Sunday, April 11, 2010

Security


Life is filled with change. Some of it is pleasant like gaining wisdom as you get older. But some of it isn’t. In fact, some of it is quite disturbing. And what makes it worse is that this unpleasant change often comes out of nowhere and surprises you. What’s needed is a sense of security, the ability to tell yourself, ‘I’ll be okay.’ Is that possible? Can we tell ourselves such a thing in the face of distressing change and have it be more than wishful thinking? Can we be safe and secure not in the sweet by and by, but right now in the midst of change? That’s a question worth asking. We’re back in Isaiah. When I read today’s chapter you’re going to hear some of the same themes that you’ve been hearing in Isaiah, the themes of sin and punishment and the like. But you’re also going to hear something encouraging. Isaiah is going to describe a foundation, a sure foundation, something that will provide that sense of security. It’s that image that we will be focusing on.

Listen as I read Isaiah 28.

Ask any builder, and he’ll tell you about the critical importance of a solid foundation. It’s the foundation that gives a building its stability. Having a sound foundation is basic to making that building secure, and any lack here leads to ruin. Isaiah’s point is that Jesus provides a sure foundation to build your life on. Those who build on Jesus will be secure even as their lives suffer very disturbing changes.

This whole idea of security is one that can be easily misunderstood. Some folk think of security in terms of no change at all or, if there must be change then nothing drastic. These folk desire a sense of predictability in their lives. No surprises! At the very least, they want any change that comes their way to be something that they can handle. But has Jesus promised that kind of life? There is a popular saying that goes something like this. ‘God will never give you more than you can handle.’ Is that true? Lots of people try to comfort themselves with this little proverb. But is it true? No, it’s not. In fact, I’m not sure that the people to pass this adage around actually believe it themselves, not down deep. Listen to David. ‘For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me.’ Does it sound like David’s life is under control? Does it sound like he’s not been given more than he can handle? Actually, there are lots of times that Jesus gives you more than you can handle, way more, and He does it for a good reason. The security that Jesus offers is not about a placid life of limited change. It’s not about a life where you are never confronted with too much. So, next time life gets turned upside down, next time it feels as if there is just too much, don’t be surprised and don’t ask yourself, ‘Where did this come from?’ or ‘Why is this happening to me?’ Next time life is anything but placid this is what you say. ‘Well, Lord, You told me that there would be days like this. But I look forward to seeing how You will bring good out of it.’ Realizing that the security that Jesus offers is not an easy, placid life is the first step to actually enjoying that security.

So, what exactly is it that Jesus offers? The last line of our verse explains. ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ What is this, ‘not be in haste’? It sounds a bit odd, but Isaiah helps us understand this by giving us its opposite. Verse 12: ‘… the Lord will speak to this people, to whom he has said, “This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose”…’ Rest and repose. The idea of rest is clear. But what about repose? Let me give you the dictionary definition: freedom from strain. Put these two together and what do you have? A sense of calmness. Or to use a good church word, you have peace. Haste, on the other hand, is about scurrying about. In fact, one translation uses the word ‘panic’. Isaiah is contrasting rest and repose, that freedom from strain, peace, with this idea of haste, rushing about, anxiety, panic.

Let’s relate this to the popular topic of stress. That word, stress, has different meanings that all relate to the idea of pressure from without. So, you can talk about putting stress on a steel beam. But, unless you’re an engineer, stress is about a person feeling the pressure. This stress might be coming from a very full to do list, the weight of some very important decision that just has to be made or news about some serious health problem. According to the received wisdom, a person, like that steel beam, can handle some stress, but once it gets to a certain point, and it often does, the inevitable result is agitation, becoming a little frantic, being in haste. Now, sometimes this will show in some outward, physical way, but it doesn’t have to. Sometimes it is more hidden and makes itself felt only on the inside as troubling emotions and the like. The current thinking tells us that we can manage our stress so that the emotional disturbances are limited. But they also tell us that it isn’t really possible to avoid this altogether. Emotional agitation of some sort is just a part of living in the modern world. It’s something that you just have to accept and live with. That’s what they tell us.

