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God Our Trustworthy Refuge

God Our Trustworthy Refuge

Online Bible searches soared in 2020, with a record number of people turning to Scripture for what God says to our concerns. The YouVersion Bible app saw searches increase by 80 percent last year, totaling nearly 600 million worldwide.

Here is the single most searched, read, and bookmarked verse of last year on that app, from Isaiah 41:10, God declaring:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Do. Not. Fear. Because God is with you, and he is trustworthy. That is, what he has promised, he will do.

The most important thing about you

Welcome back to our series on the attributes of God, premised on a penetrating statement from A. W. Tozer, that what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

This is true. The picture we have of God—what we believe his nature or character to be—profoundly influences the way we move through life, approach relationships, manage resources, or handle the difficulties we encounter along the way. Last week we took a deep dive into the holiness of God, what it means that he is holy, and why we need a glimpse of his holiness. If you missed last week, I urge you to watch it at yChurch’s YouTube channel. The whole thrust last week was that just one glimpse of God’s holiness, and you will forever appreciate Christ’s forgiveness.

Learning that the Lord is trustworthy

This week builds on that. God is not only holy. He is also trustworthy. You can trust him to do all that he promises to do. Another way to say this is that God is always faithful to his character and promises.

I want to take you through several key Scriptures this week to build our trust that the Lord is trustworthy. The first comes from Psalm 62. The Old Testament’s Psalms are the ancient song book of both Jews and Christians. Filled with poetic imagery, they give voice to who God is for those who trust him. Psalm 62, for example, sings of God being trustworthy, using several repeated images. Listen and try to see what this sung prayer is conveying:

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
    he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge.”

Psalm 62:5-8

When your faith is shaky, the psalmist urges, anchor yourself to the Lord as your rock, refuge, and fortress, each one repeated for emphasis as we do in songs today.

·         1st is that the Lord is our rock. Picture a massive rock that can’t be moved. Build on a foundation of solid rock, and nothing will shake you.

·         Next is that the Lord is our refuge. What comes to your mind when you hear the word refuge? Maybe it’s a quiet place out in nature, far away from the normal stresses and strains of everyday life. In the Lord you can find relief from unrelenting pressure.

·         And third is that the Lord is a fortress to those who run to him. What do you see in your imagination when you hear of a fortress? Perhaps a medieval castle surrounded by a moat and with guard towers to keep enemies at bay. Or in more modern terms, a safe room where someone under threat is secure from harm.

Here’s what all three images are intended to convey in this song: trust, that you can trust the Lord. And here’s why this matters: because you have learned that not everyone is trustworthy. All of us have experienced times of broken trust, damaged trust, violated trust.

We’ve all tasted broken trust

Some of you have tasted the bitterness of marriage falling apart and trust severed. You hear of violated trust in the workplace, with broken promises of a better wage or better working conditions or abuse of power and position. Those who have experienced any kind of abuse have had their trust taken advantage of. Many have stories of a broken heart from a seemingly trustworthy friend who ultimately ghosted you. Or you shared something in confidence only to have it passed on to others, breaking trust.

More songs and movie plots than you can count revolve around trust and broken trust.

Trust is one of the most sacred things you can bring to your relationships, where the other person gets to see that you are a person of your word. As trust is built, security comes to the relationship, whether it’s a business partnership, a church ministry team, a marriage or friendship. Trust really is a sacred and powerful thing.

So when the Scriptures say the Lord is trustworthy, the implications are huge. Dan Meyer points out that we inwardly ask questions like, Can God really be trusted? If he is so good, then why did he let me lose that baby, or my job, or that opportunity I so needed? God, my kids are messed up, and I don’t know what to do. My marriage is in trouble, or my finances are desperate. My body is letting me down now, or, my friend is dying. I’m honestly trying to do right, God, but I’m scared. Will things turn out okay? Are you really trustworthy, God?

