Back to School Week 5: Safety First
Back to school. It’s that time of year when we all do whatever we can to prepare. We hit the sales, stock up on all the supplies and make sure we are equipped for the next challenge life is about to throw at us. But are we sure we have everything we need? Maybe our backpacks are still missing something.
Well, good afternoon. How is everybody? It’s great to see you. My name is Tom. I’m one of the pastors on staff. Chip will be back in the saddle next week with a brand new series. We hope he’s having a good time with his wife, Mindy. Speaking of Mindy — by the way, they are actually in Cuba. Do you remember, last week, on the tape he said he was in Cuba. People were like, “He’s not in Cuba.”
He actually is in Cuba. He’s going to smuggle back some cigars and we’re going to use it as a church fundraiser. So, hallelujah. Hallelujah. We’ll get that building built in no time. Anyway, speaking of Chip and Mindy, a couple weeks ago, they got to do a teaching together. I want to know who here was either here live or you saw it on tape, Chip and Mindy co-teaching? Good, good, good.
I have a question to ask you. Hopefully, we’re not rolling the tape. If we are, this is my last week. Okay. I’ve just got to ask you, when Mindy came up and sat down by Chip, and after about five minutes you realized that Mindy was pretty, intelligent, well-spoken, real spiritual, loved kids — at some point, didn’t you lean over to the person next to you and say, “Oh, my gosh. Chip married so over his head.”
Like, it’s not even close. You know? Chip is a five. With his brain, maybe a six. Mindy’s like a twelve. When I say Chip married over his head, I don’t mean just because he’s four feet tall. I mean, he married over his head in every way possible. And you know it’s true. Come on. You know it’s true because I saw you. I saw some of you whispering to the person next to you, “Is that his wife? No way.”
But do you know what? I have to be honest with you. If you think back of all the pastors you’ve known throughout your life, you will notice that most of them married over their head. It’s true. For some reason — I don’t know if God feels sorry for us. I don’t know if we’re better con artists, or we have a better line than you other guys. And that’s probably it. When I was younger, I used to feel so — it gave me a complex. People would be like, “Dude, you married over your head so bad.”
It really made me feel bad. I was like, “That’s not true. I’ve got skills. I’m tall and stuff.” My wife valedictorian of her high school. She graduated manga cum laude from college. I did “thank you, lawdy” from college. You know? I just barely got through. She’s really talented, gets award. I go to jail. I mean, there’s just all sorts of — but do you know what? I used to really feel bad. I did. People will be like, “Dude, you married so over your head.”
I’m like, “Man, that’s just not nice.” Then I realized one day when I woke up, “I married over my head. This is awesome.” Right? Now when they razz me, like, “Dude, you married so over your head,” I’m like, “I know. I’m a six. My wife’s a twelve. You’re a six and, dude, you married a six. What about that? I married a twelve.”
Drop the mic. I don’t know. The other thing I thought — I think it’s our line, too, that helps us. Think about what we get to say to the girls. We find these innocent, wonderful, godly, Christian girls. We say stuff like, “God has called us to save the world. It certainly is hard to do it alone, but if I have to do it alone.”
These girls are like, “Well, I’m not attracted to you at all, but I certainly would hate for you to have to save the world all by yourself. Alright. I’m in.” We’re like, “Only if you want to.” Yes!
Wait, what was my point? Oh, Chip will be back next week to start us a brand new series. I’m sure I will not be here next week. So, we’re in this series called “Back to School.” A few months ago, Chip told me he was going to be out of the country, and asked if I could jump in the box and fill in for him this week. I told him that would be fine because I, actually, had already had a stirring or a rumbling inside about having this desire to teach on Psalm 91. I’d kind of been looking at it, studying on it, focusing on it and all that good stuff. If you don’t know, Psalm 91 is this massive promise of God’s safety and protection in a very, very unsafe world. It’s just been something that’s really been interesting to me. I said, “Yeah. I’ll jump in.”
In a moment, we’ll chat about how our society recently, 2018, has never been so safety-obsessed. Talking about an unsafe world, but in history we’ve never been so safety-obsessed. There’s currently no institution more safety-obsessed than the school system. So, I thought, “No, this is perfect. This is a perfect way to end the Back to School series.”
Our final class today will be called “Practice Safety First.” Those of you who are parents know for the last month or two, as you’ve been getting your kids re-acclimated in school, I can only imagine all the meetings, the conferences, the meet the principal, the meet the teacher, and the PTA where you’ve gone to these orientations and heard, time and time and time and time again, “Here at Jefferson High,” or, “Here at Central Middle,” or, “St. Mary’s Elementary, our number one rule for your child is safety. Safety, safety, safety. We always practice safety first.”
That’s the mantra, right? That’s now the mantra for everything. So, knowing that, sometimes, they usually take that too far, I googled “stupid rules that schools come up with in the name of safety.” You can imagine. We could spend the next two hours laughing about it, but I picked out some that I thought you guys would love and appreciate.
