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My Times Are in Your Hands (Part 1 of 4)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
December 11, 2020 3:00 am

My Times Are in Your Hands (Part 1 of 4)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 11, 2020 3:00 am

When the world seems to spin out of control, we might feel thrown off balance and wonder if God really cares. How do we deal with life’s ups and downs? Study along with us on Truth For Life as Alistair Begg teaches us to relinquish fear to God.



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This year, 2020, has been a year filled with ups and downs for so many of us. You've probably experienced a share of good days and bad days.

Maybe a heavy dose of unsettling days. So how do we make sense of all that is happening in our lives? Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg reveals some basic truths about God's providence that are rooted in this simple phrase, my times are in your hands. Can I invite you to take your Bibles and turn to the Psalms with me, if you would? To the book of Psalms.

We begin reading the first verse of Psalm 31. In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge. Let me never be put to shame. Deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue. Be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit. Redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.

I hate those who cling to worthless idols. I trust in the LORD. I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place. Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress. My eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning.

My strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors. I am a dread to my friends. Those who see me on the street flee from me. I am forgotten by them, as though I were dead. I have become like broken pottery, for I hear the slander of many. There is a terror on every side.

They conspire against me and plot to take my life. But I trust in you, O LORD. I say, You are my God.

My times are in your hands. Deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant.

Save me in your unfailing love. Let me not be put to shame, O LORD, for I have cried out to you. But let the wicked be put to shame, and lie silent in the grave.

Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous. How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. In the shelter of your presence you hide them, from the intrigues of men. In your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues. Praise be to the LORD, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city.

In my alarm I said, I am cut off from your sight. Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. Love the LORD, all his saints. The LORD preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD. Amen. I want to draw our attention to one phrase in the reading that we just shared—namely, the opening six words of the fifteenth verse, which read as follows, My times are in your hands.

My times are in your hands. Now, if anybody were to ask you what was this sermon about at church today, you will be able to say it was about our times being in God's hands. Now, my purpose is not to expound the thirty-first psalm.

I want to deal with this subject topically, which I do sparingly but nevertheless do from time to time. But I do need you to notice that in the thirty-first psalm, in the verses that we read, there is a cycle which repeats itself. In the opening verses, the psalmist is in anguish, and by the time he gets to verse 8, he has come to a position of assurance. And just when it appears that everything is hunky-dory, when everything is all right, when the clouds have gone and the rain has stopped, our eyes scan to the ninth verse, and we discover that after the clouds have gone, the rain has actually returned.

And he says again in verse 9, I am in distress. It's not an uncommon experience in life at a superficial level and at a more serious level. As I was thinking about it this week, I don't know why I'm plagued, as you know, with songs, but the phrase that came—and it is from a different genre—but the phrase that came, as I got to the ninth verse, was, just when I thought I was over you.

Just when I thought I could stand on my own. Oh, baby, those memories came crashing through. Whether that's the sign of a misspent youth or not, I don't know, but it is the pain of a guy who thought that he had managed to weather the storm, the clouds had gone, the rain had ceased, and it was all fine now, and then all of a sudden it broke over his head once more. That is the experience of the psalmist here, and it is the not unusual experience of Christian pilgrimage. If we are going to be honest, we need to admit the fact that on the path of faith there is the reoccurrence of pain and disappointment and distress and difficulty and burden and disappointment. And the key issue is, what are we going to do with those realistic experiences? Now, I come to this because this year has been marked for each of us by a number of events, some of which have brought us encouragement and others of which have brought us pain.

Few have been neutral. Simple things have brought us joy. For example, my favorite letter I want to read to you, because, you know, I get some other letters that aren't my favorites, and I can derive great joy from something like this. Written by a nine-year-old girl, I preserve her anonymity. It says, Dear Pastor Begg, I like the way you preach each sermon. I also liked it when you came to Tapawingo and preached.

That's a little island up in the Adirondacks. You are a very nice man. See, she's a perceptive young girl. You are also a funny man. I hear you on the radio a lot. You don't stutter a lot.

Let me be honest, you do stutter once in a while. You say good and strong words. I like you, your friend. Doesn't take much to cheer me up at all, but I don't want a whole succession of letters written by nine-year-olds, because then I have to reply to them all. But nevertheless, there have been those, and then there have been others.

But you know I only keep the good ones. And there you sit, and here we are, a jumble of emotions, a cross-section of experiences. The good, the bad, and the ugly has washed over us in the last weeks and months. And one of the distinguishing marks of the believer as opposed to the unbeliever, the Christian, as opposed to the person who just talks about Christian things, is to be found in the way in which the believer views the passing of time and the ordering of the events of life. And here is the affirmation of the person who knows himself or herself to be, despite the disasters, despite the difficulties, under the care of Almighty God. In a phrase, says the psalmist, My times are in your hands. Now, this is a truth that is true for every believer. You actually may want just to say that out loud.

