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James Merritt - Just What I Need

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    James Merritt - Just What I Need
TOPICS: Pitch Perfect

In the early part of the 19th century, there was an American poet, his name was Strickland Gillilan and he wrote a little couplet that is considered, even today, commonly cited as the smallest, shortest poem ever written. It was titled "Fleas", like fleas on a dog. And here's the poem in full. Adam had 'em. That's the poem, talking about fleas. Adam had 'em. And what Gillilan meant by fleas was problems. You know, those annoying nagging impossible to get rid of problems we all have to deal with almost every day. And the point that this man was making was that from the beginning of time, even to the day, every human being, every family, every city, every state, every nation in the entire world has had problems. Had problems, has problems, will have problems.

Now here's the point. Problems need to be solved, we all know that. However, you got to make sure you know what the real problem is. I was reading the other day about a man that went to see his doctor and he'd been going to him for a long time, he knew him. He said, "John, what brings you here"? He said, "Well, doc". he says, "I need some prescription painkillers". He said, "What"? He said, "I need some prescription painkillers". And he said, "Well, what's your problem". He said, "Everywhere I touch it hurts. It doesn't matter where I touch". He said, "Well, show me". He went, "When I touch my left shoulder, it hurts. When I touch my right shoulder, it hurts. When I touch my leg, it hurts. When I touch my head, it hurts. When I touch my chest, it hurts. When I touched my stomach, it hurts". He said, "Doc, everywhere I touch, it hurts". Doc said, "Let me examine you".

So the doctor gave him an examination. He said, "John, you don't need any painkillers. You need a brace". He said, "A brace? Why do I need a brace"? He said, "You've got a broken index finger". Now you cannot solve a problem 'til you understand what the problem is. And any doctor knows that you will never treat an illness or sickness without a correct diagnosis. And that brings us to a stanza, in perhaps the most beautiful song that's ever been written is the 23rd Psalm. If you're just joining us for the first time, we've been in a series on the 23rd Psalm, we've called pitch perfect. Because when you examine all six stanzas in this song, it is amazing how this one song, this short little six-stanza song, addresses practically all of our greatest needs from the cradle to the grave. And what David wants us to realize today is what we should already know and that is our greatest need is God.

I wanna say that again, 'cause I don't think some of us believe it. Our greatest need is God. And I'll tell you, I believe that's true because I believe that God is the only one that can address our greatest problems. In fact, let me say it to you this way, our greatest need will always be God because only God can meet our greatest needs. I've learned that by experience. Our greatest need will always be God because only God can meet our greatest needs. Now there was a philosopher, I can't remember his name now, but he was right when he said this. He said, "There is a God a vacuum in every heart that only God can fill". And I can tell you whether you're a believer or not a believer, whether you're theist, a deist or an atheist, it doesn't matter. There will be a hole in your heart that you will live with to the day you die if that hole is not filled with God.

So let's come to this stanza and let's listen to what David said. He said, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows". Now keep in mind, this is a shepherd that's doing this talking. David is a shepherd. He's writing from a shepherd's perspective. And what he's gonna tell us is God always will be everything that we need when we need it. God meets our need. I know that, I believe that. But David shares with us here how God meets our needs. And it's such a beautiful thing that David tells us. And it's all right here in this stanza. Let me tell you how God meets our needs. First of all, God actively meets our needs. God actively meets our needs. All right, let's say it again. David writes these words. He said, "You prepare a table". Get that in mind, a table. "Before me". Then he says, "In the presence of my enemies".

Now, to be honest, at first when you read this, you go, wait a minute, I thought this was a shepherd talking about sheep? It is and I don't know what calls David to write this part of the song, but he was obviously thinking about the times when he was facing his enemy. But that raises a question. So if is a shepherd talking about sheep and how a shepherd takes care of sheep what in the world was David referring to when he mentions this table? Well, one of the most important jobs that a shepherd has and we've already studied this, he's got to find green grass. He's got to find pasture land for his sheep, where they can eat and they can rest.

Now, shepherds had a term for this. They called it good table land. That's really what they called it. They were always looking for good table land because this would be the place where all the sheep could just lie down and they could eat and they could rest in total peace. So why is that such a big deal? Because sheep won't eat if they're afraid. Sheep won't eat if they're anxious. Sheep will not eat if they're concerned. So before a shepherd could bring sheep into a field of grass, he had to do something. He had to go before the sheep and make sure that any potential enemy, anything that might cause them consternation or might upset them or might get them, you know, on edge, he had to make sure all of that was cleared out so that they would eat.