Here we go. Number one: For snack time, you can only bring an apple or a carrot. They literally banned all other food except an apple and a carrot. The reason was people who are bringing other snacks, it was creating competitions and jealousy, and causing emotional distress for the students. They found it to be an unsafe environment. What if you’re allergic to an apple and a carrot? Isn’t that unsafe, too? But that’s all you get. Apples and carrots.
Number two: Kids cannot hang out in groups of more than two or three because those who are smaller or younger may walk by you and feel like you’re a gang and might be intimidated and might feel unsafe. So, you can only meet in groups with your friends of two or three.
This is my favorite. Number three: No playing on the playground. Yeah. That’s smart. And if you read the story, it’s ridiculous. This whole school partnered with the community, raise like $125,000, built this maxed-out playground so the school could use it during the day and the community could use it after hours. The first day, somebody fell and broke their arm. Not because of insurance, but because of their “safety first” policy, the principal wrapped up the playground with caution tape, and no one has ever played on the playground since then. I know, right? Just Captain Ridiculous.
Number four. This is a good one, too. No running in gym class. It’s gym class. It’s gym class. But they say, “Look, you can walk briskly. We want to live on the danger zone here.”
But if you’re caught running, you get detention and you have to sit out of gym class because, if you run, you could actually hurt yourself or other people. How about that? Now, all these things, I could go on and on and it would be funnier if it wasn’t so tragic that every time a bad thing happens, we just make another rule as if that’s going to make the whole world safer. Just more legislation, more rules, more rules. Look, Johnny fell down and hurt his knee. That’s it. Here’s a new rule: No falling down. It’s just getting ridiculous, what’s going on now.
Look, I get it. Safety is super important. We want our kids to be safe and all that kind of stuff. But coming out of the gate here, there’s one big truth. Whether you’re a Christ follower or you’re just kind of coming in to check the Christianity thing out, there’s one big truth bomb I’m going to drop on you. You may not like it, but this is a truism. This is real. We all have to wrap our heads around it.
As long as we live in a fallen world, we live in an unsafe world and there’s no way of escaping it. There’s no way of fixing it. Until Jesus comes back, it’s going to be a mess and it’s going to always be a mess until we go home. In a lot of ways, our world is safer than it’s ever been. Cars are safer, planes are safer. That type of thing. But every time somebody drives a car into a crowd, kills someone, blows up a building or shoots up a school or whatever, the media and the news drop what they’re doing, hype the story, talk about it incessantly, 24/7 — as if it’s the only thing going on on Planet Earth. All they do is continue to pour gas on it in the name of ratings. They blame race for it. They politicize it. It gets everyone wound up, frothing at the mouth, until it seems like all of America is just having one big, gigantic panic attack.
Newsflash here, which is really a tragic newsflash: Statistics and polls are showing that the average Christian who attends church is jumping on the panic and fear train just like the rest of the world.
So, as more fear and anxiety grows, we make more rules, we point more fingers, we blame more people, we demand a safer world. If we can create enough rules and laws, we’ll get safe again. Right? Wrong. It doesn’t work. So, we continue to be unsafe. Now, that blows everybody into a panic of epidemic proportions. And now everybody, if you look on radio, talk shows, podcasts or articles, you will see people talking about this current great fear that America has, and this obsession for safety that everyone has.
I read about 20 articles and looked at podcasts, and I just wanted to point out a couple of interesting things that I read. One: Psychology Today has an article, “Why is the Whole World Having an Anxiety Attack?” One of the things they listed is, one, more than ever, they are selling more anxiety and fear-based medications not only to adults, but children. It’s never been higher. Anxiety meds for kids, guys, is at an all-time high. One of the things they said in the article was real interesting because they kind of waved the white flag and said, “We can’t fix it. This whole unsafe thing, we can’t fix it.” They said, “Even Carl Jung, the forefather of analytical psychology, said, ‘We can’t help those who feel unsafe because feeling safe isn’t a psychological problem.’”
Check this out: Carl Jung said, “It’s a spiritual problem. That’s why we can’t fix it.”
I thought that was pretty interesting. Another article I read: “Does the Cultural Obsession with Safety Spell the Downfall of Democracy?” Now, guys, this was a really interesting article that said if you go back in history and you look at society, and when you see that society starts to panic and they start to feel unsafe, they will overreact and they will give the political reins or the political power to anyone who promises them safety. They get to the place that they go, “Safety at all costs, even if we have to give up all of our rights and all of our freedoms.” They said, “Hey, America. Are you looking at where that could take you one day?” Very interesting article.
Finally, the third article I’ll share with you was titled “Our Obsession with Safety is Harming our Kids.” Now, the whole point was we’re not letting our children grow up and experience real life anymore. We shelter them, overprotect them, both at school and home, in a super, hyper-safe, bubble wrap chamber. And then we wonder, when they get into the real world, why they crack. It’s because we never let them look at stress, anxiety or danger in the eye and overcome it themselves. Instead, we chose to protect them from it.
