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The Valley - Psalm 23

Taught on | Topic: Suffering | Keywords: hardships, suffering, pain, valley of the shadow of death, death, depression, Shepherd Psalm, sheep, evil, heaven

Everyone knows pain and suffering to some degree. It’s guaranteed for all. As Job said, "Man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7). He meant that hardship is as predictable as flames and flickers rising when a fire is lit. King David poetically referred to such adversity as walking down into a valley. Though everyone suffers, not all suffer well. Today we rediscover why the valleys are necessary and how they can even be rewarding.

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The Valley
Psalm 23
Skip Heitzig
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Everyone knows pain and suffering to some degree. It’s guaranteed for all. As Job said, "Man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7). He meant that hardship is as predictable as flames and flickers rising when a fire is lit. King David poetically referred to such adversity as walking down into a valley. Though everyone suffers, not all suffer well. Today we rediscover why the valleys are necessary and how they can even be rewarding.
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War is Over, The

War is Over, The

As Battledrums releases its debut album, The War Is Over, we take a look at these songs and how they apply to our life as we live in victory over sin. Join Skip Heitzig in celebrating these songs and what they symbolize for our Christian walk. The war is over--Christ has won!

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Outline

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  1. There Will Be Valleys

  2. There Will Be Dark Valleys

  3. You Can Be Fearless in the Valleys

  4. God Is in the Valleys

  5. The Valleys Won’t Last Forever


Study Guide

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Recap Notes: August 10, 2015

Teaching: The Valley
Text: Psalm 23
Tune: "The Valley" by Battledrums

Path: In Psalm 23, King David poetically refers to adversity as walking down into a valley. Though everyone suffers, not all suffer well. In this study, we rediscover why the valleys are necessary and how they can even be rewarding.

    1. There Will Be Valleys
    2. There Will Be Dark Valleys
    3. You Can Be Fearless in the Valleys
    4. God Is in the Valleys
    5. The Valleys Won't Last Forever
Points:

There Will Be Valleys:
  • A valley is a depression in earth's crust, a low spot. More than topography, though, it's reality, especially for believers.
  • Though often referred to at times of death, Psalm 23 has more to do with life---seeing trials turn to triumphs.
  • Valleys are certain: the text states, "though I walk," not "if I walk."
There Will Be Dark Valleys:
  • Some valleys are darker and deeper than others. In Scripture, valleys are often used to describe times and places of difficulty.
  • Don't waste your valleys; God allows low points to teach you something.
  • Even in trials, God's presence is true; in darkness, God delights to illuminate our way.
You Can Be Fearless in the Valleys:
  • The phrase "I will" tells us that fear and faith are matters of choice. David chose faith over fear.
  • We can walk through valleys---not stumble or crawl in fear---when we pursue God without panicking.
  • Suffering will move you in one of two ways: it will break your back or bend your knee.
  • Some people get bitter in trials; others get battered. But some people come out better, more refined with a story worth retelling.
  • Sometimes, God will calm the storm; more often, He will calm His child in the storm.
God Is in the Valleys:
  • Between verses 4 and 5, the point of view shifts from speaking of God as "Him" to speaking to God as "You." David went from the ultimate to the intimate.
  • Nothing matters more in a trial than knowing you are not alone; God is in the valley with you. The remote becomes relational.
  • Look for the other set of footprints when walking through valleys; God is with you.
The Valleys Won't Last Forever:
  • The word through shows us valleys aren't our destination or residence but a transition.
  • Beginning in verse 6, David shifts from the valley to being a guest in God's house. He anticipated walking through the valley and receiving God's blessing.
  • The text references typical Middle Eastern hospitality: the buffeting of travel came to an end and the blessing began.
  • The presence of a shadow means that light is nearby. Shadows never hurt us.
  • In dark times, you will pass through the valley. As you do, look for its purpose---it's there, in the pain and stillness, a unique opportunity for rich fellowship with God.
  • Christ went through the valley of the shadow of death and took the sting out of fear and death. His victory is ours as we go through life's valleys.
Practice:

Connect Up: How has God walked you through valleys in your life? Pastor Skip mentioned that when we are in valleys, we should "look for the footprints." What footprints have you seen as you've walked through valleys? What has God shown you in times of trial?

Connect In: What practical things can you do to help your fellow Christians walk through valleys? How has your experience in a valley helped someone else?

Connect Out: Pastor Skip referenced Winnie the Pooh in his message. How do you represent Christ to the world in times of trials? Are you Eeyore or Tigger? Are you pessimistic or optimistic? As you trust God for strength in your trials, ask Him to use your trials to give you a chance to show Christ to others and to share about Him.

