Deliverance: Once you experience it, mark it so you won’t ever forget it.
Most Christians are familiar with the dramatic account of God delivering the Jews out of Egypt. But I do wonder, how many feel they actually relate to it. Does reading, hearing (or watching the Disney version) about the crossing of the Red Sea recall the memory of when you were baptized into new life? The crossing of the sea is allusory of Christian Baptism, after all.
There is no mystery to God’s deliverance when we look on the Exodus story. It’s plain to see. It is a very physical, societal, political and geographical deliverance. But it was also very much a spiritual deliverance. And for many people raised in the American subculture of Bible-belt Christianity, we can perhaps relate to that spiritual deliverance, but we haven’t experienced the bondage of slavery like the Jews did. We haven’t experienced the hopelessness and the despair. We haven’t been beaten, or abused, or neglected, or forgotten. We can’t relate to that kind of deliverance.
Now some reading this are thinking loudly to themselves, “Oh, yes I have… I know exactly what it feels like to have no hope – beset by disaster on every side.” You know what it feels like to be abused and to have no one you can trust, no one who will help. There are others who know exactly what it feels like to be living under a lie, constantly paranoid that someone will expose you. And still others who know the pain of going to bed filled with the ache of regret so severe it makes you sick. With shame so overwhelming you can’t breathe. And there are some who have gone to bed at night and not known if there was even one person who cared whether they lived or died.
And you know exactly what it was like for God to break through. You feel it even now, the joy creeping in, because you know – like it seems no one else knows – what the Psalmist meant when he wrote (Psalm 34:4) I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
You’ve felt the warm embrace of the Lord and know in your inner-most that it actually pleases God to come to your rescue! You pray without doubt, Psalm 40:13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me!
Like Isaiah, you have heard Him say your name, call out your name and walk with you through the very fire.
And today, when you face trials of any kind, you don’t hesitate because Psalm 34:17 is not just words in a book but they are a banner written upon your heart: When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.
And it is because of you that I say “bull” to those in our culture who accuse our worship of being shallow – because when you experience genuinely the deliverance of the Lord – you can no more keep yourself from raising your hands and your voice in all abandoned adoration and praise than you can keep your heart from beating!
And there is nothing deceptive in the tears that you cry, because they are tears wrought from real pain, and real distress. And there is no comfort greater than when God wipes away your tears. That is, after all, what He has promised He will do when we are in heaven.
So mark it down – that thing God delivered you from. When you hear this modern secular world say your faith is empty, that your religion is nothing more than some impotent moralistic therapeutic deism – you look back and say, “not my God! There was that thing. That day. That year. That moment. When the Lord of Heaven and Earth broke through and delivered me. I have built my altar, with stones from the river He led me through.”
So wait on the Lord – Still waiting for God’s deliverance in your situation? It may sound trite to hear it again, but pray for God to break through. We don’t know when deliverance will come, or how long we must wait for it – so take comfort in the fact that waiting for God to break through is a common theme in the life of God’s people (read how many Psalms have the phrase “how long, oh Lord…” in it). It’s in the very nature of our Heavenly Father to break through when the time is perfect, rather than when it is convenient for us. Allow yourself to be refined in the waiting.
The above is an excerpt from the sermon entitled “The Cup of God’s Deliverance” – preached in March 2014 at FBC Alexandria’s Encounter Worship Service by Joel Harder, Pastor for Single Adults, Young Adults, College and Career at FBC Alexandria.