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When Your World is Shaken

Tom Pennington Psalm 46:1-2


Yesterday, in the afternoon, I was sitting in my home office finishing up my message on the next paragraph in 1 John. Sheila arrived home from running some errands and told me that she just heard on the radio that the Ukrainian city of Irpin was under heavy shelling. Irpin is a kind of sister city to Kiev. I have friends from Grace Church in California who serve there. I've tried to reach them and haven't been able to. I have taught at a Irpin seminary and enjoyed my fellowship with the believers there. I've taught in churches in Irpin and I immediately, when I heard that, became even more heavy-hearted, praying for our brothers and sisters there in the Ukraine. Not only in Irpin, but in so many cities around and it just became suddenly clear to me - no revelations from God, I don't believe in that, as you know - but it suddenly became clear to me that that we could all benefit from some perspective, from stepping back and looking at what's going on in our world. And so, that's what I want to do this morning. We've all been horrified by the images and the videos that we have seen non-stop through the last couple of weeks. And those of us who are older or who are students of history hope that it isn't true, but we understand that what's going on in Ukraine could eventually be the brink of a much greater conflict. And so, it's important for us, I think, as believers to step back and think Biblically about this and to, sort of, reorient our minds and our trust in our sovereign God. You see, the events that are unfolding in Europe shouldn't surprise us.

We live in a fallen, broken world. That's true because of human sinfulness. I couldn't help but think, as I have watched some of the crimes against humanity committed by President Putin of Russia and those with him, watching that unfold thinking it's a living illustration on an international scale of Romans, chapter 3 and the depravity of the human heart where human beings leave a trail of destruction in their wake. But this world is also broken because it's been subjected by God Himself to the curse. As Paul puts it to the Romans, we live in an entire universe that's been subjected to futility because of the curse, because of human sinfulness, the world as a whole and each of our lives are filled with danger and trouble. Job puts it this way in Job 5:7, "man is born for trouble as the sparks fly upward." As the sparks from a campfire will go up, it's just as true that we were born for trouble. Job 14:1, "man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil." Think about even our Lord Jesus Christ during the days of His incarnation. He wasn't exempt from trouble and trials. In Luke 22:28, He speaks of His disciples as, "those who have stood by Me in my trials." Hebrews 5:8 says, "although our Lord was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered." We shouldn't expect to be exempt from trouble in this life. But how exactly can we respond to trouble in a godly, Biblical way?

Ten years ago, my wife Sheila was diagnosed with breast cancer and in those days, as she went through the treatment, there was one passage that the Lord used to comfort us most of all. In fact, I preached a sermon on that passage then and it's still where my mind often goes for comfort. It's where I want us to turn this morning. Psalm 46.

I know some of you ladies were studying through this Psalm personally this week because of the women's ministry. But today, I want all of us to study it together. Let me read it for us. Psalm 46, and I'll begin with the title and then we'll read through the Psalm.

For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to Alamoth. A Song.

God is our refuge and strength,

A very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change

And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;

Though its waters roar and foam,

Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

The holy dwelling places of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;

God will help her when morning dawns.

The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;

He raised His voice, the earth melted.

The Lord of hosts is with us;

The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,

Who has wrought desolations in the earth.

He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;

He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;

He burns the chariots with fire.

"Cease striving and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

The Lord of hosts is with us;

The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

Now, you'll notice, even as I read that, that there are three stanzas in this Psalm: verses 1-3, verses 4-7, verses 8-11. And those stanzas are each marked at the end with the word "Selah" - consider this, meditate on this.