Detailed Notes

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  1. Introduction
    1. The valley of the shadow of death
      1. A valley is a depression, a low spot
      2. An emotional designation
    2. Psalm 23 is the most famous passage in the Old Testament
      1. "This is the pearl of psalms whose soft and pure radiance delights every eye" —Charles Spurgeon
      2. Has more to do about living than dying
    3. The Shepherd Psalm
      1. In Scripture, God's followers are referred to as sheep about 200 times
      2. That is not complimentary
        1. Sheep cannot navigate well; Isaiah 53:6
        2. Sheep need shepherds
    4. We're not sure when David penned Psalm 23
      1. Possibly written when he was an old man
      2. His statement of life
  2. There Will Be Valleys
    1. "Even when I walk through the darkest valley" (v. 4, NLT)
    2. Psalm 23 starts off really great
      1. Verse 4: the psalm takes a sudden turn
      2. What happened? Real life
    3. Just as valleys are part of the natural landscape of the earth, so valleys are part of the landscape of the Christian life
      1. Job 5:7
      2. 1 Corinthians 10:13
      3. They're common, but they're never comfortable
    4. Shepherds lead their sheep into valleys
      1. It's cooler in the valley
      2. It's where the water is; the valley can sometimes be the way to the greenest of pastures
  3. There Will Be Dark Valleys
    1. Some valleys are darker than others
    2. The Bible speaks of valleys in terms of difficulties
      1. Joshua, Isaiah, Hosea
        1. The valley of calamity or trouble
        2. Hebrew: the Valley of Achor
      2. Psalm 84: the Valley of Weeping
      3. Kidron Valley: the valley of the shadow of death
    3. Life at its lowest
    4. If you're a Christian, you don't need to fear death any more than taking a walk in a valley
      1. You will come out the other end to a higher elevation
      2. "Death is not the house, but the porch" —Charles Spurgeon
  4. You Can Be Fearless in the Valleys
    1. "I will" (v. 4) is a choice
      1. Fear is a choice; so is faith
      2. One of the biggest adjustments you'll need to make in the valley is an attitude adjustment
    2. David was walking through the valley
      1. Look around in the valley
      2. Don't let the time in the valley be wasted time
    3. David was not denying that evil exists
      1. Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy
      2. Denied the existence of evil
    4. Job 1:21
    5. Pain will either break your back or bend your knee: bitter, battered, or better
    6. Difference between death and the shadow of death
      1. It's not the substance; it's the shadow of the substance
      2. 1 Corinthians 15:55
      3. The shadow remains, but the substance is gone
  5. God Is in the Valleys
    1. Verses 1-3: third person, about God
      1. Verse 4: second person, directly to God in prayer
      2. The ultimate becomes intimate; the remote is relational
      3. When you go through dark valleys, spend most of your time talking to God
    2. "Nothing so quieted and reassured the sheep as to see me in the field. The presence of their master and owner and protector put them at ease as nothing else could do" —W. Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
    3. There's nothing worse when you're going through a valley than to feel alone; there's nothing better than knowing you're not alone
      1. God will never leave you alone to fend for yourself
      2. Matthew 28:20
      3. David Livingstone
      4. John 14:18
    4. There's a unique presence of God to be known in the valley
    5. There are unique lessons to be learned in valleys
      1. One of the reasons we suffer
      2. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
    6. As you're walking through the valley, look down for footprints of the Lord Jesus, who has gone before you and will walk with you
  6. The Valleys Won't Last Forever
    1. Through (v. 4) designates a temporary nature
    2. God's not going to leave you in it
    3. Verse 5: hospitality of the Middle East
      1. Protocol
      2. The valley is over: experiencing God's goodness
    4. If life was a Winnie-the-Pooh episode, would you be Tigger or Eeyore?
    5. How do you view life? God? The valley?
    6. If there is a shadow, it indicates there is light
      1. Your valley is not your permanent residence
      2. It's not a destination; it's a transition
      3. 1 Peter 5:8-11, The Message
      4. The valley is temporary; heaven is eternal
  7. Closing
    1. Jesus spent time in the valley of the shadow of death
      1. Garden of Gethsemane: at the bottom of the Kidron Valley
      2. Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42
    2. When you call to Him in your valley, He has been there
    3. We write our troubles in marble and our mercies in the sand; we need to reverse that

Figures referenced: Charles Spurgeon, Mary Baker Eddy, W. Phillip Keller, David Livingstone

Cross references: Job 1:21; 5:7; Psalm 23; 84; Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 26:39; 28:20; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42; John 14:18; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 15:55; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; 1 Peter 5:8-11


Transcript

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Hello and welcome to this teaching from Skip Heitzig, pastor of Calvary Albuquerque. Our series called The War Is Over celebrates the songs from our worship team, Battledrums, debut album now available on iTunes, Google Play, and at battledrumsmusic.com. In this series, Skip examines what these song symbolize for our Christian walk. If this message strengthens you spiritually, tell us. Email us at mystory@calvaryabq.org.

