In Exodus 14 verse 13, Moses was told by God to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. In Luke chapter 8 and verse 50, the whole household of Jairus were told: "Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole". Now the two phrases that I want to leave with you today, and drum into your mind and spirit, as God has done with me this week are: 'Believe only, stand still', or, 'Stand still, believe only'.
I don't know whether you've ever felt boxed in in life. Circumstances have transpired that you feel that you have reached a brick wall, and you're in one of life's many cul-de-sacs and you don't know how to get out. Most of us can testify to these experiences at some time or another, that life has brought us into extraordinary difficulties, and we don't know how to escape them. The Israelites in Exodus chapter 14 found themselves in such a situation - they could not retreat, they could not go forward, they were restricted on the right hand and on the left hand, and they did not know what to do.
I wonder have you ever felt like that? You can't retreat, you can't go back on what you've done; you feel that circumstances are restricting you so that you cannot go on; you feel paralysed that you can't go to the right hand or the left hand, and you simply do not know what to do! I'm quite aware of the company that I'm speaking to today, that most of you are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, but I am not ignorant of the fact that there are times when we can get into situations in life, even as Christians, where we feel we are boxed in, we have reached a brick wall, we're in a cul-de-sac and we don't know what to do or where to turn. For many their only answer in those situations is suicide. For some people they feel that that is the only way out, to end it all. That is why the biggest killer in the island of Ireland as a whole today, of young men, is suicide.
You might say within your heart: 'Well, Christians aren't meant to feel that way! Christians are meant to be happy, they're not meant to worry! You were preaching not so long ago that they're to pray about everything, worry about nothing, and be thankful for anything' - well, that's right. That is the ideal that we're to live up to, but the fact of the matter is that all of us, at some time, go through the experience where we do not know how to get out of our difficulties. It's alright singing: 'What the use of worrying, it never was worthwhile; so pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile' - sometimes you just cannot smile, smile, smile. Incidentally, those words were written by the British actor George Howell, and they were set to a cheerful melody that most of you know by his piano-playing brother Felix Howell, and it earned the two of them something round about 40,000 pounds - and in those days that was a small fortune. Yet one year later Felix, who had written the melody, sat down at his piano and he played 'Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile', and then he went into a room where he was alone, and he shot himself and killed himself.
No matter how much we smile, and Christians do try their best to smile, even Christians are not immune from troubles like these. There is a depression and a dangerous melancholy that is produced when we feel that there is just no way out. It should never be underestimated. It's alright if you're not of that temperament, and you're more happy-go-lucky, to turn round and to order those people in a disdainful tone, who are sad, to 'just cheer up and forget about it' - but when you're in one of life's cul-de-sacs, when you're facing one of the brick walls that cannot be scaled and you're boxed in, you realise that it's just not as simple as all that. Robert Burton in his book, 'The Anatomy of Melancholy', said these words, and how true I believe they are: 'If there is a hell on earth it is to be found in the melancholy man's heart'.
If you find yourself in this valley of darkness that I have been describing this morning, the best thing that you can do is listen to absolutely no-one but your Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. The reason why I say that is there will be many voices that will come into your mind and your spirit. Despair will say: 'Just curl up and die, it's over, give up!'. Cowardice will say: 'Oh, this Christian road's not all it's cracked up to be. Go back to the world, retreat. This Christian life's too difficult for you, if you went back to the world you'd have less worries and you'd be more happy there'. You cannot afford, in that type of situation, to listen to those voices - and it should be no surprise to us that Satan's tactic is to tempt us with thoughts like these when we are at our lowest, when we're vulnerable. It's OK to piously say: 'You shouldn't listen to them at all', but when your back's against the wall, and there's no apparent answer that you can find from God or from man, you'll clutch at anything - even perhaps if it's Satan's escape route.
I don't have time to go into all the problems and perplexities that the patriarch Job faced, but you know the book, you can read it for yourself. You know after everything in his life had been taken away from him, then his nearest and dearest thing that he had left, his precious wife, turned around to him in chapter 2 verses 9 and 10 and said to him: 'Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!'. Now he said later to her: 'You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed except good from God, and shall we not accept adversity or evil?'. I'm sure the temptation was there for Job: 'I wonder should I curse God, and just end it all and finish this misery now?'. Now listen, my friends today, no matter how tempting it is to listen to all of Satan's quick-fixes, whatever they are, we must learn as believers in a melancholy age to listen to no-one but Jesus Christ our Lord. What does He say? This is what He says: 'Stand still, believe only'.
