The Security We Need!
John 16:33: "In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
These words of Jesus promises security as we journey through this world.
The going will be difficult and sometimes dangerous.
The cost will be high.
We need to heed the warning that there is danger ahead.
The clouds of the coming storm were already dark on the horizon.
Soon it would break up on them, and take Jesus to the cross.
He did not ask that His disciples be exempt from suffering -- then or ever.
That is what the disciples must expect in their world.
It is what we can expect in ours.
But Jesus gave us the words of assurance and encouragement.
He said, "Courage for I have conquered the world."
These were amazing words.
Think about that.
Jesus was about to be betrayed, forsaken, and crucified by the cruel forces of evil.
While facing all that he had the faith to say: "Be of good cheer; the victory will be mine and yours."
In our troubled world that is the kind of security that we need.
That is a world that can be shaken.
In this kind of world there is no assurance that the things we thought would remain will remain.
The writer of Hebrews we have this observation concerning his world:
"Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven"
This phrase, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of what is shaken.
That is to say, there are some things that we may well expect to succumb to the process of destruction.
We must remember that the author of Hebrews was living in a world dominated by Rome.
This way of life seemed destined to last forever.
Those of the Jewish faith who had turned Christian knew better.
The institutions and way of life which they had cherished in older days were gone.
The Temple was destroyed, the altar desecrated, the sacrifices discontinued.
The priesthood vanquished.
Their world had been shaken.
By the end of the fourth century, Rome also would have experienced that.
That which seems so stable, so changeless today can be suddenly be shaken to pieces.
I remember a summer day in 1945 when the first atomic bomb burst over Hiroshima, Japan,
and that reminded us how sudden and complete that destruction can be.
Today that force has been multiplied a thousand fold.
Now today many world powers hold in their hands the potential power to destroy
not only Western civilization but all mankind.
That which we thought was secure can be taken from us.
And even barring the holocaust of a nuclear war, the world is slowly changing many of the things
that we thought would last.
Ideals, habits, institutions, ethical standards that were once apparently solid and durable
now seem to many to be as "frail as frost landscapes on a window pane."
Nuclear power makes everything on earth same perishable
Then there is social insecurity.
There are forces at work much closer home that affect the society of which we are a part.
We are a people on the move.
We are a nomadic people in a non-nomadic society.
Years ago it was a movement from the rural areas to the great urban centers.
Then it was the movement from the center to the circumference within the city.
We have become a suburban society.
It is a movement from city to city.
We are transient society.
So, what does all this mean?
It means there are millions of our population who will never live in any one place long enough
to put down roots and grow.
They do not know the security of an established community life.
There are definite stabilizing effects that come from being part of a community.
People on the move often find it difficult to make contact with "the church of their parents."
Consequently, they lose interest and deny their children the privilege of Christian worship
and education which their parents provided for them.
The public school can be another stabilizing force.
It has meant so much to many of us who have lived in one community most of our lives.
The teachers who taught and influenced us, and the friends we made have been
the hands of strength holding us through the years.
On the other hand, we can never measure the disastrous consequences that may come
to a child's sense of security by removing him from one school to another every few years,
uprooting him from a friendly and familiar environment.
The same is true of the entire community.
Most of us do not know our neighbors, and they do not know us.
So, we feel no sense of responsibility or concern for one another.
My wife and I lived in a community while I was in seminary, and we didn't know our neighbors.
Our neighbors didn't know us.
One afternoon our landlady came to our door to tell us that the lady who lived by herself next door
had been dead for three days and nobody knew about her death.
This is a small world, but often two houses side-by-side can be worlds apart.
When we are on the move we do not feel a part of society.
We accept little or no responsibility for its welfare.
We do not know the strength that can come by being a part of the life of the church,
the school,and the neighborhood.
We are victims of social insecurity.
To whom can we turn in this hour of our need?
In an age of plenty, material values have predominated over all others.
The rising cost of living has forced us to keep everlastingly at it just to keep ahead.
"Keeping up with the Joneses" has often imposed upon us the standard
that we are not reasonably able to maintain.
So often, we feel forced to try to keep up with them or better them at the sacrifice of all other values.
Materialism has become the goal of success, and the nature of all progress.
