Bountiful Grace – Overcoming Sorrow

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September 3, 2017

Psalm 13

Allen Burns

Sermon Title: Bountiful Grace Sermon Text: Psalm 13 Memory Verse: 2 Corinthians 12:9 MAIN IDEA: Bring rejoicing to your heart by trusting in God’s lovingkindness The Sorrow of Lament The Call for Help The Joy of Faith   NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The audio and video message differs from the manuscript. Thanks for understanding.    

The Sorrow of Lament

Many people in Texas are experiencing deep sorrow. Hurricane Harvey has brought catastrophic destruction, and the death toll continues to rise. The effects of the hurricane and flooding will be felt for decades. News reports say over 70% of the homes do not have flood insurance. Thousands of people are homeless. Businesses are wiped out. Imagine sleeping on the floor in the convention center. Fake charities are taking in relief funds, which adds to the sorrow. The impact on daily living is devastating. It is safe to assume hundreds of thousands of people in Texas experience great sorrow as we sit comfortably here in New England enjoying our Labor Day weekend. Many are experiencing sorrow on top of sorrow. It is nearly impossible to live without feeling deep grief and sorrow. We will have times of lament during our life. The Bible often speaks of lament and sorrow. There is even a book titled Lamentations. The Psalms address a wide range of human emotions. The most frequent of emotions is that of joy, but another frequent emotion is lament. To lament is to have very deep grief and sorrow. Sorrow is lessened when we have someone willing to walk alongside us. The presence of a friend or a loved one through a time of difficulty makes the situation much more tolerable. Others help to bear the sorrow. The worst of all sorrow is when a child of God feels abandoned by God. When we know God and experience His Fatherly love, it is devastating to not feel His presence when He is needed the most. God’s power and love is our only hope in difficulty. We know that without Him, life is impossible. Feeling God is not with us, makes hard situations even more dire. Psalm 13 speaks of David finding himself in the situation of not feeling God’s presence in his time of sorrow. We are unaware of his circumstances or the time when this Psalm is written. Some believe it is written when David is fleeing his son Absalom, but we may not know for certain. David is experiencing great sorrow. His sorrow fills his heart all the day. It seems to be never ending. He asks, “how long” four times. The literal translation is “until where.” Until what time, Lord, until where? How long will You forget me, Lord, forever? How long will You hide Your face? To say God shines His face upon us is to say God is sending His blessings. Saying, God hides His face is to say God is sending His curse. Eight times in the psalms this expression is used. Job asks God the same. Why do You hide Your face and consider me Your enemy? Job 13:24 Life becomes so miserable that it seems not only did God leave, but it feels to David as though God sees David as an enemy. The third, “how long” question is about God no longer being David’s counselor. David’s only counsel is his sorrow filled heart. “How long shall I take counsel in my heart which is filled with sorrow all day long.” As we may imagine, a heart filled with sorrow gives poor advice. The fourth, “how long” question asks how long will his enemies be exalted. God told David that he is to be king. It is supposed to be God’s will for David to be exalted, not his enemies. How long will David before David sits on the throne and God’s will is accomplished? The nation of Israel is in the balance when David is not king. Did God change His mind? Did God leave David and decide to exalt His enemies instead? David is expressing his sorrow to God. His sorrow comes from God’s absence. To make matters worse, his enemies are lifted-up. When we are in times of grief, the laughter of our enemies makes the situation even more difficult.

The Call for Help

David changes from pouring out his sorrow to God to calling out for help. He begins by telling God of how he felt, and now he tells God what he would like God to do. 3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, 4 And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken. (Ps. 19:1-4) David asks God, “Consider what I am saying and provide me with an answer.” His prayer has one request which is to have God enlighten his eyes. “Enlighten my eyes or I will die, and if I die, my enemies will rejoice.” Having enlightened eyes is a frequent phrase in the Scripture meaning to see from God’s perspective.f David gives a very interesting prayer request. Notice he doesn’t ask God to change the circumstances nor does he ask God to triumph over his enemies. There are times David asks God to triumph over his enemies, but not this time. David asks that he can see. In this situation, David sees what is happening from his perspective all too well. And, he doesn’t like what he sees. His perspective and thoughts on the situation bring him to dire straits. So, David asks God to help him see what is going on from God’s vantage point. He wants to see things the way God sees things. If he may only see life as God sees life, then he knows he will have no reason for sorrow. If his eyes are enlightened, his heart will rejoice. David trusts God and knows God is allowing the situation. He knows God sees rightly and there must be a reason for what is going on.