Jesus says something different. He promises rest and repose, freedom from strain within, a sense of security, peace. He says that emotional agitation is not inevitable. So, consider this from another Psalm. ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.’ This Psalm is talking about change, lots of change, even violent change. Yet, there is no fear, no being in haste. Instead, there is rest, repose, peace. And why is this? Is it because the Psalmist managed his stress well? What does he say? How does he explain it? ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’

So, here’s the first thing that I would like you to take home with you. Jesus offers security, a security that shows as rest and repose. Jesus offers peace. He says, ‘Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: “Whoever believes will not be in haste.”’ The world says that this is not possible. Inner turmoil is something that is bound to happen. You might limit it a bit, but you can’t avoid it. It’s just part of life. But Jesus never lies.

Now, now it’s time to ask a few questions. First, why is this important? Why is it important that you have this sense of security from Jesus, that you experience His peace? Well, look at it this way. Whom would you rather have as an enemy on the other side of the battlefield: a soldier who is panicky and frantic, ready to bolt, or one calmly looking at you over his gun sight? Satan loves to attack Christians who are in haste, who are anxious and scurrying about, Christians who are ready to bolt. He loves to attack them because they are such easy targets. So, for your protection, Jesus offers His security. But that isn’t the main reason why this is important. How does a panicky and worrisome Christian make Jesus look good? Rushing about all frantic, either physically or emotionally, is an insult to Jesus before the watching world. What good is a Savior who can’t help people deal with the common stresses of life? The way most people look at things, getting into heaven is abstract and theoretical, but dealing with a difficult boss, that’s where reality is. So, it is important that this sense of security is well established in your lives, for Jesus’ sake.

The next question is how. How do you get to enjoy this sense of security, this peace? That last sentence in our verse gives us the answer. ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ Believing is the key. But before I unpack that some, let me remind you that, popular opinion notwithstanding, all the believing in the world will do no good without the Cross. People talk about how everything turns out well if you have faith. All you need is to believe. But faith without Jesus’ Cross is worthless. Without Jesus’ suffering for sin God could only hate and hate with a vengeance. Apart from the Cross, God is a person’s worst enemy. The Cross made change in God possible. The One who hated you with a deep and intense hatred has become the best friend that you could imagine. God is now so ‘for you’ that it is beyond imagining. But without the Cross that could not be possible. Without the Cross life cannot have any true sense of security. Without the Cross life is hellish. But Jesus, the crucified Savior, has changed all of that for you. So, when your friends who aren’t Christians start talking about how they have faith and that makes life so much better, and all of that, you need to somehow explain to them that apart from Jesus, God is not a friend but an enemy. And hell awaits.

Now, let’s look at how believing results in peace. There are two aspects to believing. When someone embraces the Gospel there are some facts that he accepts as true, the ‘what’. But the ‘what’ is never separated from the ‘who’. It is Jesus who speaks to him. A person becomes a Christian when he hears Jesus speak the Gospel to him and he replies, ‘Okay Jesus, I believe what You’re saying. I accept it all as true. I trust You.’ Coming to faith is never just accepting some facts out of a book. It’s trusting Jesus as He speaks those facts. Belief is tied to trust. So, again, it’s not you alone with a book. It’s you and Jesus, who uses The Book. The goal is not to understand a book. The goal is to trust a Person.

Now, let me say all of that in terms of our text. Do you want the security that Jesus offers? Then you need to trust Him. That’s what this ‘believing’ is all about. And that is a very personal thing to do. So, get to know The Book. That’s important and more than important. But as you work at that, you also need to lift your eyes from The Book and look Jesus in the face. How else can you trust a person? You look Him in the face and ask, ‘So, what do I do next?’ And then listen for His answer and do whatever He says. Sometimes you’ll do that when life is bright and sunny. But sometimes you’ll do that when life is terrible and your heart just wants to panic. But if you can trust Jesus, your heart won’t panic. He won’t let it panic. That’s what this, ‘Whoever believes…’ is about. That’s the condition of the promise.

Now it’s really good that gaining this security is a matter of trust. If the condition for enjoying Jesus’ peace were a matter of mastering the content of a book who would succeed? Even the smart people can’t do that well enough. But learning to trust Jesus is something that anyone can learn. You can learn that. You are learning that. Jesus is teaching you. Your trust is being built as He lets you get to know Him better. And the tools to build that trust are not difficult to use. Read your Bible. Get to know it well. It is an incredibly powerful tool. You have in your Bible so much more than you realize. Get to know your Bible. But every once in a while remember to look up from The Book. As you do, you’ll find Jesus right there ready to talk about life, ready to enjoy that relationship, ready to build your trust in Him. What precious tastes of heaven! And the fruit? No more scurrying. No more agitation of soul. Rest and repose. Even in the midst of chaotic change.

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