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Watch 2022 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - God is Our Keeper

Charles Stanley - God is Our Keeper

Charles Stanley - God is Our Keeper
TOPICS: Security

Well, it was December nineteen hundred and seventy-seven. And I was exhausted, tired, weary, worn, discouraged, and a little bit fearful. And I was taking some time off, in fact, about three months. Not because I wanted to, but because I was forced to. I was up in West Virginia and this particular place I was staying, and on this particular morning I woke up and decided I'd take a walk, and it was snowing. And I thought, "Well, I'm gonna walk anyway". I was hurting deep down inside, and I just began to walk and before I left, I put a little Bible I had in my pocket, in my jacket, and took off.

And so I'd walked about a mile or so, and I'd pray a little bit and cry a little bit and wonder what in the world was going on, and wondering if I'd ever get back to preaching the gospel again, and having myself a real difficult time, and telling God what I thought and how I thought and asking Him what in the world was going on and why all this was happening to me. And I stopped and I pulled out that Bible and opened it up, and when I did, I just opened it up and said, "Lord, I need for You to speak to my heart".

Now, I'm not one to just say open your Bible and say, "Ah ha! This is what You're saying, God". Because you can turn to the Book of the Revelation and talk about the beast and then you'll be in real trouble. So, that's not the way to read the Bible, but on that particular day, God knew that I wasn't particularly interested in reading anything specifically, I just, "Say something, God". I opened it up to the passage of Scripture that I want us to read this morning. And when I read this chapter in the Psalms, I closed my Bible and I thought to myself, "Lord," all of a sudden, my body weighs just as much, I feel just as heavy and just as tired and just as worn out. But somehow, I knew that my heart was lighter, because God had said something very, very specific to me.

Now, I'm not gonna tell you what He said to me until the end of this message, so you gotta listen carefully. Because I'm certain of this: He has a message here for you no matter who you are and where you are or what you're going through, there is a message here. And I want you to turn to the hundred and twenty-first Psalm. And the title of this message is "God is our Keeper". Hundred and twenty-first Psalm, that more than likely you've read many, many times. And I want us to see how practical this is because God has something very specific and practical to say to every single one of us no matter who we are. He begins by saying, "I will lift up my eyes to the mountains," or to the hills, "from whence shall my help come"? That's a question.

Well, "My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip, He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper, the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all evil, He will keep your soul. The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever". Now, more than likely, the psalmist, when he begins here by saying, "I will lift up my eyes to the mountains," he could've been thinking one of a number of things. But probably one of the things that he was thinking about was this: that in the hill country, in the mountains, usually the robbers and the vagabonds and the thieves, they would hang out there and taking advantage of innocent travelers who were going their way. So it may be that he was looking at these mountains with a bit of anxiety and wondering what was there.

I wonder how many of us have looked out into our future and what we could see is uncertainty, what we could see was maybe a bit of anxiety within our own heart, and wondered the same thing. God, what's there? What's out there in the future when we can't see it and we don't know what's there? Well, he certainly must have had a little bit of anxiety because he said, "Where is my help coming from"? Well, the psalmist is certainly clear about that because immediately he says, "My help is coming from the Lord". Everything he says from that point on rests upon the foundation that he knows who his God is. You see, if I don't know who God is, and I don't have a personal relationship with Him, and I don't know something about the ways of God, how can I claim a promise of God if I'm not certain who He is and how He thinks and how He responds, and if I'm not really sure what He thinks about me and how He relates to me and how many of His promises really apply to my life.

That's why it's so very important that you and I understand: Who is this God whom we serve? What is He like? What are His ways? How does He respond? What moves the hand of God? What is it that God really and truly thinks about us? How does He feel toward us? How does He respond toward us? Well, the psalmist certainly knew by experience. He says, "Jehovah God, Jehovah God is my helper. He is the one who created it all, therefore I can trust in Him and depend upon Him". Now, with that in mind, what I want us to do is to look at the rest of this psalm and apply it to our life in a very practical way because he certainly saw it in a very practical way, and the terminology he uses and the phrases he uses here, upon first reading you'd think, "Well, what in the world's that about"?

What he's doing, he is simply saying these are all the ways that God keeps me. So first of all, he says, beginning in this third verse, he says, "He will not allow your foot to slip". Well, what does that have to do with keeping me? Here's what it has to do with keeping me. Here's what it says. It's a way of saying that God is very, very attentive to you and me. That is, if God is observing, if He's watching where I step, if He's watching my sense of direction, if He's watching the path that I'm on, if He is observing and He is attentive to my walk, God is certainly expressing His caring about how you and I walk, where we walk, where we should not walk, and where we ought to walk. David, more than likely who spent a lot of his times in the mountains and in treacherous areas, oftentimes found himself in those places that were dangerous. God was keeping him.