Now, look first at the title of this Psalm. It says, "For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to Alamoth. A Song." Notice, first of all, this song was written by the sons of Korah. Those are the Levites God designated to lead the temple worship music and it was written specifically for the choir director. That means that it was intended for the public worship of God's people. "Set to Alamoth," is used only here in the psalms. The word alamoth can refer to girls and so, it's possible that this song was to be sung by high female voices. Or it could be referring to a higher setting of a well-known tune. Or possibly, even the high-pitched instruments. As far as the circumstances of Psalm 46, we really don't know why it was written. However, based on the second half of the psalm, most scholars believe that it was probably written after a great military victory over some foreign power. Some even suggest that it was the victory over the Assyrians in Sennacherib, you remember, when God defeated them. Possibly, this occurred after a failed attempt to besiege the city of Jerusalem. But regardless of its setting, Psalm 46 is a psalm of trust. It declares God to be completely and utterly trustworthy - especially when our lives are shaken, when our lives are turned upside down by our circumstances. In fact, notice in verse 1, the key phrase there is, "in trouble." That's really the setting of this psalm. The Hebrew word originally describes something that was narrow, tight, restrictive like a mountain pass or a road where only one person could pass at a time. Eventually, it came to describe the narrowness that you feel in distress, the pressure that you feel in trouble. It describes the personal anguish that we encounter in difficult and trying circumstances. This word is used in 2 Samuel 1 of what you feel at the death of a close friend. So, the psalmist here isn't talking about discovering that there's no money left on your Starbucks gift card, you know. He's talking about times when your circumstances are constricting and confining, when you find yourself literally between a rock and a hard place, when you don't see how it is you're going to survive or how you're going to escape, when you find yourself thinking - and we've all been there at times – "I just don't know if I can do this," when life is pressing in on every side and you don't feel like you can move or even breathe. There are many in our church family who find themselves in trouble this morning. Some are without jobs. Many are struggling with cancer. Some are facing death - either for themselves or for those they love. I don't know what kind of trouble you're in this morning, what kind of tight place that takes your breath away, but it's what the psalmist is talking about.

Now, the psalmist here identifies two sources of such disasters in our lives. In verses 1-3, he describes natural disasters, like catastrophic disasters such as earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, hailstorms; or they may be personal disasters linked to the natural world like fire or flood that destroys our home, or some physical problems such as cancer, stroke, heart attack, someone we love is diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's or some other debilitating disease. So, versus 1-3 are really dealing with the sort of natural world natural disasters but, beginning in verse 4 running down through verse 11, we're talking about man-made disasters. In fact, in verses 4-7, the psalmist is describing an army attacking his people and putting the city of Jerusalem under siege. And in verses 8-11, he describes the entire world, as they knew it, at war. So, these man-made disasters could be national disasters or they could be international disasters. They could be things such as riots and coos that affect individual countries, or they could be wars and genocide or World War 3. Or the man-made disasters may be much more personal like violent crime committed against you or someone you love abuse, hatred, anger, accidents or persecution. What I want you to see is that, in the end, this Psalm addresses all potential disasters that come into our lives - natural or man-made.

Whether we're talking personal disaster, national disaster, or international disaster like we have seen over the last couple of weeks. If the war in Ukraine becomes a much wider conflict, if the next 9/11 happens, if the next Pearl Harbor happens, if the stock market falls and you lose all of your retirement, if one of your children gets terribly sick or dies, or desserts the faith, or you or someone you love is diagnosed with cancer or some other trouble comes into your life as it can in countless ways like it did ten years ago for Sheila and me when we got news of her cancer, regardless, it is to this psalm that your mind should come as mine did when we received that news. When disaster strikes, whatever form it takes, this psalm teaches us how to think and how to respond.

It was written thousands of years ago, but the same great truths about God that supported the psalmist are still our ark of safety in the middle of life's greatest storms. What the psalmist wants us to see is that whatever trouble comes, our true security is in God and in God alone and not in anything but God and not in anything in addition to God. The stress in this psalm is on the factual statements about God and who He is, rather than our faith. In other words, the bedrock of our confidence, our hope in times of trouble is not our faith, it is not our trust, but God's trustworthiness.

