The platoon was on maneuvers out in the field when the Commanding Commander and the 1st Sgt. hit the hay for the night. The Commanding Officer, “Sergeant, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.” The Sergeant looked up and said, “I see millions of stars.” The Commanding Officer asked, “And what does that tell you, Sgt?” “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Theologically, it tells me that God is great and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it tells me that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you, Sir?” The Commanding Officer looked at the Sergeant and said, “Well, it tells me that somebody stole our tent!”
Today, we continue our current sermon series- The Psizzlin’ Psummer Psalm Psermon Pseries. We are taking a good, hard look at the Old Testament Book of Psalms. The Book of Psalms is a collection of religious poems or songs, designed to be set to music. Some are hymns to be sung by a congregation. Some are private prayers. Some are lyrical devices for remembering major events in Israel’s history. The Book contains 150 psalms, making it the longest book in the Bible, based on number of chapters. Every human emotion, every circumstance of daily life are captured in these 150 chapters. This 11-week series will carry us through the rest of the summer…AND through the trials and tribulations, the highs and lows of life. Today we look at the fact that, in life, we are faced with the gears of war. And that fact SHOULD be painfully obvious. I mean, recently I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out! Let’s look at a Scripture that points to the fact that even the one and only Son of God was in the midst of warfare-
Matthew 20:18-19 “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”
The Psalms talk about a LOT of things. Every human emotion…literally…can be found within these 150 chapters. But one of the more common themes in the Psalms is that of war. The period during which they were written was one of great strife and turmoil. And, as we will focus on today, life is simply an ongoing war between good and evil.
Today, we are focusing on Psalm 20. But the truth of the matter is that Psalms 20 and 21 go hand in hand- they are bookends…twin battle songs. Psalm 20 is the prayer BEFORE the battle, anticipating victory while Psalm 21 is the praise AFTER the battle, reflecting on the victory. This Psalm, written by King David, reflects the many wars he fought that are recorded in 2Samuel, chapters 8-10. David was, in many respects, a “warring king”. His sword may have been worn…but it wasn’t rusty! Let’s look at today’s Psalm-
Psalm 20 May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests. Now this I know: The LORD gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. LORD, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call!
A young soldier was making his first parachute jump. The Jump Master explained the procedure, “You count to ten and pull the first ripcord. If the chute doesn’t open, pull the second. That should do it. Then, after you land, there’ll be a truck waiting to pick you up.” The soldier checked his gear, called out the customary “Geronimo!” and jumped out of the plane. He counted to ten and pulled the ripcord. The chute failed to open. He pulled the second ripcord…and the chute still didn’t open. As he plummeted Earthward, he said, “I’ll bet the truck won’t be there, either!”
This psalm is a prayer for the king- David. And it is written by…David! David draws up a prayer, to be used in the congregation…for himself! Is that a bad thing? It may SOUND like it, but I would argue that even strong Christians who know well how to pray for themselves should STILL desire the prayers of others FOR them.
So Psalm 20 is a prayer…an intercessory prayer. An intercessory prayer is a prayer on behalf of someone…or something…else. This prayer was an intercessory prayer for the king as he prepared to face the enemy in battle. And if there is one truth to be found at the foundation of this Psalm, it is that battles will happen. It’s NOT a question of “if”…but “when”. And since they ARE coming, we need to be ready. We need to have “the goods” in place that will help us survive the hard times.
Verse 1- May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
Verse 1 talks about God answering us in our time of distress. And if you answer someone…it’s because you first HEARD them! It’s very encouraging to know that God not only HEARS our prayers, but is also ready to RESPOND to them…to help.
John 15:7 says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” And 1John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
The key word here is “if”- “IF you remain in Me, IF My Words remain in you…” and “IF we ask…according to His will…” There are conditions to God answering our prayers. The 1st condition is “remain”…if we remain in Him and allow His Word to remain in us. The 2nd condition is “according to His will”…God is NEVER going to give us something that goes against His will simply because we ask for it. The key to answered prayer is staying connected to God and His Word and always seeking discernment regarding His will.
There is ALWAYS hope…no matter what the situation…because we have prayer as our connection to God. No matter what the battle is, no matter who the enemy is, we can still pray and God will still hear us.
Verse 2- May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.
Verse 2 talks about help and support…strengthening us. God’s strength of the Lord is THE strength that we both want and need if we are to go into battle. His strength is sufficient in any situation. When we are at our weakest, God’s power is at its strongest.
Too often in the battles of life we try to fight under our own power. And the truth is that when we do that, we WILL fail…every time. The ONLY way to successfully navigate the battles of life is to rely on the ever-present strengthening power of God.
Verse 3- May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings.
Verse 3 asks that God would recognize our sacrifices and offerings.
Verse 4- May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.
Verse 4 touches on a fascinating side of our relationship with God. It asks that God would give you…the desire of your heart. Does God DO that? Because I REALLY desire that new Mercedes, and yet…I don’t see it in my driveway! Know what I’m sayin’? The answer is, “Yes!” God DOES give you the desire of your heart, but we have to go back to 1John 5:14- if it is compatible with His will. And I seriously doubt that my Mercedes is in HIS plans!
Verse 5- May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests.
Verse 5 comes around again to joy- NOT happiness…but joy! It also points to a confidence in God- not IF we are victorious but WHEN!
Verse 6- Now this I know: The LORD gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.
