By Pastor Bryan Niebanck

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,

Psalm 67:1

“Praise You in This Storm” is a song by Casting Crowns released in 2005. 

“I was sure by now
God, You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
And once again
I say, “A-men” and it’s still rainin’

But as the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as Your mercy falls
I’ll raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm.”

Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”  In Psalm 18:3, we read this prayer: “I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”

God is worthy to be praised even when there are enemies around us.  Even when life is not perfect, God is still worthy to be praised.  God never left us.  God still protects us.  We can tell God, “You are who You are.”

During some of the most difficult trials of human history, many were given cause to doubt the goodness of God.  During the Holocaust, for example, so many people wondered why God did not act.  One survivor of Auschwitz shared his reason for praising God even through the calamity: “It never occurred to be to question God’s doings or lack of doings while I was an inmate of Auschwitz, although of course I understood others did.  … I was no more or less religious because of what the Nazi’s did to us; and I believe my faith in God was not undermined in the least.  It never occurred to me to associate the calamity we were experiencing with God, to blame Him, or to believe in Him less or cease believing in Him at all because He didn’t come to our aid.  God doesn’t owe us that, or anything.  We owe our lives to Him.  If someone believes God is responsible for the death or six million because He didn’t somehow do something to save them, he’s got his thinking reversed.  We owe God our lives for the few or many years we live, and we have the duty to worship Him and do as He commands us.  That’s what we’re here on earth for, to be in God’s service, to do God’s bidding.” (When Bad Things Happen to Good People, 95-6).

We can argue that praising God is even more important in the storm, so that we are reminded that the storm will not be the cause of defeat for us.  In fact, as we read Psalm 67, we notice three potential purposes for praise that should draw our attention.  First, the Psalmist notes that praise is extremely important, as he quotes the same phrase twice in a seven-verse song: “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you” (Psalm 67:3, 5).  Then, he tells us that praise does three things: it helps us remember what God has done, it helps us be thankful and live a life of gratitude, and it helps us evangelize.  In verse 4, the psalmist tells us to pay attention to what God is doing: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon the earth.”  In the song that we opened with, the artist remembers, “No matter where I am, and every tear I’ve cried, you hold in your hand.  You never left my side.”  When we praise God for what God has done, we remember that the Lord is great for His past deeds.  In verse 6, the psalmist notes that it is important to practice gratitude, for God has blessed us.  And finally, praising can be an act of evangelism for all who witness our acts of praise, telling the story of God’s presence and inviting others into God’s plan of redemption and hope.  The song that the psalmist wrote gives praise and thanksgiving, and by its very existence as a song, it evangelizes.  But it also goes one step further than that.

First, we know that we should praise God even in the storm.  It helps us remember why we worship God in the first place, it helps us practice a life of gratitude which changes our attitude and puts us in a better mindset, and it could potentially open the door for someone else to be changed as well.  That’s almost enough in itself.  But this little psalm is packed so richly that it also contains a request of God.  The second point that is being made by this psalm is that praising God gives us the confidence that we need to approach God.  It puts us in a mindset where we believe in ourselves well enough to think that we are important enough for God’s time, and to believe that God values us enough to listen to us.  What is the psalmist’s request?  “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known upon the earth, your saving power among all nations” (Psalm 67:1-2).  This is each of our prayers in one.  We pray for God to reveal Godself to us and for us, so that we might know that we are following God’s way, so that we might be confident in God, and still further that God’s way might be known by everyone who walks this earth, so that ill will and evil might be hindered or eliminated.  The request for evangelizing the world is there, but I would like to spend a few moments on the first part of that request: “May God make his face to shine upon us” (67:1).

Requesting that God’s face shine upon us is very popular in the Psalms.  In Psalm 80, we read this request three times: “Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:3, 7, 19).  You may recognize this request from Numbers 6, as it is often used as a benediction: “The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26 NKJV).  We want to know God has blessed us.  We want to know that we are saved.  And we want to be able to know that God really is looking down on us.  These are only a few possible meanings of what asking God’s face to shine upon us could be.  Ultimately, we want to know that God is pleased with us.

I believe that we can know that God is pleased with us.  First, you can ask yourself if you are coming to God rather than going away.  If you are, ask if you have received the Holy Spirit.  Jesus told his disciples, because he knew they were troubled with these things, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27).  They wanted to know that they were doing the right thing, and they were not sure how they would manage to know this when their teacher will no longer be by their side.  They had not yet learned how to be confident in the storm.  And Jesus did not expect them to have to fend for themselves.  He told them, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).  Who here needs to be reminded of things that someone told them once?  The disciples did too.  We are promised that an Advocate will be with us to help us through the storms, and will help us on our mission to tend God’s sheep, which is what Jesus asked Peter to do when he appeared to the disciples on the beach for the final recorded time.  We know that God is pleased with us if we allow the Holy Spirit to help us tend the sheep.

To tend these sheep, we need to be able to make it through these storms.  We need to praise God in the storms.  We may falter every now and again, which is expected, and then we lean on a Christian neighbor to help us regain our strength.  (If we do not do that then we will keep faltering and not make it back to where God wants us to be.)  First, we go back to praising God so that we remember God’s goodness and greatness, so that we live in a grateful mindset, and so that we share God’s goodness through that mindset and our confidence in God.  Second, we use our restored confidence to make requests of God that will better God’s kingdom and our own ability to fulfill God’s will and his commands.  If our heart is in the right place, I believe that God will fulfill these requests, just as the Lord fulfilled Solomon’s request for wisdom when he wanted to lead the people in God’s way (1 Kings 3).

Jesus said in John 21:17 “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  To be a sent person means being sent into the storm, but also into God’s embrace.  It means struggling with doubt, but also living in peace.  It means that we have a teachable spirit, because we cannot do this Christian life without that teacher.  It would be impossible.  Very few of us if any taught ourselves long division, or how to ride a bicycle.  We all had a guide.  And that guide is our Holy Spirit.  In the weeks following Easter, the disciples heard this promise, and they may have been comforted.  They may not have been sure exactly what to expect.  But they knew that Jesus was not leaving them to the wolves.  They knew that even in the deepest trials, where leaders were seeking their arrest and perhaps even their lives, they could sing these words:

“And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm.”

Praise God.  Make requests of God.  USE the Advocate by having a teachable spirit.  Just as the disciples were encouraged when they were told, “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” may you also come to believe.  May you also come to expect that because your face is turned toward God, God’s face will indeed shine upon you, and you will have your small role in making God’s way known throughout the earth.  The call to be a Christian is not to give in to the pain and the fear and the struggle that we all face.  It is to stand up and praise God in the storm, even when our bodies and the tragedies we see scream against it.  Stand up, and praise God in this storm.  May all glory and honor be to God!  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Scripture Readings:

Acts 16:9-15
16:9 During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
16:10 When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
16:11 We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis,
16:12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days.
16:13 On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there.
16:14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.
16:15 When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.

Psalm 67
67:1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,
67:2 that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.
67:3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
67:4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.
67:5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
67:6 The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us.
67:7 May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him.

John 14:23-29
14:23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
14:24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
14:25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you.
14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
14:28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.
14:29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

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