Now, the first stanza of the psalm is all I want us to look at this morning and it presents three great truths about God - three great truths on which we can base our confidence when we find ourselves or our world in trouble. Let's look at them together.

The first great truth that should be the bedrock of our faith is God's protection. God is our refuge. He is our refuge. Look at verse 1. "God is our refuge." Every one of those words is so precious. The Hebrew word for refuge means "a shelter." In the Old Testament, the word is used of a fortress, of a walled city, of a high mountain or of a shelter - whatever it is that you use from a storm. For example, in Isaiah 46, the prophet talks about a shelter to give shade from the heat by day and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain. So, a refuge, then, is somewhere you can be where danger can't reach you. That's the point: somewhere where danger can't reach you. And notice, God is our shelter. Now, the psalmist uses a similar word to this word refuge as well, a similar Hebrew word. Notice verse 7. "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold." Down in verse 11, he repeats that, "the God of Jacob is our stronghold." That Hebrew word stronghold means "a place that is inaccessibly high." It describes a fortress that's built on a cliff or a mountain often surrounded with high walls. When it's used metaphorically, as it is here, it describes a place of safety, that one's enemies can never get to. In the ancient world before there were air forces, you built your defense on the top of a highest point you could reach and then you built walls and you were safe because the enemy couldn't get to you. That was your refuge. Well here, God is our refuge.

During the early evening of August 17, 1969, Hurricane Camille unleashed her full fury on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The eye of that huge storm with its two hundred plus mile-an-hour winds passed over Pass. Christian, Mississippi. The storm surge was 24 feet high. We drove through there a couple of weeks later and saw barges sticking out of third-floor windows. Two hundred fifty-six people died that night. Forty-five miles away, on the west side of Mobile - not far from the Mississippi border - as a young boy, I huddled with my family in our little nine hundred square foot home. Beginning earlier that morning, bands of wind and rain had begun to come ashore and each band that came came with more intense rain, with higher gusts of wind, by late afternoon, you couldn't really go outside and by early evening, the core of this massive hurricane had arrived. It didn't take long for us to lose electrical power. So, we all gathered around our dining room table and a kerosene lantern and my dad tuned the radio as best he could to pick up snatches of news, what was happening around us. I'll never forget the massive fury of that storm. For six hours we sat there hardly able to hear one another because of the constant cry of the wind. Several times, there were explosions of power transformers nearby. Many times, we heard what we later learned were the sound of trees snapping and falling. As a nine-year-old boy, it seemed almost like the end of the world. But I eventually fell asleep at about 2 a.m. and when I awoke the next morning, sunlight streaming in the window, the storm had passed. I had survived. For me and my family, our little home had been the refuge from the storm. We learned the next morning that that refuge came close to failing us, but a refuge it was.

As believers, we have a shelter that will never fail us because it is the person of God Himself. He is our refuge, our shelter from the storm. Sometimes God protects us from the danger. Sometimes God protects us within the danger. Sometimes He, for His own purposes, allows us to experience the full fury of the danger. And sometimes, He even rescues us from the danger by using that very danger to take us into His loving presence. Regardless, He is always our refuge. Christian, if you belong to the Lord, if you have repented and believed in Jesus Christ, then no matter what trouble comes into your life. He is your refuge. He is the place that danger can never reach you, except the danger that He Himself has approved and allows for His own purposes. Nothing will get to you, in God, that He has not determined.

But in what sense is God our refuge? I mean, it's not like we can fall into God's arms. In what sense is He our refuge? It's the truth about God. Here's a verse that, if you don't know it, you need to know, you need to memorize it, you need to mark it in your Bible. Its Proverbs 18:10. "The name of the LORD is a strong tower." "The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe." In other words, God is our refuge in the sense that as we go through the troubles and storms of this life, it's those truths that He's revealed about Himself, His name, His character, that becomes our place of safety. It's what we know about God. Listen, your circumstances may not change. They may get worse. But one thing that will always be true is you trust in an unchanging God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And the truths about Him are the strong tower in which we find refuge in the midst of the storm.

