8 December 2013
He Never Lets Go
Normally, I start these things out with a passage of scripture. Today till be a bit different. Please click the link to go to a Youtube video of the Matt Redman song “You Never Let Go.” If for some reason you can’t get to that video, just put the song title into a search and find the lyrics or an alternate video. When you’re done with that, read on.
I don’t have any children of my own, but I do have godkids and I do recall my own childhood. When you are with a small child and are about to cross a street, what do you say to the child? I’m sure your answer is something like: “Hold my hand, son, before we can cross the street.” Now think for a second… who is really holding on to whom here? If you are holding on to the child’s hand and he lets go, do you also let go? Of course not! The adult tells the child to hold on, more for the child’s education and for so the child feels safe. The adult is the one that is really holding on. It is the same with God. God tells us to hold on to Him as we cross the busy streets of life and walk through dangerous places, but it in all honesty, it is God that holds on to us. And like the song above says. He “never lets go of me.”
I remember vividly times in my life, when the presence of my father or mother was all I needed to get through hard of scary times. One time my father took me to the county fair as a small child, and I went into a scary fun house. One of the parts scared me to pieces, and I screamed for my dad. I knew that if I he was there, I would be safe. I don’t know if he remembers that episode, but I sure do. I have never forgotten it. When we are scared, we need to cry out to God, knowing that He will be our protector. As a child, I was scared about something silly and not really a threat to me, but I knew in my faith and trust in my dad, that he would protect me. Have that same child-like faith in your heavenly Father. He will guard and guide your soul through anything and everything that scares us and worries us.
Are you entering into a rough time of your life? Perhaps you are going through a rough spot in your marriage. Maybe you have been laid off from your job. Maybe your spouse is incarcerated. Maybe you are sick with a horrible disease. Whatever your troubles are, be assured that if you are born again, Christ is holding on to your hand. He is “with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
It’s hard to put your faith in God when the storms of this life are battering you down, and it is all chaos around you. We are so easily distracted by the ‘what-ifs’ of life, and some of those what-ifs are some serious ones? What if I lose my job? What if my someone finds out about my porn addiction? What if I get sick? What if my teenage child doesn’t get his grades up? What if my abusive ex-husband gets custody of my children? What if my spouse finds out about the affair I had? What if I don’t have the money to pay the rent? These are all tough situations. They all are heavy burdens, but even in spite of these tough situations, God is still sovereign and has promised to be with you.
One thing that has been a great blessing to me in the past few months has been the men’s group at my church. This group of God fearing and God loving men have been open and honest with God and each other about their struggles. They have opened up to the group about their struggles and failings (from addiction, to infidelity, to cheating through school). Yet the common thread is that God has brought them through the situations they were in. These men were faced with tough decisions, and they eventually all trusted God in those decisions that needed to be made. In sharing their testimonies, we as a group of men have been encouraged by seeing how God never let go of his chosen people, and how his love and guidance has guided these men through the storms that sink so many lives. Hearing the mighty works of God in these men has given me confidence that no matter what the trial, we will be more than conquerors in Christ. Paul in the face of his persecutions wrote, “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39). In seeing how God has brought these men through great difficulty, I become more confident that He will bring me through any and all trials I face.
I have never experienced a group of Christians so open and honest with each other as this group of men in this church. I’ve been in the church for 32 years, and this is the first place I have truly seen Galatians 6:2 and James 5:16 lived out in such a meaningful way (Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. ~ Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.). I’m going to assume that most of you folks out there, don’t have a forum where this happens. While I so strongly encourage you to find or start a group like this (and perhaps it will start with you making yourself vulnerable and opening up to the men or women in your church), we can look to the Bible to see examples of how God never lets us go, and is with us in the storms of life.
While singing this song in Church this morning, the first thing that came to me was from the book of Daniel. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had refused to bow before false gods in Babylon, and the King, Nebuchadnezzar, ordered them to be burned to death. They were cast bound into the flames, and yet they were not consumed. Here is the account of what happened next from Daniel 3:24-29:
“Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?’ They answered and said to the king, ‘True, O king.’ He answered and said, ‘But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.’
Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, ‘Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!’ Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set asidethe king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.’”
When in the midst of the fire, God was with them. Many theologians believe that this fourth figure in the flames was none other than Christ. At the very least God sent an angel to be with them and protect them. Whatever fire you face in life, God is able to bring you through it. You may not be physically unscathed, as these men were, but you can be confident that your very souls will be preserved, and your spirit strengthened. By your trust and faith through the trials you face, God will be glorified, just as He was by the pagan king of Babylon.
The prophet Elisha also came to my mind. The king of the Syrians was pursuing him, and the prophet’s servant awoke to behold their place surrounded by the warriors and chariots of the enemy. The servant, understandably terrified, cried out to the prophet:
“’Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ [Elisha] said, ‘Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, ‘Please strike this people with blindness.’ So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha” (2 Kings 6:15b-18).
