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    Main | When an Enemy Needs a Friend June 7, 2015 Sermon #694 »

    Walking Through the Valley July 19, 2015 Sermon #: 699

    Walking Through the Valley


    Psalm 23:1-6(NKJV) – 1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.


    Walking Through the Valley is Part of Life

    • A doctor writes “Diagnosis: cancer,” on a lab report.
    • A judge signs her name to a divorce document.
    • A family business closes and locks its doors for the last time.
    • A medium-sized company down sizes to small.
    • A single mother hesitates before opening her mailbox, certain that there will be more bills in the box than money in her account.
    • A troubled 15-year old writes a letter telling his family he can’t go any further.
    • A husband and father thinks about praying, but doesn’t.


    There is an old Arab parable that says: “All sunshine and no rain makes a desert.” If you never have any down times, dark times, gloomy times in your life you’ll be dried up. You’ll have no depth to yourself, no maturity. It takes good times and bad times to make a mature person. Life is a mixture of pain and pleasure, of victory and defeat, of success and failure, of mountain tops and valleys.


    In a world so apparently defined by tragedy, loss and failure do the words faith, hope and love ring true, realistic or possible? Or do they sound like so much religious denial in the face of overwhelming evidence that there is nothing to believe in, nothing to look forward to, and nothing that can be done?


    The greatest devastation for any culture is not that it will be forgotten, but that it will become forgetful. We are wandering aimlessly in a deep state of amnesia. We have become so self focused that we have forgotten what God says about the valleys of life and that others have been here before and survived.


    There are five facts about valleys that you need to remember whenever you go through a tough time.


    A. Valleys Are Inevitable

    They are going to happen so you might as well count on them. You have either just come out of a valley, you’re in one right now, or you’re probably headed toward one. Valleys happen throughout life -- one right after another. After every mountain top there is a valley.

    Jesus was very realistic about it. You’re going to have difficulty, disappointment, and discouragement in life. There will be times of suffering, sorrow, and sickness. There will be times of frustration, failure and fatigue. They are going to happen. They are a normal part of life. Don’t be surprised by it.


    John 16:31-33(NKJV) – 31Jesus answered them, ”Do you now believe? 32Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”


    B. Valleys come suddenly

    They are unpredictable. Have you noticed how easily a good day can become a bad day? A phone call, a letter, a routine doctor’s check-up, a freak accident – valleys just happen.


    C. Valleys Are Impartial

    No one is immune to them. No one is insulated from pain and sorrow. No one gets to skate through life problem-free. Everybody has problems – good people and bad people. Problems, trials, difficulties, disturbances, downtimes, and depression don’t mean you’re a bad person. It means you’re a person. It doesn’t mean you’re an evil human being; it means you’re a human being. The Bible is very clear that good things happen to bad people and sometimes, bad things happen to good people. Valleys are impartial. They don’t care how good or bad you are.


    D. Valleys Are Temporary

    Valleys have an end to them. They don’t last. They are not a permanent location. David says, “Even though I walk through the valley...”

    The valley is not something you stay in your entire life. It’s something you go through – a circumstance, a situation that has a season to it. When you’re in a valley you often think it’s a dead end, but it’s not. They don’t come into your life to stay. They come to pass.


    1 Peter 1:6-9(NKJV) – 6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

    He admits that sometimes you’re going to go through tough times. It’s going to be rough. Life is tough. You’re going to have it. But it’s only for a while. There is wonderful joy ahead. He’s talking about Heaven. There are no problems in heaven, no valleys, no dark days. While you may be harassed down here, in heaven you’ll have no problems. If you know the Lord Jesus Christ, that’s where you’re going.



    E. Valleys Are Purposeful

    God has a reason for taking you through the valleys. Whether its doubt, depression, despair, discouragement, or defeat–He’s got a reason behind it.


    There are financial valleys, relational valleys, emotional valleys, and all kinds of different trials. This is no accident–it happens to prove your faith.


    The valleys are not just a freak of nature. God wants to build your faith in the valleys of life. We love to enjoy the mountaintops, but you don’t build faith on mountaintops. You build faith in the valleys of life. When everything is going fine and great you don’t really need God. But when you come face to face with a dark valley, you get on your knees. Faith is strengthened in the valleys. When you don’t feel like serving and trusting God, praising God... that’s where your faith is tested. Not in the good times of life, but in the valleys.

