A VERY PRESENT HELP IN TROUBLE
Last week, I preached about the tribulation of the End-Times.
This week, I’d like to focus on the tribulation of the present day & of our daily lives.
& how God always comes to our rescue.
But my experience has been that it’s sometimes at the last possible moment.
Psalm 46:1 says: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Our experience as believers reveals that God has been our refuge & strength in times past …
… and Psalm 46:1 tells us that He is also our help in the present.
But sometimes God waits.
He doesn’t come to our rescue right away, as we’d like Him to.
& He does this in order to teach us a few things; among them: (1) to help us grow in patience & to increase in faith & (2) to shape our character & strengthen us as men & women of God.
Paul said in Romans 5:3-4 that:
3 … we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
The very definition of hope is a trust & earnest expectation that something good will happen …
… that a certain desired outcome will come about.
& So the Bible teaches us that tribulation help us to develop the character trait of patience …
… & patience leads to hope.
Paul continues in Romans 5:5:
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
And so hope then produces the effect of the love of God being shed abroad in our hearts.
In other words, hope makes us better people; it makes us more loving.
And all of that begins w/ trials & tribulation, & the testing of our faith.
That’s why Paul tells Christians to glory in tribulation.
In 2 Corinthians 12:10, he says: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
The strength of God is able to flow out of our weakness.
When we are in a weakened state, and in submission to the will of God for our lives ….
… we get our flesh out of the way, and rely on God.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Jesus said to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for thee” …
… and Paul responds with: “for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
So, tribulation leads to patience …
… patience leads to hope …
… hope leads to love …
… & in our weakened condition as men, the power of Christ rests upon us.
That’s why the Bible tells us the GLORY IN TRIBULATION.
Our trials are a good thing, and so Paul tells us to embrace them.
Paul says in Romans 12:12 that Christians should be: “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation.”
PETER THE APOSTLE echoes the same message in 1 Peter 5-7.
Speaking of the Saints, he says:
5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
Did you catch that?
Peter actually says that the TRIAL OF OUR FAITH …
(the troubles and tribulations which test our faith) …
… ARE MORE VALUABLE THAN GOLD, because of what such trials produce in us.
And so our trials and tribulations in this world are actually BLESSINGS IN DISGUISE …
… and as difficult as it can be, we should learn to embrace them.
JAMES THE APOSTLE also says the same thing in James 1:2-4:
2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
So the patience that James speaks about, he says, produces PERFECTION …
Again, it produces the same character traits in us that Paul and Peter wrote about.
The Bible teaches that suffering is a pre-requisite to producing patience in us.
Think about it: there would not have known patience, if something was not lacking in our lives.
That’s how children learn to be patient, by undergoing manifold trials & tribulations.
James 5:10-11 says:
10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.
11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
Other than Jesus Himself, no one underwent more affliction in the Bible than Job.
Yet the Bible praises the patience of Job.
Again, case in point, the more tribulation we endure, the more patience it will produce in us.
Yet, despite all this, we desire God’s deliverance.
We don’t want to be in unending tribulation, because that would be unbearable & unpleasant to our souls.
It would be too much to bear.
AND SOMETIMES, it seems that God waits until the very last moment to deliver us.
I don’t know how many countless times, I’ve been at the end of my rope, at my very wit’s end …
… and just when I think there’s no way out and that I’m going to perish …
… God never fails to come to the rescue.
But I can’t help but to notice that God often seems to wait until the very last possible moment.
… And as I showed, he does this in order to build our character.
And so I think of examples of great men of God from the Bible …
… whom God rescued at the last moment.
And I was impressed with how many people God rescued, but at the last possible moment.
There’s the WIDOW AND HER SON who were running out of food …
until Elijah gave her a provision of oil and flour that replenished itself miraculously.
Or Peter when he was drowning in the Sea of Galilee, when he lacked faith after trying to walk on water, and Jesus caught him.
Or when the disciples were caught in a storm at sea while Jesus slept and Jesus awoke to calm the storm.
Or LOT who was carried out of Sodom by angels before it’s destruction.
Or Daniel in the Lions’ den.
& Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace.
or Ester & Mordecai who saved their people at the last moment.
Or Jeremiah, who’s life was spared at the siege of Jerusalem, because God gave him favor.
Or when God provided a ram in the place of Isaac when Abraham was going to sacrifice his only son on the altar …
And most importantly, when God provided His only begotten Son to save us …
… from the penalty of our sins.
So I’d like to take a look at some of these stories and encourage you with them …
And while we’re going over these stories, ask God to take your biggest trials …
your biggest fears & tribulations …
and to deliver you like He did for the mighty men & women of God in the Bible.
Let’s begin with 1 KINGS 17 about ELIJAH & THE WIDOW.
(In this portion of the Kings, God had sent a drought in the land, which had made food scarce).
READ 1 KINGS 17:8-16.
• God told Elijah to abide with the widow for sustenance.
As it turns out that it was the woman who needed Elijah’s help.
I find that symbiotic and reciprocal relationship interesting.
The WIDOW had to rely on God through Elijah’s miracle-working power …
And ELIJAH had to rely on the woman’s portions to be fed.
