A few minutes ago we sang Ruth Caye Jones’ hymn, “In Times like These.” In times like these you need a Saviour, and in times like these you need the Bible. In times like these you need an anchor which can grip the solid rock, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ruth Jones, born in 1902, was married to a Pennsylvania pastor and evangelist. Late in 1943, she was trying to feed her family of seven on a small salary in the midst of heavy rationing. Like just about everyone else, she knew people who had died, or who had suffered loss, in the war. One day after reading II Timothy 3:1 (“In the last days perilous times shall come”) she picked up the Pittsburgh newspaper and saw another long list of casualties. She wondered how some people, especially the unsaved, could cope during those desperate times. At that point, Ruth took out a small notepad from her apron pocket and began to write down some words. A melody came to her that seemed to fit those words. She had no formal music training, but she wasn’t trying to write a song that would make her famous. After her husband used it a few times in his meetings, her poem and music apparently disappeared. But then years later she heard George Beverly Shea sing her words and tune, filling her eyes with tears. She said, “I can’t believe I had any part in writing this song. I just feel that God gave it to me, and I gave it to the world.”

“In Times like These.” It doesn’t have to be in time of war; it can be any time – days of doubt and uncertainty, periods of sickness. In times like these we need a Saviour, and in times like these we need the Bible. In times like these we need an anchor which can grip the solid rock. But beyond our need of the Saviour, Christians need other things as well, including perhaps a battle plan. How should we face the troublesome times in which we live?

I’ve read the following words before, but I saw them again the other day and jotted them down. If we could remember these four points, they could help us out of our perilous times: “God brought me here;” “He will keep me safe by His grace.” “He can make this trial a blessing to me;” and “He will bring me out in his good time.” This evening I’m going to try to show you how these simple principles might be found in a few Biblical instances. Of course, it is really easy to apply them using our 20/20 hindsight. “Oh I can see God’s hand in all this.” But I’m also going to say that despite their accuracy, life has a way of complicating things, and sometimes these things are really hard to see.

Some Old Testament examples.

Joseph was Jacob’s eleventh son. I hope you know his basic biography. He was pampered by his father, despised by his brothers and eventually shipped as a slave into Egypt. There he passed through the prison system all the way up to sitting as that country’s Prime Minister. And because of that position, he was in a place where he could save Israel and his brothers from starvation. When his treacherous brethren eventually saw the glorified brother whom they betrayed, they were terrified. But Joseph told them: “God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God.” “Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.”

Perhaps more clearly than any other example in God’s Word, Joseph, a man of apparent great faith, might have uttered, and might have fully believed, our four principles. “God brought me here;” “He will keep me safe by His grace.” “He can, and will, make this a blessing to me;” and “He will bring me out in his good time.” The place where God put Joseph was not only a blessing to him, but also to many others. And now ask yourself: where has God placed YOU? Can’t these principles also apply to you? Can God keep you safe and deliver you? Do you have patience enough to wait for the Lord’s timing?

These principles might be applied to Joseph’s father, but I’m sure he didn’t meditate on them at the time. How did Jacob end up at house of Laban? Wasn’t it through God’s leadership? “God brought me here.” Was he happy during that time? Well, he married the girl of his dreams, but he also married her sister. How long was Jacob in Haran? Twenty years with plenty of ups and downs. Did the Lord keeps him safe? Was he blessed? Did the Lord bring Jacob home? Yes, yes and yes.

But with Jacob we can see how simplistic my four principles might be. When we insert our sins into these points at any point, things get complicated. And when they get complicated, we tend to loose our faith and forget about the next point. God brought me here, but it was despite or through some stupid choices on my part. And that being true, will he keep me safe? Despite our understandable doubts, yes He will. Can the Lord make these troublesome times a blessing? Just ask Jacob as he later celebrates his fiftieth wedding anniversary with Rachel. Maybe your life looks more like Jacob’s than Joseph’s, but the same truths apply.

What if we use Esther as an example? Where do we find Esther when her story begins? She was in Shushan the capital city of the Media/Persian Empire. And how did she get there? It was the will of God, because of the sins of other people. Yes, sin was involved, but it was still, obviously, God’s will she be there. And by the will of God, things got even more complicated when she became Queen Esther. Then there was an imminent disaster on the horizon; a clear and present danger. Esther was forced to risk her life in order to protect her countrymen from genocide. And what was it she was told? “If thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

I will not fault Esther for the weakness of her faith, because mine isn’t much better. But she was not completely faithless. She may not have thought throughout her life, “God is going to protect me.” But as an old lady, she may have looked back and said, “God put me where He wanted me. He protected me, blessed me, and used me to be a blessing. And He did bring me out in His good time.”

Do I need to outline the life of Daniel to see how these four principles applied to him? He was where God wanted him, in a fashion similar to Esther. Like Esther, he risked his young life for the Lord, by refusing to eat the King’s meat. Not only did the Lord protect Him, but He also blessed him, so that he and his friends were “fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.” Then later came the den of lions. But they weren’t a problem, because God had a higher purpose for Daniel than cat food. Was he blessed, and was he a blessing to others? He lead the king of Babylon to saving faith in the Lord. With a little thought you could probably find several more examples of Old Testament saints who might have applied these four points…

But let’s move into the New Testament.

