In a previous post, I decomposed part of Andi Rozier’s “He is my Fortress”. Because that entry was getting seriously long, I thought I’d break into two pieces. So, here’s the second half…
You’re before me
God challenges us. He does not tolerate sin, and He loves us far too much to leave us where we are. If we’ve given God permission to sanctify us by committing our lives to Him, then He will not leave us where He finds us. God changes and matures us. He stands before us and leads us to new places that are far better for us than we would choose to go on our own. Some of the best verses in the Bible are also some of the best known… “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:2-3)
God also goes before us in the sense that He has experience trials and suffering and temptation as a man, God’s love for us is a love that knows from experience our limitations and frailty and smallness. Hebrews says it very well… “We have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)
And behind me.
If you give your life to God and submit to His will, then God’s got your back. Andi’s song says it really well, “No power can stand against a people that God defends.” This is a lyrical adaptation of the Scripture, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32) I think the best portrayal of this concept I’ve ever seen is in the movie “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” when Lucy stands on the bridge to face the entire Talmerine army. She’s a young girl with a small dagger. She has no real power of any kind, except that she knows the King of Narnia, Aslan the great lion, He has her back. The Talmerines have nothing to fear from Lucy until Aslan stands behind her. And even then, they are foolish men. They do not understand the power with which they’re dealing, The same is true of us, most of the time. In our self-centered arrogance, we fail to accurately assess either the power of God or the power of the enemy. And we certainly forget that we are frail, weak, and helpless (as Jeff Donaldson, my pastor, has recently and correctly pointed out).
R.C. Sproul writes, “Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance until they’ve contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.”
I’m okay with being really small as long as a really big God has my back.
You invite me in and delight me.
Psalm 23 again: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” (Psalm 23:5)
Also, consider a conversation Jesus once had with Thomas, one of His disciples…
“‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms…. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”
So, Jesus has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us to be, which will be a great delight to us and to which we know the way. Sign me up. I think many people ask alongside Thomas, though, “How do I get to God?” Jesus says, “You know the way, because you know me. I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” I’m so in.
You prepare me
God’s motivation for not leaving us the way we are (sanctification) is to prepare us to be with Him in heaven. That’s what the “going to prepare a room for me” thing is about too. If we feel like God’s actions don’t make sense sometimes, perhaps it’s because they don’t … from an earthly, worldly perspective. God cares far less about our being suited to live in this world, concerning Himself with the far more beneficial (for us), far more glorious, far more significant assignment to make us ideally suited for eternal life with Him.
And protect me
God protects us from all manner of things, some we’re aware of and some we aren’t, Every time we get in a car, we have one near death experience after another. All the accidents we didn’t have are a gift from God. Every illness we don’t get. Every famine, earthquake or tidal wave we don’t experience. These are all ways in which God’s hand is a protecting hand.
But more than that, God sends angels to battle for us spirtually. God literally fights for us. I love this Scripture from the book of Joshua, when he was leading the armies of Israel to take Jericho…
“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’ ‘Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.’ Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servant?’ The commander of the LORD’s army replied, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.'” (Joshua 5:13-15)
God is not tame or in any way under control, but He is good. And He fights for those whose hearts are set on Him.
You correct my heart
As any good father would, God disciplines His children. It’s easy for me to overlook rebellion and selfishness in my son John. Much harder to discipline him. But the discipline is much better for him, because it forms his life. It’s much more loving to discipline. It’s the selfish thing to overlook behaviour that hurts him and will hurt him even more in the long run.
The same is true of God. From Proverbs…
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” (Proverbs 3:11-12)
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our [imperfect earthly] fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but [our perfect Heavenly Father] disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:7-11)
As a legitimate child of God, I embrace God’s discipline as for my good from the heart of a loving Father. I do not question the goodness of God in hardship, but rather admit and submit to the reality that God is wiser and far greater than I. I trust Him, so therefore I don’t have to understand every circumstance of my life … even if it feel like I wouldn’t choose them for myself. God is correcting my heart and perfecting me.
And perfect me
More preparation. More sanctification. More making me like Jesus. I think I’m detecting a theme.
But let’s not let this concept fly by too quickly. God takes the time and expends the effort to make us like Him. Not only is it amazing that we’ll be perfect someday. James says, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4) Pretty amazing to imagine my “not lacking anything”. I’m all about being “mature and complete”. The really cool part is that God too is all about this work. I find this to be the ultimate in condescension, but in the very best way.
The goal of God’s discipline, as Hebrews clearly states, is my righteousness, perfection, sanctification. Bring it on! I want to be more like Jesus, and I understand it will cost me to get there.
You befriend me
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:13-17)
I have nothing to add to the beauty and power of this truth, directly quoted from God’s Word.
You defend me
In my mind, the same as “you’re behind me”. Again, the image of Lucy and Aslan and the Talmarines comes to mind.
You are my Strength
We have very little strength of our own. To effect earthly things, perhaps we have a little power or strength, but not much. But to effect the things that really matter – heavenly and spiritual things – we have nothing apart from God. The Bible paints the picture of vines and branches. In the same way that branches have to remain in (connected to) the vines and root system on which they depend for life, so we also have to remain in (connected to) God for life. Not just that God sustains the molecules and biochemical functions in our body or gives us the breath of life, but also in the sense of accomplishment or progress. In order to accomplish anything of value, we must remain in Christ.
Here’s how Jesus said it…
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)
So, if we want to accomplish anything of significance in this world or the next, we’ll allow God to be our strength. We’ll remain in Him.
I will fear no more
By this time, Andi’s song is in crescendo, and so is – I think – the meaning of the words. I also find application of God’s truth to be the climax of preaching, Bible study, and music. This final phrase in the bridge carries with it the highest call to commitment and personal application of the whole song. If you really believe the rest of the song, then this line is absolutely right: there is nothing to fear but God Himself.
If we know Jesus…
- We don’t have to fear enemies – even spiritual enemies, because God surrounds and protects us.
- We don’t have to fear being in need, because God sustains us.
- We don’t have to fear being unloved – whether for regrets of the past or mistakes in the future, because God draws us near and embraces us.
- We don’t have to fear the future – what unexpected hardships or difficulties or challenges life may bring us, because God goes before us and is behind us.
- We don’t have to fear the afterlife, because God invites us in.
- We don’t have to fear the unknown of heaven, because God has prepared a place for us to delights us.
- We don’t have to fear the massive chasm between us (and our sin) and God (and His holiness), because God prepares us for heaven, corrects our hearts, and perfects us.
- We don’t have to fear being alone, unimportant, broken, useless or anything else that emphasizes insignificance in this life, because God has called us “friends”. To be a friend of God for all eternity … I mean, seriously, is there some higher goal to which you’re aspiring that you’d like to share with the class?
- We don’t have to fear lacking the strength to accomplish the dreams God has placed in our hearts, because God is our strength.
So, let’s sum up… Stop being afraid! Of the future. Of insignificance. Of weakness. Of hardship. Of opposition. If God is for you, who can stand against you? If only we believed God’s promises the way Moses did: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Ex0dus 14:13)
I love it. Let’s try to actually trust God like that, and treat Him as a strong fortress. Let’s run in and find shelter, deliverance, and a whole new way of thinking in this life which will lead us to the next.