The Joy of Faith

Suddenly, in verse five, the Psalm takes a turn. No reason is given for the sudden change. There is no indication of time elapsing or of any change in David’s situation. There is nothing in the Psalm to have us believe the enemies have left. What we are left to believe is God enlightens David’s eyes, so his focus is no longer on the situation, but he now looks upon the sureness of God’s mercy. 5 But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. 6 I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me. (Ps. 19:5-6) The sorrow stops. God’s face is no longer turned away. What appeared to be imminent death is now abounding life. The heart of sorrow is now a heart filled with bountiful rejoicing. The only difference is David’s proclamation of faith. The situation is dire, BUT, I trust in Your lovingkindness; Your mercy. Therefore, my sorrow ends and my heart rejoices. It’s as if David is saying, “My enemies are not good, but God is good to me. My situation brings me to death, but God brings me to life.” God is worth trusting even when David does not feel as though He is present. God graciously opens David’s eyes so that he sees from a different perspective. David sees how God deals bountifully with him. God always has, so of course, David knows God always will.

What are we to learn?

Many of us experience times of depression and sorrow. There are seven truths we may learn about sorrow how we are to deal with our sorrow.

1)      Sorrow is common to Christians

David is a Biblical hero, and he has sorrow. Job is a godly man who God calls righteous, but Job experiences great sorrow. The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians that he and his companions are afflicted in every way, carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, death is working in them (2 Cor. 4:8-12). Scripture describes Jesus as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Christians sorrow does not end with Bible times. At the Nicene Council, an important church gathering in the 4th century A.D., many attendees experience suffering. Only 12 of the 318 were physically unharmed. The rest of the delegates, 306, 97%, had lost an eye, a hand, or limped on a leg lamed by torture for their Christian faith. John Paxton is a missionary to the cannibals in the South Sea Islands of the Pacific. His life story is one of the most dramatic of all missionaries. He suffers great loss. Early in his ministry, his wife and child die of a disease. After burying his wife and newborn, he said, “Let those who have ever passed through any similar darkness as of midnight feel for me; as for all others, it would be more than vain to try to paint my sorrows!”[1] Sometimes, the sorrow experienced by Christians is impossible to describe. Sorrow among Christians is common.

2)      Sorrow is not a sin

David’s sorrow is not a sin. We need to know that sorrow is not a sin. It is never a sin to experience sorrow and despair. When we sin, it may bring us sorrow. If we are disobedient to God, we have great grief. But, the sorrow is not a sin. Despair and lament may run deep. Jesus Christ said, 'My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.' There was no sin in Him, and consequently no sin in His deep depression. There is no Scriptural basis for telling someone that their sorrow is a sin. It may very well be that telling someone their sorrow is a sin, is a sin! Sorrow is not a sin.

3)      Sorrow may be very deep

David’s sorrow is deep. His heart hurts all the day long. It seems to go on forever. His pain is real. Jesus’ experience of sorrow is very deep; He expresses that it feels it will bring Him to death. We must never trivialize sorrow. It is real. It hurts. When people are sorrowful, we need to show compassion and love. We would not say to Jesus, “get over it, man up.” We need to treat others in the same way we treat Jesus. Sorrow is real, and it may run very deep.

4)      Sorrow is best expressed to God

David brings his sorrow to God. We need to follow his example. As children of God, it is wrong for us to drag everyone else into our sorrow. Martin Luther once was so depressed over a prolonged period that one day his wife came downstairs wearing all black. Martin Luther said, “Who died?” She said, “God has.” He said, “God hasn’t died.” And she said, “Well, live like it and act like it.” Only God can help us in our sorrow. Like David, we are to bring our sorrow to the Lord in prayer. Questioning God from our heart is not wrong. God doesn’t condemn David for writing Psalm 13 (Spirit in spired). He knows of David’s sorrow. God knows everything about us. But, we should not question His Word, faithfulness nor call to question His works of salvation. When we feel as though everything is out of control, even to the point God has turned His face away, we are to cry out to Him.

