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We Can Put Our Trust in God

Published: 9 months ago- 9 July 2023
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SERMON MANUSCRIPT

We can still put our trust in God, even when we might be feeling distant from Him!

INTRODUCTION

When we come to church, quite often we’ll have expectations of what it’s going to be like. We’re here with God’s people, singing and praying together. And you know, sometimes the vibe will be like we’re at a wedding, other times it might feel more like a funeral. Today will probably feel more like a funeral. But there is a rainbow after the storm. This guy’s just wanting answers, he’s struggling with a lot of stuff. He’s a long way from where he wants to be, and His trust in God is really being put to the test.

So we’re gonna look at that today in three parts:

Trust in the past Trust in the present

and…

Trust in the future.

TRUST IN THE PAST

Let’s start with Trust in the Past. Because for the writer of this passage, based on past performance, he knows that God can be trusted. He’s had that experience before, and so now he’s longing to have that again.

That’s why we’re hearing him say from verse 1:

“As the deer pants for streams of water, So my soul pants for you, God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”

But the trouble he’s got is he’s feeling a significant distance, between him and God. If you jump a little bit ahead to verse 6, we hear that he’s writing this Psalm from a place called Mount Mizar, in the land of Jordan. Far away from God’s temple in Jerusalem. He’s not even in the same country anymore, so he feels far… away… from God.

I wonder if you feel distant from God sometimes? It’s not about being away from Jerusalem though, is it?… or being far away from our church building here. The writer, he’s feeling distant from God, and he’s feeling that so much, that he’s panting like the deer, he’s longing for that distance to be closed back up. He’s got this incredibly strong desire to be back where God is.

You could imagine it like trekking through the desert without a water bottle. Before too long your mouth’s all dry, your tongue’s sticking to the roof of your mouth, you’re chasing even just a drop of thirst-quenching water.

The psalmist knows the truth about who God is, so he’s got this immense thirst for him, it says it right here in verse 2,

His soul thirsts for God, for the living God, when can he go and meet with God?

It paints this desperate picture. He’s longing so much for that distance to be closed that he’s in tears all the time, that’s the only water he’s getting, his own tears (in verse 3)… .So he’s feeling the pain… .He’s feeling that distance.

This guy’s been taken by his enemies, dragged out of Jerusalem, and now he’s exiled and homeless. He’s been taken away from everything that he knew and loved and plonked in the middle of nowhere, with no clue where to go, or what to do. And right now he might as well be on the other side of the world to God.

In the past, God had revealed himself to his people in Jerusalem but as we’ve seen already, our author is far away from there. He’s been brought to tears after being ripped away from God. And if that wasn’t bad enough, to rub salt into the wound, he’s surrounded by all of these people, saying to him all day long – “Where is your God”, they’re taunting him with that reminder each and every day. And it’s driving him to tears.

In response to this, he reminds himself, in verse 4, that even though he feels distant from God now, he still remembers all of the good times with God-in the past.

It is so important to understand that this psalm is not a diluted and weak expression.

Instead, it was written by someone who has experienced a profound connection with God but currently finds himself saddened by a sense of separation.

Perhaps you’ve also encountered moments of closeness with God but then you’ve also felt distance from Him.

What would it look like if in those moments of distance, that like our writer, we’re panting for God, we’re longing to be back close to Him. We’re desperate for connection with our living God.

What would that look like do you think? Maybe this Psalm will help you long for connection, and point you in a direction that closes that distance you’re feeling.

For me personally, this last semester of college has been challenging. It was my first proper attempt at New Testament Greek and it was a real struggle for a whole range of reasons.

And when it came time for the first exam – I failed, and that really shook me, I had plenty of encouragement from teachers and students and my family, so I picked myself up and tried really hard to catch up and be ready for the second exam, but I failed that as well. And that just left me confused and dejected, as I struggled to get a grasp on the content.

Here I am, following God’s call on me to go into ministry and this experience had me thinking that I’d failed at college altogether… It just felt… too… hard, and it felt like God was really distant. It felt like everything was working against me, and that I’d never get through Greek.

But as much as that was a challenging experience for me, I don’t think it holds a candle to the experience this guy has gone through. Certainly, everything seems to be working against the Psalmist here. But he knows that he can cry out to God. He knows that God is big enough, that he can say “Lord I’m feeling a long long way away from you” and that God will listen. That’s what you’ve gotta love about the Psalms, that God is big enough, for the psalmist to be angry at God, to doubt him, to express all of these different fears and emotions and failures even, and yet we still have this overarching confidence that God is listening, even when He seems distant. That He will hear us, we can bring those things to him.

