Peace through the journey
Text: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…” (Ps. 23: 4)
Scripture: Ps. 23: 1-6
Introduction. Every year brings its shares of mountaintop and valley during our journey toward eternity. For many people last year was a trying time in their journey; their serenity and happiness were broken suddenly by the troubles of life. A few of us were in the mountaintop of good time for a few days or weeks, but we did not stay there forever. The view was magnificent, and the air was fresh and pure. But the time was coming when we had to go back down to the reality of the valley. It is surprising for many people when they are going through the valley. Because, many of us labor under the impression that if we are truly servants of God and try to do the right things, trouble will never come our way. It is proving that such philosophy can shake our faith and our walk when trouble does come. Every person needs to get ready for that valley experience. The main difference between Christians and non-Christians is not the facts they face but who is walking with them through their journey of life.
1. The Journey is unpredictable. Ps.23: 4a
David, the writer of Psalm 23, starts the chapter with a positive affirmation and promises that present the mountaintop of life with the Lord as his Shepherd. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul…” (Ps.23:1-3) Every follower of Christ would like the chapter to end at the third verse. It is the mountaintop experience of a person walking with God. There is no tragedy that lurks around the green pasture or near the quiet waters; it is the good life. So we go in the sunlight of life, happy and looking forward to continuing our enjoyment. Suddenly, the Psalmist presents the other side of life like a cup of cold water in our boiling pot of joy and confidence. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” (Ps.23:4a) Beloved, we need something in our hearts to prepare us for both sides of the coin of life, good time and trying time. My personal experience over the years proves that everyone has to walk through the valley sometimes. The real tests of our commitment to God are not often in the mountaintop, but through the valley. We may have to walk this coming year through the valley of sickness, lost of employment, troubles with spouse or children, death in the family and many more pains and tragedies. We need in our side a Comforter, a Shepherd like Jesus to walk us through it all.
2. Find courage from our heroes of faith for the journey. Ps.23: 4b
The trials and tribulations in the valley of life always come like a surprise to us. However, God never makes promises to his children that there will be no valley in our walk with him. Job, the righteous one, went into the dark valley of life. He lost his children, his marriage, his property, his health and everything around him. But he had something to sustain him. “Though he slays me, yet will I trust him…” (Job13:15). He blindly trusted God, and his faith was rewarded. Later, Job was better off in every way than ever before.
Paul went down into the dark valley. After his conversion to Christ he lost all his friends, position and possession. He suffered all sorts of indignities because of his faith. In his time of tribulations and troubles, Paul tells the Romans: “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). In the dark valley Paul had walked with Jesus and it had been a good decision.
John went down into the valley. He was exiled to the Isle of Patmos, separated from home, friends and loved ones. But God lifted the curtain of eternity and gave a glimpse of what is awaiting him there. “…Now the dwelling of God and his people, and God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the order of things has passed away.” (Rev.21:3-4).
Yes, we can be sure that the dark valleys are awaiting us all. But as David, we should know that we are not going to face them alone. “I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” (Ps.23:4). In a world of uncertainty, it is good to know that the presence of God is assured to his children through our journey.
3. Find peace in the promises of Christ, the good Shepherd for the journey. Ps. 23:6
The wondrous thing about Christianity is the fact that we are walking with a caring and experienced Shepherd. Christ is no stranger to our valleys; he went through most of them during his thirty three (33) years on earth. We can find comfort in the word of the Epistle to the Hebrews: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin. Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of trouble.” (Heb.4:15-16). Our Shepherd is efficient and sufficient in the mountaintop as well as in the valley. In the despair of the Apostles, Christ offered them his peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14: 27). As God works in history, so He works in individual lives. His people will go down into the valley where everything seems dark, but He promises to bring them out into the light. He sometimes carries us on his shoulder and other times He gives us grace to go through the inevitable difficulties of the journey. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of the death, I will fear no evil…” (Ps. 23:4). Tomorrow is unknown, but our God is well known for his power.
Conclusion. Regardless of what we may have to face in our journey, the children of God should trust in his everlasting promises. The intensity of our trust determines the possibility of peace in the valley of life. Let us not live our lives in fear of trouble that may never come our way. And let us not be naïve to the point of thinking if we love the Lord valley experiences will never be part of our journey. The words of the sons of Korah should carry us through the year: “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Ps.46: 10).
Happy and peaceful year to all the members and friends of Redemption Baptist Church!