the gospel of FREE

the gospel of FREEthe gospel of FREE

“Now Hagar represents Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother” (Galatians 4:25-26 CSB).

I have been highlighting the meaning of the gospel by focusing on key words suggested in each chapter of Galatians.

For chapter 1, the key word was DIFFERENT. The troublemakers were tempting the Galatians to reject the true gospel, and substitute a different one.

For chapter 2, the key word was GO. The gospel is good news for all nations, and so it comes with a mandate for us to go to others and share it.

For chapter 3, the key word was IN. The gospel invites us to put our faith in Jesus, and find our unity and equality in him.

For today’s chapter, the key word is FREE. The gospel offers freedom as opposed to slavery.

I want to concede some things from the get go. I am not suggesting that the gospel guarantees freedom from physical suffering.

Take a look at what Paul says in verses 13-15.

“you know that previously I preached the gospel to you because of a weakness of the flesh. You did not despise or reject me though my physical condition was a trial for you. On the contrary, you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus himself. Where, then, is your blessing? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.”

Paul actually came preaching the gospel to the Galatians while he was suffering from a physical problem. He wasn’t preaching a gospel of health and wealth. The freedom he was talking about was something different that freedom from illness or injury.

I am also not suggesting that the gospel frees Christians from stress. Take a look at these texts in today’s chapter:

“You are observing special days, months, seasons, and years. I am fearful for you, that perhaps my labor for you has been wasted” (10-11).

“My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you. I would like to be with you right now and change my tone of voice, because I don’t know what to do about you”(19-20).

It sounds like Paul was going through a stressful time. His concern and love for the Galatians made him worry about them. It is wise to not worry about things, but it is heartless to choose to not worry about people. Love worries.

I am also not suggesting that Christians will be free from opposition. Note verse 17:

“They court you eagerly, but not for good. They want to exclude you from me, so that you would pursue them.”

Paul had opponents in Galatia, and if we are serious about living the gospel message, we will have enemies too.

So, what does freedom mean for Christians?

Look at verses 4-5:

“When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

Christians are free to reject the law as a means of salvation.

The law is holy and righteous and good, but the law did not bleed for us on Calvary. It can make us wise to salvation but it cannot save us itself. The purpose of the law of God in the Old Testament was to show us our need for God’s Son. Jesus redeemed those who were under the law by fulfilling the law’s demands for them. He turned them from slaves to sons, not because they obeyed the law, but because they put their faith in him.

That means that you and I are free to seek deliverance from our sins through Christ without first going through law school. God’s law can be many things for us, but it can never be the means of our salvation.

Christians are also free to receive the Holy Spirit, who testifies of our new relationship with God.

My friend Mark Wolfington wrote this comment a few years ago:

“Some friends of ours recently welcomed their first child into their home. Instead of the usual nine months, the parents had waited nearly 10 years for the day to arrive. Their son joined their family through adoption. It was a long and costly journey for them, involving a lengthy application process and costing tens of thousands of dollars. The look on their faces when they brought their son home told the story: their long struggle was worth it. They loved their little boy long before they ever held him, and they’d do it all again. The little boy that now has a home was born in a part of the world where children have virtually no value, and child-labor laws are non-existent. If not for the intervention of parents that he’d never met, he may have ended up as little more than a slave. That would-be slave is now a son.”(Maranatha Daily Devotional – Wednesday, June 7, 2017).

Paul told the Galatians that because they are sons, God gave them the Holy Spirit (6). They have a new relationship, adopted into God’s family, and the Holy Spirit bears witness to that fact.

The Bible encourages us to receive the Holy Spirit, and we should expect power from God. But the focus here is not empowerment as much as relationship. The Holy Spirit assures us that we always have access to our heavenly Father. Knowing the Father’s love encourages us to invite others into his family.

I’m reminded of that song “Big House”

“I don’t know if you got some shelter, Say a place to hide
I don’t know if you live with friends, In whom you can confide
I don’t know if you got a family, Say a mom or dad
I don’t know if you feel love at all, But I bet you wish you had

Come and go with me To my Father’s house
Come and go with me To my Father’s house

It’s a big big house, With lots and lots a room
A big big table, With lots and lots of food
A big big yard, Where we can play football
A big big house, Its my Father’s house.”