Verse 6 offers an assurance that is inspiring- I KNOW that God will bring me the victory! I KNOW it
Verse 7- Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
Verse 7 says, “We will remember the name of the Lord our God”. If you know what God has done in the past, then you have a good indication of what he will do in the future. The saying is “past is not a guarantee of future results”. And for you and me…that’s true. But looking at God’s track record gives us a PERFECT predictor of His future performance!
Verse 8 and 9- They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Lord, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call!
The Psalm ends with a wrap-up- the enemies will be brought to their knees but the rightwous will stand tall and firm.
If you were asked to name a great battle, what would come to mind? Pearl Harbor? Gettysburg? The Alamo? D-Day? Those are just a few of the most famous battles from history. But notice this- they all took place somewhere else. We all know that some battles happen a great deal closer to home. And sometimes those “close to home” battles aren’t fought with fists or guns…but with words. We all know the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That is am marvelously pithy saying, but I would like to quote that great theologian Col. Sherman T. Potter from MASH, “Horse hockey!” A broken bone or a split lip will heal. But words can cut so deep that the wound takes decades to heal…if it heals at all.
Perhaps some of the greatest battles are the ones that are fought internally. I’m talking about those painfully private battles with pain, illness, depression, financial difficulty, grief, worry, stress, frustration, loneliness, temptation, relational breakdowns…the list goes on and on. And these battles, although internal, can feel SO big, so overwhelming that we feel like we are drowning- we simply can’t hold our ground. Maybe we don’t have to do fight tooth and nail with a giant like David did. But we do face giant-sized problems of our own from time to time, don’t we?
What’s your giant-sized problem? Maybe there is some practice or habit that you KNOW to be wrong…but you continue to struggle to overcome it. Maybe you are overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy or inferiority. Maybe you have some physical, emotional, or circumstantial struggle that you wrestle with regularly. Maybe your finances have you on the ropes, ready to toss in the towel and say, “No mas!” Maybe worry makes it hard for you to breathe on a regular basis. Whatever your giant-sized problem is, I would like to insist that you CAN overcome it. How? You need to have an attitude. A big ol’, major-league ‘tude! But not THAT kind of attitude- no one wants to see that! No, you need a different kind of attitude- one that a lot of Christians these days are missing. You need an attitude of victory! You need to NOT live a life of discouragement. Discouragement comes in all shapes and sizes. And frankly some of the most damaging forms can come from the people closest to us.
When you’re faced with a giant problem, respond to it with faith in God. But let me assure you that there will be people who will try and discourage you. They do it with the BEST of intentions…but they’ll STILL do it! “Give up. You can’t do that. It’s too hard. You’ll never make it. If I couldn’t do it, you can’t either. You’re too young. You’re too old. You’re too stupid. You don’t have enough talent.” People say things like that ALL the time, and it threatens to pull the plug and let all the will drain right out of you.
So what should you do? Don’t listen to them! They may MEAN well…but they’re WRONG! If the people around you want to be Eeyore…then let them! But you don’t have to join them! The person who says it can’t be done shouldn’t disturb the person who’s actually DOING it.
When you choose to serve God, you will have to deal with many giant-sized problems. And when that happens, be prepared for the naysayers who just LOVE to tell you that you won’t succeed and should just give up. Don’t listen to them! Instead, focus on what God has done in your life. Focus on the good things. To quote that great theologian Bing Crosby, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative but don’t mess with Mister In-between.”
Now let’s be honest- when you’re neck-deep in a difficult situation, it can be HARD to see God at work in your life. But I find that, when I am faithful and push forward, once I come out the other side and have the marvelous gift of hindsight, I can see the markers He placed all along the way.
Deuteronomy 33:27-29 The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies before you, saying, ‘Destroy them!’ So Israel will live in safety; Jacob will dwell secure in a land of grain and new wine, where the heavens drop dew. Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights.”
Life is warfare or, as that great theologian Pat Benatar said, “Love is a battlefield.” But God is with you. And those who make it their business to glorify God can expect that God will, in one way or other, fulfill them. And those who walk in His counsel can promise themselves that he will bless them. Those that have their eye still upon the salvation of the Lord shall have their hearts filled with the joy of that salvation.
A lot of Christians fall because they fail…to remember Who their God is. We live in uncertain times and therefore we need to remember the Who our God is and what He has promised. Many of God’s people lack a strong, consistent faith because they don’t know and therefore can’t depend on God’s promises. But when we recognize that we simply don’t have the goods to adequate defend ourselves from our enemies, we realize that we have to fully rely on God for our protection…our victories. If God be for us, who can be against us?
Many in this world think that Satan still has the upper hand on Earth. But I’ve read the last chapter and that is simply NOT the case. Jesus defeated the devil at the rugged cross and the empty tomb. And because of that victory, we can confidently live victorious lives in the here and now.
I am here this morning to tell you that the world, the devil and things of the flesh do NOT have to have a strangle hold on your life. The enemy wants you to “come south” and join him, but God offers you a front-row seat in Heaven. The way to make it through the daily battle is to constantly remind yourself that Jesus has already won the battle…for you. Pray about it. Prayer turns despair into hope and hope into certainty. It will sustain us when our own power fails us. It can snatch victory from the gaping jaws of defeat. Got any rivers you can’t ford? Got any mountains you can’t climb? Got any valleys you can’t navigate? Turn to God- He specializes in the impossible.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. To get what you’ve never had, you have to be willing to do what you’ve never done. If you never try more than you think you can possibly do, you’ll never accomplish all that you possibly can. In other words…with God, all things are possible.