This is an example to us to have that same kind of reciprocal relationship in our lives.
We should take extra care of those who care for us and vice-versa.
THE WIDOW was also put to a GREAT TEST as she prepared MEAL FOR ELIJAH …
… with the final remnants of her food supply …
… but by trusting God and doing so …
… the WIDOW was REWARDED with an endless provision that lasted throughout the entire drought & famine.
THE STORY OF ELIJAH & THE WIDOW ultimately speaks of God providing for our needs …
… even when the situation naturally looks bleak.
THE NEXT EXAMPLE, I’d like to look at is the disciples out at sea, when they were caught in a great storm.
37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
That’s exactly how many of us feel when we’re in the midst of a storm in life.
“Master, carest thou not that we perish?” – Don’t you care if we die or are destroyed, Lord?
How many times have you felt like God needs to come to your rescue as in right now and He seems to linger?
We talked about why God does that …
… But that’s exactly how the disciples felt as they found Jesus SOUNDLY ASLEEP in the middle of a great storm.
LORD, ARE YOU THERE? ARE YOU SLEEPING?
But Jesus could rest confidently, knowing that no harm would come to His disciples while He was on the boat.
But the disciples were LACKING IN FAITH …
Much like us when we doubt God’s motives & His timing.
JESUS HAS A WAY OF CALMING THE STORM by His mere presence.
But it was ultimately the lack of faith of his disciples that was at issue here.
GOD IS TESTING our RESOLVE, our PATIENCE, & our FAITH … in the midst of the storm.
ANOTHER GREAT EXAMPLE OF GOD’S LAST MINUTE DELIVERY IS LOT.
God saves Lot multiple times.
FIRST, GOD’S ANGELS save Lot & his daughters at the entrance to his house …
… when all the men of Sodom threaten them with rape & violence.
The Bible says that the angels struck the Sodomites with blindness in Genesis 19:11: “And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door.”
And then the angels literally had to take Lot by the hands …
… & carry him & his family out of Sodom, the final moments before Sodom’s destruction.
READ GENESIS 19:15-24
First the angels simply commanded Lot and his family to leave.
But when they lingered, the angels had to literally take them by the hands & carry them to safety.
The Bible says the angels rescued Lot & his family, because of God’s mercy.
God could have let them perish, when they didn’t hasten to make their escape.
Instead, God commissioned His angels to save them at the last minute.
IN FACT …
The angels confided that they were not able to destroy Sodom until Lot & his family were removed to safety.
The angel said to Lot in v. 22: “Haste thee, escape thither;… for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither …”
There was NO RISK that LOT was going to perish.
The angels were literally commanded not to destroy Sodom until they were safe.
So they had to get Lot and his family out of the way first.
LOT EVEN HAGGLED with the angels over which city he wanted escape to …
… that’s how longsuffering & merciful & even accommodating God can be for our sakes.
God goes completely out of His way to bless his children, even when we don’t deserve it.
When the angels tells Lot to escape to the mountain, Lot says in 18:
18 … Oh, not so, my Lord:
19 Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die:
20 Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.
THE EXAMPLE OF LOT teaches us that God is willing to go to great lengths to rescue His people from destruction.
There’s also the example of SHADRACH, MESHACH, & ABEDNEGO …
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had set up an image of gold …
… and demanded that everyone in his kingdom worship the image.
This, btw, foreshadows the image of the beast in the End-Times …
King Nebuchadnezzar declares in Daniel 3:6: “And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”
READ DANIEL 3:12-25
I like how the ungodly were consumed just by being near the fire …
… but Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not harmed at all, even as they stood in the midst of the fire itself.
And it was Jesus Himself who stood with them in the fire.
I believe that this was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ.
The Bible records that He looked liked “the Son of God”.
By this we know & believe that even in the midst of our greatest trials …
… that Jesus Himself is with us in the fiery furnace.
NOW THE MODERN BIBLE VERSIONS change this and take the heart and meaning of the lesson out of this passage.
While the King James version says, in v. 25 that: “the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
The modern versions change this to “a son of the gods” …
… removing the reference to Jesus and attributing the appearance of God’s Son to pagan, polytheistic gods.
THE NIV says: “He said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’
THE NLT says: “… And the fourth looks like a god!”
The ESV says: “… the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
The NASB says: “… the fourth is like a son of the gods!”
THE MESSAGE says: “And the fourth man looks like a son of the gods!”
Only the King James version says: “the fourth is like the Son of God”.
It’s interesting that even before the KJV, THE GENEVA BIBLE, also translates Daniel 3:25 as: “… and the form of the fourth is like the son of God.”
The Bishops Bible also, which came before it, says: “and the fourme of the fourth is like the sonne of God” …
So the Bibles from the KJV & before translate this phrase in the singular …
… but a corruption takes place after the KJV, in the modern versions.
Only 1 can be right. I’m going to go with the KJV.
Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego ultimately teach us that God is with us even in the midst of our most fiery trials.
DANIEL ALSO, closest friend & brother to these 3 heroes of the faith, also had his own trial by fire …
… when he was thrown into the LION’S DEN.