Although God is our refuge, we have to own that reality for it to become a source of comfort and encouragement. In other words, God is our refuge, but if we don't understand and know that, if we don't own that, if we don't rehearse those truths, then He is not going to be the refuge that He could be. We're not going to experience the benefit of that in the same way. Psalm 73:28 puts it this way, "I have made the Lord GOD my refuge." "I have made the Lord GOD my refuge." How do you make God your refuge? He is our refuge. How do you make that reality in your life so that you really experience the full benefit of God as your refuge? Turn to Psalm 62. Psalm 62 explains. Verse 7, "on God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God." How do we find that refuge? The next verse answers. "Trust in Him at all times, O people; and pour out your hearts before Him; God is a refuge for us." There it is. That's how you make God your refuge. There're two very basic ways. Verse 8 begins with, "trust in Him at all times, O people." In other words, put your active trust in His providence. Rehearse who He is and trust who He is and what He's accomplishing. Trust His providence and, in the middle of that, pour out your heart to Him in prayer. That's how He becomes a refuge for you in the middle of the storm. So put your trust in Him. When your world is shaken, remember that God is your refuge. He is an inaccessible place of safety so put your trust in Him. Put your trust in who He is, and His name, and His character, and demonstrate that trust by pouring your heart out to Him in the middle of the storm. So, God is a refuge in trouble. He is our protection.

But there's a second truth about God that makes Him our fortress in time of trouble, and that is: His provision. Verse 1 says, "God is our refuge and strength." He is our refuge and strength. This word strength is used throughout the psalms of God's omnipotence. In fact, if you're still in Psalm 62, look at verse 11. "Once God has spoken; twice I have heard this: that" - here's our word – "power belongs to God." Strength belongs to God. So, this word describes the omnipotence of God, the fact that there is inherent in God unlimited power. When we talk about God's omnipotence, we mean God can do whatever He wants to do. God's ability to do what He wants is only restrained by two things. One: His character. He is never going to act contrary to His character. And two: His will. If it's consistent with His character, and it's what He decides, He never lacks the power to do it. Can you imagine that? That's who God is. Now, what we're saying, then, by "strength" is we're talking about the power of God that can overcome all opposition, that can do whatever God chooses to do. Now, go back to Psalm 46. I want you to notice in verse 1 that in our trouble, God doesn't give us strength. He is our strength. He infuses us with His own personal strength. That's the point.

I remember in Hebrew class - I don't remember if it was first or second year of Hebrew class in seminary - but I remember our professor wanting to show us how wonderful it was to be able to get into the Hebrew and see the truths that were there. And he took us to Isaiah 40:31, a familiar verse, "those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary." And he landed on that expression, "will gain new strength," and he had us go in our Hebrew lexicons to the Hebrew word that's there. And what we discovered is in the lexicon we were using, the word is not "to gain new" but "to exchange." To exchange your strength. In other words, instead of your weak, puny strength, God exchanges your weak, puny strength for His own and that's what the promise is here in Psalm 46. You see, refuge speaks of God protecting us from external danger, but strength speaks of God working inside of us in the middle of that danger, in the middle of that trouble empowering us who are weak with His own strength to be able to endure the trouble. It's like when Paul talked about, in 2 Corinthians 12, where, you remember, he asked God three times to remove the thorn in the flesh, the trial that he was enduring. And God said no. The Lord said, "no, I'm not going to do that." And He said, "My grace is sufficient for you." And then He said this: "My strength is made perfect in" – what? – "your weakness." In other words, I'm going to replace your weakness with My strength. That's exactly what the psalmist is saying here.