What is he saying to you and me? You and I also walk through difficult times and situations and circumstances that we can't control, oftentimes that are not clear to us. Sometimes it's a little dark in our pathway. Sometimes we're walking on the precipices of life and decisions that we make and we're not even sure ourselves if we're gonna be able to do it, so what does he say? He says when you and I are walking in the will of God, God is going to keep our foot from slipping. If I choose to deliberately, willfully disobey God, then what happens? Then God's keeping power, if I choose to step off the cliff, God isn't necessarily going to keep me from doing so.

When he says He keeps our foot from slipping, that's God's way of saying, "I'm going to keep you". That is, I'm gonna keep you on the path. There may be potholes out there. There may be trenches out there. There may be some very, very, very narrow ways that you're gonna have to walk. He says, "I'm gonna keep you. I love you, I'm caring for you, I'm your keeper. I am attentive to where you have to walk. I'm attentive to what you have to walk through. I'm attentive to those things when oftentimes you cannot see your way clear". It's as if you're walking in the fog or as if you're walking in the dark and you don't know how or what to do. He says, "I am your keeper and I'm gonna keep your feet from slipping".

Now, likewise, if you'll notice next phrase, He not only is attentive, but He is very alert. This is what He means. Look at this, if you will. He says, "He will not allow your foot to slip, He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel neither will slumber nor sleep". Now, what is he simply saying? Simply this: that God, listen, that God is alert to every single aspect of our life. Thank God, listen, you and I get tired, we get weary, we get worn, and certain time every night, we're ready to go to bed. It's time to go to sleep. We're just sorta worn out. We've had a full day. The interesting thing about God is, never sleeps. He doesn't even have to take a catnap.

In other words, God doesn't get tired and weary and worn out and take a nap. And if you'll think about that God's eye is, listen, His eye is eternally upon us. He, listen, He is alert to every single aspect of our life. But notice a third thing he says in a very practical way about God being our keeper. He says He will not allow your foot to slip. He who keeps you will not slumber, behold He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper, the Lord is your shade on your right hand. Now, what does he mean that that? Simply this: He's our protector. When we think about the ways in which He is our keeper, He protects us.

Now, their whole idea, and if you'll think about it in the Bible, how many times it talks about God's righteous right hand. Doesn't talk about God's righteous left hand. God's righteous right hand. That's the hand of the sword. That's the hand of protection. And so, when he says that He's our shade on our right side, he's simply saying this: God, Jehovah God, infinite in, listen, infinite in wisdom, absolute in power, unwavering in His faithfulness, is standing by our side. Remember what Jesus said? He said, "I'm not gonna leave you disciples, I'm not gonna leave you comfortless. Not gonna leave you as like orphans". He says, "I'm gonna send the Holy Spirit. He'll be in you, with you, and upon you".

When he called Him the comforter, the word in the Greek is paracletos, which means the one who walks by my side, the one who stands by my side. When he says He is your keeper, He's your shade on your right hand, what is he saying? That God the Father, listen, God the Father in the person of the Holy Spirit is always by our side, living on the inside of us. Yes, always by our side as our protector, doing what? Always equipping us and making us ready for any satanic attack that comes our way. Now, Satan's attack comes in all forms. It comes in all directions. Sometimes it comes from a friend, from an enemy, from a family member, whatever it may be, but Satan is always there to attack. He says, "God is our shade".

That is, God is often called many things in the Scripture. God is our salvation, God is our strength, God is our horn of plenty, God is our shield. God is indeed our shield. And he says, for example, in Ephesians chapter six, He said, when he listed all the armament of the believer, helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness. He comes down to say and above all, taking the shield of faith, that is, which is able to quench all the fiery darts of the devil. When you and, listen, whether we, even before we leave home, during the day, wherever we are, Satan is always treacherously seeking to devour the child of God, seeking to do anything in His power He can to trip us up, to cause us to hurt in some fashion, in some way. And yet he says God is indeed our protector. He is always there, listen, warning us.

