How Do I Take Refuge In The LORD? (Psalm 31)

fortress (8-5-18)

Sermon: Psalm 31:

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.

[One of the Bible’s most common themes
not only intellectual belief IN God, but hiding IN Him.
Not just knowing that He is a fortress for His people,
but actually entering into Him as our fortress
on a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, etc.

Thus one of my biggest challenges as a Christian and as a pastor:

how do we do this practically, & how do I teach others to do this practically?

Psalm 31 gives us some answers to the how question.

First, let’s think about what a fortress is…and isn’t.

In a war, when you are under attack, a fortress protects you from the full attack,
the fortress provides a barrier in between you & the full fury of the attack.

But the fortress itself doesn’t necessarily stop the attackers from trying,
no more than an umbrella changes the weather in a storm.
(of course God has power anytime to stop the attackers/change the weather—
but just stay with me here):

Even while we’re in a fortress,
though we might not physically feel the attackers swords/guns,
we still have to fight against

  • fear,
  • fight against hearing the banging on the walls,
  • fight against anxiety from knowing the attackers are out there,
    right outside the fortress, ferociously looking for a way in,
  • fight against not trusting in the fortress &
    surrendering to the attackers/temptation, or
  • fight against a tendency to be a deer in headlights—
    to freeze/do nothing while we are in the fortress,
    simply curl up in a ball until the attackers leave/situation ends,
    to not play our part/role against the attackers or
    in the larger war (we aren’t the only Christians under attack,
    though we can act like it!).

The fortress is necessary, but there are still battles to face.

My dear friends, Christ Jesus is our fortress
but not in the same way a basement is a fortress against a tornado.
The basement is intended for us to stay in until the tornado is done.

Christ as fortress means we go out in the tornado
& face the situation/attackers
as we remain in Him.

I’ve never thought about umbrellas like this, but if you really think about it,
umbrellas often assume that you’re going somewhere—
they’re portable storm-shields.

You can sit in one spot under an umbrella,
but umbrellas have handles for a reason—
they’re meant to be gripped/carried on the go.

If we want protection from the rain in one spot until the rain stops,
we’ll put up a tent in the ground, not sit under an umbrella.

Christ as our fortress is like the umbrella
meant not for us to hide from the storm until it’s done,
but to help us go out into it,
shielding us not from every bit of the storm
but keeping the rain out of our eyes
so we can see where we need to go/do what we need to do.

  • Like football where the game is never cancelled b/c of rain,
    we have a mission from & with our King,
    & that mission goes on, whether our lives are sunny or stormy.

We need to wrestle with this purpose of a fortress
if we’re to learn how to take refuge IN Jesus Christ
we must have Biblical expectations of Him.

Can the Lord Jesus stop our storms at any time, turn our lives sunny in a moment?
You bet He can, & sometimes He does—praise the Lord!

But many other times He doesn’t
He teaches us to seek & know & trust & enjoy & worship Him in the storm.

  • Serious campers know they eventually need to learn how
    to start a fire in the rain, while it is raining.
  • The only way to learn this is to be in rain, over & over,
    and practice starting a fire. Same with following Christ.

Philippians 4:4-7, 11-13: 4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
[thats starting a fire in a storm!]
5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
6Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

[Christ can transform us to

  • rejoice in storms,
  • be gentle in storms,
  • trust that He is near in storms,
  • not be anxious in storms,
  • pray in storms,
  • be thankful in storms, and
  • have His peace in storms—

And so we need to go thru the storms with Him.
He will guard our hearts & minds—fortress!—during the storm, not just after it.
But He must put us through storms in order to teach us all this…]

11I am not saying this because I am in need,
for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
13 I can do all this thru him who gives me strength.

[& Paul learned that Truth in both hard times & easy,
in sunshine & rain, being in Christ the fortress
while following Christ in every situation.]

Back to Psalm 31:

Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.

[How do we practically take refuge in Christ?
Obeying Him; learning to submit to Him & be led & guided by Him;
learning to do life His way.

  • Mountain climbing guides don’t give suggestions;
    they show the route & we follow it—
    the mountain is too dangerous to do it our way.
  • Following the GPS directions is part of trusting the GPS,
    turning left when it says ‘left” and continuing straight when it says so;
  • Trusting in medicine is continuing to take the medicine as prescribed.