Can I ask you this morning? I want you to think about your own heart. Is there some circumstance that you fear? Is there some circumstance that really makes you afraid? Maybe it's a wider conflict in Europe. Maybe it's cancer. Maybe it's losing your retirement. What is it you fear? And as you think about that – or, maybe you find yourself in the middle of something that you've feared and you're there - as you think about that, how do you find the strength to deal with that circumstance, to endure it? That's the question we really have. It's not even being afraid of the thing, it's: what's going to happen to me? How am I going to handle that? How is it going to work out? And am I going to be able to deal with it? And, let me just tell you, the answer to that question is: no. You will not be able to deal with it, and neither will I, but the good news is: if you belong to God through Jesus Christ, He will empower your weakness with His strength and it doesn't matter what He brings into your life. It doesn't matter what it is you fear, what it is you think you will never be able to handle. It's true. You will not be able to handle it. But in the midst of that trouble, our gracious God becomes our strength and you will be able to handle it, not because of who you are, but because of who He is. He is our strength.

There's a third great truth about God that's the source of our confidence in trouble and is His presence. His presence. God is our present help. Look at verse 1 again. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." When we find ourselves in that narrow, constricting place of trouble, God is immediately present. He is instantly and constantly available to His people. I love Psalm 23, verse 4. A familiar verse. "Yay, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil." Why? "Because" – what? – "You are with me." You know what the psalmist was saying, what David was saying is: "God, if You take me as my Shepherd through the darkest valleys of this life - whatever those valleys might be - as I walk through those valleys, whatever it is, I don't have to be afraid and the reason I don't have to be afraid is because You are with me." You believe that? You believe whatever trouble you find yourself in today that God has not abandoned you? He's promised. I love Hebrews 13:5. "Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have." You say, "what if I lose everything?" Well, you know what? That's okay, because - listen to this – "for He Himself has said, 'I will never desert you nor will I ever forsake you'"

By the way, this is one of the main points of the psalm. He stresses it here in the first verse of the first stanza. He comes back to it in the refrain of both the second and third stanzas. Look down at verse 7. "Yahweh of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold." He is with us. Look at verse 11. "The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold." Look at those two names in those verses. First of all, "the Lord of hosts." You see the word "LORD" in all caps. That's Yahweh. That's God's personal name. "Yahweh" - literally, - "of armies." It's talking about the resources God has at His disposal. The God who has one hundred million plus angels in His army and infinite resources at His disposal is with us. That's the point. He's with us. To that name, the psalmist adds another, notice, in both verse 7 and 11, "the God of Jacob." That's God's covenant name. That's the covenant God of His people. He's the God of individuals. He's redeemed people to Himself. He's the God of Jacob. He's the God of Tom, the God of Sheila. He's the God of all of those who put their trust in Him. Calvin points out that these two names remind us ultimately of where our faith rests: the infinite power of God, "the LORD of hosts," the LORD of armies, and the fatherly love of God for His own. He is, "the God of Jacob." He goes on to say where those two are joined - trust in God's power and trust in God's fatherly love - where those two are joined, our faith can trample every enemy of our souls. It's like Romans 8:31. Paul says, "if God is for us, who can be against us?" That's the point.

Notice back in verse 1 of our text that God is not only present, but He's present to help. The Hebrew word for help is a word you know. It's the name Ezra. It means "to provide support or assistance for someone who's weak and helpless." Our God is present to help but notice, He is "a very present help in trouble." Now, here's one of those cases where I love the picture of the Hebrew language. Listen, let me read it to you literally from the Hebrew text. Literally, "a help in troubles. He has let Himself be found in abundance." There are two ideas there, in the Hebrew. One is that God is ready and willing to be found. You find yourself in trouble, He's ready for you to find Him. He's willing, eager for you to come to Him, to seek Him. And the other is that when you come to Him, He has more than enough power to help, "in abundance." In every situation - when war breaks out in Europe, when world war threatens, when you find yourself in trouble as an individual, when your life has turned upside down, when it feels like you're in the middle of a personal earthquake - when it feels like God has abandoned you, don't believe it. He's promised not to abandon you. He is still present to help. He is very present in His help. Psalm 145:18, "The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth."