Everyone knows pain and suffering to some degree. King David referred to such adversity as walking down into a battle. Inspired by Battledrums song The Valley, Skip explains why the valleys are necessary and how they can even be rewarding. We invite you to mark your Bible in Psalm Chapter 23. But before Skip begins, check out this sneak peek of The Valley.

[MUSIC BATTLEDRUMS, "THE VALLEY"]

I lived down in the valley. Or, as my neighbor calls it, the valley. I lived down in the valley. It's the middle Rio Grande Valley. It's one of the topographical things that this area is known for.

And I know it's a valley, because I bicycle here. And this morning, I had to use the lower gear to get here. You don't notice it in a car as much, but on a bicycle you notice where the hills and the valleys are. There are some spots on the Earth where there are famous valleys that have historical, biblical significance.

The Tigris-Euphrates River Valley, Mesopotamia is one of those valleys that's the cradle of civilization. The Jordan Valley is part of a great valley system called the Syrian-African rift, where the tectonic plates of the Earth have given this huge depression that goes right through Israel and much of the biblical narrative is played out in that valley. Then there are other valleys that are famous around the world. In Europe, there's the Rhine Valley in Germany. The Chianti Valley in Italy.

There's a valley in California that has some interesting reputation, the San Fernando Valley. And some of you will think back to the '80s. A few of you will remember the Valley Girl-- and they're still around, by the way. It's just that whole way of looking at life and talking it's like, oh, totally awesome, you know. And the Valley Girl-- the Valley folks.

The most famous valley is in all of the world isn't far from here. It's the Grand Canyon-- a mile deep, about 19 miles wide in some spots. The Grand Canyon-- the most famous valley according to the research in the world.

But there is a valley that you know about. You've spent time in that valley. Some of you are in it today. It's even more famous to you than the Grand Canyon. It's The Valley.

It's The Valley called here in Psalm 23 where we're going to read from in a moment. Psalm 23, the valley of the shadow of death. A valley is a depression. It's a low spot. It's a place where the ground is sunken.

That's a valley. As opposed to the hills or the mountains. It's more than just a topographical designation. It's an emotional one as well.

Some of you have felt what it's like to walk into the valley. And for some, you've been in that valley a long time. Experience after experience, time after time, has rendered you still in a very, very dark and deep spot.

Years ago, on The Tonight Show, when it was hosted by Johnny Carson-- that's how far back it goes-- he used to read newspaper clippings that were odd or funny. And one night, he read from a Lost & Found section of a Midwestern newspaper, this little ad. It said, lost dog. Brown fur, some missing. Blind in left eye, deaf, lame leg due to a recent traffic accident, slightly arthritic-- goes by the name Lucky.

You ever feel lucky? Ever feel like that? Listen to Psalm 23. You've heard it, you know it.

As I share with you this morning and we meditate on, especially, one particular verse-- we've done it before. We did last year. But I want to zero in on one particular experience-- The Valley.

"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. He restores my soul.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His namesake. Yea, 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over. Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Psalm 23 is, without question, the most famous passage in the entire Old Testament. It is a poem without a peer. It is known by everyone-- even the ardent unbeliever knows Psalm 23. Charles Haddon Spurgeon called it, "the pearl of the psalms which delights every eye."

President Lincoln used to read it in times of depression. President George Bush read it to a weary nation after September 11, 2001 to calm the fears of our country. You typically find it inscribed in cemeteries or on sympathy cards or crematoriums or funeral homes. And that's a shame, really. It's a shame that it's associated with death just because of the single phrase, the valley of the shadow of death.

It really has more to do about living than it does about dying. So I think it's time to take it off of sympathy cards and to write it on the tablets of our own heart. Psalm 23 is called The Shepherd's Psalm, for obvious reasons-- The Lord is my shepherd. Did you know that in scripture, we-- God's people, His followers-- are referred to as sheep more than anything else. 200 times, thereabouts, we're called or looked at as sheep.

Depending on what you know about livestock, that is not complimentary. Don't you find it interesting that the Bible doesn't picture us as old lions? Or strong bears? Or clever, wise owls?

But sheep. The one creature more than any other creature that cannot navigate well at all, that wanders off. Isaiah said, all we like sheep would have gone astray. That's what sheep do.

Sheep need shepherds. A sheep on its best day is only best because it has a shepherd walking next to it, guiding it, and leading it along the path. Sheep do not navigate. Dogs do, salmon do, birds do-- but not sheep.

But I want to look with you at one particular verse-- well, we'll consider others. But one in particular in Psalm 23-- and that's verse four. It's about the valley. We're not sure when David penned Psalm 23. Some think it was at the beginning of his life, when he wrote from the vantage point of being a shepherd boy out in the fields of Bethlehem.

