Confidence For The Future - Pursued By Presence

The final verse of Psalm 23 teaches us the importance of pursuing God's presence.

Eric Estes
Jun 28, 2020    57m
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In the final sermon of the series Confidence For The Future: Psalm 23, Pastor Eric Estes teaches us that the final verse of Psalm 23 teaches us the amazing promises that come from pursuing God's presence in our lives. He shares ways we can pursue God in all areas of our lives. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

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Eric Estes: 00:05 Well, good morning. I think most of us know what a rearview mirror does, right? It's what we use when we're driving to look behind us or to see what's following us.

Eric Estes: 00:17 Well today in Psalm 23 verse 6, David tells us, he says, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever." See, David's looking back at the rearview mirror of his life, and he's seeing two things, right? He's seeing goodness and mercy following him. And I think that resonates with all of us, right, we all want a life filled with goodness and mercy. Jordan Hill is our men's minister, and he and his wife Ashley are expecting their first child in a few months. And this is the verse that they have picked out to be praying over that child, that goodness and mercy would follow him all of his days.

Eric Estes: 01:01 Today's a really special day as we recognize our seniors. It's especially special for me because my oldest son is a senior this year. So it's a privilege that I get to unpack God's word today. But as we send out our seniors to impact the world, this is a great verse. I am so glad that God orchestrates where this is the verse that we're sending them out on because our prayer for our seniors is that goodness and mercy would follow them all of their days. Right?

Eric Estes: 01:31 And this is true for all of us, this is what we all want, whether you're a senior in high school, or you get the senior discount at Denny's, right? Or whether you're in middle school or middle age, we all want goodness and mercy in our lives. As a matter of fact, whether you're a follower of Jesus, or you're not really sure what you believe about God, we all want goodness and mercy in our lives. So today we're going to look at this verse, and we're going to look at what is goodness. And then we're going to look at what is merc., And we're going to see how God defines these things, what God has for us. Because oftentimes what we do is we pursue goodness and mercy, but oftentimes what we pursue is kind of the goodness and mercy that the world provides for us, the vision that the world gives for us in that. But God has a, has a bigger vision for goodness and mercy. And what we'll see, is that if we pursue his presence, then goodness and mercy will follow us. So that's where we're going today.

Eric Estes: 02:30 Over the last several weeks, we've been in Psalm 23, Ross has kind of walked us through verse by verse of Psalm 23. It's been a rich time as we've looked at this image, this metaphor, of a sheep and a shepherd. And how the sheep looks to the shepherd and trusts in the shepherd. And when do the sheep trust in the shepherd? When the sheep recognizes, hey, the shepherd is more powerful than I am, and is more good than I am, and he has my best interest in mind. Then there's a confidence that comes for that sheep, things go well when he's following the shepherd, and the same is true in our lives, right?

Eric Estes: 03:09 We've seen that over the last several weeks that if we trust in the shepherd, that we develop a quiet confidence that he's got us, he's got our back. So over the last several weeks, we've learned a lot about sheep and shepherds, right? And we've even, Ross introduced us on week three to this guy here, many of you may remember. So as a staff, we've kind of started joking around and calling him Larry the lamb. And it's funny because we find him in various places throughout the church. I mean, one day he'll be over here, one day he'll be over here, one day he'll be over here, we couldn't figure out what's going on. So then some pictures started to show up, we start to see what's going on with Larry. So we have a few of those pictures for you. So obviously Larry is a social distancing and wearing the mask here. But then also we see people like Courtney, so students this is one of your leaders here caught riding the sheep. Then there's another one of Lauren who's feeding the sheep. And then this one here, this next one, I don't know what's going on there. The last one though is our beloved Miss Pam and Miss Diana. So I know there's several kids in here, and I know there's several kids that are joining us from home and worshiping with us, and so I wanted to make sure y'all saw what Miss Pam and Miss Diana were doing during the week so you can give them a hard time.

Eric Estes: 04:33 But in all seriousness, we are so glad that you kids are here, and parents we're glad that you feel comfortable bringing your kids in here or worshiping from home. I just want to encourage you that if you bring your kids in here, we love having them in here, don't worry about distracting other people or anything else. I've got seven kids, I promise you, you will not distract me today. This is a safe place and there's a lot of grace for them.

Eric Estes: 04:58 So let's dig into Psalm 23 verse 6 and see what God has for us today. So the first thing we see is this idea of goodness, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." When you think of goodness, when you think of goodness following you all of your days, what do you think of? I want you to take a second to kind of picture in your mind, what would it look like if you had goodness in your life? I think most people, when we think about that, think of good things, right? This idea of good things in our life. All right, good circumstances, that things are going my way, that's what most of us think of. As a matter of fact, that's the way the world has conditioned us to think. As we look at these good things, you know, that's what advertisers do, that's their job, right? Is to convince us that if we have this product, whether it's a car, or a vacation, that if we have this product, then goodness will follow. Right? That's the good life. But oftentimes we know that those products never really fully deliver on that promise.

