We’ve all had sleepless nights – not only due to coffee – but where something just runs through your mind over and over. The clock ticks on and on and on… the issue does not go away. The bedroom starts to lighten, and the birds begin to tweet – and the concern still looms large on the horizon. It could be something in life, family, business or a relationship that eats at your mind – just lying there, thinking and pondering the issue.
Maybe you even face something at the moment? What is bothering you today? Each one of us will have something. Some people have more than one issue. And often we don’t know how to deal with it – there doesn’t seem to be any solution.
Well, while accepting this is not some “magic wand” verse, nor a quick promise for the day, allow me to share something from the experience of the psalmist from Psalm 94 which trust will be of some help…
“When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” (Psalm 94:19, ESV)
Some versions read, “In the multitude of my anxieties within me…”
So then, what were the Psalmists anxieties? We don’t know for sure, but we can guess from the Psalm. We get a sense of trouble, enemies and being threatened. His life was in danger, the righteous were being oppressed while the wicked seemed to prosper. Through all that is looked like God did not care. This was compounded by murder in the land of the widow and stranger and orphan. Evildoers abounded. The Psalmist has a list – a long list of problems and things that concerned him.
So do you – if you take time to think about it. Don’t issues trouble you too? In the country, our city, your family, your church, relationships with people, financial issues, your future, your health or someone else’ health? Maybe you can say like the Psalmist here - “In the multitude of my anxieties within me… When the cares of my heart are many.” That is real and honest and raw.
But the verse does not end there… see what follows… “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul” or “…your consolations cheer my soul.”
This man acknowledges all that is happening. He doesn’t try to hide his problems and confusion and distress at life. “I do have a multitude of anxieties and concerns. ”
But – and hear the glorious “but” – Your comforts Lord delight my soul. In the middle of all the problems, the comforts of God bring a delight and joy to His heart.
So then, what are the comforts of God? Are they some form of warm feeling that descends out of heaven, and maybe a nice feeling of security and happiness? No. I don’t think so.
I believe that the comforts of God are the truth and promises found in the Word of God – truths about who God is, and what He has done for us, and what He has promised us. The pages of the Bible are full are the comforts of God for those that are in relationship with God. Those passages are designed to bring encouragement and hope. As Paul wrote:
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4, ESV)
What about all the other comforts found in Scripture for those who are part of God’s family and are in relationship with Christ? Surely believers find comfort in God’s sovereignty, faithfulness, love, grace, power, wisdom and justice? The truths that He will never leave us nor forsake us and “I will be with you” shore up weak faith in times of feeling abandoned, right?
The nature of God provides a solid foundation – that he is the steadfast One, the Rock, the strong tower, mighty fortress, the King established on His throne.
There are rich promises of hope for the believer – that Christ is coming to claim His bride, the inheritance stored up for us in heaven, the assurance that Christians are marked with His seal and that our lives are hidden with Christ in God.
It’s like there are 2 lists…. The multitudes of our anxieties within us, but counterweighted against God’s comforts. And the latter far, far outweighs the former! Praise God for that! God’s comforts far outweighs the trouble and distress.
That means that we can and should come and find comfort in the promises contained in the Bible, and pray for the Lord to impress those on our hearts so that we truly trust in Him and find rest in Him.
It has been a joy over the last 13 hours to see gospel seeds sown in the build-up to Christmas…
A number of our Randburg Baptist Church family went across to Douglasdale Retirement Village to lead a Carol Service there at 5pm on Christmas Eve. Over 70 people were present, inclusion at least 50 of the residents. John Rowland shared a simple, direct message from John 1. We had chance to linger and enjoy some refreshments.
Some of our “Okes” connected with the local CHUBB security detail on Christmas morning at their 6am shift change, with the traditional coffee, muffins and gift of gospel literature. There is also some limited chance just to connect, chat and show something opf the love of Christ.
Now, is this “hit & miss” ministry? I’ve heard people castigate ministry like this before, saying that the church is called to make disciples, and nopt just converts and not just random exposure to the gospel. The [point is that ministry without follow-up is a waste of time.
Well, having been preaching through Mark’s gospel over the past few months, I am increasingly convinced otherwise. Sure, disciple-making is key, and we should never, ever lose sight of that. We’re called to build into peoples’ lives, being faithful to the Lord’s command to “teach them everything I have commanded” (Matt 28:19-20). Long-term input and nurture is crucial - agreed!