Some years ago a study was conducted of 2000 young people ages 18 to 29 years of age.
It was found that 76% of those who discussed future aspirations were seeking
primarily respectability and security.
They were seeking security in terms of material goods, security in terms of one's own little family circle,
security in terms of acceptance and respect in one's own small group of acquaintance.
One answer that was possibly typical of the average came from a young man.
He said: "The most important thing in life is to be successful ... I'd like to be happy
and have plenty of money.
I'd like to be married have a nice home, kids and a good reputation in the community."
It shouldn't surprise us that for millions of people success means material success,
and to them security means financial security.
We look to hospitalization insurance or welfare to care for us when we were born and when we are sick.
Many are counting on "Social Security" to provide for them in retirement.
And, of course in the days in which we live, that is not enough.
Many have "insurance" that will bury them when they die.
From the cradle to the grave material provision has been made to care for us.
The tragedy is that all of this is not security.
No one would underestimate the value of wise planning for financial security in a time of emergency,
but we should all know that it is a mirage in the desert of want if that is all we have.
Jesus drove this truth home as He told the story of the rich man building bigger barns
to care for his great harvest.
This man was saying exactly what many so often say or feel:
"And he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones;
in that I will store all my grain and my goods.
And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years;
take your ease, eat, drink, be merry." (Luke 12:18-19)
He had all that he would need -- now or ever -- so he thought.
Then God confronted him with his poverty -- the poverty of his soul.
He had no spiritual security.
God said to him, "Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared,
whose will they be?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
What the rich man considered everything turned out to be nothing.
A person's life is made secure, not my things, but by the triumph over things.
In our mad quest for material security we shall be weighed and found wanting.
One of the most serious threats to our security, whether it be social, national, or personal,
is the threat to the slowly disintegrating, American family life.
It is in the home that a man and a woman have found such courage and strength from each other
that the two have been more than two.
It is in the home that a child has found his or her best environment and resource
for physical, mental, and spiritual challenge and growth.
It is in the home that he first learns what it means to be wanted and love and needed.
It is in the home that society has found its greatest hope for the future, and its bulwark
against the enemies of society.
It is to the home that we must turn to find leadership and character adequate for our world.
When something happens to the home life as it is happening in our nation today,
a vital blow is being struck at the very heart of our whole society.
The alarming increase in infidelity and divorce, the rising tide of juvenile crime,
the proliferation of illegal drugs, gang wars, the breakdown of moral responsibility in the home
is like an earthquake.
It is shaking our society to pieces, and no one can escape the consequences.
We can expect trouble in the outside world.
The trouble really begins when it gets inside of us.
The external events sensorial about us are impartial.
In one way or another they come to all of us alike -- war, natural disasters, economic reverses,
sickness, and death.
In Matthew 5:45 Jesus said: "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and only good,
and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."
God does not play favorites.
What makes the difference?
It depends upon the inwardness of life.
If the trouble gets only inside, like the seawater breaking in the dykes,
our whole world is washed by the deadening effect of our moods.
So here we will deal with only a few of them.
There is the crisis of frustration.
After World War I, the rising generation was called "the lost generation."
In our time a new mood prevails.
This generation could be called the "beat generation."
It has been called this because many have summed it up as a "lost sense of purpose."
They seem to be unable to find any worthwhile reason for living.
What has happened that has brought about such a mood?
Perhaps it is because the victories that have been won have all come to nothing.
They turned to ashes in our hands.
We have fought and won several terrible wars, but for what purpose?
We fought a limited war in Korea, but there was never a clear-cut triumph.
Other wars have followed that have been called "the cold war" or a "war of nerves"
without any satisfying achievement and never arriving.
Often, we have achieved goals only to find them unsatisfying.
We have become "successful"; we have what it takes to satisfy the basic hunger
for food and drink, sex and play, but they don't really satisfy.
There is still a deep, gnawing hunger.
We have dreamed dreams, and have seen visions, and have followed the rainbows for the pots of gold,
and we have never found the fulfillment, or in finding, we have been disappointed.
The mood of frustration has swept over our souls.
We have cried, "What's the use?"
Life is suffering from frustration and defeat.
