Has God become your refuge?
In times of distress, the Psalms have many words of comfort and hope for us. Consider Psalm 46 – “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.” (Psalms 46: 1-3)
Although there is turmoil and trouble all around us…God Himself is our refuge. Psalm 9: 9 tells us – “The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.”
Most of the time we pride ourselves on being ‘strong,’ until something comes along in our lives and reveals to us how weak we really are.
Paul had a ‘thorn in the flesh’ given to him to keep him humble. Humility recognizes how frail we are, and how truly powerful and sovereign God is. Paul knew that any strength he had was from God, not from himself. Paul told the Corinthians – “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12: 10)
It has often been said that we must come to the end of ourselves, before we come into a relationship with God. Why is this? We are deluded into believing that we are in control and are the masters of our own lives.
This present world teaches us to be completely self-sufficient. We pride ourselves on what we do and who we perceive ourselves to be. The world system bombards us with various images that it wants us to pattern ourselves after. It sends us messages like if you buy this or that, you will find joy, peace, and happiness, or if you live this kind of life you will be satisfied.
How many of us have embraced the American dream as a viable road to fulfillment? However, like Solomon, many of us wake up in our latter years and realize that the things of ‘this’ world do not give us what they promised.
So many other gospels in this world give us something that we can do to merit God’s approval. They take the focus off God and what He has done for us and put it on us, or on someone else. These other gospels falsely ‘empower’ us to think that we can earn God’s favor. Like the Judaizers in Paul’s day wanted the new believers to go back to the bondage of the law, false teachers today want us to think that we can please God through what we do. If they can make us believe that our eternal life depends on what we do, then they can keep us very busy doing what they tell us to do.
The New Testament continually warns us about falling back into the trap of legalism, or merit-based salvation. The New Testament places the emphasis on the sufficiency of what Jesus did for us. Jesus set us free from ‘dead works,’ to live in the power of God’s Spirit.
From Romans we learn – “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3: 28) Faith in what? Faith in what Jesus did for us.
We come into a relationship with God through the grace of Jesus Christ – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3: 23-24)
If you are trying to earn God’s favor through some system of works, hear what Paul told the Galatians who had fallen back into the law – “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.” (Gal. 2: 16-19)
Paul, having been a proud pharisee seeking his own self-righteousness through the pharisee’s legal system of works, had to abandon that system for his new understanding of salvation through grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone.
Paul boldly told the Galatians – “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Gal. 5: 1-4)
So, if we know God and have trusted alone in what He has done for us through Jesus Christ, may we rest in Him. Psalm 46 also tells us – “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46: 10) He is God, we are not. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, do you?
As believers, we live in the perpetual conflict of our fallen flesh and God’s Spirit. In our freedom may we walk in God’s Spirit. May these times of trouble cause us more fully to rely on God and enjoy the fruit that only comes from His Spirit – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5: 22-23)