Jack Graham - One Thing (Songs of Encouragement)
I want to speak to you on the subject, "One Thing". One Thing. The one thing that you can do to overcome your fears, to live in victory in your life. You can be free from fear and live with a courageous and confident faith in a God you can trust. God's Word arms us for the battle, any battle, all battles that we face. And we have power in Jesus' name over all the works of the enemy. And we do face spiritual battles. And with tears and fears we fight against the foes that would assail us or assault us or attack us. And one of the great benefits and blessings of being a Christian, a child of God, is that we can live free from fear.
Now there are so many fears that we face every day, some real, some unreal; some reasonable, some unreasonable. This has been called the age of anxiety. There are fears everywhere. Fears of lawlessness in the streets, fear of violence. I'm speaking to people right now by radio and television who live in some neighborhoods that are fearful, and you're facing lawlessness in your neighborhood. A real fear. There's the fear of terror internationally and nationally. Fears regarding our future as a nation, fears regarding the future of the world. Then there are more personal fears, the fear of losing your job or your bank account. There's the fear of losing your family or losing a child. There's the fear of divorce. There's the fear of being alone, the fear of loneliness.
Maybe you're an older adult and your greatest concern, your greatest fear if you were to be frank about it would be the whole idea of being alone. Maybe you're a single person and you're praying for God's choice for you. Someone to come along side of you, share life and marriage, and yet there's the fear that you may always be alone, that you're never going to find that person. So many fears. I could go on and on. In fact, there are 530 documented fears and phobias. 6.4 million people in America have actually been diagnosed with some kind of disorder because of fear. Now I should say there are some normal and natural fears; fears that are constructive and preventative. We tell our children don't touch the fire. We want them to respect the fire. Don't put your hand in socket, or don't play in the street in the traffic, or don't get to near to the ledge, because we want to build in a normal, natural fear of things that could harm us.
So there are some constructive, protective fears. In fact, if you face a crisis fear can be a good thing. If there is a fire or if there is an attacker you can respond in a better way, a bigger way if there's a little fear. Because what happens; the flight of fight syndrome catches fire in you and your heart starts beating and racing, and you actually physically get stronger when you're under that kind of pressure. Now you don't want to live that way, always flight or fight, but sometimes it can be beneficial.
There's a legend in our family that my grandmother who was a small woman actually removed a railroad tie from my father who had fallen on a railroad track and somehow was under the railroad tie. I don't know what happened. The train was on the way. (This is Graham family legend so it's got to be true, right?) And my grandmother, she absolutely picked up that railroad tie and tossed it aside and got her little boy off the railroad track. I know this, you go after a mama's child and you're in for trouble, right? Because they will fight to the end. Well, there's the fear of God. I don't think we talk as much as we should about the fear of God. I'm not talking about being afraid of God, but the respectful, reverential fear of God. That we would honor God who is holy, that we would obey God. It's a motivation for living. And it is the fear of God, if you fear God the way you ought to fear God, it will enable you to overcome your fears in life.
It's wonderful that we know God as our Father, a faithful Friend, but don't forget that our Father is the King! He is sovereign; He is holy; He is majestic and He is powerful. So there are some good fears, but, of course, all the destructive and negative fears that rob us of peace and joy, paralyzes us, petrifies us from moving forward with our lives. If you live with fears of various kinds, it will hold you back from becoming the person that God has called you to be. So many are living their lives in the bondage to fear; they're dying a thousand deaths; they're living with dread which is that undercurrent of fear in our lives. Just sort of a daily dread that something bad is about to happen or will happen.
Jesus told us many times not to be afraid. And when we read the Psalms we're told again and again that we can overcome our fears. Do not fear. And Psalm 27 is a perfect example. "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord".
How can you handle your fears, because if you don't handle them, they will surely handle you. If you don't defeat your fears they will defeat you. How can you win over worry? How can you face down your fears? Psalm 27. Now David faced fears all of his life. We're not sure as to the exact background as to when David wrote Psalm 27. It was perhaps written early in his life when he was being chased as a fugitive by Saul, who had been set aside by God as king, David had been anointed the king, and yet Saul wanted to kill David. He was insanely jealous of David and was after him, so David was running for his life literally, hiding in caves, fighting and resisting the armies of Saul.
Some suggest it was in this period of David's life that he wrote these words: "The Lord is my light and my salvation". On the other hand move, fast-forward to the end of David's life. Some suggest that it was when David was betrayed by his son Absalom. Can you imagine being betrayed by your son? Lied about and slandered, and actually fought by your own son? David was dealing with that as an older man, as a king, and it was a very rough period in his life, and no doubt he feared for his life as well as the kingdom of Israel.
So it is thought that perhaps Psalm 27 came out of these experiences. But as I thought about it and wondered which one, I came to the conclusion that it doesn't matter when in David's life because all the days of his life, from when he was a little shepherd boy and defending the sheep from the lion and the bear, or going up against the great giant Goliath as a teenager, or whether he was running from Saul or facing down his own son at the end of his life, David is taking a page, the lyrics of his own life. He's taking a page, tearing it out of his own life and saying, "Through all my trouble, through every battle that I have fought, through every fear that I have faced, The Lord is my light, the Lord is my salvation"!
This is called, Psalm 27, a hymn or a psalm of affirmation. It is an affirmation of his faith and his trust in the faithfulness of God. And David is saying after these years, "Through it all I have learned to trust in a God who has guarded me and protected me". And he says, therefore, that this faith that overcomes our fears is a declaration of faith. That is what we see in verse 1; this confession, this expression of his faith, declaring it. Do you see it there? Look at again: "The Lord is my light, my salvation; whom shall I fear"? And that's a question that answers itself. Nobody! Because "The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid"?
Now I want you to notice just for a second the personal pronouns in verse 1. You see them there? I hope you brought your Bible and have your Bible open. Look in verse 1. There are five personal pronouns there! "I" and "my". "The Lord is my light. The Lord is my salvation. I will not be afraid". Now this is significant because we all need to know that a second hand faith won't do much when we face our fears. A first hand faith, a genuine faith, a personal faith, one that we have experienced and live out and own ourselves. Not one that was just passed down to us by our parents and we've never owned ourselves, but a genuine faith that we know is real. He said, "The Lord is my light".
Martin Luther, the great reformer, said that true religion is a matter of personal pronouns. It's true. That's why we often talk about a personal relationship with God; that we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ because our faith is one of personal pronouns. As when David said in the famed Psalm 23: "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want". He's all I need. If you cannot say the Lord is my shepherd, you can't say He's all I want, all I need and provides for everything. And truly you can't say the Lord is protecting me if you can't know with certainty that the Lord is in your life! Faith that is lived out. He knew God; not just about God, He knew God! He spent many an hour seeking God in the shepherd's field, and ultimately in the sanctuary. He said, "This one thing I do".
Like the Apostle Paul who would come later, "This one thing - and that is to live all the days of my life gazing on the beauty of the Lord in His sanctuary". "The Lord is my light, the strength of my life". Light is such a beautiful metaphor. "The Lord is my light and life". Why? Because life cannot exist without light. Our planet could not exist without the light of the sun. The sun is a great picture as well. S-U-N Psalm 84:11 is one of my favorites: "The Lord our God is a sun and a shield", S-U-N, "a sun and shield. He gives grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from them who walk uprightly". The Lord is a sun, the sun gives beauty and warmth. It's bright, it's beautiful! And the sun creates good feelings on a warm October afternoon, and you want to get outside and enjoy it. And so he's saying "The Lord is my light".
I see the brilliance of my God, I see the beauty of my God! He is the sunshine even in the darkness! In the darkest of nights. There's never been a sunset in your life but that there is a sunrise! Because God is the light of the world. Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world". And then He said to all of us, "You are the light of the world". We are reflecting His light and His love in the world. And then he said my salvation, literally, my deliverer. You are my deliverer. David was testifying to the fact that God had rescued him and redeemed him. Later, in Psalm 103 and verse 4 he spoke of being in a terrible pit. He said, "But you have lifted me out of this terrible pit in which I have been in, and redeemed my life and crowned me with steadfast love and mercy".
So he's in this horrible hole, but God reached down and picks him up, just like he does each one of us. Sometimes we find ourselves dug deep down into holes of our own making, but God delivers us and saves us and redeems us and picks us up. David knew enemies, but he was never really afraid of his enemies. David was willing in the case of running to defeat the great giant, when others were shaking in their sandals, David, just a ruddy, rugged little teenager, was a great champion. Why? Because he had the heart of a champion. He had a courageous heart. While others were saying that giant is too big to hit, he was saying he's too big to miss. Let me at him. He was offended that this giant was blaspheming the Lord his God. And while everyone else was running scared and running away, the Scripture tells us there that David ran to the battle.
Recently I was going through something in my life that I dreading, and just living with the dread about the situation and I was gonna face and fight a battle that I really didn't want to fight. And I was struggling with it. I was stressed by it. And I was praying, of course, about the problem. And as I was reading the Scripture, this verse leaped out at me there in Samuel and it said, "David ran to the battle". And it became my word. It became a scripture that is... often the scriptures are scripts of our lives, and I hung onto that verse, and mentally, instead of running scared and running away, I ran to the battle! And, yes, there was victory in the battle! Satan can attack us but he has no authority over the believer! None! Did you know that? He has no authority! He is a defeated foe, and, therefore, God is our stronghold, our refuge. He says not only our light, our deliverer, but our stronghold. He is a shelter in the time of storms.
