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WHY ARE YOU IN DISTRESS, O MY SOUL?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

21 JUNE 1992

Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

1 Kings 19:9-18
Psalm 43:5
Luke 9:23-27
John 3:3

Many times in the course of our lives, we find ourselves with unsettled feelings.

Sometimes, we don't even know what brings it about.

Other times, we know what the problem is, but can't seem to free ourselves from it, so that we would regain our inner peace.

And because we feel this way, we often affect others around us.

The psalmist who wrote Psalm 43 had these feelings, too; but in verse 5, he tells us how to be delivered from this distress.

5. Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why are you disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him,
The help of my countenance, and my God.

Our mind knows when things aren't right within us; but quite often that doesn't seem to matter, for we still have that inner distress or despair in our soul.

And sometimes we know what is troubling our soul: it could be the warring madness that is so prevalent in our world today, or it could be the horrible atrocities committed upon billions of animals every year, or it could be something else.

It's during times like these, that we should listen to the advice of the psalmist.

Start talking to yourselves.

Hey, Soul!

Why are you allowing this situation to upset you?

Why do you allow this to take away your joy and peace of mind?

Turn to the Lord from whom all things come, and trust in Him.

Allow Him to help you straighten things out, or when situations beyond your control, leave the responsibility with Him, and ask what you can do to help.

Sometimes when people seem disturbed about something, I'll ask them to pray.

They usually refuse, stating that they aren't in the proper frame of mind or being; but some do begin to pray, and when they do, they begin to feel better.

Horatio Spafford wrote the hymn we just sang, It Is Well with My Soul, at a time in his life when his soul obviously had been in distress.

Yet when he turned to God, and expressed just how he felt, he found himself praising the Lord; and with that came forth both the inner peace and the hymn.

It had become well with his soul.

The presence of the Holy Spirit within us brings us this peace, for He gives us a different perspective from which to view our situation.

The great prophet Elijah, who was part of God's plan in so many spectacular miracles, also suffered from bouts of depression.

And at times like these The Lord would lead him to some quiet place and minister to him.

One of Elijah's problems was that the little things bothered him most.

He could deal with the big ones, for he knew that the Lord was with him.

But the little things that were wrong or stressful often got to him; and he found his soul in distress.

In 1 Kings 19:9f, we see the Lord ministering to Elijah with a very important lesson for all of us: God is not only the God of the spectacular, but also of the little things.

Let's take a look at this account:

9. Then he came there to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

The Lord knows why Elijah is there, but He wants Elijah to begin talking to Him so that he can get a better perspective on his own situation.

This is a technique used by psychologists and psychiatrists with their patients.

But better than this is the Great Physician, the Lord our God.

Elijah responds to Him.

10. And he said, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."

Did you ever feel all alone like this?

Listen to what the Lord tells and shows Elijah:

11. So He said, "Go forth, and stand on the mountain before the Lord." And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.

12. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing.

13. And it came about when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

We seem to have gone full circle, for the Lord asks him the same question; but in between He showed him that the Lord is with him always, in the quietness of everyday life, and that His presence is also with him in the times of the little distresses.

But Elijah doesn't seem to recognize this truth yet, for he answers the Lord as he did before.

14. Then he said, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."

So the Lord, in all His love, gives Elijah an assistant to help him, so that he would not feel alone; and so that he would realize that he isn't the only one who cares, but that there is at least one other person who cares.

But in the meantime, He still had a job for Elijah, as He does for each and every believer, especially today.

15. And the Lord said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram;

16. and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.

17. "And it shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death.

18. "Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him."

There are so many ungodly people around at times, even in the churches, that its hard to see those who are truly the Lord's.

But Elijah, who felt so alone, was but one of these 7,000.

The same thing is true today.

If we just turn to the Lord and listen to Him, He will help us through our problems and worries, and give us peace.

Running from God only makes things worse.

In Luke 9:23-27, Jesus gives us a description of the way we are to live, so that we can avoid these problems.

23. And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

The only way we are ever going to be free of the distress upon our soul is to let go of this world, and focus first upon the Lord and heavenly things; and from that perspective, look back to the things of this earth.

24. "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.

25. "For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?

26. "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

27. "But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."

Now, do you remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:3? "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

So, every one of us can see into the kingdom of God, if that is where our heart is; and with this vision, we have the peace in our soul.

And with this peace of mind, and a clear perspective, we can be much more effective in helping to alleviate the problem.

But why are we saying all of this on a day when we are having a baptism (dedication) of a young child?

Because we, as adults, and especially the parents, are being called upon to declare before God and us, who are gathered here today, that we all will do everything to lead this child to a life in Jesus Christ.

And our children, for the most part, grow up following the example of their parents and of those they consider leaders in their community.

It is by our example that we lead these little ones to Christ, not by our words alone.

So, if we are at peace with the Lord and in our souls then, most likely, so will our children be at peace with Him, and learn to trust in Him.

I we are loving and compassionate peacemaking children of God, when our children are growing up, then most likely they will live the same way.

The choice and the responsibility are ours.

Amen.

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