Triumph in Times Of Trouble

Psalm 46

Psalm 46 enables us to claim the presence of God and to triumph in times of trouble.
Most of us realize that we're going to have troubled times in our lives.
So we need to discover how to react in troubles, and what we can learn from them,
and how God helps us in the midst of them.

God never promised a life without troubles.
He did promise us an untroubled heart as we read in John 14:1: "Let not your heart be troubled."
An untroubled heart can triumph over troubles based on these firm convictions.
The Lord is ever with us, and He will give us peace inside.

This is the triumphant message of Psalm 46.
This psalm expresses all three convictions.
This encouraging progression of the witness of the Psalm of how the Lord helped him
and Israel to triumph over trouble was occasioned by a radical intervention of the Lord.

Most biblical scholars agree that this psalm was written after the Lord stepped in to save Jerusalem
from Sennacherib's siege.
The historical background helps us to appreciate how the Lord intervenes in our troubles,
always on time and in time.
It shows us again the sublime adequacy of the Lord when troubles come.

Hezekiah was king over Judah.
The prophet Micah was used by God to help the king know and trust Him.
As a result the king brought much needed reforms, established the Passover, reopened the temple for worship,
and called the people back to faithfulness and obedience to God.

The Northern Kingdom had already fallen to Sennachcrib, the Assyrian conqueror.
Now he was on his way to Egypt, conquering and capturing cities and territories in his path.
The little kingdom of Judah stood in his way.
In the year 701 B.C. this man of war raped the small city of Lachish.
Then he sent a message to Hezekiah saying, "That's exactly what I'm going to do to Jerusalem."

So troubles were coming.
Hezekiah had his troubles, but what he did with Sennachcrib's troublesome warning provides us
the first thing that we should do when trouble hits us.

Hezekiah took the letter and laid it out before the Lord in the temple.
Isaiah came to him and warned him not to enter into any alliance to save Jerusalem,
but to only trust in the Lord.
That is exactly what he did, but not without his trust being severely tested.

The Assyrians advanced to Jerusalem just as Sennachcrib had warned.
They camped around the city walls and prepared to attack the city.
The battle was set to begin at midnight.
Everyone in Jerusalem waited, and was gripped by fear.

Then it happened.
A mysterious plague swept over the Assyrians and one hundred and eighty thousand of them died.
At five minutes before twelve, those who were still alive retreated.
Sennachcrib returned to Nineveh beaten, not by combat with the armies of Judah or the strong walls of Jerusalem,
but beaten by the Lord's intervention.
The holy city was saved.

After the siege was over, the psalmist sang a song of uncontainable praise.
We have this psalm in the forty-sixth psalm of triumph over trouble.

In that context we can appreciate all the more the message of the psalm,
and what it can mean to us before, during, and after a siege of trouble in our lives.

God is on our side.

That is the meaning of these familiar, and oft-repeated words, "God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble
." (Verse 1)

The Hebrew means a "high tower or protection place."
We can always go to the Lord to whom we can retreat for refuge and from whom we receive strength in trouble.
Just as Hezekiah laid out before the Lord with threats of Sennachcrib,
also for us first thing we should do when trouble strikes is to pray.

Many years ago heard a statement that Abraham Lincoln made during the Civil War.
He cautioned that being on the Lord's side is more important than arrogantly assuming that He is on our side.

Prayer enables us see the issues of our trouble and also to seek the Lord's guidance.
The reason for this is that much of our troubles we cause.
We may need to seek forgiveness before the Lord will help us.
That step is so crucial in getting the best out of the troubles that disturb us.

Other troubles are caused by other people, and we need to ask the Lord for His guidance
in how to solve the problem by helping the people involved.
Usually all trouble has some troubled person causing it.
Often the Lord uses the trouble to get to us so that He can get to us to the people involved.

When we ask God for His perspective and power and are willing to follow orders,
He shows us how to communicate His love and forgiveness.
He can be counted on to be on our side in that effort!
He loves people as much as we are at times disturbed by them.
When we pray, honestly seeking what He wants, He gives us the vision of how we are to act,
and what we are to say.

Added to that, He prepares the way before us by opening doors of opportunity.
Then God enables us to know His timing.
That is so crucial.
To act precipitously is disastrous.
And to procrastinate beyond the Lord's appointment is to miss the best opportunity.

How can we know all this?
We can know this by finding in the Lord both refuge and strength.
Retreating from the trouble into communion with Him provides the wisdom, insight,
and courage we need to know what to do and when to do it.

Often, like Hezekiah, there is little we can do except trust that the Lord will intervene to help us
when we face impossible and insurmountable odds.

The psalmist's description of the Lord as "a very present help in trouble" in Hebrew means,
"One willing to be found."
This is expressed in Isaiah 55:6 where we read,
"Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near."

The desire to seek the Lord is the direct result of the fact that He has found us and calls us
to belong to Him so that we can be free to call upon Him.

