#147 (19/09/04)
A Rock Higher Than I

The Message

By: Robert H. Schuller

Special Guest

He is a portfolio manager who runs the Oak Associates Funds, which include the 4 billion dollar White Oak Growth fund, the 2 billion dollar Red Oak Technology Select Fund, and the 1 billion dollar Pin Oak Aggressive Stock Fund. Business Week Magazine recently featured the Oak Funds in an article and reported that over the past 5 years White Oak and Pin Oak have both ranked in the top 5% of all funds in their categories.
He is much more than a successful business man. He’s a well-known philanthropist whose wit and wisdom has touched the lives of many.

Special Music

”Joyful, Joyful...”
“God of Our Nation”
“A Shelter in the Time of Storm”

“The Last Words of David”
“Let All Things Now Living”


Acticle of The Message

Last Sunday as I sat here beside the pulpit, Robert, my son, was reading the scripture lesson of the morning and some words in the scripture reading felt like a thunderbolt went through me. I've lived with those words all week, and want to speak to you this morning on these powerful words from Psalm 61:1-2:

"Hear my cry, O God.  Attend to my prayer.  From the ends of the earth I cry out to you. WHEN MY HEART IS OVERWHELMED, LEAD ME TO THE ROCK THAT IS HIGHER THAN I."  (Psalm 61:1-2)

Who said these words?  Why did he say them?  Where was he coming from?  Well, the author is David and it is the same David who was a shepherd boy.  He loved walking through green pastures tending his sheep.  He loved to play the harp.  Then he came to the attention of King Saul who had all kinds of neurotic problems.  And King Saul requested David to play his harp for him. You know the story.  Samuel, the prophet, tells King Saul that David is to be the next king.  When David became King he inquired if any of Saul's household was still living and Mephibosheth, the lame son of Jonathan, Saul's grandson, was hiding, fearing that the new king would kill him.  But King David sent for him and said, "Do not fear. Your father, Jonathan, saved my life.  Therefore, you shall be my guest and live in my palace like one of my own sons.

That's who David was, a wonderful person until he got control and power. It has often been said, "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  And if you want to read the rest of the story of King David, read Samuel II.  I do not want to read it from this pulpit because it reads like a soap opera.  There is sex, violence, deception and duplicity.  It is awful.  Read what this wonderful little shepherd boy became when he got power, when he began to believe he was in control.

David now had power and he no longer depended so reverently, mystically and quietly on the Almighty God for his strength.  He already had it!  Nor did David need to depend on God for power.  He had it!  He didn't need to depend on God for success!  David was a success!

Now where does that change in attitude lead David?  It leads him into trouble. And in trouble finally in prayer, he is asking God: "Lead me, Lord. Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I."  (Psalm 61:2)

What was David's problem?  In one word I would call it overwhelmed.  "My heart is overwhelmed." (Psalm 61:2)  Have you ever had that overwhelmed feeling?  What was David overwhelmed with?  He was the king!

Overwhelmed by Temptation

First, David was overwhelmed by temptation.  There has never been a king who did anything worse than David.  When he saw the beautiful Bathsheba, he wanted her for himself so he had her husband assigned to the front line of battle, where the odds of him being killed were substantial and, in fact, it happened.  And so Bathsheba was widowed and David took her to be his wife.  He was overwhelmed with this temptation.  Today I think our culture finds many people overwhelmed by this kind of temptation.  It is all around us.

There are all kinds of temptations and when David was overwhelmed by temptation, he became overwhelmed by guilt.

Overwhelmed by Guilt

You can never read a more penitent piece of poetry than Psalm 51 when David cried out to God:  "Create in me a clean heart, O God.  Renew a right spirit within me."  (Psalm 51:10). Whenever you feel guilty, and you will, so do I, read Psalm 51.  It is so therapeutic.

"Lead me to a Rock that is higher than I."

When David failed to hold on to the rock of faith he was shaken into sin through temptation.  Yes, you and I need to hold on to the Rock of faith through temptation ... and we need a Rock that can guarantee that we can be pardoned! 

