Through The Valley
He loves you with an everlasting love. He wants to put His arms of love around you and support you, guide you, and protect you if you let Him.
And hello again radio friends. How in the world are you? Thank God you can be in the world without being of it. You don’t have to be tarred with the world’s brush in order to live in a dirty world. Jesus can keep you pure and clean. “You who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation”, Peter says in his first letter, “Jesus prayed for His disciples and for those that would believe on Him through their word”, that’s you and for me, and He said, “Keep them through Thy Word. Thy Word is truth”. If your life is full of the Word of God, you will be kept by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God, applying that Word to your life. I hope you will this very day.
Well, this is your good friend, Dr. Cook, and I’m with you once again looking at the 23rd Psalm. We just got started with our thought on Psalm 23 verse four, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”. It’s a personal walk, but Jesus walks with you. It’s a gloomy walk, “the shadow”, but His Presence brings light and confidence. It’s the valley, it represents a downer experience, so to speak, as the young people say, but the mountain is on the other side, and you’ll be soon up on the mountaintop. And then it’s the “valley of the shadow of death”. I like his wording there, “the shadow of death”-the shadow is not the reality.
I used to be afraid of the dark when I was a very little boy, living on the farm in Ohio with my aunt and uncle. I would be put to bed at a reasonably early hour, upstairs in this old farmhouse, and the room that I occupied had a four-poster bed in it with a straw mattress and some homemade quilts to cover me, and a big pillow filled with goose down. I always wondered why I was sneezy, and then I found out I was allergic, but you never find that out until 20 years later! Anyhow, they put me to bed and I would be scared of the things that I saw- the shadows on the wall. If there was a bright moonlight outside, the moon shining down through the gnarled branches of the big, old pine tree, whose branches would rub against the siding of the house with a groaning sound, and then those shadows would appear on the wall, and I was sure something was coming to get me. Well, of course it wasn’t. They would come up and scold me and say, “What’s a matter with you, boy? You shouldn’t be afraid. You’re a big boy now. Go to sleep”. Slam! Slam the door downstairs. Well, that blessed me to death, as you can understand. (laughs) I didn’t dare make noise, but I was still scared. It was just the shadow, it wasn’t any reality at all. Now, the psalmist says, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”. Why can we call it only a shadow? Because the Lord Jesus Christ has vanquished death. He vanquished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. When you believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, beloved, you are also the recipient of His victory! He vanquished, He triumphed over death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel, and so when you trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, ( Paul starts talking about that in 1 Corinthians 15,) “I declare unto you, the Gospel that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried and that He rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures ; and that He was seen by Cephas, then of the 12, after that He was seen by about 500 brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain unto this present but some of passed away. After that, He was seen by James and then of all the Apostles, and last of all, He was seen by me also as a one born out of due time by the grace of God, I am what I am”. That’s the Gospel. What is it? Christ died, He was buried, He rose again victorious over the grave, He was seen by enough people to know that He was real, and last of all me too. I know Him. I met Him. That’s the Gospel.
Now, he says, “He brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel”. When you trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are the recipient of that victory which He won for you, so that you can read in 2 Corinthians 2:14, “Now, thanks be unto God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ and maketh manifest the savor of His knowledge by us in every place”. Triumph in Christ, and we’re talking about physical death now. Triumph over that? Yes. Why, it’s just a shadow now, because He vanquished death, He pulled the stinger out of it, and so he says, “I’ll show you a mystery, we’ll not all sleep”, (that means pass away,) “that something will be remaining to the very coming of the Lord Jesus Christ”. I’d love to be alive when He comes, wouldn’t you? I mean physically alive? “Hear the trumpet, be caught up together with the rest of the Saints, living on Earth at that time, and with the dead were raised incorruptible, and meet the Lord in the air”. Hey, that would be great. Well however, he says, “We shall not all sleep”, or pass away, “but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we should be changed, for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality”. He makes a difference there between corruptible and mortal, do you notice that? You’re mortal while you’re alive and you’re corruptible after you die. So he starts with what happened last with you-you die- so you were corruptible, that is to say, your body decays, but also what caused that death was that you were mortal, capable of dying. So he says, “This mortal”, (that’s I’m alive but capable of dying,) “must put on immortality.” You’ll die no more. Death shall be no more. So, when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory”. “Oh, death, where is thy sting, Oh grave, where is thy victory, the sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law, but thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory”. Now what is the victory? He took away the sting, He took away the power, you see, you are free in Christ since He tasted death for every man. The stinger is pulled out, it’s only the shadow of death now. Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. The shadow, just the shadow. You don’t have to be afraid because the Lord Jesus Christ pulled the stinger out of death. It can’t hurt you all it can do is help you. To depart and be with Christ which is very far better. Moody lay dying and he said to those gathered around his deathbed, “This is my coronation day! Glorious victory as he faced crossing the Jordan to be with his blessed, wonderful living Lord”.
“I will fear no evil for Thou art with me”. It’s interesting the way this thing changes, “The Lord is my shepherd, He maketh me to lie down, He leadeth me beside the still waters, He restoreth my soul, He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake”, but when you come to the valley of the shadow of death, you take it out of the third person and put it in a very personal mode, “I will fear no evil for Thou art with me”. “Thou art with me”. You need to be well enough acquainted with God to say Thou, not He, but Thou. Not talking about God, but talking with Him personally. I think one of the weaknesses in many ministers’ approach to preaching and ministering in our day, is that too many folk are found talking about God in the Bible. They’ll take a text or a passage and then talk about it, and they’ll give you their opinions, and they’ll quote some learned doctor or somebody else–they’ll talk about it. They’ll talk about God, but oh, the thrill there is to be able to open the Word of God and say, “This is what God says”, not just talking about Him but this is it, and when you pray, not just praying in an abstract kind of a far-off sense, but talking directly to your blessed Lord. “Thou art with me”. It’s the I-Thou relationship someone has said, that really makes salvation real and precious to you. So, which leads me to ask you, how comfortable are you with God? How well do you know Him? Now, I’m against that flippant kind of an approach to God that treats Him as the big buddy in the sky, and that just brings a laundry list of things offered in an irreverent and flippant way. That grates on me, I don’t buy it. All of the casual religion that is in vogue in our day, I think, well I’m not to judge, am I? I just, I don’t buy it. I think real reverence has to be there, for your God, He is all mighty God. He said to Abraham, “I am Almighty God. Walk thou before Me and be thou perfect”. When John, the beloved apostle, caught a glimpse of the glorified Christ, he fell at His feet as one dead. I tell you there is no room for flippancy and irreverence when you’re dealing with Almighty God. Be reverent. “The fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, said the wiseman. So having said that then remember the Jesus said, “When you pray say, ‘Our Father’”. He is your loving Heavenly Father and He loves you with an everlasting love, and He wants to put His arms of love around you, and support you, and guide you, and protect you, if you let Him. So, I come to you with that question again: how comfortable are you with God? Does your heart open up to Him with warmth and confidence, without anything between you and between you and Him?
I think of the song was written so long ago, “Nothing between my soul and the Savior, not of this world’s delusive dream, I have renounced all earthly favor, Jesus is mine, there’s nothing between”. Have you found that openhearted commitment of yourself to God that makes you comfortable with Him? “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” You have to agree with God’s will, as you understand it, for you to be comfortable with Him. As long as you’re fighting Him on something, as long as you’re resentful about something, as long as you’re complaining about something, you don’t really feel comfortable with God. But, when all of that is settled, and you know that your heart is right and yielded, and quiet before Him, oh, how wonderful it is to come into His Presence.
I remember one evening, I just sat down after the family a gone to bed, sat down on the floor we had in the house we lived in then, we had some copper tubing underneath the concrete flooring and I’d connected that to an outside water heater, so that in the winter the floor was always nice and warm. And I sat down on that nice, warm floor on a subzero night, and just talk to my Heavenly Father. I said, “God I need you. Talk to me, comfort me and love me”. And as I waited there before Him, the concerns that had been on my heart, things very frankly about which I’d been worrying, seem to fade away, and I was conscious of His wonderful, loving Presence. Oh, how wonderful that is.
I rode on a plane not long ago, with someone who said, driving along, suddenly there was an accident in front of her, and the cars turned around and she was almost inevitably going to crash into the, there on a a turnpike highway, and she remembers praying, “Jesus help me”. And at that moment, beyond her wisdom and driving experience, and beyond her strength, something seemed to turn the car around and she found herself in a moment, dazed, but absolutely unhurt without a scratch on the car. Over on the side of the turnpike. When the trooper arrived a little later on he said, “Lady, that was a remarkable piece of driving”, Well she had to tell him, “Look it wasn’t. I was praying that God would help me.” Are you comfortable with God? Can you talk to Him, can you call on Him, can you accept lovingly His will for you, so that you feel good about Him? These are some of the things that come from that phrase, “Thou art with me”. We’ll get at some more of that the next time we get together.
Dear Father today, lead us through life’s valleys, Amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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