As I mentioned last Sunday, it is my custom to begin each new year with a reminder and call to prayer and Scripture reading. I feel a burden and a challenge this morning. How can I impress on you the infinite value in knowing God’s Word? How can I convince you to read your Bible regularly, daily? How can I persuade you that it is not as boring as you think? How can I help you to see real benefit and fruit and blessing in your life by spending time reading your Bible? We don’t have to convince King David, it is clear he values his Bible as a priceless treasure filled with incomparable gems. It revives his soul when he’s weary, it makes him wise when he is plagued with questions and doubts, it gives joy to his heart and light to his eyes. To this rich king his Bible is better than great quantities of pure gold and it gives more pleasure and delight than the sweetest honey. It was his life and his lifeline. But who thinks of the Bible that way today? Who of us would nod in agreement with what David said? Who of us would say this is our experience when we come to the Bible? Better than gold? Sweeter than honey? Really? Why isn’t it? Have you thought about that?
I want to focus on these few verses at the end of Psalm 69. But because they are at the end, that means these verses have a context. And that context gives these verses even greater impact. This Psalm is one of a few Psalms, sometimes called imprecatory psalms or laments (the main ones being 35, 69, and 109). They are prayers that record the details of the dark side of life. In this Psalm David is crying out to God to save him. His enemies outnumber the hairs on his head. He is being pursued by those who want to kill him. His enemies mock God and scorn all things godly. David prays for relief and prays a curse on his enemies and that God would vindicate His own righteousness. After pouring out his prayer in much detail, with specific requests for specific action by God, he sums up his prayer and the miserable condition of his life in verse 29. He is in pain and great distress. After 29 verses of lament and anguish and strong language, all of a sudden, the Psalmist turns to praise and thanksgiving.
Thank you to those of you who turned in questions. I got about 15 cards with about 30 questions that were all over the map, or should I say all over the Bible. Some were topics, some were issues of our day, some were specific passages of Scripture or single texts of Scripture. This evening we will focus on one of those texts, one that is bigger than we might first think. Let me begin asking you, what are you afraid of? We all have fears or phobias. Phobias typically fall within five general categories: • fears related to animals (spiders, snakes, insects, rodents, Suriphobia- fear of mice) • fears related to the natural environment (heights, thunder, darkness) • fears related to blood, injury, or medical issues (injections, broken bones, falls, dentist) • fears related to specific situations (flying, riding an elevator, speaking in public, crowds) • other (choking, loud noises, drowning) • today social media has created some more related to being alone, being disconnected. I came across a couple I had never heard of before: pogonophobia, fear of beards Pentheraphobia- Fear of mother-in-law. (Greek penthera-mother in law) There is even a fear a duck is watching you Most of us think of fear as something we want to get rid of, it is a negative thing, not something we want more of. For some of us the fear of the Lord is a negative thing. Maybe we grew up afraid of God, afraid of going to hell, afraid of God’s punishment for our sin, that He would make our lives miserable. If we grew up in a home with a very strict and severe father, who was demanding, punishing, one we could never please, one who never expressing love or compassion then we would view God the same way. We learned no sense of God’s love and grace and mercy. But sometimes someone will say about a person, he is a God-fearing man. When we hear that we think of it as positive, it is saying something good about that person and the way they live. What does that mean? Scripture has a lot to say about the fear of the Lord and the wisdom of fearing the Lord.
I am going to start my sermon this morning by telling you the destination, where we are going. Then I am going to back up and tell you why we are going there and how we will get there. If this was a big bus and I announced that we are going to go the Thudpucker, Arkansas, I am sure I would have to make a good case for why in the world would we go there, or I might have a mutiny on my hands. So, this morning our destination is to call First CRC to become a prayer advocate church for the nation of Nigeria and specifically for the Muslim Hausa frontier people group in northern Nigeria. Now already a few of you are thinking, I would rather go to Thudpucker, Arkansas. So, let’s back up and talk about the bigger picture and then zero in on why that destination.
We have been using this overflowing glass as a symbol of God’s overflowing grace to us in the Gospel. But what about when life doesn’t feel like that at all? What about when life doesn’t even feel half full or half empty, but completely empty? What about when we feel like we got nothing? Does it mean you aren’t a Christian? Does it mean you aren’t a good Christian? Does it mean that you have been left out or left behind? Remember David is a mature believer. What do we do when life empties our glass? What do we do when we feel like the Psalmist and find more why questions than answers? Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go about mourning? Why have you rejected me? Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why are you in turmoil within me? It’s OK to ask why questions. Jesus asked why on the cross, “Why have you forsaken me?”
So let’s talk about these four glasses of water. Four pictures of our spiritual life. A glass half empty/full. What do you see here? How would you describe this glass? Half full or half empty? Most of us view life according to this first glass, sometimes it seems half full and sometimes it seems half empty. If you are an optimistic person, like Tigger, more often you will see it as half full. If you are more of a pessimistic person, like Eeyore, you might see it as half empty. There are variations on this theme. Do we complain rose bushes have thorns, or do we rejoice that thorn bushes have roses?
How many of you are growing older? Wow, pastor, that’s two sermons in a row where you have started off with a dumb question. Last week was how many of you have ever forgotten something? Now how many of us are growing older? Those of you who lurk about Facebook know a few weeks ago someone started a 10 Year Photo Challenge. You’re supposed to post two pictures of yourself side by side, one from 10 years ago and one from now. I know, you are thinking, why would anyone do that on purpose? Lots of celebrities and famous people are doing it to show off how great they still look. Others are owning up to the realities of what age does to our faces and bodies. So why am I talking about this topic this morning. Last week we considered the least of these, the little ones in their mother’s wombs. This morning I want to consider the other end of life, the oldest of these, the senior saints. Next week I will speak to a topic that will land in the middle, parents and the challenges of navigating the technology driven culture we are immersed in, or maybe submerged in. Pray for me as we tackle technology and smartphones and social media. The Puritan Edmund Barker said, “Every Christian hath two great works to do in the world, to live well, and to die well.” Dying well was something they prepared for by living well. So my goal this morning is to pass on some wisdom from God concerning the number of our days and how to age with grace or as the Puritans would say how to finish well and die well.