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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Preached At:Pilgrim Canadian Reformed Church
 London, Ontario
 www.londoncanrc.org
 
Title:Those who Fear God Lack No Good Thing
Text:LD 50 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's faithfulness
 
Preached:2011
Added:2013-08-23
Updated:2013-08-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 23:1,3                                                                                      

Reading – 1 Samuel 21:10 - 22:5; Psalm 34

Psalm 34:1,2,3,4

Sermon – Lord’s Day 50

Hy 66:1,2,3

Hymn 1

Hymn 78:1,2,3,4,5
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved, some Christians very earnestly want others to believe in Jesus. They so want that good response, they try to make the gospel even more attractive! “If you just sweeten the deal a little bit,” they think, “then more will go for it. And because the end result is good, it won’t really matter how we got there.” So what are these empty promises that they’ll make? What will some Christians say to get more in the church? Well, they’ll claim, “Everything is just so wonderful when you believe. You won’t get sick. You won’t be poor. Why, you’ll hardly have a care in the world. You’ll have your best life, right now.”

            Maybe you’ve heard this before. Perhaps when you were flipping through the channels, and came across a televangelist preaching this kind of message. Or maybe at a Christian bookstore, those authors who say God promises us a better and happier life—a life where there are no worries, a life where your car always runs, and where your bank account is always full. “It’s the kind of life that Jesus wants for us,” they’ll boldly say.

            This kind of teaching is sometimes called the “health and wealth” gospel. It’s the idea that God will always give us great material blessing. That when we believe in Jesus, He’ll make our life better in every single way. And it sounds good. It gets a lot of people in the door, even gets a lot of people calling themselves Christians. But it’s false. It’s no gospel at all, because it removes the heart of the message, which is about the forgiveness of sins through Christ. It makes all kinds of physical things more important than having true reconciliation with God.

            Yet we have more to say, beloved. For God does richly bless us. We know Him to be a generous Father, one who promises to give us all things necessary. No, maybe God won’t give us perfect health. Maybe He won’t give us abundant wealth. Certainly He won’t keep you from all the hardships of this broken world. But what He will do is give exactly what you need to live—and to give it for as many days as He’s allotted in his book. There’s not a day that you’ll be outside his gracious care!

            Such has always been the comfort of God’s people. That when we trust in the LORD, He’ll richly provide. This was David’s confidence in Psalm 34, and it’s ours as well. I preach God’s Word to you on this theme,

             Fear the LORD, for those who fear Him lack nothing!

1)     trusting God,

2)     we lack nothing at all

3)     so we can praise Him each day
 

1)     trusting God: There’s a key that unlocks this petition of the Lord’s Prayer. When we have this key in our hand—when we have it in our heart—everything else just “clicks.” And what is this key? It is trust! It’s dependence, a sure faith in our faithful God. Maybe it’s obvious that trust will be so important. This is a prayer, after all. And a prayer, by definition, is a “calling upon God in true faith.” Surely we wouldn’t be talking to God, if we didn’t trust him! We wouldn’t be asking him for our daily bread, if we suspected He wasn’t going to answer.

Or would we? Beloved, is it possible to pray this prayer, to offer this petition, without really trusting God, without believing in his Word? Sad to say, but it is. We might say these fine phrases every day, merely out of habit or custom. We might mouth them at mealtimes, just because we always have: “Father, give us this day our daily bread.”

But when we say it, do we mean it? Do we have the real expectation that God will provide us with all our bodily needs? I ask, because even in that moment right after praying, we might return to our fretful worrying. Even as we open our eyes and unfold our hands, we might go right back to depending on ourselves.

But we need to trust. We need to see how dependable God’s promise actually is! This is how the Catechism begins its lesson; it explains this petition (in the first place) as an acknowledgment of God’s greatness in generosity, a recognition of God’s capacity for caring: “[May we] acknowledge that you are the only fountain of all good” (Q&A 125). Before we launch into our long list of wants and needs and troubles, before we multiply our various supplications, let us recognize into whose presence we’ve come. We’ve come to the only fountain of all good!

