Confidence in Crisis | May 23-24, 2020
Series: Forget Not
Introduction: DK Kim – 0:00-1:17 / 10:12-13:08
Sermon: Steve Bang Lee – 18:46-49:24
Welcome to Mariners Church Online. I’m so glad that you made the time to join us. Today, we’re going to worship God, hear an amazing message from our College Pastor, Steve Bang Lee. And we all love Bang and the wisdom that he brings. Plus, he’s a fellow Laker fan, so that shows you that he knows some stuff.
Before all of that though, we want to take some time to acknowledge and remember that the freedoms we enjoy in this country came at an immense cost. This Memorial Day weekend, we remember the men and women of the military who paid the highest price. They laid down their lives, so that you and I, amongst other things, can worship freely and enjoy the blessings that God has given us. On behalf of our church, I want to say that we have not forgotten. And to the military families who have lost loved ones, we remember the sacrifice, and we are so grateful.
As a thankful people today, we worship God because Jesus came and gave us freedom as He laid down His life, paid the price for our sin and death. So today, wherever you’re joining us from, I want to invite you to sing out loud with us and worship the God who set us free.
God’s love is so amazing. His love has no bounds, has no limits. And that’s good news for you and me because our love has limits, and my love has limits. Nothing reminds me of this fact more than when I homeschool my kids. Can I get an “Amen”? I know there are parents out there who are resonating with this, and I just want to say, we’re going to make it! You and I, we’re going to make it because God’s love will carry us, and He’s good and He’s faithful.
But God’s love truly is great because He sent His Son Jesus to Earth to be our rescue. And Jesus in His time on Earth came to serve us. That’s how He demonstrated His love. He said that He came to serve and not to be served. He said that if we want to be great in the Kingdom of God, we must learn to be the servants of all. And I do want to say, Mariners Church, you have been great.
You have been great in how you’ve expressed the love of Jesus to our cities and our communities. The way that you have stepped up to meet the needs that have risen during this time, it’s truly been remarkable, and we are so proud. Whether it’s been you making prayer phone calls to be alongside people, donating supplies, providing meals, delivering goods, supporting our local hospitals, you’ve been amazing. And I thank you. Thank you.
For those of you who have not had the opportunity to serve just yet, I want to invite you today to take your next step. And the way you do that is by typing “Connect”, texting that to the number below.
Want to Help?
Text “Connect” to 949-267-3131
And as you do that, you will find out more about the Community Care Team. The Community Care Team is your first step to stepping into all that God is doing, and we will follow up with you, give you all the information you need.
Before we continue in our worship, would you join me in praying. Praying that God would enlarge in our hearts of service, that He would strengthen us, and that the world would know who He is by our actions. So, let’s pray together.
God, we come to You today. And we’re so grateful that You set the greatest example. You said to be great, we must serve. And God, You modeled that for us. Jesus, we’re so grateful for your sacrifice. We’re so grateful for Your love that never ends. And God, I pray that You would continue to mobilize the people of Your church, that we would step into the places that need You most, that You will bring about resources and provision. And that You would strengthen your workers, so that we would run and not grow weary, that we would continue to find our strength in You, Jesus. And through our love, through our service, I pray that the world would come to know the one, true living God. May we be Your hands and feet, and may You work and move in and through us, God. We love You, Jesus, and we worship You. We worship You for who You are, for all that You’ve done. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
There is no name more wonderful, beautiful or powerful than the Name of Jesus. Amen? Mariners, it is so great to be with you this weekend.
A few years ago, my wife and I took our, then, two children, to a toddler friendly amusement park called Adventure City. Now I just want to point out, I told my wife, “Hun, they’re so little, why don’t we just go to the Spectrum at Irvine because when we’re there, they think that we’re at Disneyland anyways.” But I digress, we went to Adventure City.
But when we got there, my firstborn son, Isaiah, he was so excited. He was so ecstatic. I mean, his eyes were huge. He could not stop talking, as he was pointing out all the things that he was seeing. He was so excited to be there until his eyes saw a roller coaster. He wanted to get on that roller coaster.
