He Was There All The Time!

Psalm 23:1-4: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me"

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil..."

Even after 3,000 years, these words still leap off the printed page and to inspire us and strengthen us.
they came from a heart filled with faith.

We have looked at three of the six verses, and this morning, we will look at the second half
of these famous words.
We will be looking at them through the eyes of a sheep.

Up to this point in the psalm, life has been good for the sheep.
He has talked about what a great shepherd he has, and how that shepherd has supplied all his needs.
He has talked about how the shepherd leads him to green pastures for food and clean water for drinking.
He has said that his shepherd restores his failing health, and guides him down good paths.

Now the pronoun in verse 4 has changed.
It's no longer third person -- he restores my soul -- it's now second person -- for you are with me.
The sheep is now talking directly to his shepherd.
He is saying, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me

Many of us can remember being frightened as a young child.
We were probably frightened, lying in bed at night, and we were sure that the shadows
on the bedroom wall were those of a burglar at the window, or of a monster coming to get us.
And we feared that the creaks on the stairway meant that something horrible about to happen.

So, we called out to our moms or dads out of the darkness because of our fears.
Then, they would come and hold us in their arms and they would say,
"It's ok. Everything is all right, I'm here. Don't be afraid."

That is what the the Psalmist is saying: "I will fear no evil, for thou art with me."
We're all born with fears.
I have read that babies have a fear of falling, and a fear of being abandoned.

Fear is a powerful motivator and a very real frightening force.
Fear sells home security systems and car alarms.
Fear of violence motivates people to buy a gun for protection,

In the dark days of the Great Depression, with the threat of fascism moving across the world,
and Pearl Harbor being attacked, the American people were afraid.
And President Franklin D. Roosevelt reminded the nation that they did not have to live with fear.
He said: "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself."

In the Christian Century magazine, Peter Steinke says,
"Fear is a wake-up call.
It arouses an awareness of danger.
It puts us on high alert.
Yet it can do just the opposite, overwhelming us and diminishing our alertness.

With extreme fear, concentrated adrenalin floods the body, producing intense vigilance,
riveting the brain on the object of the fear.
Now the fearful person is barely able to focus on anything else.
Tunnel vision occurs and fear takes over
("Fear Factor", Christian Century, February 20, 2007).

Personal fear can be oppressive and limiting.
Fear of failing convinces us not to try something new and risky.
Students can suffer the fear of humiliation which can prevent a student from raising his or her hand
to ask a question.
Fear of ridicule and rejection will prevent a passionate, young person from speaking his or her mind.
Fear can keep us confined to one place where we will never risk.

Someone said that if Michelangelo had been afraid of heights, he would have painted
the Sistine Chapel floor instead of the ceiling
Fear of rejection prevents some from saying, "I love you. I need you."

What can we do with our fears?
Do you sense that a trouble is coming, and you have already started to be fearful?
Do you see sign that a storm is getting ready, and drawing near to you?
Do you ....

You need not fear the approaching storm.
David said, "Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;
though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident

Enemies already troubling us generally cause us to be more fearful than possible future foes.
When the enemy is slow in appearing, we are already fearful.
We can see that our deadly foe is coming, but we don't know whether he will attack us
in the middle of the night, or at the dawn of the day.

We do not know when his onslaught will be, and this kind of suspense distresses the soul.
But because my Shepherd is with me, I can say in faith: "Though I know that suffering,
could be my fear, I am at peace, and can say without a doubt: "I fear no evil."

This is the promise we have in Psalm 23:4:
"Even in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me."
With our great Shepherd leading us, we can walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
and fear no evil for He is with us.

So, we will not fear the terror of the night or of the shadow of death that stalks us
all the days of our lives.
Our faith is in our Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
And our faith is summarized in these words: "Fear not."

Fear not the darkness of the night.
Fear not terrorism.
Fear not the future.
Fear not the new job.
Fear not the end of the old job.
Fear not the end of a relationship.
Fear not the risk of a new relationship.
Fear not the move to a new place.
Fear not the threat of failure.
Fear not sickness.
Fear not surgery.
Fear not death itself.