5)      Sorrow is an opportunity to pray for God to reveal His purpose

David asks God to enlighten his eyes. As we cry out to God expressing our sorrow, we are to ask God to enlighten our eyes. Often, God doesn’t work and act in the way we expect. Ask God to open your eyes to His will. Why is it so dark around me when the sun shines? What are you doing Lord? Please help me understand. Enlighten my eyes. Jesus cries out, “My God, why have you abandoned me” and yet He is in the center of God’s purpose! The seeming absence of God is not a sign of God’s lack of power or concern. His delay is not a sign of His judgment. God is worthy of our worship during our sorrow. The purposes of God are difficult to understand. Why does God allow the children of Houston to suffer? Why does God allow imprisonment of Christians in countries of persecution? Why does God allow evil? Why does God allow His children to experience deep, prolonged despair while the children of disobedience experience happiness and success? Paul suffered a thorn in the flesh. He prayed to God for help. God’s answer is not to take away the thorn, but to open Paul’s eyes. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Paul cries out to God, take away this thorn. But, God’s answer is not to take away the thorn, but to enlighten Paul’s eyes to the purpose of the thorn. God’s purpose is to show the power of Christ, and that His grace is sufficient. In times of pain, we need to ask God to enlighten our eyes. We may not get a specific answer like Paul, but God gives us His word, and in His word, we know He is working all things for good. We know God is merciful and forgiving. We know we are co-heirs with Christ and we sit with Him in the heavenly places.

6)      Sorrow is an opportunity to trust in God, not our circumstance

MAIN IDEA: Bring rejoicing to your heart by trusting in God’s lovingkindness. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like God is present, but God promises to always be present. Sometimes it seems evil wins, but God promises good. David does not put his faith in a positive outcome to his situation. David puts His faith in God’s mercy. God does not promise a positive outcome in our situations; God promises His presence eternally in His glorious Kingdom. God says He is working all things for good for those who love Him and are called by His name. Christians in Houston don’t look outside and find it easy to see God working all things for good. Christians in North Korean prisons find it difficult to see how God is working all things for good. We have only one place to look and know God is working all things for good, and that is in God’s word. God proves Himself faithful to His promises. He never reneges on His promises. The promises of God find their yes in Christ. To say God is not working all things for good is to say that God does not fulfill His promises which makes God a liar. To say God is not faithful to His promises is to say the work of Jesus is insufficient. A catastrophic flood, earthquake or a war does not undo God’s promises of Scripture. Death of a loved one does not undo God’s promises. When we trust in God, we speak and think with the right priority. Too often, we speak backward theology. What we say is true, but it is backward. Listen to how changing the order of a sentence makes all the difference. “I know God loves me, but I am experiencing great sorrow and hardship.” Compare that to, “I am experiencing great sorrow and hardship, but I know God loves me.” The most important truth always follows the word “but.” In Psalm 13, the expression of David’s sorrow comes first. Verse five begins with the word, “but.” David says, “But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness.” The Psalm is completely different because of where Psalm points. The Psalm points to God’s mercy. Where are we leading other people, and ourselves when we speak? Are we leading people to think about our sorrow, or are we pointing people to the triumph of God’s mercy? Trust God in our times of sorrow.

7)      Sorrow is not forever

We read in the Word, and we look to the cross and know of God’s love and mercy. God is not dead. And we, who know of God’s grace and mercy, are to speak hope to the world. We are a people of hope. We may have sorrows, but we have hope. We may experience horrific tragedy, but we have hope. We may feel like God turns His face from us, but we have hope in knowing God promises never to leave us or forsake us. When despair and sorrow comes to our door, let them in, tell them to sit down, grab our Bible, and read words of hope. We are to set our minds on God’s promises and our hope in heaven. … Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3-4) There is a story of a woman in a mental sanitarium. She’d been in the sanitarium for many years with an extreme depression. She used to just sit on a bench every day staring at the earth—no conversation, no response. And one day a new doctor, who’d never seen her, came down the hall and greeted her. He said, “Good morning!” She made no reply. “What is your name?” he said. No answer. “Well, my name is Doctor Heven, H-E-V-E-N, and I’ll be by to see you again tomorrow.” As he walked away, she lifted her head and said to him, “What did you say your name was?” The doctor did not know the patient, so he did not know how remarkable it was that she was saying anything at all. He said, “Heven, H-E-V-E-N.” Somehow in her hurting mind, the woman confused his name with the word heaven, and she began thinking about heaven. As she thought about heaven, she thought about God and His love made known to us in Christ. The next day she said to everyone she met in the hospital, “This is the day which the Lord has made.” And the day after that she said, “Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil.” Within six days she was saying, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Within five weeks she was released from the hospital. For the remainder of her life, she was a leading teacher in southern California. We triumph in hope. We triumph in knowing God sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins. As Paul writes, we triumph in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who is given to us (Rom 5:3-5). [1] Paton, John Gibson. The Story of John G. Paton Or Thirty Years Among South Sea Cannibals (Kindle Locations 827-828). Kindle Edition.