So, we haven’t taught them how to solve problems, overcome fears or sleigh their own giants, but we have taught them how to worry and we have taught them how to be scared, hence all the prescription medicine. And now, psychologists — this is probably the most startling thing that I read. Psychologists today are telling us — this is secular psychologists, not Christian psychologists. Secular psychologists today are telling us that the average middle school student — check this out — is carrying around in themselves more stress, anxiety, psychosis, fear, unhealthy emotions than the average mental patient they used to check into a facility in 1980.
In other words, what they were saying is that in 1980, they had a litmus test that if you got this overwhelmed emotionally and psychologically damaged, they were saying you were no longer safe for society and they would put you in a home or a psychiatric facility. They said, “That level of stress,” — whatever that level is — “is what the average middle schooler is carrying around in them today.”
They said that 45 or 50 years ago, middle schoolers didn’t have anxiety and stress disorders, but they do now. And just to make the discussion even more ridiculous, out of all the articles and stuff that I read and looked at, there were tons of experts and pundits saying it’s the Republicans fault, it’s the Democrats fault, it’s the current president’s fault, it’s the former presidents fault. Obviously, nobody can give us any reason to fix it, or how to fix it, but they sure have a way to blame everyone else for it.
So, welcome, guys. Welcome to our bright and cheery world called The United States of Afraid. And most Christians are no better off. This is when you need to turn to your neighbor and say, “This is really sad. I wish hadn’t come to church today.” That’s okay. Go ahead. No, no, no. Don’t leave. Don’t leave. I promise good news is coming down the pike. Thank God the good news doesn’t come from the wisdom of men. I don’t know about you, but I am glad, as a Christ follower, that when I’m in desperate need for a solution or an answer, man’s wisdom does not have the final say. Amen? Aren’t you glad about that? Last I checked, this is God’s world. This is God’s house. You’re God’s people. This is God’s heaven and earth. When it comes to questions like, “Do we really have to live in fear and panic and anxiety?” or, “Do we really have to be a safety-obsessed society in order to survive?” we don’t have to look to man and his bright ideas to answer those questions. But let’s look to God and let’s let Him have the final say.
So, with that, let’s read Psalm 91 today. We’re going to read all 16 verses. I now I’m going pretty fast today because I’m on a time crunch, but as I do this, I’m going to take a pause and try to take a breath a little. This is what I want to encourage you with: As we read over Psalm 91, I just want you to let God’s Word minister to your heart today. So, here we go. Psalm 91.
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.’
Surely He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
“A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look, and see the reward [recompense] of the wicked.
“Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
“‘Because you have set your love upon Me, therefore I will deliver you; I will set you on high, because you have known My name. You shall call upon Me, and I will answer you; I will be with you in trouble; I will deliver you and honor you. With long life I will satisfy you, and show you My salvation.’”
And all God’s people said, “Amen.” God bless the reading of His Word. Well, this is a great Psalm, as you can tell. Let’s jump in and start off with fun facts about Psalm 91. First, we have no idea who the author is. Some think it’s Moses because it sounds a little bit like Psalm 32 and Psalm 90. Some think it’s King David because it sounds a little bit like the Septuagint, Psalm 27 or Psalm 31. Let the argument continue, but we have no idea who the author is.
Second, Psalm 91 is known as what we call an orphan psalm, which means it’s not really tied to anything else. It’s not tied to any leader, chapter, historical date or people group. We just don’t know where it connects. Now, it connects loosely a little bit to Psalm 90 because Psalm 90 talks about the pressing reality of death, and here comes Psalm 91 that talks about the promise of divine protection for life. But other than that, it’s kind of on its own.
Finally, Psalm 91 is also known as a Messianic psalm, which means it points to Jesus. It’s also very interesting that it’s quoted in the New Testament, and the one who quotes Psalm 91 in the New Testament is Satan. So, that’s pretty interesting.
A couple of theological greats and pastors, this is what they said about Psalm 91. As you know, Psalm 91, for a lot of people, is their favorite section of Scripture. Here’s what some of the other guys said.
G. Campbell Morgan said, “It’s the greatest possession of the saints.”
Charles Spurgeon said, “Psalm 91 is the most excellent work of this kind which has ever appeared.” Wow. “It is impossible to imagine anything more solid, more beautiful, more profound or more ornamented than Psalm 91.”
Finally, Martin Luther. We know this was his favorite Psalm. He said that repeatedly. He said, “Psalm 91 is the most distinguished jewel among all the psalms.”
Now, let’s back up for a second. You’ll notice that Psalm 91 is broken down into three parts. Let me just tell you about that real quick. It helps you understand the chapter. As you read it. Psalm 91:1-2 are known as what we call the theme and the profession of faith. The theme, where we get to know the theme, is what is the psalm about? Then the author, for some reason, gives us his profession of faith. The second part of the psalm, Psalm 91:3-13, is the breadth of God’s protection. That’s that whole list of everything the writer says God promises to protect us from. Then, finally, in the last part of the psalm, Psalm 91:14-16, a very interesting interchange happens. Up to this point, the writer of the psalm has been talking to us. Come Psalm 91:14, the writer takes the mic and he turns it over to God. God finishes the psalm and He speaks and affirms His promises of protection, and He reaffirms what the author has already said.
