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Why I Believe In God

Psalm 121

I love this Book. I love everything in and about this Book. But I have a special love for the book in this Book known as the Book of the Psalms. I love the Psalms. So many of them are quite literally woven into the fabric of my mind and my heart. Of course, the words of the 23rd Psalm come as easily and naturally to me as breathing. I thrill at the majestic poetry of Psalm 8. I find myself driven to my knees by the heart-rending confession of Psalm 51. I sense my spirit being buoyed by the joyous abandon of Psalm 100. I find my whole life soaring on the wings of the great Psalm 139. Yet, while I love all the Psalms, there is one Psalm I love the best of all. Perhaps I love it best because it is the one I most frequently summon from the chambers of my memory. It is Psalm 121. It is that Psalm which captures the essence of my own belief in God. Let me show you what I mean…

Here is a quote which you can write on your heart and even put on your refrigerator door, “In time of crisis, we look inward and become afraid. We look around us and become confused. We look upward and become serene.” Those words accurately portray the message delivered to us in Psalm 121. For that Psalm pictures us in time of need or difficulty or challenge looking upward to the power of God and then by claiming that power of God enabling us to journey on through life serene and unafraid. The psalmist writes, “I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?” And then having raised the question, the psalmist answers triumphantly, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” That’s the God in whom I believe. Now I want to walk you through the rest of the verses of Psalm 121 as a way of sharing with you why I believe in God.

I believe in a God who stays close to us.

Our God is not a God who is some remote and distant deity. God is not a “way off, out there, somewhere” God. God is sovereign, transcendent, all-powerful, yes, but our God is not removed from the human scene or the human experience, quite the contrary. Our God has dared to come to us in the flesh and blood of His only Son, Jesus Christ. He is a God who stays close to us, who walks beside us every step of the way through our life’s journey. He is always ready to stretch out His great strong loving arm in order to steady us, in order to keep us from stumbling and falling. Yes, He is a God who stays so close to us. Do you understand that that is what sets our faith apart from the other faith systems that exist in our world? That is what sets our faith apart from the faith of Islam, or Buddhism, or Shintoism, or Hinduism, or Confucianism—on and on the list could go. All of these differ. Why? Because other faith systems believe in a god who’s so far removed from the earthly scene that that god cannot identify with human beings and human beings in turn cannot truly identify with that god. Our Christian faith is the only faith system in the world where the sovereign, transcendent, all-powerful God comes so close to each of us that He knows our name. Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that in the Bible God is never referred to as the God of all the hosts of humankind? No. In the Bible, God is referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our God, you see, is the God of the individual. Our God is the God who knows your name and mine. Our God is the God who has the hairs in our head counted. Our God is the God who loves each of us as if each of us were the only one in all the world to love. Oh yes, we have a God who stays so close to us, always ready to stretch out His hand to steady us in life to keep us from falling. The psalmist puts it this way, “He will not let your foot slip.”

I not only believe in a God who stays close to us, but I believe in a God whose care is constant.

Our God never takes a vacation, never takes a break, never drops off to sleep, never grabs a quick nap, never goes off duty. Our God is a God who cares for us as we say it these days “twenty-four/seven/three sixty-five”—24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Our God never ever goes off duty. Our God watches over us at night every bit as carefully and profoundly as He watches over us in the daylight. I will let this thought wrap itself about your heart. Remember, we have a God who is on duty watching and caring for us 24 hours of every day. I want you to hear that because so many times I encounter individuals who indicate to me that they have trouble sleeping. What I suggest to them is always the same thing. It’s what I use in my own life. I tell them, “ Don’t bother with counting sheep. That never works for me anyway. What I suggest that you do is to memorize the verses of Psalm 121.” By the way, every single one of you no matter what your age or circumstances in life, can memorize the verses of Psalm 121. It’s a very short Psalm. It’s very easy to remember. Once you have ingrained it into your memory, it will never leave you. So some night as the shadows fall over you and you find yourself tossing and turning in the bed, all you have to do is to call up from your memory the words of Psalm 121. As you move through the verses, suddenly you come to the point of incredible affirmation—the assurance of knowing that our God is a God who never goes “off duty.” There is all the assurance you need in order to surrender your body and your soul to the gift of sleep. He is a God whose care is constant. The Psalmist describes it this way, “He who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

I not only believe in a God who stays close to us and whose care for us is constant, I also believe in a God who shields us from danger.

