Ebola, ISIS, gay marriage, war in the Middle East, War in Eastern Europe, cultural decay, economic troubles and government mismanagement at home. It seems like everything is falling apart.
The headlines can be very scary. In addition to the things we see in the news, we all have our own personal problems- financial problems, conflict in our families, health struggles, career challenges. With all these disturbing and frightening problems being shoved in our face every day, it’s easy to lose sight of God’s promises, to become agitated and anxious in our hearts and minds.
It is very valuable to be reminded each week that God is our refuge and strength. If we’re out in the wilderness, the threat of bandits or wild animals might set our hearts racing, but when we retreat behind the walls of the castle such threats no longer worry us. Worship reminds us that we’re always in the castle! It’s only the lies of the devil that make us feel vulnerable. It’s like having a terrible nightmare of being chased by some unseen horror, only to wake up safe in your own bed. We are always in the will of God; His providence governs everything that happens, and everything that happens is working our blessing and salvation. So we can be confident and safe.
Not that there will not be pains and sorrows in this life, of course. We will at times walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and that suffering is real. But we can be confident of God’s purpose, and confident of the outcome. Thus we can be faithful, and live in terms of the present reality of the kingdom of God. We can love our neighbors, raise our families, work our trades, be honest citizens. We can do all of that and know that God will work His will through us. Our success is guaranteed- not because of our own strength or good character, but because of His providence. We must define success rightly, though- not as the achievement of our earthly goals and plans, but the accomplishment of His purposes in our lives and through our lives, of advancing His gospel, of showing forth His glory, of demonstrating His truth to the world, and bringing all His people home to Himself.
In the world, we won’t hear a lot of that. Most of our co-workers probably don’t know or believe those things. Our families may or may not. Politicians will not encourage you to think along those lines, but will fill you with fear that every election is the most important one ever, and the victory of the other side will be the end of the world as we know it, so open your wallets today! Our mass media and culture wants you agitated, riled up, worried, living in fear of all the wrong things, even while they sing you to sleep regarding the One you should actually fear. Our own sins plague and discourage us, and provide opportunities for Satan to further attack and terrify us.
We need reminded. Coming into the presence of the Lord, resting in His promises, receiving His forgiveness, and singing His praises reminds us that He is a rock and a fortress, and in Him we cannot be moved. Feeding at His table reminds us of where our life really comes from. The church has survived every attempt to destroy it, has overcome every plot to corrupt and divide it, has defeated every desperate attempt to deny its advance, for its power and life comes from Christ.
I remember sitting in high school basketball games with our team down by thirty points with minutes left on the clock, and watching the cheerleaders vainly try to boost the crowd’s morale- “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!” as we all knew better. The powers of the world vainly puff themselves up and ridicule and demean the church of Jesus Christ. “Let us break His bands asunder!” But the gates of hell will not prevail. Every year there are more Christians. Today the gospel has deeply penetrated lands where Christ was utterly unknown a hundred years ago. Every day more of His sheep are brought home to Him where no harm can ever come to them. No weapon formed against Christ will prosper. Come into the presence of the Lord, in the fellowship of His saints, and be reminded that He is the King, and He is a mighty shield against all the terrors of life.