But others, self included, tend to look at Psalm 23 as written by David reminiscing his time in the field. But looking back over life, he's an older man now. He's surveying the landscape of life. And he notices some things about it-- it really is his statement of life. I want you to notice with me five discoveries about the ups and downs in every single life.

First of all, there will be valleys. You'll notice that he writes, not even "if" I walk through the valley, but even "though". Or, "yea, though I walk through the valley." the new living translation is even clearer. It writes it this way-- "even when I walk through the valley."

Now, Psalm 23 doesn't begin in verse four. It begins in verse one-- isn't that profound? And it starts off really great, really happy- tranquility.

"The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters." You can almost hear the music playing in the background, it's so peaceful.

But then something happens. In verse four, the psalm takes a turn. A sudden turn that almost doesn't even seem to fit in the experience of the first couple of verses. Suddenly, danger is introduced. Suddenly, sheep are going downward into a ravine.

No more peaceful waters. No more calm, green pastures. Suddenly they're out of sight. What just happened? Real life just happened.

You can't expect there always to be green pastures, always to be still waters, always to be smooth, wonderful vistas. There will be valleys. That's real life. Just as valleys are part of the natural landscape of the earth, valleys are also part of the landscape of the Christian life.

There are ups and there are downs. There will be some days that the sun doesn't seem to shine, that the shadows are dark, and the shadows grow long. Job was a man who knew about suffering. And he even said, "man is born to trouble, as surely as the full sparks fly upward."

And what that means, it means you can count on it. It means if you have a heart that beats and you have breath coming out of your face, if you are alive in any capacity, you can predict that there will be trouble. Just like when you light a fire and the sparks ascend, there will be valleys. Paul even called trials and temptations the things that "such as are common to man." They're common, but they're never comfortable.

They still seem to take us off guard. It's funny how, when we go down into a valley, it's like, what just happened? Like it's not supposed to ever happen, like we're genuinely surprised that we're actually going through a hard time.

Now, shepherds lead their sheep down into the valleys. Did you know that? They actually lead them down into very steep ravines. I watched this over in the Middle East time and time again. When the weather gets hot, the shepherd moves the sheep downward, for a couple of reasons.

Number one, it's cooler down there. Now, sheep don't like it. They hate shadows, they don't see very well to begin with, and when they're taken down a steep ravine, they get very, very skittish and they require a shepherd motivating them to get down that ravine. But the shepherd does it to keep the sheep cool and because the runoff from the rains are found at the bottom. That's where the water is.

The greenest foliage is at the bottom of the valley, which is an interesting thought-- that a valley can sometimes be the way to the greenest of pastures, where the sheep would least expect it. There's a second truth to remark on concerning Psalm 23-- not only will there be valleys, but there will be some dark valleys. This one is called the valley of the shadow of death. There are some valleys that are darker than others, deeper than others, steeper than others, longer than others, more difficult than others. There will be dark valleys.

The Bible speaks of valleys in terms of difficulties-- not just here, but in the book of Joshua, in the book of Isaiah, in the prophet Hosea. There is the valley of calamity or trouble called the Valley of Achor, in Hebrew. In Psalm 84, there's a reference to the valley of weeping. Ever been in that valley? Or the valley of calamity, trouble.

This is just one among them-- the valley of the shadow of death. Something else you may not know-- there is an actual valley in Israel known as the valley of the shadow of death. And if you've ever been with us on a tour to Israel, you've been in the valley of the shadow of death, literally. It's the Kidron Valley, it's the valley just east of the temple area in Jerusalem that is between the Mount of Olives and the Temple Mount. That's the Kidron Valley.

Why is it called the valley of the shadow of death? You only have to go there once to figure that out. Everywhere you look in the Kidron Valley, you see graves. People are buried there. In antiquity, the poorest of the people were buried there and all the way up the ascent of the Mount of Olives.

For a variety of reasons, over the centuries, they have been buried in the valley of the shadow of death. To add to that, during the great festivals in ancient times, especially the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall of the year, the temple used to be lit by four great oil torches that, according to the writings, illuminated the entire city of Jerusalem. It was well-lit at night, except for one spot-- the Kidron Valley. Because the Kidron falls precipitously-- it's so steep, the fall-off-- that you get no light, only a giant shadow from the wall of the temple. It's darkened.

So the valley of the shadow of death doesn't necessarily refer to the experience of dying or knowing someone who is, though that could be part of it. The idea, in a literary sense-- a poetic sense, a historical sense-- is we're dealing with life at its lowest, its darkest. The time of depression, the lowest times of life. A place of shadows. And sometimes, they happen suddenly and you are plunged into them.