Just say that out loud. My times are in your hands. Again, my times are in your hands. Now, you see, it is this truth which will bring equilibrium to us in the span of events which would inflate our ego or crush our souls. And there are nine things that I would like to tell you which emerge from this simple statement. The first truth is this. Since my times are in your hands, number one, I am not trapped in the grip of blind forces.

I am not stymied, if you like, by fate. When Paul, addressing the intellectuals of his day in the city of Athens—and you can read this in Acts chapter 17—began to speak to the people, both in the marketplace and in the synagogue, and then eventually in a more rarified environment, he discovered that the minds of the people had been percolated by two fundamental ideas. These ideas were largely attributable to the influence of two characters who had lived in the third and fourth century. And the first character was a chap by the name of Zeno. And this guy Zeno is the father of Stoicism. You remember, he says that he was talking with some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers who were interested to find out what the babbler had to say because, according to Luke, Paul was bringing some strange ideas to their attention.

Because these individuals were now finding out that there was a different way to view the world. This little Jewish man, who was proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ, was calling in question what many of them had taken as self-evident—namely, that the ideas of this man Zeno, who had lived between 335 and 263 BC, were really true—namely, that the events of the world are determined by a merciless, cold, and impersonal fate. And so taught Zeno to his followers, instead of trying to struggle with this, instead of trying to change your circumstances, if you're going to be truly stoic in your response, then what you need to do is simply cast yourself on this merciless mover, and learn to say, Que sera sera? Whatever will be will be. The future's not mine to see.

Que sera sera? No matter what comes—the good, the bad, or the ugly—you just grip your steering wheel a little tighter, and you say, Hey, that's just the way it is. Life is held in the grip of a cold, merciless, faceless power called fate. And this blind impersonal force is often referred to simply as nature.

It was then, and it is today. At its most evidential level, you hear it every two or three days as you listen to the weather forecast, as the chap on the Weather Channel or the lady on Channel 3 or whoever it is introduces as brightly as she can the subject which is before her with the phrase, Well, let's see what Mother Nature has for us today. Now, what she's actually declaring there, whether she realizes or not, is a form of stoicism—that in point of fact, the way in which rivers run to the oceans, the cycle of the planets, the trajectory of the moon—all of that is somehow or another simply like a spinning top that was wound up at some point in eternity and was spun once, and it is now just spinning hopelessly. And there are from it, if you like, these forces which determine the way in which life goes. At a more profound level, this notion is evident in the pantheistic ideas of earth prayers, which are frequently propounded now in not only New Age gatherings but also in many church buildings. And the notion is that we are simply individual cells in a single global organism that constitutes the earth, which is Gaia.

If you haven't picked up on it at all, then you've found yourself listening to it in the car and saying, I wonder what in the world Gaia is, and I wonder why James Taylor would be so interested in Gaia. Well, it is because he has bought the idea, he has bought the philosophy, that we are somehow simply caught up as organisms in the mixture of all that God has done and that he, God himself, is not distinct from his creation but is trapped in his creation, and what we have then is a form of late twentieth-century pantheism. Now, what this brings with it is all kinds of chaos. I say to you again that one of the most distinctive features of the Christian now is the way in which we will be able to articulate our view of the world. We have lived through Marxism, which said, Life has meaning in the dialectic which we hope will move us in the struggle towards a classless society. So at least the Marxists in the fifties and the sixties knew that there was a purpose, and that's why they were so passionate in what they were doing.

And in certain areas of the world, they remain equally passionate. They know why they exist, they know what they hope to achieve, and they're giving their very lives to achieve it. For the Hindu, life is simply an endless cycle of birth and rebirth, and you hope that as you go through the cycle you will eventually strike it rich and move on. For many of our friends—and this is especially true of university students at the present time—they have embraced a form of nihilism, nothingness, whereby they are convinced that life has no meaning at all. There was nothing before you were born. There is nothing after you have died.

And so they have concluded that they are trapped in the grip of a blind force. Some of you have come to worship this morning, and that's exactly… I just propounded your philosophy for you. How do you sleep at night? What do you do? Do you drink whiskey to get off to sleep? And when you waken in the morning, what puts a spring in your step? To die and go to who knows where. Now, in contrast, the believer says, Oh no! My times are in your hands. I am not trapped by a blind force.

Secondly, I am not tossed about on the ocean of chance. This brings us to the other character in Acts 17. His name was Epicurus, from which we get epicurean.

