God is our refuge and strength




Introduction Dietmar Joosten

May this time bring glory and honour to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We welcome everyone. Our prayer is that this hour would touch your life. Take God’s word seriously. You know it and have heard it, but may it do something fresh and become alive in your heart.

Many Christians have the same fears as people in the world. They have gone off on another route and left what God has shown them. Many have turned their backs on God when things became difficult or seemed humanly impossible.

Dr Peter Hammond recently took a service on perseverance which was a great blessing.

There was a man who persevered in great difficulties - John Wesley. He said, “Give me 100 men who fear nothing but sin.” We fear men. We fear those who will kill us. We fear those who will hate us. John Wesley wanted those who feared sin only and whose lives were devoted to God.

God has called us together here. What does He want from you and me? Does He want us to live comfortable lives where we just do what we must do, or has He come to change our lives and set this world on fire? The fire He started through Rev Stegen - what are we doing about it? What keeps us busy? What keeps us ticking? Why are there some who can sit comfortably day after day while others are fighting day after day? I do not understand this, but God knows why it is like that. Why are you on a mission station? If you are here, you have been called by God. The Lord Jesus used 12 disciples. May this service help us to get proper direction in our lives. What are we are called to do? What does God expect of us? I love my country. God has placed us here. May this service ignite something. You cannot say that you are just here, “I am just a teacher.” A teacher for what? A teacher who reaches out and touches the hearts of the children that you teach. A teacher who changes them for the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why you are here. I said to my managers recently, “I am not satisfied, I want fire in your bones, the fire that changes things.”

Detlef Stegen
It is a wonderful thing to be with people who serve the Lord with devotion and are available to the Lord. It produces fruit to be corrected when you need to be corrected, because the human nature of man is prone to do foolish things. Thank God for leaders and counsellors to whom God has given insight and who have the desire to preserve what God has entrusted to them. You learn not to justify yourself, not to stand your ground because God is calling you to His ground where He needs you. Do not be hard hearted. Do not be unwilling.

The text in Psalm 46 is a source of strength and I trust that the Lord will bless it to us. You should read the whole chapter, but I will just read a few verses.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea…
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. Psalm 46:1 – 2; 7 – 8

This is a Psalm of the Sons of Korah. It is even possible that some of them wrote this Psalm. Korah was a rebellious man. The earth opened and swallowed him and those who had gathered around and supported him. This, however, was a few generations later, sons of Korah who had separated themselves from that rebellion. They could say and sing God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Children, can you say that God is my strength? Do you experience God keeping you? Are the sins that used to trouble you gone? God has become a refuge to you, and you are in His fortress. Even if your forefathers were rebellious and evaded the Gospel or your fathers or mothers declined the salvation of Christ the Saviour, but you have tasted and become part of those who experience God as their refuge.

Although you have come out of a life of oppression and misery, of haunting by evil spirits, slavery to sin and corruption, yet the good news, the glad tidings, have come to you and you have heard that there is salvation from sin, evil and wickedness. You can witness that the Lord is with you.

It has been a privilege to go out to places where the Lord has opened doors recently - to schools, to communities and churches. The Lord is helping young people to testify and bring them the seed of the Kingdom of God. Some are possibly going out for the first time or have not gone out much, but with a short testimony of 5-10 minutes, people’s hearts are touched. The teachers’ responses have been positive: ‘This is what we need.’ ‘You have come to our rescue.’ Orphans have been touched and they have come weeping, with their hurts, for counsel. In one area we had to drive on an abandoned road to reach them. I wished I could bring them here and say, ‘There are people here who have hearts for you, who can care for you. Forget your past, forget your suffering.’ There is so much pain and suffering that is caused by wicked boys and men.

Christ does not call us to be in the church and follow the ways of the world, to degrade ourselves and ruin people’s lives. We have been called to the kingdom of God. Jesus speaks of a mustard seed that is the smallest seed but when it is planted, it sprouts, and it grows to becomes a tree with strong branches.

This is the work of the word of God; this is the seed that Jesus has brought. It is there to grow, flourish and become a strong tree, bigger than most. How wonderful that this seed can be planted in you and bring about life that was not there before. Do not despise humble beginnings. Jesus wants to teach you something. When He is correcting you, the word of God says, honour and respect. Keep that planted in your heart. If you do not plant it, you will be a hearer only and not a doer. You will be troubled by bad thoughts. You will not have victory, you will always be impatient, and you will not be able to stand certain people. You have hatred and resentment towards certain people. You choose your groups and your friends with whom you want to be and those with whom you do not want to be. They are your shelter because they speak what you like to hear.

You might be evaluating girls. What is that girl like? See how she walks? I will be able to entice her. She will be mine. You are still at school. Your parents brought you to the school and are trying everything in their power to keep you at the school or university. You do not suffer. You live like a king. You forget about the teachings and instructions of your parents. You and your ambitions matter. You dress to make a statement about yourself - whether your clothing will entice men or not. Later when you have been misused, you cry, but it was your choice to dress in such a manner as to be a target.

Nowadays, men also fail to dress properly. What good is it to sit behind a young man whose pants are half-down so that his underpants show? You are obsessed by style whether it is disgraceful or not. The spirit of styles and fashion entices you and takes hold of you. How wonderful if you can testify that God is my refuge. I love His ways because He has put a love within me and it is not a self-love. It is a love for my neighbour. It is a love towards God in the first place and my neighbour in the second place. Your body and strength are exerted to do God’s will – to do that which God will look favourably upon. And secondly, you are ready to serve. When you see the needs of others, you do not hide from them and say it is their problem, they must sort it out.

God is our strength even when the mountains are shaken. Sometimes we are shaken by weather, rain or drought. It is wonderful to accept everything out of God’s hand. He knows the future.

Allow me to read an incident that occurred in May 1382. The archbishop of Canterbury, William Courtenay, was very powerful and he raged against John Wycliffe, who criticised the church teaching by saying that Christ was the head of the church and not a person. He opposed the sale of indulgences and warned against superstitions associated with Mass. We are saved, he said, by faith in Christ, Scripture alone being our authority. He pre-Luthered Luther, and thus he is called the Morning Star of the Reformation.

Finally, Courtenay summoned a special committee to examine Wycliffe’s teaching, to condemn and destroy the Bible teacher. So, he gathered other Doctors of Divinity and lawyers, with a great company of babbling friars and religious persons in London to begin their business after dinner.

At about 2 o’clock, the very hour and instance they should go forward, a wonderful and terrible earthquake fell through all England. Wycliffe later declared that the Lord sent the earthquake. They were all affrighted, and the meeting never took place.

Wycliffe did not tremble when the earth did, for God was his fortress. The archbishop’s meeting has been known in English history as the earthquake synod.

Even when we experience floods and terrible disasters, there is opportunity that the Gospel can reach people in need. It is wonderful that the Lord is reaching out to people who are otherwise unreached.

Are you in this fortress? Can you say that the God of Jacob is with us?

Children, God can use that grain of mustard seed that He has planted in you to be a blessing in God’s work, while you are here.

One day when Jesus was with the multitudes, He turned to His disciples and said, ‘What food have you got for these people?’ In such times you need God as a refuge - when you are called on and the task is impossible. Are you afraid of such tasks? Do you rather run away and say that others can do it, I am weak, how will I be able to stand? The disciples looked around and found a boy with 5 loaves and 2 fish. What was the boy’s reaction? ‘No, it’s mine! This is the only thing I have. It is special because my parents gave it to me for the day.’ But if the mountains are shaken and my food gets taken then my refuge will be the Saviour. This boy gave his food to the disciples. They brought it to the Lord and the Lord took the 5 loaves and 2 fish and blessed it. 5000 men were fed.

Are you holding something back from God? Jesus is asking you and pointing at things in your life, but you are holding back. It could be a secret sin in your life and you say, ‘It is too difficult. How can I ever expose this?’ Are you keeping it back from the Lord? There may be 5000 people that can be helped through you, but you would rather not be part of it. You shrink back.

“‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.  10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. Revelations 3:8,10

This is an amazing word. He will keep us. If God is your refuge and your strength, you need not fear because He will keep you in the hour of trial which is coming on the whole world. Make sure that the Lord of hosts is with you, the God of Jacob. Jacob, people say, was the deceiver who wrongly twisted the arm of his older brother. But the Lord calls Himself the God of Jacob. He says, ‘I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated.’ Why? Esau did not guard, he did not keep what was entrusted to him. He despised his birthright when he was famished and when his stomach caused him to crave. His birthright was not of his choosing, it was entrusted to Him by God. He was the first born. But it was only one encounter, one experience: he went hunting, it was his decision to stay out so long and when he returned, he was weak and he despised what God had entrusted to him.

What have you been entrusted with as a child? What have you been entrusted with while growing up on a mission? Do you despise it? Possibly because of your own doing you are led to a point of decision and one wrong decision ruins your life.

If the God of Jacob is not your refuge, if you do not abide in His fortress, you can be ruined. Even if you have regrets later and seek it with tears, you have hurt and ruined your heart and soul. Think of the effort of your parents, think of the pastors, the deacons, the counsellors who have exerted themselves for your sake and tried to keep you in God’s presence, in His church, His fortress. But you have chosen to go out into the field. You are on a hunt which you have chosen for yourself. Take note, care for and guard this seed that Jesus is sowing in your life. Do not despise it. God has been able to accomplish much through His servants over the years. Do you choose to be a servant of God? Paul said, ‘I am a slave of Christ. I am a bondservant of Christ.’

John Wesley prayed for 100 men who would only fear sin. Can you understand why the fight is against sin? Every sermon is a sermon to separate you from sin, no matter how it has clung to you, because the seed of the mustard tree must grow and become strong and mighty.

Sheldon Jackson was born in New York in 1843. When he was 4, his parents dedicated him to God’s service. His ambition from youth was to be a missionary. After graduating from his studies at a seminary, he moved towards the West as people went out to explore the land.

Jackson was everywhere, searching for souls with the fervour of a prairie fire. He once organised 7 churches in 15 days. He stood just over 5 feet tall, but his size, he said, allowed him to sleep anywhere. His bed was a stagecoach floor, a saloon loft, a hollow log, a tepee, a canoe. Someone described him as short, bewhiskered, bespectacled - but a giant.

His field was immense. He served as superintendent of Presbyterian missions from New Mexico to Minnesota. When the USA purchased Alaska, he headed there at once and the north became his passion. He established schools for the young and placed missionaries in the communities. He evangelised, established churches and brought Bibles to the Eskimos. He worried that explorers and exploiters were slaughtering whales and seals, depriving Eskimos of their natural food supplies. So braving criticism and ridicule, he raised money to bring reindeer from Siberia. Soon great herds were providing transportation, food, clothing and livelihood for the Eskimo people.

Sheldon made 26 trips to Alaska, and during 50 years of ministry travelled a million miles through the West and the North. He oversaw the establishment of 886 churches. Few men ever have planted the Christian faith over such a wide area. His secret? His friends simply explained, ‘He never hurried. He just persisted.’

When he was 4 years old, his parents dedicated him to God’s service. Whether you are here or somewhere else in the world, remember that your parents dedicated you to the Lord. What did that imply? Ask your parents what they intended when they brought you in front of the congregation and dedicated you to the Lord? Have you despised that encounter? Though you may not have known what happened, but your parents can remind you? Have you got a record of broken promises in your life? Remember, wherever you are - whether Zimbabwe or Cape Town - the promises you made to the Lord. How terrible if you should appear before the Lord and He should remind you, when it is too late, of all your broken promises. You once were in the church, you were once in God’s fortress, in the family fortress of God-fearing parents where you could escape from the world and temptation.

How wonderful if you can testify - God is my refuge. God is among His people. The Lord of Hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge. You can sing with assurance and thankfulness and trust that He will see us through, whatever may come our way. This is your place of refuge and only here will you be safe.

Dietmar Joosten
There is always something you can learn and live by. The Lord said that He is our refuge and our strength. In the Amplified version: God is our Refuge and Strength [mighty and impenetrable to temptation], a very present and well-proved help in trouble.

God keeps us so that we do not fall into temptation. He is our refuge. We can run to Him if temptation comes. He protects us. Judas was tempted but he allowed that to enter his heart, he listened to it, gave attention to it and it entered his heart.

Temptations will come. They must come, but then we become stronger and more resilient than before. The Lord says because I am with you and I am your refuge, it will not penetrate.

A family lived beside a desert where nothing would grow. The lady of the house would throw out the bath water or kitchen water. They did this for weeks, months and after some time they noticed flowers growing where the water had been thrown. The soil was too salty and it was impossible for anything to grow but because it received water, it washed away the salt that was in the sand.

This is what living water does.  The water washed away the salt which hindered things from growing and suddenly something grew in its place – the most beautiful flowers.

Young people, God is our refuge, our strength, our living water. Take it, use it, read it, drink it. The Bible says that where it is a desert, flowers will bloom. Your life will become a paradise. Allow that word to penetrate - God’s word. Read it, study it, practice it. Let God’s word be applied to your life. Take what He has said seriously. Use it, live by it and flowers will grow in a desert where you never expected them.

Early this morning we received a message that people in the neighbourhood wanted us to dig a grave because the soil was too hard, they could not dig. I took two people along and one young person. They must understand what the Gospel is about – it is not just about preaching but about doing. If we do that, things will grow that never existed before. You will see your barren life that was full of salt bring forth the best flowers.

Make Him your refuge. He will be your strength and you will see how He will change your life.