So here's what the shepherd would do. He would go in and he would clear all the physical hazards, like poisonous plants that could kill the sheep, or a stake or a stob that might wound the sheep. He would look, he'd drive off if there were wolves or coyotes or wild dogs that could attack the sheep, he would drive them all away because he wanted to make sure that when he finally led the shepherd to this table land, he wanted to make sure that they would be calm, they would be cool, they would be collected and they would eat. Now what you may not know that in many parts of the Middle East there are tiny little adders, A-D-D-E-R-S, they're little poisonous snakes that live under the ground. And oftentimes, these snakes would pop up out of the ground and they would kind of nip the sheep on their nose.

Now, even though the sheep would not instantly die, that bite would cause an inflammation that eventually would kill those sheep if the shepherd didn't realize they had been bitten and if they were not treated. So what are the things the shepherd would do is this. He would go all over that field and he'd be hunting for these little small snake holes that the sheep would never notice, he would find any small snake hole. He would take a vial of oil, this is fascinating. He would take a vial of oil and he would pour it at the top of each one of those holes so that when those Vipers would sense the presence of the sheep, and they would start to come up and come out of that hole to bite the sheep, they couldn't do it. Because of their smooth bodies trying to come over that oil, they would just slide right back down the hole and they could not bite the sheep.

Now that's important for a simple reason. The only way sheep live, the only way the sheep grow, the only way that sheep can make wool, they've got to eat. Then after they eat, they gotta be able to lie down, not be anxious and rest so they can digest their food. But they wouldn't eat if there was any danger or even if they did eat, if they sense danger, they would not lie down, they were restless and then their food would not digest. In other words, it was the shepherd's job to prepare at the table for the sheep in the presence of their enemies. You know, we're the same way. I'll give you an example. Have you ever noticed that if you've got trouble in your life, if you've got some real anxiety in your life and you're really worried, if you're really afraid, if you're really concerned, you think you may have cancer, or you think you may lose your job, or you're afraid your spouse may walk out on you or you're not sure if your kids are safe or, you know, or you got any other problem going on, have you ever noticed what happens? You lose your appetite.

I can tell you for me, if I'm super concerned about something, if I'm really worried about something, last thing I wanna do is eat. I just lose my appetite. And the only way you will be able to eat and the only way you're able to rest is if you finally convince yourself, you know what, I've got to shepherd that's looking over me. I've got a shepherd that's gonna work all these things out for my good. I can eat because I can know, no matter what happens, God is going to be in control and God is going to take care of me. I've told some of you this before. Some of you won't know this, but in my former church that I pastored and had a great, great, great ministry there, but the first six months of my ministry was just tough. Probably the most difficult six months of my life. Here's what happened. Before I even came to pastor the church, the staff that was there at the time did not want me to come for a number of reasons. They did everything they could to keep me from coming.

So even before I got there, before I preached and viewed the call, they drummed up as much opposition as they could. And I'm not trying to brag, this is the only church I've ever been voted in that I did not get a unanimous vote. 800 people voted for me. 88 people voted against me. I just never had that happen. Well, I came on anyway, cause I knew that's what God wanted me to do. Well after I came, the people that voted against me they began to try to work to get me to leave and the pressure became enormous. I got anonymous letters, I get ugly stares and comments, I'd get cold shoulders. I'd go into work and none of the staff would even say good morning. I mean, they just didn't like me at all. Behind my back, there was a movement to try to get me fired. And I will just tell you, I mean it took a toll on my health. I developed a blood pressure problem, I started losing my hair, I was sweating through my suit. I mean, it was just unbelievable. I wasn't sleeping well at night.

And you may say, "Well, hey pastor, so what kept you in the fight? Why didn't you quit? Why didn't you just throw in the towel? What kept you in the battle"? There was one thing that always brought peace to my heart at the end of every day and it was something that Jesus said. He said this, he said, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work. My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish his work". You see, here's what kept me in the battle. Here's why I didn't cut and run, here's why I didn't quit. I knew I was in the will of God. I knew I was in the will of God to leave the church I was pastoring where I had a church that loved me, we were doing great things. But I knew it was the will of God for me to come to this church. I knew it was the will of God for me to pastor this church. I knew it was the will of God for me to lead this church. And this was the food that I was eating. This was the food that God put on my table to sustain me in that difficult time in my life.