There is also the crisis of anxiety.
Pick up almost any book that has to do with our personal crises,
and you will find one of the major problems is anxiety.
Probably, historians of the future will call our time the age of anxiety.
Few of us would argue with that analysis.
One historian has called ours as the "Age of Anxiety."
Albert Camus calls this the "century of fear."
Anxiety is the most common affliction of our age.
Everywhere we look we see people afraid of the past, fearful of the future,
whose lives have broken down under the strain of unrelieved anxiety.
Hospitals are crowded with patients suffering from anxiety neurosis.
Millions have lived out their lives in the shadow of fear and anxiety.
Anxiety in our time is not without reason.
Many factors have contributed to it.
We are all but lost in an awful maze of uncertainty.
World events are rushing toward an unpredictable climax.
It doesn't look good.
The character of many of those in places of power in our world is such that we cannot trust them.
Add to that our own personal uncertainties -- our job, our finances, our children, and our health.
It is so ironic that we feel most insecure at a time when driving most desperately
to provide security for everybody.
So we ought to feel secure.
We have been promised security in old age, security in unemployment, security in illness,
but with all the promises, we still feel insecure.
Paradoxically, we feel the insecurity of security.
We have an uneasy suspicion that the promised security itself is insecurity.
Once we open the gates of our inner life to those anxieties -- either actual or imaginary
-- a real crisis develops in our own lives.
Even at best, our strength and energy are sapped by fruitless worry.
Many people go to their homes physically and mentally exhausted at the end of the day,
not because they are overworked but because they have carried too heavy a load of anxieties.
Most of the fatigue of sedentary workers in good health is due to emotional factors.
The emotions in question are listed as: worry, frustration, jealousy, anger, envy, and a wide variety of fears.
If we allow these things to go unchecked, if we find no care for our anxieties,
we can even be swept from our moorings and join that ever-growing number
of mentally distraught people who have literally "worried themselves sick."
There is also the crisis of tragedy.
Our concern that something may happen to us is not altogether imaginary.
Things do happen to us.
They are of such nature as to change the course of a whole life.
They take many forms.
A tornado strikes or hurricane comes and a family's possessions are suddenly blown away.
The husband goes to the hospital for a checkup.
It is discovered that he is a victim of cancer, and that he can never be well.
The young woman goes to the emergency room with pain that she cannot endure,
and by morning she dies of heart attack.
A wife and mother of three children and goes to the hospital for tests and is discovered
to have multiple sclerosis.
She was an invalid for the rest of her life.
She suffered through the disease until it got all the way up into her throat,
and she lost all the functions of her body.
There might be a moral tragedy involving a friend or a member of one's own family.
We live under the shadow that is worse than some physical infirmity.
Few, if any of us, escape.
Sooner or later, sickness, sorrow, suffering will get around to most all of us.
One day we shall open the book of life and find the word "tragedy" written next to our name.
Although we cannot escape the tragic event that may come to us, the real tragedy occurs
when the mood created by it, gets on the inside of us.
We may try to imagine that it does not exist and indulge in the mood of "escapism."
We may follow the advice of Job's wife and curse God that He made us, and this sorry scheme of things.
We may open our heart to the spirit of resentment, blaming others for our misfortunes.
We may stoically grit our teeth and harden our feelings, bear our burdens, endure our hardships -- alone.
Again, the same events happen to all of us.
The same wind blows over a stagnant pool of water that blows over a rose garden.
In one instance it bears a foul odor, and in the other, a sweet fragrance..
It may one person hard and resentful..
The other it may make fruitful.
The difference is in the inwardness of life.
What happens to trouble us and to us generally depends upon the way we meet it
within the citadel of our own soul.
Then there is the crises of doubt.
In almost any tragedy -- sickness, suffering, sorrow -- the real crisis develops when the problem
begins to impinge upon us personally.
As long as we discuss it as a world problem or an academic problem we can look at it quite objectively.
But when it happens to us, it tears at our own inner being.
Someone has said that they could stand almost anything if he knew that it would not last forever.
But what happens when the suffering continues day after day and year after year.
Where can we find an answer to the cruel suffering of all as we cry, "Why did this happen to me?"