    Every problem has a purpose, even the little tiny ones, the inconsequential ones, the things that seem like mere irritations. They have a purpose. God can build your character. He wants to change you, mature you.

    I want you to listen to these old words from a book whose very title sounds relevant for our times.


    Lamentations 3:18-24(NKJV) – 18And I said, “My strength and my hope Have perished from

    the Lord.” 19Remember my affliction and roaming, The wormwood and the gall. 20My soul still remembers And sinks within me. 21This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. 22Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. 23They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24”The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”

    How can someone who so eloquently describes his struggle, pen words so equally full of confidence? The difference between unrecoverable despair and un-intimidated confidence in the future is hope. Before we talk about how he manages to find hope in his desperate situation, let’s be absolutely sure that we know what hope is. And what it isn’t. Hope, the kind the Bible talks about, is not optimism.


    Don’t get me wrong. I love optimists. They tend to live longer than pessimists, accomplish more and are just a lot more fun to be around. A pessimist can hardly wait for the future so he can look back with regret. Optimists can hardly wait for the future because they just know it’s going to be better than today.


    ILL: A student was seen pedaling a bicycle around his college campus. He was wearing a tee-shirt that read, “Studying to be a doctor.” On the back of his bicycle was a tag that read, “Studying to be a Mercedes.”


    Optimists handle failure and frustration better than pessimists. For all their similarities, though, hope and optimism are entirely different animals. Optimists think they can. Or that others will. Those with hope, know God will. Optimists survey the circumstances and find the positive. They see the glass half full. They see a flat tire and say, “Yeah, but it’s only flat on the bottom.”

    Hope, on the other hand, doesn’t take its cue from circumstances. In fact, there is this odd calculus involved with hope. The greater the pain, the more desperate the circumstance, the stronger, more confident hope becomes.


    Romans 5:1-5(NKJV) – 1Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

    Did you notice the reason hope does not disappoint? “Because God.” When your hope is in what God can do, you aren’t just wishing. And when your hope is in God, you are basing your confident expectation for the future on the faithfulness of God’s action in the past.

    Which is why memory is so important to hope. By reaching into the past we find assurances that the future will not be destroyed by the present. That’s how the Jews did it. No people have ever been through so much for so long at the hateful hands of so many, as the Jews. Yet few people are so hopeful.


    Psalm 136:1-26(NKJV) – 1Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. 2Oh, give thanks to the God of gods! For His mercy endures forever. 3Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords! For His mercy endures forever: 4To Him who alone does great wonders, For His mercy endures forever; 5To Him who by wisdom made the heavens, For His mercy endures forever; 6To Him who laid out the earth above the waters, For His mercy endures forever; 7To Him who made great lights, For His mercy endures forever— 8The sun to rule by day, For His mercy endures forever; 9The moon and stars to rule by night, For His mercy endures forever.


    10To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn, For His mercy endures forever; 11And brought out Israel from among them, For His mercy endures forever; 12With a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, For His mercy endures forever; 13To Him who divided the Red Sea in two, For His mercy endures forever; 14And made Israel pass through the midst of it, For His mercy endures forever; 15But overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, For His mercy endures forever; 16To Him who led His people through the wilderness, For His mercy endures forever; 17To Him who struck down great kings, For His mercy endures forever;


    18And slew famous kings, For His mercy endures forever— 19Sihon king of the Amorites, For His mercy endures forever; 20And Og king of Bashan, For His mercy endures forever— 21And gave their land as a heritage, For His mercy endures forever; 22A heritage to Israel His servant, For His

    mercy endures forever. 23Who remembered us in our lowly state, For His mercy endures forever; 24And rescued us from our enemies, For His mercy endures forever; 25Who gives food to all flesh, For His mercy endures forever. 26Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever.



    That’s how they kindled hope. That’s how they overcame despair. They remembered what God had done in the past. They were honest about the tragedy of the present. But they were hopeful about the promise of the future, because their hope was in God. Hope grows out of memory.


    What was it Jesus said when he instituted the Lord’s Supper? “Do this in remembrance of me.” Was that for him? Or was it for us?


    In the catacombs of ancient Rome, archeologists have discovered a number of early Christian symbols. One of them is the Icthus or a fish. One is the shepherd. And there is one more common symbol, the anchor.


    Now why do you suppose they would have an anchor as a common symbol?


    Hebrews 6:19-20(NKJV) – 19This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.