Now, I should probably clarify at this time that he was three years old at this time. And before you judge me for taking a three-year-old on roller coaster, I want you to know, it was a smallest roller coaster I had ever seen. I mean, it was a ride for ants. It was not intimidating at all. Besides, this was going to be my first experience as a young father to be on a roller coaster ride with his firstborn son. So selfishly, I was going to do it.
Well, when we got on the ride, I soon discovered that maybe this ride was going to be a little bit bumpier than I had initially thought. I learned this because I tried to take a video in a picture, like a good millennial would, but I couldn’t because the ride was so bumpy I felt like I was going to drop my phone. But secondly, I looked over at my son, Isaiah’s, face and I noticed that he was no longer smiling. There was actually fear in his eyes. It’s kind of cute. But he had this look that said, “I am in crisis right now.” And after that first drop, it was a little drop like three feet, it was nothing, he looked over at me, and he said, “Dad, is this almost over yet?” In fact, he kept asking that question over and over and over again, “Dad, is this going to be over soon? Dad, when is this over?”
His first roller coaster ride led to his first existential crisis. And I want you to know, Isaiah is okay now. He’s doing great in school, he’s making friends, he’s doing yoga. He’s in a really good place right now. But I share this because for the last few months, it’s really been for all of us a rollercoaster ride. There’s been emotional ups and downs, there’s been unexpected twists and turns. There’s been emotional financial twists and turns. We’ve experienced the unforeseen activities of canceled and switched plans and it’s led us to wonder, man, when is this going to end?
It’s been a unique challenge for all of us, and a really painful time for some of us. And as we’re all trying to ride this out as best as possible, it’s possible that this crisis may have actually led to another crisis. Not one that’s taking place externally, but maybe one that’s taking place internally, in our minds, really in our emotions and in our hearts.
Where on the one hand, we know the right things about God. We know intellectually that God is faithful and true, and that he’s a good God. But yet on the other hand, we look at the circumstances around us, the pain that’s in our lives and we’re struggling to reconcile the God that we know to be true with the circumstances that are also true and we may be wondering, “God, where are You right now? God, are You still faithful? Do You care? Do You see what’s happening right now?” If that’s you, I want you to know you are not alone.
There are others right now who are asking the exact same thing, and this is a question that Christians have actually asked throughout history. In fact, this is a question that is so ruthlessly, honestly asked by the psalmist that we see in our passage today in Psalm 77. When we come into our psalm, we’re not told what the exact circumstance or the crisis is. But what we do know is that it created in him an emotional crisis. We know this because when we come just to the first few verses, we can see just how much he is wrestling with this. Notice his words, just even in verse 1.
The Psalmist says this (Psalm 77:1-9), “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. I sought the Lord in my day of trouble. My hands were continually lifted up all night long; I refused to be comforted. I think of God; I groan; I meditate; my spirit becomes weak. You have kept me from closing my eyes; I am troubled and cannot speak. I consider days of old, years long past. At night I remember my music; I meditate in my heart, and my spirit ponders. “Will the Lord reject forever and never again show favor? Has his faithful love ceased forever? Is his promise at an end for all generations? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
Can’t you just feel the internal wrestling match that’s taking place in his heart? On the one hand, it’s pretty clear that he believes the right things about God. I mean, this is why early in the text, he says, “I cry aloud to God, aloud, and He will hear me.” He runs to God. He says that he will see God in the day of trouble. He knows that God is the kind of being that, that he can turn to. And yet because of the circumstances, on the other hand, when he thinks about God, it actually pains him. He groans. When he reflects on the works of God, he loses strength. In fact, he hasn’t been able to sleep.
Much like how many of us have been losing sleep these days and months, he’s wrestling here, and we really know this because he follows up with six questions. Six questions: God, where are you? Are you going to reject me forever? Are you never again going to show favor? My son, Isaiah, he just asked one question on the roller coaster ride that he was in. But this psalmist in just three verses he asks six questions from the roller coaster that he’s experiencing.
This psalmist, he’s experiencing what I would call a theological crisis. A theological crisis is where we know the God that we know to be true on the one hand, and yet we struggle to reconcile the circumstances that are also true on the other hand. His external circumstances of crises has created in him a theological crisis. And I want you to know that this guy, he was no Bible slouch. He’s probably one of those guys that knew everything about the details in the Bible, like you know those Bible nerds that are always wanting to have Bible trivia to show off how much they know? It’s kind of like, “All right, we’re done with Jenga. Anyone want to play Old Testament history?” He was that guy.