So, it’s very interesting. That doesn’t happen a lot in psalms, but it’s very interesting how that happens in Psalm 91. Let’s take a couple of minutes and go to Bible study class. I don’t have time to pick out a cool thing out of all 16 verses, but we’ll pick out a few things here and there. We’ve got to start with Psalm 91:1. Right?
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”
Throughout history, this has gone down and is celebrated as one of the most beautiful, poetic themes or entrances to any story or chapter or psalm. It’s beautiful. It gives us great imagery. But, for us, it serves as a thematic statement, which means, in Hebrew writing, what it’s giving us here is this is what the whole psalm is about. What Psalm 91:1 is telling us is that when you hang out in God’s presence, He will keep you in His divine protection. As soon as the writer comes out with these beautiful words, with this thematic statement that we have, in the second verse he jumps out of that and he gives us what we call his own profession of faith.
For some reason, he feels the need to tell us, “Oh, by the way, I’m a follower of God. I’ve chosen. I’ve made my choice.” It’s interesting, Psalm 91:2. Look at it with me.
“I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.’”
This is just interesting that he jumps into feeling the need to let us know he has made a choice. He has chosen God. And it’s interesting because you can kind of liken it to John 20 in the New Testament where the Apostle Thomas, the doubter, if you recall, post-resurrection, encounters and finally comes across Jesus where he falls to his feet and he declares, “My Lord and my God.”
Doubting Thomas finally crosses the line and makes his own profession of faith. And that’s kind of what the writer’s doing here. He’s wanting us to know he too has declared the Lord his Lord and his God. Now, for the next 10 verses, we’re going to go through this ridiculously exhaustive list of all these things the writer says that God will protect us from. But before we review that list of all these protection promises, it’s important that we catch that there is a catch. In other words, if we want the 10 verses of protection to be activated in our life, then we must first do something. So, right here in the first couple of verses, we see that there’s kind of a conditional promise. It’s assumptive, hidden a little bit in Psalm 91:1-2. If you read it with me and you look at the highlighted words, all of a sudden you can kind of see it. Because what the writer is saying is, “All these verses, it’s for he who dwells in the secret place. It’s for those who abide under the shadow. It’s for those who call the Lord ‘Lord,’ and declare Him as refuge and fortress. It’s for the ones who personalize that He is my God, in Him I will trust.”
In essence, what the psalmist is trying to tell us is, “Hey, guys. Listen. I’m about to blow your mind with all these things that God will protect you from. However, first and foremost, you must be His child. First and foremost, you must have had a moment where you have had your own profession of faith.”
So, with that there, I would just pause for a second and ask you a quick question. That is, have you made your profession of faith? I know we’ve grown quickly. I know we have a lot of people who have come from some spiritual backgrounds, some non-spiritual backgrounds, some people who have never darkened the doors of a church and some who are kind of confused because they might have gone to two or three places that made it all sound different and confusing. But, at some point, this thing is not just about knowledge. At some point, we all have to make a choice. We all have to declare a profession of faith.
If you’re brand new to this Christianity thing, and you’re like, “Whoa, dude. I just got here. I’m just trying to learn,” I would tell you back up. Take your time. You can belong before you believe. We’re not trying to push you or rush you in any way. We’re here to answer any questions you have. But I have a sneaking suspicion that there are other people here who have come, listened, listened and listened, and for some reason, fear of what others may think or something else, they haven’t made the profession of faith. All the promises of God cannot be activated in our life until we make our profession of faith.
Four thousand years ago, the writer of Psalm 91 made his profession of faith. About two thousand years ago, the doubting Thomas made his profession of faith. At some point, everyone in this room who calls himself a Christ follower, they had to do the same. So, I just want to encourage you. Maybe today is a good day for you to have your profession of faith.
Alright. I’ll leave that there and we’ll jump onto the middle of the psalm, Psalm 91:3-13, where we see the list of protection promises. I’ll divide it into a couple of chunks. We’ve already read the whole psalm, so I’m going to blow through this quickly just so you can once again get kind of an encapsulated snapshot. So, here we go.
God will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from perilous pestilence. He will cover you with His feathers. Under His wings you’ll take refuge. He’ll be your shield and buckler. You won’t be afraid of the terror by night, or the arrows by day, or the pestilence at dark, or the destruction at noon. A thousand may fall on this side, ten thousand on this side, but it shall not come near you. No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come into your dwelling. God will give His angels charge over you. They shall bear you up. Then, at the end, it talks about two times you shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, which you know those are metaphors for Satan. So, he’s ending it by saying, “Even the highest level of evil that could try to come against you, you will be treading upon that as well.”
So, when you look at all of that and swallow it in one big setting, it’s a lot. It’s a lot of things that God is telling us He wants to be there for us and cover us and protect us. I only have time in each one of those little chunks to just point one thing out. Let’s go back to Psalm 91:3-4 and I’ll just show you out of two or three verses, and then we’ll head towards home.
