This week in worship, we conclude our worship series, “What is God Like? The Attributes of God based on Psalm 86. Pastor Doug will be sharing this week that “God Helps Us and Comforts Us.”
You can turn to God when you need help and comfort. God also calls you to be a helper and a comforter.
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The first video below is JUST THE SERMON.
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The video below is the WHOLE 8:00 SERVICE.
God Helps Us and Comforts Us
When you exercise, run or walk do you like listening to music?
When I work out, I listen to music. The music I listen to depends on my mood. This past Wednesday I had The Beatles on shuffle and one of the songs that came on was Help, the title track from the movie of the same name. Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney the lyrics are like the words of a Psalm where a person is pleading with God for help as he or she struggles with getting older, losing a sense of independence and confidence, feeling down and lost, coping with change, and crying out in need of support. There’s almost a sense of desperation in needing help and comfort and being open to receiving it.
Listen to some of the words as if they are a prayer to God: “(Help!) I need somebody. (Help!) Not just anybody. (Help!) You know I need someone. (Help!)
When I was younger so much younger than today
I never needed anybody’s help in any way
But now those days are gone, I’m not so self assured
Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors
Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ’round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me?
And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
But every now and then I feel so insecure
I know that I just need you like I’ve never done before.”
That isn’t that different from the feelings expressed in these words.
16 “Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant;
save the child of your serving girl. 17 Show me a sign of your favor,
so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame,
because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.”
There are many wonderful attributes of God that David has been praising the Lord for in Psalm 86 and the final ones are that God helps and comforts us.
In the final two verses of his prayer David asks God to do five things because the Lord has helped and comforted him.
David turns to God in prayer with confidence at this point in his life because the Lord has been there for him before.
The five things David prays, I believe we can ask the Lord for in prayer when we need help or comfort as well.
The first thing David prays to God is Turn to me.
As a person of faith, David wants God to turn to him. To see him. To help him in his circumstances and bless him.
Think about this from a human point of view. What a difference it makes when we need help when someone turns to us and is coming toward us, rather than walking away from us. The fear of abandonment or betrayal, being left to face a battle or a struggle alone, without God’s help, or someone else’s is a bad feeling.
The last three days were the 158th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania during the American Civil War. On the first day of the battle, dismounted Union cavalry led by General John Buford were putting up a desperate fight against vastly superior numbers and hoping that Union infantry would arrive in time to help hold the high ground before they were overwhelmed.
In the movie Gettysburg, Buford grows despondent about help arriving in time and he’s shown repeatedly looking south from the cupola of the Lutheran Seminary hoping to see reinforcements and finally he sees General John Reynolds galloping up at the head of his Iron Brigade to take command of the field. Buford’s response is to wipe tears from his eyes and say, “Thank God.” That’s a very dramatic example of someone turning to come to help and the relief you feel when it happens.
For us, it may be something much smaller like someone turning to help you by taking you to a medical appointment or helping with a small task at your home or making you cookies or a meal or sharing something they’ve grown.
Or it may be you turning to help someone by doing these things. When we’re coping with grief or stresses or challenges large or small in our life, a good place to begin, like David does, is to pray and ask God to turn to you.
Even when people can’t help you or be with you, you can ask God to turn to you and be present with you.
David is totally open with God and his requests are very personal. Turn to me.
The second thing he says, is “Be gracious to me.”
Grace is undeserved or unmerited favor. David, like you and me, wants God to be gracious to him.
Asking God to be gracious to you is simply a way of saying, “Don’t treat me like I deserve to be treated, please treat me according to who you are, not who I am or what I’ve done.”
David then asks God for strength and identifies himself as God’s servant.
David isn’t asking for strength simply to improve his life. He asks for it as God’s servant so he can serve the Lord better and more effectively.
Isaiah 40 is a chapter in the Bible that begins by speaking about the comfort of God, (Isaiah 40:1-11), and ends with how even when we’re young and at our physical peak, we grow weary and exhausted, but those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength (Isaiah 40:28-31). It’s totally appropriate when we’re feeling weak, exhausted, or powerless to ask God for strength.
David then asks God to save him.
Physically, David faced many threats to his life from the time he was a teenage shepherd defending his family’s sheep from predators to his confrontation with the massive Philistine warrior Goliath, to attempts on his life from his father-in-law King Saul. David also sees God as his salvation in the spiritual sense. In Psalm 18 he calls God his redeemer, his rock, his mighty fortress. David wants the Lord to save him in every way a person can be saved.
The next thing David prays is, “Show me a sign of your favor.”
Sometimes you need evidence that God is still with you, that God is there. Often a sign is something small and easy to miss if we’re not paying attention. For Noah and his family, it was a dove with an olive leaf in its beak and later a rainbow. For the prophet Elijah it was a raven that showed up with food. Signs of God’s favor don’t have to be spectacular, but you need an openness to God’s signs and eyes to see and ears to hear them.
One of the most comforting Psalms of all is the 23rd Psalm and think about all the signs of God’s favor it describes. The Lord provides for your needs, (I shall not want, I can rest in green pastures and beside still waters), the Lord restores my soul, leads me in the right path, provides food even in the presence of enemies. Even when walking through the darkest valley or the valley of the shadow of death, the Lord promises to be with me, and the Lord’s presence, rod, and staff all provide comfort and protection and the assurance of help.
In Psalm 86, David concludes by thanking God, “You have helped me and comforted me.”
Help implies assistance and God often helps us through other people. My tire is flat, and you changed it. I couldn’t figure out my computer or phone, and you helped me. Help is problem solving often in a practical way.
My dad drove from Maine to the Boston area to pick up his wife on Thursday and unfortunately, the car’s battery died in Saugus. Thankfully, several people stopped to help him even before AAA could arrive. What a blessing that was for him and how nice for those people to know they made a difference in his life.
David also says to the Lord, you Comforted me.
You may find it easier to offer help than comfort especially at the most painful moments in life like the death of little ones or young people.
You may not know what to say or do and you can be afraid of saying the wrong thing.
Comforting is not problem solving, it’s not fixing, or diagnosing, or healing.
People in caring professions are trained to help, heal, or fix people as efficiently as possible. Comfort often involves simply being with people in their pain and not dismissing it, making light of it, or offering platitudes.
Like in the movie Forrest Gump when Forrest sits with Jenny while she cries in the dirt after throwing rocks at the house she grew up in with an abusive father. Forrest says, “I guess sometimes there aren’t enough rocks.” Sometimes you need comfort before you can heal or accept help. That God will sit with you in your pain or grief and be with you is a blessing.
In his final hours before his crucifixion, Jesus promised his disciples that he would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit so they wouldn’t be alone in their grief and pain.
In John 14:15-18 (KJV) Jesus declares,
“If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”
What a promise, the Lord will not leave us comfortless.
There was a faithful grandmother who never missed a Sunday morning at her church. One day she didn’t feel well enough to go and she told her young grandson to listen closely to the sermon so he could tell her what it was about. When he got home, she asked, “What did the pastor say.” The boy replied, “He said, “Don’t worry, you’ll get your quilt.” The grandmother wasn’t clear what that meant. Later the pastor called to see how she was doing, and she told him what her grandson had said about the sermon and the pastor laughed and said, his sermon title was, “Fear not, your comforter shall come.”
Jesus comes as the embodiment of God’s help and comfort. In response you’re called to love Him and to keep his commandments. He promises that he will not leave his followers alone but when he departs the Comforter, the Holy Spirit will come and be with us.
God helps and comforts us so we can help and comfort others.
That’s what Paul tells the church in Corinth in the beginning of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV).
“3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
You can turn to God when you need help and comfort. God also calls you to be a helper and a comforter. God comforts us “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” That last phrase is key, we comfort those with the comfort we receive from God. If we don’t have a personal relationship with God, and haven’t received any comfort from God, we won’t have that to share with others in their trouble or pain. The world needs more Christ followers who are actively being helpers and comforters.
Have you ever had to wear a cast or brace because you broke a wrist, arm, ankle, or leg? I have and I know many of you have. Think about what a cast or a brace does for a broken arm or leg. They hold the broken part of our body in place until that part can heal and get strong again. They support and hold us together until we can stand up, or walk, or run again. A comforter’s embrace does the same thing, holding us together when we feel broken. A comforter doesn’t need anything from us, not even for us to heal or get better or get well. When you comfort others, you’re simply with them offering your presence, care, and compassion. Paul writes in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” It’s important to remember, as the British preacher Dr. John Henry Jowett (1863-1923) said, “God does not comfort us to make us comfortable only, but to make us comforters.”
Being a comforter is part of the calling of every Christian. How are you providing and sharing the comfort of God in your circle of relationships?
Comfort doesn’t take the pain away, but it pulls up a chair, and sits with us so we have more than pain and sorrow in our heart. Comfort helps us remember pain isn’t all there is. Psalm 34:18 (NIV) reminds us,
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
In the grace of God, it is often when we are giving of ourselves and seeking to comfort others that we also experience God’s presence with us in a way that strengthens, encourages, and comforts us.
Ultimately, there is a depth of comfort that only God can give.
So, we’re wise to pray as David does, Turn to me, be gracious to me; strengthen me, save me, show me a sign of your favor, because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.”
God is with you when no one else can be. God is waiting for you when you get home. God is there when you wake up frightened. God wants to hug and comfort you. God is walking beside you.
But we need to be open to a relationship with the Lord who not only helps and comforts us, but listens and answers when we call, gladdens our soul, is good, forgiving, powerful, teaches us truth, delivers us, and is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Why wouldn’t you want to have a relationship with a God like that? Why wouldn’t you want to have a relationship with Jesus who send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit to be with those who are his disciples?
If you’ve never turned to God, I invite you to pray these words for yourself, “Loving God, help me turn from living for myself to living for you as your beloved child and your disciple. Enable me to love you and obey your commandments so I might have eternal, abundant, joyful life and enable me to help and comfort others even as you continue to help and comfort me.”
One of my favorite images of the Comfort of God is found in Revelation 7:17,
“The Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
May God help and comfort you this day and always, and may you share the help and comfort of God with others.
Blessing: 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, 17 comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.
Questions for Discussion or Reflection
- What aspects of God’s character from Psalm 86 resonates the most with you: (God listens and answers when we call, God gladdens our soul, God is good and forgiving, God is powerful, teaches us truth, delivers us, is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, helps and comforts us)?
- What is a “comfort food” you enjoy? Have you ever at any age had a favorite blanket or quilt? What made it special?
- Has there been a time in your life when God seemed hidden, absent, or silent? What was going on? If that feeling changed, how did the change take place?
- When you’ve been in a season in your life when you needed comfort, what or who helped you and why did it make a difference?
- How would you explain the difference between helping and comforting?
- Dr. John Henry J. H. Jowett said, “God does not comfort us to make us comfortable only, but to make us comforters.” How are you answering the call as a Christ follower to be a comforter? How are you being a helper?