We know this because a lot of the psalms, they’re actually written anonymously. This psalm, it was not written anonymously. The author is someone named Asaph. Now, Asaph, for the people of God in the Old Testament, the Israelites, he was a song leader for them. He did for Israel back then kind of what DK, and Colby and Darris do for us at Mariners today. He was a worship leader for them. But secondly, he was of the Levitical family that shared in the responsibilities of helping prepare the sacrifices that took place at the temple.
In other words, Asaph, he came from a really rich spiritual heritage. He was almost like a pastor’s kid who came from multiple generations of pastors. And yet it’s this guy, Asaph, he’s the one saying, “God, where are you right now? Where are you?” How does Asaph move forward from this place? And how do we? How do we, who may be asking God the same challenging questions, how do we who are doubting who are struggling here and wrestling internally, how do we move forward? And how do we really move forward in a way where we can have trust and confidence in God, even in the midst of crisis, no matter what’s going on?
Well, I think we got a clue from this psalm because Asaph gives us an example. And to see this example, we have to first acknowledge what Asaph does not do. Asaph, he doesn’t look inward. He doesn’t look to himself, and he doesn’t say, “I’m going to muscle my way through this. Hey, there’s got to be a Master Class on this, I’m going to look it up, I’m going to study this video, and I’m just going to power up and power through.” He doesn’t do that. He does not look inward. He also does not look forward. He doesn’t bust out his Google calendar, and start planning everything meticulously down to the details. He doesn’t look inward. He doesn’t look forward. No, he does something else. Asaph, he looks backwards. He looks back at what God did. We see this in the Psalm.
Asaph continues if you jump down to verse 11, I love this so much. He says (Psalm 77:11-12), “I will remember the LORD’s works; yes, I will remember your ancient wonders. I will reflect on all you have done and meditate on your actions.”
Asaph, he looks back. He looks back at what God did. I mean, that’s what this series has really been about. It’s about forgetting not God’s benefits, remembering God’s goodness. Now you might be saying “Yeah, but what’s the benefit of looking backwards? I mean, shouldn’t we just look forwards? What’s really the advantage of looking back to see what God did?”
Well, I think it becomes more clear when we see what it is exactly that Asaph looked back to. See, Asaph, he doesn’t look just anywhere. He looks to one specific moment in history. He looks at one particular moment in the history of God’s people, the Israelites. Namely, he looks at the Exodus account. This is where God’s people were oppressed by the Egyptians for over 400 years. And yet God, He rescued them with a mighty hand and a strong hand through all the amazing plagues and they crossed the Red Sea, gaining independence as a nation, but also dependence as the covenant people of God. That’s where Asaph looks to, and I believe this was intentional. He intentionally looked to that place.
For the people of God in the Old Testament, the Exodus account was really on the one hand, the biggest circumstantial and theological crisis that they had experienced. This was because they believed that God, He had made a promise to their forefathers, to Abraham, Isaac and to Jacob, that God would bless them, that God would strengthen them, that he would use them and multiply them as a people. So when they were oppressed for over 400 years in a foreign land, that felt like an abandonment. It felt like a betrayal. It felt like God had lied. It felt like God had made a promise, and then that He had gone back on His word.
But here’s what I love, when God shows up, and he has a conversation with Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3, this is prior to the actual Exodus account, He greets Moses by saying, “Hey, Moses, do you know who I am? I am the God of your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” He uses this specific phrase four times almost to depict, “I haven’t forgotten.”
In fact, in that conversation, he tells Moses, I made a promise to Abraham that I would free them from Egyptian captivity. And this was the promise that he had made almost 650 years prior to this encounter at the burning bush. It’s almost like God is telling Moses, “Moses, do you know who I am? Do you really think I would forget a promise that I would make? Don’t you know that I’m the promise keeping God? Do you think that just 650 years is going to make me forget my promise? That is not who I am.”