Eric Estes: 06:11 Seniors, as our seniors are going out. Seniors, you will be bombarded with these different messages of this is goodness, this is the good life. You'll hear that, hey, if you just work really hard, get a good job, and then make lots of money, then you can buy all the good things in life, right, and that's the good life. Or maybe it's relationships, or maybe it's you'll be tempted into the party scene. And you'll be told that if you just don't worry about tomorrow, just do this, and that's the good life. But all of us who have gone down any of those paths know that they come up empty, right? We're never fully satisfied with those. it never really brings that idea of goodness. It's always, it's like the next promotion, that's the good life. And then the next one, no. Or it's the next relationship, that's the good life. Right? And we never fully get there, we're never fully satisfied with it. It never delivers on the promise of the goodness that God is promising here. So what does that look like? What does that look like as we pursue goodness from that standpoint? The goodness of the world of chasing things is always elusive. Right? Many of you have seen the video, the interview with Tom Brady. This is years ago after he'd won several super bowls. And they're asking him, okay, you're at the pinnacle of life, how great is it? And it was a really sad interview because his response was, this is it. I'd be like, I thought it'd be better than this, like there's gotta be more to life than this. And that's what happens when we pursue good things as, as the goodness that we pursue.

Eric Estes: 07:54 The other problem with this is what happens when things aren't so good, right? David was looking at the rearview mirror of his life, and he saw goodness, but yet his life wasn't all good. Right? What happens when in our life we face bad things, things like we lose our job, or we lose a child, or our spouse leaves us. How could we possibly look back and say, goodness, pursued me. Well with David, I mean, look at his life. First of all, he was chased by Saul. He was hunted down by Saul for years, he slept in a cave, not exactly the good life. Right? Then he lost a son due to his own actions. Then he also lost his kingdom to one of his own sons who was trying to kill him. His life was marked by these tragedies, but yet he could still look back at his life and say, surely goodness followed me, pursued me.

Eric Estes: 08:54 Even if we at Psalm 23, and we kind of remember back through it, right? We have, first of all, yes, we have the green fields and the quiet waters. But then in addition, we also have the valley of the shadow of death in there. Right? If you're in the valley of the shadow of death, things aren't going so well. He makes a table in the presence of my enemies. If you're in the presence of your enemies, especially ones that want to kill you like David, things aren't going so well for you. So, this idea of good things is not the goodness that David is talking about. So what is it? What is the goodness that he's referring to here?

Eric Estes: 09:36 Well, anytime we look at a word, we can kind of break it down and see in this one, we have this idea of anytime we add ness to a word, it means a state of being. So kindness is a state of being kind right? Friendliness is a state of being friendly. Goodness is a state of being good. And we know there's only one who is good, and that's God. So, the goodness that's following David here is the presence of the good one? It's the presence of God. It's God's goodness that's following him, not some goodness of his own, or goodness of things. That's what's following him.

Eric Estes: 10:19 And as we look at this idea that he follows, the word there doesn't mean to just trail behind, it actually means to chase or to pursue. So what is the goodness of God that pursues him? And the image that helped me so much as I was kind of wrestling through this, was that of a parent that's teaching a toddler how to walk, right? I think we all can kind of picture the scene, maybe you've taught toddlers how to walk, maybe not. But anybody who has seen it knows, where is the parent in every picture you have of that? The parent is right behind the child, right? The child's right there, the parents like this, they're following step by step with that child. They're there to make sure that the child doesn't wander off into the street, or stick their finger in a light socket, or whatever it is. Right? But more importantly than that, the parent is there because they want what's best for their child, and the child knows that. And so the child can feel the presence of the goodness of the parent behind them, encouraging them, and that's what gives them the ability to look at the scariness of what's about to happen there and take a step forward. That's the goodness that follows us. It's the goodness of our Heavenly Father, knowing that he's got our back, knowing that he wants what's best for us, just like a parent and a child. That's the goodness that follows us all of our days.

Eric Estes: 11:45 The word goodness, it literally, this word is found all throughout the Old Testament. It literally means beauty or pleasantness. That's the goodness that follows us, it's God's beauty, it's his pleasantness. In Psalm 34:8 he says this, he says, Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!" I Love this verse. If you don't know God, if you don't know if he's good, he says, taste and see. Trust him and see what happens, take refuge in him, and see what happens.

Eric Estes: 12:27 We can also look at Psalm 100 verse 5, it uses this idea of good, "For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations." Not only is he faithful to us as we look at our life and over time we see his faithfulness, but also as we look back in history and see his faithfulness among a generation after generation.

Eric Estes: 12:52 Psalm 30 verse 11, "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness." Here it's that word gladness, that's actually the same word as goodness, right? It's the idea, it's the opposite of mourning. That no matter what the circumstances are around us, we could still find goodness and an inner joy, when we focus on the goodness of God. We know he's got our back.