Thus Christ says, “If you love me, you will obey my commands”
(John 15:1-10: remaining in Him…fortress, vine.)

This is not “obey Him to be forgiven/saved”; that only comes by faith.

If you have not received Christ Jesus as your Savior & King,
focus on that first before trying to follow Him;
don’t try to fly as a caterpillar; be reborn as a butterfly first.]

Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.

[How do we practically take refuge in Christ?
Realize there are traps in life, ask Him for protection,
& do what we can to avoid the traps.

What kind of traps?

Too many to list, but all sin in general as well as
things that distract us from our mission or
dull the blade of our closeness to the LORD in particular.

For example, the trap of having so many different hobbies/activities/busyness
that our relationship with Christ
becomes merely a planet in our solar system
instead of the sun around which our various activities revolve.

Here’s an example of avoiding drowsiness:

Christ didn’t take the anesthesia drink offered Him in Mark 15:23:
“they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.”
William Lane explains,

“According to an old tradition, respected women of Jerusalem
provided a narcotic drink to those condemned to death
in order to decrease their sensitivity to the excruciating pain . . . .
When Jesus arrived at Golgotha he was offered . . . wine mixed with myrrh,
but he refused it, choosing to endure with full consciousness
the sufferings appointed for him” (The Gospel of Mark, p. 564).

Wow. & so we must bring our activities, hobbies, recreational habits
to the Holy Spirit & ask Him to examine our hearts
& reveal if we are doing those activities as a way to
numb or anesthetize ourselves
from the trials we face;

that is, if we are running to those habits as our fortress
to get us through the day
instead of running into King Jesus…

Back to Psalm 31:

Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

[How do we take refuge in the Lord Jesus?
Put your soul in His hands, both your earthly & eternal life.

This is a decision, by faith, but it involves seeing Jesus
as more than just a consultant you hire for a certain problem
as you fulfill your dreams, as you run your life.
It’s resigning from being your own CEO &
crying out to Jesus to be your CEO, CFO, COO, etc.]

I hate those who cling to worthless idols; as for me, I trust in the Lord.

[We are not to hate non-Christians or Christians who have idols
David shows his humanity here.

But we are to hate sin/idolatry/evil.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil, cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).

That is God’s definition of sincere love. Very difficult.
David shows the root problem of idolatry by showing its opposite:
trusting the Lord & what He says,
not trusting what sin [falsely] advertises.

I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.

[How do we practically take refuge in the Lord Jesus?
Making the choice to rejoice in His love,
His compassion & willingness to forgive & make clean sinners like us.
Also, this involves trusting that the LORD
sees & knows
the anguish of our souls.

He is the God Who sees & knows what we go through–
He is aware & active & full of compassion & willingness!

Hebrews 4:14-16: Therefore, since we have a great high priest
who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God,
let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses,
but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—
yet he did not sin.

16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Back to Psalm 31:

You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place.

[How do we practically take refuge in the Lord Jesus?
By realizing what the LORD has done for you—our situation could be worse!

  • David was in anguish, but not abandoned;
  • he was dazed but not defeated;
  • he was overwhelmed but not overcome;
  • he was surrounded, but he hadn’t succumbed.

David could hear the pounding of the enemies’ hands,
but David was not IN their hands, he was in the LORD’s.

The LORD had set David’s feet in a spacious place,
even though that spacious place was full of anguish!
David was seeing the blessings of the LORD IN David’s trial,
not just before & after it.]

Psalm 118: When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
he brought me into a spacious place.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.

What was the “spacious place” (verse 5)
that the LORD brought the writer of Psalm 118 when he cried out to God?

Verse 6-7: Trusting that “the LORD is with me.”]

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.

[How do we practically take refuge in the Lord Jesus?
Ask Him for mercy, not just a miracle.
Ask for the miracle—of course!
Just remember we don’t deserve the miracle,
we haven’t earned relief,
He doesn’t owe us;
be careful of feeling entitled to requests of our Father.

Thus David didn’t just ask for a blessing, he asked for mercy.

In verses 10-13 David describes his situation—why he needed a fortress!
Now onto verse 14:

14 But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.”

[How do we practically take refuge in the Lord Jesus?
Reminding ourselves Who He really is: our God. Our King. Our Savior.

Thinking about God’s names, His titles, His character, what He’s done in the Bible.
We must preach the Truth to ourselves during the week!]

