- The Washington Times - Monday, November 20, 2000

The following are excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Michael C. Turner Sr. at Faith Missionary Baptist Church in Capitol Heights, Md.:

As we approach Thanksgiving, the world is still troubled and there are trials at home. We must ask today, "What do you do when trouble comes?"

David answers us in the 121st Psalm: "I will lift mine eyes unto the hills, from which cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."

Yet when trouble comes, we have too many Christians looking like they've lost their best friend. Looking like they've eaten a sour lemon. They can look stuck on crucifixion Friday when the resurrection of Easter Sunday has come and gone and Jesus has declared, "All power is in My hands."

God never promised the absence of tears or trying experiences in life, but He has promised He will never leave us alone. With God, we can survive forests of lies, bushels of slander and piles of dejection. We can survive bundles of hurt and disappointment.

The "Preacher's Homiletic Commentary" informs us that, "The soul is often placed in circumstances of distress." Anybody distressed or stressed out today? Suffering, my brothers and sisters, is the commonest and yet most mysterious part of the human being.

Heaven grants no exemptions, no matter what our mental endowment, wealth or social position. There is among the descendants of Adam an unavoidable, leveling community in suffering… .

What do you do when trouble comes? Calvin Coolidge said, "Never go out to meet trouble. If you just sit still, nine times out of 10, someone will intercept it before it reaches you." Victor Hughes said, "Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters." And another writer said, "Times of great calamity and confusion have ever been productive of the greatest minds." …

So I have to ask this morning: "What are you complaining about?" We are called to have some stuff to deal with this life of trouble.

"Grit your teeth and bear it" is a philosophy many would suggest when trouble comes. For simple or trivial matters, and especially trouble of our own making, this might work. But the psalm of David is much more effective. David is cited nearly 800 times in the Old Testament. He is skillful in plan, a man of valor in war, prudent in speech and a man of good presence.

Yet this great man says, "My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth." Anyone believe that this morning?

This race we run is full of trials and troubles. We must recognize this so we can get on with our lives and deal with all that comes our way. Some believe that once you walk into a church and pay your tithes, life will be trouble-free. It is not necessarily so. Yet we know that whatever we experience now, "This too shall pass."

Jesus has said, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the very end." He says, "In this world, you shall have tribulations. Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world."

Listen to one poet: "Help me to sing when I would cry, knowing that Thou art standing by." If Job was here today, he would declare, in spite of all his troubles, "I will trust in the Lord." It was the lame man at the gate who walked because of the name above every name, Jesus of Nazareth… .

There was the prodigal son, who raised himself from the pigpen of life and went home to a loving father. What do you do when trouble comes? Paul says, "We are troubled on every side, but not distressed. We are perplexed, but not in despair."

In other words, trouble will come, but we will take a hold of God's unchanging hand. Troubles are God's opportunity. We must not wallow in self-pity. Troubles can be blessings in disguise. They can bring us to God, and when we sing "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound," it has special meaning. "I once was lost, but now I'm found."

That is the meaning of the 121st Psalm, and it takes us to the shepherd David speaks of.

Next week: a sermon by the Rev. John Thomas at Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross in Fairfax, Va.

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