God will keep us from falling, and He will never abandon us.
John 10:27-29: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish,
neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.
My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out
of my Father's hand."
This precious promise assures us that God will never let us go.

The Psalmist assets his faith, when he says, "I will fear no evil."
He says that even in the "valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil."

There are many reasons that some people are fearless.
Some are unrealistic, and some are foolish.
The fearlessness based upon self-sufficiency is fine when it concerns little neurotic fears
or the minor burdens and difficulties of life.
But when it comes to the weighty things of life and death, the forces of nature and human destiny,
it amounts to a person believing in his own personal omnipotence.

Then, there are some who are convinced that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
They believe that the world and people and events will be benevolent,
if they just think positively.
Then, there are those who say that most of the things we fear and worry about
never come to pass, anyway.
They believe that finding peace of mind in a self-made lottery in which they hope to avoid losing.

Others trust in their past, good luck.
But if there is no such thing as "luck" , and their past, "good luck" only increases
the likelihood that the fearful event or circumstance will come into their life.

None of these things describe the view of the psalmist.
He was in touch with evil in the moral, spiritual, natural, and circumstantial world.
He was a realist about the tragic dimensions of life, and the vulnerability of the human being.

"I will fear no evil."
He does not say there shall not be any evil; he was beyond that high assurance,
and knew that Jesus had put all evil away; but "I will fear no evil;" as if even his fears,
and shadows of evil, were gone for ever
We may feel a thousand deaths in fearing one, but the psalmist was cured of his fears.

"I will fear no evil," not even the Evil One himself;
I will not dread the last enemy -- death.
I will look upon him as a conquered foe, as an enemy to be destroyed, "For thou art with me."

When God is with us, we can be fearless.
There are times when that seems like a overwhelming task.
Fear hunts us.
Fear haunts us.
Fear hounds us.
Fear hits us.
We must never forget the power and the strength of God -- especially in the dark valleys of life.

"I shall fear no evil."
It is so good when you see a child at perfect peace amid present dangers which alarm
all those who are with him.

There is the story of a little boy who was on board a ship that was being tossed in the high waves,
and everybody was afraid.
They knew that they were in danger of their ship being destroyed.

Every sailor on that ship and every passenger was afraid that they would be drowned.
However, this little boy was perfectly content and couldn't understand why everyone
was so afraid when the ship would go down in the strong winds and the ferocious waves.

Someone asked him why he was not afraid.
"Well," he said, "my father is the captain, and he knows how to get us through this."

He did not think it was possible that the ship would sink while his father was in charge.
We must remember that our Lord, the everlasting God, the Creator of all things,
the all-powerful God is with us.
He will not grow tired or weary.
"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak." (Isaiah 40:28-29)

We need to remember the almighty strength of our God.
Think about it for just a moment.
Who created everything in just six days?
God almighty.

Who protected Noah and his family during the flood?
God almighty.

Who parted the Red Sea?
God almighty.

Who stood with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo?
The Lord God almighty.

The Christian has nothing to fear in the most gloomy scenes of life;
We have nothing to fear in the valley of the shadow of death.
We never have to fear death.
We nothing to fear the world beyond.
For God is with us!

So, that is how we can walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
We will not run through the valley.
We will not panic.
We will walk.
We can say: "I will fear no evil."

That indicates that we have made a choice.
Fear is a choice.
If you are having fearful times in your life, you are choosing to be afraid.
If you are discouraged, you are choosing to be discouraged.
You are choosing to look at the negative things.

There are many who suffer panic attacks.
They get into a certain situation and it starts to get bad, and they panic.
They avoid certain places where they have panic attacks.
Fear becomes a paralyzing foe.

In the 23rd Psalm we must see ourselves walking through darkness with the Shepherd as our guide.
Why should we fear?

We need not fear death for Jesus has passed through the death for us.
We need not fear any evil for our Lord has defeated death and the Devil.
Our salvation is not maintained by a fragile faith.
We are kept by the power of God.
Our forgiveness is our because of His shed blood.

