I said is true. He is who He is and who He is, He always is and will always be. He is always compassionate towards you and me.
A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get himself out. A subjective person came along and said, “I feel for you down there.” An objective person walked by and said, “It’s logical that someone would fall down there.” A Pharisee said, “Only bad people fall into pits.” A mathematician calculated how deep the pit was. A news reporter wanted the exclusive story on the pit. An IRS agent asked if he was paying taxes on the pit. A self-pitying person said, “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen my pit.” A fire-and-brimstone preacher said, “You deserve your pit.” A Christian Scientist observed, “The pit is just in your mind.” A psychologist noted, “Your mother and father are to blame for your being in that pit.” A self-esteem therapist said, “Believe in yourself and you can get out of that pit.” An optimist said, “Things could be worse.” A pessimist claimed, “Things will get worse.” “Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit.” (http://www.anchorchristian.org/BreakASweat.pdf)
Jesus is willing to climb into your pit and sit there with you. Jesus has a soft spot in His heart for you. I’m not sure that’s easy for everyone here to believe. I know it isn’t easy for the world to believe. We live in a time when compassion isn’t as easy to find as it used to be. There is a lot of distrust in our world today and with great reason. Vulnerability is a fading quality. People have been hurt. They have put up walls. They have been taught to question everything and to be on their guard. They have been taught that the pursuit of happiness is equal to the pursuit of their own well-being and financial gain. The idea that we are all in this together has long been abandoned in favor of the more individual approach that it is “every man for himself.”
I was troubled to hear just this week about a situation where someone is going through the kind of difficulty Psalm 116 describes and those closest to the person told them to sort of just quit whining and deal with it. They didn’t want to hear about it. There was no compassion, no empathy. It broke my heart. The kind of compassion Jesus has for us is that He is sympathetic to what we are going through AND He desires to help us. He wants to come into our personal pit. You are an individual to God. He is willing to go out of His way for just one person.
In 1975 a child named Raymond Dunn, Jr., was born in New York State. The Associated Press reports that at his birth, a skull fracture and oxygen deprivation caused severe retardation. As Raymond grew, the family discovered further impairments. His twisted body suffered up to twenty seizures per day. He was blind, mute, and immobile. He had severe allergies that limited him to only one food: A meat-based formula made by Gerber Foods.
In 1985, Gerber stopped making the formula that Raymond lived on. Carol Dunn scoured the country to buy what stores had in stock, accumulating cases and cases, but in 1990 her supply ran out. In desperation, she appealed to Gerber for help. Without this particular food, Raymond would starve to death.
The employees of the company listened. In an unprecedented action, volunteers donated hundreds of hours to bring out old equipment, set up production lines, obtain special approval from the USDA, and produce the formula—all for one special boy.
In January 1995, Raymond Dunn, Jr, known as the Gerber boy, died from his physical problems. But during his brief lifetime he called forth a wonderful thing called compassion.
Even though they were feeding massive amounts of children, the Gerber Company had a heart for that one boy. They were moved with compassion and were willing to go to extreme measures to get involved with one boy in order to help him live. God’s compassion for you is just like that. Though He is ministering to the masses, He is willing to go out of His way just for you.
God’s willingness to get involved is engaged when we seek His help. The Psalmist took action to welcome God’s help and perspective on His situation. Look at verse 4: “Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, save me!”
God acts when we call on his name
One hallmark of the people who belong to God is that they will call upon His name. When you call on God’s name, you are admitting you are unable to help yourself. Oh how God is quick to come to our aid when we admit we need Him! When you call on God’s name, you are calling on His reputation and His character. It means you know that what you are dealing with is something He can do something about because it is in His character to do so.
Genesis 4:26 tells us that during the time of Adam’s grandson, Enosh’s birth that was the first time people began to call upon the Name of the Lord. Enosh’s name meant “weak and frail.” At the birth of this weak and frail baby, people began calling upon the Name of the Lord. How many of you know what it feels like to feel weak, like you can’t even choose God’s will or way? Like you don’t have strength to keep the faith? Like you can’t even picture being an overcomer? That is a time to call upon the Name of the Lord.
