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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013

“I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).

This is a Psalm of David. The introduction to it is part of the inspired text. It says, “A Psalm of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away and he departed.” King Saul was hunting for David, trying to find him and kill him. He was fleeing for his life and hiding in one cave after another in the area around the Dead Sea. Not many people could survive in that place. David thought he was going to be killed by Saul, so he travelled west, to the land of the Philistines. The king of the Philistines received him, but some of the king’s men were afraid of David. David realized he was in danger so he pretended to be insane. The king became disgusted with him and sent him away. So David’s life was spared and he returned to the wilderness of Israel to hide from Saul. Later, as he thought about that terrible, fearful time, he wrote this Psalm. He said,

“I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).

There was a little boy who lived long ago in Missouri. My grandmother lived in that area, in the Ozarks, as a child, about the same time as this little boy. She told me one story after the other about fearful things that happened to her, things that no child should have to experience. The little boy had to go through many frightening things too. His father ran a small newspaper. He made the boy get up before dawn, and drag himself through the snow to deliver those papers. Then he had to go to school and sit there all day long in the cold, with his clothes soaked through from the snow. No sooner than they were dry, he had to get another load of newspapers and drag himself through the snow again to deliver them. Exhausted and half starved, he didn’t get home until long after dark, to eat a little gruel and climb shivering into bed – knowing that he would go through the same ordeal before the sun came up the next morning. That little boy was named Walt Disney.

Later he reached back into those childhood pains and terrors and used them in his tremendously successful movies. Who can forget the terror you felt as a child, the first time you watched “Pinocchio”? The movie critic Leonard Maltin said it contains “some of the scariest scenes ever put on film [such as] Lampwick's transformation into a jackass, [and] the chase with Monstro the whale.” Then there was “Snow White.” The evil queen turning herself into a witch made me shudder as a child. Then there were the trees in the forest reaching out their branches toward Snow White like the claws of demons. “Bambi” scared me so bad I cried and had to be taken out of the theater. His mother was shot and you could hear her dying cry, “Run, Bambi! Run!” And there he was alone – lost in the snow. These memorable scenes describe what the pioneer psychiatrist Carl Jung called “archetypical fears.” The roots of these fears remain deep in our subconscious, even as adults. Walt Disney conjured up those fears out of his own traumatized childhood. Someone will say this didn’t really come from Disney himself. Are you sure? How come they were never quite able to do it again after he died? Oh, it was him all right. He put his mark on everything that came out of that studio – even “Dumbo.” Every child knew instantly the fear of being different from the other kids – like the little elephant with the big ugly ears!

It is a well-known fact that the authors of children’s stories often had traumatic childhoods. One thinks of Robert Louis Stevenson, Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling, and P. L. Travers, author of “Mary Poppins,” among many others. In fact, Ernest Hemingway said you had to have a bad childhood to be a good novelist!

Our deacon Mr. Griffith and I were discussing that the other night. We were standing near the stairs on the second floor. I looked behind him at a picture of Churchill. I said Churchill had a troubled childhood. Then I looked at a photo of President Reagan and told Mr. Griffith that Reagan had to drag his father through the snow, into the house, in a drunken stupor night after night. Then I looked over at a picture of President Nixon and told Mr. Griffith how Nixon’s father made his family drink the milk of a cow poisoned with tuberculosis, and how that killed Nixon’s older brother. He was troubled by his brother’s death all his life. Then Mr. Griffith told me how his own father died quite suddenly when he was only 14, and how his mother had to go through the pain of 60 electric shock treatments to keep from slipping into permanent depression. I told him a couple of horror stories from my own childhood, and then we began to talk about the other members of our church, one after the other. I finally said, “You know, Ben, it seems to me that everybody has had an alarming childhood, in one way or another!” It seems to me that this is part of the curse of sin that comes from the fall of Adam. I think Dr. Carl Jung would agree with me, though in a spiritualized, archetypical way. Certainly Freud would have agreed on the subject of childhood trauma! But neither of those psychiatrists understood the fall of man.

We are a fallen race, living in a fallen world – and it’s a pretty scary place to live! But no amount of human fear will make a man seek after God. The Bible says,

“Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known” (Romans 3:16-17).

People often think that a catastrophe or sickness will make lost sinners repent. But I have never seen that happen. An illustration of that is given when the fifth bowl judgment falls on a lost world during the Tribulation period. The Bible says,

“…and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds” (Revelation 16:10, 11).