I was reading the Reader's Digest story about Flight 93 when it crashed into that Pennsylvania field 14 years ago. It's been that long already since September 11th. One of the planes that went down crashed in that open field and before it crashed, a man aboard-- a passenger-- got on a cell phone and managed to call his wife. He got reception.

And he said to her, the plane has been hijacked. There are three men. They say they have a bomb. They've already killed one person. This plane looks like it's going down-- please call the authorities.

His wife, when she got the call, she said, one thing kept playing through my mind. I kept saying, no. No, this is just not happening. She said, this stuff doesn't happen to people like us.

That's what she said. This just doesn't happen. We have a perfect life, we have great kids. We have good jobs. This can't be happening to us.

And it happened. And when we feel like we are plunged into a dark valley, our response is often the same-- no. I'm a child of God. This can't be happening to me.

And some of us are facing, right now, some pretty dark difficulties. And perhaps it even is death. It looks dark to you right now. I just want you to know something. If you're a Christian, you're a believer, you don't need to fear death anymore than you need to fear taking a walk in a valley.

You're walking down-- it looks dark right now. It seems for a period of time dark, but you will come out the other end to a higher elevation. Charles Spurgeon used to say, death is not the house, it's just the porch. You're staring at the porch and the porch light isn't on. But as you go through the door, there's going to be a welcoming party.

So there are valleys and some of those valleys will be dark. Here's the third thing I want you to notice from Psalm 23, a discovery that David makes-- you can be fearless in the valley. Notice that he says, "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." Notice the words "I will". That's a choice.

Did you know that fear is a choice? It's a choice. So is faith-- that's a choice. It's an act of one's will. I am facing evil, but I will fear no evil.

One of the biggest adjustments you'll ever need to make when you're in the valley is an attitude adjustment. David says, I will fear no evil. He doesn't say, though I run through the valley. This is interesting.

I look at scriptures this way. He doesn't say, though I run quickly through the valley so I can get it over with as soon as possible. He doesn't say, though I waiver and trip and fall in the valley. Or, shake in my boots in the valley.

No, here's a man walking. He's on firm footing. It's sure steps that he is taking. And while he's walking in that valley, through that valley, he's not afraid. It's as if he's making his way through on sure footed ground and he's taking it all in.

I'm going to suggest something to you that you probably never thought of in a trial. Look around, in the valley. Look at the landscape. Don't let the time in the valley be wasted time.

Ask the Lord the purpose of this trial. What are you trying to teach me? I don't want to waste this. I don't want this to come and go and not learn the lesson that is to be learned in the midst of this difficult valley.

Walk through it. And say, I will not fear. When he says, I will fear no evil, please do not misunderstand what he's saying. He's not denying that evil exists. He's not positively confessing away evil.

He knows that evil exists. He writes about evil in his psalms. He experiences it as life.

I remember the first time I came across what is called Christian Science. You've heard of that? By the way, Christian Science is neither Christian nor science.

It's like Grape Nuts. Have you ever looked at a box of Grape Nuts? There's no grapes in them, there's no nuts in them. There's just barley flakes. Christian Science is like that, there's no substance to it-- it's not Christian, it's not science.

It was started by Mary Baker Eddy back in the mid-to-late 1800s, who basically denied the existence of evil. It was an illusion, she said, as is sickness and as is death. It's just an illusion. And that's just a metaphysical game, trying to deny something that exists that obviously does exist.

So David knows it exists. He's experiencing it-- it's painful, it's dark, it's a valley. But he's making a statement of faith, he's making a choice-- I will not fear. There's someone else that comes to mind when I think of this and that is Job.

Job not only talk about trouble, he lived through it. He lost everything-- he lost his children, he lost his health, he even lost a relationship with his wife, who, after his sickness ravaged his body, was so encouraging-- you remember her comment. She said, curse God and die, sweetheart.

And I love his response. It was a statement of no fear. He said, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Is that even possible to say that? Well, I will tell you that pain will move you in one of two directions. It'll either break your back or it'll bend your knee.

I've watched people go through pain. They become very bitter, very angry people at the end of it. Others don't really become bitter, they just become battered-- just beat up and battered. Others become better.

And that's possible, to say, I will fear no evil. Now, one of the reasons that David can say this is because it's not called the valley of death. What is it called? The valley of the shadow of death. Ah, big difference between death and the shadow of death.

Have you ever been run over by the shadow of a truck? Have you ever been bitten by the shadow of a dog? Have you ever been cut by the shadow of a knife? No, the shadow is just a shadow. They seem bigger than they are, they seem more ominous than they are, but it's not the substance, it's the shadow of the substance.

So the shadow of death-- death has lost its sting, said Paul. "Oh death, where is your sting? Oh, grave, where is your victory?" There's still a shadow that remains. But the substance is gone.

