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

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
December 16, 2020 3:00 am

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

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 16, 2020 3:00 am

There are many ways to deal with adversity—but Psalm 31 shows that self-pity shouldn’t be one of them. Discover the benefits of placing confidence in Christ as we conclude our series about God’s providence, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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Music playing We begin today in Psalm 31 for the final message in a series titled, My Times Are In Your Hands My times are in your hands. Prosperity mustn't be the occasion of my pride.

Uncertainty mustn't be the occasion of panic. And thirdly, adversity must not become the occasion of self-pity. When David is subjected to abuse, first from his own son and then from people around him, it's his confidence in the providence of God that gets him through. One day he's walking down the street, and a guy called Shimei approaches, and he cursed as he came out. And he began just to curse and abuse David. And furthermore, he pelted David and all the king's officials with stones. But the king said, What do you and I have in common, you sons of Zeruiah?

In other words, I'm not thinking the same way as you chaps. If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, Curse David! Who can ask, Why do you do this? Then David said to Abishai and all his officials, My son, who is of my own flesh, is trying to take my life.

How much more than this Benjamite! Leave him alone! Let him curse! For the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will see my distress.

Repay me with good for the cursing I'm receiving today. But the fact is, it may not. And whether it is for good or for ill, my times are in his hands. Now, loved ones, you know that in the years that have passed between us, we have lived with one another through cries of anguish and pools of tears. And we've sought to get to grips with this thought even in the middle of the storm.

And the fact is that in the middle of the storm, it can sound trite to say these things—although it isn't. And often it will be time, the passage of time, the change of circumstances that allow us to look back over our shoulders and begin, even with a whisper of a child, to recognize that there is no trying or even tragic circumstance. But that God has sovereignly permitted it.

You see, logically, there is no other choice. You either have to be a deist or a pantheist, or you believe in the providence of God. You either have to say, I am being buffeted by a blind impersonal force, or I am adrift on the sea of chance, or there is a providential God who orders the affairs of time. If the providential God orders all the affairs of time, then by his permissive will he allows things to pass to us through his hands. But they do not take him by surprise.

He's sovereignly involved in the life cycle of the sparrow, and therefore he is profoundly involved in the circumstances of those whom he has made the special objects of his love. And therefore, with confidence, even in the face of difficulty, we can be assured that since the fatherly providence of God has permitted these things, he has done so for our good and his glory, and he will sustain us, and he will watch over us in the midst of them. And even if it takes to heaven, he will then make clear to us what now we see through a glass darkly.

I don't want to, in any sense, appear to be healing the pain of my people lightly. Time has passed now since Diane Circelli went into the presence of Christ. I was thinking of Diane and what an illustration she was to those who knew her best of a childlike trust in the providential care of God—a bright and attractive youngster who suddenly contracts this very debilitating disease, which literally closes her down in terms of her ability to play the sports that she enjoyed, to engage in the activities which had marked her earlier years. And yet how along that pilgrimage of pain she meets with Christ, she discovers the reality of his presence in her life, the nature of forgiveness, and a joy that passes human understanding.

She doesn't allow the uncertainty of her days—and they were certainly uncertain—to be the occasion of panic. She still, even though her hands were debilitated by her disease, made the meals for her dad and delighted to do so. She still enjoyed the company of her family, and particularly her nieces and her nephews. She still labored hard to make them gifts and so on. And she even, on the fourth of July in 1995, found it in herself to write a letter to her parents in prospect of her passing so that they would know exactly what it was she desired.

This is what she says to her folks. It's difficult expressing all that this life and my future eternal life mean to me. This verse expresses a little of my feelings and my gratitude to God for the life, the family, and the friends he has given me. And then she quotes Job 10 12, "'You gave me life and showed kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit.'" "'And in your providence watched over my spirit.'"

I am increasingly convinced that the great issue of our day with paganism is the doctrine of God. And there is nowhere that the doctrine of God is seen to challenge the godlessness of our age than in humble, bold affirmations of the doctrine of providence. And the key to her lovely life was her willingness to say, "'My times are in your hands.'"

I've spent the majority of my time there. I want just to tell you what the other three phrases are. If you've stayed with me, what we've said is that, "'My times are in your hands,' therefore, I am not trapped in the grip of a blind force. I am not tossed about on an ocean of chance and being trained in the school of providence. My times are in your hands, therefore, prosperity should not be the occasion of pride, uncertainty should not be the occasion of panic, and adversity should not become the occasion of self-pity." And finally, "'My times are in your hands,' one, there is a responsibility to be faced." A responsibility to be faced. You see, this little phrase of Psalm 31 15 does not relieve us of the need to accept personal responsibility for our lives.

If we were to treat it in that way, then we would be fatalists. Although the Lord is overruling all things according to his purpose, you and I are still responsible to him for all that we are and all that we do. Therefore, we must be sensible in our decision-making, we must be righteous in our planning, and we must recognize that while, as the Proverbs say, a man's heart devises his way, the Lord directs his steps. So we make realistic decisions.

I think that I might move to Milwaukee. We sit down and weigh the circumstances out, and then we make the move. We don't wait for something to fall from the sky, a package with Milwaukee written on it—not if we're sensible.

Nor do we rely on our own insight. But we take the events of our lives, and we lay them out, and we make sensible decisions. And a man's heart devises his way, and he looks over his shoulder, and he discovers that the Lord directs his steps. We do look ahead, we do make plans, we do put our affairs in order, but we do so always in submission to his will. Nehemiah faces the challenge of the enemies in the building of the wall, and he recognizes they have to do something—and do something they will. So they post a guard, but at the same time they pray to God. In 2 Samuel 10, the word of exhortation is, Be strong and let us fight bravely for our people in the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight. See, all the time I meet people whose reaction to the events of life is to sit down on a big chair somewhere and say, Well, the Lord will do what is good and right.

Aha! And what are you gonna do? Oh, nothing. I'm just gonna sit here and wait till he does it.

Not a good plan. On the other hand, you have other people who are totally frantic in their endeavors, trying to take care of everything, fix everything, move everything, do everything, as if somehow or another the destiny of the world depended upon them. And then, every so often, you'll meet somebody who has grasped the wonder of this truth. And there is about them a fragrance, and there is about them a busied restfulness, and there is about them a restful action, because they recognize that the providence of God does not remove them from the realm of responsibility.

Secondly, to the end, my times are in your hands. Therefore, there is a humility to be fostered. It's the other side of the coin from the prosperity truth. Prosperity shouldn't yield pride.

Therefore, providence should yield humility. When Pharaoh calls Joseph, and he says, I've heard that you're pretty good at interpreting dreams. Everybody's talking about you.

Everybody's mentioning your name. He said, I had a dream last night, and I'd like you to interpret it. What is Joseph saying? I can't, but God can.

Now, who was doing the interpreting of the dreams? Joseph! Why would he say he can't? Because he can't.

But God can. Jesus comes to the man with a withered hand. His hand is trapped by his side. He said, Stretch out your hand. It's the one thing the man couldn't do.

And he did. Who stretched it out? Him. Who made it possible?

God. So do you think the man went around going, Hey, hey, hey, hey, look at me! Look what I did! Look what I did!

No. Everybody he met, he said, You see that Jesus of Nazareth? You just see him going around the corner there. He came up to me, and he said what people have been saying to me as a joke for years.

Kids have said to me in the street, Hey, old man, stretch out your hand! And he said it. And I couldn't.

But I did. I love that. David and Goliath. Goliath—big, smart guy, big, tall guy, big, tough guy.

David, wee guy, five stones, sling, a lot of shouting, a lot of pre-match warmup, a lot of rhetoric. The big guy says to David, Am I a dog? You come at me with sticks? In the Philistine curse David by his gods. Come here, he said, and I'll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. And David said to the Philistine, You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

Listen to this. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And today I will give you a carcass, and the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. And the whole world will know about little David and his sling.

No! And the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. See, we want people to know about us and our sling. And nobody knows about us, and frankly, nobody cares about us. If we started getting concerned about people knowing that there is a God in heaven, then they might find out about us, but it's only because God knows he can trust us enough to be small enough to give him all the glory.

Until he gets us there, then we aren't going anyplace. Don't talk about Parkside Church. Talk about Jesus. Don't talk about buildings.

Talk about the building that isn't made with hands. At every level, our lives are utterly dependent upon God. So instead of drawing attention to ourselves, displaying pride in our power and our achievements, we ought to humbly acknowledge our total trust in God's providential upholding rule. We have a real problem with this.

I have a problem with this. I think, until we admit this, we're going nowhere. Until we quit being the generation with the bumper stickers on the back of our minivans that say, I have an honor student here, and I have an honor student there, and I have an honor student everywhere, we're in difficulty.

We really are. In an earlier generation, that was nothing other than blowing your own trumpet. We live in a generation of trumpet blowers, drawing attention to ourselves and our achievements, and we can't even speak but for the providence of God. Finally, there is not only a humility to be fostered and a responsibility to be faced, but there is a security to be found.

This is the great security in life. Says Calvin, ignorance of providence is the ultimate of all miseries. The highest blessedness lies in the knowledge of it.

And if you think it out, it's true. Instead of living in the fearful expectation of what fate may bring, instead of viewing the world as a tumbleweed blown in the winds of chance, the humble believer fearlessly commits himself to God. And again, Calvin, his solace is to know that his heavenly Father so holds all things in his power, so rules by his authority and will, so governs by his wisdom, that nothing can befall except he determine it. Now, that's not to say that we like everything that befalls. But it is to say that we need not be concerned that we picked something up that we weren't supposed to get. Here is the security.

Dad's got it under control. It's Corrie ten Boom in that lovely wee book, where she talks about needing a railway ticket to somewhere. She'd never made a journey before. She was going on the train.

She wondered what it would be like. Her father said, Corrie, I'll take care of it. She would go to him every day and say, Did you take care of it? And he'd say, Corrie, it's three months before you make the journey.

Relax. And she would go to him and say, Did you buy the tickets? And he said, Yes, I bought the tickets. And she said, Can I have the ticket? He said, Why would you possibly need the ticket?

You don't go for nine weeks. And she said, The more I went and the more I asked and the more I continued against him, I realized that I never trusted my dad. I didn't believe that he would take care of me. I didn't believe that if he had the ticket, he would keep the ticket and wouldn't lose the ticket, and I couldn't be sure that he would give it to me on the day. And I learned in that lesson that God gives you the ticket on the day you make the journey. And as I have observed people going through heartache and difficulty, and to the limited degree that I in my own pilgrimage have faced that in the loss of loved ones and in failure in examinations and in disappointment in relationships and so on, isn't that the case? God gives the ticket on the day we make the journey. Therefore, we must trust him. And on the day that I make the journey from time to eternity, I presume he's gonna give me the ticket on that day. And if that's today, then the ticket's on its way.

And if it isn't, then why lie awake and look at the ceiling wondering if it might be? My times. Short or long, rich or poor, sad or happy are in his hands. Zechariah 2.8, He who touches you touches the apple of my eye. Psalm 55 2, Cast your care upon the Lord, he will nourish you.

Isaiah 49 25, Even though a mother may forget her children, yet I will not forget you. I'm not at the mercy of arbitrary and personal forces. I'm in the hands of my heavenly Father. And he who employed the words of the same psalm—Psalm 31 verse 5, when Jesus says to his father, And into your hands I commend my spirit. He's quoting the very psalm we're looking at here. That same one who used these verses is the one who says to us this morning to a group like this, Come to me, all ye who are weary and are heavy-laden. Come to me with all your burdens and all your fears and all your panics and all your anxieties and all your heartaches and all your disappointments. I want you to come, he says, I want you to come to me and take my yoke upon you. Live underneath my jurisdiction. Live underneath my hand. Because my yoke is easy and my burden is light, and you will find rest for your souls. I have Self magazine lying on my floor. The whole issue is on spirituality—why Buddhism is hip, why meditation is helpful, and so on. And the devil looks on it and says, My department has done a wonderful job.

Nobody would ever glean from it that our times are in God's hands. The last thing to say is simply this, just in case you were wondering. No, I do not have all my questions answered.

In my own life, as I've told you before, I would still have liked, if I could write my own chapters, to have had my mother see me graduate, to have had her know that I married this American girl that came over to our house, to have her see my kids, to have her come to Parkside, to have her here for Christmas. And there isn't a year passes but that I think down the exact same avenue. But that's just me. Where is sanity? Where is security? My times are in your hands. In other words, Father knows best. A simple reminder from Alistair Begg that we can find confidence in knowing that there is a God who holds us securely. From a final message in our series, My Times Are in Your Hands, you're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. Perhaps that simple reminder hits home more deeply than ever before as we reflect on the difficulties all of us have faced over the last year. Alistair is with us today to talk briefly about some of these challenges and how they relate to our mission here at Truth for Life.

Alistair? Well, thank you, Bob. Today we concluded our study in the doctrine of providence, finding God's hand in the midst of trials and difficulties.

And I think it would be hard to find anyone at the end of this year who has not regarded 2020 as a year of particular challenge and difficulty. And so it's a wonder that we can turn again and again with confidence to the Bible. And that's why we've been teaching it throughout the year. That's why we've made it our goal in life to try and teach the Bible in a way that is clear and helpful.

The Bible turns our gaze always towards the Lord Jesus. And when we see him, we see him as a shepherd and a guide and a friend and the one who brings hope out of hopelessness. And your partnership, of course, is what makes it possible for us to convey this message. Your giving covers the costs of our daily programs. And so as we look to the end of the year to meet our financial obligations, we would ask you humbly and straightforwardly to reach out to us today with a generous year-end donation. Your giving goes directly to the teaching you hear on Truth for Life, and I thank you for it.

Thank you, Alistair. You can be part of the team that brings clear Bible teaching to listeners around the world in the new year. Will you give a much-needed year-end gift today?

You can donate right now by going to truthforlife.org slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. And when you give, we want to invite you to request a new book titled Exploring the Bible Together. This is a family devotional plan that will take you through selected readings from Genesis to Revelation in one year.

Now, don't be intimidated. Even though the book includes a full year of devotional material, this plan calls for your family to read just a few verses a day. It's perfect for busy parents who want to make sure that they're engaging with their children in worship and in Bible reading each day. Every entry in Exploring the Bible Together combines scripture reading, a discussion question or two, key spiritual lessons and a closing prayer.

It doesn't take a lot of prep and you can help your kids actively read and respond to the Bible. Request a copy of this book when you give by either tapping on the image you see on the mobile app or by going online to truthforlife.org. If you'd prefer, you can call us to request the book.

Call 888-588-7884 and ask for Exploring the Bible Together. While you're online making a donation, take a minute and visit our store where you will find the series My Times Are in Your Hands on USB. As Alistair mentioned, this study is relevant for all of us as we reflect on 2020, so we've created along with this series a helpful study guide. You'll find it a great encouragement personally or you can use it in a group setting. Learn more when you visit truthforlife.org slash store.

I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for joining us. Be sure to listen again tomorrow when we feature a special message from the book of Ecclesiastes titled Chasing the Wind. We'll learn how to deal with the kind of disappointment that inevitably comes when we focus on pursuing pleasure. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-14 14:31:43 / 2024-01-14 14:40:36 / 9

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