A pastor friend of mine used to say there are only three possible states of being for mankind in a poor fallen world. The first state is to be coming out of a trial, the second state is to be in the midst of a trial, and the third state is to be entering a trail! That may seem to be an overly pessimistic view of life, but if you pause long enough to consider the Biblical narrative, the history mankind, and even your personal life, you might just find yourself agreeing with my friend. Because we live in a fallen world, the reality is that we’re never very far from trial and difficulty.
Now, to say that life is full of trouble is not to dismiss the great joys of life. That would be foolish! If we trace our way all the way back to the beginning, we will find that goodness, joy, and peace were here first, woven into the fabric of creation. We will also find, however, that the original glory and goodness of creation was very short lived. A meeting between a man, a woman, and a serpent around a certain tree in the Garden of Eden sent the world reeling in a very bad direction. So bad in fact that at certain times and in certain places the original glory is so obscured, covered up by layers of original sin, that it’s hardly recognizable as still good. It is good, of course, it’s just hard to see it. We’ve come a long way down, I’m afraid.
Now, all this talk about sin and falseness is not just true “out there” somewhere–in the big, bad world. This is personal. We’re talking about you and me. We live in a post Genesis 3 reality where a painful writhe reverberates through the cosmos, extending to all persons everywhere. It’s not theory. You and I feel it with every breath, especially our final breath. The question becomes, “In such a reality, how does one hope?” The Christian can respond simply, “We trust in Christ of course! He is saving the world and us.” That is true, gloriously true even! But what does it mean to really trust in Christ in a fallen world?
John Calvin once said, “All Christians acknowledge that the world is governed by God, but when sad confusion comes into their lives, which disturbs their ease, and involves them in difficulty, there are few who retain in their minds a firm persuasion of this truth.”
At church on Sunday we explored Psalm 11, which poignantly expresses King David’s unshakable trust in God at a time when the foundations of life were falling down all around him. Everywhere David turned there was trouble. It was so bad that his advisors urged him to flee to the mountains and escape the turmoil, knowing his life was in imminent danger. Through it all, David took comfort under the shadow of the Almighty. He learned how to take refuge in God.
By God’s grace, David was one of the few who retained the firm persuasion that Calvin spoke about. We do well to learn from Him in the gospel how we might become one of those few. On Sunday, we looked at four spiritual instructions we must appropriate to our heart and all circumstances if we hope to experience true refuge in God. Here are the four spiritual instructions:
- See Life from the Perspective of God: We must view our life, circumstances, and the world from the perspective of God. As David saw the foundations of his world falling apart, he cast his eyes upward to heaven, and there he saw the Lord in His temple, seated on His throne. In the words of Psalm 46, “Though the earth gives way, though the mountains moved into heart of the sea…God is in the midst. We will not be moved.” The discipline of seeing with God’s sight is among the most important disciplines of the Christian life. This is a prerequisite for taking refuge in God.
- Live Life by the Purposes of God: We must let the purposes of God for life, circumstances, and the world give shape to our purposing. The fruit of seeing with God’s sight only comes when we purpose to live in accord with God’s purposes. David was so aligned with God’s purposes that his own purposes could fade if God’s purposes were fulfilled. If we are so committed to God’s purposes that we are willing to abort our own plans, then we are beginning to take true refuge in God.
- Trace Life through the Promises of God: We must trace our life, circumstances, and the world through the promises of God. To be honest, we cannot really live by God’s purposes unless we are saturated in His promises. David knew God to be a Covenant making and keeping God. When he experienced a crises, and the foundations were shaking, David pressed in further to the promises of God and found a firm place to stand. Underneath the swirl, there was something stable, immovable–the rock of His salvation! This is the content of taking refuge in God.
- Spend Life in the Presence of God: We must spend life in the presence of God if we ever hope to see from God’s perspective, live by God’s purposes, and trace God’s promises. Time with God means greater intimacy with God, which brings about greater conformity to God. Many of us abandon God and our patterns of spiritual discipline in a moment of crises. Not David! In the midst of his great trial, David is writing a Psalm. He’s worshipping! His time spent in the presence of God was the means through which the perspective, purpose, and promises of God came home to his soul.
In your daily going-ons, mingled as they always are with joy and sorrow, do not neglect God or His paths. Remember, your trial is His test, and His tests are the kind intentions of a Father’s heart, drawing you away from the false foundations and hopes of this world and onto the sure rock that will never move, to a lasting hope that will never fade away (I Peter 1:4).