So I want you to hear this, this is so important. God wants to prepare a table for you in the presence of all the things you're worried about and all the things you're concerned about, and all the people that don't like you, and all the people that have got it out for you, God will to prepare a table for you in the presence of your enemies. But keep this in mind, there's only one item on the menu. There's only one piece of food on that table, you know what it is? The will of God.

Now I want you to hear me so carefully, if you're where God wants you to be, if you're doing what God wants you to do, in the way that God wants you to do it, listen. you don't have to worry about any enemy. You don't have to worry about you lose your job. You may have cancer, you may have this, you may have that, you may get this, you may not get this. If you are in the center of God's will for your life, you can know this, He will take care of you and he'll take care of your enemies. God actively meets our needs. But then David said this, "God affectionately meets our needs". He affectionately meets our need. So he says this, he says, "You anoint my head with oil". Now, I have to tell you when I was a kid growing up and I would read my Bible, I'd come to the 23rd Psalm of all the things David said, this is the one that I just couldn't get, I said, "What does that mean? Why in the world would you pour oil over my head"?

Well, again, keep in mind, we're talking about a shepherd who is trying to meet the needs of the sheep. If you don't keep that in mind, you'll get totally confused. So here's what David was referring to. One of the most valuable things that the shepherd always carried with him, he was never without it, was oil. Let me tell you why. In the Bible oil is a great medicine. And for the sheep, oil was both an insect repellent and it was used for medicinal purposes. Here's what I found out. One of the most maddening and malicious dangers to a sheep is what is called a nose fly. You can go Google it, a nose fly. Now, you know what a nose fly is? It's exactly what it sounds like. It is a fly that flies up the nose of a sheep and it lays eggs. And then the larva makes their way up into the sinus and the nasal cavities of that sheep. And it causes tremendous irritation and inflammation.

And the aggravation and the irritation can become so intense, it can drive sheep crazy. I mean, they can't eat, they can't sleep, they can't shake off their flies, they can't knock them out with their tail or with their hooves. As a matter of fact, there are times that a sheep will be just driving start raving mad. You will see a sheep literally beating their head against a rock because they're trying to get rid of those flies that's gone up their nose. Now, if that sheep gets no relief, they can become so irritated, so bothered, so aggravated they'd do just what you and I'd do, they'll quit eating. When they quit eating, they start losing weight. When they start losing weight and they quit drinking they get dehydrated. And eventually, they die. So what does the shepherd do? What do you think? He anoints the head of that sheep with a mixture of olive oil and sulfur.

Now the oil does two things. First of all, it kills the larva and the eggs that are inside the nose of that sheep, but even better, it acts like an insect repellent to keep any other flies from bothering that sheep. He puts it in their head, so he pours it over their head. He'll put it in their ears and he puts it in their nose. And then the oil was also used as a salve or as an ointment. So when a sheep would be walking along and maybe they would stumble and they would cut their leg, or, you know, they would bruise themselves or whatever. And if the shepherd allowed dirt and debris to get into that open wound, it could fester and it could really cause great harm to the sheep or even kill them. If it's not clean, it will fester, it'll poison, it'll get into the bloodstream and the sheep can die. So whenever the sheep was wounded or cut, the shepherd would take that oil, lovingly, you know, pour it into that wound. He would clean that wound out. So the wound can heal.

Now, you probably have already picked up, one reason why I'm glad I'm not a shepherd, this is not exactly clean, pristine work. Man, I'll be honest with you, I can think of a lot of better things I'd rather do for a living than be putting oil up a sheep's nose or in a sheep's ear, or on those poisonous pus-filled sores that can come from such a bad, bad problem. But when sheep are bothered by those flies or they're covered with those sores, they don't need a flyswatter, they don't need a gun, they don't even need aspirin. If that sheep's gonna survive, they need a shepherd that loves that sheep enough to say. "I'm gonna take this oil, I'm gonna put it up your nose, I'm gonna put it in those dirty ears, I'm gonna anoint that dirty head with tenderness and love and care".