That is, the God we’re talking to is willing to provide. And He is able to provide, in every way. Beloved, do we acknowledge that when we pray? Do we build on that as our firm foundation, even when our hearts are burdened by the cares and troubles of this world? Daily we ought to confess: “This God—my God—is the only fountain of all good.”

That confession takes, as we said, the exercise of trust. It might even mean a change in loyalty. For so often, we’ve got our “trust account” in a different branch. We’ve put our faith in ourselves, and our resourcefulness: we look to our earning potential, to the returns on our investments, to our abilities. Or maybe we’ve put our trust in the people around us. Or maybe we’ve put our trust in the resilience of the economy and the strength of the dollar.

But the Catechism teaches us to pray, “Grant… that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures and place it only in you” (Q&A 125). Sooner or later, everyone else will disappoint. Sooner or later, you’ll find that there is no “sure thing.” But God will always deliver.

Trust is the key, yet every Christian understands that this isn’t some effortless thing. “Just trust in the Lord,” we might breezily say to someone beset with worry. “Have a little more faith!” But how difficult that can be in practice, to entrust yourself fully to the Lord’s care! How difficult, to stop dragging your worries around like a hundred pound weight, and to “cast your anxieties on the Lord”—to humbly and simply depend on God’s provision.

Perhaps we’ve learned that God can surprise us. Maybe we’ve experienced how suddenly God can change our situation, and can drop into our laps just what we need, at just the right moment. A new opportunity. An unexpected bonus. A generous gift. But even when we’ve experienced that once or twice—or several times!—even when we’ve heard others tell of the same thing, we still worry. We still doubt. “This time, there won’t be a nice surprise,” we tell ourselves. “This time, there is no possible way God can make it better.” How slow of heart we can be! How slow to acknowledge that unbroken pattern: the pattern of the Father’s faithful care!

In Psalm 34 we have a lesson in this kind of trust. Reading it, it’s a positive song—it sounds like everything worked out just fine. David seems like a man who’s always got his trust firmly in the LORD. Yet read between the lines, and you see this trust didn’t come so easily. The Psalm heading says, “When he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.” The back-story is in 1 Samuel 21. There, David’s a man on the run. For months, he’s been tracked by King Saul, who knew David was next in line for the throne. Running out of places to hide from his pursuer, David takes refuge in the land of the Philistines.

It didn’t take long before they suspected who was in their midst. Could this be David, the famous Israelite warrior? Could this be the “secret weapon” of the Hebrews, now claiming refugee status among them? David’s life is suddenly in even greater danger than it was before. To escape their attention, David pretends to be insane when brought before the king. And he escapes death, to live another day.

In 1 Samuel 21, David dodged the bullet. All the same, it’s striking that this incident is the only time that David is ever said to be frightened. We can read it in verse 12 of that chapter, “Now David took [the Philistines’] words to heart, and was very much afraid.” David, slayer of lions, destroyer of the mighty Goliath, was terrified as the Philistines closed in on him—was this now the end of the line? 

As David looks back, he realize just how close it’d been. Stuck in his troubles, beset with fear, David had been utterly hopeless. Yet God was near—the LORD even sent his Angel to encamp around him in his distress! The eyes of his heart were opened, and David saw he was surrounded on every side, not by enemies, but by the LORD of hosts. He experienced just how ever-present is the goodness of God.

And now David wants to share this vital lesson with the rest of God’s people. Because so often we hold back on God. We don’t think He’ll come through. God becomes our “Plan B”—if all else fails, then we’ll pray. But David urges us to experience it for ourselves: “This God is worthy of your trust, right from the start. Try Him,” he says, “like I did.” “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good” (v 8). The LORD might be a heavenly God, but He’s not indifferent to his people down below; He’s not out of touch. He’s a God of the every day. You can taste his gifts! You can see his goodness!

But we first need to humble ourselves before Him. David describes his experience in this way, “This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him” (v 6). Yes, David had been a “poor man.” Without God, he had no resources to pull himself out of trouble. He could only depend on God’s grace. This poor man needed a heavenly handout!