But this in no ways should ever serve as an excuse to avoid the indiscriminate sharing of gospel truths, and then trusting God for the outcomes, right? We see that through the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus, do we not? Mark 2:13-14 gives us that wonderful balance: Jesus taught the crowds, many of whom He would never see again. But He also directed specific attention to Levi, and called him to faith. The parables in Mark 4 reinforce the theme – gospel seeds are sown far and wide, indiscriminate throwing of truth to whoever would hear. But God causes some to land on good soil, and He produces growth. In fact, the sower can sow in that way, and then go to sleep, waiting for God to bring about true spiritual change…
“And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.” (Mark 4:26–27, ESV)
So, let’s give God thanks for opportunities for gospel ministry. I’d dearly love to see people from DRV and the local CHUBB sector crew coming to faith, and growing in a way whereby we could walk with them. But I think we need to rejoice in the fact that then gospel has been presented and demonstrated by our people in these 2 areas, both last night and this morning. Now we pray – that the Holy Spirit would bring fruit from the effort, to God’s glory.
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.” (1 Corinthians 3:6–8, ESV)
Homer Simpson is not the best guide to spiritual truth.
However, with that statement he does come close to a prevailing worldview about Jesus Christ… “Just because I don’t care, doesn’t mean that I don’t understand.”
A teenager once told me that his life motto was “Ignorance and apathy” – I don’t know, and I don’t care! That’s pretty sad. But also pretty common when it comes to the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ.
We see that same attitude in some of the characters in the story when the Magi arrive to visit Jesus as a young child, between 6 months and 2 years after the actual birth. The following thoughts are extracts from my message for tomorrow morning’s Christmas Day service, so come along for the full package deal :)
So, the Magi arrive. They’ve seen a star. They have worked out the significance – a king has been born in Israel. They come bearing gifts. Herod hears the news and freaks out. And he gets his “brains trust” together – the scribes and high priests of Israel, to get some clarity….
Look at the religious leaders whom Herod summoned – the chief priests and the scribes. These guys were the ones who actually knew something – they had all the facts and figures about religious life before them. They knew all there was to know about the prophesied Messiah. That’s why Herod called them!
Herod plays a little Q&A with them : “Where is the Christ to be born?” And this bunch of religious fanatics and legal professors and top theologians are like, “Herod, is that the best you’ve got? That’s a no-brainer! Everyone knows that! Bethlehem is the birthplace of the Christ!” These men probably had the whole of the Old Testament memorised, and they knew Micah 5:2 :
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” (Micah 5:2, ESV)
They know the information, the prophecy and the facts. They too were Jews, looking out for the coming of the Messiah, the Christ – they too wanted Him as the Liberator. They have all they need to know about the coming of the Anointed One from God.
But what do they do when they hear something about the birth of a King? There is a strong rumour in the city that a King has been born. Bethlehem was like 9 ½ kilometres from Jerusalem… a half day walk and they could have got there. Do you not think that this group of ultra-religious Jews would have leapt at the chance to go and see, to witness, to verify?
But they do nothing!
They’re less than 10km from where the Messiah might be, and nothing stirs within them to go and investigate. The Gentile Magi have travelled 100’s of kilometres to Jerusalem, but the local Jewish leaders cannot be bothered. Sheer apathy. Total disinterest. Couldn’t be bothered. They knew the facts and the signs, but they couldn’t be bothered in actually knowing the King, and believing in the fact that maybe God had actually sent the long awaited One.
Years later, this apathy and indifference and disbelief would turn to active hate. There initial disinterest in Jesus led to rejection and a murderous desire to see Him dead. Those whom ignored His coming when He was still a young child, would one day cry out, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”
Homer Simpson said that he understood, but just didn’t care. Well, these Jews did too – they too understood, but failed to care.
What do we learn from this group?
Quite simply – do not be apathetic about the rule and reign of Jesus Christ. Jesus is King, He is the rule, and you cannot afford to not care. You cannot afford to drift along through life, ignoring the facts and evidence as to who Jesus is. You cannot fail to give attention to the birth, life and death of Jesus, the Saviour and Lord.
If I put a Bible Quiz before you today, you might score quite well – knowing all those facts and figures from Sunday School and youth and all the church services you have attended so faithfully. O yes, you might have all the information, attend church regularly, be involved even, give lots, be charitable… But is it possible that you, like these Jewish religious leaders, know about Jesus but don’t actually know Jesus. Maybe you’re cold, indifferent and apathetic about who He really is, and what He came to do. He is the ruler, the shepherd. Your own salvation from sin and God’s judgement hinges on whether you accept and trust and obey this Jesus.
Apathy is a highly dangerous place to be when it comes to responding to the birth of Jesus as King.
Don’t be like Homer Simpson – ever! But more importantly, don’t play the apathy game like these Jewish leaders of old – because it affects you forever.