Do you not realize that in your trials that God’s army of angels is working in the spiritual realm all around you? Do you think it is just the ‘super-holy’ that get protection from Angels and special attention from God? Don’t let Satan fool you into thinking you aren’t immeasurably important to God. Jesus is the one who will leave the 99 to seek out the one lost sheep (Matthew 18:11-13). When you feel lost like a lamb separated from the flock, fear not, because the Good Shepherd has not abandoned you.
Elisha’s predecessor, Elijah, also came to my mind. Israel had turned from worshiping God, and with the leadership of their king, they worshiped false gods. Elijah at the risk of his life, faced off against 850 false prophets entirely by himself… well by himself and an All Powerful God! They set up two altars of sacrifice. One to the false gods, and one to the true God of Israel. Neither sacrifice was to be set alight by the prophets. The test was to see if the gods would send their own fire from heaven to consume the sacrifices. The sacrifice to the false gods was left unburnt despite loud pleadings from their prophets. To raise the stakes, Elijah poured buckets and buckets of water on the sacrifice to the true God, and this is what happened:
“And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.’ Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.’” (1 Kings 18:36-39).
If God can bring Elijah through in the face of 850-to-1 odds, what do you think He can do in your situation?
But perhaps you are saying to yourself, “But those were great men of God and of faith. I do not have the faith of these men, nor am I doing these great things for God that these men were doing.” Well fear not friend, God does not only walk by the side of great men and women of faith, but he walks with us when our faith fails. Peter’s faith failed momentarily, when he waked out on the water towards Jesus. It took crazy faith to start walking on water, but part of the way there, he got distracted and scared by the storm raging around him. Maybe you started out strong down a path in faith, but you’ve stumbled and lost your footing. Do you feel like you are sinking? When Peter saw lost his focus on Christ, he began to sink in the storm and he cried out, “’Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased” (Matthew 14:30-32). Don’t you know that Jesus is right next to you in all things and all trials, whether your faith falters or not. Jesus knew Peter wouldn’t make it across the water all the way, and was right there to pull him out of the storm. When the storm around you rages and you feel about to drown in the maelstrom, call out to Jesus. He is right there at less than an arm’s length ready and able to save and preserve your spirit and soul. I confess that I am often of little faith, and I doubt too often. But I am glad that even when I doubt, Jesus is there at my very side to rescue my soul from destruction and harm.
Perhaps you got into the mess you are in, because of blatant disobedience and sin. Perhaps you are like me and the men of my group that have stumbled into sin and fallen into the traps of the enemy due to our own sinful nature. Do you not realize that these are the very things that Jesus Christ came to redeem us from? Even if you are the adulterer, the addict, the sexually immoral, or the crook, Jesus has condescended to be beside you in the mess of your life. Jesus, the pure and holy one, came to a wretchedly sinful planet, filled with wretchedly sinful people, to love them, teach them, and die for them. Jesus died for you, while you were in your sins. Friend, don’t think that God can’t redeem your sinful mess. David sinned with Bathsheba, and the consequences were horrible, but out of that mess, God brought forth King Solomon. Joseph was a total brat and a jerk when he antagonized his brothers with his favored status with their father. He was such a pain to his brothers that they sold him into slavery. Yet God redeemed that mess of a haughty young man, and saved thousands (including his own family) from famine. Peter rejected Jesus three times, in Jesus’ most trying hour, and he was restored to lead the early church. Jonah ran from God in blatant disobedience, and found himself about to drown and then staring at the insides of a giant fish. Yet God did not abandon Jonah to the deep. Jonah realizing that God saves and redeems, prayed:
“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and He answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice… you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple… But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:1-9)
It doesn’t matter how you got into the storm you are facing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big storm or a little one. It doesn’t matter if the mess you are in is entirely of your own making. Jesus is there at your side. In every instance God has not abandoned you. He is the one that comes running to your aid… even more than that, he is the one that is aiding you, when you don’t even yet realize it. God holds your hand in the scary and dangerous places of this life, and he never lets go. Even when we have let go, Christ holds on and waits in anticipation for us to cry out again to him in faith and trust.
Jesus prayed before his death, “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction [Judas], that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12). Nothing has changed in 2000 years. He has not lost one of his sheep. You are secure in His hand. Jesus also said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:37-39).
Don’t be anxious and doubt, my Christian friends. No matter what the trial is, no matter how you got there, no matter how the storms of life rage, your soul will be brought through, because it is secure in the hands of an all loving and all powerful God. He is faithful to come to our aid, and in all truth he is at our side already aiding us in ways we don’t know. Christian, stop thrashing about like a scared child, and look up to the great father that already holds your hand while you are scared and imperiled. Find peace in your Father, for He is good and he loves you. If you have not turned to Christ, don’t waste a moment, for he will adopt you as his own Child when you call upon him as savior and God as father and King.
Here are some more verses I hope you find encouraging:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surelygoodness and mercyshall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. (Psalm 23)
And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” (Judges 6:14-16)
Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15)
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:11-13)
“ No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5)
“But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.” (Isaiah 43:1-3)
“Three times I [Paul] pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)
- The Fiery Furnace in Babylon: Another place where we can see Jesus, “the Son of God”! (bereansearching.wordpress.com)
- Fearful Courage (josephfranks.wordpress.com)