You don’t have to get closer to God before you can start calling out. Our writer, he’s distant from God, But that hasn’t stopped him from talking to God. He’s got this desire for God, because he’s experienced the joy of being close to Him and maybe for you, maybe you haven’t experienced that joy, maybe that’s never been something you’ve had before. But, maybe the psalmist is encouraging you to see that joy is found, When we decrease that distance to God, when we draw closer to Him. We can feel distant from God right here and now. But we can choose to hold onto our faith in Him because of the feelings of closeness, and the trust we’ve had in the past.

That’s our writer’s biggest recommendation, that once you’ve experienced that closeness to God, that becomes the thing that you long for the most when it gets taken away, when that distance gets in the way. That’s why he had that enormous longing for it.

TRUST IN THE PRESENT

It’s worth investigating some more, and reading on, because for our writer here, he’s caught in the middle of his current pain and anguish, and looking back to the days of old, longing to be there again. We actually see him start talking to himself. It’s a kind of pick yourself up by the bootstraps,

“Come on mate, what are you doing” moment. Where we see the writer wrestle with that trust that he has in God, and try to overcome that distance from God himself. Try to close the gap himself.

Have a look at verse 5:

“Why, my soul are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?”

There’s this mess of depression and turmoil brewing inside of him, but he refuses to accept that. And instead makes this suggestion:

Put your hope in God, For I will still praise him, My Saviour and my God.”

Verse 6 he’s choosing to remember God while there’s this great distance between them, from Mount Mizar back to the temple in Jerusalem.

But at the same time, he’s still wanting to overcome that distance.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been caught in a rip at the beach. But it’s not a fun time. It can actually get pretty scary. That’s what verse 7 sounds like:

“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; All your waves and breakers Have swept over me.”

You can picture it, can’t you? You’ve got the current pulling you further and further away, and pretty soon you’re at that point where you can’t touch the bottom any more, and now the waves are smashing over the top of you, the depths of the ocean is trying to drag you down, while you’re battling just to keep your head above water.

That expression “deep calls to deep” it’s not reassuring, at all, is it? It’s actually frightening.

Author Christopher Ash puts it like this: “It’s Bible poetry for chaos and terror. Not only is he far from the people of God rejoicing in the presence of God;… He is under overwhelming pressure.” But in that moment his response is to move further towards God, rather than choosing to run away. As he writes that “By day the Lord directs his love” (His faithful, unfailing love) and by night his song is with him. He’s counting on God’s unfailing love to sustain him through each day, and each night.

But by verse 9 he’s questioning things again.

“I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, Oppressed by the enemy?””

His enemies have continued to provoke him just like we heard him mention in verse 3. Tormenting the author- “Where is your God?”. There’s this back-and-forth wrestle going on in his own mind, like he’s being tumbled over and over by those waves. He recovers a little bit, and then gets smashed again, then he’s up for air for a second, and then he’s knocked down again.

The ironic thing about where our writer finds himself, is that at the start of Psalm 42

he’s likening himself to the deer panting for the living water of God,… but now it seems like there’s too much water, and that’s still causing problems for him. He’s getting pounded by it now, over and over again. It’s creating this overwhelming pressure for him.

When it came to my Greek studies this semester, it just seemed like this never-ending battle just to keep my head above the water. Just when I felt like I was getting on top of something, and could come up for a little air, another wave of new information would come and smash me back down again. It was like that week after week, wave after wave of new information, coming at me, without feeling like I’d grasped the old stuff. And it just felt like it was all crashing down on top of me. It felt like it was never-ending, and I felt like God was really distant. Like I couldn’t cry out to Him for help.

Maybe I should have followed our psalmist’s lead, because despite all of the pain and torment, and the repeated crushing waves, it’s obvious that his faith in God runs deep. Despite feeling abandoned and hopeless, and experiencing a sense of distance, he acknowledges that only God can bridge that gap. Even though at this moment, nothing has fundamentally changed, except that he is now pouring out his heart to God.

By the time we get to verse 11 in our passage, the wrestle continues. The psalmist is back talking to himself, repeating those same words from verse 5. He’s still depressed, he’s still struggling. But deep down he still knows that God is his rock, there’s hope in God, and he’ll continue to praise him. And I think for us, as we follow Jesus we can face all kinds of pressures and challenges, can’t we? Whether it be in our workplaces, our schools, people ridiculing you for being a Christian. There’ll be times we have doubts, there’ll be times when we get distracted. For us, the real challenge in those moments is to remind ourselves that Jesus is our Rock.