That was the reason that Martin Luther when besieged with trouble, would often say to his friend
Philip Melanchthon, "Come, Philip, let us sing the forty-six psalm."
His great hymn, "A Mighty Fortress," is based on this psalm, which expresses our deepest need
when there seems to be no way through or out of trouble.

By our side is the next thought.

That's when we need the next thought of the psalmist.
He moved from declaring that God is both a retreat from trouble and strength in the midst of it,
to pressing us to face the adequacy of God for whatever happens.

"Therefore we will not fear,
Though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried
into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling
." (Verses 2-3)

We are forced to consider the worst that might happen in the trouble that we face, and ask,
"Could that destroy my relationship with the Lord or my assurance that I am alive forever?"

We cannot live without fear unless we know that nothing – what people do or say,
the disappointing reversals of life, physical sickness or pain, not even death
– can ultimately hurt us or destroy our relationship with the Lord and His promise that we will live with Him forever.
Do you have that confidence?

That fearlessness comes not only from knowing God is on our side, but also that He is by our side,
and that He lives within us.
That is the meaning of what the psalmist has to say in verses 4-7:

"There is a river whose streams shall
make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted,
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge
."

These words are rich with imagery.
These words are metaphors filled with meaning for us.
The river is symbolic of the presence of God.
The Holy Spirit of the Lord is with us to sustain us.

We are never alone.
Hezekiah and all Jerusalem discovered that.
The historical reference to the nations raging and falling depict the ravages of the Assyrian conquest,
but because Judith trusted in the Lord, His timely intervention of the plague was performed.

When we know that God is with us, we can confidently expect Him to intervene
and do what we most need in our trouble.
He is constantly at work preparing people, arranging circumstances,
changing situations to bring a resolution to the trouble we face.

We need to remember that God desires from us -- expectation.
God delights to bless us when we surrender our troubles to Him, and trust what He will do,
and with confidence anticipate how He will utilize the mess we have gotten ourselves into.

Our attitude should be that we just can't wait to see what the Lord is going to do with our situation.
We know we belong to the Lord, and we except the promise that He will help us in all of our problems.
When trouble comes, we just should ask the Lord to tell us what we should do – if anything.
Then God will do what we cannot do.

The reaffirmation of the Lord is with us in trouble makes the difference
between our nervous anxiety and profound peace.
We will discover that there is no limit to what God can do through us if we constantly give Him the glory.

When trouble comes to us -- wherever we are, we should say to ourselves,
"The Lord is in this, and He will show us what to do, and when we have done all that He has led us to do,
He will step in and resolve our problems in a way that we never could
."

So when we face our problems, and find that we have no physical strength or mental creativity,
and when we become impatient with others, and when we get into troublesome conflicts with people,
and when our hearts ache over the trouble that loved ones are in during – we must remember
that the Lord is with us.

Say that in your heart – in your mind.
Emphasize each of the three parts as you repeat it for your trouble right now.
"The Lord is with me – the Lord is with me – the Lord is with me!"

Now we can move to the greatest gift that the Lord gives us in order to triumph in trouble.
He gives us peace inside.

The psalmist also reviewed the way that God had intervened for Judah in the siege of Jerusalem.
But beholding what God had done was not an occasion for gleeful celebration
over the death of one hundred and eighty thousand enemy soldiers
– however unrighteous their disruptive cause of world dominance was.

Instead, the Lord told the psalmist, "Be still, and know that I am God."
Look at the progression of the thought.

"Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spirit in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire
." (Verses 8-9)

Then suddenly God speaks, and our souls tremble.

"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth
!" (Verse 10)

So what does that mean for our triumph in trouble?
The meaning is magnificent.
It is what the Lord does for us by intervening to extricate us from seemingly insoluble trouble
is to make more room in our hearts for His indwelling Spirit.
He wants us to have our amazement over what He has done presently and to produce adoration
for what He will do in the future.

When the Lord helps us triumph in trouble, He does not want us to glory in the triumph
– but we are to glory in Him.

So often we think we should do something to express our gratitude when He has blessed us in our trouble.
Not so.
He wants us to absorbed the wonder of it all in stillness before Him.
Being still and knowing Him as our all-sufficient Lord forms an inseparable cycle:
When we are still, we know He is God, and knowing that produces greater stillness.

The river of the Holy Spirit now flows in us.
A peace pervades us so that no future trouble can unsettle us or destroy us.

Samuel Rutherford once said, "Fool that I was not to know that the messages of God
are not to be read in the envelope in which they are enclosed
."
How God solves our trouble is only the envelope.
We must look inside.
The message is: "Be still, and know that I am God."

So this is the message and the purpose of our study of this Psalm,
and that is how to make the best of trouble.
The indwelling Spirit of the Lord and a prevailing peace are the best that we can discover
from seeing what the Lord does with our troubles when we trust Him.

God gives us a gift that no trouble-free life could ever receive.
Peace is the result of knowing that we have absolute resources to face anything.
If we discover that from the trouble we go through,
we can be still in whatever happens to trouble us in the future.

This sermon was adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White