That's why He gave us the Holy Spirit living on the inside of us, to give us warnings about things that we don't even see, to give us, listen, you'll have what people call an "intuition". That is the work of the Spirit of God giving us a warning about something that's coming our way. Or giving us a warning of something that is close by. When we're not aware of our circumstances, He is always aware, and He stands by our side to protect us in every single circumstance of life. Does that mean that He will keep us from sinning? Not necessarily. If we choose to sin against Him, no He will not. But He certainly is there to warn us and to give us the privilege of avoiding it if at all possible.

Now, I think about Psalm sixteen. Look at Psalm sixteen, for example, and look at this eighth verse. Here the psalmist, David says, in verse eight, "I have set the LORD continually before me," not just during the day, continually before me, "because He is at my right hand, I'll not be shaken". I've set the Lord continually before me, which is his way of saying I want, listen, I want to live moment by moment aware of His presence, that wherever I am, there He is. Whatever's going on, there He is. Whatever I'm going through, there He is. Whatever I face, there He is. Whatever's good, there He is. Whatever's bad, there He is. Whatever's evil, there He is. God is always there. He is there not only as our provider, but He's there as our protector. He says He is my shade on my right hand.

And so he says I've set Him before me. I've set Him as at my right side to protect me. And therefore he says, "I will not be shaken". And therefore the psalmist, as he thought about himself and thought about how God worked in his life, he could see himself in the same fashion. Now, notice, if you will, if you'll think about your life for a moment, all of us have strong points, all of us have strengths in our life. We all have strengths. But we also all have weaknesses. And usually the thing that we guard about, we guard the most, are those areas of weakness in our life. If I should say to you: Do you have any area of weakness in your life? If you were to say no, then I would say to you: you have a big weakness because every single one of us have those points at which Satan, listen, he can get us there quicker than any other place.

But you say, "Then what about the strengths"? Well, the strengths also can become our greatest weakness if we're not careful. Because you see, where you're the strongest is what you do. You naturally let down your guard. Well, you know, I could never be tempted with drugs. I could never be tempted with alcohol. In other words, just write those two off for certain. Well, there may be a lot of other things you think you couldn't be tempted with, but the truth is, listen, we need Him continuously. He says He is our shade on our right side. He's the one who protects us when Satan comes after us.

Now, when I look at all of this, then here's what I have to ask. I say, "Now, wait a minute. Hold it just a minute. I hear what you're saying. That You're my keeper, You're my helper, You're very attentive and You restrain me from these things, and You're watching over me all the time. And God, I have some questions, Lord. If that's true, I know some Christians who get sick, who are invalids, who go through difficulties and trials and heartaches and storms in life, and God, if You're such a big-time keeper, why don't You keep them? It looks like You haven't kept them. Because certainly if You're a loving Father, as they say You are, and You're a loving keeper, why didn't You keep them from this? You didn't have to let 'em get sick, You didn't have to let this person get cancer. You didn't have to let this person die at this age. Well God, if You're a keeper and You're everything this passage says You are, how do You explain that, God"?

Is that a good question? It is a good question. It's a legitimate question. Lost person has a right to ask that question. "Well, God, if You're God now, and I read what You said and all this. This sounds like a bunch of pious platitude, God. This is fanciful thinking to think that You're going to keep someone from all of that". Well, what's the answer? Well, listen carefully. God does not say that He will keep me from pain and suffering and heartache and trouble. He promises to keep me in it. He promises to keep me through it. And He promises to take advantage of every single heartache, every difficulty, every trial, every tribulation, every persecution, every hurt, every disappointment. He promises to keep me in it and He promises to keep me through it.

You say, "Well now, what's the difference"? Here's the difference. The difference is He will enable me to walk through it. He will enable me to step above it. He will enable me to come out on the other side of that more profitable than if I had avoided it. For example, now, think about this for a moment, If troubles, trials, heartaches, and tribulations, if those things will draw you into a deeper relationship with God, if you begin to understand who He is better, you begin to experience His love and to feel His love, and you begin to understand the ways of God, and you begin to have an intimate relationship with Him that is warm, that is, listen, that is intimate and satisfying and fulfilling and assuring and comforting.

Let me ask you a question. If avoiding the valleys and the difficulties and the hardships would've kept you from gaining that, which would you have chosen? Avoid the difficulty, avoid the hardship, avoid the pain, avoid the troubles, and avoid the intimate relationship? Or would you have said, "No, God, I'm gonna trust You in my trials that You're gonna keep me. You're gonna uphold me, You're gonna surround me with Your love. You're gonna overshadow me with Your awesome love. I had rather walk through the valleys of the shadow of death. I had rather experience the troubles and the trials, if in the process You draw me into an intimate relationship with You that gives me a glimpse of You and allows me to experience You on a level I would never have experienced had I been able to avoid them".

