Philippians 4:6 -Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7 – And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
1st Peter 5:7 – Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
Here at Redland we have a wide diversity of very talented people. For example—when I have questions about carpentry—I know I can go to the world’s greatest construction expert—our own Buddy Young. Buddy can build anything. He has great wisdom in that area—which is why he still goes on mission trips even though he’s not as LIMBER with LUMBER as he used to be. We just give Buddy a seat and an umbrella to shield him from the sun and let him guide the workers!
When I need financial wisdom—I go to Hugh Faulconer. He really knows his interest rates and spread sheets! He’s also good for golf guidance! And speaking of spreading “sheets” — when I need help in understanding the in’s and outs of sailing—I look up Jim Burke. He knows everything about jibs and tacks and anchors and starboards—and he’s ANOTHER source of wisdom if you have financial troubles. If I have legal questions—I go to Bob Michael or C.C. Day. If I want help decorating—I go to Mary Keating. If I need guidance in setting up a fellowship I go to Larraine Brady or Annette Keith. If I need guidance when it comes to personal evangelism, I go to Charlie Brinkman.
I could go on and on—because God has indeed showered the members of this church with talents and spiritual gifts—so I know where to go when I need help in pretty much any area. But—what about more serious issues? I mean, where do we go when we face trials so big that even incredibly talented Redlanders can’t handle them?
- For example, where do parents go when their youngest child dies suddenly? Who can help them with that?
- Where do you go when you face job loss—and you lie awake at night wondering how you are going to feed our family?
- Where do you go when the doctor gives you a very grim diagnosis? To whom do you turn when they throw out the “C” word and talk about chemo and survival rates?
- Where do you go when you face depression or anxiety and nothing seems to help?
- Who out there can help us with the gut-wrenching pain of grief—grief that lingers for months or years—grief that wakes you every morning?
Well, as Christians I think, the Answer to these questions is obvious. I mean, as your pastor, I know you know Who to turn to in times like this—so speak up. To WHOM do we go as Christians—whenever we face these and other nightmares of life? Yes, of course! We go to God! We PRAY. We get on our knees and tell Him about our trials and troubles. We ask for HIS help when we face the harsh realities of life in a fallen world. We go to our Lord for help in dealing with the nightmares of life. And—the ironic truth is that even people who don’t know GOD personally—as we do—even THEY seem to instinctively know to turn to Him in times of crisis.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. In 1968 an airplane bound for New York began its descent—when the pilot realized that for some reason the landing gear had failed to engage. He worked the controls back and forth, trying again and again to make the gear lock down into place with no success. Then he got on the radio and asked the control tower for instructions as he circled the landing field. He did a fly over and they were able to look up and confirm that the gear was not down. So airport personnel sprayed the runway with foam as fire trucks and other emergency vehicles moved into position. Disaster was only minutes away. The passengers, meanwhile, were told of each maneuver in that calm, cheery voice pilots manage to use at times like this. Flight attendants glided about the cabin with an air of cool reserve. Passengers were told to place their heads between their knees and grab their ankles just before impact. It was one of those I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening-to-me experiences. There were tears, and a few screams of despair. The landing was only seconds away, when suddenly the pilot announced over the intercom:
We are beginning our final descent. At this moment, in accordance with International Aviation Codes established at Geneva, it is my obligation to inform you that if you believe in God you should commence prayer.
Well, in his book Growth in the Seasons of Life, Charles Swindoll reports that the belly landing went off without a hitch. Not a single person was injured—but the airline would say nothing about the prayer rule the pilot had mentioned. In fact, a relative of one of the passengers called the airline the next day and asked about it and the only reply they got was “No comment.” Apparently they were afraid to admit that when death looms, even non-Christians—even people who don’t know God—instinctively know to turn to Him.