Religion through the centuries has offered all kinds of solutions to guilt.  But many of these perceived solutions are unstable.  Most of them depend upon us paying a price.  It is what is called, in theology, "salvation by works."  That does not work because there is no grace.  It was Martin Luther who had a terrible problem with guilt.  And he did everything the church said you should do.  He followed the rituals and he followed the church law.  Finally he was still as guilty as hell so he walked up the steps on his knees praying for forgiveness.  There he was led to the Bible verse, "By grace you are saved through faith, not of yourself, it is a gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8)

Do you feel guilty today?  Meet the God of mercy and love.  "Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I ... All other ground is sinking sand."

Overwhelmed by Grief

David was overwhelmed by temptation and then, of course, guilt.  And then David was overwhelmed by grief. Yes, he got the beautiful Bathsheba and she lost her child. Their first-born died.  Then they had another son named Absolem, who also died a pitiful death later on.

Always there is some guilt mixed in with grief.  I used to do a great deal of pastoral counseling in my first years here.  Through the funerals of our beloved church members I have often seen grief mixed in the grieving.  Most of that guilt is undeserved.  But in this case, Davids guilt was deserved.  David was overwhelmed by grief.  "Lead me to the Rock that I can hold onto."

A wonderful friend and member of this church sent me a beautiful true story.  Ben Hadley is one of our 3,500 volunteers.  He writes that one Friday morning he was on tour guide duty and there were no visitors on campus that morning, but then he saw a man walking toward him.  Ben could see that this visitor was not a possibility thinker.  He approached Ben and didnt look very happy.  Ben asked if he ever heard of the Hour of Power.  He said, "Yea, I watched it once."  Ben said, "Would you like a tour? ..."  "Sure ... but let me tell you right up front where Im coming from."

Ben writes in his own words, "I said, lay it on me, He spent ten minutes telling me everything that was wrong here ... What disgraceful expenditures, etc., etc.  He laid it all out.  I said, Well you know, Ive been around here for 32 years and believe me youre not the only one whos found fault with this ministry.  Why dont we take a walk around a bit and see if I can change your mind.’  And the man scoffed and said, Youll have one tough time.

I spent one hour and 45 minutes with that guy.  The miracle was nobody else joined us.  Usually there are groups coming through all the time, but we were alone for that entire time.  He was kind of impressed when I told him this entire ministry started with a young man and his wife who had $500 and a little organ they pulled half way across the country.  They had a dream to build a church to tell people that God loved them.

'Would you believe that this church started in a drive-in movie theater?' I said.  He smiled a little and said, You're telling me things I really don't want to hear.'  We continued on our tour and I told him about the Arboretum where we have such beautiful weddings.  Then there are the funerals.  Christmas parties for the little kids whose parents are in prison.  And how once a year we turn the campus over to the 7th Day Adventist Church for their celebration packed full with thousands of their young people.

I took him to the patio, looked up at the Tower of Hope and said, You know, in the many years I've been a tour guide volunteer, more than one person has told me they are alive today because somebody in that Tower picked up a telephone when they dialed New Hope.  Theyre alive today!

Then I pointed out the Walk of Faith and told him how many people, some whom we don't even know, paid to have a Bible verse carved in granite and put in the sidewalks so people cant even walk around here without the possibility of reading the Bible.

Then I showed him the Crystal Cathedral, saying, 'You know one Saturday afternoon about 22 years ago the Cathedral was just finished and my wife and I met a young man with his wife, and that man told us he didn't belong here, but he had to show his wife the place that put food on their table when he so desperately needed a job.  He was a glazier and said he helped put all the Cathedral windows in place.'

The next stop was the Good Shepherd statue where I told him that one time we found a note of confession placed at the feet of Jesus.  Then he volunteered, saying, 'you know, that was probably from someone who had carried a weight of sin for years, and when they laid it at Jesus' feet, they left here as if a ton of weight had been lifted from their shoulders.' Then he told me how many years ago his 9 year old son died of cancer and he said, I became totally alienated from God.

He was still overwhelmed by grief.  Then the man continued, 'I can hardly believe what's been happening to me since I entered this place earlier this morning.'  I replied, Wow, let's have a prayer.'  Just then his cell phone rang and it was his wife.  Her meeting was over and she wanted to get together for lunch.  And so as I said goodbye to him, I prayed that he and his wife would be blessed and always sense the presence of Jesus.

