Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Text: Psalm 12:6
The promises of the Lord can be trusted.


This sermon is not based on the lectionary readings for the day,
however, you may find what you are looking for in previous years' sermons.

A promise is a promise

A young husband and wife were sitting in a cafť having lunch and it was clear from the happy faces and the way they looked at each other that they were truly in love. The man got up to pay the bill and then came back to where his wife was sitting and bent down and picked her up and with her arms wrapped around his neck and his left arm under her lifeless legs they left the cafť. Everyone stopped to watch as he placed her gently into the passenger seat of their car. The silence was broken when a waitress said, "In sickness and in health - now thereís a man whoís taken his wedding promise seriously".

As far as God is concerned a promise is a promise. The Bible is full of the promises of God Ė you might call the Bible a book of promises Ė it contains the many promises that God has made to his people over the centuries and are still valid to this day. Sometimes people doubted if God would come good on his promises but he never reneged.

Take the geriatric couple Abraham and Sarah. They were promised a family and many descendants. When some visitors told Abraham now 100 years old that Sarah would have a baby in 9 monthsí time itís no wonder his wife laughed.
"Iím way too old and worn out to enjoy sex and then to give birth to a baby. Iíll probably have a coronary during labour. And just look at how old Abraham is, heís even older than me". The answer they received was simple, "Is anything too hard for the Lord? In nine months you will have a son." A promise is a promise and as strange as it may seem soon Sarah was holding a new born in her arms.

As I said, the Bible is full of promises from God Ė promises that cover every imaginable situation. What are some of the promises that you have found helpful and meaningful Ė it might have been
a time of severe testing and temptation,
a time of grief, confusion, or doubt
the feeling of being overwhelmed by what is happening,
feeling helpless and weak,
afraid of what the future might bring,
fearful of what will happen when you die?

What words from God have had a powerful impact on you when you have been confronted with the seemingly impossible or the unbearable?

Take a minute or so to think about this and then you might be willing to share a promise of God that has been meaningful to you. If you canít think of one right now, thatís ok. (Maybe share with a person next to you preferably not a member of your own family and then a few people to share with everyone).

Here are few promises of God that remind us of the love that God has for each of us.

All of us at some time will come against trouble that tests us to the limits. Whether it is bad news from the doctor, or the stress of a family conflict, or fear that attacks our confidence and we cringe at the awful prospects that our future holds, God promises to always be by our side, holding us up and giving us courage and hope even in the darkest moments. We read promises like these

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. (Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

"I will save those who love me and will protect those who acknowledge me as Lord. When they call on me", the Lord says, "I will answer them; when they are in trouble I will be with them, I will rescue them and honour them" (Psalm 91:14-15).

God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not be afraid" (Psalm 46:1-2).

From Psalm 23, "Even if I go through the deepest darkness I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me". Too often translations limit this to death but the deepest darkness can be darkness of stress, worry, anxiety, depression, fear, addiction, temptation and of course, the unknown dark journey we must all take at some time and that is death.

Jesus promises, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness" (John 8:12). Whatever the darkness might be in our lives, Jesus promises to be the light that soothes and calms and gives peace when all around us we see darkness and we canít see the road ahead and we donít know where we are going. Be certain that Jesus knows the way; he knows whatís ahead and even if the road is rough and uncertain, his presence gives us the confidence to keep on going. The light of Jesus showing us the way gives us peace knowing that with Jesus everything will be all right.

Jesus knows each one of us intimately and dearly. He knows what is happening in our lives; he knows our fears and what drives up our anxiety levels. Jesus promises, "As the Father knows me and I know the Father, in the same way I know my sheep and they know me" (John 10:14). The relationship between God the Father and God the Son is so interconnected, personal and intimate Ė thatís the way it is between Jesus and us. He knows what we need at any given moment and is ready to even give his life for us.

God invites us to pray to him when trouble comes and we lack the strength and resources to deal with it. "Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you", he says. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest". Peter advises those plagued by worry and upsets that are completely outside of our control, "Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).

We are just a few weeks from Good Friday and Easter. We are reminded that carries through his promises regardless of the consequences. In the Old Testament he promised salvation, forgiveness, a new life, a new way of living and a saviour who would show us the way to a right relationship with God. This promise was fulfilled in Jesus.

God has known from the day Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden that humanityís greatest need is for the relationship between God and us to be restored. Sin gets in between us and the holy and perfect God. How can we who are tarnished all over with the corruption of sin ever have any chance of living a happy fulfilled life here and now, and then enter the place where God lives Ė heaven?

I donít want to sound all gloom and doom but the reality is that we donít stand a chance by ourselves. There is no one who righteous (i.e. right and good) before God. God knows that, and so he sent his only Son because he loves us so much and wants everyone in the whole world to have eternal life. Jesus died on the cross to free us not only from those guilty feelings that we have but also the consequences that sin brings into our lives. Paul says, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus". "God has shown us how much he loves Ė it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us. By his blood we are now put right with God. Ö We were God's enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son" (Romans 8:1 & 5:8-10).

Our sin has been dealt with. Jesus did that on the cross Ė that is God's promise to us. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus dealt death a death blow. Jesus has given us the victory over everything that threatens our well-being. The promise is true. "Nothing in all creation is able to separate us from God's love in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:39) Ė not sin, not death, not any worldly power and authority, not anyone can stop Jesus loving us and filling our lives with his peace.

Even in the middle of a storm when every kind of trouble is breaking over us there is peace. Jesus doesnít promise that we will never face trouble or ill-health or death but he does promise that he will be there with us. Itís amazing how positive the apostle Paul could be in the face of trouble. He explains it like this, "I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little. I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me" (Phil 4:12,13).

Paul trusted God's promises to him and those promises are made to all of us.  Promises like, "Donít be afraid or discouraged, for I, the Lord your God, am with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9). Thatís a promise well worth memorising.

I could go on all day talking about the promises of God and I havenít even mentioned God's promise of the Holy Spirit and the guidance and help that he gives to us. Iíll resist going on further. Instead I urge you to get to know God's promises by reading the Bible, talking to a fellow Christian when you need someone to remind you of the promises God has made to you. Believe that God is making those promises to you personally, trust in his love and so apply them to whatever is happening in your life at this very moment.

When God makes a promise he never goes back on his word. It is true, "The promises of the Lord can be trusted".

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
3rd April 2011

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