There's a fourth discovery. I don't know whether there will be valleys, some of which are very dark, and you can make a statement of faith that you won't fear-- here's the reason why. Here's the reason why-- God is in those valleys. He can be found in those valleys.

He says in this verse, "I will fear no evil for you are with me." OK, stop right there-- for you are with me. Did you notice a change of pronoun? You've read this psalm before. There is a change in pronouns-- I'm going to take you back to English class for just a moment-- from the third-person to the second-person.

Verse one, two, and three, he's speaking third-person about God. Verse four, there is a pronoun change-- he is speaking directly to God in prayer. Notice it-- verse one, the Lord is my shepherd-- all third person.

"I will not want. He--" third-person pronoun-- "makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leaves me in paths of righteousness."

This is all third-person. This is who I believe God to be-- here is my theology of God. But verse four is different. Now there is a change from third-person to second-person. He's talking directly to God.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me. Your rod, your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies." All of a sudden, the ultimate becomes intimate. All of a sudden, the remote talking about God is relational, it's personal.

May I suggest that when you go through dark valleys, though it's good to discuss and talk about God, that you spend most of your time talking to him? That's where the benefit is. Find him in the valley-- you are with me. One of my favorite books on this psalm is by Philip Keller. I've had it for years and a favorite passage that I have read in his little book-- because he used to be a shepherd, himself.

And he talks about what it's like to be a shepherd and have a bunch of sheep and he writes, "There is nothing that quieted and reassured my sheep more than to see me in the field. The presence of their master, owner, and protector put them at ease like nothing else." There's nothing worse, when you are going through a valley, than to feel alone. There's nothing better than knowing you're not alone.

When my son was younger, there were nights where he would wake up because of nightmares that he had. He'd just wake up in terror. And one of us would come in the room and just our presence there-- picking him up, holding him, maybe singing him a song-- would lull him to sleep and he would be comforted. Sadly, this only happened last week, but he's getting better. Couldn't resist.

Listen, what I want to say is that God will never leave you alone to fend for yourself. Jesus said, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. It was that promise that gave David Livingstone, a missionary from Scotland to Africa, hope to go on. You know his story. I'm sure you've heard of David Livingstone.

He spent his life in Africa and he was a true pioneer. He came back to Glasgow, Scotland to receive an award on one occasion in his life. And he was there at the university. And people who knew him or knew of him, they remarked on how bad he looked. He was just beat up by life, he was haggard.

He had been attacked by a lion on one of his arms. He lost the use of it, it was hanging limply at his side. And he just didn't look well. And he comes to Glasgow, Scotland and announces to everyone that he's thankful for the award, but that he's going back to Africa to finish out his calling.

And he said to his audience, do you want to know how I was able to go through all of those dark times? All of the stories you've heard about, what it was that kept me going and why I'm going back? He said, it's the singular promised that Jesus said, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. He said, I stake my life on that promise. He's with me in the valley.

Jesus said to his disciples-- again, in the upper room-- I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you. And I've got to tell you, Christians that I have known that have suffered a lot will tell you that the richest time of fellowship they've ever experienced-- I spoke to one this morning. She said, as I look back-- and you remember, I told you, when I was going through this, how bad it was-- I'm actually looking back today and I'm thankful for the experience. The richness of the fellowship I had with God is unlike any other experience in my life.

There is a unique stillness in the valley. There's a unique presence of God to be known in the valley. And there are unique lessons to be learned in valleys. You can't learn them anywhere else.

You can't get them at a school. You can't get them at a country club. You only get them in the valley of the shadow of death. Lessons on compassion, lessons of insight into God's character. Trust, growth-- it's one of the reasons we suffer, by the way.

Paul wrote and said in Second Corinthians, Chapter One, "God is the God of all comfort who comforts us," he said, "in all of our tribulation, that we might comfort those who are in any trouble by the comfort we have received from God." I've gone through it, so that I might tell you going through it, how to go through it. And give you encouragement and give you comfort. It's one of the reasons we suffer.

So, as you're walking through the valley, look down for footprints of the Lord Jesus who has gone before you and will walk with you. Here's the final truth-- discovery-- made by David in the psalm for us. And it's the best part. The valleys won't last forever. They won't last forever-- please notice the word "through".

Though I walk through-- that word designates a temporary nature. You're going through it. He's not going to leave you in it. He wants to bring you out of it.

There's an endgame here. He wants to bring you through the valley. Now, in verse five and verse six, though most of our time has been spent in verse four, I just want you to notice, again, a change.

We're in the valley, it's dark, but-- verse five-- "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over. Surely, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Do you notice the change in these verses? The valley is now over. Now, the sheep, who was in the dark ravine, it's as if he's invited into a house, a tent, by God himself. And now the sheep is a guest of a lavish host at a banquet, getting hospitality. Who just keeps filling his cup and spreading the table before him.