And as we pray this petition each day, we have to make the same confession: “Our care and our labour, and also your gifts, cannot do us any good without your blessing” (Q&A 125). No, it’s not our efficiently-running brain that brings us our paycheque every month. It’s not the hammer in our hand that earns us a living. It’s not the skills we’ve acquired, the talents we’ve developed, or the business we’ve built up. Providing can never be up to us, because (in David’s words) we’re only “poor,” destitute and alone and frightened. None of our good gifts and opportunities are of any value without God’s blessing. But when we trust in Him humbly,

2)     we lack nothing at all: If you like little but loaded words, then Lord’s Day 50 is the Lord’s Day for you. There’s included a word that doesn’t look like much, but it actually speaks volumes. The little word is “all.” It occurs twice: “Provide us with all our bodily needs.” And, “You are the only fountain of all good.” That is to say, God’s care is complete. He doesn’t forget anything. With Him, we’ve got full coverage!

            David knew about this too. In telling us the story of his trouble, he says, “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (v 4). All my fears! Then again in verse 6, “This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” All his troubles! Whatever was bothering him, from the greatest obstacle to the slightest snag, all of it could be cast onto the LORD.

            And that’s the lesson David wants us to learn: “Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints! There is no want to those who fear him” (v 9). It’s an image taken from home life. When things are tight, you know you might have to forego the extras; you might have to do without. But this is God’s promise; He promises that his children will never have good reason to look around and to say, “You know what we don’t have? We don’t have this, and we don’t have that.” We won’t have reason to say that, because when we fear God, we’ll lack nothing at all.

            Someone could ask, “But isn’t this simply an Old Testament version of the ‘health and wealth’ gospel? Isn’t David being over-optimistic here, promising us too much? Is it true that we’ll really have ‘no wants’ when we fear the LORD? Because I can tell you a bunch of things that I don’t have right now—things that I really want.” But let’s remember what David is praying for. Stuck in Philistia, surrounded by the enemy, he’s praying for his life. He’s praying for the most basic gift of all. And that’s what Christ teaches us to pray for in this petition, too. He says, “Ask God for your daily bread.”

            Sure, it used to be that bread wasn’t so popular. Following some diet plans, some people quit eating bread altogether. Well, weight loss schemes come and go, but bread will always be a basic food item, a staple that everyone needs to sustain their body. This is true today, as it was in Jesus’ time. He tells us to pray for bread, that most basic item for your cupboard.

But indeed, “bread” in this petition isn’t just bread. Bread is a beginning, but there’s more required. Jesus knows we need a spot to lay our head at night. He knows we need clothing on our bodies. He knows we need a job, and regular money coming in. Christ isn’t too “high and mighty” to realize what it takes to maintain a life. So He teaches us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread, that is, give us today all our bodily needs” (Q&A 125).

            We pray to God for what we need. Beloved, see how this is at once a bold prayer, but also a modest prayer. We don’t bring God a wish list as long as our arm, with a hundred petitions for our every comfort and luxury. But we do ask for those basic necessities of life. We ask, for God has promised that it’s these things we will not lack! If we open our eyes a little, we’ll see it. What do I really, physically require to serve God? He calls me to a life of faith and obedience—so do I have life? Do I have breath in my lungs? Do I have strength in my hands? Do I have food in my stomach? Am I able to get up this morning and do what God has called me to do?

            When it comes right down to it, we see that we really do “lack nothing.” And that’s not a lesson we learn easily, but over the years. It’s the hard lesson of contentment: we gratefully accept what we have from God, with the confidence that it’s going to be enough for us.

            It’s a lesson that David learned too. He tells us, “The young lions lack and suffer hunger” (v 10). As a shepherd boy, David had seen a lion once or twice. He knew all about these magnificent creatures and their reputation for strength, how they could tear apart a full grown sheep in their jaws. Yet even these mighty lions could suffer need, could become sick and die. “The young lions lack and suffer hunger, but those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing” (v 10). It should be an obvious lesson. “Just look at the lions,” says David.