Another example of this principle is seen in the experience of a reporter who survived the eruption of Mt. St. Helens years ago—he survived with pictures and sound track to boot. This guy was in close proximity to the crater when the mountain suddenly rumbled to life, spewing steam and ash miles into the air. He literally ran for his life—with the camera rolling and the mike on. The pictures were of course blurred and murky but his voice on the tape was something else. It was eerie, almost too personal to be hear. He breathed deeply, sobbed several times, panted, and spoke directly to God. No formality, no cliche’s—just the despairing cry of a creature in a crisis. He said things like, “Oh, God, oh, my God…help! Help!! Oh, Lord God, get me through. God, I need You, please help me; I don’t know where I am.” followed by more sobbing, more rapid breathing, spitting gagging, coughing, panting… “It’s so hot, so dark, help me, God! Please, please, please, please…oh, God!”
These two incidents are proof that as Swindoll says,
There is nothing to compare with crisis when it comes to finding out the otherwise hidden truth of the soul—any soul. We may mask it, ignore it, pass it off with cool sophistication and intellectual denial, but take away the cushion of comfort, remove the shield of safety, interject the threat of death and it’s fairly certain most in the ranks of humanity ‘commence prayer.’
King David certainly did. In Psalm 40 he testified that when he was in “the slimy pit…the mud and the mire..” he cried out for God’s help. It was from “the deep” while choking on salt water and engulfed by the Mediterranean currents, that Jonah, the prodical prophet, called out to God (Jonah 2:1-4). Even old King Nebuchanezzar did this. Daniel 4:29-37 says that he “raised his eyes toward heaven” and poured out his soul to the Lord God, Whom the king had denied in earlier years.
The fact is—ALL humans do indeed instinctively know to turn to God when they face problems or crises—those nightmares that threaten to overwhelm us. When we reach the limit of our resources, we reflexively call out to God—in the same way a man lacking oxygen gasps for breath…or a man who is falling reaches out for something to grab. In those desperate times we all know we must call out to God.
I bring all this up because the writer of the fourth hymn in our summer study of some of the great hymns of our faith—this particular hymn writer was very familiar with this principle. I’m referring to Elisha Hoffman and as a Christian he knew where to turn when faced with the kinds of nightmares that come with living in a fallen world. Here’s a little background information on this famous hymn writer—and I’ll show you just HOW famous he is in a moment. Hoffman was born May 7, 1839 in Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania—remember the name of that town! Like me, his father was a minister and ALSO like me, Elisha made his profession of faith in Jesus at a young age. He attended Philadelphia public schools, studied science, then pursued the classics at Union Seminary. He worked for 11 years with an evangelical publishing house in Cleveland. Then after the death of his wife, Hoffman returned to Pennsylvania and devoted 33 years to pastoring Benton Harbor Presbyterian Church.
Hoffman’s HOBBY was writing hymns, and even though he never received any formal music training, he was very good at it—composing 2000 gospel songs in his lifetime. Our hymnal contains five of his best hymns—and I think most of you are very familiar with all of them—which, as I promised, shows how famous Hoffman is. In fact, let’s play a game—sort of a “name that hymn tune deal.” I’ll sing a line or two and see if you can sing the rest—and I’ll give you a hint—the part you’ll be singing is the TITLE of one of Hoffman’s more popular hymns. Here goes:
- Christ Has for sin atonement made… What a Wonderful Savior.
- Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power? Are You Washed in the Blood?
- What a fellowship—what a joy divine… Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
- Down at the cross where my Savior died, down where for cleansing form sin I cried, there to my heart was the blood applied… Glory To His Name
Very good! Well, Hoffman also wrote the hymn we are studying today, I Must Tell Jesus. Now—I, for one, find it interesting that many of Hoffman’s hymns were inspired by experiences he had as a pastor and the one we are studying this morning is no exception. Once day while visiting people who were living in extreme poverty in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Hoffman met a woman whose depression seemed beyond cure. She opened her heart and poured out her pent-up sorrows. Wringing her hands, she cried, “What shall I do? Oh, what shall I do?” Hoffman knew what she should do, for he had himself learned what to do in times like that. He compassionately said to the woman, “You cannot do better than to take all your sorrows to Jesus. So THAT’S what you must do. You must tell Jesus.” For a moment the woman seemed lost in her thoughts. Then suddenly her face lit up. “Yes!” she cried, “That’s it! I must tell Jesus.” That conversation echoed in Hoffman’s ears and when he got home that night he began to write the lyrics to this great hymn,
I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus! I cannot bear my burdens alone; I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus! Jesus can help me. Jesus alone.