He lived between 341 and 270 BC. He passed on a system of ethics which has come right down to the twentieth century. For Epicurus, the good was what life was all about. And the good could be determined by what brings most pleasure. Therefore, you spend all of your life trying to achieve the good, and the way you achieve the good was by getting as much pleasure as you possibly could. Now, the fact is that Epicurus and his followers never pushed it to its logical conclusion.

They didn't have to, because there were gonna come people after them who would do that for them. For example, what you have in Sartre's philosophy, which all of you when you went to school took as part of the foundational courses of philosophy if you lived at a certain era, Sartre says, Okay, I'll take that, and I'll push it to its logical conclusion. And he writes his first novel called Nausea, and he puts in the lips of one of his key characters, Roquanton, the expression of the ultimate futility, which is at the flip side of the statement of faith, My times are in your hands.

Roquanton is pictured walking in the city park. And he is overcome by the nausea of the meaninglessness of life. And as he looks around, he concludes, quote, Every existent is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance. Now, that is contemporary existentialism. At the grassroots level, where do you get it? Everywhere.

For example, Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society. Carpe diem. Seize the day. You must do your best in the moment that you have.

Now, in one sense, that is a very fine piece of advice, because we need to make use of the time that we have, because the time that we have is the time that we have. But the underlying notion in it is that there was no yesterday, and there will be no tomorrow. What he is actually doing is propounding the empty philosophy of Nietzsche, who declared, There remains only void. Man is falling. His dignity is gone. His values are lost.

There is no difference between up and down. It has become chilly, and the dark night is closing in. Don't you get that sense? I get it at different places.

I get it in springtime in Coventry, outside the Arabica coffee shop, when it's seventy-four degrees, and a ton of really interesting young folks are sitting on the wall. And despite the springtime sun on their shoulders, I know that they would be prepared to say, It has become chilly, and the dark night is closing in. Because, you see, they're living without hope and without God in the world. They cannot say, My times are in your hands.

Because they believe their destiny to be in their own control. So what does the Christian say? If to say, My times are in your hands means that I am not trapped by blind fate, that I am not tossed around on the sea of chance, what is it?

It is this. I am being trained in the school of God's providence. While men and women are smothered by the pessimism that we've just described, and others embrace the kind of superficial optimism of hedonism, the psalmist says, no, we can't simply go to that. The Christian affirms the truth that God has not abandoned the world that he created as deism. Nor has he become absorbed by his creation as pantheism. But rather, he is distinct from what he has made, and he is working everything in relationship to his creation out according to his plan. Alistair Begg with a reassuring reminder that God is at work. This is Truth for Life.

Our series is called My Times Are In Your Hands. We all struggle from time to time to believe God's promises, especially when we find ourselves facing adversity. The famous preacher Charles Spurgeon was no stranger to trials. It was during those times of difficulty that God's promises became even more precious to him. In fact, he compared them to a bank check because they point to a future reality that has been guaranteed.

And that's the title of a book recommendation we want to make to you. The book is called Checkbook of the Bank of Faith. Each day, this compact one-year devotional provides you with a promise God makes to us in the Scriptures, along with a brief reflection from Spurgeon.

We may not know what 2021 has in store, but we do know that God keeps his promises. This powerful devotional will keep you grounded all year long, and it comes along with our thanks when you give today. Visit our website, truthforlife.org, slash donate, or click the book image you find in the mobile app. And if you have not yet ordered the documentary film's American Gospel, don't miss this opportunity. This double documentary takes a hard look at how a man-made gospel has taken root in America. From New Age faith healers to the prosperity gospel to a version of Christianity that promises that all roads lead to heaven, the gospel of the Bible in our day is being distorted. This documentary series, American Gospel, explores the difference between biblical Christianity and the increasingly popular messages that have led people astray. Both of these films feature interviews with dozens of preachers, including Alistair Begg. They're exclusively available on DVD from Truth for Life for only $5.

The shipping is free, and the DVD package includes a link for streaming. Visit truthforlife.org slash store. One final note, as you look ahead to Christmas, I want to tell you about a brand new USB from Alistair titled The Miracle of Christmas. This is a collection of eight brief series that explore the wonder of Christ's birth. No matter how long we've been following Jesus, there's always something we can learn about this remarkable event. You can purchase The Miracle of Christmas on USB today for just $5, and the shipping again is free.

Visit truthforlife.org slash store. And with the weekend upon us, keep in mind you're invited to watch Alistair as he teaches at Parkside Church when our services are streamed live. To see if Alistair is teaching this weekend, you can check the schedule at truthforlife.org slash live. I'm Bob Lapine. Join us again Monday as Alistair continues our message, My Times Are in Your Hands. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-16 03:34:31 / 2024-01-16 03:42:56 / 8

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