Now, I know it's hard to just wait on God, it's hard to wait on anybody - I know that, impatient as I am. But to wait on God when you can't see what's happening, you can't see the dispensing of His gifts coming down, if you like, on the shuttle from heaven to you - it's hard. And what we tend to do as human beings, we want to engineer our own destiny, we want to fix things the way we know they should be. At times in life when things aren't going as we would like them to go, we put our grubby hands on our circumstances and try to rearrange God's providence. This is when we get into danger. We say to ourselves: 'Stand still? You can't just do nothing!' - and impatience, as well as despair and cowardice, will say: 'You've got to do something, give yourself shake, waken up - to stand still is laziness! Do you want this to happen to you?'.
Now of course we always must guard against slothfulness and lethargy, but the problem is not when we are active - of course faith without works is dead, we must be active when God speaks - but the problem comes in our impatience when we must do something instead of looking to the Lord to do everything, which He would do if we looked to Him in the first instance. If we would only be still, God would move. But so often if we don't despair, and if we're not cowards, we're impatient, and then others are presumptuous. There is the boast, when we reach these problems and brick walls, of saying: 'Well, if the sea is before you, march into it, expect a miracle!'. Some people mistake that for faith, it is not faith, it is presumptuousness. Faith is to move in God's time, and if Moses had walked into the Red Sea one moment before God commanded him to do, and in a way that was different than God told him to - which was by lifting his rod and hand over it in God's timing - he would have drowned and all the Israelites with him. He had to wait on God's time and do the thing God's way.
So faith does not listen to presumption, it does not listen to impatience, it doesn't listen to cowardice, it doesn't listen to despair, but it listens to the Spirit of God in Christ which says: 'Stand still, believe only'. Now before we look at the Master's words which we have quoted many times already in this message, I want us to look at His person, His demeanour in Luke chapter 8. You know the story of Jairus' daughter - this man was in danger of losing his only child, his little girl. He cries to the Lord Jesus for help, and Jesus is on His way, and the crowds come around Him and He's in what the Authorised calls 'the press', the great crowd and multitude pressing against Him. This woman in the crowd who had an issue of blood for 12 years reaches out in faith and touches the hem of Christ's garment, and she's made whole, and then the Lord Jesus is waylaid, as it were, to turn and talk to her and teach the disciples a lesson out of her faith.
Now as that is happening the little girl is getting worse and worse and worse, and then she dies. One of the servants comes to the Lord Jesus and to Jairus and says: 'Jairus trouble not the Master any more, it's no use, it's finished, there's a brick wall, there's a cul-de-sac, there's an impossible situation that you can't get out of, she's dead!'. We know the rest of the story - the Lord Jesus went to the home, and they were mourning and weeping. He cast out of the home those who were doubting and laughed Him to scorn, and He lifted that little cold waxen hand of that 12-year-old corpse, and He touched it and He said: 'Talitha cumi', 'Little maid arise' - and she arose.
What I want you to see is the Lord's demeanour. Luke's gospel, of course, is the gospel that portrays the manhood of the Lord Jesus, His humanity. Of course it doesn't ignore His deity, but it specifically looks at the tender human compassion of the man Christ Jesus. So as we look at this passage on a human level, we see that the Lord Himself, not just Jairus, but the Lord was in an extraordinary difficulty. Here was a brokenhearted father begging Him to come to his home and help his dying only daughter. It was his one and only daughter. Then after this man comes, verse 42 says: 'But he went and the people thronged him' - He was now getting into a tight, and some would say even claustrophobic place. Then in that tight place this woman who had a problem for 12 years, reached out for healing. Now just put yourself for a moment, as a human being, in the shoes of the Lord Jesus Christ in this situation. He's asked for emergency help at that moment, and all of a sudden this great crowd of people trapped Him, and a woman who - on a human level (He knew she was there, of course) but you wouldn't have known she was there - she comes to you for help. What would your reaction be? I imagine mine would be: 'How am I going to get out of this crowd to Jairus' house - I haven't got time for this woman. I know she's in need, but this wee girl needs me more'. The dying girl needs you at this moment, this woman after she touches the hem of your garment she's healed, she's got what she came for. 'Now I must go to Jairus' house, I haven't got time to preach or to teach or anything like that' - perhaps even in your mind would be the thought: 'My reputation will be ruined if this little girl dies! Jairus is the head of the synagogue, and the Jews are already against me!'.
Isn't that the way we would react? But how does the Saviour react? If we see anything we see His perfectly composed human spirit - not once did He panic! Even in an apparently tight place He didn't panic, the fact is that He took time to personally counsel this woman after healing her, and then He turned to the disciples and the crowd using her as an example and taught them a lesson in faith. He was in no hurry. Now observe Him when He's finished with that woman, and the voices start again. You know those voices you hear, well He heard them too - verse 49, second half, the servant from Jairus' house came running: 'Jairus! Forget about it, your daughter is dead, don't trouble the Master any more!'. And I think in essence he was saying: 'You needn't bother Him, it's too late!' - almost with a disdainful tone - 'He's taken that long coming the wee child's died, there's no point in bringing Him now!'. Maybe even some of the folk wouldn't have wanted to see Him, and there was, I think, an accusation of a lack of urgency in the Saviour's heart, a lack of care and compassion. Then that led to, when He got to the house, in verse 53 He receives ridicule from the people: 'and they laughed Him to scorn knowing that she was dead' - 'What does that man take us for - 'She's only sleeping'? Can He not see that she's dead?'.
Do you see that not once did He run to his own defence? But please see this, for this is so important in the spirit of this message that I bring to you from the Lord today: He didn't panic, His inner peace was not disturbed by the thoughts 'How do I put this right? This is the leader of the synagogue's daughter! How can I retrieve this situation?'. Now ask yourself for a moment, as you look at the human Christ, why did He not act under the pressures and the prods of the circumstances around Him? Why did He not listen and obey the command of the voices that are clamouring to Him for action? Here's why, mark this now: He, above all men, was standing still before God. Have you got it?
Maybe I'm not making myself terribly clear. Turn with me to 1 Peter chapter 2, 1 Peter chapter 2 verse 21, of course Christ is our Saviour, but Peter also cites Him as our example. He says: 'For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in his steps'. What were those steps? 'Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not' - now this is what I want you to notice - 'but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously'. J.M. Darby translates that statement: 'but gave himself over into the hands'; the RSV says: 'but he trusted to him who judges justly'; Weymouth in his translation brings it out beautifully, he says: 'but he left his wrongs in the hands of the righteous judge'. In other words, could I translate it or paraphrase it like this for you: 'He stood still before God! He had committed Himself, His circumstances, everything that He was and had, over to the Lord; and as a man He was standing still before God'. His calm repose was carried along as God sovereignly ordained His pathway. He had committed Himself entirely into the Father's hands, so everything that happened to Him was the Father's will.
Of course we cannot ignore in our Lord Jesus that He was and is God incarnate. He had knowledge that we do not have, but please see that as a man we never see Him in a fluster, do we? He never gets into a tizzy, He never panics, and even at the temple when He was angry it was controlled anger. Even in Gethsemane, when He's on His knees contemplating the cross, there was no panic there! What is panic? I lifted my Oxford English dictionary down, and the definition is this: 'Panic is some uncontrollable fear or alarm' - uncontrollable fear or alarm. Have you ever experienced that? You don't know what to do, you can't retreat, you can't go forward, you can't go right, you can't go left - and you just don't know how to get out of this awful claustrophobic situation. Listen my friend, look at the Christ - Christ was always in control because He knew His Father was! Therefore, how could He panic uncontrollably when He knew His Father was in control - in fact, if He was God incarnate as He was, He was in control; and He tells us after His resurrection: 'All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth'.
That's looking at it from the Saviour's perspective, but what I also want you to do is look at it from Jairus' perspective, from a human perspective that we can identify with more. 'Christ is late! He hasn't come when I needed Him, where is He? Where's His answers? He's maybe even careless! Sure He knew my daughter was ill, He knew she was going to die, so why did He spend time in this crowd preaching? Why did He need to heal this woman?'. Maybe Jairus even thought: 'Oh this is typical me, other people always seem to get the blessings from God, but never me'. I wonder is that the way you feel today? I wonder what the feelings were in Moses' heart as he stood at the Red Sea? They're not recorded for us, but he was a human being you know - and I just wonder, for those few split seconds before God spoke to him, as he gazed at the great barrier of water that was paralysing his plans and seemed to be anaesthetising the promises that God had given him about deliverance and a promised land - I wonder, for just a moment was there doubt? 'Can God really do this? Will God do this?'. Maybe there was a spark of despair: 'This is it! It's too late! It's the end' - despair that threatened to combust his soul and destroy his whole faith before God. We know from chapter 14 of Exodus that he did hear the people, maybe they weren't murmuring, but they were ready to curse him to death, even stone him to death for leading them up this blind alley, telling them God would come in time, God would deliver them. Did he think, presumptuously: 'I must act, I must do something, or there's no telling what these people will do to me!'. Was there even the temptation to panic?