In Daniel 6, Babylon has been overthrown by Media & Persia and a new king reigns in the land, named DARIUS.
King Darius loved and respected Daniel …
In fact, the king had made Daniel president over all his princes …
… and had intended to make him head over his entire realm.
… but King Darius was deceived by his chosen princes and his hand was forced, by royal decree …
… to throw Daniel into the lions’ den.
DANIEL 6:16: “Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.”
I find it interesting, that Darius, a non-believer up to this point, had faith that God would deliver Daniel.
This was actually the seed of faith that saved King Darius.
CONTINUING IN DANIEL 6:17-24
God turned Daniel’s most difficult trial into an opportunity to punishment Daniel’s enemies.
And Daniel’s trials were the reason why King Darius got saved.
Daniel 6:25-27 says:
25 Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.
26 I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.
27 He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.
And btw: God continues to work signs & wonders and move supernaturally in our lives.
It’s so sad that so many Christians & Baptists deny the supernatural, miraculous power of God to deliver us.
ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF GOD’S DELIVERANCE is the life of JEREMIAH the prophet.
PLEASE TURN IN YOUR BIBLES TO JEREMIAH 39.
Now, Jeremiah had been prophesing against Judah and Judah’s king, Zedekiah, for decades …
… and the time of the captivity had finally come.
READ JEREMIAH 39:1-14
Just a chapter before, King Zedekiah had thrown Jeremiah into a dungeon to die!
Jeremiah 38:2-3, the previous chapter records Jeremiah’s words:
2 Thus saith the LORD, He that remaineth in this city shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth forth to the Chaldeans shall live; for he shall have his life for a prey, and shall live.
3 Thus saith the LORD, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army, which shall take it.
The next verses record the reaction of the wicked princes of Judah and the king:
4 Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt.
5 Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do any thing against you.
6 Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.
In chapter 38, Jeremiah was thrown into a dungeon to rot away and had sunk in the mire …
In chapter 39, God performs the promise His Word which he spoke by the mouth of Jeremiah the prophet …
… & King Zedekiah is punished in a very severe way, bound, & taken into captivity …
But Jeremiah is honored & free to return to his land.
It’s an incredible turn of events …
… and shows us how quickly GOD IS ABLE to turn events around in our lives around.
FINALLY, THE MOST OBVIOUS EXAMPLE of being rescued at the last moment …
… is when God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac …
… as a burnt offering on the altar.
& as Abraham stretched for his hand, and took the knife to slay his son, the Bible says in Genesis 22:11 that:
11 … the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.
This foreshadowed the greatest rescue of all time …
… the sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ …
… who rescued us from sin, death, & Hell.
God had said to Abraham in Genesis 22:2: “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”
& Abraham believed in his heart all along that God would rescue him & provide a sacrifice at the last moment.
Abraham endured with patience the trial set before him.
When Isaac said to Abraham: “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
“And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering …”
Abraham trusted God completely to provide for him & rescue him in the midst of his most severe trial.
CAN WE DO THE SAME?
God did not spare His own Son …
… He didn’t provide a substitute like He did for Abraham …
… but BECAME THE SUBSTITUTE & the SACRIFICE on our behalf.
Romans 8:31-32 says:
31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
That is the GOD WE SERVE.
… The God who will deliver us, even at the last moment.
… The God who will deliver us when there is no other way.
The challenge to us is to trust Him & to have faith in the midst of tribulation …
… to endure with all patience and meekness and long-suffering …
… the MANIFOLD trials of our faith, which God has set before us.
THE FINAL STORY I want to share is that of Samson …
Samson’s trials shows us that God will even be with us in the moment of our death.
Samson, you might think, is an unlikely candidate for being rescued at the last moment.
He was deceived & bound by his wife Delilah …
… his eyes were plucked out …
… he was humiliated before the chief people of the Philistines …
… and he was ultimately killed.
BUT GOD WAS WITH SAMSON, even in his final request.
As thousands of the chief people & the lords of the Philistines gathered together in their pagan temple …
… they brought Samson out to make sport of him …
The Bible says in Judges 16:28-30:
28 And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.
29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.
30 And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.
God was with Samson, even in his death.
He heard his prayers & granted his final request.
In many ways, it was Samson greatest triumph …
The Bible says that he slew more people in his death than he had in his life.
The moral of the story is that God will not leave us alone …
He won’t leave us alone in the storm.
He won’t leave us to die by ourselves or to rot away in a prison cell or in a dungeon.
He won’t leave us without food & water.
He won’t leave us without sustenance.
He won’t leave us to perish among lions.
He’ll stand with us in the midst of a fiery furnace.
& He gave His own life to save us from our sins & the punishment of death & Hell.
May God gives us the strength to endure when tried, to increase in patience, to set our hope in Christ …
… & to have faith that God will deliver us when we call.
Psalm 50:15 says: “And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”
So let me invite you to release your troubles to God …
& to give Him all the things that are weighing heavy on your heart.
One of my favorite verses, Psalm 46:10 says: “Be still, and know that I am God.”