​​Audio Adrenaline – Big House – YouTube

Christians are also free to rejoice by faith in the future we are promised regardless of the barrenness of the present.

Note verse 27:

“For it is written, Rejoice, childless woman, unable to give birth. Burst into song and shout, you who are not in labor, for the children of the desolate woman will be many, more numerous than those of the woman who has a husband.”

The prophet Isaiah was talking about a time in the future when Israel would begin producing sons of God again. He called on God’s people to begin worshiping and rejoicing now because of that glorious future. That’s what God’s people do. We worship in anticipation of future blessing.

Christians are also free to repent of anything that keeps us in bondage.

One of the greatest freedoms anyone can ever experience is the freedom to change. Paul told the Galatians that they were getting off track, but they could get back on the right track. What they needed to do was:

“Drive out the slave and her son, for the son of the slave will never be a coheir with the son of the free woman” (30).

God had told Abraham that there were too many women in his house. He had to let Hagar and Ishmael go.

Brothers and sisters, we might need to do some housecleaning too. We are called to be free, and to share that freedom with a world in bondage. Freedom is contagious. People everywhere want it, but they are not going to look for freedom in a house of slavery.

Lord, thank you for our freedom you gave us, bought by the precious blood of Christ. Show us how to live in that freedom, so that others can find it through our witness.

the gospel of IN

the gospel of IN

the gospel of IN

“But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin’s power, so that the promise might be given on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ to those who believe. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:22,28 CSB).

Galatians 3 is one of the most crucial passages of Scripture that help define the gospel, but it is also very complicated. I want to try to simplify Paul’s teaching in this chapter by focusing on what Paul said in these two verses. Notice the word “in.” It will help us to understand the gospel if we learn what it means to have faith in Jesus (22) and what it means to be one in Christ (28).

the gospel is the story of a prison: we are either under the power of sin, or set free by faith in Jesus Christ.

I know something about prisons because my father was a prison guard. He became quite cynical about prisoners because he noticed so many repeat offenders who spent their time in prison learning how to be more efficient criminals once they got out.

The Bible tells us that sin is like that. The early chapters of Genesis tell us that once sin entered our world, it wasn’t long before everything people were thinking or wanted to do was a sin.

So, the prison analogy is an appropriate one. We cannot know freedom until we get out of that prison. While we are under sin’s power, the best that we can hope for is to become more efficient sinners.

We cannot get out of the prison of sin any other way except on the basis of faith in Christ.

Paul told the Romans that we all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, but we can be justified as a gift of God’s grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23-24).

The cross has made a difference. While we were still helpless, at the right time in history, Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6).
We are justified by faith in Christ’s atonement on the cross (Romans 5:1). That was our way out of the prison.

Now, being out of the prison does not mean we will never sin again, but it does mean we are not stuck in the situation we were in where we couldn’t do anything but sin.

the gospel is the story of a promise: long before the law, God promised a blessing to the nations.

Verse 22 mentions that promise.

You see, the troublemakers had gone to the Galatian churches and told them that they had to get out their Bibles and review their history. They told them that God gave the law at Sinai, and that nobody is going to be blessed if they do not follow that law to the letter.

The trouble with the troublemakers is that they did not go back far enough into biblical history. Paul reminded the Galatians in this chapter that the blessing was promised to Abraham centuries before Sinai. Abraham received that promise through faith, not through obedience to the law.

The Galatians received that promise too. In verse two, Paul asks them if they had received the Holy Spirit by works of the law, or by believing the gospel. He then asked them “Are you so foolish? After beginning by the Spirit, are you now finishing by the flesh?” (3). You see, the promise of a blessing and freedom from the prison are the same thing. And we cannot get either by works of the law.

the gospel is a story of a position: believers today are equal before God.

We are all in Christ, and share his status and inheritance.

This is how Paul explains the purpose of the law in this chapter:
There are two stages. Stage one is the guardianship. Note verses 23-26:

“Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed. The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith. But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus.”

Under this stage, believing Jews were imprisoned just like the rest of the world was. Their prison was the law, and it kept them longing for the faith that was to come. Once Christ came, many Jews came to him by faith, received the Holy Spirit, and were set free from both prisons.