In Psalm 91:3-4, I love the imagery here where it says, “God will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings we will take refuge.” I just want you to soak that in for a second. I saw something on Facebook two or three weeks ago. I called Madi and I said, “Get that for me because I want to have it in my sermon.” If you guys can put this up, it’s a great picture of exactly what this is saying. I don’t know if you can tell. This isn’t an 18-legged bird. This is all the babies under momma in the middle of the rain. She’s covering and protecting. I just love that imagery that reminds us that sometimes God doesn’t deliver us from the storm, He just comes down with us right in the middle of the storm. He’s beside us and He protects us.
In Psalm 91:5-7, the one thing I’ll pick out is how it’s interesting that the psalmist goes to such extreme and exhaustive measures to show us God’s protection. Do you remember all the words? Whether it’s night, day, dark, noon, this side, that side, up, down, whether it’s ten thousand — which was the largest number in the Hebrew dictionary at that point. So, it’s like, “I don’t care if 1,000,000 things are thrown.” That’s what he’s saying. The word “ten thousand” meant too much to count. The psalmist is just saying, “Look how much God goes to great lengths for your 24/7, 360-degree protection.”
Finally, in the last part of Psalm 91:10-13, we see the part that we’ve seen often. For He shall give his angels charge over you, and they will bear you up. I hear often, people, especially Christians, think they have a guardian angel. A guardian angel is cool, but this psalmist tells us that God gives all the angels charge over you. If you just want one angel, that’s fine. I’ll take the rest. I’m fine with that. But it doesn’t say it’s just Clarence, the guardian angel, like the Christmas Story or whatever. This is saying that God has commissioned all the angels to watch over us and protect us. I don’t know how that looks. In the unseen world over our head, there’s a spiritual battle and things going on. When a pastor gets up and tells you he knows what’s going on, he’s been smoking something. Don’t listen to him. None of us know what’s going on up there, but I think it’s going to blow our mind one day when we find out how God has commissioned His warriors to say, “Protect My children.”
I just love that. As you know, this is also the section of Scripture that Satan quotes — or misquotes — to Jesus in Matthew 4. This is where he says, “Hey, Jesus. Come over here. If You really want to prove You’re the Messiah, let’s go to this mountain, throw Yourself off. Do You remember there was that Scripture in Psalm 91 that says the angels will protect You and catch You and all that good stuff?”
Jesus says, “Good try, Satan, but Deuteronomy 6 says, ‘Do not put God to the test.’”
We’d be remiss if we didn’t pause right here and let Jesus give us a teaching moment. That’s this: Jesus gives us a big reminder that God protects us when we are walking in His will, but when we jump out there on our own, we shouldn’t expect the same amount of divine protection. The reason Jesus said no is because Jesus knew it wasn’t God’s will to throw Himself off of a mountain. So, He didn’t even think about it. “That’s not what God wants me to do.”
I say this to you because after years of being in ministry and all the counseling appointments that I’ve done, I’ve sometimes been amazed at Christians who come in for counseling and they say, “Pastor Tom, my life is really messed up. I just don’t understand where God is.” They’ll tell me how their life is all messed up, then I’ll go, “Well, how did you get there?” Then they tell me the steps they took to get there, and I’m like, “Nothing you’re doing is in God’s will.”
“Yeah, but I still thought God was going to protect me.” I’m like, “That’s not how it works.” You know? If we’re going to follow God and we really are going to hide in the shadow of the Almighty, what that means is if we’re going to walk in His protection, we want to walk in His will. So, anyway, it’s just something that we have to understand that’s part of the process.
Now, the third and final section of Psalm 91, that end part where I told you the mic is handed to God, here’s this really cool part that, once again, we get to look at and see that God is answering and confirming what the psalmist has already told us. He even added His own things. I’ve been reading to you, by the way, through the text in the New King James Version, because I just think it’s cool and poetic and has some of that older language to it. But in this part, I changed the pronouns because the old writings just put “he” because it was a masculine environment. I put “you” because we all know that the end of Psalm 91, like everything else in the Bible, is a promise for all of God’s children; for men, for women, as well as children. So, with that, let’s look at it. This is God talking to you.
“‘Because you have set your love upon Me, therefore I will deliver you; I will set you on high, because you have known My name. You shall call upon Me, and I will answer you; I will be with you in trouble; I will deliver you and honor you. With long life I will satisfy you, and show you My salvation.’”
That’s a lot of promise. This is a simply beautiful psalm packed with tons of God’s providence, protection and covering over and over and over throughout our lives. I love how God steps in here at the end to agree with the psalmist. If I was going to pick one thing out that I found interesting, I love the place that God says, “And because you have known My name.” That is really cool language there that the Hebrews used. In the Hebrew writing, what they meant was, “Because you and I are buddies, because you and I have supped together, because you and I hang out, because you and I are one.”
