This is a talk I gave at Cranham Baptist Church on 19th October 2008 and I hope will give you encouragement if you are living in interesting times.
1.God is our refuge and strength, an ever‑present help in trouble. 2.Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3.though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. 4.There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5.God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. 6.Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. 7.The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. “Selah” 8.Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations he has brought on the earth. 9.He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. 10.”Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11.The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
There is an ancient Chinese curse that says “May you live in interesting times”.
It may be a bit of an understatement that we are living in interesting times.
Although we don’t have earthquakes very often in Essex and its along time since we have suffered major flooding, there are certainly major earth-shaking events happening.
The price of oil is up and down like a roller coaster.
Share prices are plunging through the floor boards and people’s savings as well as those of local authorities are being frozen in Iceland.
Pundits say we have the worse financial crisis since the great depression of the 1920’s.
Banks thought to be as safe as houses have collapsed like so many packs of cards.
I find it interesting how many people trust in things that won’t last and invest their lives in what will not stand the test of time. Jesus told us in Matthew 6:19 – 21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Clearly much of what our banks and finance houses built on hasn’t lasted. Indeed we are all paying the price for the greed of those who ran those organisations.
I have to say that banking has changed dramatically since I was made redundant and left the industry in 1996. In many instances, caution and prudence have been thrown away in the pursuit of profit. It’s almost as if profit and gain have become idols and people, principles and sound judgement have been sacrificed on their altars.
I was visiting a family the other evening and we were talking about amongst other things the current economic crisis. I shared with them how relevant the Bible is on the human condition even though most of the Bible was written more than 2000 years ago. I quoted this passage from 1 Timothy about money: 1 Timothy 6: 7 – 10 “For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we can have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the Faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Perhaps it would be good to have Paul’s words on display in every board room of every bank and finance house as a warning.
What are we to do?
People look to the government to sort it. And yes the government, the International Monetary Fund and other organisations are desperately trying to stabilise the situation and put matters straight. Whether we like our government or not, we should certainly pray for our leaders and all those in authority as they have a heavy responsibility.
That’s on a national or global scale but what about the personal calamities that shake our own foundations?
Maybe redundancy strikes. In May 1996 I was given a letter telling me that after some 23 years my banking career was coming to an end. I was redundant, no longer wanted/needed by my employer. Here I was aged 42, married with four young sons and a mortgage and a health problem but no job!
Ill health and incapacity come to stay.
Relationships breakdown. Our husband or wife leave us or Mum or dad walk away from a family. Or children leave never to return. My neighbours’ daughter was looking forward to the arrival of her second child when, three week before the due date her husband declared he had realised that didn’t love her, and he just left!
Our loved ones died either suddenly or after a long fight with illness or disability. Lee, whom I buried last week, was only 37. He died of a heroin overdose in his girlfriend’s house. He had a string of broken relationships and left three children. He had been a heroin user since his mum died 17 years before. He had always found life a struggle but when Mum lost her fight with cancer he was overwhelmed by the storms of life and turned to drugs to help numb the awful pain of loss.
What are we to do when troubles come? When our own little worlds come crashing down around us?
Many folk turn to whatever and whoever they think will help. Often the bereaved turn to mediums and spiritists as they are anxious to know that Mum/Dad/Grandma are okay in the after life. You may be surprised how many times I am asked “Do you think I should see a medium to see if my mum’s okay?”
Other folk turn to drink or drugs or fall into the arms of false religions which give them false hope and comfort but ultimately leave them feeling even worse, if not permanently damaged.
What we really need to do is see what the Bible has to tell us. In other words what does God have to say?
We should ask Jesus to help us. Let’s have a look at Mark 4:35 – 40 “That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!“”
Here we find that the disciples, some of whom would have known Galilee and its weather like the back of their hands are completely out of their depth. These are experienced fishermen who knew all about the sea and its unpredictable nature, who had no doubt seen storms and squalls. Yet they are frightened. So they come to Jesus deals quickly with the storm and then asks the disciples “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
All through the Bible, God tells people “Do not be afraid” In fact a search on an internet Bible listed over 200 examples in the Old Testament alone!. He knows how it times of trouble we are easily frightened. We forget that God is in control and that nothing is beyond his control.
Remember he is the one who turns situations around and can bring good out of bad situations.
It was through me being redundant that my wife Gaynor was able to train as a nurse. I was there to care for our sons, the youngest of whom was only two at the time. It was financially a struggle, six of us surviving at times on just a student nurse=s bursary. However we survived and subsequently the Lord called me into a ministry coming alongside bereaved people.
I am sure that most of you can testify to how God has come alongside you in times of crisis and he has seen you through some awful circumstances.
Michael is 17. He is a good friend of my son Sam and indeed was one of those people who brought Sam to faith. Michael became unwell in the middle of last month and ended up in Intensive care at the Queens Hospital almost completely paralysed. He lost his eyesight and could hardly speak. And yet, he is at peace and has been praising God. He is on the mend and has some movement in his arms and hands and has some sight back. Sam tells me Michael is chatty and in good humour. He is trusting in God and relying on him for his healing.
When we have faith in Jesus we can be assured that there is nothing that can ever take us away from him. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:37 – 39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Indeed when we have faith in God we can echo the thoughts or the writer of Hebrews who in Hebrews 13:5 & 6 writes: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
So when we know that God is in control and that nothing can take us away from him, we can agree with the psalmist and say: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever‑present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”