Now, the troublemakers came to Galatia trying to get the Gentile Christians to go back to prison. They were teaching them that God wanted them to obey the law that Christ had set the Jewish Christians free from!

This is how Paul explains the reality of sonship that came to the Gentile Christians. Note verses 26-29:

“for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus. Sons and Heirs For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.”

The promise is that by faith in Christ, all of us have a new position before God, and that position is equal. Our ethnic background does not matter: both Jew and Gentile are set free from prison. Our socio-economic background does not matter: slaves and non-slaves need this freedom, and can get it equally. Our gender does not matter: whether we were born as sons or daughters, we were all reborn as “sons of God in Christ Jesus.”

Now, before we leave this chapter, though – we have to ask the application question. As I mentioned already in this series, no one is tempted to follow the Jewish law much anymore. Oh, maybe there are a few who are hung up on the sabbath issue. But that does not mean that the principle taught in this chapter is irrelevant. In our discussion this week, Penny brought up a very helpful question: “Has the church replaced Jewish law with their own?”

I think we are in danger of replacing the gospel when we give people the impression that the kingdom of God happens when we stop sinning, become good citizens, go to church on Sunday, and just fit in with everybody else. No! That is not the definition of saving faith. I wonder if Paul were alive today, would he write us a letter similar to Galatians? Faith in Christ has no substitutes.

Lord God, thank you that we can be free from the prison of sin by trusting in Jesus Christ. Keep us from falling into slavery by turning away from this gospel of grace, and help us to share it with those who are still under sin’s power.

the gospel of GO

the gospel of GO

the gospel of GO

When James, Cephas, and John—those recognized as pillars—acknowledged the grace that had been given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to me and Barnabas, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised” (Galatians 2:9 CSB).

the gospel of grace is the flag of our unity in Christ

We all come to Christ on the same basis. When I learned that Jesus is God’s only Son and our only sacrifice for sin, I decided to accept him as my Savior. I knew then and there that everyone who accepted the same gospel and made the same choice would be my brother or sister in Christ. They might not look like me, talk like me, or even act like me, but they would be part of my family. We may not have anything in common except the gospel of grace, but that is enough.

We enjoy fellowship with all true believers everywhere on the same basis.

That meeting that Paul had with the church leaders in Jerusalem was crucial because it would decide whether there would be two Christianities – the Jewish version and the Gentile version. Would the leaders in Jerusalem accept a church of Jesus Christ without their Jewish traditions? Their acceptance of Paul, as demonstrated by their giving him the right hand of fellowship represented their understanding of the basis of everyone’s standing with God.

We don’t have to conform to the traditions of others in order to be a part of the body of Christ. But sadly, that was a lesson we had to learn over and over again in Christian history. The Protestant Reformation was necessary because human traditions took control and led the Christian church into bondage for a thousand years.

God sends missionaries out – not to enslave people, but to set them free. That lesson has been very hard for us to learn as well. We have created churches all over the world that look and act just like the missionaries. But when we did that, we ensured that those churches would not be able to reach the unbelievers in their own culture. Thankfully, God’s Holy Spirit has empowered many of those churches to remold themselves into churches that can reach their own people. All around the world today, people are being won to Christ by these transformed churches.

the false gospel seeks to destroy that gospel of grace

Paul knew what was going on in Galatia because the very same thing had been attempted in Antioch when he was there. Proponents of the false gospel were trying to influence the people in the churches to deny the gospel of grace. Paul had opposed that movement in Antioch. He said…

But we did not give up and submit to these people for even a moment, so that the truth of the gospel would be preserved for you” (5).

What was at stake was the truth of the gospel.

That false gospel replaces freedom with slavery. Paul had said..

This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus in order to enslave us” (4).

That false gospel replaces integrity with hypocrisy. Paul had related his experience with Peter, also called Cephas:

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned. For he regularly ate with the Gentiles before certain men came from James. However, when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he feared those from the circumcision party. Then the rest of the Jews joined his hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy” (11-13).

A Hypocrite is an actor. When someone is acting like he’s better than you, you can bet that behind that hypocrisy is a false gospel, because the true gospel admits that all of us need Jesus equally.

That false gospel replaces the cross with human works. If anybody could have claimed to deserve special treatment because of his works, it would be Paul, but he said…

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing” (20-21).

the true gospel is the only one which will reach the nations for Christ

The same gospel was for the Jew as well as the Gentile.