So, how do we respond? How should we respond to the knowledge of who God is to us in the middle of our trouble? How should the truths we've just seen - the truth that God is our refuge, our strength, a very present help in trouble - how should that equip and help us? Look at verses two and three. "Therefore, we will not fear." And then he goes on. "Though the earth should change and though mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride." The picture in these verses is a devastating earthquake, an event that's familiar in that part of the world. But the psalmist here goes beyond a normal earthquake and he pictures the worst possible outcome, an earthquake so devastating that it changes the topography of the land and even causes a portion of the land to fall into the sea. The psalmist says that if the two things in our world that seem most dependable, most immovable - the earth and the mountains - if they are shaken, we are still secure. If the entire created order begins to collapse around us, we still don't need to be afraid. Even if our personal world is entirely shaken, if the political world in which we live is completely turned upside down, because God is our refuge, our strength, and our very present help in trouble, "therefore, we will not fear." Why? Because we know He's in control. You see, that is the clear theological foundation of this psalm. Your trouble, the trouble in our world while individuals are sinning creating the issues in our world and God will hold them individually and personally responsible, God is on His throne and He is shaping even the wrath of men to praise Him. He is in control of all things.

Your trouble is a perfect part of His perfect plan. It's part of His sovereign plan for you. Look down at verse 10. "'Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'" Cease striving. The Hebrew is "let go." Let it be. Relax. Stop looking for help and comfort somewhere but God. How can you relax? How can you relax in the middle of a storm? How can you relax in the middle of war? How can you relax in the middle of the worst of life's circumstances? Remember that He is the sovereign God. Notice, "'cease striving and know that I am God.'" "I'm in charge. This isn't random. Know that I am God. Remember that I am sovereign over all things. And remember that I have a comprehensive plan that I'm working out." Look at the rest of the verse. "I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." God says, "listen, it looks like this is not going to happen, it looks like the worst is happening, it looks like My name is being trampled, My people are being killed. It looks like those I love are suffering the worst in this world." He says, "I will be exalted in the earth. I have a plan and I'm working that plan out. So, trust Me."

Often the middle of our trouble - our own trouble, or that of those we love, or the trouble of the world at large – we're tempted to doubt God's wisdom. Now, don't get me wrong. We would never say that out loud. And sometimes we wouldn't even say that in our own minds. But the truth is, when we question God's providence in our lives, when we question circumstances, we're really questioning God's wisdom. What we're really saying is something like this: "Listen. Okay, I get it. God's trying to do what's good in my life, and He's trying to accomplish worthy goals, but the means He's chosen are simply not the best to reach those goals. I know God is trying to make me like Jesus Christ but, if I were God, I would never have sought to do it this way. I think I could have found a better way to accomplish God's purpose in my life."

Not long after I became a Christian, I read A.W. Tozer's book "The Knowledge of the Holy" and I've never forgotten what he wrote there about God's wisdom. Listen to this. This is Tozer. "Wisdom, among other things, is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve those ends by the most perfect means. All God's acts are done in perfect wisdom. Not only could His acts not be better done: a better way to do them could not be imagined." You believe that? You believe that not only the ends God is trying to accomplish in your life and in the life of the world are good ends, but do you also believe that God is wise enough to determine the best means to reach those ends and that those things are working out?

Other times, it's not His wisdom without but His goodness. Again, we would never say that out loud and many times we wouldn't even think it, but that is really what we're thinking. We're tempted to look at our circumstances and complain that something like this: "if I were God, I would be too compassionate to put me or those I love through the circumstance." How did Job respond when he lost everything in a day? Job 1:21-22.

He said, "naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked. I shall return there. Yahweh gave and Yahweh has taken away. Blessed be the name of Yahweh." Through all of this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.

You see, he responded with the same trust as the psalmist in Psalm 46. "Cease striving and know that I am God, and I will be exalted in the earth, and I will be exalted in your life."