Remember this, that, listen, God not only looks at the circumstances of our life, He looks at the deep, inner meaning of those circumstances. He not only observes the circumstances, He is involved in them. Because you see, oftentimes God creates some of those difficulties and heartaches. He allows that pain, why? Not because He has forsaken us. And oftentimes when we have pain that's so difficult we don't know how to handle it, we say, "God, where are You? If You loved me, You would not have done this". And the truth is, because He loves us, he does allow us this. But remember this: He's keeping me in it. Not keeping me from it, keeping me in it. He, listen, He will oftentimes, you can interpret that two ways. He will keep me in this until He's finished, or He will keep me and sustain me and strengthen me and enable me to live in it until He's finished with it.

So when you say, "Well, if He's a keeping God, why doesn't He do so-and-so"? He does. You see, this is what Romans eight twenty-eight's all about. God is engineering all of our circumstances in such a way they will turn out for our good if we love Him, are called according to His purpose. Or put it this way: when we love Him, listen, He will take every single circumstance of life and listen, we may be shut up to difficulty and hardship, we may be stretched beyond anything we can imagine, we may find ourselves in the heat or in the cold, in the dark or in the light, persecutors or deceitful friends. One thing for certain: my Father will take every bit of that and work it for my good. My Father will take every bit of that and conform me to the likeness of His Son. My God is in charge of every single solitary thing.

You see, He is a keeping God. And what is He doing? While you and I may be hurting with pain and wondering, God, where are you? He is in the awesome process of conforming us to the likeness of His Son. He's keeping us in it. How many of us have been through difficulty and trial and thought at the moment, "God, I cannot handle this. God, I cannot take any more of this". And we get through on the other side, look back, and think, "God, hm hm hm, You kept me through every bit of that. God, You were so gracious and kind and loving and gentle. And while I was complaining, God, about all the things that were going on, You were loving me through every moment of it". That's the way those of us who are believers can walk through the difficulty and the hardship and trial, not give up on God. You know why? We know He's still keeping us. You know what He's keeping us for? He's keeping us for the best!

Now, I want to go back to my beginning illustration, the first of this sermon. Walking down that path, cold, weary, worn, exhausted, a little bit frightened and anxious, and thinking, "God, will I ever get back"? Opening His Word, just flipping it open to this passage that said, "God is my keeper". I read that passage and I thought, I said, "Lord, what are You saying to me? How can You be keeping me and I'm away from my family and away from the church, the people I love. And here I am not sure I'm gonna ever get back. What are You doing"? And I won't ever forget this as long as I live. It's like the Lord said to me, "I'm just doing what I'd said in that passage. I'm just keeping you". Keeping me from what? I'll never forget this. "Keeping you from destroying yourself, destroying your body, destroying your ministry. Keeping you for what I've called you to do. Keeping you so that you can preach the gospel as long as I want you to, in the way that I want you to. All I'm doing, Charles, is just keeping you".

Boy, I tell you, I folded it up and stuck it in my jacket and I walked, and my body felt the same pain, but my heart was a thousand pounds lighter. You know why? Because all of a sudden, I realized that no matter what I thought I had lost, God was reminding me I hadn't lost anything. All that I complained about, all He was doing was keeping me from myself. I don't know where you are in life or what you're facing, but one thing I know: you have a loving heavenly Father who knows you by name. He said, "Every hair upon your head is numbered". That's His way of saying, "I know everything there is to know about you, past, present, and future. I have the best for you. I'm a caretaker, I'm a keeper, and if you'll let Me, if you will allow Me, I will give you a life that is exciting, fulfilling, a life of spiritual and emotional growth. And what you'll realize is that all the time you were fretting and fuming, I was just getting you ready for something better".

God is a loving Father, but you know what? Until you trust Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, it won't work. You say., "Well, I'll just talk to God". Not apart from His Son, Jesus. You see, He loves you, but listen to this: God cannot do in your life what He wants to do if you deny His only begotten Son, whom He sent to die on a cross and pay your sin-debt in full in order that that gap that separated you from Him would be closed up by the cross, and make you a child of God. The moment you trust Him as your personal Savior, you know what happens? God takes over as caretaker and keeper of your life. And if you'll remember, He says in this passage, "From this time forth and forever more, God will be your keeper".
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