Jack Graham - Life in the Shadows
To all of our PowerPoint viewers, today's program is a very special edition of PowerPoint. On March 15, this past week, the national day of prayer called by our President, I spoke to a a small congregation here at Prestonwood, as our people were scattered in their homes all across the city and beyond. And it was unusual, it was different, but there was a special anointing upon the worship, the word of God in our service and we wanted to share some of the things that we experienced, the word of God that I delivered from Psalm 91 and we wanted our PowerPoint viewers and audience to experience that as well. In these fears, in the midst of all of these concerns that people have, we have a God who is our shelter. He is are ever-present help in times of trouble. We don't have to live in fears and anxieties, we can overcome them in the power of God because God is our shelter, the most high God, He covers us and we are under His care and His constant, constant comfort. So that's what the message is about and I'm praying that it will bless you and your family.
Now here's the message from last week on Life in the Shadows. I've been saying the answer to this entire thing is prayer and Purell. And it means that we believe in miracles. We also believe in medicine and taking good care of ourselves, and we believe also that God has this, and He is in control of this. You know, people are stockpiling toilet paper for goodness sakes! And yet, what has really changed? I'll tell you what has not changed. God has not changed. God Himself, "Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever". And our question is: How will we respond as followers of Christ in the midst of this health crisis? How then should we live? Well, we should live underneath the promises, the protection and the very presence of God.
When David recorded this passage under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he was in a personal crisis. He was a fugitive on the run from his father-in-law, Saul who was the king; and David was the anointed king and successor. And yet Saul was tracking him down, seeking to kill him. And so, David needed to face his fears and to overcome the anxieties and the uncertainties that he faced in his life. And thus, he wrote these words in Psalm 91, verses 1 though 4 initially. "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.' For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you (he covers me) He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler". Psalm 57:1 says: "Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me, for my soul trusts in you and in the shadows of your wings will I take my refuge".
In this message, I'm calling it "Life in the Shadows" and not the shadows of darkness and disease and death and even demons, because we're not to fear darkness, we're not to fear death, we're not to fear demons, we're not to fear the devil, we're not fear disease because we have a God who is in control, who is in charge of every situation, of every storm that we face in our lives, and we are under His care. We are under His cover, and we are always promised His presence, His protection, and, yes, His peace. There is such great peace in knowing that when we face fears, and fears can be real. There're some things that we fear in life that cause us to cry out to God who will give us that peace and that protection. And while there's some things to fear, our faith and trust in God gives us the ability to fight back and to defeat every fear in our life.
Psalm 91 is God's answer to fear. And no matter what we face in life, no matter what you are facing in life, you can say I will not be afraid. And God being your Helper, you can live in confidence and calmness, in serenity and stability in your life because you know that you have cover, you have comfort in the Lord. He is our strength and He is our shelter. Psalm 34 and verse 4 says this: "I sought the Lord and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears". And as we seek God today and every day, He's promised to deliver us from every fear we face. How so? Well, if we're going to face our fears and fight back and defeat this thing, not only individually, as a church, as a nation, even the world, then we should seek shelter. That's what we're told right here. Seek shelter that our God is our cover, our hiding place, our refuge, our strength, "a very present help in time of trouble" Psalm 46:1.
As a matter of fact, the safest place on earth no matter where you are right now or no matter your physical or emotional condition, the safest, securest place on earth is in the center of the will of God for your life as you seek shelter in Him because He is our hiding place. He has promised not only to be with us, we've heard that many times, of course. God is with you. God will never leave or forsake you. But God is saying here, "I'm not only with you but I myself, my very presence, I am your place of refuge. I am your shelter. I am your keeper". Jesus Himself is our hiding place and He promised strength and a shelter every single day. He invites us to go into the secret place. Matthew 6:6 "But when you pray, go into your room, shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you". So, every single day, every hour of any day we can get into a place of refuge, a secret place, a small place, a hiding place, and there we pray! And why do we pray? We're always told in times like these, you know, pray.
So, what are we to be praying? What are we to be praying every day? Some people have a problem knowing exactly how to spend time with God. "And if I get alone, what am I supposed to do there"? Well, here's just a few ideas rather briefly. We get into that place of refuge, that place of prayer to enjoy the presence of God, to enjoy and experience His presence. "He inhabits the praises of His people". And when you dare to draw near into His presence, He is always available. And in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we can enjoy His presence. We pray to be energized for daily responsibilities. Every day we can pray for the strength that we need to face the responsibilities and opportunities that we have in life. We also pray because we engage in spiritual battle, to be equipped for spiritual battle. Life is hard. Life can be a war at times, and many of you are fighting battles. Maybe you're fighting a battle with fear right now.
Well when we pray, we put on the armor of God. We are praying in all prayer according to Ephesians, chapter 6, we are able to fight back with spiritual weapons. That's why we pray. We also pray not only to experience and enjoy His presence, to be energized for daily responsibilities, to be equipped for spiritual battle, but to tell God what is on our heart. To simply converse with God, and engage in a daily conversation where we not only speak, but we listen. "Speak, Lord, for your servant is hearing". We go to prayer to tell God what is in our heart, and then to cry out for mercy. When we're hurting, we're broken, when we're struggle, when we need the mercy of God, we pray. And then to build muscles of faith. Nothing will strengthen your faith like being in the presence of God and experiencing His power for living every day.
