By Michael J. Brooks
David’s experience in the Valley of Elah is a story familiar to even the smallest child. The shepherd-boy of Israel faced down the Philistine giant, Goliath, who was nearly 10 feet tall.
A Sunday School worker taught her boys and girls about this story one morning and asked them what they’d do if they faced a giant like David did.
“I’d call 9-1-1!” replied one little girl.
We probably won’t face a giant warrior in our lives, but we face giant problems every week. Though some proclaimers in media seem to imply that Christians never have burdens, the Bible teaches otherwise. The Apostle Paul didn’t teach a “prosperity” gospel when he wrote about the God who “comforts us in all our tribulations” (2 Corinthians 1:4). Christians are liberated from the burden of sin, but we’re not liberated from the burdens of life. I know Christians who have loved ones in prison, and others who have families with dreaded illnesses.
God is good to have provided a number of refuges for us in times of trouble.
One is the home. It’s often been said that before the government or the church, God established the home. Husbands and wives love one another and provide a nurturing environment for their children. I’ve seen a motto embroidered or framed in Christian homes: “Christ is the head of this house, the unseen guest at every meal, and the silent listener to every conversation.” A home like this is a sanctuary in a troubled world.
God has also given the church as a refuge. Welton Gaddy in his book, “A Soul Under Siege,” proposed an analogy I’ve found helpful. God instructed Moses to establish six cities of refuge in Canaan where people pursued for crimes might find safety until cooler heads prevailed. Gaddy suggested this is what the church ought to be: a city of refuge. We go to church not to find harsh judgment, but to find encouragement and prayer. After all, the church is composed of the same kind of people: sinners in need of God’s mercy.
But God himself is our ultimate refuge. He is our refuge in times of trouble because he promised to be with us. “Thou art with me” David wrote in Psalm 23. He’s not a fair-weather deity but one who offers comfort in times of testing and forgiveness in times of failure.
Jesus’ story in Luke 15–the story we call the “prodigal son”–really isn’t. William Barclay argued for years it’s more accurately the story of the loving father. Someone called the elder brother the prodigal who stayed home. The older was prideful, and the younger was broken, but the loving father welcomed both to his celebration.
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.