The next recorded place in Scripture where someone called upon the Name of the Lord is in Genesis 12:8 when Abraham did so. He was in between the town of Ai which means “ruin” and the town of Bethel which means “house of God.” He was calling upon the Name of the Lord to enable him to escape ruin and get to the House of God. Some of you know what it means to be on the verge of ruin, on the verge of something major collapsing in your life. That is the time to call upon the Name of the Lord!
Abraham called upon the name of the Lord again in Genesis 13:4 where it is significant that he had just come through the desert. Listen, when you are in a dry time and in need of Living Water it is time to call upon the Name of the Lord.
The next time we see Abraham calling on the Name of the Lord is in Genesis 21:33. He had just planted a tree, made a covenant and dug wells. You better believe Abraham understood that if it was all going to be successful, he was going to have to have the blessing of God, so he called on the Lord’s name. You can be sure he needed the Everlasting God to supply him with water. You can do all you can do to better yourself, to prosper and get ahead, but you better make sure at the same time you are calling upon the Name of the Lord if it is going to amount to anything!
Samson called upon the Name of the Lord in Judges 16 when he needed strength to defeat his enemies. How many of you feel ganged up on this morning? How many of you feel like you are being attacked? Now is the time to call upon the Name of the Lord!
The people of God called upon the Name of the Lord in I Kings 8 when they desired to be released from captivity and allowed to go back to their homeland. Is anyone in bondage this morning? Maybe you are held captive by sin, by some kind of addiction or in some kind of toxic relationship. It is time to call upon the Name of the Lord!
If you need answers, spiritual answers, life answers, understanding for any situation, call upon the Name of the Lord, Jeremiah 33:2-3, and God will reveal to you what you need to know.
There are many reasons a person should call upon the Name of the Lord, but no greater reason is found than the reason listed in Acts 2:21 which reads, “Everyone who calls upon the Name of the Lord will be saved!” Salvation isn’t found in any other name. There is NO OTHER name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Calling upon the Name of the Lord makes the difference between eternal life and eternal death.
The following short video depicts a community literally calling on the Name of the Lord during tribulation. It is the testimony of a Muslim woman during the 2011 tsunami in Southeast Asia and a compelling witness to God’s salvation to everyone who calls on His name
http://www.youtube.com/embed/woG61vrKnWo?rel=0 (video testimony)
That is a true story! There is power in calling on the Name of the Lord!
Finally, I see in the Psalmist’s response that God is worthy of thanks. Start reading with me at verse 17: I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD– in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD.
He had called upon the Name of the Lord before in private. Through tears and pain He called upon the Name of the Lord, but now, we see him calling upon the Name of the Lord in the presence of all of the people. He was making a thank offering to the Lord in the courts of the Tabernacle where everyone could see him. His private pain was turned into a public testimony. He allowed his story of rescue to be seen by the people.
You can see he said he had made some vows, some promises to God that he intended to fulfill. Can you picture how that might have happened? Things were out of control in his life. He was going under. He felt like life was being squeezed out of his body and he cried out, “God if you just save me, I’ll serve You!” “God if you rescue me, I will tell everyone about You.” “God if You will help me, I will give my life to You!” I don’t know what vows he made, but he intended to make good on them in front of everyone.
Have you ever been there? Have you found yourself making promises to God if he would heal or help or deliver that you would give Him your life? Have you made good on those promises? Have you adequately expressed your thanks to God for saving your life? Have you let your story of rescue been used to encourage others? One way we thank God appropriately is by lifting His name up in front of other people.
I want to reassure you today that you can make it. You will make it if you will whisper your needs to God and call upon His name. Be sure to celebrate His goodness to you by thanking Him and by giving Him credit as you lift up your story for others to hear.