December 9, 2020
Author: Pastor Gordon Cook
December 09, 2020
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Some of the graphic pictures or metaphors in scripture that give us a picture of suffering are: fire, Paul talks about the fiery trial; the thorn; David uses the image of the valley of the shadow of death; the psalmist uses the pit; Jesus used the image of the cross to underscore that the Christian life is one of suffering. Another image is found in the book of Job. In chapter 5 one of Job’s friends uses this image, “As sparks fly upward man is born to trouble.” Think of standing in front of a bonfire and sparks flying upward. If you are driving down a highway there might be a car in front of you with its muffler hanging down scraping the pavement and you can see the sparks flying upward. Every one of us has a spark filled life. Troubles, troubles, troubles. Think of David, Abraham, Moses; they all had their share of sparks, thorns, fire-like trials. Certainly the psalms give another clear evidence that God’s people will never ever have trouble free lives. One third of the psalms are called psalms of lament. Lament is a word for a loud cry, a cry of grief and sorrow. The psalms also let us know that we will never get to heaven without suffering. That is real life experience. When you read those psalms, it is very clear that even in the midst of their trials and difficulties and struggles, (you sense discouragement and they are depressed, but the psalms as a whole are not depressing reads), most of them end on a positive note. The psalms of lament in general are psalms of faith. They are talking to God; not just complaining about their circumstances.
Why are they talking to God? Because they know Him. And what do they know about God that drives them to the throne of grace? Two huge foundational traits that drives men to the throne of grace. Our God is a god of deep mercy. Our God is also a god of sovereign reign and rule. Here are a few psalms to hear the psalmists as they cry to God: Psalm 30, “To You oh Lord I cry and to the Lord I plead for mercy; Hear oh Lord and be merciful to me; Oh Lord be my helper; My times are in Your hand; Rescue me from the hand of my enemies and my persecutors; Make Your face shine on Your servant; Save me in Your steadfast love.” Psalm 32, “You are a hiding place for me; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with shouts of deliverance; Many are the sorrows of the wicked; Steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.” God is a god of steadfast love and deep, abundant mercy. He is also a god who rules and reigns and that comes through again and again in the psalms. They never use the word sovereignty but they do use the word king or the word reign. See again in the psalms as they worship God: Psalm 47, “God reigns over the nations; God sits on a holy throne”; Psalm 93:1, “The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty”; Psalm 91:1, “The Lord reigns, let the people tremble”; Psalm 146, “The Lord reigns forever.” They believed that the God they worshiped was a god of deep mercy and a god of sovereign grace. Isn’t that why that woman with the blood issue runs to Jesus? Why did lepers run to Jesus? Why did the disciples run to Jesus in the midst of the storm? They believed He was a tender god of mercy and also a sovereign ruler.
I think those are the two great truths that we should keep in mind when we are afraid, when we are anxious; when the storms of life seem to be crashing in upon us; when we are facing a disease or a sickness; when you have a loved one who is on a death bed. Where do we go? We go to the god of the Bible. Not the government, not your bank accounts, not even people or your best friends can give you grace to calm an anxious heart. God is a god of deep mercy and can exercise sovereign grace. In Romans 8 the apostle Paul looks suffering straight in the face. He talks about tribulation, stress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword. He picks up those two foundational truths. The sovereignty of God in Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good,” that is the sovereignty of God. Then he picks up the love of God and the mercy of God in verse 35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” This should encourage us to go to the throne of grace during tough times, difficult times. We go to a God full of deep mercy and a God of sovereign grace.