And then, of course, we pray because we are seeking the shelter that we're talking about, the covering and the comfort that only God gives. Declare dependence, dependence upon the Lord. Let me show you something very important about this passage. In verse 2 the psalmist said, David said, "I will say to the Lord". We possess what we confess. And when we declare our faith in God, he's saying to the Lord, he's declaring to the Lord his faith in God. He is speaking out loud rather than expressing fears and negativities and anxieties and all the rest. He's not talking about his problems; he's talking to God about his problems and He is declaring his dependence upon God! Look very closely; there are four names of God that are mentioned right here in this passage. He is called in verse 1, the "Most High". He is then called "the Almighty". He is called the "Lord" or "Yahweh", He is called "God, Elohim".
So, He is the Most High, Almighty, Lord God! Being the Most High means that God is above all, above all kings, above all kingdoms, above all presidents and prime ministers; that God is in control, sovereignly, supremely, sufficiently over all things! He is God of all! So, He is the Most High God. When it says that He is Almighty, it means, that's the word Shaddai. You can even hear the word shadow in the word Shaddai. That is the God who is able to meet every need. He is the God who has everything under His control, no rivals, but God Himself. And serenity and stability overcomes striving because there is one God and His name is Jesus the Lord. There is Lord. He is Yahweh which is the covenant name, the promise name of God which means He is the Great I AM. He is always present and always faithful. He is God Elohim which references the God who is the Creator and sustainer in the universe.
I took a little time, just a very little time there, to speak to you of these names of God because the names of God express the nature of God: who He is and what He can do! And what could we possibly be afraid of if we speak to our God and confess our faith. Listen to me. If your God is great, your fears will be less and less and less! If you trust in a God who can do anything but fail, then nothing you encounter in life will defeat you. The question is: Are you declaring your faith?
Several weeks ago, in the message I made a declaration of my faith right out of Ephesians chapter 1, 2 and 3. And it is our identity in Christ, who we are in Christ that enables us to declare this faith and to confess our faith. I'm telling you, if you will stand up in the face of fears, in the face of Satan himself, and declare your faith in the One who is the Almighty, the One who is God, the one who is Lord, the One who is Shaddai, our cover, the Almighty. If you declare that faith in Jesus name, then every demon, every disease, the darkness of life, the defeats of life are all on the run because of the power of God.
Notice what the psalmist says here just in Psalm 91, just some of the things that happens: Verse 3 says "for He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and the deadly pestilence". Verse 5: "You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day". Verse 6: "nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday". Verse 7: "A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you". Verse 10: "no evil shall be allowed to befall you; no plague shall enter your tent", verse 12, "On their hands (speaking of the hands of angels) they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone", verse 13, "You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot".
Look! God is greater than cancer; God is greater than heart disease; and God is greater than the coronavirus! God is greater than anything you think in your life and you can trust Him! So, stop declaring your doubts and your fears, and start declaring your faith and trust in God! Because let me remind you that "Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world"!
Jesus went to the cross, He died on the cross, He rose again on the third day, and the good news in a bad-news world in the midst of shadows that He is the one who covers our sin and covers our shame and saves us from death and judgment and hell. This is the eternal promise of God. One day there was a storm on the Sea of Galilee and Jesus spoke to the storm, and He said, "Peace, be still". And He used words that really were akin to saying to a little puppy dog, "Lie down". He said to those waves, "Stop! Shh! Hush, waves"! And the wind ceased and the waves diminished. And the disciples, of course, were saved in the storm. Be still because Jesus has the chain, He has control of every storm. This is like a storm; it's just come in a wave. And we're seeking shelter and we're declaring our dependence and we are praying for peace that comes from God.
When I was a child, there was a neighbor two doors down from us who had a dog. And that dog was a mean dog. He had a big bark, and I presumed that he had a terrible bite. And so when I would walk by that house, I would be so afraid, my heart would start pounding. And I wanted to walk by there; I didn't want to walk all the way around the other block, but it was on the way to the playground where I could play some baseball. But, you know, I'm walking. I get on the other side of the street, I tremble, I would run past there. And my dad talked to me one day... You know, in talking to our children it's going to be very important that we calm our children in the midst of this, that they see our faith and, you know, it's a time that you have, if you've got some more time, you're going to have home schooling of children these days for a while, it appears, so you'll have more time with your children. This is going to be good and you can talk with them and pray with them and answer their questions. Be there because little children have fears and they're hearing about this and they're even watching it on little screens and all the rest.
