6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: David shows us what hapens when we let God take over our lives.




A. Has your faith ever seemed like this cartoon?

B. Faith is often difficult to find in the midst of life.

1. There is a rock ready to fall on you from one direction, and a cliff ready for you to fall off of on the other side.

2. Christian author and teacher, Dallas Willard, put it this way: "The Lord is my Shepherd" is written on many more tombstones than lives.

3. Life does sometimes bring great difficulty – right when you least expect it.

a. Consider my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Many of you have prayed for them with us when in one year, they found out their 16 year-old daughter was pregnant. Then their son, serving in the army in Iraq, stepped on a roadside bomb, almost lost his life, and spent over a year going through surgeries and therapy. Shortly after their son was injured, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and endured surgery and chemotherapy. How do you make it through all of that?

b. Or consider what happened to Richard and Geneva Culp:

The hot sun in northern California added to the fatigue I felt, working as foreman of a large ranching operation. I owned my own farm—200 acres of almond trees. But years of bad weather and skimpy harvests forced me to take on additional work to provide for my family.

Still, my efforts didn’t seem to help reduce our debts. My wife, Geneva, and I took additional loans to cover our farming expenses. The trees had to be watered, sprayed, and fertilized, and the wages had to be paid. All that created more debt. I couldn’t get back on my feet.

I’d lost a farm previously, and starting over was difficult then. This made Geneva and I determined not to fail again. We spent many sleepless nights struggling to find a way to pay all of our expenses.

One day, Geneva brought me the bad news: "Oh, Richard, I’ve just been to the farm credit company. They’ve taken it all! We’re being forced to sell. They have a buyer; there’s no price negotiation. All they want is our signatures."

Her voice trailed off into sobs. I put my arms around her and began to weep too. Everything that we had worked a lifetime to acquire was gone. I was 50 years old and had been in farming all my life. Where would we go? Since the farm credit company had taken our land and our two bank notes, the crop that year would go to the buyer. We had no money to start over. Two of our eight children were still at home. How would this crisis and relocation affect their lives?

In spite of the overwhelming loss and grief, I knew that God was in control of our situation. I remembered the Bible story of Joseph. Even as a slave and prisoner, that young man was part of God’s glorious plan. As for me, I knew that God must have something better for our future too.

Two weeks after the creditors took our farm, things got worse. I lost my job as a ranch foreman. Our family moved into a compact rental unit, and Geneva and I began working a series of minor jobs, including a stint at a fast food restaurant.

It was difficult to pay down the $100,000 debt that was left after all of our assets were seized—our land, equipment, home, and bank notes. There were many times that we didn’t have money for groceries and living expenses, but God provided for us through our family, friends, and church.

C. Psalm 23 has spoken to many people who have faced dire circumstances.

1. This is perhaps the most beloved of all the Psalms. It may be the most loved and best known chapter in the Bible.

a. A nineteenth century preacher and commentator, J. J. Stewart Perowne observed that “there is no psalm in which the absence of all doubts, misgiving, fear, and anxiety is so remarkable.”

b. Alexander Maclaren said that “the world could spare many a large book better that this sunny little psalm. It has dried many tears and supplied the mould into which many hearts have poured their peaceful faith.”

c. This Psalm was one of the first passages of scripture that I memorized. Millions of people have memorized it, even those who have learned very little other scripture. You can probably quote most if not all of it.

d. This Psalm has been used countless times to comfort people who are going through personal trial, suffering, illness, or dying. For some, the words of this psalm have been the last they have uttered in life.

2. This psalm stands on its opening line: “The Lord is my shepherd.” That line presents an amazing juxtaposition of ideas.

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