And this is why after God delivers and rescues the people, and they cross over the Red Sea, the people of God, they sing a song of celebration, thanking God. But as they sing this song, they are sure to celebrate the theme and idea of God’s faithfulness, his faithful love. And they capture this in a really important Hebrew word, hesed. Hesed is a word that depicts God’s covenant love. It’s God’s stubborn, never giving up, I will never quit, never abandon you, never forsake you, always true and forever, faithful forever kind of love, and they sing that about God.
For the Israelites and for Asaph as he looks back on the one hand, it was the biggest theological and circumstantial crisis that they had experienced. Then as he reflects on it, it would be the biggest example of God’s faithfulness. And that’s the benefit of looking back at what God did. That’s the advantage that we received. That’s the blessing that we get when we look back at what God did.
- When we see what God did in the past, we see who God is in the present.
When we reflect on what God did back there, we’re reminded of who God is right here, right now. As we look back and we remember the works of God, we get to look up and see who God is. This is because God’s actions, they reveal His attributes. God’s works, it demonstrates, it displays His character, who He actually is. When we see what He does in the past, we see what He’s like today.
They have a relationship. Don’t receive this principle at work, even in the way that humans interact with one another? For example, if you’re on the road and some guy cuts you off, what do you think about that person? You think he’s a jerk. Do you know why you think that? Because he is and he needs to stop doing that. But when you’re driving and someone gives you the right away, and they say, “No, no, no, you go ahead”, we think that they’re a good person. This is because we draw a connection naturally between what someone does to who that person is. Now, that’s not to say that we can’t ever act inconsistently. We act inconsistently all the time. But this principle shows that we believe that what we do, it largely flows out of who we are.
God, He’s the same way, but here’s the difference with God. God never acts inconsistently with who He is. God can only act consistently out of His nature. Which means that all that He does, it is an overflow of who He is out of the goodness and perfection of His being, He does. So when we see God doing kindness, that’s because God is kind. When we see God executing justice, it’s because our God, He is just. When we see God being loving, that’s because our God, He is love.
And when we, along with Asaph, when we look back at this rescue plan that God did for Israel in the Exodus account, what we see bursting forth from this past act is the attribute of God that I love so much. It’s that God is faithful. He keeps His word. He’s faithful and true. When God says something, oh, He’s going to follow through on that. He has a really good track record. He’s dependable. He’s reliable.
You and I, we live in a time where so many promises are made. And so many promises are broken. God has never broken a promise. He’s never gone back on His word. You and I, we’ve had to apologize for promises that we’ve made. God has never had to apologize for any promise that He’s made because He is faithful and true. That’s who He is and we see this displayed so clearly when we look back at the works of God.
This is an attribute of God that I love so much. It’s such an underrated attribute of God, isn’t it? But all throughout the scriptures, we see this attribute displayed in glory, God is faithful. But here’s some good news, not only do we see this attribute in Scripture. When you and I look back at our lives, at our own history, even in our recent history, don’t we see the works of God and His faithfulness?
Maybe a while ago, a year ago, a few years ago, maybe you went through something which was a crisis. Maybe there was a health crisis, relational challenges or pain, financial difficulty. What’s amazing is that you can actually look back at that work, see how God carried you through. And today, you can say, “God, He is faithful. He is faithful.”
Now, I realized that there might be someone watching and you’re saying, I’m really having to dig back in my memory bank because I’m trying to remember an event where God was faithful. Well, there’s some really good news for you and I, some really good news, which is that even if you and I struggle to remember an event where God was faithful, there is one work that you and I can look back to that is even greater than the Exodus account. In fact, it’s a work of God that the Exodus account points forward to. And this is the work of Jesus, the work of His death, His burial and His resurrection.
When we see the work of Jesus on the cross, we see that we were in a spiritual crisis. We were dead in our sins. Our sins held us captive. We were separated from God. But yet, when Jesus, when He hung on that cross, what we see is that, that the plagues, that the plague of God’s wrath fell on Him fully. And just like how the angel of death passed over Israel on account of the blood of lambs, which were painted on their doorposts, in the same way, God’s wrath passes over us on the lamb, on account of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
And just like how Israel crossed the Red Sea, in the same way by grace through faith, you and I, we cross over from death to life. That’s the gospel. That’s the good news, and that’s the rescue work of God that you and I can always look back to. And when we look back to that work, what comes beaming forward is that our God, He is faithful. And when we see that, it changes everything. It did for Asaph. When Asaph looked back to the rescue account, everything changed for him; his tone, his focus, his attitude. In fact, notice what he says.
