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Text: Psalm 46
Proposition: Fathers struggle with many fears and doubts yet they are called to ‘be still and know that I am God’.
Introduction: It’s hard to know where to begin on Father’s Day, whether it’s with cute stories about sons and daughters who look up to them or hard statistics about the numbers of lives punctured by fatherless families. Mother’s day generates way more cards and flowers but Father’s Day… it has a way of reaching into our hearts with either fond remembrances or deep longings. There’s a quote attributed to Mark Twain where he says, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” For fathers and mothers, persevering through the impatience of youth can be one of the hardest tests. When I think about my own stumbling steps at being a father it’s a mix of wonderful times and times when I wondered how it was all going to work out. There’s a word of advice I’d like to offer to all you fathers out there, it’s not my word of advice but rather God’s word of advice. As in all things that God says there is a ‘simplicity’ in it, an economy of words that leaves us sensing truth rather than being instructed in its step by step ways. The advice is found at the end of Psalm 46, it’s the conclusion to all that is said there. The simple advice from God to you is, “Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” That’s it, in all the intensity that you may be experiencing in your life this day, in all the wonderful memories of what Father’s day invokes, even in all the longings it stirs, “Be still and know that I am God…”. Turn with me to Psalm 46.
I. Fathers Always Fear Those Times When the Wheels Come Off.
That phrase, ‘when the wheels come off’ refers to breakdowns, failures of some sort, times when things grind into the dirt because the wheel no longer carries it. When my brother was about 22 he had this 1955 Chevy. It was a beater that he was restoring but it was also the only car he had. He was headed towards Winnipeg one day, doing about 90 kilometers an hour when suddenly he sees this wheel go shooting past him. He checks the rear view mirror and there’s nobody behind him and the first thought is, ‘I wonder where that tire came from.’ Then comes the sinking realization, ‘That’s my tire.’ The car had enough momentum that it rolled on three wheels until he slowed down to 20, then things got a little messy. Despite our best intentions and sometimes even despite our love, the wheels can come off at a time we least expect.
What do you suppose are the things that fathers all over the world fear? It turns out that they are all the same: 1. The safety of my family; 2. The ability to provide for them; 3. The direction of their future steps. Fathers fear those times when the wheels come off, when I can’t keep them safe, when I don’t have enough money, when the future has too much uncertainty. The unsettling reality is that these things are often way beyond our control so the only response is, “Be still and know that I am God…”. At the beginning of Psalm 46 it says that this is a song for Alamoth, a word that means ‘young women of marriageable age’, likely a reference to soprano voices being needed to sing this Psalm. So imagine a harmony of soprano voices singing, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea: though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.” The earth removed, that which you stand upon taken out from under you…the mountains carried into the midst of the sea…that which was a certainty, unmovable, being suddenly moved to a place that I can’t reach, the midst of the ocean. There had been times when this was exactly what David had experienced, yet the first couplet is how he withstood those times… “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” I think I told you that story of the African bushman who was taking a heavy load of tanned hides to market. A missionary drove by and saw him with this loaded pack and offered to let him ride in the back of the truck, his family was with him in the cab. The bushman climbs onto the truck and away they go. About a mile down the road the missionary checks his mirror and there’s the bushman standing in the back of the truck with the pack on his back, struggling to keep his balance. He stops and gets out and asks the bushman why he doesn’t just put the pack down and rest. The bushman’s answer was simply, “I didn’t think your truck could carry both me and my pack.” The only way to be still and to know God is when we trust that He can carry us and all that we carry. Be still, rest in God’s ability and purpose and character. Wasn’t it Jesus who once said, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” It’s strange how sometimes this can feel like giving up, like surrendering, yet that is what God invites us to do when we’ve done that all we can do. We paint one side of the fence but the other side, that’s out of our reach, that’s God’s to paint.
II. When Things Go Better Than They Ever Deserved, Fathers Know God.
Maybe fathers have experienced this very thing when they get pulled over by the police for going through a yellow light that could have been turning red but it hadn’t yet. The officer tells you that traffic lights don’t have a pink light and then he cautions you and lets you go. If you’re a father you’ll remember times when things have gone better than you ever deserved, when you’ve been forgiven, when you’ve been blessed, when you’ve been honored. It’s when things go well inspite of you that we see grace and mercy standing right in front of us. Maybe that’s what David had in mind when he writes, “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.” The river is a metaphor for the grace of God, causing things to be better than we ever deserved, it makes glad the people who live near grace. David is thinking about Jerusalem and the way God has again and again come to save His people. He says that God has always been right in the midst of her, enabling her to stand. Sometimes it was at the last minute, right at dawn. Sometimes to be still is a call to trust in God when it seems like it’s almost too late, yet it’s in that place that God refines faith. It’s in those times of being still that we know God in ways that we never would otherwise.
In the language of this Psalm nothing can stand against the power of God, not raging nations, not strife nor war of any kind. For those who have tried to fight God the Psalm writer says, “Come behold the works of the Lord who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth…”. Who can fight a God who’s stronger than a tornado, who makes reconciliation where there was only war. Fathers know that when things work out better than what we ever deserved that it’s not luck or chance or fate, it’s mercy. It’s amazing how God reveals Himself in being merciful. In fact it’s in the moments when we suddenly realize that mercy is what we have experienced that we come a point of being still and we know God. When we see His greatest example of mercy, the wrath against sin that we deserved being deflected onto Jesus Christ, the right standing with God that Jesus has being reflected onto us as we by faith agree to let Jesus take our place, it’s then that we see God and it causes us to be still.
It’s Father’s Day, what you get to take home with you is a simple piece of advice that will enable you to love your wives, to love your children and to be faithful as a man. This week, when the earth is removed from under your feet and mountains are cast into the sea, ‘Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”