The following is the text of a sermon presented by Melvin Gaines at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church on August 5, 2007:
I was leaving work Friday evening and had just finished walking to my car when a gentleman who was dressed in slightly dirty clothing approached me. He was headed for a shelter up the street to take a shower and he asked for some money to get himself a meal for the evening. I told him that I was sorry but I could only spare two dollars, but that was enough to get himself a couple of burgers on the dollar menu at McDonald’s. He said thank you, and he went on to explain his present circumstances. He said that he was here looking for work and that he had been through a great deal of difficulty over the last few days. He had no money and was looking for his wife who was somewhere in the area, but they lost track of each other and she was missing. She had just gotten out of prison within the last week or so, and she had tried to steal some wine from a grocery store in East Cleveland, and she also deliberately tried to get arrested right in front of some police by violating an open container law. The gentleman went on to say that he was starting to smell and needed to get a shower, thanked me for my generosity, and then he continued on to speak with more information about his own circumstances. He said that he has run into a lot of people here that have called him all kinds of names and treated him poorly. He said he was called a crack head and a dope addict, but he seemed to not mind very much about this because he felt as though he still had protection from the Lord. He said this because he had a verse he was claiming in the midst of all of his troubles and difficulties, and that verse was Psalm 91. He then finished up stating again that he had to go because he really needed a shower. I told him that he would be in good hands if he remains focused on Jesus. He said thanks again, and I asked him if he had a bible. He said that his wife had it with her in her purse. I gave him a bible and told him to take it so that he could once again focus on the Word and Psalm 91. He had a wonderful smile of gratitude on his face as he left and expressed joy in the midst of sadness.
I do not know the gentleman’s name, and I doubt that we will ever cross paths again, but he mentioned Psalm 91 as being the verse that he was clinging to at this time in the midst of his difficulty. He was very clear in his communication to me that he was going through an extreme difficulty, and yet he still managed to smile. How can a person manage to smile when there is nothing but bad news and trouble all around? The gentleman had problems that he spoke openly about…his wife was missing…and may have even created problems on his own, but when all was said and done, he seemed to understand that life was not centered around his own circumstances, but on the One that was greater than himself, his enemies, and his problems.
Let’s examine Psalm 91 in greater detail, and we can learn some truths that relate to where faith really matters. We will look specifically at verses 1 and 2, and then later examine His promises to those that show true faith in Him.
The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
This psalm begins with a statement of who God is. He is the God who is all-powerful and is our protection, that is, if we choose to live under His care and protection. What is protection? It is a covering. It is shelter. An umbrella has great symbolism in demonstrating this truth. We know what an umbrella can do, but in order for it to be effective, we have to open it, and not just open it, but stand under it or walk beneath it for protection from the rain or the hot sun. It requires a simple act of opening it and then holding it over our heads. In the same way, God is our protection, but we have to do a very simple thing in order to realize His protection…we have to make a decision to come under it. We have to submit to Him and to His will. In order to be protected by Him, we have to see the need for His protection and then take refuge in it. Look at Isaiah 25:4-5 to describe how God is like the ultimate umbrella of protection:
For You have been a stronghold for the poor, a stronghold for the humble person in his distress, a refuge from the rain, a shade from the heat. When the breath of the violent is like rain against a wall, like heat in a dry land, You subdue the uproar of barbarians. As the shade of a cloud cools the heat of the day, so He stills the song of the violent.
Going back to Psalm 91, verse 2, the key word used to connect the protection of God is the word “trust”.
The word trust is an action word that requires movement…taking a position. It is a word that is claimed when making a decision as an act of faith. This has everything to do with putting on the full armor of God that we have studied in Ephesians 6:10-19. When we put on the full armor of God, we are relying upon His strength, His energy, and His protection to withstand the enemy, the Devil. We have faith that His protection is sufficient for us, and when we realize His covering, we rejoice in it. We are able to, as stated in verse 1, “rest in the shadow of the Almighty”. When you are running for cover when you are trying to get out of a hard rain, what is the feeling that you experience once you reach shelter? You feel a sense of relief, of course. We can rejoice when we feel rest in His shadow and relief in His covering.