Psalm 46 was a favorite Psalm of the reformer Martin Luther. Now, when I mention men of the past, I just need to say that they were not perfect men. They were flawed men God used and Luther was one of the more flawed of them. But in God's goodness, He used him to bring the truth of the gospel back into the church. The most difficult year of Luther's life, which 1527 he had served by that time as the key leader of the Reformation for ten years, but in 1527, while he was preaching on April 22, he was suddenly overcome with dizziness and had to stop. Symptoms were so severe that he feared he was dying. He got over it, and a couple months later on July 6, he was having dinner with some friends and the symptoms return, forcing him to lie down. Again, he believed that death was near. Adding to his concern was the fact of known heart problems and severe intestinal issues. But it wasn't just physical, it was a spiritual struggle about what was going on in his life as well. Listen to how he described that time. "I spent more than a week in death and hell. My entire body was in pain, and I still tremble. Completely abandoned by Christ, I labored under the vacillations and storms of desperation and blasphemy against God." In other words, in the midst of the trouble he was tempted in these ways. That very same year, the plague swept across Germany and into Wittenberg. Many left the city, but Luther and his wife Katie felt it was their duty to stay and to care for the sick and dying, even as some of our brothers and sisters are doing in Ukraine today, some pastor friends. They stayed although Katie was pregnant with their second child. They transformed their home into a hospital and, sadly, they watched many of their dear friends die of the plague. Suddenly, their one-year-old son, Hans, became violently ill. Luther tells us that as he was surrounded by and threatened by death on every side, he found his only refuge in the character of God. Psalm 46 was the foundation of this confidence in God and the lessons that he learned from this great psalm during that time in his life eventually gave us one of the most beloved songs of the Reformation, "A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing." Listen, Christian, when your world is shaken, God is your refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.

Now, let me say that if you're here this morning and you have never repented of your sins and put your faith in Jesus Christ, that God is not your refuge. He is not your strength. He is not your help. In fact, He says He is your enemy. At the same time, He's a gracious, loving God who has given His Son as the reconciliation between you and Him and He pleads with you. This is what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5, "I beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." Be reconciled to God. You see, God sent His Son into the world to live the life you were supposed to have lived, to live a perfect life of obedience to God - the life I was supposed to live - and then to die, not for His own sins, but to die satisfying God's justice for the sins of everyone who would ever believe in Him. And then God raised Him from the dead. If you will acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, if you repent of your sin and put your faith in Him, then the truths we've talked about this morning becomes yours. God becomes your refuge, even from His own wrath against your sin. He becomes your strength. He becomes your very present help in trouble. I plead with you this morning to see God for who He is - a gracious Creator who has made reconciliation possible and pleads with you to be reconciled to Him through His Son. Romans 5 then comes into play. Having been justified, having been declared right with God, even our tribulations in this life we can rejoice in because we know they don't separate us from God's love.

For most of us here, we've already come to know Jesus Christ. We've already come to know God through Jesus Christ. Don't ever forget, in the middle of your trouble, whether it's worldwide trouble or whether it's your own personal storm, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for these great truths about Yourself. Lord, we find our world in turmoil. Our hearts are broken because of what's happening in the Ukraine. Lord, we find so much unsettledness in our own country and beyond. Lord, many individuals here are in the midst of their own personal storm. Lord, I pray that the truths we've considered today would be their confidence - the truth about You. Lord, our confidence is not in our trust, but it's in Your trustworthiness. It's in who You are, Lord, Your name, the truths about You, Your character. They are a strong tower. Help us as Your people to run into that tower and find safety. Lord, I pray for those who are here this morning, who don't know You. May, even today, they be reconciled to You through Your Son, through His life, death, and resurrection as they repent and believe in Him. Thank you, Father, that You never turn any repentant heart away. May they plead with You, even now. In Jesus' name, amen.