— Brother Phil Enlow: How do you…David, I mean, he’s got to be one of the ultimate examples of God getting a man ready to be a king in a pretty difficult time. I mean, the people of Israel were no prize. Spiritually speaking, it was a tough time. And then you had all these heathen people trying to come in and take over. Boy, it was a raw time!
And here’s a young man, that God is grooming for a throne. Did He take him out in the wilderness and say, all right, we’re gonna have perfect peace out here and I’m gonna explain it all to you? His pathway led into some terrible places.
And it seemed like it went from bad to worse. Every time he tried to do right, God took him into a deeper place, a worse place. It just got so horrible he couldn’t even stay in Israel. I mean, you know the story. You know all the things he went through.
Do you think he just got to where he just…did he throw up his hands? God, I tried to trust You but it just isn’t working out. Get somebody else. Or, in the middle of that…I mean, he expressed real emotions, didn’t he? And it’s wonderful that you can say, He’s my shepherd, He leads me in green pastures and beside the still waters. That’s part of it. But what about, “…the valley of the shadow of death…”? (NIV). That’s part of it too.
And David discovered something that you can’t learn in a book. He learned that he could be in that valley, experience all of the emotions of fear, and struggle, everything that we experience as human beings, it came out and it poured out of his heart, sometimes! But he found out that God was still there! God hadn’t gone anywhere. God was faithful! Underneath were the everlasting arms!
That’s what God is doing in so many of us. And it’s different for every one of us. How many times do we see David, struggling? You know, Psalm 13, it’s one of my favorites. But, “How long, O Lord?” How many of you’ve ever prayed that? “How long, O Lord?” Oh God, get…I mean, just tell me what You want me to know and we’ll go on.
It doesn’t work that way. That nature will…it has to be killed. It has to be put to death and there’s only one way we can do it. It’s to make choices. That’s the thing that blesses me about that. He’s praying, he’s pouring out his heart honestly to God. God’s not even…God’s not mad at him for doing that. He knows how we feel.
He says, oh God, how long? Have you forgotten me? But over and over again he will say things like that. Lord, You’ve forsaken me. God, why have you forsaken me? Why do I go about depressed? I forget the words in…was it 42 and 43, something along that line? There’s a scripture that says, “Why must I going about mourning…” Why am I going around mourning? Why is it like it is?
But yet, over and over again you will see him give expressions of praise. Now, how many of you think he just suddenly tapped into a pool of emotion? No! There was no emotion. Every one of us, if we grow at all in Christ, we’re gonna have to come to places where there are no emotions. You will not be able to find what you need to gain any sense of well-being in any part of your being, any part of your experiences. It’s gonna be just you and God.
And what do we do? It isn’t a matter of the feelings that we can muster up under those circumstances. It becomes a choice. That’s something we’ve said many times. Faith is really a choice, isn’t it?
And so, here’s David…the answer has not come yet, but yet he’s saying, yet will I praise God! I will! I’m gonna go ahead and read that one. I mean, there are so many others. You can just skim through the Psalms and see this theme over and over again. There are times when he’s just on cloud nine, just praising God! Isn’t God wonderful? Isn’t this great? He’s faithful in all that He does!
And then he comes along, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.” And he goes on and on, and then finally he says, but! How many of you know how to put those ‘buts’ in there in the proper place?
( laughter ).
Get your ‘buts’ in the right place…no.
( laughter ).
See, you’ll remember it that way.
( laughter ).
“But I trust in your unfailing love….” See, David has learned enough about God to know that God is faithful in every circumstance! You cannot measure your relationship with Him, His love for you, your worthiness or any of those things by your circumstances. God is there in the middle of them! He is using them to accomplish His purpose. And so, he makes a choice. I trust!
That’s what God will take you into the deep valley to bring forth. That’s what real trust is. It’s not something you learn in Sunday School, as wonderful as that is. That can lay the groundwork. But it’s not ours until we’ve experienced that reality, in some fashion, in our lives. God is faithful!
“…I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.” Over and over again! I mean, you see this simple principle of somebody who knows their God.
I mean, the obvious example is when Goliath came out. Now, was the Israelite army ignorant of Jehovah? They knew about Jehovah. They knew all the history. They knew all about what He’d done in Egypt, and all the stuff that had happened in the past. But, there was a giant. And somehow, they didn’t have this personal connection with this God who had done all that stuff. It was just hand-me-down religion to them. Then David comes in and looks at the giant and says, what’s the problem? That’s the Enlow version.
( laughter ).
What’s the problem? Why? How could he do that? How could he do that? He’s a young man, looking at a giant. Every natural circumstance would say, this is ridiculous! You’re no match for him.
Yeah! But he knew something about what the real battle was, didn’t he? And how did he know, this God? He had been in actual circumstances, where he was over his head and he experienced God coming to his help and his rescue. And so, he knew his God. He just didn’t know about Him. He knew Him! Praise God!
You could go on and on, I guess, with these. Look at the other men in the Bible. Abraham, and all the time that he went through, Moses and the things that he had to go through, Daniel, himself…the tests that they were put through. How do men come to a place where they know God?