And what this verse is hinting at is the hospitality that is known in the Middle East. It's one of the things it's most famous for. In ancient times, if you were invited into somebody's tent or their house, there was a protocol.

The host would greet you at the door, give you a kiss on the cheek. You would be anointed with scented olive oil on the face to refresh you. Your sandals would be taken off by a servant or even the host himself. Your feet would be washed. You would be handed a couple of wine that is sweetened with honey to refresh your palette.

Then a rug would be spread out on the floor and the food would be brought in. And the picture is, I'm at this banquet and God just keeps showing my cup over and over until it runs over. He's not denying the valley. He's been through the valley. It's just that the valley is now over and I'm experiencing God's goodness.

And he says, oh Lord, you're just so awesome. You're so good. My cup, it runs over.

There are some people that don't talk that way. When you talk to them-- brother, how are you doing? My cup leaketh under.

There's always something to deflate the tire. It's always half-full. It's not on its way up. Well, it's empty and it's getting worse.

Here's a question and I like to ask it from time to time. If life were a Winnie-the-Pooh episode, would you be Tigger or Eeyore? Really, you don't watch cartoons ever? Tigger-- my cup runs over. Eeyore-- my cup leaketh under.

How do you view life? How do you view God? How do you view the valley? Can you say, God, you're just so good. You're so good.

You give so much. There's something else about the shadows, as we bring this to a close. If there is a shadow, it indicates there is light. Shadow is the result of light being cast on an object to produce what they call the umbra and penumbra of the person-- the shadow.

If you're in a dark spot, look for the light. There's light at the end of the tunnel. Watch for it, look for it-- it's coming. Your valley is not your permanent residence. It's not a destination, it is a transition.

Peter said in First Peter, Chapter Five, in a translation called The Message by Eugene Peterson-- he renders it this way, "The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God, who has great plans for us in Christ-- eternal and glorious plans they are-- will have you put together and on your feet for good." I like that "for good". The valley is temporary, Heaven is eternal.

It's like the woman-- her favorite phrase in the Bible was "and it came to pass". And she would tell her little Bible study group, that's my favorite verse in the Bible-- she talked like that-- in the Bible. 457 times , that little verse, that little phrase-- it came to pass-- is in the Bible. It's my favorite verse. And people would say, well, why is that your favorite verse? Well, because, every time I'm at a dark spot and I'm in trouble, I know it hadn't come to stay. It's come to pass.

That's country logic, but it's theologic as well. It's good truth. The valley you're in will pass. You don't know my life. I've had trial and struggle and struggle and trial after trial-- even if you live to be 95 years old and your whole life is filled with trouble when you compare that to thousands and millions and billions of years in eternity of carefree, pain-free living in Heaven-- drop in the bucket.

And that's how you ought to view life. And when you go into the dentist for a root canal, that 20 or 30 minutes in the chair seems like an eternity, but it's not. It's not. You'll get through it and in the end, you'll have great teeth.

"And so this momentary affliction," said Paul, "which is but for a moment, will yield something eternal." I'm going to close on this thought. You know that Jesus spent time in the valley of the shadow of death-- death valley. I said that the valley of the shadow of death was the Kidron Valley, remember that?

Do you know the Garden of Gethsemane is at the base of the Mount of Olives, at the bottom of the Kidron Valley? Where the shadow is at its darkest is where Jesus was in that garden. And he felt the weight of my sin and your sin coming upon him. And he said, nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done. If this cup can pass, it be great.

But whatever you want rather than what I want-- that's what he said. He experienced the depth of the valley of the shadow of death. So when you call to him and you pray to him in your valley, he can say, I have been there. I can relate to you, I will walk with you. I will give you my resources and you will come out the other end saying, my cup runs over.

You say, Skip, troubles have been following me my whole life. How about goodness and mercy? Surely, goodness and mercy will follow me, chase me down, all the days of my life. Trouble is, you've got to look for it.

We write our troubles in marble-- we write our mercies in the sand. We need to reverse that. Take note of the blessings that God gives. Father, the valley is not only what is considered in a song that has been written, but some of us know the landscape of it very well.

We're familiar with the shadows. We've been there so long, some of us, our eyes are so well-adjusted-- too well-adjusted. I pray, Father, that like this poet, this inspired psalmist, David, we would say it. I'm not going to stumble, I'm not going to quake. I'm going to walk on sure foundation. I'm going to walk in it, I'm going to walk through it, and I'm going to walk with my Savior.

So that while I'm in it, I won't be afraid. Because the shepherd who gives me still waters and green pastures is also the one who's with me and not forsaking me when things are dark. And just like sheep, come to places of real refreshment at the bottom of the valley. I pray we would be able to tap into your mercy and goodness in the bottom of ours.

