Summary: As you consider the last 12 months, was it what you expected? Life is turbulent, but our God prepares us for it all. See how the words of Psalm 46 calm troubled hearts, give Godly perspective, and prepare us for the future.
I want you to think back to one year ago, December 29, 2018. At that point in time, what were you expecting or hoping 2019 would bring? Maybe you were hoping that it was going to be the year to lose a few of those unwanted pounds, to start exercising more, to eat healthier. Maybe you hoped that it was going to be the year where you saved a little more money, eating out less, building up your nest egg. Maybe you simply were hoping that it was going go to be a better year than the previous one. So how did it go? What did 2019 bring? Each of us could probably do a personal year-in-year recalling what happened in the last 12 month in your life: big events like births, baptisms, confirmations, graduations, weddings and funerals, relationships formed or ended, people met, places you went, experiences you had. You might do more of a national or global year-in-review like those you find in magazines and TV shows as they recall both the good and the not-so-good. Whatever the case may be, I think that we can confidently say that life is filled with change, ups and downs, some of what we hoped for and some that we didn’t. Life is turbulent. So would you like to venture a guess today on what 2020 will bring?
As we prepare to turn the calendar to another new year, let’s turn our attention this morning to Psalm 46 to remind us of the same thing God has been reminding his people throughout time. These are words that 1) calm troubled hearts, that 2) provide Godly perspective, that give 3) confidence concerning our future. While living in this world you can expect to face the unexpected. But with the Lord Almighty, you always know what to expect from him.
The opening verses of Psalm 46 describe some rather scary things, wouldn’t you say? The mountains crashing down around us and the ground violently shaking, the oceans roaring with white caps. It sounds like a nightmarish report by the Weather Channel. If you’ve ever witnessed one those natural disasters you know the fear and the feeling of helplessness that accompanies them. You might think of Hurricane Dorian with its 185 MPH winds flattening the Bahamas and destroying everything in its way. You could think of California wild fires and the miles of charred devastation it left in its path. Closer to home, you might think of the record breaking flooding of the Mississippi River this past summer that left thousands of acres of farmland submerged and dams on the verge of breaking. Those are the pictures that these words from Psalm 46 bring to mind – catastrophes that flip people’s lives up-side-down.
But it’s not just natural disasters that flip lives up-side-down, is it? There are plenty of events in our lives, that while not making the headlines of the news, have left a lasting impression on us, events that have left us feeling devastated, sad, afraid and angry. The diagnosis of a disease that is going to rob you of your independence. The loss of a job when you get the news that work is downsizing. A relationship that abruptly came to an end. A vacation that was cut short because of sickness. The letter notifying you that you didn’t get into the school you had applied to. The team you didn’t make, the part in the play you didn’t get. Life doesn’t always go exactly as we had planned or hoped for.
Notice what the psalmist does NOT say. The psalmist does not say, “If the Lord is your refuge and strength you will NEVER have any trouble, the mountains WON’T fall or quake, the oceans WON’T roar and foam.” No. Instead the psalmist says, “THOUGH the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, THOUGH the waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (Psalm 46:2,3). God is our refuge, strength and help WHILE we are going through these sometimes very scary things.
How does God help us through? Verse 4 tells us, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells” (Psalm 46:4). What a contrast from the previous picture! From waters that are roaring and foaming to a gentle river with streams that meander through a city providing a constant source of fresh water. What a beautiful picture of where we live by God’s grace. Yes. We are citizens of this city – the city of God. This is the city that we became citizens of when the Holy Spirit brought us to faith in Jesus. The Apostle Paul described that citizenship in these words, “Therefore, remember that formerly…you were separated from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise… But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:11-13). By faith in Jesus, we have been given citizenship in the city of God, and there are certain benefits that come from being a citizen of this city.