Now let me just stop. You're probably saying right now, "Man, great. Didn't know that, real informative. What does that got to do with me? How does that help me make it on Monday morning"? Well, that's exactly what God does with us because he's our shepherd. You say, "Well, how does he do it"? Well, he does it with oil, his oil. And you say, "What is that"? Well, you may not know this, but in the Bible. oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. And you see what God does, God gives every one of us who are his followers, every one of us who are his sheep, he gives us the Holy Spirit. So when we're wounded, the Holy Spirit heals us. When we're hurting, the Holy Spirit helps us. When we're in sorrow, the Holy Spirit holds us. And if you will allow him to do it, God will take the oil of his Holy Spirit, He will pour it over your head, He'll pour it into your heart so that whatever hurt, whatever harm, whatever heartache, whatever headache comes your way, you can face it and you can have victory over it.

And oh, by the way, don't miss this. Do you notice that David uses the singular pronoun? He doesn't say you anoint our head with oil. He says, "You anoint my head with oil". It's singular, it's personal. Why did David do that? This will bless you. The last thing that a shepherd does every night before he lies down to sleep with his sheep, he personally examines every single sheep one by one. It doesn't matter if they're 50, 100, 150, 200, doesn't matter. He will go and he will examine every single sheep individually to make sure they have no flies, no sores, nothing hurting, no wounds, no problem. And so what David is saying is this, the shepherd loves all of his flock, but he loves them one by one.

So I want you to think about this, when this hit me, I can't tell you how encouraged I was. If you're a part of God's flock, please hear this. In God's flock, there are no big sheep and little sheep. In God's flock, there are no important sheep and unimportant sheep. In God's flock, there are no somebody sheep and nobody sheep. They're all just his sheep. And when you become a part of his flock, you never get lost in the crowd, you never get lost in the flock, you're never just a number and you can rest assure it, God gives you his full, undivided attention. So let me tell you, I don't know what's going on in your life right now, but I'm gonna tell you what God's doing. If he's your shepherd, God actively meets our needs. God affectionately meets our needs. But then David says one last thing, "God abundantly meets our needs".

Abundantly meets our needs. David adds something, and again, I didn't know what this meant either and I bet you didn't. And he says, "My cup overflows". Okay, he anoints my head with oil, then he brings in a cup. He says my cup overflows. Now again in scripture, an overflowing cup is a symbol of total satisfaction. When a cup is overflowing, here's what it means. The person holding the cup, if your cup's overflowing, you didn't get just what you need, you didn't even get just what you asked for, you got more than you needed, you got more than you asked for. Now, let me tell you where this comes from, in the Middle East, it's different from over here. In the Middle East, one of the biggest deals in the Middle East is hospitality. If somebody comes to a house in the Middle East, if they're refused hospitality, it's considered an offense. It's extremely dishonorable. So in the Middle East, even if a total stranger showed up at the door, the host would offer them a cup of water or a cup of wine.

Now the stranger would drink the cup and then the host would refill it. They could drink and the host will refill it again. Now here's the secret, as long as the host kept refilling the cup, what he was saying was, you're welcome to stay. But if they ever came a point where he didn't refill the cup, if he left the cup empty, it meant it was time to go. Now I wish we practiced that over here. That'd be easy to get rid of bad people. But anyway, that's what they would do. So if you were offered something to drink, you drink it. If he said, "Hey, we're good to go. You can stay". He kept refilling. But if he ever stopped, it was his own way of saying, "Okay, time for you to go". But if the host really liked you, if the host really felt for you, if he wanted you to stay the night or stay a long time or stay as long as you wanted to do, what do you think he'd do? You're right, he'd fill the cup to overflowing. He would fill more than the cup could hold.

Now, listen, when you come to God through Jesus Christ, here's what God does. God takes his picture of grace and He pours it into the cup of your heart until it's overflowing. Because when a shepherd's flock needed watering, this is so cool. When a shepherd's flock needed watering and there were no streams or rivers, then the shepherd would go find a well. He'd lead his flock to a well and the shepherd would let that bucket down into that well, he'd bring the bucket back up, usually there'd be a lot of stone cups surrounding that well. That shepherd would pour water into all of those cups and he would make sure they were overflowing.

Now, why would he do that? Well, first of all, he wanted it to be real easy for the sheep to drink because if the sheep were drinking out of the cup, if they went too far, they'd get stuck and they couldn't get to the water. So he'd made sure it was overflowing so they could easily get to the water, but he also filled it to overflowing 'cause he wanted those sheep to know, "Hey, there's plenty to drink". And I really believe that what David is talking about here without any question, you know what this cup symbolizes? It symbolizes the blessings of God that our on us. It symbolizes all the wonderful things that God has given us, just as the shepherd blesses his sheep, God blesses his sheep.