When we finished praying, he showed me the goose bumps on his arms and said, You know I think it represents the Holy Spirit.’  And I said, Youre right and I showed him the same goose bumps on my arm.

Some of you are still overwhelmed by grief.  Subconsciously you think you pushed it away.  But its doing damage. 

Overwhelmed by temptation  ...

Overwhelmed by guilt ...

Overwhelmed by grief ...

And then overwhelmed by threats. Yes, David had his enemies, but the real threat to David's life was his own sense of power and control.  He had to have it.  He had to be in charge.

Is life throwing a curve at you?  Are you in a battle to win?  To hold and exercise power and control?  In your family? ... in your marriage? ... in your career? ... in your profession?...in politics? ... in finances?  You are the boss?  You are the king?    That kind of thinking can quickly overwhelm you with the feeling of being threatened.

I am reminded me of a story I read in Readers Digest, the November 2003 issue.  "A husband and wife got into a quarrel.  They both went into a pouting streak where neither would speak to the other.  This silent treatment went on for days where neither one would speak to the other. But one night the husband was going to bed and remembered that he was going to go fishing early the next morning.  He had to get up at 5 AM, but he didn't want to give in to their quarrel and be the first to give in, so he instead of speaking  to his wife,  he left a note on her pillow.  Wake me up at 5 AM tomorrow.  The next morning he did not wake up until 9:00.  Wow!  Was he mad!  Until he saw the note on his pillow.  "Its 5 AM, time to wake up."

Overwhelmed by Possibilities

Overwhelmed by projects? ... by people? ... by problems? ... Overwhelmed by possibilities? That's been the biggest problem in my life.  I was talking to my 14 year old grandson, Nicky Coleman, recently.  Nicky is super talented.  He sings in many musicals and plays.  He has been a frequent soloist here at the Cathedral.  I said, "What are you going to be Nicky?  You could be a performing artist, you have an exceptional voice.  You could be a professional actor, no doubt about it.  And I know you are interested in art, and architecture.  You could be a great architect."

He answered, "I dont know.  It is going to be tough to decide. Ive got too many talents."  When you are overwhelmed by talent, opportunities and possibility thinking, you need to pray the prayer, "Lead me to the Rock so I will make the right decision for my life."

Overwhelmed by a collision of insecurities

"Lead me to a ROCK that is higher than I."  Maybe you're overwhelmed by a collision of insecurities. You worry, "where is my money going?  How much did I lose?  Will I have enough?  More ... more ... more.  When is enough, enough?  Where does this spirit lead?  To greed, yes, and that does not produce joy.  The Bible teaches us that if we give 10% of our money to God, we dont have to worry about the other 90%.  But if you dont give the ten you will never be satisfied with whatever you keep.  It is a decision you have to make.

Overwhelmed by a collision, conscious and unconscious?  A lot of our overwhelming insecurities are not conscious, but subconscious. Will this marriage hold?  Will it survive?  Will my children turn out okay?  How about my grandkids?  How can they grow up in this kind of a world without becoming morally corrupt?

Perhaps you worry, maybe consciously, or surely unconsciously, about the ultimate insecurity, called death and dying.  Nobody talks about that.  Its not happy news.  Oh ... but it is happy news if you know Jesus Christ, because here for sure I can give you a Rock that is eternal.  Hold on to it.

"Lead me to a ROCK that is higher than I, Lord."

That was Davids prayer.  Question, was the prayer answered?  How was it answered?  When was it answered? 

Read Second Samuel 22.  Yes, the prayer was answered, and David found a Rock!  It was a solid island in a story sea, an unshakable, stable, solid foundation of rock for his faith, which carried him through to the happy ending.

The poet David said it so beautifully in the beloved words of the 23rd Psalm.

"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside the still waters ...
Yes, though I walk through the valley of the
shadow of death I will fear no evil.
For You are with me,
  Your rod and
Your staff they comfort me ...
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the
Lord forever and ever.

That is the faith I offer to you!  That is my Solid Rock!  "On Christ the solid Rock I stand.  All other ground is sinking sand.  Amen."

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