To rejoice is a mindset of faith. The joy in your life is the distinction that others see when you are in the midst of God’s covering and protection. This is not about how God blesses you or shows you favor, for the one that is going through a hard time yet still able to find rest in Jesus is experiencing anything but favorable circumstances. To rejoice is indeed a choice, but it is a choice that is made with the conclusion that God is greater than any and all of our circumstances. Look at 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Don’t stifle the Spirit.
Don’t despise prophecies, but test all things.
Hold on to what is good.
Stay away from every form of evil.
These verses are some of the easiest that you could ever begin to memorize, and yet carrying out the action of these verses is very difficult for a person who cannot get beyond their circumstances. You will not be able to rejoice or pray if you are not looking to the Lord for comfort. The greatest obstacle to putting on the full armor of God and coming under His protection is to in some way, shape or form have total focus on yourself. Self-focus is the greatest hindrance, and Satan’s greatest ally, to following Christ and to remain in the faith. You will not accomplish the message of these verses without faith in Jesus, who is our rest, refuge and protection beyond our circumstances.
In Psalm 91 there is an important “if-then” statement that is better than a guarantee because the Lord is faithful in His promises. The first statement is about faith in the Lord as a refuge and what He does for us in return:
Because you have made the LORD—my refuge, the Most High—your dwelling place, no harm will come to you; no plague will come near your tent.
For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways. They will support you with their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the young lion and the serpent.
Do you believe in angels? Angels are real. Angels are God’s servants that are moved and dispatched about the earth to assist in your covering and protection. The angels are God’s agents of protection for you. They are there to assist you because you take the step to have faith that the Lord does indeed protect you. We need His protection because Satan knows these very words in Psalm 91:12 and tried to use them in the tempting of Jesus (see Luke 4:9-12).
What does this mean as far as our act of faith in the Lord? My interpretation of this is that if Satan himself is quoting Scripture, doesn’t it make sense that we are as prepared as we can be with the knowledge of God’s Word? What is one of the components of having the full armor of God? Look at Ephesians 6:17 (Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word). Ephesians 6:10-11 is what I call a battle cry, which begins with encouragement in its statement that the Lord is strong, much the same way that Psalm 91:1 declares His strength. Verse 11, however, implores us to put on His armor to withstand the tactics of Satan. How did Jesus respond to Satan’s temptation? With Scripture, of course! How are we to defeat Satan? With God’s protection fortified by Scripture. In order to have Scripture as a resource, you have to take the time to read and study God’s Word! Don’t expect to be consistent and successful in your practice of faith if you remain anemic and weak in your knowledge of God’s Word!
Psalm 91:14-16 summarizes the faithful believer’s reward for following Jesus Christ and trusting in His protection:
Because he is lovingly devoted to Me, I will deliver him; I will exalt him because he knows My name. When he calls out to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble. I will rescue him and give him honor. I will satisfy him with a long life and show him My salvation.
God promises that our trust and faith in His protection goes beyond our circumstances and that He will remain with us through our difficulties. His promise of salvation is referenced by Peter in Acts 4:12, where he states “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.” Peter referred to Jesus Christ, which is the Cornerstone of our faith. The cornerstone of a building has an important function in that it is strong and provides support for the structure. The structure of our faith remains strong when we rely upon Jesus. Our strength in overcoming adversity is our trust and faith in Jesus.
Jesus keeps all of His promises, but we will never reach our fullest potential when we are inconsistent in our faith. How much more can we do in our own attitudes about our expression of Christ in our lives when we look at someone like the gentleman who had two dollars and a Bible, and yet he could still smile in the midst of his tears? It is not about how much we have, but it is about much we can have with Jesus in our lives. He is our refuge, our strength, our protection, and our salvation.
Thank you, Jesus.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.