In our crisis of faith, we will do not lose hope, for our great Shepherd has passed through
the valley of the shadow of death.
There is no valley so deep that our Shepherd can not fathom it.
There is no mountain so high that our Shepherd cannot climb it.
There is no darkness so dark that our Lord -- the Light of the world can not illuminate it.
There is no sin that God cannot and will not forgive,
There is no person so lost that our Shepherd cannot find them.

God doesn't panic when we go through a problem.
But neither should His sheep.
The picture we get from this verse is that that the sheep aren't frightened as they pass
through the valley.
Look at this verse again.

Notice that it says that "I walk" through the valley.
It doesn't say – "I run."
It doesn't say, "I quiver".
It doesn't say, "I shake in my shoes."

No – it says "I walk."
My footing is sure and steady.
I take my time.
I don't need to panic.

"I will fear no evil."
But Psalm 23: 4 gives the reason why we should refuse to be discouraged.
"For You are with me." Psalms 23:4 (NKJV)

God is with us every step of the way.
God has promised us that He will always be with us.
God will never leave us alone.

Never Alone

"I've heard the voice of my Savior,
bidding me still to fight on.
He promised never to leave me,
never to leave me alone

No, never alone, no never alone,
He promised never to leave me,
never to leave me alone

God says "I am with you.
I will take you by the hand.
I will lead you through this."

It is during our dark valleys that we need to know that God is there.
It is during our dark valleys where our faith is tested the most.

Cumberland Caverns was just a few miles from our church in McMInnville, Tennessee.
So, we would take relatives and friends to visit the caves.

At one point, the guide will stop and have all the lights turned off.
Most of us who have only been above ground have never been in complete darkness.
Even when we are at home when the lights are out, there is usually some source of light somewhere.
The stars or the moon give off some light or a passing car will light up things.
But it is not that way in a cave.
There is no light whatsoever.
You cannot see your hand in front of your face -- you are in total darkness.
It can be frightening.

One of the things we must do in that situation is to remember where we are,
and who we are with.

We remember that you are in a cave with a tour group.
We remember that our spouse and friends are also there.
But, most of all, we remember that we have a guide who is there to lead us,
and he will turn the lights on again.

This is like being in a dark valley.
Our Shepherd is there.
I may not be able to see Him because of the darkness
– but the fact remains that He is there.
Matthew 28:20 says: " I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

When you are going through dark valleys you don't want to talk about God
– you want to talk to God.

God says "I am with you.
I will take you by the hand.
I will lead you through this."

It's during our dark valleys that we need to know God is there.
It's during our dark valleys that our faith is the most tested.

In Hebrews 13:5, God assures us: "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
And we can say with Hebrews 13:6: "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me

The American Indians had a unique way of training young braves.
On the night of a boy's thirteenth birthday, after he had learned to hunt, and scout, and fish,
he was put to one final test.
He was placed in a dense forest to spend the entire night alone.
Until then, he had never been away from the security of the family and the tribe.

But on this night, he was blindfolded and taken several miles away.
When he took off the blindfold, he was in the middle of a thick wooded area, and he was terrified!
Every time a twig snapped, he visualized a wild animal ready to pounce on him.
After what seemed like an eternity, dawn broke and the first rays of sunlight entered
the interior of the forest.

Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees, and the path.
Then, to his utter astonishment, he saw a man standing just a few feet away,
armed with a bow and arrow.
It was his father.
He had been there all night long.

He Was There All The Time

"Time after time I went searching for peace in some void.
I was trying to blame all my ills on this world I was in.
Surface relationships used me 'til I was done in.
And all of the while someone was begging To free me from sin."

He was there all the time.
He was there all the time.
Waiting patiently in line.
He was there all the time.

Never again will I look for a fake rainbow's end.
Now that I have the answer my life is just starting to rhyme.
Sharing each new day with Him Is a cup of fresh wine.
And oh what I missed, He's been waiting right there all the time.

He was there all the time."

-- By Gary Paxton

Sermon has been adapted from many sources by Dr. Harold L. White