Background Scripture: Psalm 89:1-2,5-8,15-18
Quotes of the Week:
“Sometimes the hardest things to believe are the only things worth believing at al.” E.J. Patten, Return to Exile
"Great is Thy Faithfulness, "O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not. As Thou hast been Thou forever will be.
"Great is Thy Faithfulness!" "Great is Thy Faithfulness!" Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. "Great is Thy Faithfulness" Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above, Join with all nature in manifold witness To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bring hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
These words were penned as a poem by Thomas O Chisholm, in the 1920s. He had written it about God's faithfulness to him over his lifetime. Around the same time, it was put to music by William Runyan and became one of the more popular hymns in churches. If you grew up in church prior to the advent of the changes to the more contemporary worship style, you have likely sung this hymn many times. It was also used frequently as part of the Billy Graham Crusades. I know that many of the hymns I took for granted until I didn't hear them as much and when I hear some of these now, their words are so meaningful. While the theme of this songs is similar to what we will find in Psalm 89, the words were based around Lamentations 3:22-23.
As you read through those words, you get a pretty vivid picture of the faithfulness of the Lord. Although our text is the first few verses of Psalm 89, extolling the faithfulness of God, further down in the chapter (verses 38-52) are words such as "you have spurned and rejected him; you have broken down all his walls; he has become an object of ridicule to his neighbors" and so forth. These words point to a very difficult time in David's life. This clearly shows that although God is faithful, there will be times where we may even question His faithfulness due to our situation that we must endure. Perhaps your life hasn't turn out quite as you had hoped, in a variety of ways. We would like to think that God's faithfulness would imply that, as a believer, we would always be gainfully employed, financially secure, in relationships that are never strained, never lose loved ones and that we would always personally be the picture of health. Even as I write, Berkley and I are dealing with a medical diagnosis that neither of us would have ever chosen. Does this mean that God is not faithful?
Even in the words of the hymn, God's faithfulness is not based on how life goes for us, but in the way that He consistently provides for all of us. He doesn't change - morning by morning, He gives us what we need (even if it is not necessarily what we want). Throughout the seasons - summer, winter, springtime and harvest - He is faithful. As the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, God is faithful. As the bodies in space, the sun, moon and stars, continue on their courses above us, they serve as a witness to His faithfulness. And, God is faithful by granting us forgiveness for our sins through Jesus Christ and peace to endure life as it happens. His presence is with us to cheer us and to guide us. He gives us strength for today and hope for tomorrow. When we think of all that God does, why is it that we tend to focus on what He may not do, which may be what we desire at a specific point in time?
As I think about this lesson, perhaps the key point is for us to understand is what God's faithfulness is and what it is not. God's faithfulness does not imply that life will always go as we might hope and desire. God may indeed grant us tremendous blessings, over and over, throughout life, but His faithfulness is not about those tangible blessings we receive. God's faithfulness means that He will be with us, as we go throughout life. In the midst of successes and failures, He is there. In the midst of perfect or failing health, He is there. We certainly might hope for more, but when we take a step back and are honest with ourselves, if God was as faithful with us as we have been with Him throughout life, would we ever even hope to have morning by morning?
Perhaps the question that most of us need to answer is 'What do we say?" If you were to ask people that were around you - your co-workers, your neighbors and other friends - what would they say is the most important thing you talk about? There are extremes of this, to be sure. Some people seem to speak of spiritual things every time they open their mouth. I once worked with a guy who would spiritualize every conversation, making many people feel uncomfortable, including me. I don't doubt that he was a believer, but he became so different that he didn't draw others to him, so that he could share his faith, but he repelled them so that many would not care to listen to anything he said. On the other hand, there are others who have blended in so "well" that others wouldn't even think that there was anything at all different about them.
What do you think that people would say about you? Have we blended in so that it is hard for others to know who we really are, or do others know that you are a believer? I have seen over and over how God will give us opportunities to share and when that happens, we don't have to force that conversation. When others know that we are believers, but are not shoving it in the faces of those around us, they are likely to come to us when they have questions, issues or need prayer. But, how would they even know to come to you if they have no inkling of an idea that you are a believer?
When we take the time to slow down enough to see the beauty and majesty of God's creation, we begin to understand that God is faithful, throughout time. If you have ever been outside on a dark night and have looked up to see the millions of stars, could you say that we are here by accident, or some fluke of nature? When you see the beauty of the mountains and the seas and the utter complexity and simplicity of nature, are you not amazed?
This passage says that the heavens praise the wonders and faithfulness of the Lord in the assembly of the holy ones. There is none other that can compare to the Lord. Although people throughout time have pointed to mythological creatures and gods, none of them is all encompassing, as is our God. Even in our minds, we cannot imagine one greater and more faithful that the Lord. There is none like Him and all the universe speaks of His glory and faithfulness on a scale far above what we could ever imagine.
Through our lives, we are to rejoice in the name of the Lord and celebrate His righteousness. Indeed, He is our glory and strength. As stated previously, we would like to believe that this would imply that if we walked in His righteousness, none of us would deal with cancer and other diseases such as ALS. We would like to think that none of us would lose a loved one, relationships wouldn't end and that we wouldn't have financial struggles and so forth. However, the Lord's glory and strength goes with us in the midst of whatever we deal with in this life. Even in the midst of all of the other aspects of life, our shield belongs to the Lord.
This may be a difficult lesson for some, due to the circumstances that they are currently facing. We would like to believe that God's faithfulness would apply directly to what we deal with. At many points in life, God does miraculously answer prayers and brings healing and relief. At other times, despite the prayers of many, God does not bring healing and our circumstances may not be changed. Perhaps you are in the midst of a battle right now and you are praying that God will bring a change. In some cases, God may do that, but in all cases, He offers us His strength to endure whatever we face.
This is a message to my situation, but it also speaks to others who are dealing with difficult issues in life. At some point, we need to take a step back and truly stand in amazement about the awesome greatness, love, power and faithfulness of our God. A few years ago, I came across this video from Lou Giglio on the Great is Our God tour. It takes about 45 minutes, but if you will take the time to be inspired, I believe that you will find great inspiration - from this video - Click Here!