… they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter was for the circumcised, since the one at work in Peter for an apostleship to the circumcised was also at work in me for the Gentiles” (7-8).

It is not that there are two gospels – one for Jews and another one for Gentiles. No, there is only one gospel, and God has sent missionaries to every corner of the globe to proclaim it.

Paul would later write to the Romans that he was not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God to save the Jew first (because it came to them first) but also to the Greeks and everyone else (Romans 1:16).

What these leaders in Jerusalem realized is that in order for the Gentile world to hear the gospel, someone had to go, and they recognized that Paul had been called to do so.

The gospel always comes with a mandate to missions work.

Remember those words “…we should go” (9). The Christian gospel is the gospel of GO. None of us have been called to stay. Some of us are called to go overseas, others have been called to go next door. But all of us have a mission.

Remember the great commission, where Jesus told us “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

Remember also that the purpose of the Holy Spirit was to empower us for this mission. Jesus told us…

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

the false gospel is the gospel of STAY

Now, here’s the problem. All of us are born into communities, and families and each of us will know the temptation to stay. It’s not just the temptation to stay in one place. It can also be the temptation to stay like we are. Stay isolated. Stay conforming to past norms.

But the gospel of stay is a false gospel. If we are committed to staying like we are, we will never have an opportunity to reach others with the gospel of Christ. The most we can ever accomplish is reaching people like us, who are where we are, doing what we do.

There are nations that are in bondage, who need the message of freedom in Christ.

There are also neighbors who need the gospel, and those neighbors are not exactly like us, either. The gospel of GO for us means that we need to show our neighbors that Jesus can set them free too, and they do not have to become like us for that to happen.

LORD, give us the courage to renounce the false gospel of STAY, and to reach out to those who are different from us, so that they can also know freedom and forgiveness in Christ.

she fights

she fights

she fights

Judges 4-5

“When the leaders took the lead in Israel, When the people answered the call to war– Praise the LORD! (Judges 5:2 NET)

In honor of Women’s Sunday, I decided to call our attention today to a couple of amazing chapters in the Bible. Judges 4-5 tell us of the courage and determination of two very special people who answered the call to war for the Israelite nation. These two very special people happened to be women.

setting the stage

It is important to understand that we are thinking about the period of the Judges. That was a period in which the Israelites as a people rarely showed much courage and spiritual discipline. The people as a whole were constantly falling away from their faith, and as a result were often oppressed and controlled by other nations. There were brief periods of revival, and these corresponded to the Judges. The judges were people with special skills and strength from God who rescued their people and challenged them to trust God. As a result of the Judges, there were periods of time in which the people of Israel were able to be victorious over their enemies and see peace in their land.

In this particular period, the Israelites had been oppressed and controlled by king Jabin of Canaan. This had gone on for twenty years (4:3). Now, if you fast-forward to the end of this story, you discover that as a result of the courage and strength of these two women “the land had rest forty years (5:31). That means that by following God’s call to do something extraordinary, these women ensured that their nation would have peace for an entire generation. That is pretty significant an achievement, no matter who you are.

the cast of characters

The main characters in this little drama we are looking at today are as follows, in the order in which they appear in the text:

Sisera, the enemy captain.

Sisera, was the captain of the army of king Jabin. He had the latest of warfare technology – nine hundred iron chariots – and he used them against Israel.

Deborah, the prophetess and judge.

Deborah, was one of the leaders who emerged during this difficult time to rescue God’s people from the results of their own sin. God had called her as a prophetess, and it was from that ministry that she had made a name for herself as a wise woman. She was already judging Israel internally because people came to her to help settle disputes they were having within Israel. But God put another task on her heart as well – one that related to the next character on the list.

Barak, he Israelite army commander.

Barak, son of Abinoam was God’s choice to lead the Israelite armies. But he had not done anything. Deborah summoned Barak to herself and told him that he was going to go into battle against Sisera. It was at this point that Barak makes a crucial statement.

• Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go. But if you do not go with me, I will not go.” (Judges 4:8 NET).