What an incredible affirmation! Way back in 1915, Earnest Shackelton and his crew tried to sail their vessel through the Antarctic. In the process the ship became lodged, wedged, trapped in the horrifying ice of the Antarctic. No way to get out. It was in desperation then that Earnest Shackelton and several of his men set off walking across miles of terrifying ice in order to try to find help. It was one of the most incredible adventures of the twentieth century. After that long harrowing, frightening journey was over, one of Shackelton’s men said to him, “Boss, I had a strange feeling that someone was with us.” That is not fantasy. That is not make-believe. That is one man’s actual experience with the God who shields us from danger. My guess is that in your life at some point along the way, you have had an experience like that. You had a sense of some unseen presence at your side shielding you or protecting you at some time of danger. Maybe it was when you were a child when you suddenly found your way home after being lost, or maybe it was when you were young and you almost drowned, or maybe it was the time when you made an astonishing recovery from some serious illness, or you narrowly missed colliding with an automobile, or you miraculously escaped the bombing raid. At the time you rather lightly and casually referred to your guardian angel, but way down deep inside you gave thanks for the God who shields you from danger. Yes, our God is a God who shields us from danger. Listen to the way the psalmist puts it, “The Lord watches over you—The Lord is your shade and your right hand. The sun will not harm you by day nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life.”

Well, I not only believe in a God who stays close to us, a God whose care is constant, a God who shields us from danger, but maybe best of all, I believe in a God who sees us through death.

We, as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, was raised from the dead by the power of God, and therefore, the gift of the power of the resurrection is available to us all. That means that you and I have no need to fear death. Let me say that again. You and I, as Christians, have no need to fear death. Oh, we may not be looking forward to how we die. We may not be anticipating having to be away from loved ones even though temporarily. Those things are certainly true, but the fear of death, no. We do not need to be afraid of death. Why? Because for the Christian, death is nothing more than just a going out and a coming in. A going out of this life and a coming into the life that never ends—the life with God and Jesus Christ in the kingdom of heaven.

Back during the Civil War, on one occasion, President Abraham Lincoln was visiting the field hospital. He came to the bedside of a young soldier boy. The young man was grievously wounded and in intense pain writhing in agony. His pain was so intense that his vision was clouded, and he did not recognize the President of the United States. At that point, Lincoln leaned over the bed and said, “Son, is there anything that I can do for you.” The young man out of his terrible pain said, “Would it be asking too much sir? Would you help me to write a letter to my mother?” So the President took a pen and paper and as the young soldier dictated the words to his mother, the President wrote them down. The young man still not recognizing his visitor, then said, “Sir, I would ask you, if you would, would you please just sign your name at the bottom so that my mother might know that you were so kind to me.” The President signed his name. When the boy saw the signature, he began to cry. President Lincoln then said to him, “Son, is there anything else I can do for you?” The young man said, “Sir, it won’t be long now. I know it’s asking so much. But it would help me if you stay and see me through.” With that the President pulled up his chair, sat down by the bed, reached out his hand and took the young soldier boy’s hand in his own, and he held it tight. Night came one—two—three o’clock in the morning. Then, just as the first streaks of the dawn appeared in the sky, the young soldier’s spirit took its silent flight. The President stood up, closed the now sightless eyes, whispered a prayer, and then left the room. But you see he had stayed at the boy’s side. He had seen him through death. Do you understand that that is the picture of our God? Do you understand that when the darkness of death begins to settle over us, our God will be there? Our God will reach out and take our hand in His very own. Our God will hold us tight. Our God will be with us as we move out of the darkness of this life. And our God will be there for us when we step into the incredible light of the Kingdom of Heaven. Our God will see us through—through death—to the light of life eternal. Do you understand that that’s what the psalmist is talking about when the psalmist writes these marvelous words, “The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more.” That’s the God in whom I believe—the God who watches over us both now and forever more. May this God bless this simple witness, which I offer to you in His Name. Amen.

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