Lord, this is more than a sermon. For many people, this is their reality. They live in it. There's some whose faces I have seen in this service that I know. It's dark.

I pray that you would comfort, I pray that you would assure. And, Father, I pray that you would encourage them to keep going. In Jesus' name, Amen.

The valleys we encounter are not our final destinations. We merely walk through them and God promises that he is with us. You can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/giving. And just a reminder, Battledrum's album, The War Is Over is on iTunes, Google Play, and at battledrumsmusic.com. Thank you for listening to this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary, Albuquerque.

Additional Messages in this Series

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7/12/2015
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The Light Has Come
John 1:1-9
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Music is an integral part of the human experience and expresses our deepest feelings, fears, and hopes. Worship music in particular conveys our dependence on God and celebration of Him. Our worship team has written fresh expressions of praise in their brand-new project, The War Is Over. This summer, we will consider the biblical themes from which these songs are drawn. "The Light Has Come" is a song that celebrates one of the great themes of John’s gospel—God’s life that enlightens us has come in the person of Jesus Christ.
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7/19/2015
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Rend the Heavens
Isaiah 64
Skip Heitzig
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The song "Rend the Heavens," written by our worship team, echoes words first uttered and written by the prophet Isaiah. His heartfelt cry for his people was that they would experience the presence of God in the most profound way. It is our prayer that we would all do the same. As we examine Isaiah's plea, we'll see how it has been answered and yet awaits a further and fuller answer. His prayer shows us three incentives in our relationship to God.
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7/26/2015
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Our God Will Fight for Us
Nehemiah 4
Skip Heitzig
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Nothing is more comforting in war than knowing you’re on the winning side. When you face a hostile enemy with the knowledge that your cause is just, your resources are many, and your companions are brave, you’re ready for anything. And when you have a Commanding Officer who has never lost a battle, your confidence level is at an all-time high. Our worship team wrote the song “Our God Will Fight for Us” with these thoughts in mind. Let’s consider a fourfold strategy for facing the battles in our lives.
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8/2/2015
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Now I Live
Romans 5-6
Skip Heitzig
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Our worship team has managed to put the most salient truths of the Christian experience into this single song. Every step detailed in this section of Paul’s letter to the Romans is expressed in condensed form in this new anthem of praise. Today we will walk through the four essential steps of spiritual growth and examine where we are in relationship to them. Some may still be on the first step, while others have camped on the second and third. The challenge from Paul’s message is to press forward to that fourth step of triumph.
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8/23/2015
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Let His Love In
1 John 3:1-3
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
The heart is like a strong fortress that doesn’t easily admit outside forces in, even if God Himself is the One who is knocking at the door. I’ve found that even Christians can have a difficult time believing that God really loves them, and few experience that love regularly. Our Battledrums worship team has composed a song with this in mind, inviting you to let His love in. Our text in 1 John is a survey of this incomparable love of God, and will help you open your heart to it.
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8/30/2015
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All to You
Matthew 11:1-11
Nate Heitzig
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Message Summary
In times of difficulty, we tend to ask God, "Why am I going through this? Is this really Your will for my life?" We expect God to solve all our problems, when really He wants to use the problems to work on us. In this message, Nate Heitzig explains that though external difficulties can lead to internal doubts, God refocuses us by giving us eternal direction.
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9/6/2015
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By Your Stripes
Isaiah 53:4-6
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Today I bring you "Christianity 101." These verses in Isaiah not only capture the heart of our worship team’s song, but they present the very heart of the gospel itself. These three monumental truths are the cornerstones of the Christian faith and show our need for Jesus Christ. Though the passage itself highlights many profound aspects of the person and work of Christ, I want to keep it simple and confine it to three. Let’s discover the love of God afresh.
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9/13/2015
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Great and Awesome
Daniel 9:1-19
Skip Heitzig
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Have you ever been shaken to the core, disillusioned, and disheartened? When such times occur and fear rises up inside of you, what assurance do you have that life will get better and you’ll be able to even go on? This song penned by our Battledrums worship team speaks to this, and Daniel the prophet instructs us with his prayer. Daniel held onto three assurances that God’s work in us and through us isn’t over but will keep marching on.
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9/20/2015
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Victory (The War Is Over)
1 Corinthians 15:50-58
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Victory is a decidedly Christian term. It is used in our spiritual vocabulary almost without effort or thought. We frequently celebrate that Jesus went to the cross and volunteered His life to be the payment for sin in order to justify us before God. But this is more than a simple concept. In this final message explaining the scriptural foundations of our new worship project, we now turn to the future when we will become winners over the last enemy of life—death itself.
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There are 9 additional messages in this series.
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