Lots of people criticize Barak for making such a statement. They think he is being a coward to hide behind this woman. I don’t think Barak was acting cowardly at all. I think he was making the wisest of decisions. He knew God was with Deborah. He knew he needed God’s power and wisdom to defeat Sisera. So, Barak asked her to come along and help.

Deborah said yes. She did point out to Barak that if she assisted him, then a woman would get the credit. She was a prophet, after all, so she was actually prophesying that a woman would be a crucial player in the coming Israelite victory.

Barak said that he could live with that. It was a wise decision because getting victory with someone else’s help is way better that being defeated all by your own lonesome. Barak had the wisdom to look beyond appearances and trust God for victory, even if God wants to use a woman to achieve that victory.

• Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has handed Sisera over to you. Hasn’t the Lord gone before you?” So Barak came down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him. The Lord threw Sisera, all his charioteers, and all his army into a panic before Barak’s assault. Sisera left his chariot and fled on foot (Judges 4:14-15 NET).

His army defeated, himself on the run, Sisera is just looking for a safe place to rest and stay out of the way. He chose the wrong place.

Jael, the nobody housewife.

Jael was a housewife. Her family was not at war with Jabin. She had every right to stay within the confines of cultural expectation and do nothing that day. But God chose her to defeat the mighty war captain Sisera that day.

• Meanwhile, Sisera had fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was peace between King Jabin of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite. Jael went out to greet Sisera and said to him, “Come in, my lord. Come in with me. Don’t be afraid.” So he went into her tent, and she covered him with a blanket. He said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink for I am thirsty.” She opened a container of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him again. Then he said to her, “Stand at the entrance to the tent. If a man comes and asks you, ‘Is there a man here?’ say, ‘No.’” While he was sleeping from exhaustion, Heber’s wife, Jael, took a tent peg, grabbed a hammer, and went silently to Sisera. She hammered the peg into his temple and drove it into the ground, and he died. (judges 4:17-21 NET).

When Barak and his armies arrived on the scene of the crime, they discovered that God had accomplished a mighty victory that would last for a generation. And the architects of that victory were not kings or generals or elders or priests. They were two women who dared to step outside the boundaries of what society expected of them, and follow God with courage.

To the women of this congregation, I challenge you to be warrior women like Deborah and Jael were. Expect great things from God and attempt great things for him. Don’t allow your gender or your social status or financial standing or anything about you to keep you from doing that.

To the men of this congregation, I challenge you to see with God’s eyes, and stop being limited by your own. Be a Barak. Recognize God’s imprint on people’s lives, and let those people lead you into his will. You might have to look hard to find a leader like that, but you may be lucky enough to be a Lappidoth or a Heber. Oh, you say you don’t recognize those men? They are the husbands of Deborah and Jael. What a blessing it was to them to have wives like that.

Lord, thank you for the women you have blessed us with as a congregation.

from victim to victor

from victim to victor

Psalm 57 (CSB)

Psalm 57:1 [For the choir director: “Do Not Destroy.” A Miktam of David. When he fled before Saul into the cave.] Be gracious to me, God, be gracious to me, for I take refuge in you. I will seek refuge in the shadow of your wings until danger passes.

Psalm 57:2 I call to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.

Psalm 57:3 He reaches down from heaven and saves me, challenging the one who tramples me. Selah

God sends his faithful love and truth.

Psalm 57:4 I am surrounded by lions; I lie down among devouring lions– people whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.

Psalm 57:5 God, be exalted above the heavens; let your glory be over the whole earth.

Psalm 57:6 They prepared a net for my steps; I was despondent. They dug a pit ahead of me, but they fell into it! Selah

Psalm 57:7 My heart is confident, God, my heart is confident. I will sing; I will sing praises.

Psalm 57:8 Wake up, my soul! Wake up, harp and lyre! I will wake up the dawn.

Psalm 57:9 I will praise you, Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.

Psalm 57:10 For your faithful love is as high as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches the clouds.

Psalm 57:11 God, be exalted above the heavens; let your glory be over the whole earth.

We have been spending some time with the Psalms – particularly those psalms that emphasize God’s mission for us to reach the nations for him.

Today’s passage qualifies. Notice the chorus in the psalm – verses five and eleven. “God, be exalted above the heavens; let your glory be over the whole earth.”

It’s not immediately clear to every reader why an individual lament like this turns into a missions psalm. I pray the Lord gives me the ability to explain that.

David wrote this psalm about a time when he was a victim. That’s where we want to start when we examine the words.

How does it feel to be a victim?

If I stopped right now and asked some of you that question, I imagine some of your answers would scare me. All of us at some point in our lives feel this way.

Here’s how David described it. He talked about danger passing by, and needing to take refuge (1). I can remember being on top of a mountain and a storm coming, and having to rush down the mountain to take refuge in a shelter.

He talked about being trampled (3). I came close to being trampled by a panicking crowd on a ferry boat. When you are in the middle of a crisis, you feel your own fear and everybody else’s fear.

He talked about being surrounded (4). He mentioned being surrounded by lions. In his experience, the lions were not literal lions. But another Israelite was thrown into a lion’s den centuries later. I imagine Daniel sang this psalm a lot when he was down in that den.

He felt despondent (6). The word in Hebrew means to bow down. You know what it feels like to be brought down. Somebody says something and your heart deflates.

When you feel like a victim, it is okay to admit it. But God wants us to respond appropriately. David responded appropriately.

What can you do about being a victim?

David took refuge in the shadow of God’s wings (1). Psalm 46 says “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” Isaiah told the Israelites that they had forgotten the God of their salvation and have not remembered the rock of their refuge (17:10). We have a God who is stable enough to deal with our times of instability.

David remembered God’s deliverance in his past (6). Some scholars treat this as a transition in the psalm where David now begins to celebrate his victory. I don’t think so. I think what David is doing is remembering a former event where he was a victim, and God gave him victory.

When we face periods of depression and challenges to our faith, we can gain strength by remembering former times when God brought us through.

David decided to praise God (7-9). Notice the words “I will.”

  • I will sing

  • I will sing praises

  • I will wake up the dawn

  • I will praise you, Lord, among the peoples

  • I will sing praises to you among the nations

Praise is not just a means of celebrating victory. Praise is a means of shifting from victim to victor.

  • A nation of former slaves getting ready for battle at Jericho. What do they do? They praise God by blowing trumpets, and he shows up there with them and knocks down the city walls.

  • Paul and Silas in prison, shackled and beaten. What do they do? They sing some praise songs to God, and he comes and sets them free.

When God hears our praises, he hurries our deliverance.

Why does God allow us to be victims?

By being a victim David learned that God can provide refuge (1). This is a lesson we can learn as well, but it won’t happen if we never face the ordeal of being a victim.

By being a victim, David fulfilled God’s purpose for his life (2). God wanted him to defeat Goliath. But God wanted him to lean on him to defeat this challenge. When he leaded on God for refuge, God got the glory.

By being a victim, David gave God the opportunity to reach down and save him (3). Sometimes God allows us to get in deep, because he wants to manifest his power over the stormy sea. He may appear to be sleeping in the boat, but he’s just waiting for us to cry out to him for rescue.

By being a victim, David glorified God (5,11). Let’s go back to that chorus:

  • God, be exalted above the heavens; let your glory be over the whole earth.

God allowed David to go through his period of being a victim because he knew that David would seek refuge in him. That negative experience was turned into positive praise, and resulted in his global glory. That is what God is doing in our lives as well. He’s turning our problems into praise. And he is using our bad experiences to reach the nations for him.

You see, everyone everywhere goes through tough times. We are all victims of something. But when we seek refuge in God, and trust him through the tough times, the world takes notice. They are looking for a God who can rescue them. They want a God who can reach down and pull them out of their depression and fear. Our God is the only God who can do that.

One day we are going to get together – a great multitude which no one can count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches in our hands; and we will cry out with a loud voice, saying, deliverance has come from our God who sits on the throne, and from the Lamb (Revelation 7:9-11).

You and I have the opportunity to do that now. We can look around for victims – there are plenty of them – and we can share our stories with them of how God restored us. We can share how he saved us from sin, how he healed our bodies, and rescued our marriages and helped us to clean up our communities.

God has a purpose for every bad thing that happens, and he causes all things to ultimately work together for good. He is for us, and even the things that we think are against us have to give way to his will.

You and I are going to be victims, but we can also be victors. That is what God wants.

Lord, by your grace, we choose to see all the bad things that we experience as opportunities to display your power to the nations.