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Worship Message - "God is Our Refuge and Strength"

God Is Our Refuge and Strength

A woman and her cat were both scared of each other. The woman decided to put the cat down, but the vet clinic was closed. She dialed 911 to have them handle the situation. When the 911 dispatcher said the police did not take care of such problems, the woman became incensed, which led to her insulting and threatening the dispatcher.

A woman in Oregon was questioned at home about too much noise. When the police left her house, she called 911 because she thought one of the officers who had just visited her house was good-looking. Her call was to ask the dispatcher to send “the cutie pie” back to her house, which the dispatcher did. The cutie pie arrested the woman for misusing 911.

A woman in Florida woman called 911 because she was locked inside her car. She reported, “My car will not start. I'm locked inside my car. Nothing electrical works. It’s getting very hot in here, and I'm not feeling well.” The dispatcher did not send assistance. Instead, he suggested the woman pull the handle on her car door. Wich she did, which allowed her to open her door.

A grade school boy decided to call 911 when he needed help with his math homework. The dispatcher  was able to help him. That was the end of that.

A Florida man was so upset when a sandwich shop left the special sauce off his sandwich he called 911. Twice. The first time to ask if officers could make sure his sandwich was made properly, the second time to complain the police were not responding fast enough to the first call.

Dispatcher: 911. Caller: Yeah, I'm having trouble breathing. I’m all out of breath. I think I'm going to pass out. Dispatcher: Sir, where are you calling from. Caller: I’m at North and Foster. Dispatcher: Sir, an ambulance is on the way. Are you an asthmatic? Caller: No. Dispatcher: What were you doing before you started having trouble breathing? Caller: Running from the police.

Amazing 911 calls. And this one, which is personal. 

Many years ago I was in an office and decided to call my parents. Their number in Omaha was 112-572-0112. How I can remember their number from many years ago and not what I had for lunch yesterday, I do not know, but that was their number.

To get a call out of the office, I needed to dial 9. See the problem? I dialed 9 to get out of the office. I got through the first two digits of my parents’ number, which means, without thinking, I dialed 911.

Before I could get to the third digit of the number I was calling, a voice came on the line. “This is 911. What is your emergency?”

“Emergency,” I said. “I am trying to call my parents.” Whereupon I was firmly told 911 is for emergencies and I better not ever call that number again for no good reason if I knew what was good for me.

I might mention I waited until I got home that day to call my parents, but amazing 911 calls. Calls to a number that puts you in touch with people who want to deal with only the biggest, most dire problems anyone might face.

There is someone else who wants us to tell Him about the biggest, most dire problems we face. Someone else we can go to with serious troubles. Someone else who is available when life is tough. That someone is God. His availability to help in the most serious times of life is described in today’s first passage, which is the first part and then verse 10 of Psalm 46.

Psalm 46 begins with the words, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Refuge. A place of safety. God is our refuge. That means He is the one we can flee to for safety.

Strength. What is needed to make it through troubled times. The ability based on the fact God is willing and certainly able to bear us up under whatever burdens we face. Also Him giving us the strength we need to be fit for service to Him and to others.

Help. That refers to assistance with whatever we face. Very present means He is always with us, always ready to help us.

As helpful as 911 is, which we should call when there is a need to do so, God is our refuge and strength. He wants to be our help with the biggest, most dire problems we face in life. That is what God offers us. 

God is our refuge, strength, and help. Therefore, as the passage continues, “we will not fear.”

That is a bold statement, is it not? We will not fear. I hope I can accomplish that, but we are not to fear. We are not to be anxious, which is defined as an extreme amount of worry and nervousness and unease. So much of those feelings they take over your thoughts and emotions, to the point of having stomach issues and finding it difficult to sleep. 

With God as our refuge and strength and help, we are not to be afraid, even though, as the passage states, “the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea, though the waters of the sea roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.”

Though the earth should change. In nature, what are some things that can change the earth?

How about floods that can sweep people away, as happened in Texas recently - including the soldiers from Fort Hood who died in flood waters? Floods sometimes so strong they change the course of rivers. 

How about winds that can prune trees or remove roofs and sometimes whole houses?

How about fire? Have you kept up with the fires in Canada this spring, including the one that just about completely burned down the entire town of Fort McMurray?

Mountains shaking in the heart of the sea describes many of the earthquakes the world experiences. We hear of the big quakes, but they happen every day in some parts of the world. Earthquakes at sea can cause tsunamis, which add to the turmoil of such events.

Waters roaring and foaming. That reminds us of storms at sea, including great hurricanes. We are in the beginning stages of this year’s hurricane season. I wonder how many will hit this country and other nations.

Mountains trembling. That again brings earthquakes to mind. Aand that can happen after blizzards. I am thinking of avalanches.

The Psalmist mentions many acts of nature that cause us to need God’s refuge, strength, and help. We can add to that what I think the Psalmist intended for us to include, that being emotional upheavals of life - illnesses, financial problems, family problems, deaths of loved ones, all those things being personally or emotionally big and dire.

When facing natural problems or personal problems, it can be very easy to get discouraged and hopeless. It can be very easy to become anxious. But Psalm 46 teaches us that discouragement and feeling hopeless are not to be part of us. They are not to be who we are. We are instead to stay strong, knowing, asking for, accepting, and using God as our refuge, our strength, and our help.

In verses 4 and 5, there is a beautiful description of God’s assistance. “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High,” which are ways of saying the people of God can be glad. “God is in the midst of her. She shall not be moved. God will help her right early.”