In verse 13, Asaph says (Psalm 77:13-15), “God, your way is holy. What god is great like God? You are the God who works wonders; you revealed your strength among the peoples. With power you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.”
Don’t you love that? I mean, this is really the first time that Asaph is able to shift his focus away from himself to now see God. He stopped saying “I” but instead he says “You, God”. But what about the change in posture and attitude? There’s no more despair. He’s not despondent. Instead, there’s a surging confidence in who God is because of what God has done.
When you and I look back at what God did and we look up to see who he is, we can move forward with confidence in God, even in the midst of crisis. I love how Corrie Ten Boom put it. She said, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.”
We have been on a rollercoaster ride. But we can know that no matter how bumpy this ride may be, no matter how turbulent the ride, no matter how violent the twists and turns, we can know that our God is faithful. And that means that our Father, He is sitting right next to us, and He is holding on to us. And when we ask, “Father, when is this going to end?” While we may not get that answer, we’ll have something better. We’ll have His faithfulness and He’ll be with us and He will not leave us. He will not abandon us but he’ll be with us to the end. And we can know this because our God is faithful. He’s faithful and true. He’s good. He’s good.
I don’t know about you, but I forget this all the time. I need reminders of this all the time. This is why I’m so grateful for this series. I’m grateful that our church, we preach the Bible every single weekend, so we can see who God is, evidenced in the works of God. This is why I’m grateful that our church 1,000 of you have signed up for this online Theology Class to see the nature and works of God, I’m so encouraged. But I think this is also why one of the biggest concepts that we see in Psalm 77 is this idea of meditation.
We know this because over and over and over again, Asaph says, “I reflect…I meditate…I ponder…”. Meditation, it’s really where we take an idea or a truth of God, and we roll it over in our minds over and over and over again. Or to put it in another way, it’s to chew on an idea of God, again and again, so that we really absorb the nutrients of that truth, so that it becomes a part of us. But to put it another way, it’s to kind of do what cows do.
I don’t know if you knew this, but cows, they have four stomachs. Now, I have three, but cows, they have four stomachs. By the way, you can tell I’m craving…I miss Korean barbecue so much. Oh my gosh, you and I are going to a Korean barbecue together. And if you’re a vegan, there is no separation. We are one in Christ. You’re my brother and sister in Christ, we are together in Jesus.
But cows have four stomachs. So when they eat their food and chew it, that food actually goes to their first stomach, which is called the rumen. Now from the rumen, a cow will actually burp back up its food and chew it some more… Apologies if you’re eating right now, and also please do not try this at home if you’re eating… And the cow will chew it some more, and swallow it back into the rumen, burp it up again. And this process will happen again and again dozens of times, and this is just in the first stomach, the rumen.
Interestingly, that’s where we also get the word for rumination, and that’s the word picture of meditation. It’s where we take an idea of the God, and we just chew it over and over again, so that we can really absorb its nutrients.
Charles Spurgeon or the great London preacher, he said that the reason why the great examples of God’s grace don’t really impact us is because as soon as we start to think about it, we get distracted and so we move on to another idea, and so it doesn’t really sink deep down into our hearts. This is why we must
- Preach the gospel to yourself.
This is why we have to remind ourselves over and over again what the gospel is, what Jesus has done on the cross, and remember this work and chew on this over and over, so that the gospel and nutrients as we savor it, it sinks down into our beings and we can absorb its nutrients.
I heard a great quote once that Christians, we never graduate from the Gospel. We never move on from the Gospel. I know some of you are experiencing some disappointment because your graduation commencement has been canceled. And as a church, we want you to know that we see you, and that we are so proud of you and we celebrate with you. But when it comes to the gospel, it is so good we never graduate from the Gospel. We never move on from the Gospel. There is no postgraduate course from the Gospel. In fact, the gospel is something that’s so good we just chew on it. We savor it for the rest of our lives. We absorb its nutrients, so that it becomes a part of our being, so that we live in the reality of the goodness of our God. We must preach the gospel to ourselves.