We will ask that question, and it is not a sin to ask it.
To try to find meaning in that experience, to try to see what we have done to deserve it,
to try to understand how such things can happen in the world of "a God of love" has been
the searching quest of the greatest of men.
It came even to our Lord in His hour of suffering.
In Matthew 27:46 our Lord cries out: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Doubt is not disgrace.
Doubt is not cynicism.
Cynicism is bitterness, and it is also unbelief.
It sees no good in anything.
Life has lost its meaning.
Doubt is the soul in search of meaning.
Doubt is in faith in search of a deeper dimension.
Cynicism turns its back on God.
Doubt tries to look through the clouds to see the face of God more clearly.
Paul saw that face and found that purpose when he said:
"We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him,
who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)
As long as we keep our faces focused on Him, we will find our way out and through.
It is only when doubt turns to cynicism that we will lose our way.
Finally let's look at the things that remain.
The writer to the Hebrews said to the Christians in the midst of his world that could be shaken
and should be aware of those things that would remain,
such as "a kingdom that cannot be shaken." (Hebrews 12:28)
In another place he says, "We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul." (Hebrews 6:19)
In such a time as his, he needed that.
When so many things he had cherished and counted on were being swept aside like straws in the wind,
he needed something that was steadfast and abiding.
We need that today in our king of world.
This generation has had one certainty after another taken away.
The rug has been pulled out from under its feet, and it has nothing to stand on.
Often, it is necessary for that which can be shaken to be taken away so that we may turn
to that which cannot be shaken.
It is to those eternal truths that we need to give our attention.
First, the unseen is real.
Too often we have put our confidence in things that we can handle and measure and see.
We have been led to believe that these have ultimate reality.
If we are wise, we will see that this is not so.
Financial security can be taken from us.
Political kingdoms changed and die.
Man-made institutions are transient.
We need faith to see the reality of the unseen.
I read of a blind man that used to say: "People say 'seeing is believing," but I say, "believing is seeing.'"
Because of his blindness, he came to a deeper sense of reality.
He believed that faith itself would enable him to lay hold upon it.
This has always been the hidden force back of those who have sought for "a city, not made with hands,"
a city that has foundations beyond man's unstable existence.
As the writer of Hebrews says: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)
Phillips translates that as, "Now faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hoped for;
it means being certain of things we cannot see." (Hebrews 11:1, Phillips)
So within man is the faculty that binds his soul to a fixed reality -- faith, hope, love, and God Himself.
This is not wishful thinking.
It is not a wild dream of an idealist.
Men have ventured forth believing that God could be trusted and that His purposes would be fulfilled.
The record of their incredible achievements stands for all to read.
They were always searching for a deeper reality, believing that God would validate their faith.
God did not disappoint them, and He will not disappoint us.
For "We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen:
for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
(2 Corinthians 4:18)
Then there is the certainty of God.
Faith in the unseen does not go far enough.
Faith must lead us to an Ultimate Reality -- to the One we can trust.
It is because of God that the invisible qualities of love and faith and hope have meaning.
And it is God who gives abiding quality and meaning to all else.
Arthur Hugh Clough writes:
"It fortifies my soul to know
That, though I perish, Truth is so:
That, howsoe'er I stray and range,
What'ere I do, Thou dost not change.
I steadier step when I recall
That, if I slip Thou dost not fall."
Nothing less than this will satisfy the soul's quest for security.
The security we must have is God Himself.
"I trust in God wherever I may be,
Upon the land or on the rolling sea;
For come what may from day to day,
My heav'nly Father watches over me.
I trust in God, I know He cares for me;
On mountain bleak or on the stormy sea;
Though billows roll, He keeps my soul,
My heav'nly Father watches over me.
He makes the rose an object of His care,
He guides the eagle through the pathless air;
And surely He remembers me,
My heav'nly Father watches over me.
I trust in God, for, in the lion's den,
On battlefield,or in the prison pen;
Through praise or blame, through flood or flame,
My heav'nly Father watches over me.
The valley may be dark, the shadows deep,
But oh, the shepherd guards His lonely sheep;
And through the gloom, He'll lead me home,
My heav'nly Father watches over me.
-- By William C. Martin
Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White