Have you ever wondered like this? If so, this week is for you. From God’s Word, I want to give you two timeless truths about what God’s trustworthiness means for you and me today. If you like to take notes, here’s the first timeless truth about what God’s trustworthiness means for us today.

1. God’s trustworthiness means we can speak honestly with God.

Sometimes and somehow, people get the idea that when you talk to God, you have to use a special language. You have to say just the right words, in just the right way, for your prayers to “work.” That’s nonsense.

The gospels show people running to Jesus with honest pleas, and he is glad to answer them, to intervene for them, to act on their behalf. If anything, it was the long-time religious folks who made things too complicated about coming before God.

The ultimate proof that God’s trustworthiness means we can speak honestly with God is found in the Garden of Gethsemane. On the night he would be betrayed, Mark tells us Jesus went to that quiet place to pray, and his heart was, quote, “deeply distressed and troubled” (Mark 14:33). Jesus goes so far as to tell his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” (Mark 14:34).

That’s honesty. Although the disciples were in the dark, Jesus knew that Judas’ betrayal was moments away. Jesus knew the abuse he would soon suffer. He knew the mockery, the mock trials, the beatings and crucifixion that awaited him. He knew that all of his dearest friends were about to ghost him. And so he felt overwhelmed. Sorrowful. Distressed. Deeply troubled.

If you’re feeling uncomfortable thinking of Jesus this way, hang in there. There’s actually comfort for us in this. Here’s why we can say so. Two things are particularly striking about what Jesus voiced in his prayer that night, and the first we find in the first part of what Jesus then prayed: “Going a little farther, [Mark recalls] [Jesus] fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.'” (Mark 14:35-36).

Have you ever prayed like that? It’s brutally honest—a moment of brutal pain when you say to God something like, “I believe you are all-powerful. Nothing is beyond your ability to intervene. I believe you did all the miracles I see in the ministry of Jesus and the history of your chosen people. I believe you are the Lord, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. I believe all wisdom resides in you. I believe you know the end from the beginning, and that you have a purpose for me that has been planned long before I was even born. All of this I believe.

And in this moment, Lord God, I am asking you to change the situation. Nothing is impossible with you. So I’m asking you to make a way where there is no way. I’m asking you to take this bitter situation and replace it with something sweet.”

Sometimes we’re hesitant to speak so honestly with God. Or you imagine praying like that would be frowned upon by others who only pray happy thoughts. And there are some who would wrongly insist talking to God like that shows a lack of faith.

But this is how Jesus prayed in a time of deep distress! It’s not a sign of distrusting God to be honest about your struggles. Quite the opposite!

This is the cry of a trusting son or daughter bringing their need honestly before your Father in heaven, before God who loves you far more than your own flesh and blood parents could ever love you—yes, that much.

As the apostle John marvels in 1 John 3:1, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Even as he writes, he can’t get over it! John is struck at how loved we are. And God in his trustworthiness invites us to come before him honestly, trusting that he loves you and wants to hear what’s on your heart and mind!

To say this another way, God’s trustworthiness means he values authenticity when we come to him. Just be honest! Tell him all about it, about what you’re facing, how you’re feeling, and what you’re fearing. You’re a child of God, and your heavenly Father is glad to hear from you—honestly.

Here’s the second timeless truth about what God’s trustworthiness means for us today:

2. God’s trustworthiness means we can call on him in any situation.

I said there are two things that are particularly striking about what Jesus voiced in his prayer that night. The first is how honest Jesus is—to God and to his friends—about how deeply hurting he feels. The second thing that stands out is in the rest of what Jesus prayed.

Mark continues that Jesus prayed. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Spot quiz: What do you suppose is the most important thing that Jesus prayed right there? What’s the one key to understanding how Jesus viewed God in that moment, in that desperate situation?

Here’s the answer: we know how Jesus viewed God the Father by the name he used as he called on God in the deepest moment of distress he had ever felt: “Abba,” the Aramaic word for “Father” or “my father.” Even in the darkest point in his experience, Jesus trusted God as his Father, leaving us an example to follow in our times of stress and distress. Jesus believed that God was trustworthy even then. And God proved himself trustworthy, not by removing that cup but by empowering His Son to endure it on our behalf.