The songwriter, Augustus Toplady wrote a song which said, "Rock of ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee". That's what David is saying. He looks back on his life and he said, "I've got a history with God! I've got a history with Him. And through it all, from the days when I was a boy to an old man, God has protected me and kept me". And it is in that safety and security that we rest, knowing that nothing can get at us! "The Lord is my light, my salvation, my stronghold. I will not be afraid". "I choose faith over fear"! You do have a choice. You can choose faith or you can choose fear, and that's a daily decision. It's a continual choice that we make. One of the problems we have, I know I have it with problems and fears in particular, is trying to control things.
And I've learned in my life that you can either have control or you can have faith, but you can't have both at the same time. You can have control or you can have faith, but you can't have both at the same time. And so David said trust in a God who is able. Look, "We are more than conquerors"! "If God be for us who can be against us"? "The battle is the Lord's". So run to Him! Do the one thing that David taught us to do here, and that is to get into the presence of God and know that He is with you. Psalm 34 and verse 7 is a great verse: "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them". Our God is a God of angel armies, and when enemies encamp around us, angel armies as well are commissioned by God to protect us. The Lord Himself is present. "I will never leave you or forsake you". I could go on and on testifying to the grace and the greatness of our God.
When I was a little guy, about 5 or 6, maybe 7 years old, living in a small town in Arkansas, we just ran everywhere. Not like today where you have to lock everything down and lock up the kids. Well, we just ran everywhere in the neighborhood. I especially, I'd leave home soon as I got up and go down to the street to the ball park where I would play ball, and come back, maybe for lunch, maybe for dinner, or supper as we called it then. But there was one problem I had in getting to ball field everyday.
This, of course, was during the summer days. There was a dog that lived about three or four houses down and that was the meanest, dirtiest dog I ever saw in my life. He was like that dog in the movie the Sandlot. To me it was a beast. And that dog would chase me every time I would go by there! I would try walking on the other side of the street; that dog would still frighten me. I would walk down the middle of the street, but that dog would come at me teeth glaring, every time I walked by. So I was either running by or walking by with my heart pounding on the other side. Sometimes I'd turn around and run home with tears because that dog was chasing me. I just knew that dog was going to tear me up. I mean, it happened again and again and again. I was in bondage to the dog! I had a spirit of fear.
One day my dad pulled me aside and said, "Jackie", that's what I went by then, "you know a dog like that, a predator. If a dog senses weakness, smells fear, he's going to come after you. But if you're strong and you're courageous and you're bold, you'll face down that dog and that fear, he'll leave you along". Now I always believed my daddy, but I wasn't quite sure about that one. He said, "Yeah, just, next time you go by there, you just stand up straight and you just look at that dog. You stare that dog down".
Now, I liked Davy Crockett. I knew Davy Crockett could smile and grin a bear down, so I'm thinking, am I going to grin at this dog? Am I gonna stare at this dog? What am I gonna do? But I decided I was going to do it. My dad said I could, so I would. So the day came. I came down to that dog, right to that place and here he came. I mean my heart was thumping in my chest. He's coming right at me. I'm standing there. I'm staring, I'm frowning, I'm grinning, I'm doing something. And when he got about ten feet from me That dog had been chained up the whole time! It's true!
Now my father knew that. My dad knew that dog was on a chain! And so that's why he put me in that situation because he knew I wasn't going to get hurt! Let me tell you something. Our Daddy in heaven, our Father has chained the predator of our souls! Our God, our heavenly Father has put him on a chain, and he can't get to you. The only way Satan can attack you is if you smell the fear and you give in. You stand in the strength of your Father, in the word of your Father, in the faith of your Father, the Lord our God, and you can know that whatever comes against you or may attack you is under His control. The Bible even tells us that the devil can only do so much. And one day he's going to be put on a chain and thrown into the pit forever.
So here's the deal. One thing, one thing. Some of you, this message was just for you because you're battling some things in your life and you're afraid. You got a bad doctor's report. Maybe you think your husband's going to walk out and leave you. Or that you're going to get the pink slip. Or your parents are going to break up. You've got all these fears and anxieties. "God has not given us the spirit fear". Don't live in a state of fear, but say with David, and declare with me today, "The Lord is my light; the Lord is my salvation; the Lord is the strength, the stronghold of my life. I will not be afraid"!