In the word pictures that are part of all the Psalms, a river represents grace and the joy that goes along with it. In Psalm 46, the word river means the people of God can be joyful, even in the midst of problems. Maybe not happy. Facing problems is rarely a happy thing. But joyful, which can happen when there is trust in God.

Streams. That word denotes movement, rather than being stale. God’s grace is never stagnant. It is to be flowing through us. But the flow is gentle. God’s refuge, strength, and help are not a raging flood, crashing into us, making us uncomfortable. He will work with us in ways that are refreshing. That is what God is willing to provide for us, which should make us glad.

God is our refuge. God is our strength. God is our help. He is, by being those three things, the source of all the blessings we need. He will be those things if we will let Him be those things in our lives. If we will let Him give us peace and encouragement and joy. 

Please let Him do all that for you. I ask the same for myself. As it says in verse 10, “be still.” Even in the midst of the biggest, most dire problems we face in nature or personally, be still. In our stillness, may we know - may we remember - that God is God, the one who promises to help us through the serious problems of life.

911 is an important, much needed number to call when faced with many of life’s emergencies. If there is an immediate emergency, 911 should be called. However, so, too, should God be contacted. He is even closer than a phone call.

But you know what? It is not just the big, dire problems we can take to God. Unlike 911 dispatchers, God is ready and willing to hear and help with even the minor problems of life, such as, reflected in the calls shared at the start of this message, pet problems or the desire for a boyfriend or girlfriend or the inability to remember how to open a car door from the inside or how to solve a math problem for school or not getting a sandwich made the way you like it or running out of breath, even if it is your own fault that is happening.

God cares about the big problems of life. He also cares about the minor problems of life. How do we know that? We know because of what the Bible teaches several places, including three we will consider next.

Philippians 4:6. “In everything [not just the big things, as important as they are, but in everything], by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests [your big requests and your little requests] be made known to God.”

I Peter 5:7. “Cast all your anxieties on God.” Why? Because “He cares for you.”

A care that is also expressed in how God is described many places in the Bible, including Matthew 6:9. The description comes in the first part of the Lord’s Prayer. It is “our Father.”

The word “Father” is very dear to me. As an earthly parent is concerned about whatever is faced by his or her child, so is God concerned. Whether the problem is big or small, what concerns the child concerns the parent - in the context for today, our Heavenly Father.

This involved my mother, not my father, but the point is the same. 

I remember when I was in grade school - fourth grade, I think - I was kind of sweet on a girl in my class. Interestingly, I cannot remember her name, but I do remember the name of Roger, who had the audacity to walk with my girlfriend on their way home from school one day. 

The girl was my girlfriend. Roger was pushing his way in. I was crushed, which I shared with my mother when I got home. 

Was that tragedy a big problem? To the world, no. To the whole scheme of the continuation of the universe? No. To my future? I guess not since I cannot even remember the girl’s name. It was, comparatively, a very minor problem. 

But it was important to me, which made it important to my mother, even though she no doubt recognized my problem as minor. Even though she might have said to herself, “What is this all about? He’s in fourth grade. Aren’t things like reading, writing, and arithmetic a whole lot more important?” Even though the problem was minor, my mother still listened and advised.

The advice, by the way, was to play hard to get, which was supposed to make the girl feel really bad about walking home with Roger. 

I do not remember if that worked or not, but you know what else that incident teaches me about taking everything to God in prayer? I do not have decide what is important enough to share with God. If it is important to me, it is important to Him. Again, I am - you are, too - to take everything to God in prayer, big things and little things alike.

What are some other little problems we can take to God, knowing He cares? Here are some. Finding lost car keys. Finding a parking place. Using the right wording when writing a letter, or, nowadays, writing an email or a text or a tweet. What clothes to wear to the office or to school. Maybe what house to buy or what car to buy. Those last two are bigger ticket items, but in the whole realm of things, our houses and cars are not the most important things of life.

Listen to this I read in a devotional. Prayer has unbelievable benefits, including when you are praying for the little issues of life. In fact, the devotional suggests, praying for the little things of life has a special benefit. Praying for the little things teaches us to depend on God. 

When we are praying, we are acknowledging our dependence on God. Praying causes us to unplug from our earthly and human sources of strength, instead choosing to plug in to God’s holy and infinite source of refuge, strength, and help.

When we choose to seek God’s leadership, direction, and provision for the small things, we acknowledge that we want and need Him in every aspect of our days, including when the big, dire things happen. By praying, we are inviting Jesus to rule and reign as Lord over every detail of our lives. Praying for even the little things teaches us how to depend on Him for everything.

Back to Psalm 46. Remember that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Big trouble and little trouble. Therefore we will not fear. We are not to be anxious. And we know, do we not, that if little problems are not taken to God, they can grow into big problems? At least the effects of little problems can grow and grow and grow until they result in anxiety, which is why it is important that we not fear even the little things that happen to us.

Take everything to God in prayer, including problems that come to us through nature and problems that come to us personally. Take everything to God in prayer. Then, as verse 10 of Psalm 46 puts it, “Be still and know that God is God.” As our Father - our Heavenly Father - He will take care of our problems.

today’s closing song is Be Still and Know.

Be still and know that God is God.

Be still and know that God is God.

Be still and know that God is God.

He is the God who healeth thee.

He is the God who healeth thee.

He is the God who healeth thee.

In You, o God, I put my trust.

In You, o God, I put my trust.

Iin You, o God, I put my trust.

Lord, 911 is a very important thing. Even more important is You, with whom we can share, not only our big problems, but all our problems. Thank You for the safety and the strength and the help You offer. Please continue to give us the spiritual insight we need to accept all the blessings You offer, and thank You that we do not have to decide what is or is not important enough to share with You. Help us to take everything to You in prayer. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

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