Luke 8:22-25
Isaiah 26:1-4

A couple weeks ago, Gail and attended one of my grandsons, Matthew’s, Boy Scout banquets. His Scout troop enjoys putting on little skits. One of them this day was about Jack, who was walking along a steep cliff one day when he accidentally got too close to the edge and fell over. On the way down, he grabbed a spindly branch, which temporarily stopped his fall. He looked down to see the canyon fell straight down for more than a thousand feet. He couldn’t hang onto the branch forever, and there was no way for him to climb up the steep wall of the cliff. So Jack began yelling, “HELP! HELP! Is anyone up there? HELP!”
He was about to give up when he heard a voice: “Jack, this is God.”
“God, please help me! I promise if you’ll get me down from here, I’ll stop sinning.”
“Easy on the promises, Jack. Let’s get you off from there; then we can talk. Now, here’s what I want you to do. Listen carefully.”
“I’ll do anything, God. Just tell me what to do.”
“Okay. Let go of the branch. Just TRUST Me and let go of the branch.”
There was a long silence.
Finally, Jack yelled, “HELP! HELP! IS ANYONE ELSE UP THERE?”

Ever felt like you’ve been left hanging for dear life? Those are times that will try our souls,
as we either join our friend in seeking someone or something else to trust or we choose ‘let go and let God.’

TRUST is the key word. Today’s key verse is Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!” This verse is an example of Hebrew parallel poetry where the second line reinforces, and/or in this case explains the first line. “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You” . . . trust you? “All whose thoughts are fixed on You!”

The historical context of this verse is what we call The Exile, a very dark and depressing time in Israel’s history. You remember your OT history; how for several centuries God’s people have been trying His patience by worshipping not only Him. But how they also were hedging their bets by worshipping other gods too. And how God eventually allowed them to be taken into captivity by the Babylonians. Now in the midst of that theological crisis, from which they are asking, “where is God in this storm?” Isaiah declares, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!” (Isaiah 26:3).

The Hebrew word for trust means to lean upon. Some folks in this room for one reason or another lean on a cane to help steady them as they walk. That’s a good illustration of what Isaiah encourages. When the winds of adversity blow causing us to be unsteady and shaky on our feet we are to lean on God for His strength, which will steady us, and therefore; bring us peace.

“Sometimes in our lives, we all have pain, we all have sorrow. But if we are wise . . . we know that there’s always tomorrow. Lean on me when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on. For it won’t be long, ’til we’re gonna need somebody to lean on.”1

That song could have been written by Dave Dravecky.

What was “so much bigger than baseball” was developing his relationship with God; especially as it regarded trusting God in the midst of the storm. In the years following, Dravecky wrote 7 books on trusting God. In his 1992 book titled, When You Can’t Come Back, Dravecky writes,

Looking back, I’ve learned that the wilderness is part of the landscape of faith, and every bit as essential as the mountaintop. On the mountaintop we are overwhelmed by God’s presence.
In the wilderness we are overwhelmed by his absence. Both places should bring us to our knees; the one, in utter awe; the other, in utter dependence. When we are in the wilderness we must learn to trust in God to hold us.” 2

How can we learn to trust like Dave Dravecky without having to endure what he endured?

The first thing we need to do is remind ourselves that our Christian faith should not be characterized as religion, but as a relationship; a relationship with God through Jesus, the Christ.

In any relationship to increase trust implies deepening the relationship. Only when you know a person intimately do you learn to trust them. So if we are going to learn to trust God we need to get to know Him better. And how do we get to know anyone better? By spending time with that person.

How do we spend more time with God in Christ? We become more and more acquainted with His Words in the Bible.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true” (II Timothy 3:16).

“Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every Word
that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice
is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24).

“As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s Word is flawless;
 He shields all who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 18:30).

“Whenever I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. In God, whose Word I praise”
(Psalm 56:3-4)

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (I Peter 2:2).

If we desire to deepen our relationship with God, in order to trust ever more we simply must make time to listen to Him speak to us in His Word.

Friday was my mother’s 88th birthday. Gail and I were visiting and heard something remarkable spoken by my sister. Many of you have heard the sad stories of my sister who is an alcoholic. The good news is she has been sober since last June. And I don’t think it is any coincidence that she has been reading the Bible. Last night she told us how much she is enjoying a book Gail gave her for Christmas, Jesus Calling, Peace in His Presence. She has also been praying.

Which reminds us, that to deepen our relationship with Christ, we not only listen to Him in His Word but we also speak to Him in our prayers. Makes sense doesn’t it? A relationship is best served by conversation.

How can we learn to trust? By listening to His Word and our prayers.

And when we get into His word there is much to be learned about trusting in Him.

We are invited to trust that no matter how many and how hard the storms of life blow that He is a God who is working things out for our good even when we cannot see His hand at work in our lives or begin to grasp that He is.

“God causes all things to work for the good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Some believe in a high view of God’s sovereignty; that He causes everything, the good and the bad. And there are other well-meaning Christians who prefer to believe that God doesn’t cause the storms, but that He allows them. I encourage you to study the Bible and make your own well-informed decision about that. But in the meantime, it doesn’t really matter whether God causes or allows. What matters is that we trust in Him to be working for our good, in His own good time.