I was reading about a father, and he was playing with his little girl one night and he was talking about how God wanted to bless her and bless their family. And she said, "Dad, can I ask God to bless me"? And the dad said, "Well, sure". He said, "Just hold your hands out like it's a cup and just ask God to bless you". Well, nobody can pray like a child. And let me tell you what that little girl prayed, it was so sweet. She held her hands out and she looked up to heaven and she said, "Lord, fill my cup. My cup is real small and it doesn't hold a lot but it sure can run over a whole lot". You know what, that's exactly what David is referring to. Here's what I wanna ask you to do. If you don't mind, just put everything down, maybe you're taking notes, put down your pen and paper and take your hands off your phone or your computer. Do this for me. I want you right now to put your hands in the shape of a cup. Would you just do that, just get your kids to do it, you do it. Put your hands in the shape of a cup.

Here's what I want you to do. Take a moment, close your eyes and I want you just to think about all the blessings of God that God has given to you right now. Just start thinking about them. And the next time you get stressed out, frustrated, irritated, aggravated, you're upset, you're ungrateful for what you don't have, what you don't get, what didn't happen, start thinking about all the blessings that you do have. Can I give you an example? Look at the screen. 1.2 billion people in this world, think about this, have no electricity, none. 1 billion people do not own a mobile phone and cannot access the internet. 180 million people lack clean water and every 21 seconds someone dies because of a lack of clean water. 2,500 children die everyday from preventable diseases related to a lack of clean water and adequate sanitation.

I really believe every one of us would say, "You know what, as I get to thinking about it, doc, my cup overflows". And I can tell you, if you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior, let me tell you your cup overflows with the grace of God, the peace of God, the love of God and the joy of God. Here's our problem, particularly here in America, do you know what most of us really, you know, have a tendency to do and want to do when our cup begins to overflow, can we just be honest? I'm guilty of this as well. You know what we tend to do when our cup begins to overflow, we go get a bigger cup. We just go get a bigger cup. That's not why God fills your cup to overflowing. You know what God wants you to do, He wants you to share the overflow of blessings that God has given to us, to people who are less blessed than we are. And take the overflow of grace, and peace, and love that some people have never experienced and pass it on to them.

So, wanna wrap this up. I wanna show you a piece of currency. This is a $500 bill. I've never seen one, maybe you haven't. I've never seen one. And I want you to notice right here there's a little star, I'll just kinda point my fingers, a little star right there. Let me tell you a story about this $500 bill. The United States Treasury printed several version of these bills. In fact, the last one of these was printed in 1945 and they were actually taken out of circulation in 1969. Now they're still a legal tender. I mean, if you get one, you can spend it. However, every one of them are worth more than $500. But there's one type in particular, it was made in 1928, and at the end of this eight-digit number, it had a star. That particular note is worth $10,000 because it's so rare.

Now that leads me to tell you this story. There was a lawyer who won a case for his client and they went out for a nice dinner to celebrate. Well, at the end of the meal, the client handed this lawyer this beautiful wallet made of Moroccan leather. And he said, "Please accept this as a token of appreciation". Well, the lawyer looked at the wallet and he just pushed it back across the table. He said, "I'm sorry, but a misunderstanding, I told you that my fee was $10,000". Well, the client looked at the lawyer shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well, whatever you say". But he then opened up the wallet and extracted two of those rare $500 bills. He reinserted one and handed the lawyer the wallet. You see, he not only intended to pay the lawyer the $10,000 that he agreed on, but because the lawyer did such a great job he wanted to double it.

Here's the point, don't be too hesitant, don't be too quick, don't be too fast to complain when things don't go your way, when you don't get exactly what you want when you want it. Because if you will do a true evaluation, here's what you'll find. If you're willing to take stock of your life, God has given you more than you deserve. God has given me more than I deserve and our cup overflows. So why don't we do this right now? Yeah, in the midst of the Corona virus, in the midst of all of the uncertainty going on in life right now, in the midst of maybe having to file for unemployment or maybe even facing the loss of your job, why don't we just give God thanks that the cause of the death and resurrection of Jesus, our cup overflows forever with his grace, his mercy, his love, his forgiveness, his presence that will last forever.
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