I think these days, in those moments, it’s far too easy to pick up a device to try and escape where you are. The hope is that a quick video, or some Facebook or Instagram scrolling is enough to ease our tensions, or to distract us, or ease our minds. It’s a very quick way to escape to somewhere you’d rather be at that moment. Our psalmist didn’t wanna be where he was, he wanted to escape back to Jerusalem. Where he could be back near God again.

He’s felt hopeless; he’s had enough of this distance between him and God. Now he couldn’t pick up a device and scroll back through his Facebook memories, to see what it was like back then. But he still uses what he remembers from the past to help get him through the present, remembering that he can’t overcome that distance himself.

TRUST IN THE FUTURE

So, as we look at Psalm 43, knowing that he can’t make it back to Jerusalem without God’s help, he says in verse 1:

“Vindicate me, my God, Plead my cause against an unfaithful nation. Rescue me from those wicked and deceitful people.”

Our writer knows that going forward, if anyone’s going to free him, and allow him to see God once again in Jerusalem, it’s gonna be God that’ll do it. And that’s where the psalmist puts his hope. So when you’re feeling distant from God, you put your hope and your trust in Him, to draw back close to Him once again. That hope from the writer though, it’s not without some doubts. He still questions God.

Verse 2:

“You are God my stronghold. So, why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, Oppressed by the enemy?”

It’s this reality check for the writer, isn’t it? If anything’s gonna happen, if he’s gonna be able to make it back to Jerusalem, it will come from God, and not from the Psalmist. It’s helping him to understand that God is faithful and has a plan. We see that plan start to unfold in verse 3.

He makes the request:

“Send me your light and your faithful care, Let them lead me.”

He’s longing for the same light and faithful care that led the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt, he’s waited patiently, he’s cried, he’s hoped, he’s talked to himself, he’s been smashed by wave after wave,… He’s reassured himself with the promises of God, that He will provide that faithful care. He’s longing for something that was still to come-The light of the world, the spirit of the one who would also hope and cry-Jesus.

So, for us, as we sit on this side of the cross. That’s exactly what we celebrate. The fact that because of Jesus, our distance is never going to be geographic, it’s more from us being distracted, or turning away from God in our hearts. But that gap will always be closed by Jesus. The good news of the gospel means that that gap to God has been closed, he’s closed that distance. He offers us eternal life with Him, and his spirit serves as a down payment, for that inheritance, we stand to receive.

There’d be very few of us that could say that we’ve never felt distant from God, or doubtful, or forgotten, or persecuted, or depressed at some point in our lives. And these psalms, they’re the song that you sing to God when you’re down in the dumps.

Even if you’re not, the best time to learn how to deal with those times-is when you’re actually doing ok. But I reckon there’s this tendency for Christians not to do that, not to talk to God when we’re absolutely down in the dumps and at our worst,… and when things are ok, things are ok, so why worry about it? But in the midst of a crisis like that, we need to remember to look back to the Cross. To the one who died for us, in order to close the gap between us and God.

When it came to Greek for me this semester, I really struggled to do that. To look back to the Cross… .But then I remembered back to the reason I came to college in the first place… .I remembered what God had put not just on my heart but on my wife Naomi’s heart as well, for us to come to Brisbane and get equipped for ministry in the future, which we didn’t wanna do at first, but once we understood that that was the plan that God had for us, we just saw door after door after door open that allowed us to step out in faith knowing that this was God’s plan for us. And so I reflected back on that while I was feeling down in the dumps about my Greek, and I had to remind myself, that God has a plan, and I just need to trust that He will get me through it.

When you’re right in the middle of a struggle, don’t feel like you can’t talk to God about it, because here’s the reality, God already knows. He knew about my Greek and he already knows what’s going on for you; if you’re feeling the distance, if you’re feeling bitter, or upset, or angry. God’s just waiting for you to acknowledge it, and bring it to him. This is where you trust in Him and trust that he’s big enough, strong enough and smart enough to handle whatever the mess is that you’ve got going on, and to know that he’s in charge of it.

And because we know what He’s already done for us, we know that He’s sent us His son Jesus, and what He’s done for us on the Cross, we know how powerful that moment is. And because we know all of that, our future is going to be far better, as we draw closer to God.