What Should We Do when in the Hour of Utmost Need?
O Lord, we live in a world filled with troubles. These troubles arise because of sin and Satan, who would use these troubles to draw us away from You and destroy our faith. Grant us Your mercy and strength, O Lord, so that we might persevere in our faith, so that we might glorify You in our lives, and so that we might ultimately obtain the victory leading to eternal life. In Jesus’ saving name we pray. Amen.
Jesus is presently seated at God’s right hand, which means He is exercising His divine power and authority in this world on our behalf. May that knowledge fill us with hope, joy, and confidence even in the midst of life’s trials.
Without the aid of the Holy Spirit, man simply cannot comprehend God’s plan for mankind’s salvation. Jesus ascension into heaven following His resurrection from the dead was part of God’s overall plan. May we believe in Him as our Savior and follow Him as our Lord. Then He becomes “living water” flowing from our hearts.
Text: Psalm 42
As a deer pants for the water brook, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, "Where is your God?" When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast. Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance. O my God, my soul is cast down within me; therefore I will remember You from the land of Jordan, and from the heights of Hermon, from the Hill Mizar. Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and billows have gone over me. The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me—a prayer to the God of my life. I will say to God my Rock, "Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?" As with a breaking of my bones, my enemies reproach me, while they say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.
In Christ Jesus, to whom we can turn with full confidence in any crisis, dear fellow redeemed:
Jesus once warned His disciples, “You will be hated for My name’s sake” (Matthew 10:32). Paul, after being stoned almost to death, reminded to his fellow believers, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Shortly before dying by execution Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, and said, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Two weeks ago, however, I stated from this pulpit that "Christians have every reason to sing and rejoice!" How can that possibly be when we face so many difficulties in this life? How can believers be filled with joy even in the midst of great sorrow? This apparent contradiction dissolves when we by faith embrace our Savior Jesus Christ and the salvation He has worked out for us. My dear friends—in Christ God has broken down the barrier of sin, which separates us by nature from Him. In Christ we find forgiveness for our sins. In Christ we find the acceptance of our God. In Christ we find hope in the midst of trials. In Christ we can live with confidence, knowing that our future in this world and in the next is secure and certain. The writer of Psalm 42 knew this truth and in the midst of a great trial composed the words of our text. Christians throughout the ages have likewise known this truth and expressed it repeatedly. Among them was Paul Eber, who penned the hymn we just sang. Let us then consider the words of our text, asking ourselves the following question based on the title of Eber’s hymn: WHAT SHOULD WE DO WHEN IN THE HOUR OF UTMOST NEED?
The Psalmist tells us, first of all, to remember our God! He writes, “As a deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, "Where is your God?" When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise…O my God, my soul is cast down within me; therefore I will remember You from the land of Jordan, and from the heights of Hermon, from the Hill Mizar.”
In order better to appreciate and apply this Psalm, it helps to understand the circumstances in which it was written. Students of the Bible believe that the Psalm was written either by David for the sons of Korah, who were the leaders of the temple choir, or by one of the sons of Korah with reference to David. All agree, however, that it was written during those very dark days, when David and those loyal to him, including the sons of Korah, were forced to flee Jerusalem during the rebellion of David’s son, Absalom. David was an older man at this time and the sorrow of his situation was compounded by his misplaced love for his rebellious son and the treachery of former friends and advisors who forsook him in order to support his son.
It was in this crisis situation, as David and his supporters fled for their lives, that the Psalmist speaks of David remembering his God. He thereby instructs us as well when we find ourselves in the hour of utmost need to remember our God. But what are we to remember? We are to remember who our God is, and what our God has done for us in the past! Our God is the one, true God. He is almighty! With Him all things are indeed possible (cf. Luke 1:37), even when the entire world looks on in doubt and with derision asks, “Where is your God?” Our God is just and will defend His righteous children, while bringing judgment down upon those who would cause them harm. Our God is loving and merciful, heeding the cries of His children and responding to their needs. David could recall the Lord God’s faithfulness in his earlier life when he faced the giant Goliath or when defending his people from numerous enemies. He had lived through previous crises and had afterward ascended into God’s house for worship with his fellow believers. Surely, God would not abandon him now! Even so, we study those stories of David and other biblical heroes in our home devotions, Sunday School, and our Christian Day School. We do well to remember these glorious works of God, for they have a direct application to our lives. “Jesus Christ (the Scriptures say) is the same yesterday, today, and forever!” (Hebrews 13:8) The same God whom David remembered and who then delivered him is the God we must remember in the midst of our trials, for He will deliver us even as He Himself has promised! Consequently, when we find ourselves in the hour of utmost need, let us remember our God!