In Luke 8:22 we read, “Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he (Jesus) went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. And there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy.” How did the disciples get into that predicament? “God brought me here.” Could the Saviour keep them safe despite the high winds and high waves? Certainly. Did He make it a blessing? Not only was it a learning opportunity for those brethren, but for us as well. And in the Lord’s good time, He brought them out of that test of faith in a positive fashion.

In Acts 3 Peter and John went into the temple at the hour of prayer, and by the providence of God they walked passed certain lame man, who begged for an alms – probably hoping for money. God put Peter where He wanted him, and the Lord used him to heal the man. That created an opportunity for another presentation of the gospel to a large group of temple-goers. But the Jewish leadership, “being grieved that they taught the people and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. They laid hands on them and put them in hold unto the next day.”

Peter and John, along with the man they healed, spent the night in the county lock up – the remand center. I can’t say they were with a bunch of vomiting drunks and scantily clad hookers, but they might have been. I can’t say they were able to lead any of those people to faith in Christ, but they might have tried. I CAN say, they were there in that cell, because that is where God wanted them to be. And God protected them, blessed them, and later used them as His witnesses before the priests. Then the Lord brought them out in His good time. “And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and praised His name.”

I hope if I took you back to Philippi with Paul and Silas you could see our four principles in their short time in jail. But rather than making this lesson unnecessarily long and tedious, I’ll bring up only one more scripture. Please turn to Acts 12:1 – “Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.”

What had the church and apostles been doing in Jerusalem since the Pentecost of Acts 2? Hadn’t they been preaching and teaching the good news of God throughout the city? Hadn’t there been a few miracles, and particularly the miracle of many conversions? Didn’t, the Jewish Sandedrin as early as chapter five arrest Peter and some of the others, “Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” Didn’t Peter receive a thrashing and more orders “not to speak in the name of Jesus?” Yes, and yes. But the ministry wasn’t curtailed or slowed in the slightest, because as Peter and the other apostles said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

So once again, Peter found himself in jail, because that is where God brought him. Yes, you might blame the sins of the people, but God used those sins to put His man in His place. This time it was under the authority of the Roman-approved king of the Jews – Herod Agrippa. Even if this jail was more Roman than Jewish, Peter had been in such places before. He had learned to make himself somewhat comfortable in jail, trusting the Lord to take care of him. He found it easy to fall asleep between two soldiers and bound with chains. He was so filled with our four principles that it took an angelic kick in the ribs to wake him out of his peaceful slumber. “God brought me here;” “He will keep me safe by His grace.” “He can make this a blessing to me;” and “He will bring me out in his good time.” And of course Peter was brought out of what should have been some trying circumstances. He had probably learned to anticipate another delivery.

But I deliberately chose this chapter and this occasion, because Peter’s case was in contrast to James’. “Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he KILLED James the brother of John with the sword.” Peter and James had been long time friends; they were buddies. Luke 5 says they were partners in a fishing enterprise, prior to becoming the Lord’s apostles. Along with the Apostle John, these three were in Jesus’ inner circle. They were all very close. Shortly before Peter’s arrest by Herod, James had been taken and executed – killed with the sword. Did Peter know about what happened to James? I don’t know, but perhaps.

With that comes the question: what had James done which negated our four principles? What sins had James committed which meant God could not keep him safe or to bless him in prison? Were only some of the Lord’s prophets and apostles supposed to trust the Lord for deliverance? And by extrapolation, should we, perhaps, not take these principles for ourselves?

Beloved, our four points belonged to James as much as they did to his friend Peter. It was not because of James’ sin that he was in that prison. It was God’s will for James to be there and to die, just as much as it was God’s will for Peter to be released. The Lord Jesus had earlier prophesied that James would be “baptized” with the same “baptism” as Christ. And even though James lost his life, his soul was perfectly safe, “kept by the power of God unto salvation.” Furthermore, there was a blessing involved, because James was brought instantly into the presence of his Saviour. He was beheaded, dying, I would guess, without any pain whatsoever. But Peter on the other hand eventually died in a most excruciating way – crucifixion. And we are told that James’ brother John was boiled in oil, suffering the effects of that torture for years before his death. No, James was blessed with a smooth transition into Heaven. And it goes without saying that the Lord brought His apostle out of this trial in His good time.

There is no reason for either you or me to say these words don’t apply to us. They may not be a quotation from God’s Word, but they bear the stamp of Biblical approval. “The sovereign God brought me here;” “The omnipotent God will keep me safe by His grace.” “He can and will make this a blessing to me;” and “He will certainly bring me out in his good time.” In times like these we not only need the Saviour, we need to be able to trust the wisdom and love of the Lord who saved us.

So, what are your troublesome times? It doesn’t matter how troublesome, our sovereign God is in full control over them. Comfort yourself in those Biblical truths.