But here’s the thing. I’m gonna drop this in. We have this expression, I think in modern Christianity, modern Evangelical Christianity, about knowing the Lord. Well, what did they mean by that? They mean somebody that has genuinely been born again. Okay, I know the Lord. End of story. You know, what’s the big deal? I know Him.
And thank God for the covenant that declares that they will all know Me. But yet…how, in the light of that use of ‘knowing’ God, do you account for Paul, at the end of his life saying, “That I may know him…” (KJV). Was Paul unsaved? No! This is an experiential knowledge that we know we need.
It’s fine for us to come in here and experience the…you know, we have our circumstances, we have our challenges, we have our difficulties. They’re heart-rending sometimes. But my God, we don’t have anything like they do in other parts of the world! We couldn’t even meet like this, to start with.
You know, what would you do if, literally, somebody walked up, held a gun to your head and said, will you deny Jesus or not? Yeah! It’s easy to think about, oh, sure. We better have something…something experiential going on in here. This is no time to say, well, that’s the religion my mommy had, I believed it, or my daddy. We’re gonna have to know Him. We’re gonna…and I’ll tell you, we’ve got a God who is faithful to bring us through whatever it takes, to be able to be ready for whatever He has called us to. But we need to understand what He’s doing, don’t we?
( congregational amens ).
I mean, if your life is built around manufacturing and manipulating, I guess is the word, your circumstances so that everything is pleasing to you, in the natural, God’s got some work to do on you, because that’s what you’re trusting in. What happens when the circumstances change? What happens when this evil emperor comes in and starts persecuting followers of God, and desecrating everything? And you see people being killed in front of you. You see all kinds of terrible things happening. Ah, now what?
We’re gonna have to have…we’re gonna have to know our God. We’re gonna have to be able to see that there’s a God who is able to take us into the lowest place. I mean, you can hardly leave out Corrie ten Boom in a story like this. This middle-aged watchmaker lady…trying to serve God in the middle of Holland, and then the Nazis come in.
And she gets involved hiding Jews and winds up in a pit of hell, where ladies were treated like dirt, like garbage, killed. Her own sister died. And she was taken down to the point where when she got out she hardly knew how to use a knife and fork anymore. She was so lost in all of that.
And yet, she was able to look back and say, God brought me through, and He gave me a spirit of forgiveness for those who had done all these things. God took me there. And her testimony was, there is no pit so deep, but God is not deeper still! And God took the testimony of what that simple lady had been through and she carried it around the globe. God had a purpose for her life. Betsy went on to heaven. She carried the message forward. Could she have done that if she hadn’t been through all of that? No.
God has a purpose for us, too. Like I say, you could carry this on and I don’t know that it’s necessary. It’s a pretty obvious…extension, I guess, of what we’ve been talking about. I feel my need in so many areas. There are areas where I have confronted, and I’ve been confronted. I’ve felt bondages and weakness and needs in certain areas of my life. Anybody else?
( congregational response ).
Yeah. Yeah. Every Christian who’s honest…if you’re at all honest with where you’re at, we have needs. We have a God who’s gonna take us around that mountain, as it were, and is gonna say, here you are again, what will you do? Will you look to Me? Will you surrender? Will you trust Me? Will you embrace My Word? Will you see Me in this?
How many of you remember Brother Thomas, so often, using the words of Jesus? “Blessed are the pure in heart: for…” what? “…They shall see God.” That’s not talking about seeing an image. That’s talking about the ability to discern His hand at work, in circumstances, in a broken world. To be able to see Him, yes, when it’s wonderful and His presence is there, and we feel exhilarated, but also to see Him in the deep valley. To see Him where David learned to see Him, even, “…the valley of the shadow of death…” And he learned that he didn’t have to fear.
You know, what is God’s promise in Romans 8? There’s a whole lot of stuff that God’s gonna use to work in every one of us to bring us to this place where we let go of the world and the things that hold us, the things in our own nature that want to hold us! And we learn to let them go! All these things that come against us, that would have the power, if we just gave into them, to take us down. He said there’s not one thing that can, “…separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus…” Not one! “...We are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
Boy, we have, oftentimes, a simplistic view of salvation. It’s just, believe in Jesus and go to heaven. Well, I thank God in one sense it’s that simple, but the reality, the working out of it, we do not reckon on the strength and the hold of this old nature in us. Only God can take us through what it takes, so that we can be people who will stand up on that day of difficulty and challenge, and we know our God!
Goliath doesn’t dismay us. It’s not because we know we’re anybody, but we know Him. We’ve experienced Him in other areas of our lives. I’ve seen Him. I saw Him help me with the bear. I saw Him help me with the lion. I know He’s gonna help me with this. This is His battle, not mine!
( congregational amens ).
That’s what God is seeking to do in every one of us. I think I’ll just recount one story that you’ve probably heard before, and kind of let it go at this. Might be somebody else has something to add, I don’t know. But, in Chicago, in the 1870’s there was a man named Spafford. He was a Christian. He was a friend of evangelist D. L. Moody. He was a lawyer, a good one…one of the good guys. But he was also a businessman.
