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  • Writer's picturePastor Brett

At the End of Your Rope

Read Psalm 57 in your Bible. I used the NLT to prepare these remarks.

“When You Reach the End of Your Rope, You’ll Find God’s Been Holding Both Ends”

Visit jamesbest.net/artwork/sermon-illustrations-2023.

Elizabeth Elliot’s first husband, Jim, was martyred by hostile Auca tribe members when he attempted to take the Gospel to them. She a second husband, Addison Leitch, to cancer.

This is a lady well-acquainted with grief and loss. In a December 1976 message, she told of seeing a Welch shepherd at work. His dog herded the sheep up a ramp, into a tank of antiseptic to protect them from parasites. The shepherd grabbed the rams by the horns and held them under the antiseptic for a few seconds. The sheep did not understand what was happening.

Mrs. Elliot said, “I’ve had some experiences in my life that have made me feel very sympathetic to those poor rams‑‑I couldn’t figure out any reason for the treatment I was getting from the Shepherd I trusted. And He didn’t give a hint of explanation.”

Our Shepherd has thrown you into some unpleasant circumstances and you didn’t have a clue as to why. King David wrote Psalm 57 during just such an experience when King Saul’s jealous rage sent David running for his life. He spent the better part of his twenties dodging Saul’s repeated attempts on his life.

The title tells us David wrote this psalm “when he fled from Saul, in the cave.” It was a desperate time, with several narrow escapes. To David, it must have felt very unfair and discouraging to have done the right thing and now be punished for it. In this psalm, David reveals his soul and sets an example for us to follow; an example of how to handle life’s most difficult moments.

In times of crisis, pay more attention to praising the Lord than sorrowing over suffering.

1. Cry out to God for help. (1-2)

There is no reason to depend on our own strength – God’s MERCY works better. (1) While he took to caves to hide from Saul, David also prayed to God for PROTECTION, to be his refuge. Finding refuge in the SHADOW of God’s WINGS is a frequent Bible metaphor (Ruth 2:12; Psalms 17:8; 36:7; 61:4; 91:4; Matthew 23:37).

In a crisis, faith is not about feeling better, it’s about God accomplishing His purpose in allowing that crisis to come to you. (2) Our GOD MOST HIGH reigns over His creation. This means He is able to save. Our GOD MOST HIGH = He has plans and a purpose that includes us and this moment of suffering but is much bigger than me and now. It will be more appropriate and more therapeutic for us to concentrate on what God is doing than hold a personal pity party for our pain. Salvation, then, includes the Lord’s favor on His people and deliverance from their evil enemies.

2. Trust God to send help. (3-4, 6-7)

Trust in God is knowing that He will help, without knowing HOW He will help. (3) David moved from a general plea for MERCY to a specific prayer of deliverance from those who “hounded” him. Deliverance from one’s enemies and heaping disgrace on them implies a fulness of redemption.

Trust in God is based on who He is and therefore completely dependable. (3) Here David gets at part of God’s purpose in any situation of adversity: to demonstrate His UNFAILING LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS. We trust in who God is and what God does. His actions toward us are always in perfect harmony with His nature.

Trust in God puts my confidence in Him, so I’m not intimidated by any enemies or difficulties. (4+6) Though they feel like “fierce lions,” they are of no consequence with God on our side. The figures of speech in verses four and six underscore the viciousness of King Saul and the violence he sought to inflict on David.

From a worldly perspective, David’s situation was desperate: he felt entrapped in a DEEP PIT; and was wearied by all their efforts at evil. However, his faith was strong and his trust in God complete. He was sure God would take the TRAP they’d set for him and turn it into their defeat.

Verse seven describes the kind of confidence that is found only in people of faith. God can be trusted to keep His word, man cannot. True security cannot be attained by worldly means. Only by faith in God can we feel secure and at peace. Because our confidence is found in God, there may be no earthly explanation for it; no reason we can see, but it is real, nonetheless.

3. Give glory to God for His help. (5, 8-11)

Verses five, ten, and eleven show us God should be praised everywhere: above the highest heavens and over all the earth. GLORY is God’s presence among His people, often symbolized by bright light. Giving God GLORY means seeing Him in our personal experiences and being grateful for Him.

God makes Himself visible in delivering His people from distress. His deliverance takes different, even unexpected forms, but it will come. God is made visible in the praises of His people. When we worship God we glorify Him.

To glorify God, our praise must be personal. (8) Verse eight expresses gratitude in worship of God. Only a faith that is personal, that is central to who we are, will make a difference in our time of need.

to glorify God, our praise must be public. (9) There is a difference between “personal” and “private.” Real faith is not private in the sense of being hidden. (Matthew 5:14-16 = Jesus commanded our LIGHT shine FOR ALL TO SEE, which would result in PRAISE to our HEAVENLY FATHER.)

In our culture over the last 60 years or so, there has been considerable pressure to remove faith in God from the public sphere. In that time, our culture has not improved, but steadily regressed into a less moral state. God deserves better than our bashful praise, hidden behind the doors of a church or our homes.

In times of crisis, pay more attention to praising the Lord than sorrowing over suffering.

In his book, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer, we read the following: “It is easy to be honest before God with our hallelujahs; it is somewhat more difficult to be honest in our hurts; it is nearly impossible to be honest before God in the dark emotions of our hate. So we commonly suppress our negative emotions (unless, neurotically, we advertise them).

“Or, when we do express them, we do it far from the presence, or what we think is the presence, of God, ashamed or embarrassed to be seen in these curse-stained bib overalls. But when we pray the psalms, these classic prayers of God’s people, we find that will not do. We must pray who we actually are, not who we think we should be.”

Surviving life’s trials is not a matter of our strength, it’s a matter of complete dependence on God’s strength. It is not a matter of God’s way being better, it’s a matter of God’s way being the only way to redeem the difficult days. Pray and praise your way through to the end of your strength and receive God’s strength.


RESOURCES:

Elliot quote from https://bible.org/seriespage/psalm-57-singing-cave, retrieved on 21 April 2023.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1991, Psalms, Willem A. VanGemeren.

Eugene Peterson quote from Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer, HarperCollins, 1989 retrieved from https://thepastorsworkshop.com/sermon-illustrations-on-the-psalms/ on 21 April 23.

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