CONFIDENCE IN GOD
Mr. Ernest Roe
January 29, 1967
“I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of Thy righteousness, even of Thine only” Ps. 71, 16.
The speaker is David, and in this Psalm he uses the little pronoun “I” perhaps as many times as in any of the Psalms he writes. In this verse it is very emphatic, “I will go in the strength of the Lord God.”
I want to speak to you of the necessity of this individuality being felt. It is good to speak of the Church of God as comprised of an innumerable company of people whom God alone can number, but do not get lost in the collective terms of religion and forget your own soul. It is true God does have, and He will for ever have, in innumerable host of redeemed sinners at His right hand to celebrate His praises, but what about meÂ—not in the pharisaical sense this timeÂ—but what about me? Am I one of that number whom the eternal Father gave into the hands of His dear Son as His Bride to be redeemed and at last brought to eternal glory? To know that other people have a soul that will live for ever and to say concerning them when they are dead and buried “Well, that is the end of their body here” but, their soul, where is that? It has gone into eternityÂ—trueÂ—but where will yours go? Where will mine go? We value, and glory in redeeming grace wherever it is bestowed, but we must come back and we must keep coming back to this individuality, myself. “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Ah! the Holy Ghost impress you and me more and more, with this individuality.
“Shall I be with Him when He comes
Triumphant down the parting skies
And when His voice breaks up the tombs
Shall I among His people rise?”
A big “I”.
There is another aspect of this individuality in which we have to be brought and kept. We are so influenced by what other people may do or say, but God help us, in the right way, to shut our eyes and ears to all that kind of business. The most important thing is how are you acting? How am I acting? Am I behaving in the fear of God? Will my doings square up with His divine standard? Will I go in the strength of the Lord or in my own strength? Other people will do what they choose (I would have a concern for their welfare) but the question is, where am I? What is my spirit? What is my controlling power? Whither am I going? Whither shall I end? “I will go in the strength of the Lord God”, other peopleÂ—they go as they likeÂ—do as they choose. I speak this very guardedly, but that is what it will come to, it must come to it. If other people will go the smooth way, if they will go the way that avoids the persecution of the cross, then they must. I am sorry for them, but I will not. I cannot. “I will go,” whatever they do, ” in the strength of the Lord.” And, after all (do bear with me, friends, it is worthy of repetition), after all that is said and done, God will not judge you and me as a collective people. “Every man shall give an account of himself in the day of judgment”. It will be an individual matter there. Either He shall say “Come you blessed of the Lord” or Â“Depart you cursed.” Oh! this individual expression. “God be merciful to me” as if there were not another in the world that wanted it. “God visit me with Thy salvation.”
“Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.” There is so much in it. I just refer to it and pass it on to youÂ—”I”.
But David was a man well taught of God. “Oh God Thou hast taught me from my youth” and what greater favour can anyone have than to be taught of God in their youth. You young friends, bear with me when I say God can teach you, young as you are, and I hope He will. Who can tell? You may not know yourself. It may be as quiet and simple as that, but I hope He will. Some of us can speak in an experimental way of the privilege and the favour of being stopped while young in years. One can go back to when he was eight years of age and I distinctly remember a certain prayer and, more, it was distinctly and emphatically sincere, I have not the slightest doubt about it, I know it was. But it was the answering of it that shook me, so shook me as convinced meÂ— there is a God. Well, may God do as much for you. He can. He is not limited in His mercy, in His goodwill to poor sinners.
Now David was one of these who had been taught from his youth and, notwithstanding the years that had intervened and the way he had come along during those years, he has not gone beyond this elementary lesson “I have no strength of my own”, now “old and greyheaded” he says, “O, God I will go, old as I am, the recipient of Thy teaching from my youth up, I will still go, not in the strength of my arm, not in the strength of my determination, but in Thy strength, O God.” Divine teaching will always bring a man there. It is bound to empty him of his own imaginary power,
and I would have you to be thankful if you really are just full of prostration, full of emptiness. That is a contradiction in terms, never mind, we do not follow logic here. It is real. If you are just full of nothingness, emptiness, sheer destitution, be thankful to God you are. You are not likely to clap your triumphant wings and boast of your power and your strength. You are most disposed and qualified to say “If I go anywhere it can only be in the strength which God supplies through His Eternal Son.”
David had learned this the very hard way as we all have to do. “Thou hast shewn me great and sore troubles.” What would he have been like without them? When he was a youth he was not afraid to meet that Giant Goliath. He did not go to him in the strength of Saul’s armour. He chose five pebbles from the brook, but he was looking higher than the stones and the pebbles from the brook. He was looking upward. “In the Name of the God of Israel come I against thee.” God taught him
“To aim the blow that laid the Gittite low.”
But after that what did David go through? In the hey-day of his prosperity he was surrounded with persecution and trouble, revolution and uproar upon uproarÂ—all seemed to be against him. Sore troubles. What about his Ahithophel, his trusted friend? Ah! God knows how to lay you low. He knows who to choose to be the means of the blow, and it may be the last person that you would ever dream of that should deliver the blow. “Had it been an enemy I could have borne it, but it was thou, mine equal, my friend. We went to the house of God in company”Â—the last man in the universe. Ah! so we think, but God showed him great and sore troubles and when his own son conspires, successfully too, for a period to dethrone him and make him a fugitive, well, all this is working together to make David know one thing that, if he goes anywhere, it can only be in the strength of God. It is learned the hard way.
You and I never learn anything worth the possessing but by the hard way, and that abides. You do not turn away from it in later years.
One more thing, the man that is speaking in my text could say (and he was very favoured in being able to say it), he could look to his God Whom he calls his Redeemer and he could say, Â“Thou hast redeemed me”. “My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto Thee and my soul.” Oh! Thou hast redeemed this “I” once more, though I tremble so much about it. Am I interested in redeeming love? “Yes” he says “I am”. He has been enabled to say it now. “He is my Redeemer,” and he blesses God for it, and yet, note this. The experience of an interest in the Lord as your Redeemer, which you may think will put such strength and energy into you that will lift you right above all weakness, will only the more make you prostrate, “the humbler you will lie” at His dear Feet, the clearer you realise that He is your Redeemer. His everlasting love. His atoning blood will so break your heart and dissolve your spirit that you will be less than nothing and altogether vanity, lost in the love of it and the sweetness of it. He mineÂ—I His? Well, all the more, if I go anywhere or do anything, I can only go in Thy strength.” Some seem to have the impression that if they were able to say clearly and satisfactorily “God has forgiven my sins” then they could walk like a coxcomb, that they could be like an eagle, mount up and never weary. Believe me, they would lay the lower at His adorable feet but they would have the real strength, the strength to be nothing, but to be lost in admiration of the redeeming work of Christ.
Now, what will he do? He says “I will go.” But the text does not say anything about where he would go. If I take the context as a guide, I should say it would refer to the fact that he would go on praising God. “My mouth shall shew forth Thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day for I know not the numbers thereof.” What does he mean here? To shew forth the righteousness and the salvation of God. Well, he was qualified to do that because he had an experience of it in his own soul. But he could not possibly tell the numbers thereof, that is, the number of blessings, the number of effects that flow out of God being his righteousness and his salvation. David was one who could count. He learned some arithmetic, but here he is beaten. He cannot multiply sufficiently and get down to the totality of the mercies of God wrapped up in the blessings of His righteousness and of His salvation. If He is my righteousness, I have no guilt. I may feel it, but there is none before God. God does not see it. God does not regard it. He has blotted it out. He has put it away. If Christ is my salvation, there is no fear of my going to hell, though I fear it and will fear it all the days of my life in measure. God will see that I never go there because He is my righteousness and my salvation, and a thousand other blessings wrapped up in it. I cannot tell the numbers thereof, so what will I do? I will go on praising Him for it and even that I can do only in the strength of God.
This is not fleshly excitement with David. It is not religious excitement either. It is the quiet, sober feeling of his heart. His heart so lies under the sweetness and blessedness of the magnitude of the righteousness and salvation of God that he is helpless to do what he wants to do. What is that? Praise him, bless him. Others have felt similarly.
“Weak is the effort of my heart
And cold my warmest thought
But when I see Thee as Thou art
I’ll praise Thee as I ought.
Till then I would Thy love proclaim
With every fleeting breath
And may the music of Thy Name
Refresh my soul in death.”
God say ” Amen ” to that, because that is what we really want!
You can really apply this word “Go” to anything that lies in the child of God’s path.
Now you may be having something that is right in front of you at the moment, a present experience that is anything but pleasant and, honestly and really, you do not know what to do in order to be right, that is, right before God, not right before men. That may have its place, but not the prior place. The first place with a God-fearing person is to be right in his movement and his actions and his words as in the sight of God. Now, the brain gets working on the different problems associated with your particular path and the more your brain works on it there is a tendency for it to magnify the difficulties, to see the potentialities that could come out of this, that and the other. If this were to happen, if that were to go wrong, if this were to turn out right, if that person were to fail me or if the other person happened to be my friend, etc., etc. The more you get thinking about the problem as a rule the brain ties itself up in knots. What are you going to do? Well, eventually, it pulls you down both mentally as well as spiritually. Here is the salve. “I will go in the strength of the Lord God.” You may be blessed with capacity, you may be blessed with means, you may have a kind of a half-way door through which you can see some avenue of escape. If I were you I would not look at any of those things. You keep your eye on the strength of the Lord, because, if you put your trust in the other things, you will see God put failure on them. He knows how to do it, bless His Holy Name. It is a good thing He does though we do not always think so. Venture in the strength that He gives with every problem of your life. That will not be easy. Somebody may say “Why don’t you do that?” I have always found that when I have been in a hole there have always been plenty of folk that could tell me what to do, but I have not known what to do myself, and they are not in my hole. You find the same? Of course you do. Well, what are we to do? Do this. Fall back. “But”, some will say “That is Fatalism.” No, it is not. I think I know the difference between using means and fatalism. This is Gospelism, friends. This is the right thing to do. Use every means God may put into your hands, but so use them as not to put an ounce weight on the lot of them. Trust in Him. You can go anywhere in my text. If God should say concerning you “You shall be full of pain before night. You shall be in hospital before the morning. You shall be face to face with death before 24 hours is passed,” what then? Human nature is not good enough for this. Resolutions are not good enough. But there is one thing good enough in my text “I will go in the strength of the Lord God”. You can go to the grave with that, and, as far as I can see, it is the only thing with which we can go to the grave. It is no good going with my profession, that is nothing. That can be a bundle of deception from beginning to end. I am not speaking unkindly about a profession of faith. I am speaking of the trusting in it, the looking to it. Oh it is nothing, but, if I must go to the grave today. God grant He take me, not in the power of my flesh, not in the power of any profession, not in the power of any preaching, but just in that quiet, continued supply of strength which He alone can give and which He will give.
“He weakened my strength in the way” the Psalmist said. That is true. Do you remember the time when you were full of it, Ah! you were a big man and a big woman. You knew a thing worth two or three. You were far more equipped for what you had got to do than anybody else that you knew of. You were clever, were you not? What a fool you have made of yourself, feelingly I mean. No-one else has seen it. You have seen it. You have felt it. God has plucked the proud feathers off your skin hasn’t He? And you have looked a pretty image when He has plucked the feathers. Ah! but has it not done you good? Do you remember the time when God stripped you and it looked as if He were going to tear the skin off as well as the feathers, and you fell flat, empty before His holy Throne and you did from your very heart, bursting, breaking with grief and sorrow, say “Help me Lord”? Ah! it is best to have our strength weakened by the way. He will do that, but it will only the more illustriously set forth His strength.
Paul had those wonderful visions and revelations which he was never able to talk about, but “Lest I be exalted.” Now, just look what poor, human nature is at best, for if ever there were a man of God who walked in the love and fear of God it was Paul. If ever there were a man honoured to be caught up so high it was Paul, and yet he knew that, through the abundance of the revelations given to him, there was the tendency for the pride of his heart to rise up and say “Paul, you are a big man, look what a lot God thinks of you. He would not have shown you all this if you had not been what you are.” “Lest I should be exalted above measure there was given to me a thorn in the flesh.” Now you do not know what that thorn was and I do not. There have been ever so many arguments about it. Some say it was ophthalmia. I do not know. I think perhaps the beloved physician Luke could have helped brother Paul if it had been that, for Luke accompanied Paul you know. It is best for us not to know what his thorn was. It leaves it open, whatever God makes a thorn to you is your thorn. “For this I besought the Lord thrice”Â—frequently. “Take it away, Lord, take it away.” Ah! have we not done that? “I cannot stand this. Lord,” and inwardly, “I will not stand it either.” Do you know that man or woman? Does he live up your street, in your house? I reckon he does. I am sure he does. Ah! but He does not take it away, but He has done far better than remove the thorn, “My grace is sufficient for thee” and the best of it was that Paul said “He said unto me.” Ah! it was not Luke, much as he loved Luke. None of his brother ministers with whom he walked in the same spirit of loveÂ—they could not have said it. God said it. He that gave me the thorn He said unto me, “My grace is sufficient for thee” and there is a force in that word ‘said’ that I cannot convey to you, but it has the force of ‘He is saying it to me now’. Says Paul ‘He said it to me at the time but He is repeating it. The power is with me still. I have not lost it; I shall never lose it. It is resounding in my heart wherever I go, whatever I do,’ My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” “I will go in the strength of the Lord God” that’s it. He weakens ours to illustrate His the more. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength”. Ah! don’t you wait on anyone else, and don’t you wait upon anything else. You wait upon Him. Make God your Confidant as well as your confidence. “Trust only in the Lord.” Do not take counsel so much of other folk. Take counsel first, chiefly, at God’s hands. He will never let you down, never. He has never done it and He never will. Do you want a reminder of the trouble that you will get into if you run away from what I am talking about this morning? Well, let me give you one.
We read in the Prophecy of Isaiah about Israel when they were in trouble. Well now, what are you going to do when you are in trouble? Get out of it as quickly as you can. Yes, I agree. That is nature. Flesh and blood says that every time. Well, what will you do? There is Egypt down thereÂ—they have a mighty army, mighty power, we will get an alliance with Egypt and they will help us to fight the enemies that are coming against us. That is just what Israel were doing as recorded in the 30th Isaiah. Now what did God say? God said to his servant Isaiah ‘Now you go and cry, shout unto them, ‘Your strength is to sit still’. ‘Leave Egypt alone, sit still.’ Does not that seem foolish? It does, and it is to sense and reason, but it is heavenly wisdom. You can meet the man tomorrow; you can meet the event tomorrow, or whenever it may come along, if first and chief you have dealt with God heart to heart, frankly. If you have told Him everything and waited upon Him in honesty, ‘you will see the crooked things made straight and the rough places smooth.’ Do not expect God to do it in a hurry, but He can do it even in a hurry, speedily, ‘Before they call’ sometimes He will do it.
There was a man who was in great trouble, no food whatever in the house, and he remembered reading about Elijah being fed with the ravens and he also had remembered how some of the critics of the Bible had said ‘Why they were not ravensÂ—they were little black Arabs running about and they dropped the food for Elijah’. Well this particular man, he pleaded with GodÂ—you can believe it or not but it is truth and it has been verified as truth tooÂ—he heard a fluttering going on overhead and when he looked outside there was a lump of pork at his feet. There were the birds up there, ravens and other big birds, they had spotted the bird carrying this and they were after him and in the scramble I suppose they made him open his mouth and drop it, but God directed it, and the man took it up, put it in a pot and boiled it and enjoyed it.
Ah! God is not dead. He is just the same as in Elijah’s day only we do not believe it, not really. I do not know what we do believe nowadays, really, honestly, I do not. We reckon we believe all the Bible but we do not in a practical way.
Well, trust in Him and it will be well.
“I will go in the strength of the Lord God; I will make mention of His righteousness and of His only.”
One thing only would he mention, which means, bear in mind, he would mark it, he would make it an everlasting memorial. He would never let it be out of his sight if he could help it, what? ‘Thy righteousness and Thine only.’
Well, now, David had been a good man by the grace of God. Ah! he was a man after God’s Own heartÂ—God says so and He always speaks most honourably of His servant David, but David had no righteousness of his own, ‘Thine Lord, Thine only.’ And you and I have not learned that yet properly. Excuse my saying so. We have a lot of it in theory, oh yes, we can chatter about it, but I say have we got it in the heart? I want it a lot more. What is it that makes you dark, miserable? I know what it isÂ—your guilt, your filth. Ah! but the text says He has a righteousness. I will make mention of that and of that only. That is easy to say, but when a man feels choked with his filth, guilt and stink of sin how dare he say it? That is the time to say it. It never was more true than when you feel you are a loathsome sinner in the sight of God, that is when His righteousness appears the most glorious and the most welcome indeed. ‘Make mention of that only.’