And so, it's very important that you talk with your children and you be a calming influence upon your children. So my dad sat me down and he said, "You don't need to be afraid of that dog". He said, "In fact, when you walk by there the next time," He knew I loved Davy Crockett. You know, Davy Crockett could grin down a bear. He said, "You need to do just like Davy Crockett. You need just to stand there and grin that dog down". I said, "Are you serious"? And I said, "Daddy, I don't want to do that". He said, "Naw, you just do it". He said, "Trust me on this. If you will stare that dog down and smile at that dog, he won't bite you". Well, I believed in my dad and his word.
So, I determined to try it, and I wanted to be Davy Crockett so if Davy Crockett could grin down a bear, I could stare down a dog. So I'm walking, my heart is pounding, and I stop right there and that dog, sure enough, like every other time would come running off the porch, growling, hissing, foaming at the mouth it looked like to me, and ready to take me down, and I just stood there. Little guy, 7 or 8 years old, and I just stood there and I stared him down. And as he's coming right at me, I'm thinking, this is not working! He's coming, he keeps coming. And about the time, before he got to the sidewalk, boing! He was stopped in his tracks because he was on a chain! That dog, and my father knew it, was chained to the porch! And the chain won't allow him to get to the sidewalk, so my dad, he told me, "Now just stay on the sidewalk. If you stay on the sidewalk and you'll be safe".
And so my dad knew that that dog was defeated before he started because he was on a chain! And so I stared down that dog and I was never afraid of that dog from that day going forward. And you know where I'm going with this, right? When Satan runs at us, when fears frighten us and anxious moments want to take us down, you stand there in the name of Jesus! You call upon the name of Jesus! You declare your faith, because the devil has a chain, and he can only go so far, and you're under the cover and the protection and the power and the promise and the provision of God Almighty! We are under His cover! Seek shelter in the Lord! Declare your dependence. And pray for the peace of God which passes all understanding.
You know, stress can make you sick. Worry and anxiety can make you sick. And did you know it takes the same amount and probably more amount of energy to worry about something and strive and stress over something than it does to pray about whatever it is? So, use your energy, not to fret and fear and wring your hands and worry and make yourself sick, but use the energy that you have to trust in God and to pray. You know, there are elderly people, and we do know that elderly and older adults are more susceptible to this and should take very good care of yourself elderly and those with preexisting conditions and so, you above all might be really skittish about this.
And I know many of you watch and worship with us each week online or through PowerPoint, our radio and television ministry, and we want you know as a church that we care about you. In fact, for all of our Prestonwood members we're going to be contacting you and calling you. If you're online, and you need ministry, then just click in right now and let us know what your prayer request may be, and if you're afraid, we have an online pastor. We have others who will serve and minister to you. We're going to inaugurate initiatives for ministry as this goes on. We don't know how long this is going to last. I'm hopeful, I'm optimistic, but it's going to last a while. And until then, for example, when children are out of school, did you know there are children who are dependent upon school lunch programs, and when they're out of school, those meals are not available for them. We're going to be a part of an initiative that will provide meals for school children, and much more. We're going to minister to people.
And while our staff will be working remote, they're going to be working and serving and ministering. And our deacons are available. Our small groups are active. We're going to make sure that everyone is cared for and prayed for and ministered to, and most of all, we are praying that you can turn your house, as long as we are worshiping in our houses, in our homes, turn your place into a place of worship for the Lord Jesus Christ. Invite your friends, invite your neighbors. People are afraid; people are anxious about this and therefore, they need some Christian in the shadows to walk up and be the light of Jesus Christ and to bring a message of hope to those who are hurting and those who are afraid. "Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold you with my strong right hand".
And as we bow together in prayer in this room, I want to encourage you to pray wherever you are. And if you don't know Christ in a personal way, you know, so many people consider themselves Christians or religious, but you don't have a personal relationship with God through Jesus. The one and only one who is Lord. The one message that we bring again and again is this: "Jesus Christ is Lord. And if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved". Admit that you have sinned and broken God's commandments, acknowledge the fact that you cannot save yourself, and then "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (the Bible says) and you will be saved".
"For God so loved the world": You know this world which is in such fear and so much is happening, so much chaos around the world. God loves the world. God loves the people everywhere in this world. Of all the planets, the stars in existence, He made this globe, this world, and He created you for Himself. There's a divine design for your life, a purpose, a plan for your life. And if you will come to Jesus Christ. He died for you so that you can be forgiven of your sin, He rose again so that you can live now and forever, that you could go to heaven one day. What if you did die? What if something took your life? Are you ready to die? Are prepared? The Bible says "prepare to meet your God". Are you prepared to meet God?
If you will receive Christ by acknowledging that you need Him, accept Him as your personal Lord and Savior by receiving Him into life; just pray a simple prayer, "Lord Jesus, I invite you to come into my life to be my Savior, to be my Lord. I repent of my sin and I receive you and trust you and you alone for my salvation". Pray that prayer. And then if you're praying it, thank Him for hearing your heart, hearing your prayer. And Say, "Lord, I believe and I confess that you are my Savior and you are my Lord". If you're praying that prayer right now, thank Him. Say, "Thank you, Lord". And, in your home, in your car, wherever you are, stay connected to Christ, stay connected to the church. Be faithful in every way, and God will bless you and bless the world through us.