Somehow, he had had a vision of buying property and…he’d become quite wealthy. And he did have one real trial. He had four beautiful daughters and a son. The son had died, so there was one thing, already, that kind of, was a little bit of a blow to his well-being…this idyllic picture of a rich man, comfortable, friend of an evangelist. Praise God, isn’t this wonderful?
Until Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over the…kicked over the lantern. Well, that was the supposed story of how it happened. I don’t think it was, but nonetheless, the Chicago fire. And all of a sudden, overnight, his wealth, basically, was wiped out, because it was all in real estate, all made out of wood and it all burned! Okay?
And so, on the heels of that…in the aftermath of that, I think, if I remember the story correctly, D. L. Moody was getting ready to hold some meetings over in Europe, and so they were gonna go over. Time to get away from things here in Chicago. We’re gonna make a trip to Europe. And so, his wife and four daughters got on shipboard. At the last minute, he had to stay there to take care of some business.
Now, you know the story, probably most of you. And so they sailed, and out in the middle of the ocean there was a terrible collision between ships. And the ship went down. And somehow, by a miracle, his wife was actually saved. The daughters drowned. And so, she gets to England, finally, by some means, and she sends him a cable. Saved alone, what do I do now? Something to that effect.
And so, he sets out on the journey to join her, gets out on the boat, in the ship, in the middle of the ocean, and the captain calls his attention. He said, this is where it happened. This is where your daughters are today, their bodies, their remains. And somehow, in the midst of that experience…I’ve heard different versions of it, but he went to his cabin…that is as good as any, and he wrote the words, “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.”
And he wrote all those verses out. I mean, you think about a man who’s been through that. We sing that song and it’s wonderful. But you think about the man who learned to see God in that, who triumphed in his heart and his spirit.
Where was he getting his well-being? His wealth? His family? His circumstances? Every bit of it, just about, was taken, except his wife. They did have some more kids. But there he was, facing what to every other human being would have been a tragedy, and yet, in the midst of that, he wrote, “It Is Well with My Soul.”
The fruit of the Spirit is what? Love, joy, peace, patience, long-suffering, patience, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control, seems like I missed one. But all of those things are things that reside where? Are they out here somewhere in our earthly circumstances, or do they reside in the heart?
I’ll tell you, where Jesus reigns, to the degree that He reigns, He brings His love, He brings His peace, He brings all of those things with Him! And that man found his well-being in the presence of Jesus in his heart and in his life.
Later on, he got back to Chicago and Phillip P. Bliss, who was a famous songwriter, Christian songwriter, wrote the hymn that went with that—the hymn tune. Oh, I’ll tell you, we serve a God who will take us through whatever it takes to bring us…you could sound scary. That’s not the point.
But I believe with all my heart, God has a purpose for you living in this time, right now. Every Christian, every believer, He’s got a purpose for you. He hasn’t forgotten about you. You’re not just a bump on a log. You’re not just a digit. You’re not one of His stormtroopers. He’s got a real, personal purpose for you.
And God knows how to prepare us for that. And it isn’t just learning to lay hold of divine stuff. It’s learning how to walk with a divine Person, a living Savior, who’s not just reigning somewhere, but who’s reigning here. And He’s doing what it takes to set us free from the power that grips men in this world. Anybody here need more freedom than you’ve got? Have you arrived? I haven’t.
You know, that brings up one more thought that I meant to really emphasize. You know, we love God on the mountain. We understand that sometimes we need to experience God in the valley so that we know experientially that He’s faithful, that He’ll bring us through. But there’s one valley that we struggle with. How about failure?
That’s one of the big ones. Where is God when I fail? Does He throw me out? I don’t want to just fail. I don’t want to be careless and presumptuous. But I’ll tell you, we have a God who can bring us through failure, and will never leave us nor forsake us. Many times, we’ve got to experience that, like Peter did, before we get it…that I really can’t do this on my own. I’ve got to surrender and humble myself and look to You.
But I’m so thankful today that there’s a God who looks past…who can be my God in the midst of every kind of human experience, and I can come to know Him as a real Person. This isn’t a religion I’m practicing. This is a relationship with a living Savior, who walks with me through life, who brings me through, and who’s got a purpose in my being here.
And it’s not just to make something out of me. He’s got stuff for us to do, too, to be able to help one another and to help others. But we have a God who knows how to take us through this broken world and prepare us so that we can be some of the people who know Him.
So, this has to do with getting ready. This is what God’s doing right now. Every one of us has a future. We don’t know what it’s gonna be. We don’t know how long the Lord’s gonna hold back the winds. One day, I don’t know whether it’s gonna happen in my generation or not. I do not know the time frame or not, but I know that there’s a God who’s getting us ready to stand in a dark hour. He is faithful. He will never leave us nor forsake us.
But I want to be one that learns. I don’t want to be one who just blunders through and muddles through and thinks, well, I know God, I’m good. I want to ‘know’ Him, and I’m gonna let Him take me through what it takes to know Him. He is faithful. To Him be the glory! Praise God!