August 7, 2016
Today we’re wrapping up our series from Psalm 118, focusing on Getting Centered on God. We’ve been focusing on what it means to get centered in God during hard times. I’m talking about having peace, strength and confidence in your life, no matter what’s going on around you.
Whenever you meet a person who is centered — who lives with a calm assurance that they’re secure in the hands of God — we may think, “That person must have an easy life. Look how happy he is. Look how relaxed she is. They don’t have a care in the world.” Nothing could be further from the truth. No one, by their own perception, has an easy life. They see all the challenges and obstacles we can’t see.
Being a centered person isn’t determined by how many or how few problems you have, it’s determined by your relationship with God. If you’re right where God wants you to be, then you have a great opportunity to experience this centeredness ~ peace in the midst of turmoil, hope in the midst of uncertainty, confidence in the midst of a setback. This kind of security is available to God’s people. It’s what Jesus proclaimed when He said, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
In the first week we talked about how we need to believe God Is For You. The Psalmist said ~ 6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? – Psalm 118:6 Or, as Paul said in the book of Romans, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31
God is for you. That means that you can call on Him in times of distress. You can count on God when you can’t count on anyone else. In fact, He is so for you, that even when you’re wrong, even when you’re in sin, even when you’ve made a mess of things with your own foolish, He will not give up on you. When you’re in the middle of a mess — you need to believe what the Bible tells us about the grace, power and the goodness of God, God is for you! He loves you and likes you!
Last week we looked at the fact that God is in control. Your situation may be totally chaotic, but God is in control. This is the day the Lord has made . . . He made it, He owns it, He knows how to handle everything that comes your way. Now, if you really believe God is control, then you can celebrate this day and everyday — because it’s a day He has made to do great things in your life.
You may say, “I’ve got too many problems to experience great things!” One of the great things God wants to do is get you started on the way out of your messy situation, so that tomorrow looks better than today. Because of this, we can ask for everything we need: “God send prosperity. Send abundance. Send your blessings. Send your help!”
As we continue to seek to become centered in God, we see that — God has a plan.
In verse 22, we see the Psalmist make a statement which Jesus later said in Matthew 21:42. This verse applies to Jesus, but it isn’t exclusively about Jesus — it’s about God’s way of doing things in human history.
The Psalmist wrote ~ The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. — Psalm 118:22
These words apply to Jesus because when He came into the world He was rejected by the religious leaders, He was condemned by the political leaders, and He was put to death on a cross. His enemies thought it was over, that He was completely out of the picture and they would never have to deal with Jesus or His followers again.
But they were wrong, because the man they nailed to a cross did not disappear like they thought He would. He was as dead as He could be when they put Him in the tomb on Friday, but on the third day, on Sunday morning, the Spirit of God entered that grave and breathed into Him and His heart started beating and blood started flowing and his lungs filled with air and – – – – Jesus was alive again.
That’s not all there is to it, because now His ragtag band of believers, who had all deserted Him, were suddenly feeling bold and began to preach His message and imitate His lifestyle. This new movement, started in His name – – – is the church. It’s His church and it’s built on Him. Jesus is the foundation. He is the cornerstone. He, who had been rejected, ridiculed, beaten, mocked, and condemned to die; HE became the cornerstone.
So, how do the Psalmist’s words apply to you?
That which appears to signify failure and defeat in your life can actually become the foundation of a new life for you. What has brought rejection into your life can become the cornerstone for what God wants to accomplish in your life, if you’re willing to trust Him.
A great example is Chuck Colson. Colson was a top-level Nixon aid who was indicted and sent to prison shortly after the Watergate scandal in the early seventies. His political life was over; he was a broken man. In prison he began reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and this led to his accepting Christ as his Lord and Savior. He became a new man with a new mission. After his release he started Prison Fellowship, a ministry that has impacted the lives of thousands of inmates. He also became a spokesman for evangelicals and became an influential voice in the church. God took Chuck Colson’s worst defeat — his greatest failure — and made it the cornerstone of a new life. That’s what God can do.
Our difficulties are not as random as they appear. They can serve a purpose in your life — a purpose that serves you and brings glory to God. Last week we read in Psalm 118:25 — 25 Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success!
God has prepared for you a place of blessing, a place of prosperity, a place of abundance, a place of usefulness, a place of meaning — and it can be yours if you are willing to trust Him.