To know someone’s name was a very intimate thing. God’s saying, “Since you and I are friends and since we’ve come together, because of that, when you call, I will answer you and I will deliver you and I will honor you and I will show you My salvation.”
Beautiful, beautiful stuff. As we head towards the finish line, I have seven takeaways. I wrestled with this all over the place because I’m like, “Man, seven takeaways is really a lot.” I thought, “You know, if Chip was here, he’d get it down to three takeaways.” Then I was like, “Chip’s not here. I don’t care.”
So, I’m doing seven takeaways. I promise we’ll get out by 1:15. I really do. I’ll go quick. No, no, no. We’ll get out in time, I promise. But, as I looked through these seven, I just said, “Yeah. I want to briefly mention them.” But, for those of you who are writing notes, I’m going to tell you right now you’re going to be sorely disappointed because we’re going to fly through at 100 miles an hour. So, if you want to capture it, you might want to get your phone out. That’s probably the best way to get it. So, here we go. Seven takeaways to consider as we’ve reviewed and looked at Psalm 91.
Number one: If we balance out Psalm 91 with the rest of Scripture, we realize that sometimes bad things still happen to good Christians. Psalm 91 is not a guarantee that keeps you from experiencing bad things in life, but Psalm 91 is a promise that God will keep you as you experience bad things in life.
See, guys, here’s the balance. We still live in a fallen world. There’s still evil. This isn’t our final resting place. We still die here. Every one of us, unless Jesus comes back, will still die here. There’s sickness. There’s tragedy. There’s evil. There are things that don’t make sense. Sometimes we bury people and we know, we just feel it in our heart, that it’s way too early. Sometimes we have to bury our own children, which has to be the most unnatural thing a parent has ever done in the history of the world. We do these things and we go, “Man, where’s Psalm 91?” because bad things still happen to good Christian people. For some reason, when choice is still involved in the world, evil flows over and affects us all. It’s just one of those things that God doesn’t fill us in on all the whys. He still lets bad things happen every once in a while. Sometimes, we’re not going to know the answer to why until we get on the other side.
Now, PowerPoint one is 100% true, but it’s important for you to get, if you haven’t gotten anything else today, that the second PowerPoint I’m about to share with you is just as much 100% true.
Number two: God provides supernatural protection and covering here on Earth for those that have declared His lordship over their life and try to seek His presence. This protection is not provided for every human being on Earth. That is 100% true. God still protects those He loves. You might go, “Whoa. Wait, wait, wait. Time out. We just looked at number one that said bad things still happen.”
That’s true. Bad things still do happen to good people. Well then, how can two be true? Because it’s still true. God promises it to us. It’s a truth that there are things that we don’t know, we don’t see. There are things that happen all the time that we have no idea what God is thwarting and what He’s protecting us from. And this comes to a situation where it’s an act of faith. This is something I want to encourage you on because this is moving up to walk with God in a whole new level of faith. Just because you don’t understand it or you can’t wrap your head around it, don’t throw it out. Okay? There are a lot of things that when it comes to serving God it’s a mystery. He doesn’t give us all the black and white answers. Yes, God provides supernatural protection for His children, and yes, bad things still happen to good people. It’s not either/or. It’s both. That’s kind of big boy and big girl faith for us to believe that, but this is where faith comes in.
Moms and dads listen, as well as everybody else. I know there’s a lot of people in this room that probably stay up many nights worrying about your kids, your job, your 401k, the way this world seems like it’s going to hell, or your bills. There are so many things that you can be stressed and anxious and worrisome about. But I want to encourage you with something here. Either what we just read in Psalm 91 is true or it’s not. God is either in control or He’s not. If all that is true, at some point we need to grow into the place that we do the best we can do, we pray Psalm 91 over our life and our family, and then we go get some sleep. Then we go have a life. Then we stop obsessing about all the cares of the world because that doesn’t help us at all. If we really are on this faith walk and we really believe that we will be here on Planet Earth until God wants to take us home, and if I live one more day or eighty more years, I have to trust that if the Bible says all my days were ordered before one of them ever came to be, I’m going to trust Him for my days. I’m not going to worry about it. I can’t fix it. I can’t make it further, shorter, do this or that, nor can I do that for my kids. At some point, I have to trust God.
Number three: When we get to heaven and God rolls the tape, we’re going to be blown away at all the near misses, close calls and almost catastrophes that God delivered us from while we were here on Earth. I absolutely believe that. You might go, “Hold on. Okay. Let’s have a PR moment right here. If God was smart, wouldn’t He fill us in on that? We’d be thankful and happy.”
How about if every day, at your quiet time, God said, “Hey, by the way. Yesterday, let me tell you the 11 things that I rescued you from that you had no idea was happening?” Well, yeah. We would love all of that, right? But then this Earth would not be a walk of faith anymore, would it? If God told us, every day, everything He rescued us from, it’s a walk by sight. That’s the next chapter. That’s the next chapter. Here, it’s a walk by faith. And I think we’re going to be blown away, when we get to heaven, how much He rescued us from.
