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‘Faith in Adversity’ transcript continued…

You can listen to Kenneth’s talk here as you read the transcript below.

Kenneth starts his teaching by reading from Psalm 16.

I remember the day I met Daniel. There was a real sadness, I thought, in his eyes – and yet a firm and settled faith in his words.

Daniel lives in a camp in northeast Nigeria – a refugee camp of sorts – for Christians who have been forced to flee from the violence of the Islamist group Boko Haram.

When Daniel’s home village was attacked, more than 150 Christians were killed. Daniel’s three young sons were shot dead. His father was beheaded. His wife was abducted and – as he later learned – was forcibly married off to a Muslim.

What is our reaction to a story like Daniel’s? Anger, perhaps? Sadness? Despair, even? In such circumstances we need to hear a word from God; a word that will shape our response and strengthen our faith.

We don’t know when David wrote Psalm 16: it’s not one of those Psalms that tells us the occasion. But, as we read it, it’s clear that it would fit any of those times in his life when David was forced to flee… to hide from his enemies.

And as we read Psalm 16 let me suggest that what we see is ‘faith in the face of adversity’. As such, it is a Psalm that both challenges and feeds our faith. It pictures the kind of faith that we should want for ourselves; for each other; and, indeed, for those who are persecuted for Christ today. So what does that faith in the face of adversity look like?

Notice, first, the commitment of Christian faith.

Preserve me, O God’, cries David. It’s interesting that those opening words constitute the only request David makes in the whole of this Psalm!

But it’s not a cry of despair, or of desperation. It is a request born of a real, living faith – as is clear from what David goes on to say: ‘for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, you are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’

In other words, David’s prayer request is based on what he knows to be true of his God. He knows that our well-being depends on God alone. He knows that all that we have is from Him. To acknowledge that – particularly in the face of adversity – is an act of humble, dependent faith.

Very often the testimony of persecuted Christians today expresses a faith like David’s. I have met Christians who have been beaten up, who have been imprisoned, who have seen loved ones killed, who have seen churches and homes ransacked or destroyed, and yet who have declared that God is sovereign: He is in control and can be trusted.

And notice how this commitment, this humble, dependent faith, expresses itself in the world:

On the one hand, David declares (verse 3): ‘As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.’ In other words, David identifies with fellow believers! That should be true of us! Personal faith in Christ binds us to the people of God! If we love the Lord we will love our fellow Christians.

On the other hand, he says in the next verse: ‘The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.’ While fellow believers are his delight, David will not identify with all that is godless and unholy. A committed faith delights to be counted among Christ’s people.

Notice, secondly, the contentment of Christian faith.

David goes on: ‘The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.’ (verses 5, 6). Now, remember, David may have been on the run when he wrote this Psalm. He may have been forced to leave much of his worldly possessions behind – as people like Daniel have been forced to do. If so, how do the sentiments expressed in these verses make sense? Only by recognising the peace we have in Christ; a peace that surpasses all human understanding.

In rare moments of mere worldly contentment you might hear someone utter that saying: ‘It doesn’t get better than this!’ But as Christians we have to disagree with that, don’t we? Life is going to get better! The good things – even the very best things – of this life won’t last; but the treasures we have in Christ are for eternity! David can say his heritage is in the Lord! Persecuted Christians often discover the truth of that. Can you and I say that, too?

And then, thirdly, see the confidence of Christian faith.

‘Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure,’ says David in verse 9. Again, it’s worth recalling that this is a Psalm that began with David crying out to the Lord to preserve him! And yet, at the same time, he can ‘dwell secure’. And then comes what is probably the best-known verse in this Psalm:

‘For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption’ (verse 10).

Here David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, looks beyond his own life; beyond his present experiences; beyond whatever persecution or adversity he has been facing – and declares that ultimately for the believer, for the child of God, there is resurrection hope. And that hope finds its fulfilment in Jesus Christ.

In the New Testament both the apostles Peter and Paul quote this verse in their preaching. Both declare that David – knowing God’s promise that one of his descendants would reign forever – prophesies of Christ; of Christ’s victory over death and the grave. He, not David – is the one whose body saw no corruption. As with any part of the Old Testament, we cannot read this Psalm without seeing how its declarations find their fulfilment in Christ and the gospel.

And so we who are united to Christ by faith have this confidence. This is the Christian hope; and in this hope we live, we serve, we encourage one another in the Body of Christ. And that includes encouraging – and being encouraged by – those who today serve Christ in the midst of persecution.

I said earlier that Daniel had a sadness in his eyes – and yet, at the same time, evidenced a firm faith. Despite all he has been through, he said to me: ‘I have surrendered my life to Christ.’

In the current edition of Release International’s magazine, Voice, you can read of ministries that seek to strengthen oppressed believers and provide pastoral and spiritual care to those who have suffered persecution for their faith in Christ.

For Release’s is a ministry from, to, and within the one Body of Christ. Through our partners around the world we seek to provide practical, physical care, but also spiritual support and resourcing.

Can you say with David: ‘As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight’? Can you say with David: ‘The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places’?

If so, what is your response to the Daniels of our world? Could you as an individual, or your church as a fellowship, support Release’s work? There are details on this website as to how you can give to support this ministry.

We may not all be in a position to be able to give financially, but we can all pray. Psalm 16 sets before us faith in the face of adversity. As I said earlier, it both challenges and feeds our faith; it pictures the kind of faith we would want for ourselves and for all of God’s people; for ‘all the saints in the land.’

Should that not inform our prayers? Should we not be praying that God, in his sovereign grace, will continue to grant that sort of faith? Even to his suffering people?

Release International’s free quarterly magazine is a great resource, both for being informed and for being resourced to pray for persecuted Christians. So, if you don’t currently receive it, let me encourage you now to sign up to do so. Again, there are details on our website as to how you can do that. And having listened today, as we have explored God’s word together, why not share Release’s Lockdown Church talks and resources with your Christian friends?

Faith that stands up in the face of adversity is a committed faith; a contented faith; a confident faith. It is faith that unites us to the One who is anticipated in the life of David: ‘Great David’s Greater Son’, Jesus.

United to him in his death and resurrection we can echo David’s closing words: ‘You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’

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