Now there might be someone watching, and you’re saying, “Hey, Bang, I get that. I know God is faithful. Yeah, meditating on God’s truths. I’m for that. But my struggle is, it’s my circumstances. See, I know that God being faithful doesn’t necessarily mean that God’s going to change my circumstances to what I want it to be, and that scares me.” And I want you to know, I’m right there with you. And it’s true, God being faithful does not mean that he’s going to necessarily change all of our circumstances to be what we want it to be. And I’ve wrestled with that at times.
But here’s what I’ve held on to, that as much as I care for my own welfare, and I do care about my welfare, God cares infinitely more about my welfare than even I do. That as much as I care for myself, God knows infinitely more how to care for me. Not just that he cares way more about me, but he knows how to care for me best because God sees everything. He knows things that you and I don’t know, no matter how frustrating it might be, even in the moment.
During this quarantine and shelter in place, I know many families have been doing some puzzles together to pass time. It is so funny when I see my young kids do puzzles because they get so frustrated over one little piece. They will lose total perspective over one little piece. Even though the whole picture is right there next to them, they will start freaking out, they will take one piece, they will start screaming, they’ll start jamming it into a place that it doesn’t belong. They’re so frustrated because they just lose perspective.
But our God, your God, and my God who is faithful, He sees the whole picture. He sees everything. He literally has more data than you and I do. And so not only does He care infinitely more for you and for me, but He knows infinitely more how to care for you and me. What you and I need is not a faithfulness from God that simply follows our desires. No, we need something better. We need a faithfulness from God that will walk with us even in the midst of our darkness, where we may not have a trouble free life but we will have a trouble free heart.
I remember a few years ago, my wife had an incident at work, where there was a wet spot on the stairs, and she had a horrific fall down the stairs. I remember getting the call, and I rushed over to the ER. She couldn’t move her legs. And she was pregnant with our third at the time, and we had no idea how the baby was doing. And everything ended up working out. But I remember when she went into this room to get some scans and tests done, I was waiting outside and I was just pacing back and forth. I could not sit still. I was so nervous. I was so scared. And I remember in those moments pleading with God saying, “God, please, please let my wife be okay. Please let the baby be okay. Please, please.”
And in that moment, I didn’t hear an audible voice from God. But in that moment, here’s what the Holy Spirit was impressing on my heart, that if things turned out okay, that that will be because of God’s faithfulness. But if things did not turn out the way that I wanted, with the same faithfulness that had carried me through every single day of my life, that that same faithfulness would sustain me still. See, He didn’t put everything in a nice neat little package, although that’s what I wanted. He gave me something better. He gave me the promise of His faithfulness.
I love how Francis de Sales, he was a bishop of Geneva who came a generation after Martin Luther. I love how he put it. He said, “The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow, and every day. He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.”
That’s the faithfulness of God. So Mariners, let’s preach the gospel to ourselves.
Let’s continue to do that. And as we do so, as we look back at what God did on the cross, in His death, in His burial and in His resurrection, let’s look up to see who He is, that He is faithful. And in view of that, let’s move forward in confidence, even in the midst of crisis, because our God, He is faithful and true. Let’s sing together.
That’s our response in light of our Jesus, our King who gave His life for us. Mariners, thank you so much for your generosity. Because of your generosity, we are seeing the gospel advance all across Orange County. If you would like to give online, that’s how my wife and I give, you can follow the instructions on the screen.
To Give, Text “My Mariners” to 77977
Thank you. Thank you for your joyful and cheerful giving.
Also, next weekend, we are starting a brand new series called “Tough Questions.” Please do not miss it, it’s going to be an incredible series. Would you hold out your hands as you receive God’s blessings.
Father, You are faithful. You are faithful when we believe it with all of our hearts, and You are faithful when we struggle to believe it. Wherever we may be, I pray that Your spirit would strengthen us to see You, to see the truth of Your goodness, that You keep Your word evidenced in the cross. We believe that in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen. Go in God’s peace.