Elisabeth Elliot, whose first husband, Jim Elliot, was one of the five missionaries killed by the Auca Indians in 1956, and whose second husband died of cancer, tells of visiting a shepherd in the mountains of North Wales. One by one, he would grab the rams and fling them into a tank of antiseptic. They would struggle to climb out, but the sheep dog would snarl in their faces to force them back in. Just as they were about to climb up the ramp, the shepherd would catch them by the horns with a wooden implement, spin them around, and force them under again, holding them completely under for a few seconds. The sheep didn’t have a clue about what was happening; they had no way of knowing that this experience was for their good. Mrs. Elliot writes:

I’ve had some experiences in my life that have made me feel very sympathetic to those poor rams. I couldn’t figure out any reason for the treatment I was getting from the Shepherd I trusted. And He didn’t give a hint of explanation. But we must still trust our shepherd knowing He has our best interests at heart.3

Elizabeth Elliot found out something that most of us have learned by experience. The Christian life of faith and obedience to God is not always easy.

The Bible is full of stories about people who discovered the same thing. One of the best examples is the story of Joseph as told in the last few chapters in the book of Genesis. You know the story: His brothers were jealous because their father loved Joseph most, so they sold him to slave traders. They took him to Egypt where he was sold to an Egyptian official named Potiphar, where he was a slave for perhaps up to ten years. But eventually, Potiphar trusted him to run the household. That is, until Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of making advances and he ends up back in prison for we don’t know how many years. Eventually, he comes to the attention of Pharaoh and becomes the steward of the food stores of Egypt. And years later when his brothers come to Egypt for food Joseph says to them, “You guys meant this for evil but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

In his fine book, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, Tim Keller writes,

The Joseph story tells us that very often God does not give us exactly what we ask for. Instead, He gives us what we would have asked for if we had known everything He knows.4

But we cannot know what God knows, for He is God and we are not. Therefore, our only option is trust in God who according to Paul “causes all things to work for the good to those who love the Lord” (Romans 8:28).

And lastly, our trust in God will deepen as we become more and more convinced that no matter how hard the winds blow He loves us and will never abandon us.

Sometimes the winds of adversity blow fiercely in our lives. But I want to assure you, this is not a sign that God has abandoned you. He is just as much with you as He was in the boat with His disciples during the storm on the Sea of Galilee, saying to you as He said to them “Peace, be still.”

When the wind comes hard against us, He is steadfast, He is true.
When the ground beneath us trembles, His foundation never moves.
Strong tower, high and glorious . . . . strong tower, mighty in love
Our refuge, our defender storing tower Lord above!5

Once you have given yourself to God in Christ, He is yours and you are His! And nothing can ever change that!

“That soul though all hell shall endeavor to shake
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”6

The Apostle Paul comes very close to bursting the limits of language as he boldly and unequivocally declares to the Romans:

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Romans 8:35, 37-39).

Lastly, I want to say that when the storm comes rather than giving in to the temptation to worry about or question whether the Lord is present with us, we should concentrate on being present with Him.

A father came home from a week-long trip to find his youngest daughter plopped on the living room floor playing with her Barbie dolls. He was tired but was really looking forward to some attention from her. He wanted to hear something like, “Hi, how are you, Daddy? Am I glad you’re home! You’ve been gone a long time, give me a hug, Daddy.” But despite his best attempts to look pitiful and lonely, he was basically ignored. It was hard for him to accept playing second fiddle to plastic dolls, and when he couldn’t take it any longer said, “Come give Daddy a hug.” To his surprise, she calmly replied, “You know I’m nine years old now.”

His oldest daughter was sitting across the room, so he pulled her into the struggle; “Look at your older sister; she’s twenty years old.” Then he gave his oldest daughter an intense look, “Honey, come give me a hug.” Without giving away a thing, she smiled, sat in his lap, and gave him a quick hug before she whispered in his ear, “You owe me for this one.” In triumph he said to the younger, “Nine or twenty . . . it doesn’t matter, now come here and give me a hug.” Despite his spectacular persuasive coup, his little girl says, “I’m busy.”

This called for Daddy’s version of heavy artillery, so he looked closely at the Barbie dolls and said, “Do you know who gave you those Barbie dolls?” Suddenly a look of reluctant realization flickered across her face and she decided, she’d better give him a hug. So she clambered into his lap and delivered a hug and a quick peck on his cheek then she wiggled and squirmed in an attempt to get back down and resume an intense conversation with her Barbies.

That light peck on the cheek just didn’t make a big enough deposit in his account. “No, no, no, come on, give me a big hug.” That was when she rolled those big brown eyes and said, “That’s the problem with you daddies.”
“What,” he asked? She replied, 
“You always want too much love.”

That moment he received one of the most amazing revelations in his life: God’s capacity for receiving our love and trust is always greater than our ability to deliver it. Yet it seems we are content to reluctantly enter our Father’s presence for the briefest moment to deliver a quick hug and a peck on the cheek.

We can almost imagine God, like that father, thinking to Himself, How can I maximize the amount of time My children spend with Me? How can I draw them away from their activities and distractions long enough to give Me more than a quick peck on the cheek? For if they would, they would delightfully discover the great joy in trusting me.

You see what I’m saying? If we didn’t worry so much about God being present with us and concentrated instead on being present with Him, our trust will increase by leaps and bounds! And as it does, “the peace that passes all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Philippians 2:7). For, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”

  1. Withers, Bill. (song) Lean On Me. © 1972, Interior Music Incorporated.
  2. Dravecky, Dave. When You Can’t Come Back. NY: Harper Collins, 1992.…
  4. Keller, Timothy. Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. New York: Penguin Books, 2013 (page 264).
  5. Furler, Peter and Taylor, Steve. (song) Strong Tower. © 2004 Ariose and Soylent Tunes.
  6. George, Keith and Keen, R. (song) How Firm a Foundation. 1795.