Number four: In the midst of a panicky world, with all of its safety-obsessed paranoia, God is calling His children to walk in a fearless state of protective custody where there is life, love, freedom and joy. Look at this: Fearless living is one of the greatest ways we can prove Jesus to an unchurched world, especially today when everybody’s gone nuts with all the safety-obsessed stuff. Let me ask you a question: The worry, the stress, the anxiety, the paranoia, what has it ever done for you? How has that ever helped you? What have you gotten out of it besides regret? Proclaim Psalm 91 over your life and then get on with your life.
When Jesus said He came to die and give us abundant life, it’s not so we would carry the cares of the world. If you remember, Jesus said, “My yolk is easy and my burden is light,” and He told us to cast our cares upon Him. So, the Christian who really is walking the walk learns that even though the world is chaos and it’s hell and we can’t fix it and we can’t control it and it could get really stressful, we ball it up, we lay it at Jesus’ feet and we say, “I’m going to go live the best life I can live. When it comes to my money, my kids, my bills and all of that, I’m going to do the best I can. I’m going to proclaim Psalm 91 over my life and I’m going to go live a great life.”
That is the abundant life Jesus came to give us. And all God’s people said, “Amen.” Okay. Good. Just wanted to make sure you’re still awake. Alright. So, y’all get number four.
Number five: Dwelling in a secret place and abiding in His shadow simply means seeking God’s presence. Seeking God’s presence is not some spooky, weird religious exercise. It’s easy and practical, like listening to worship music, reading your Bible out loud, or thanking God for all of your many blessings. You know the story in the New Testament about Martha and Mary where Martha’s in the kitchen cleaning, and she’s mad because Mary’s sitting at Jesus’ feet? I’m Martha. I like to work for Jesus. Sometimes I don’t do too good of a job sitting at His feet. I’ve learned how to dwell in His presence better over the years, but it’s not my ten. I’m just being honest with you. It’s not my ten.
So, I called a buddy of mine, Pastor John Mattson. He’s the Campus Pastor of Southeastern University over the Bayside Campus. I know it’s John’s ten. This is what he does. He hangs out with God in the cool of the day better than anybody I know. So, I had breakfast with him and I said, “John, what are you teaching the students today about how practical and real — like, what are you telling them on how to hang out in God’s presence?”
Everything you see in number five, this is the stuff that John gave me. I thought it was really, really good stuff. One of the things that he said — I mean, I thought of the worship music thing, but it’s true. If you listen to worship music, like in your car, you’ll find yourself feeling the presence of God, and feel more connected to your spirit and your faith while you’re doing that. One of the things that he told me was, “Tom, do you read your Bible out loud?”
I thought about it. I’m like, “No. I never read my Bible out loud.” He goes, “I teach the students to read their Bible out loud because when you read it, there’s something that happens when instead of reading it we speak it out loud. It’s like it activates it and it comes to life.” He said, “We’ve noticed that when you speak during your quiet time, when you read the Bible out loud, you feel God’s presence and you really do feel there’s a connection between you and God.”
I started doing it for the last month. He’s 100% right. So, now, when I read the Bible, I read it out loud. He said, “Obviously, the thing of being thankful. If you really pause and are thankful to God about your many blessings, you will sense God’s presence while you’re doing that.”
When he was telling me all this, I said, “You know, John, one of the things that’s funny that I’ve always done all my life — I don’t know why, but this has just kind of been something that worked for me. It may or may not work for you. I don’t listen to the radio a lot when I drive in the car. Any time I’m driving in the car and I remember something recently that God had done for me and my family, if it comes to my mind where God, I know, was faithful and did something, I will imagine that I’m in front of a group of people like you, and that God has just said, ‘Go ahead and testify about me.’”
So, in the car, I imagine I’m in front of a crowd. I start to share a testimony out loud while I’m driving the car as if I was sitting here and sharing a testimony with you in this room today. Because, as I’m doing it, I want to do it right. I want to make sure I’m giving God the glory. So, as I’m putting the testimony together and I’m speaking it, I find myself having church with me and God. Right then, I sense God’s presence. It kind of builds my faith while I do it. In the last 10 years, it’s really been cool because of Bluetooth. People don’t look at me in the car and think I’m crazy. Before that, people would see me and just thought I was nuts. You know? Just talking to myself all in my car. But, again, that was just one of those things that worked for me. I would just share a testimony out loud, all by myself, and I would find that I felt God’s presence closer. I think you guys get that. So, anyway, great advice and I appreciate John Mattson for throwing some of that stuff out.
Alright. Number six: The totality of Psalm 91 will be fulfilled in heaven, where you will be safe forever. I want you to just kind of soak that in. I love the analogy I see pastors do when they’re trying to explain eternity. They’ll put string on one side of the wall and they go all the way to the other side of the wall. They go over to about the first three feet of the wall. They say, “Okay. Foot one, foot two. Here’s your life at about foot three.” They go about two inches and they go, “Here’s where you die. Right here.” Then you see the rest of the string. He says, “That’s eternity for you. That’s your forever.”
