Dr. Schuller you don’t know what an impact, what a transforming influence your life has been in the lives of so many men and women on the face of the earth. Pastors, members of church’s and people who have never gone to church have been so blessed by your ministry. My life would not be as it has been if it had not been for your influence. I came to then the Garden Grove Community Church in 1970. I pastored fifty members. We raised twelve thousand dollars over the last twelve months. My salary, the salary of all of the musicians and everyone in the church was paid out of that twelve thousand dollars, one year income for the church. I was so inspired when I came to the Crystal Cathedral. I saw possibilities and potential for my own life and I said to God, ‘God if You can do this through Robert Schuller, can’t You at least do something through my life?’ The rest is history God has been so good to me.
My wife Mae is with me today and we want you and your wife to know that we love you with all our hearts. That there is nothing on earth that you could ask us to do that we would not be willing to do for you. So with joy in my heart I left my congregation and said to them get by the best way you can. I’m going to go and be with my friend Robert Schuller. And what an honor it is to be in this place. You have one of the greatest Christian leaders on the face of the earth as your leader. Dr. Robert Schuller.
I’m going to talk to you today about overcoming negative circumstances and negative emotions. Overcoming negative circumstances and negative emotions. I want to read from the eighteenth Psalm starting with verse one: “I will love You oh Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer. My God, my strength in whom I will trust. My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised and so shall I be saved from my enemies. The pangs of death surrounded me and floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me. The snares of death confronted me and in my distress I called upon the Lord and called out to my God. He heard my voice from His temple and my cry came before Him even to His ears.”
One of the most important abilities that a person can have is the ability to endure and to rise above negative circumstances and negative emotions. Now all of us are familiar with the influence of circumstances. We frequently predict the potential success of a venture based on the circumstances that surround the endeavor. Circumstances are the criteria for the success of the endeavor. And a common excuse for failure is that it was due to circumstances beyond our control. So many are more intent on changing their circumstances then they are on dealing with themselves and preparing to deal with the circumstances. For them circumstances are the primary thing. And so you hear it every day. If I just lived in a different town, if I had a different house, a different apartment. I need to get away from my family. My husband, my wife is just dragging me down, I’m tired of my neighborhood, I’m tired of my job, I need a change in circumstances.
But it was Samuel Lover who said, “Circumstances are the rulers of the weak. But they are the instruments of the poor.” And Napoleon said, “Circumstances, I make circumstances.” The same circumstances that can destroy one person can make another person. Arnold Twinby said, “Great civilizations are not born in circumstances where everything is nice and comfortable. But rather in environments that are unusually difficult.” Thus it is not the circumstance that is the important thing, it is ones response to his circumstances that are the important thing.
Let’s also say a few words about negative emotions. Frequently our emotions are based on and wedded to our circumstances. And our conscious feelings, our psychological reactions are based on our real or imagined perception of our environment. Thus one would be afraid or angry or distressed because of the things that were happening in their vicinity. But there are some who are troubled emotionally despite their good environment. They enjoy a high level of prosperity then they’ve ever known. Physically they are reasonably secure and healthy, but still they are plagued by negative emotions. So many people today are sorrowful, distressed, fearful and they have no idea why they feel the way they feel. Their emotions have made life almost unbearable for them. The bible says in Proverbs eighteen and fourteen, “the spirit of a man will bear his infirmity, but a wounded spirit who can bear?” So many are incapacitated in their ability to respond to their challenges and to their difficulties because they are wounded on the inside and they cannot rise above their predicament.
Let’s take a look at some of the circumstances that David faced in Psalm eighteen. And the first thing that he says about his circumstance is that there were enemies in his environment. Saul hated him because of his skill in warfare and because of his popularity. Saul hated him because God had chosen David to be king instead of Saul. The Philistines hated him because he killed their champion, the giant Goliath. Some people hated him only because they found out that Saul hated him. And then other people hated him for no particular reason, they just hated him. You know that people don’t really need a reason to hate you or to be your enemy? If you live you will have enemies. But even more don’t be prominent, don’t have special skills, don’t be successful, don’t do anything outstanding or progressive. Don’t take an unpopular point of view because if you do you will be hated. And you will have enemies. But not only were enemies a prominent aspect of David’s environment, he says that floods of ungodliness, floods of ungodly men were all around him. And a predominance of ungodly men would make life much more difficult especially if you were striving to live a life of integrity and a life of righteousness. His was the wicked and a dangerous world.
David also says that he was surrounded by unpleasantness and by pain. He says that he was compassed about by the sorrows of death and hell. In every direction that he turned he was confronted by the threat of death. And the King James Version of this particular Psalm says that David was prevented. He was unable to reach his objectives. He was unable to reach his goals. In every direction that he turned there was something that would hinder him and that would block his way.
For some of you today, that is the story of your life. Every time your objective has been within your reach something has happened that prevented you from reaching your objective. David was also confronted by some very unpleasant emotions. He mentions in this Psalm fear and sorrow and distress. Certain things made David afraid. And people are afraid about many things today. They are afraid regarding the stability of their marriage. They’re afraid because of their concern for the welfare of their children. They are afraid about insecurity on their job. They’re afraid about economic conditions, conditions in their community, relationships, personal welfare and safety. There are some who don’t know what they are afraid of. In this turbulent world you need to know who God is, how God feels about you and what God can do in your life.
In the space of three short verses, David made several significant observations about his God. He calls God his strength. He calls God his rock, his fortress, his deliverer, his shield, his stronghold and he says that God is worthy to be praised. And so David might well have addressed these words not only as a prayer to God, I will love you, oh Lord, but he addressed them as a statement to himself and as a challenge to his circumstances and to his emotions.
Oral Roberts once said, “Stop telling God about your terrible problem mountains and start telling your mountains about your God, your great God, your mighty God.” God is our refuge. God is our strength. God is a very present help in trouble therefore, will not we fear. For those of you who face bad circumstances, for those of you who nurse an emotionally wounded spirit, the text offers for us a strategy. It sets forth a proper response to our negative emotions and to our negative circumstances.
The text proposes four significant keys to victory and you will note that each of these keys will begin with the word “I will.” And the fourth one starts with the word “so shall I be saved” in other words “I shall be saved.” This implies personal decisiveness. It implies an act of the will. Don’t just stand there and be destroyed. Don’t just stand there and be defeated. Exercise your will. Act, move, decide, determine that you will rise above your circumstance.
I had a friend who said when the going gets tough the tough get going. You may have met him at one time or another. And so the text says in Psalm 18 and 1, “I will love you, oh Lord my strength.” And that’s key number one. I will love you, oh Lord. To love God is an appropriate response to God because love is the predominant sentiment and commitment that God has toward us. The apostle Paul says that loving God will have a creative and synthesizing effect upon your life. For in Romans 8 and 28, Paul said, “For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Loving God, pursuing God’s purpose will summons the power of God to so organize and synthesize your life that it will work together for your good.
And then in Psalm 18 in verse 2, David said, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my strength in whom I will trust.” And that’s key number two. I will trust God.
Our strongest institutions are failing us. There is no clear solution to the dilemma that our nation or the nations of the world now face. The people and the organizations that we trusted most have proven unworthy of our trust. If you don’t trust God you will be overwhelmed by worry and by fear. If you trust God you will overcome worry and fear. The struggle of life is great enough without having to bear the added burden of worry and fear.
I was a tired traveler in a hotel in a city far away. Riding the elevator up to my room I had heavy luggage in both of my hands; A heavy suitcase on the right, another on the left. So there I stood riding the elevator carrying my heavy luggage when a thought came to me and the thought was this: put the luggage down. The elevator can carry both you and your luggage. I put it down and I arrived at my floor less burdened and less weary then I was before. Put your worry down. Put your fear down. God can carry both you and the things that you worry about. The bible says cast all your care on Him because He cares for you. You’re perplexed, you don’t know what to do, the world seems to be falling apart, trust God. God will lead you through this. He will lead you out of this. I will trust God. And then in Psalm 18 and verse 3 David says, “I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised.” That’s key number three.
We’ve got to work as if it all depended on us but then we’ve also got to pray as if it all depended on God. When we invite God into our lives we must allow Him to take charge of our lives and we must submit to the will of God. He may not answer as we expect or when we expect but God said call unto Me and I will answer you and I’ll show you great and might things that you do not know. Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pains we bear all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Key number four is also found in Psalm 18 verse 3. The psalmist says, “So shall I be saved from my enemies.” I shall be saved. I shall survive this, I will be rescued, I will come through this. This will not destroy me. Whatever it is that you are confronted by, whatever it is that you are dealing with say to yourself I will survive this. I will come through this. This will not destroy me. The psalmist makes this prediction based on his effective use of the first three keys. He said if I trust God, if I love God, if I call upon the Lord I shall be saved. Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth neither faints nor does He grow weary. His understanding is un-searchable. He gives power to the weak and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youth shall faint and be weary and young men shall utterly fall. But they that wait upon the Lord, they that trust in the Lord shall renew their strength. They will mount up on wings as eagles, they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not faint.
David said “I should be saved.” But this is more than just an analytical prediction, it is a statement of determination and a statement of commitment. It is a statement of firm resolve. It’s a proclamation that he will not be defeated by negative circumstances and by negative emotions but rather he will overcome them and he will march on to victory.
My friend, God will not allow you to be confronted by anything that you and He cannot handle together. If you confront it with God’s help you can deal with it. He will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able, but He will with the temptation make a way of escape that you may be able to bare it. You can deal with it. You can bear it. You can endure it and you will come through it. Paul said I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me. The biblical character Job experienced the disintegration of everything he loved on the earth. Everything he loved on earth turned to vapor before his very eyes, but Job said in Job 23 and 10, “He knows the way that I take and when He has tested me I shall come forth like gold.” I’m going to come through this, I’m going to deal with this, I’m going to overcome this and I hope that some of you today will say whatever you are dealing with I will come out of this and I’ll come out not with a whimper or a sigh but with a shout of victory. This tough time will not defeat me. This tough time will not cause me to surrender.
I read about a prospector years ago staked a claim. Worked his claim, dug for gold for one solid year. At the end of that year with disgust he threw the shovel down and said I’ll not work another day and walked away from his claim. Another man came, stood in the same place, picked up the same shovel, drove it into the same ground and struck gold. If the man before him had only waited one more day or tried one more time all of his dreams would have been fulfilled. Don’t give up. I see your future and it looks much better than it looks right now. I see you in the future and you look much better than you look right now. Love God; trust God, call on God; you shall be saved.
I pray that every one of you will love God. I pray that you will trust God as you focus on loving God trusting Him and calling on Him. The things that you are worried about will fall back further and further into the distance and your focus will be on God. I pray that you will accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and as your Lord. I pray that you will live abundantly not only now, but throughout all eternity. Don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel. You are a miracle getting ready to happen. The moment you give up might have been the moment of your victory.