            “And look at the birds,” says our Lord. “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Yes, as you pray this petition, remember how you started your prayer. Remember that you began by calling on your Father in heaven. He’s a Father who loves and who cares; a Father who is faithful and true. Remember also what this Father is capable of! He’s the Creator and Upholder of the whole universe. If you’re his child, you’ve got nothing at all to fear! We can say it with David in another of his Psalms, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want” (23:1)

            And that’s a truth that extends way beyond the material things. We might have every physical necessity, yet God knows that this life can still be next to be impossible if we’re always discouraged, if we’re always burdened by our guilt, and can’t find a lasting joy. So God promises to provide us with spiritual strength as well: “The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (v 18).

Back in Philistia, David’s greatest terror was that God had left him. As the future king, he could’ve had almost anything in the world, but if God was gone, what was it all for? So the Father assures us, “Even though you can’t see me, I am with you always. Though I’m the holy and heavenly God, for the sake of Jesus Christ I am also your God.” That’s a truth that endures, in the lean times, in the hungry times, in the times of sickness and pain. That’s a truth that keeps glowing in our hearts—bringing comfort, bringing satisfaction, bringing refreshment. “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Let’s listen again to David’s exhortation in verse 8: “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” That’s something we need to do, together with praying this petition: Take the time to notice what God’s doing in your life. Take the time to taste and see his goodness, in all the gifts and blessings you receive each day. See what He promises, and then see what He gives—everything that you need. “Morning by morning, new mercies I see; All I have needed, God’s hand has provided.” 

3)     so we can praise God each day: Have you ever heard of someone getting “a new lease on life?” Maybe someone was really sick, but then is blessed with a complete recovery. Maybe someone has a close call in an accident at work, or while driving. Such people often come to appreciate life in a new way. They resolve to make the most of each new day, because they’ve seen just how precious it is.

            That’s David’s reaction after the trouble in Philistia. God saved him from all his fears; He had preserved David’s life. And what does David resolve to do? “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (v 1). This is his new purpose, his new calling. Maybe it was the same calling he always had, but now he’ll take it up with a new zeal. Because he’s seen that life is from God alone.

            And that’s what David wants all of God’s people to do. “Come, you children, listen to me,” he said in verse 11, “I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” David instructs us: “This is what it’s all about. This is why God maintains our life. This is why He preserves our bodies and strengthens our minds and renews our spirits. He does it, so that we fear his Name. So that we seek his kingdom. So that we do his will!”

Maybe you don’t feel like you have a new lease on life, like David did. For you, things have been just chugging along nicely. Perhaps you never go to bed with the fear you won’t wake up. There’s never the thought that your life is hanging in the balance. There’s probably never the anxiety that you’re going to die from hunger, or freeze to death, or be killed on the highway.

Perhaps it’d be good if we did think of such things a little more, to realize how every one of our days are numbered. When we’re working and when we’re driving and when we’re walking around the house, we depend completely on God’s protection. Even as we sleep, God never slumbers, but He watches over us. We need to see it: in the Father’s eyes, the lives of all his children are so precious!

And appreciating that fact, think again of what this life is for. For what purpose does God give us a daily job, a warm house, a reliable car, a pantry full of food? Why does He so often keep us from injury and illness and death? In other words: What does God want us to do with this gift of life? Why does He so often shower us with blessing? As David says, He wants us to fear Him. He wants us to serve Him.

With the gift of breath in our lungs, with the gift of strength in our hands, with the gift of joy in our hearts, God wants us to say, “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (v 1). From day to day, this needs to have our focus. Yes, we can get so concerned about the future, saving up and building our security for tomorrow. So often it’s as if we pray, “Give us this month our monthly bread. Give us this year our yearly salary.” But Christ exhorts us, “Think small. Focus on today. Resolve, this day, right now, from morning until night, to serve and praise the LORD. And I’ll make it possible. I’ll give you everything that you need for today.”

            Beloved, this is the way to “the good life.” It won’t be a life free of trouble. It might not be a life of perfect health and abundant wealth. But it is the way to a life that receives God’s rich blessing. Like David says, “Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good?” And then he tells us the answer, “Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (vv 12-14). That’s a life worth living. That’s a life that won’t lack anything at all. That’s a life that’ll last forever! Amen. 



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2011, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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