I think we lose the perspective, guys. We watch the news. We get wound up. We think this world is so important. This world is not our home. We’re just passing through. Our life is a blink of an eye and it’s over. We do everything about the cares of the world. We sit here and try to fix everything as if you and I are going to be here forever. We’re going to be here for one second, and then we’re going to go through.
You know, as I was putting this together, one of the things that I thought about is that when I talked about unsafe moments, judgment day will be a very unsafe day for many people. I don’t mean to be melodramatic about that. I just thought of that and I went, “Wow. It’s probably the most unsafe day in the history of humanity.”
Judgment day will be unsafe for many, but not for you. Not for me. Not for those of us who have made a proclamation of faith and asked God to be our Lord and our leader. That’s the difference between knowing about God, or hearing about God or coming to church and learning about God, and jumping in yourself and declaring that He is your God, your Savior, your forgiver. That’s what every one of us needs to do.
Finally, number seven. This is the challenge I have for you as you leave today: Imagine what your life could be if “safe” wasn’t one of your primary filters. I didn’t say “reckless.” I go back to the word “fearless.” How would you love others if “safe” wasn’t a primary filter if you weren’t always worried about what other people thought about you? How would you live life fully? How would you share your faith with your neighbor, coworker, friend, family without a “safe” filter being at the top? How would you be an intentional neighbor that reflects Christ? What businesses or ministries or new relationships would you start if the need for safety wasn’t holding you back?
I didn’t say “reckless,” but guys, I think there’s a time that God is looking for a remnant of a few believers that start to believe what He said. And we start living by faith, not by sight, and we start living by what this Word says, not what the world says, and we get to a place that we say, “You know what? Despite everybody else screaming that the sky is falling, I’m going to go live an abundant life. I’m going to be loving and I’m going to be free. I’m not going to let that stuff hold me down. I’m going to cast all my cares on Jesus.”
Though I can get wound up, just like everyone else, over my kids, bills and everything else, I am going to do the best I can. I’m going to pray Psalm 91 over my life and I’m going to leave the results to God.
It’s the reason why Apostle Paul was so dangerous, because he got to a place where he said, “To live is Christ, to die is gain. If God keeps me here, alright. I’ll tell some more people about Jesus. If I die today, I’m in heaven. I win. Game over. I win. What’s the problem?”
To him, he did not care. They would threaten him with his life. He’d be like, “Hey, I’ll go help you find the rocks. I’m ready to take the next train out. I’m fine.”
Imagine the fearless, dangerous life we could live if we said, “You know what? I don’t know if I have a day or another thousand years. I don’t know if my kids have another day or a thousand years. I can’t control that stuff. But I will say that to live is Christ, to die is gain. I’ll do the best I can do. I’ll claim Psalm 91 over my life and family and I will leave the results to God.”
The final thing I’ll leave with you is this: Fear will not add years to your life, but fearlessly trusting God will add life to your years.
Father God, I thank You for everyone here. We just thank You for this beautiful, beautiful, awesome psalm. It’s a big promise. I mean, it’s a heavy promise. Sometimes it’s hard for us to wrap our head around it, especially when we’ve seen some of the things we’ve seen on Planet Earth. But God, I believe both statements are true. Bad things still happen, because we live in a fallen world, to good people. And yet, You still provide supernatural protection for those who love You.
God, I just pray that as I look at Psalm 91 and I see the way that we should live by faith, and none of this fear and anxiety and all this stuff, the cares of the world and the panic that our society is in, God I pray that You would give us the courage. We can only do it if You fill us with Your Holy Spirit. I pray that You would give us the courage to walk by faith and say, “I am not signing up for the pandemonium that this world is signing up for. I’m going to trust God.”
It’s easy to talk about that in here, Lord, but we go home, it’s two o’clock in the morning, and we start thinking and we let our minds get away with us. Father, it’s during those moments that I’m praying today that a moment will rise up and a word from heaven will come in our hearts and we’ll go, “Are we going to believe and claim Psalm 91 or not? Are we going to walk by faith or not? Are we going to trust God for the outcome or not?”
I just pray, Lord, in all of us, that You will inspire us and charge us to take another step up where we’re not living full of anxiety and worry and care and concern. We do the best we can do, we love as many people as we can love, we walk in freedom and joy, we claim Psalm 91 over our life and we leave the results to You.
I ask You, Father, the only way we can do that is if we lay everything at Your feet and let You truly be Lord and Savior of our life. If there’s anyone in this room that needs to take that step today, I pray right now You’d just give them the courage to say, “God, I surrender. I love You. Forgive me. I will follow You all the days of my life.”
That’s all it takes. Father, You’ve loved every person in here since the day they were born. You loved them before they were born. You couldn’t love them any more than You love them right now. So, help them, Father, to have the courage to receive Your love, and help all of us to walk by faith. In Jesus’ name, and all God’s people said, “Amen.”
God bless you guys. Have a great week.