15 My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.

[How do we practically take refuge in the Lord Jesus?
Reminding ourselves of His sovereignty, His in-control-ness,
especially when it seems like events are spiraling out of control.

We must trust what He said in the Word not what we see in the world,
because in a hurricane our perspective is understandably skewed;
this world is full of carnival mirrors which distort reality.
As a song says—don’t lean on what we feel but on the Truth His Word reveals.

And He reveals that He is in control.]

16 Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.

[How do we practically take refuge in the Lord Jesus?
Focusing on the relationship over the relief.

David of course asks for relief from his enemies,
but he doesn’t forget that ultimately he wants
the LORD’s face to shine upon David.

He didn’t want the LORD to just send relief
like a package dropped off at the mailbox;
David wanted the LORD’s face to shine upon him, to see & know Him face to face.
David remembered he needed not just a cold/clinical cure,
but the LORD’s Personal warm/unfailing compassion to save him.]

17 Let me not be put to shame, Lord, for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame and be silent in the realm of the dead.
18 Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt
they speak arrogantly against the righteous.

19 How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.

[How do we practically take refuge in the Lord Jesus?
By trusting in His promises in the Bible, both in this life & the life to come.

The devil wants to trick us, “If God were so good,
He wouldn’t let you go thru this, He’d give you all of your inheritance NOW!”

No, we get some now, but mostly in the future Kingdom
when our Savior returns.
The prodigal son wanted the whole inheritance NOW—
that led him straight to a filthy pig pen and a lonely, empty stomach.

Hebrews 11:13-16, 39-40: All these people were still living by faith when they died.
They did not receive the things promised;
they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance,
admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.
15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left,
they would have had opportunity to return.

16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God,
for he has prepared a city for them…

These were all commended for their faith,
yet none of them received what had been promised,

40 since God had planned something better for us
so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

1 Peter 1:3-5: 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.
This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,

who through faith are shielded by God’s power
until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Back to Psalm 31:

20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues,
you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues.

[Not that we won’t suffer EVER, but that we won’t suffer FORever.]

21 Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love
when I was in a city under siege.

[How do we practically take refuge in the Lord Jesus?
Praising Him & asking Him to show us the depths
of His compassion & willingness & mercy:

Ephesians 3:17-19: And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people,
to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

What a prayer! What a privilege!

Back to Psalm 31:

22 In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!”

[How do we practically take refuge in the Lord Jesus?
Trusting His “Google-earth” view, not our “Google-street” perspective.
Trusting what He’s said, not how things seem.]

Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help.

[How do we practically take refuge in the Lord Jesus?
Trusting that He’s heard our cries for help,
even if we don’t feel like He heard/see any evidence that He heard.]

 23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people!

The Lord preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full.

24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.

[How do we practically take refuge in Christ?
By receiving strength & courage from Him
you aren’t cowardly for hiding in Jesus, you’re courageous;
you aren’t weak, you’re strong.

So how do we “take heart”?

Hebrews 12:1-3: Therefore, since we are surrounded
by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners,
so that you will not grow weary & lose heart.

Closing Challenge

Please don’t be overwhelmed by all the ways
a Christian can practically take refuge in Christ.

1. The many steps, better yet the many carats & facets of the diamond,
should remind us that taking refuge in Christ
is not something we can learn in a one hour infomercial/one day workshop.

It’s a lifelong process, & on earth we’ll never stop learning
how to practically take refuge in Him.
So let’s make sure we look at it as a lifelong process
& not try to “accomplish it” in 3 easy steps,
no more than we would want a 5 year old
to try to graduate from college by the end of Kindergarten.

2. The many steps also remind us that truly being a Christian
is not a hobby/something we do in our spare time.
He is not an extracurricular activity;
if we’re reborn, He’s our King!

3. Finally, the many steps also remind us that we need to learn this together,
in fellowship, in Christian community,
not just sitting next to each other for an hour two or three times per month.

We need to regularly dig into the Word together, pray together,
encourage each other, share our “mundane Mondays,” scattered Saturdays,
& weary Wednesdays together.

We don’t take refuge in Christ in isolation—
no solitary confinement—but together, out in the storm,
against the spiritual forces attacking us,
in Christ our risen King Himself!

Medieval Akkerman fortress near Odessa in Ukraine