He composed the music to this hymn as well—and if you take your hymnals and turn to page 430 and look at the lower right hand corner of the page, you can see why I told you to remember the name of the town where he was born, because Hoffman titled the music, Orwigsburg. These words and music that combine to make this great hymn, first appeared in 1894 in a collection called, Pentecostal Hymns.
By the way—put this bit of trivia away somewhere—you might need it if you’re ever on Jeopardy and the category is “Christian Hymns.” Hymns often have two different titles: one for the words—and one for the music—because many times the same music is used on more than one set of hymn lyrics. Of course if you win on Jeopardy—I’ll expect you to tithe the gross—and then split the net of your winnings with me!
Now—the question I want us to deal with as we study Hoffman’s great hymn is this: “WHY do we go to God in times of crisis?” Or as Hoffman put it, “Why MUST we tell Jesus?” I can think of at least TWO reasons. Here’s the first:
(1) We MUST tell Jesus—because we know He CAN help us—we know He is ABLE to help us—no matter how big the problem we are dealing with may seem.
I mean, experience has taught us that Hoffman is right on the money when he says, “Jesus CAN help me—Jesus ALONE.” The fact is—when you need help—you go to people who you KNOW can do the job! You go to people who have the resources and the power to help.
- I mean, you don’t call a toddler when you hear a burglar downstairs—you call the police.
- When your car is stuck in the mud you don’t tie your bumper to someone on a bicycle—you call a tow truck.
- When you need surgery, you don’t go to someone with a degree in English Literature.
No—when you need help—you go to people you KNOW have the wisdom and the power to help. So, as Hoffman put it, we know we MUST pray and go to God for help in the nightmares of life because we know that only He has the resources we need in times like that. Only God has the wisdom to KNOW what to do—and only He has the POWER to do what needs doing. I love how Tozer puts it. He says, “God possesses what no creature can: an incomprehensible PLENITUDE of power…a potency that is absolute.” In other words, the children’s song Bobby sang last week is true. Sing it with me: “My God is so BIG—so STRONG—and so MIGHTY—there’s NOTHING my God cannot do.”
Think of the WORST problem you have ever had—or imagine the WORST problem you could have in the future—and hear this: Our mountainous, nightmarish problems are less than ant-hills to GOD because He is truly ALL-mighty. Psalm 89:9 says,“O Lord God Almighty, who is like You? You are mighty, O Lord, and Your faithfulness surrounds You.” So it makes sense—we MUST go to God—because we know only He has the unlimited and inexhaustible resources to work His will in every circumstance in the universe.
And we go to Him on our KNEES because know that prayer is the way we can ACCESS that infinite power and wisdom. The testimony of the faithful pray-ers of history is that through prayer our Lord has healed psychological and physical problems, removed marriage obstructions, met financial needs…in fact, it is widely known that prayer—TELLING JESUS—can enable us to handle ANY kind of difficulty, dilemma, or discouragement.
Someone has wisely said that when we work, WE work—but when we pray, GOD works and that is so very true! His supernatural strength and wisdom is available to praying people who are convinced to the core of their being that He CAN make a difference. Skeptics may argue that answered prayers are only coincidences, but as an English archbishop once observed, “It’s amazing how many coincidences occur when one begins to pray.”
This is why we always have a LONG prayer list like here at Redland—a piece of paper we keep current and print and distribute twice a week….listing people in the hospital…people getting cancer treatments…loved ones serving over seas, etc. This sheet is our list of things we know we MUST tell Jesus. Here’s another example of what I’m talking about. This past month as we faced the frustration of construction delays that forced us to post-pone our BLOCK the ROC—Bobby reminded us WHO we must go to for help. He wisely suggested that as a staff we should do a prayer walk of the ROC every week after staff meeting. So every Tuesday we walk through the ROC and then gather under the cross to pray. We know we MUST tell Jesus about this—because we believe He CAN help. We will do that until we get the occupancy permit.
This is also why we are following Kevin’s wise suggestion and WRAPPING the ROC with prayer two weeks from today on August 9. We do this—we go to God in prayer—we know we MUST TELL JESUS—because we know only He can help and that when we pray He does. We believe that as James 5:16 says,“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
You know like several other of you middle-agers out there, when I was a little boy I used to spend Saturday mornings watching, “The Adventures of the Lone Ranger and Tonto.” Well, there was an episode once in which the Lone Ranger and Tonto were riding through the desert…looking for bad guys…which is pretty much what they did every episode. They came upon a monastery and they called out to the monk who lived there and he came out. The Lone Ranger and Tonto asked him which way the bad guys went. And the monk pointed and said, “They went that way.” Then he said, “I want to go with you Lone Ranger.” Well, then The Lone Ranger looked down from his horse and said, “You’re a very brave man Padre, but things could get a little dangerous out there where we’re going. I think you ought to stay right here where it will be safe.” And the padre said, “But I want to do something.” And the Lone Ranger said to him, with a bit of condescension in his voice, “Well, you can pray.” And then, in a cloud of dust with a hearty “Hi ho, Silver!” the Lone Ranger and Tonto rode off into the horizon heading for the gun battle—that showdown that was going to take place. Well, where do you think the camera went at that point? Who did the camera follow? Did it go with the monk back inside the monastery? Of course not! No…the camera followed the Lone Ranger and Tonto. Why? Because that is where the action was. That is where the thrills were…where the adventure was—or at least that’s what the directors and writers thought. And yet, when you and I think about it, that monk was going to actually talk to the Creator of the entire universe, to the all-powerful God for whom a six-shooter is as puny as a cap pistol…the mighty Lord Who by merely speaking the word can cause worlds to spring into existence, the God Who CAN and HAS changed the course of human history. This padre was going to speak to ALMIGHTY God, and God was actually going to listen to Him and respond to Him. So…let me ask you now….where was the real adventure? In the monastery! Yes! In fact, that gunfight wasn’t really going to be won or lost in the O.K. Corral or wherever. It was going to be won or lost in that monastery with that monk and his prayers because God has the power like nobody else. He alone CAN help—and He does when we pray! So, that’s where the ACTION was!
Let me ask you…are you facing a mountain-sized problem? Are you dealing with something you cannot handle on your own? It could be some sort of family crisis or health issue or financial troubles or mental anguish that sticks to your thoughts every waking moment. Well, here’s what you MUST do. You must tell JESUS—because Hoffman is right. Jesus CAN help you…Jesus ALONE. This leads to a second reason you must pray in to Him in the tough times of life…
(2) You must tell Jesus because as I have already alluded, not only CAN He help us—He WILL help us.
And do you know WHY almighty God will help us—why our Lord will answer our prayers? He will because He loves us. I don’t know why—but He does. The Bible is literally FULL of verses that talk about God’s great love for you and me but some of my favorite come from Psalm 103.
In verse 8 it says, “God is ABOUNDING in love…” for us. In verse 17 it says, “From everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him.” In verse 11 it says, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for…” you and me. In these verses King David—a very UNLOVELY guy at times—David is saying that God loves us with an unbelievably great love. In fact he proclaims the wonderful truth that God loves us even if we don’t deserve it. His is a love that is truly unconditional because it is not based on our actions or inactions. As Philip Yancey says, “There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more and there is nothing you can do to make Him love you any less.” Yancey’s quote reminds me of my favorite word picture when it comes to understanding God’s motivation to help us….and it’s the picture of a FATHER. Jesus tells us over and over again—that this is the way God feels about you and me. He loves us with the love of a Father—and I don’t know about you but that makes this particular point hit home with me. It helps me to see that YES—I really MUST tell Jesus—because I know about a Father’s love. I have personal experience in that area—and there is NOTHING I wouldn’t do to help my three children.
My oldest daughter, Sarah, is a youth ministry intern at Gaithersburg Presbyterian Church this summer and on Wednesday nights she is leading Bible studies helping the teens find answers to the tough questions of life…questions like, “If God is good why is there so much bad in the world?” So, I’m constantly asking her, “What is this week’s topic?” And, when she tells me I say, “I’ve got a sermon on that…let me print it out for you.” Or—I’m thinking, “I know a great book on that—I’ll go on line and order it at AMAZON.com and have it shipped overnight. She could have it tomorrow.”