God’s trustworthiness means we can call on him in any situation. This is what the model prayer Jesus gave us shows as well—that God is trustworthy in every kind of thing that your live involves. Look at it with me. If you have a Bible or Bible app, open to Matthew chapter 6 and verse 9. Matthew chapter 6.

Let’s read the wonderfully familiar way that Jesus taught us to pray. We tend to think of it as something to be prayed in church, but when you take a fresh look at it you can see that it’s really about trusting God in any situation.

From Matthew 6:9-13 we read…

“This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.’”

The whole reason Jesus gave us this prayer is to give us right ideas about who God is, who it is that rules over all. And the driving emphasis of this model prayer is that you can trust him: God is trustworthy in every kind of thing that life brings along. Watch that with me.

“This, then, is how you should pray,” says Jesus. Start by saying, “Our Father in heaven …”

Sometimes people say imagine “in heaven” means that God is far away and removed from your everyday experiences. That’s the opposite of what Jesus meant. Among Jewish people, the word heaven meant “the invisible realm all around us.” So when you pray, “Our Father in heaven,” you’re reminding yourself that God is close by, near, and cares about you.

Then we’re to pray, “Hallowed be your name,” meaning, “God, may you be honored as holy.” As I come to you, I recognize you’re very different compared to me, even as you are willing to draw near to me. You are pure, undefiled, unsullied, never deceitful. You are trustworthy.

We’re to continue, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” When you pray this, you’re not only asking God to lead in your daily life, you’re also reminding yourself that God’s will will be done on earth. No one and no thing ever does or ever will stop or prevent his plan from marching on. In ways that we can see as well as in ways that are behind the scenes to us, God is always at work, advancing his good, pleasing, and perfect will. And in the end, God’s plan will be consummated when Jesus returns and evil is completely done away with. On that day, his will on earth will fully match his will in heaven.

What are we to pray about next? The very things that we tend to worry about: “Give us this day our daily bread.” God wants you to pray about what you would otherwise worry about, even daily, moment by moment needs. He wants you to grow in trusting him, by taking to him those things that stress you out.

We’re to continue, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” What a powerful regular reminder that just as we have been forgiven, so forgiving others needs to be a distinctive mark of us as authentic followers of Jesus who forgave those who sinned against him. We’re to forgive our offenders, we’re to release them from pursuing revenge against them, and we’re to pray that they come to recognize their need for Christ’s forgiveness as well. Here’s another way to say it: trust God with those who break trust with you.

“And [finally] lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,” we’re to pray. As Christians, we don’t fear spiritual evil. We trust God in the face of evil! This is what Jesus did. It’s what the apostles did. It’s what the Psalm we began with this calls us to, to trust the Lord who is trustworthy, praying…

“Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
    he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge.”

This is the Father God that Jesus knew so well and trusted. And because Jesus knew that God the Father is trustworthy, he was ultimately alright if the Father didn’t take that cup from him, praying with trust, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

So I have to ask you, friend: what is testing your trust in God lately? What are you facing that, without the Lord’s help, you’ll be a nervous wreck or lost in anger? In that situation that tests your trust, will you choose to pray a prayer of trust in the Lord? Will you, like the Psalmist and like Jesus, entrust yourself to the Lord as your rock, your salvation in that situation, your trustworthy refuge?

If so, then I invite you to pray with me right now. Let’s talk with God.

Abba, Father, we thank and praise you for the honest faith we find in the Psalms and in the prayers of Jesus. You see the things that are testing the faith of each one listening today. You know what each one can handle. We believe you have both the power and the wisdom to lead each one through their challenge. Whether you make a way for us to pass the cup or drink it, to you, trustworthy God, we commit ourselves and one another.

We’ve never known a more trustworthy friend. And we will never cease to thank you for who you are to us. Hear our prayer, Lord God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen!