Sunday, March 23, 2008

Whom have I in heaven but Thee?

Thank God for the joy and privilege to join in my church's public worship again this morning and to fellowship with my friends. My Pastor shared a very encouraging sermon with us on the theme "The Fear of the Lord" (Proverbs 1:7).

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge:..." Proverbs 1:7

Today, Pastor JJ shared with us that the basis of our fear of the Lord is:

1) The LORD is our God and our Creator
The LORD is self-existent and He depends on no one for His existence. On the other hand, we are fully dependant on Him for our existence, life and motion. Our lives are in the hands of God.

2) The LORD is a holy God
God's holiness exposes our earthiness and uncleanness.

3) The LORD is a covenant God
God Who is self-existent, transcendent and holy has chosen to reveal Himself unto a people and adopted them to be His sons and daughters. God chose to reveal Himself to us so that we can know Him and be adopted as His children. God is our covenant making and covenant keeping God and He draws us near to Himself, by sending His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to live and died for us, so that we may know Him.

When we come to know and understand who God is, we are drawn to love and reverent Him. The fear we have of God is a fear that causes us to know our own unworthiness and makes us want to respect and please God, and makes us fear to sin against Him. It is a fear that causes us to love God just as a child would love his father with respect.

This encouraging message reminds me once again of God's mercies to me in leading me to seek and know Him about 20 years ago. Through an episode of severe depression, and finding life meaningless, the Lord has providentially used my circumstances to lead me to seek Him.

I was born in Malaysia and I grew up there. More than 20 years ago, I came to Singapore on my own to work. With unrealized ambitions, and seeing the deceitfulness of human heart, I was very disillusioned. I wasn't interested in the rat race I saw around me in my job. I was disappointed with the fragile human friendships I experienced then too. Life seemed so meaningless. Providentially, as I love reading, I came across a book in the library in which several Christians testified to living a very meaningful life because they had a personal relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. I have always believed there is a God but never felt the need to be "religious." But at that point of time, I seemed to have come to an end in myself. I was far away from home and family. I was not able to realized my ambitions and disillusioned by friendships. I wondered whether life was worth living. But that book opened my eyes to realized that what if there is really a God? What if God really loves me and is interested in my life? And He has made me for a purpose? Which means my existence is not by accident? Wouldn't that makes life meaningful? I have never really prayed before. But that evening, I prayed and asked God to lead me to know Him through my 2 colleagues who have been witnessing to me. By God's mercies, He used these 2 brothers to bring me to church. They gave me a Bible and I began to read, go to Church for public worship and I pray on my own too. As I read the Bible, I was moved by the love of God for lost sinners. For the Bible says, that

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16

To know that God loved me and sent His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to live and died for me, was very encouraging to me. Though I found much disappointment in human friendships, I found much consolations in God's love. I read with wonder of how the Lord suffered and died on the cross for us. Who will lay down his life for another man? But our Lord laid down His life for us, to save us from our sins, by paying the penalty for our sins, so that we can have our sins forgiven by the cleansing of His precious blood and we can enjoy eternal life in Him. What a comfort!

My life was never the same again. Though I continue to experience about 10 to 11 severe depression episodes thereafter until my diagnosis last year, because I didn't know that I have this condition called bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), the Lord's love changed my life. God's love gives me the courage to face many difficult challenges in my life. And no matter what He allows me to go through, I have experienced His love and faithfulness in many wonderful ways.

I love the Lord, though my love are feeble at times, and I failed the Lord in many ways. But life will be meaningless to me without God. I know that God has a purpose for my life here, even in this bipolar condition. I am thankful that through my struggles with severe depressions, the Lord has led me to know Him in very personal and real way daily. Without God sustaining me, I would not be alive today neither would I be able to be useful. I thank God for His love for me despite my unworthiness. It is my prayer daily that God will help me to know Him and live for Him.

Augustine said in his famous Confessions, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord." Truly, it is in God that I found rest for my soul. And I am comforted by the knowledge that one day when my tasks here are completed, God will take me home to be with Himself, to my eternal rest and fellowship with Him.

This morning we sang one of my favourite portions in Psalm 73 (This Psalm can be sing to the tune Wetherby or Wiltshire which can be downloaded (.mp3) from here. You can also download from Free Reformed Software Page, the Psalter with Tunes or Psalm Tunes Midi Files)

Psalm 73:25-28

Whom have I in the heavens high
but thee, O Lord, alone?
And in the earth whom I desire
besides thee there is none.

My flesh and heart doth faint and fail,
but God doth fail me never:
For of my heart God is the strength
and portion for ever.

For, lo, they that are far from thee
for ever perish shall;
Them that a whoring from thee go
thou hast destroyed all.

But surely it is good for me
that I draw near to God:
In God I trust, that all thy works
I may declare abroad.

Edward Griffin preached a very encouraging sermon titled "Whom have I in heaven but Thee". This is one of my favourite sermons. Edward said the Psalmist, Asaph, had experienced a severe trial from the infirmities of his own heart; which trial, together with the manner in which he was relieved, is described in this beautiful Psalm. He had been “envious at the foolish when” he “saw the prosperity of the wicked,” and had indulged in unworthy complaints against divine providence. But the glory of God’s faithfulness and truth so opened on his soul, and the comparative emptiness of all earthly things, that with more than recovered spirits he exclaimed, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.”

Edward wrote:

Such a temper of supreme delight in God will operate in unreserved and universal submission to divine providence. While God is more beloved than all other objects, the withholding or removal of every thing besides him will not awaken a spirit of unsubmission and rebellion.

While the Christian has such supreme delight in God, he will not be inordinately leaning on friends or wealth or any worldly object for enjoyment. No high expectations will be formed except those which centre in the supreme good. Lightly valuing the things of time and sense, he will scorn the restless pursuits and unsatisfied desires of the covetous; and holding the commands of God in supreme veneration, he will practice deeds of liberal charity.

Sensible that prosperity gives and adversity takes away only those things which are least desirable, neither by prosperity nor adversity will he be greatly moved. Ever assured that God, the supreme good, is safe, he will dismiss all anxieties respecting future changes, and come what will, he will “rejoice evermore.” Calmly resigning the management of all affairs into hands dearer than his own, he passes his days in unruffled serenity, and knows not the distrusts of jealousy nor the uneasiness of unbelief. Having a greater regard for the divine will than for any earthly comfort which that will can bestow, he has learned “both how to abound and to suffer need,” and “in whatsoever state” he is, “therewith to be content.”

The result of this supreme love to God will be faith, trust, self-denial, obedience, and an unreserved consecration of all that we are and have to him, to be disposed of according to his pleasure, and to be employed in his service, how and when and where he is pleased to appoint.

Read the rest of this very encouraging sermon from my Believers Encouragement blog at "Whom have I in heaven but Thee".

My friend, Heng Sau, took this photo at Saipan.

Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. Psalm 73-25-26

No comments: