Everyone acknowledges many varied troubles and considerable volatility at present from inflation to conflicts. At the forefront of our minds is also the devastating effects of a large-scale military conflict with all the catastrophe for the nation involved. But it has wider shockwaves to the whole geopolitical framework we have been used to. A bloody conflict involving a nuclear-armed power could easily develop into something larger. The Church is not exempt from its own trials and troubles from within and without. What if heavier storms are to expected in the future if the Church becomes the target of great opposition? Individual believers also have their times of trial and heavy affliction. Just as some of us have been battered by physical storms we need resources for safety, stability strength to endure whatever. It is found abundantly in the Word of God, here are seven anchors that will help you hold fast when storms arise.
In a sermon on Psalm 140:12-13, the Covenanter Michael Bruce gives us seven anchors from the Scriptures that can keep us stable in stormy times. He notes how at the beginning of Psalm 140 the Psalmist begins with his own particular case and condition, and then considers the wider state and situation of the Church of God. Bruce draws comfort from this, that even in the worst of times, there is always some truth that a Christian may make use of as a firm foundation, they can, as it were, drop down their anchor and fix it on these foundational truths. Psalm 140:12 contains such a truth on which a poor believer may anchor, God will maintain the cause of the afflicted and the right of the poor. Many a poor person says: “do you not see our cloud growing very dark? Do you not hear the loudness of the wind whistling on all our trees? Do you not see the greatness of our waves so high above our head and will we not be made ship-wreck of them?” No, in the worst of storms and times, we have an anchor to fix on all through the storm.
Bruce identifies seven foundations on which a Christian may fix their anchor. The Psalmist drives his anchor on a sure foundation and fixes on it, it is that the upright will give thanks to God’s name and dwell in His presence (v13). Even though we were kept weeping all our days under the felt sense of many losses, we shall get home to God at length and dwell at last in His presence.
It is a sermon with its own poignancy as it was preached in the Tolbooth prison of Edinburgh while Bruce was incarcerated there in 1668. He had received a sentence of banishment to Virginia and so the trials he speaks of were very real to him. “I know though I should be banished to Virginia, and never see that cause maintained, yet God will maintain it”. The king ordered him to be sent to London where he was then sentenced to be exiled to Tangier, Morocco. While imprisoned in London he continued to preach. His sentence was changed to a place of exile that he preferred and he chose Killinchy Woods where he had been ordained as a minister. He was able to preach here but also travelled to Scotland to preach in the fields. He was “of extraordinary zeal for the glory of God and the good of souls; much given to meditation and secret prayer: a thundering, broken-hearted, and most affecting preacher”.
In the following updated extract, Bruce gives us seven anchors to fix on in time of a storm. They are particularly helpful when we face opposition. Do you know these seven anchors? There are also ten brief things that we need to remember in our trials and difficulties.
1. There is a Reward for the Righteous
The first foundation on which I will drop my anchor is in Psalm 58:11, that there is a reward for the righteous and God is the judge of the earth. The men of the world say, “What will you get now, by sticking to a work of reformation? We will get as much for deformation, as you will get for reformation, we will get as much for dishonesty as you will get for honesty. We will get as much for perjury as you will get for covenant-keeping”. Yes but if they get it, they get vengeance with it, if you get a heavy and full purse for perjury and arresting honest men you will get the heavy wrath of GOD, to weigh it down with. If we have the light purse, we have God’s blessing with it. Judge which is best a light and empty purse with God’s blessing or a heavy and full purse and God’s curse with it.
This is one truth we will fix on, there is a reward for the righteous, God is the judge of the earth. What do you think of the reward we have received from the Council [government] for the work of our ministry? They have sentenced us with banishment, that is our reward from them, yes but we will get another reward from our Master: there is a reward for the righteous. We will get another reward from GOD, than what we have received from the [governing] Council of Scotland, we will get another judge of our cases than the Council after they have judged us. We will get another that will judge us according to the highest rule of rectitude and whose judgment is just. We will have another judgment day with another judge for all that has come and gone, there we fix.
2. Christ Has Overcome the World
Christ says, “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33) and there we fix. Our enemies are a defeated company. Let them agree as much together as they like in taking the blood of the saints and sentencing us with banishment, they are merely a defeated enemy.
3. Christ Was Hated by the World Too
If the world hates you, Christ says, “it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master” (Matthew 10:25). He is not above Him but the more afflictions you bear, the more you are like your Master. He was a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. If the world shoots the artillery of hatred at us, it shot it at Christ before, therefore the brunt of it is broken before it comes to us. The world hates us and casts us out but it dealt in the same way with Christ before it dealt with us.
4. God is Greater than the Greatest Troubles
The Lord is mightier than the billows of all our troubles (Psalm 93:4). The poor soul may rest on that in the greatest of troubles. You may say, “my trouble makes much noise; it comes upon me wave upon wave, like the billows of the sea”. But however great they may be you can say, “God is mightier by far”, and so you may slip in under the shelter of your Master and until the calamities have passed over.
5. The Lord Will Be With Us
The Lord will be with us while we are with Him (2 Chronicles 15:2). We fear the Lord may not be with us in our trouble but we are to make sure our duty and be assured that God will do His part. Some say they do not know if God will own His work and people in Scotland anymore. But even though few will own His work and cause yet according to His promise, He will be with them while they are with Him. If He is with us, the fire will not burn us, and if He is with us the water will not drown us. If He is with you a fiery furnace will be a palace, and a lion’s den a place of wonders. What do you want more than that?
6. The Lord Will Keep Us in Trouble
When everything seems to be trodden and beaten down by a flood of wickedness and persecution go to Revelation 3:10. O what a noble promise. The worst prison is a heart in bondage to sin, the wrath of God and an evil conscience. As long as I lack these three, have the peace of God and a good Conscience, I will never have a bad prison put me where they like. Though we have received the sentence of bondage from man, yet we have received the sentence of life and liberty from our Master. There is no death but only life here, there is no bondage but only liberty here.
7. Christ is Our Shelter
There is a seventh anchorage on which we may fix and cast our anchor. It is in Isaiah 33:2 and speaks of the shadow of a great rock in Christ. The Christian is well for evermore who is fixed on some word of Scripture in the day of their affliction. Have you got any words of the Bible to hang on yet? When all the world looks down on us, words of the Bible will look up on us, when all the World frowns on us, words of the Bible will smile on us.
Bruce preached another sermon on these verses at the same time. In it he speaks of ten things we must know in a time of trouble.
(1) God exercises lovingkindness in the earth (Jeremiah 9:24). This is one thing we must know, and never let the impression of it wear off our soul. Whatever troubles God’s people experience on the earth, God exercises lovingkindness towards them.
(2) God’s counsel stands forever, and He brings the counsel of the heathen to nothing (Psalm 33:10-11). When we have received our sentence from the world, we will appeal to another court above them which will see it righted. It is His counsel that stands forever, and the thoughts of His heart to all generations.
(3) I have committed my soul and everything to God (2 Timothy 1:12). I can commit all to God, and He will give me a good account of all in that day.
(4) God is Governor of the world not men (Daniel 4:38).
(5) Not one jot or tittle of God’s word will pass away until all is fulfilled (Matthew 5:18). I know that I must obey whatever has been commanded, and I know that whatever He has threatened on His enemies will be accomplished. Whatever He has promised to His friends will be made good.
(6) The Lord will not remove His lovingkindness from us (Psalm 89:33). And since I know that, why should I be discouraged and cast down?
(7) All His paths are mercy and truth to those that keep His testimonies (Psalm 25:10). If I am a keeper of His covenant, my Master will put mercy and truth into all His dealings with me, and that will sweeten everything.
(8) There is faithfulness in every affliction (Psalm 119:75). There is as much faithfulness in every rod that laid on my back as there is in every experience of comfort.
(9) The Lord is God and not man; therefore, we shall not die but live. He has ordained us for correction, but not for destruction (see Habakkuk 1:12).
(10) Christ is refining His people (Malachi 3:3). Christ sits as refiner so that we may offer unto Him the sacrifice of righteousness.
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