Let us also, secondly, pray to our God! The Psalmist writes, “Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and billows have gone over me. The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me—a prayer to the God of my life. I will say to God my Rock, "Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
David and those with him were fleeing for their lives. In David’s heart and on his lips were prayers to the Lord God. David was facing the most serious challenge to his throne and his life ever. He compared it to being far out in the midst of a great sea with the waves rolling over his head and being overcome with a fear of drowning. Yet, in his prayer David reminds God of and clings to God’s “lovingkindness!” David was distraught, but he was also hopeful. He had to deal with potential disasters, but he still recognized God as his “Rock!” David, therefore, laid out before God his situation and requested His guidance and blessing.
In the meantime, God was certainly at work elsewhere. Absalom’s armies entered Jerusalem shortly after David’s departure. He established himself as king and then called a council with advisors to consider how best to proceed with their rebellion. Outwardly Absalom appeared to have every advantage. The wisest of David’s counselors, a man by the name of Ahithophel who had gone over to Absalom’s side, suggested following David immediately and destroying his forces as they fled in disarray. Another counselor named Hushai, whom David had planted to counter Ahithophel, advised Absalom to wait and gather all of Israel to ensure a victory when the two armies finally met. Absalom decided to follow Hushai’s advice, which led interestingly enough to Ahithophel’s suicide. What follows in the biblical account are these words, “For the LORD had purposed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring disaster on Absalom” (2 Samuel 17:14b).
My dear friends, when we are in the midst of crises, we are not alone. While we may many times appear and feel quite helpless, God is not standing off somewhere wringing His hands and frustrated by an inability to help. No, just as God was guiding David’s footsteps and orchestrating Absalom’s downfall, so God is very much involved in our lives. When we love Him and seek with determination to follow His will and ways, we can rest assured that He will not only uphold us in the midst of our crises. He can and will deal with an unbelieving world, which opposes us with just judgment, but He will do so in His own time and in His own way. Consequently when we find ourselves in the hour of utmost need—at times fearful and perhaps even wondering where God is, let us turn to our God in prayer trusting in His “lovingkindness” and knowing that He is our “Rock” also.
Finally, when in the hour of utmost need let us praise our God! The Psalmist writes, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance….Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”
The Psalmist here presents a most wonderful thought—a thought, which would be completely unthinkable if not for faith in our living God! In the midst of this most difficult and dangerous of crises, he reminds himself of what we might call the bottom line. The bottom line is that in an crisis, we must place our “hope in God!” Doing so enables us even in the midst of a crisis to praise our God for the help that He must provide us, as He Himself has promised to do.
My dear friends, “hope in God” as you struggle through any problems you are facing. Problems can be of our own making. If your problems are such either entirely or in part, humbly confess your sins before God, knowing that He does not turn His face away from the repentant sinner. Rather He embraces the repentant sinner and assures him or her of His love and forgiveness. Having been thus assured, then seek diligently to follow His will and so to resolve the crisis. If your problems, on the other hand, are the direct result of others, then lay out the problem to your Lord, trusting that He will not only hear, but respond in the best possible way. Do not seek vengeance against your adversary, for the Scriptures are very clear, “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord” (Hebrews 10:30). Strive rather to follow the will of your dear Savior and “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). Heed Paul’s advice, “If your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20-21).
David was willing to place himself entirely in God’s hands, and so should we. We can place our confidence in God for the very reason David could do so—our God loves us. He gave His only begotten and beloved Son to come into this world to save us from the worst crisis any of us could ever face—the fierce judgment of God’s righteous wrath upon sin. He did so not because we deserved such love, for we clearly do not. He did so, however, in view of His grace and mercy. If God provides us with that great gift, can we not depend upon His promises to help us in times of trouble, to defend us from danger, and to preserve our bodies and souls unto eternal glory? Of course we can! WHAT SHOULD WE DO WHEN IN THE HOUR OF UTMOST NEED? Dear friends, let us remember our God, pray to our God, and finally praise our God! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting