God Our Refuge
When the storms of life rage, there is One Who is a refuge, a shelter. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, promises His comfort and security when life rages. His peace transcends the chaos of the moment; in His everlasting arms we are secure.
As we enter Easter and Passover week, our world is challenged. COVID-19 is a serious global situation. Yet, Jesus promises despite the trials and circumstances of life, we can be at rest in Him—always.
Many are asking, “When will the suffering and threat of this virus end? When will things get back to normal?” None of us know for sure, but as we follow the guidance of the health experts, government leaders, and pray fervently, this storm will eventually end.
So, what do you do when the storm rages on? You abide in Christ, secure in God as your refuge. The safest place to be in a storm is in His loving arms. Jesus is our shelter and our peace. When we have Him, we have everything. He is, and always will be, humanity’s greatest gift and joy. Nearly 2,000 years ago, His love was poured out on a desolate hillside so you and I could be secure and safe in the Father’s arms.
The last two weeks I’ve discussed, Faith vs. Fear. Let’s recap and then discuss God Our Refuge.
Jesus is at Rest
Mark records the “rest of Jesus” during the storm, “But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:38–39)
The story contrasts the panic of the disciples with the peace of Jesus: He is at rest—they are in distress. The disciples see their situation and fear seizes them. In their minds, God is distant and uncaring.
Jesus is asleep, at rest, secure in the Father. The disciples awaken Jesus, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” They assume God doesn’t care about their storm. His rest and peace contradict their situation and confuse them. They have forgotten the times Jesus kept evil and harm from them. We often do the same.
The COVID-19 storm is a reality, but there is a greater reality to live from—Christ in you! Circumstances, resistance, and spiritual warfare happen in life. We’re not ignorant of the facts of our global situation, but we allow His life within to comfort and sustain us. We live from His victory—our enthroning with Christ. Jesus gave Himself for you, for His Church that He loves. Abiding in His peace provides us rest and is a weapon against the enemy’s scheme of fear.
The Antidote to Fear is Confident Trust in God
Proverbs addresses the fear syndrome, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be secure.” (Prov. 29:25 NKJV)
The word for ‘trust’ in this verse is translated from the Hebrew bā·ṭǎḥ, which means “to trust, rely on, put confidence in, i.e., believe in a person or object to the point of reliance upon. It also means to make someone a refuge.” [i]
The word for ‘secure’ is translated from the Hebrew śā·ḡǎḇ and means “be inaccessible, be strong, formally, be safe, kept safe, be high (out of reach).” [ii]
We could read Prov. 29:25 like this, “Whoever makes the Lord their refuge shall be safe, secure, and lifted high above the circumstances.” This is not an abstract Christian state of being; rather, it should be the norm for the child of God. When the storms of life come, our foundation must be built upon the solid ground of Christ, not the shifting sands of popular thought or belief.
The Psalmist writes in Psalm 46:1-3,
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. (NKJV)
The NLT reads vs.1 “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” He is always watching, always near, and always helping us. The psalmist exaggerates the extent of natural disasters to emphasize the magnitude of God’s help.
Notice the English word refuge. It translates from the Hebrew word mǎḥ·sě(h) and means, “a refuge, a safe place, a shelter. Something or someone turned to for assistance or security or provides protective covering and protection from the weather.”[iii]
For example, a house is an example of something that provides refuge, shelter, and protection. A parent is an example of someone who provides protective covering and refuge to children. However, God is both the someone and the something we securely shelter in during the storms and trials of life.
When you are in a prolonged storm, you want to be in a place or with someone who is a refuge, covering, and protection. The minor prophet Nahum said, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.” (Nah. 1:7 NIV) God is our refuge!
While living in Haiti as missionaries in the early ’90s, we experienced a severe tropical storm. The winds were severe but not catastrophic; however, the rains were torrential for three days. When the storm first struck, Carolyn and I, along with our infant daughter Hannah, stayed secure in our home on top of a mountain overlooking Port-au-Prince. After the first day of non-stop rain, I thought to myself, “Will this storm and rain ever end?!” And then it rained for another day, and then a third day after that. It seemed that the storm would never cease. We had to trust God, and our home, as our refuge! All we could do in this severe storm was to stay sheltered, endure, pray, and praise our way through it. Some storms end quickly, others linger.
I sincerely wish I could tell the world, the COVID-19 storm will be over tomorrow, but that’s wishful thinking. We have some distance to go yet, and it’s perhaps the biggest trial our generation has ever faced. We must hold on in hope, abiding in Jesus our refuge and shelter! Pray, praise and continue to stand upon and declare God’s Word during this storm—the prayers of the righteous avail much! The storm will end, but until then, we must endure in God our refuge.
David in Psalm 57 writes of this type of trust, where God is a refuge,
“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by.” (Psalm 57:1 NKJV)
David wrote this psalm when he fled from Saul to hide in a wilderness cave. David was in a hard place in his life—wrongly accused, persecuted, and fearing for his life. Yet, he learned how to trust God in a storm.
The psalm imagines David nestling under God’s care for refuge, in the same manner that a defenseless and trusting baby bird hides itself under its parent’s feathers.
A few years ago, doves built nests on our back porch. We’ve since rearranged the porch and no longer do the doves make our back porch their home. But when they were there, I noticed how secure the doves were with their young during thunderstorms. The wind would blow, and the rain pour, but the baby birds stayed secure under their parent’s wings. They were secure, safe, and out of reach from the storm passing by. A beautiful picture of how God wants to shelter and protect us during the storms of life.
Principles for Resting Confidently in God
In Psalm 16, David gives us key principles for resting confidently in God during the circumstances of life.
1) Security is discovered in confident trust of God. First, David declares, “Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.” (Psalm 16:1 NKJV) Then Psalm 16:8 David says, “I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” (NKJV)
David is declaring (my paraphrase), “I have set the Lord before my face or gaze… therefore I am secure!” Then David says, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11 NKJV)
God leads us to the path of life; we are following the good shepherd! When we keep Him before our face, our gaze is upon Him, we are filled with His peace and joy—we are in His presence!
The prophet Isaiah makes this powerful statement about abiding in God’s peace, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isa. 26:3 NKJV) And in the NIV the verse reads, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
The English words stayed or steadfast is from the Hebrew sā·mǎḵ and means to “lean upon” or “take hold” – it’s an active focus. It also means, “to cause a state to continue, with a focus that whatever is necessary to remain in that state is given, including a maintaining power.” [iv] Do you catch this: an active focus, so intense it does whatever is necessary to remain in that state?! In this case, so focused on the Lord, that you can remain in His state of peace.
Trust here is also from the Hebrew bā·ṭǎḥ meaning to be “confident, secure, sure.” We could say then that “Peace flows as we keep our mind (soul) leaning upon God, being confident and secure in Him.”
We weather the storms of life secure in God as our refuge, our hope, and life. This type of faith and confidence develop through daily abiding in God’s presence.
Last week FOX News reported a poll conducted since the COVID-19 outbreak in the USA found that 22% of respondents, who do not identify themselves in the faith community, are now inquiring about prayer. Additionally, 40% of those surveyed who identify with the faith community are now more interested in learning about prayer. Why?
The virus and subsequent health and economic consequences have caused a shaking! People are looking for answers, safety, and refuge. Even those who don’t know Jesus, intrinsically are beginning to understand that only in Christ are we secure!
Jesus promised we would see Him, “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.” (John 16:16) Therefore, we should
2) Expect to “see” the Lord! The way we see (or perceive) the Lord is by following David’s example, “I have set the Lord always before me.” The Holy Spirit makes us aware of God’s presence, His glory, to those who believe and seek Him.
Unfortunately, many misdirect their attention upon themselves, rather than upon pleasing the Lord. The result of which is that they fear God’s presence and lack confidence in the storms of life. But the writer of Proverbs declares this truth, “The Lord’s name is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and find refuge.” (Prov. 18:10 CEB)
America, God invites you to “see the Lord!” Build your life in Jesus, our refuge, security, and hope—everything else is temporary and shifting. Only on Christ the solid rock can we stand with confidence!
Finally, we should
3) Set Him before us always. When we make the pursuit of Jesus and His presence our priority, we won’t fear His presence and we will have more poise during the challenges of life.
Keep in mind that there is a “reverential fear of the Lord,” that fosters faith. God is our friend and we have the privilege to draw near to Him confidently through the grace of Christ (Heb. 4:16). But God is also our Father, and we should also come to Him in sincerity of heart and reverential honor (Prov. 1:7; Ps. 111:10, Matt. 6:9, Luke 11:2).
Don’t set the Lord aside for access just in emergencies! Rather, set the Lord before your face always—enjoy His presence, His Word, worship, and prayer. Live out of your divine union with Jesus, out of a love relationship with the King of Kings.
Proverbs states this about one’s heart and peace, A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. (Prov. 14:30 NIV) The Hebrew word for peace is šālôm, translated in the Septuagint most often by the Greek word, eirēnē, has a wide semantic range including the notions of totality or completeness, success, fulfillment, wholeness, harmony, security and well being.[v]
One of the best things you can do for your health is to allow your heart to be at peace with God. Peace is such a powerful position. It is a position of life and strength. We have peace when our minds and hearts are yielded and in harmony with God and His Word.
Jesus was at rest in His union with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and He spoke directly to the wind—cease—and to the sea—“be still.”
Our union with Christ, resting in His finished work affords us the same authority and confidence. God should not be merely an addendum to our lives, but confident faith develops when God is truly our refuge.
Trials, suffering, and storms in life come to all of us. Jesus’ authority is without limit, and though God allows trials, in the end, nothing can truly harm those who trust in Him (Luke 10:19).
When you don’t sense God’s presence, press into Him even more. Set Jesus before your face continually. Praise Him in the tough times like you would in the good times, which is possible when you have learned to set the Lord before your face always.
David could confidently state, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11 NKJV) He learned the secret of abiding in the shelter of the Most High.
Jesus is our greatest joy and our peace, His “perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18 NKJV) Your ability to rest in God and His promises will keep you free from fear and worry during the most difficult circumstances and storms in life.
Allow Him to be your refuge, because it is the birthplace of faith overcoming fear!
For a more in-depth look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message, “God Our Refuge”
[i] James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 20.
[ii] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).
[iii] The Lexham Analytical Lexicon of the Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017).
[iv] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).