Well, I'm sure there was - but do you know what the glorious story of Moses is, and Jairus' daughter, this is what I want you to see: naked faith won the day! Stand still, don't you do anything! Believe only! I like the order of the Authorised Version in that: 'Just believe' - nothing more, but nothing less! Moses listened to his Master. If you read the other verses around verse 13, it says: 'And the Lord said to Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea'. What had Moses to do? What was his part? His part was to stand still, to wait on the word of the Lord, and then to just believe that what His word said would be accomplished - and that's when the victory came! If he had not waited, he would not have known that he had to lift up his hand and the rod over the sea. But he waited, and when he waited God gave the word, and when God gave the word he went forward.
Now dear soul today, let's reverse our thinking for a moment just to consider this: is this not why we meet life's cul-de-sacs, life's crises, brick walls, boxed-in areas? That God could get us to, just for one moment in our busy life with everything that's crammed into a modern 24 hours, to stand still and believe only! It's hard, but that's when faith's victories come. Oh, you know that verse in Isaiah so well: 'He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall' - unnatural crises will come into their life - 'But they that wait upon the LORD' - they that be still, and stand to see the salvation of the Lord, and only believe - 'shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint'. The poet said:
'Stand still!, my soul, for so the Lord commands;
E'en when thy way seems blocked, leave it in His wise hands;
His arm is mighty to divide the wave.
Stand still, my soul, stand still - and thou shalt see
how God can work the impossible for thee,
for with a great deliverance He doth save!'
Another poet said, Annie Johnson Flint, who we get so many sweet verses from:
'Have you come to the Red Sea place in your life,
Where, in spite of all you can do,
There is no way out, there is no way back,
There is no other way but through?
Then wait on the Lord with a trust serene
Till the night of your fear is gone;
He will send the wind, He will heap the floods,
When He says to your soul, 'Go on''.
Can you turn with me as we close to Psalm 46, this is a favourite Psalm of many of us, and we've turned to it time after time when life's roof and walls seem to cave in around us. Verse 1 says: 'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble'. One version of the Bible I have been reading of late, the marginal reading, the alternative reading, reads like this for 'a very present help in trouble' - and do jot this down, it's been a tremendous blessing to me: 'God is our refuge and strength, abundantly available for help in tight places'. Isn't that lovely? Abundantly available for help in tight places.
Where are you today? Listen, here's the word of the Lord for you: don't despair, don't be cowardly and go back, don't be presumptuous and think that you can just press the problems out of the way, don't be impatient and feel that you have to do something - but stand still, believe only, and God will give the word. One day very soon, sooner than you think, God will say: 'Go on!'
'Be gone unbelief, my Saviour is near' - isn't it wonderful that all of them that laughed the Saviour to scorn, He put them out - He puts out unbelief. You put unbelief out of your heart today - 'Be gone unbelief!' - why? 'My Saviour is near!' - death cannot survive at a funeral where the Saviour is present. 'And for my relief will surely appear' - He is abundantly able and available to help in tight places. 'By prayer let me wrestle, and He will perform; With Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm'. Verse 3 is precious to me: 'His love in times past forbids me to think He'll leave me at last in trouble to sink' - all those blessings that He's given you in the past, all those times He's come through for you in the past. 'Each sweet Ebenezer, hitherto hath the Lord led me, I have in review, confirms His good pleasure to help me quite through'.
Let us pray: O give Thy servant patience to be still and bear Thy will, courage to venture wholly on the arm that will not harm, the wisdom that will never let me stray out of my way, the love that now afflicting knoweth best when I should rest. Lord, may we all be still and know that Thou art God. Even when things that seem wrong invade our peace, that we will learn the lesson of the example of our Lord Jesus Christ - who in human flesh committed His wrongs to the Father, the righteous Judge. Lord, help us to believe only, that in our lives - whatever our circumstances may be that cause us present distress - that that faith would lead us through the waters that would threaten to drown us, and into a promised land of milk and honey that we could never have known, and though we were told it we would not have believed it. May we be able to say soon: 'We are here'. Father, bless every heart and head bowed before Thee this morning in the name of our wonderful Saviour, who bore all our iniquities and infirmities on the tree, that we one day might be free from them all by faith. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "Be Still, Believe Only" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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