In another Psalm, David said, “8 The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. — Psalm 138:8
I want you to know and believe God has a plan for turning things around in your life. Whatever mess you’re in, He can use it for His glory. His plan may not be obvious at this moment, it may not be obvious from your perspective, but He will make a way for you to experience the fullness and joy of a life in Him. We see that in Psalm 118:23 — 23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
In order to get there you must talk to God about your situation. We see this throughout the Bible so many times. We hear of people calling upon the Lord . . . crying out to the Lord.
When you’re going through hard times, you may be tempted to pray less or think praying is doing you no good. Praying less will not help you. You need to pray more. You need to spend more time with God. You need to spend more time reading the Bible. God wants you to trust Him. You cannot trust Him when you’re avoiding Him. Spend time with God, talk to Him about what’s going on in your life.
God also wants this situation to bring you closer to Him. God desires to be in a relationship with you. Friendship is the word Jesus used to describe our relationship. He wants to have fellowship with you, everyday!
As a parent . . . one of my greatest joys is when Joshua or Zachary just start talking to me. It doesn’t matter what it’s about. It could be about sports, school, a crazy video, a song, it really doesn’t matter, it’s great!
What I wouldn’t like is if they looked at their watch while talking to me, making sure they filled their time quota. I want a relationship with them. I want fellowship with them. I want to spend time with them.
That’s what our Heavenly Father wants from us. If you’re in the middle of a mess, let this situation be a catalyst to bring you closer to God — not just for the duration of the situation, but for the duration of your existence.
Let me encourage you to talk to God about your situation. Connect with God, develop a powerful relationship that is deep, intimate and fills you with power and peace. That’s what God wants from you.
Another thing to do to help you get centered is to give thanks to God.
Psalm 118 is a psalm of gratitude. You see it in the very first verse.
1 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!
21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you.
29 Oh give thanks to Lord, for He is good.
Developing the habit of giving thanks helps us overcome an entitlement mentality. When we try to live for God, when we try to accomplish good things in His name, we can, if we’re not careful, develop an attitude that says, “God, you owe me. You should make my life easier. You should provide more, and you should do it faster. I shouldn’t have to wait. I shouldn’t have to stress over this.” We may not come right out and say these words, because we know they’re inappropriate, but we come close to thinking it, don’t we? We develop a sense of entitlement.
The fact is, God doesn’t owe you, or me, anything. We need to get beyond this attitude of demanding things from God like a spoiled child, and, instead, learn to receive things from God like a grateful child.
When God blesses you, He’s not paying you back. He’s not closing out an open invoice; He’s not bringing the account balance to zero. When God blesses you, He’s giving you a gift He wasn’t obligated to give you. He gives us that which we don’t deserve.
Take every opportunity to say thank you to God. For every good thing that comes your way, say thank you. Even if it’s not as much as you need, give thanks to God. Even if it seems to be only a partial provision, say thank you. Recognize the fact that every good thing that comes into your life is a gift from God.
Lastly, take every opportunity to do good.
In verse 19, we read ~ 19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.
Sometimes we need to take baby steps to get to this point. We need to see the blessings and see the opportunities God lays before us. It’s easy to miss.
Here’s why doing good at every opportunity is so important. God cannot turn your life around if you’re set on getting back into the another mess as soon as He helps you out of this one. He can’t turn your life around if your secret plan is to start living for yourself again as soon as you’re out from under all this pressure. He can’t turn your life around if you have every intention of indulging yourself in whatever sin you’ve been involved in. He can’t do it, and He won’t do it.
There are gates through which the righteous enter. These gates are open and lead to the presence of God. As you take steps toward those gates, God takes steps toward you, empowering you to do great things in your life.
God can take that which has brought rejection and failure and defeat into your life and turn it in to resounding victory. Some of you say, “I don’t see how that’s going to happen.” No, you probably don’t. It may not be obvious at this point. It might come to you completely out of left field at a time you least expect it. God has a plan to turn things around in your life.
Here’s how you can get in on His plan: Spend time with Him as a child spends time with a parent; let go of your sense of entitlement by remembering to say thank you for every good thing God has brought your way.
This puts you where God needs you to be in order to do the work he wants to do in your life. And he’ll do it. You can count on him. That’s what this three part series has been about: trusting God, because he is good. When you trust him, there will be changes taking place in your life — changes about which you can only say…
23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. — Psalm 118:23
May it happen for you soon.