My youngest daughter, Becca, is an intern in Physical Therapy with Gretchen Griffith at Adventist Rehab this summer and the other day her car wouldn’t start. I was in D.C. making a hospital visit when she called, but Sue was glad to help. Her love for our daughter—and desire to help—prompted her to do things she has never done—like pop the hood of a car—and follow the instructions I gave over the phone as to how to connect jumper cables.
Daniel is in his first year of pediatric residency at Walter Reed and we know he is busy with 80+ hour work weeks—so we’re constantly praying for him and thinking—how can we help? What can we do? He once casually mentioned that he needed some gel pens so Sue and I rushed over to Costco and got him a super-sized pack of his favorite brand—PILOT G-2′s.
Well, moms and dads—you know what I’m talking about don’t you! As parents we love our kids and that love prompts us to be willing to do ANYTHING to help them. Nothing will stop us from getting to our kids when they need us!
One morning back in 1988 in the nation of Armenia, two proud parents, Samuel and Danielle, sent their young son, Armand, off to school. Before he left Samuel squatted down before his little boy, looked him in the eye, and said, “Have a good day at school Armand, and remember, no matter what comes in life, I’ll always be there for you.”Father and son embraced and the little boy ran off to school. Hours later, a powerful earthquake rocked the area. The radio announced that there were thousands of casualties. In fact the death toll would eventually reach 50,000. Here are a few images of the devastation. Well, Samuel and Danielle huddled around the radio for news—but in the midst of all the pandemonium they could not get specific information about the area where their son’s school was located. So Samuel grabbed his coat and headed for the schoolyard. When he reached the area, what he saw brought tears to his eyes. Armand’s school was a massive pile of rubble. Other parents had already arrived and were standing around the huge pile of debris crying. Samuel refused to give in to despair so he found the place where Armand’s classroom used to be and began pulling a broken beam off the pile of rubble. Then he grabbed a rock and put it to the side, and then grabbed another. As he did one of the other parents asked, “What are you doing?” “Digging for my son,” Samuel answered. The man said, “You’re just going to make things worse! The building is unstable,” and he tried to pull Samuel away from his work. But Samuel would not be dissuaded. He kept working. As time wore on, one by one, the other parents left. Then a firefighter came and tried to pull Samuel away from the rubble.
Samuel looked at him and said, “Won’t you help me?” The firefighter shook his head and left. Samuel kept digging. All through the night and into the next day, Samuel continued his back-breaking work. Other parents came and placed flowers and pictures of their children on the ruins.
But, not Samuel. He just kept working. Finally, as his strength was almost exhausted, he picked up a beam and pushed it out of the way, and as he did he heard a faint cry for help. Samuel listened but didn’t hear anything. Then he heard a muffled voice say, “Papa?” This gave Samuel new strength and he renewed his efforts digging furiously. Finally, a few minutes later he had removed enough debris to see Armand crouched in a small crawl space with several other children. “Come on out, son!” he said with relief. “No,” Armand said. “Let the other kids come out first because I know you’ll get me.” Child after child emerged until, finally, little Armand appeared. Samuel took him in his arms and Armand said, “Papa, I told the other kids not to worry because you told me that you’d always be there for me!” 14 children were saved that day because of a father’s persistent love. Nothing stopped that dad—not even a MOUNTAIN of debris!
Well, to an INFINITELY greater degree—that’s the kind of love God has for us—so we know that we MUST tell Him because we know that not only CAN He help—He WILL help. We know that our Heavenly Father LOVES us. We know that He is supremely interested in our prayers because He is supremely interested in us. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7: 9-11, where He says, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” Paul’s letter to the Romans also comes to mind where he says,“He Who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will he not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
Are you facing a nightmare right now? Is there a cloud hanging over your life—some mountain-sized issue that robs you of rest and peace? Then here’s what you MUST do…you MUST tell Jesus….and I want to close our service by allowing you to do just that. Let’s all bow our heads and pray—taking our burdens to Jesus—asking for His help. When I think we’re done—I’ll close our prayer time.
LET US PRAY