I have watched that sort of thing happen many times. I have seen people dying of cancer blaspheme God and refuse to repent. They usually blame God and often curse Him for letting this happen to them. But I have never seen anyone repent and turn to Christ as a result of pain and human fears. It only makes them bitterer against God as a rule. It takes the grace of God to make a lost sinner repent and come to Jesus. Sir Richard Baker said, “The wicked may be free from trouble, but can they be free from fear? No, God knows, though they be in trouble like other men, yet they live in more fear than other men. Guiltiness of mind…never [allows] them to be secure…yet they are never without a grudging [against God]” (C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Volume II, pp. 142, 143). But when the Holy Spirit begins to work on you, you will start to have godly fears. John Newton said,

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
   And grace my fears relieved…
(“Amazing Grace” – second stanza,
     by John Newton, 1725-1807).

Has God been sending you gracious fears? Have you tried to ignore them but still they come? God has allowed these fears to come to you, so that you will see the folly of continuing to reject Jesus.

Have you felt, “The more blessing I have in my life, the more sad I feel. I know there is no happiness in these earthly blessings.” If this describes you, it is the grace of God that has given you these thoughts. Has Satan made you think that? Absolutely not! Nothing pleases the Devil more than to see those who are satisfied with their lives. If you are not satisfied, it is God who has made you discontented with the world and its pleasures. Years ago you were content, but now you are feeling that nothing in this world can give you peace. I strongly advise you to trust in Christ and in His precious Blood. Nothing else can release you of these sad feelings and troubled thoughts.

Or maybe you have felt, “I do want to be a Christian. There is nothing in this world that I want more than to be saved from sin.” I am glad you said, “Saved from sin.” There are many lost people who want to be saved from Hell. As long as that is what they want, they will never be saved. But the fact that you want to be saved from sin is a good sign that God is speaking to your heart. This shows that God is beginning to speak to you. Why has He given you this desire to be saved from sin? It is to make you long for Jesus, who is the only one who can make you a Christian, and take away your sin. I know by long experience that everyone who deeply wants to be free from the guilt of sin, and seeks for Jesus, has found Him. But those who want to continue in sin, and only want to be saved from Hell, never find Jesus! Do you want to be free from the guilt and power of sin? Then you are very close to finding Jesus. Take just one step toward Him, and you will be saved instantly!

Yet again, do you fear that you will not be able to hold on to Christ? Do you fear that you will fall away, and become a hypocrite? That fear is not necessarily bad. The hypocrite will say boldly that he trusts Christ. But many great saints and martyrs realized that only Jesus could keep them saved. Come trembling and unsure of yourself, and Jesus will save you – and He Himself will keep you saved! Salvation does not depend on you! It never did depend on you! Trust Jesus and He will save you now, and He will keep you saved!

Or you may say, “Sometimes I feel a little peace and joy. When I hear that someone else has been saved, it gives me some hope. Sometimes when I hear a sermon about the Gospel and the love of Jesus for sinners, I do feel joy. But then I look at myself, and my sinful heart, and all that joy is gone.” Do you think you would have these thoughts at all if God were not drawing you to Jesus? You only felt that hope and that promise of peace when you heard about the love of Jesus, and saw others experience it. So, if you want to permanently feel that hope and peace, come to Jesus yourself.

“But,” you say, “I am trying not to have a feeling! Didn’t you tell me to try not to have any feeling?” No, my dear friend, I never told you any such thing! I didn’t tell you to try not to have a feeling! No! No! I told you to trust Jesus! As long as you try negatively not to have a feeling, it will keep you from the positive action of trusting Jesus! Stop trying not to have a feeling and fall into the tender, loving arms of the Saviour! You will be saved instantly by Him the very moment you stop trying to save yourself by resisting a feeling. Instead, rest in Jesus. You will find that He has done all the saving! Then, and only then, will you feel peace that passes understanding!

I see no reason why you should go home tonight without Jesus! If the things I have said are true of you, then come to the Saviour and go into the New Year as a Christian!

“But,” you say, “I may not be one of the elect.” If you trust Jesus you are one of the elect! “But,” you say, “I don’t have enough conviction.” Why, my dear friend, you are eaten to death with conviction! Look at you! You are feeling hopeless and sad right now! What is that, if not conviction? You already have plenty of conviction. What do you think conviction is? It is the sad, gloomy, fearful feelings that you have right now! What does God have to do to you? Does He have to drive you insane? Of course not! You have more than enough conviction right now. All you have to do is come to Jesus. Fall into His loving arms and you will go out tonight, saved by the Blood of the Lamb of God!

Now, if you would like to speak with us, just get out of your seat and walk to the inquiry room right now. Amen. God, we pray that someone will trust your Son Jesus tonight. In His name, amen.

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Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Jesus, Only Jesus” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).