Eric Estes: 13:21 And then Romans 8:28, many of you know this verse, it says, "For God works all things for the good of those who love him." It may not be the way I want them to work out, but it's for my good. And we can have confidence in God, we can have confidence in our shepherd that he wants what's good for us. That's the idea of the goodness of God, that he's got my back.

Eric Estes: 13:48 Many of you are familiar with the song, It Is Well With My Soul. It's an old hymn, but it was written by a guy named Horatio Spafford, and the story is actually a tragic one. Horatio's wife and his four daughters, he sent them over to Europe, and they were on a ship that sank on the way there. His wife survived, his four daughters did not. So Horatio gets on a ship, and as he's crossing to go comfort his wife, as he's crossing the Atlantic Ocean the captain calls him and tells them that this is the spot that the ship went down, where lost his daughters. And it was on that journey, as he staring out into the blackness of the ocean, consumed by despair and grief that I couldn't even imagine, that he writes the words to the song It Is Well With My Soul. How is that possible? How is that possible to face such tragedy, such grief, but yet still be able to write, it is well with my soul? Because he knew the goodness of God, even though it didn't look like it, the goodness of God pursued him. It was following him, it was behind him, he knew God had his back. God gave him hope despite what it looked like around him. That's the goodness that David is writing about. Not the goodness of good things all around us, but the goodness of God, that follows us day in and day out throughout our lives. That's the goodness that we can have in him.

Eric Estes: 15:24 So what about mercy? We've looked at what goodness is? What about mercy? There's this idea of mercy here is, in the ESV, which we've got here, they translate it mercy. In the NASB and others, they translate it loving kindness. Now don't tell Ross I said this, but I think actually the NASB is a little bit closer to where David was going with this. It's the idea that it's a loving kindness, right? It's an unconditional love that is being communicated here, that's what we all seek. It's unconditional favor, unconditional approval from others, the steadfast love, that's what we all seek from others. We all want to be loved unconditionally, and so what we do is we pursue that. We pursue the unconditional love, and we try and hide all of the faults, failures, and things so that we are loved by others.

Eric Estes: 16:26 So here's how we pursue it. We typically kind of create this identity of ourselves, and we projected out there for others to see, and to show ourselves as well. Right? Where we highlight, here's all the strengths and the good things about me, and we kind of try to hide the flaws, the failures, the faults. We all do this, whether it's the identity of an athlete, or an intellectual, or someone who's going to rebel against everything, or a successful business person, or the perfect mom, or whatever that identity that we try and create is, that's the purpose, is to highlight some things and then to hide some others.

Eric Estes: 17:05 We see this, there is probably nowhere is it more prevalent than online, or on social media. Right? We're all looking for likes, and friends, and followers, and so we present this identity of ourselves. But here's the problem with that, as we're looking for that love, that unconditional love from others, all this junk is still there, all our faults and failures. And it doesn't take long for that to pop up, right? Relationships that we thought were so strong, well one misplaced word, and they are gone, canceled. Right? One stupid thing that I do, and then all of a sudden the relationships are shattered. Relationships that I thought were solid, start to fade away. And even if we don't do anything wrong, sometimes those relationships end too because people change and they tend to fade away.

Eric Estes: 18:03 So what we're looking for is that unconditional love, but we find out that a lot of times that love is conditional. So what do we do with that? That can't be the type of mercy that he's talking about here because when we seek that type of unconditional love and favor from people, oftentimes we're disappointed. Our world talks a lot about mercy, and compassion, and love, but oftentimes it doesn't really deliver well on those things, we can look around us and see that. So what's the mercy we're talking about here? What is that unconditional love? It's the unconditional love that comes from our Father. It's not that other people love me no matter what, it's that I'm loved by the One that matters. That's the mercy that we're talking about here.

Eric Estes: 18:56 See, we have all sinned against God. We've all said, you know what, God, I'm going to do things my way. We've in essence, kind of thumbed our nose at Him, we've kind of spit in his face. And God has every right to sever that relationship, to unfriend us. Right? Scripture tells us that without Christ, we are his enemy, that's where we stand. But God doesn't, his love truly is unconditional. Because Romans 5:8 tells us that, "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Right? There was no condition on us, Christ died for us. He loved us anyway, despite what we've done. So what he did is he, "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him might not die, but have eternal life." He sent Jesus to live the perfect life, then to die on the cross for our sins, taking on all of the failures and faults and sins. See God, doesn't just look past it all, He actually takes care of it, it's gone. So when we find our identity in Jesus, we say, that's the guy I want to follow, it's him. I trust the shepherd, the good shepherd. When we do that, then our identity is in him. And when God looks at us, he doesn't see all the junk, He sees Jesus. That's mercy, that's unconditional love. That's the favor that David is talking about here, that's what it looks like.

Eric Estes: 20:37 So we know that goodness is not good things, but it's the presence of the Good One. We know that that mercy is not the unconditional love from others, it's the unconditional love of the one who matters. But oftentimes if we look at our lives, and we just kind of talk about how do we spend our time effort, energy. Most of our time, effort, and energy is spent pursuing the good things, or pursuing the favor and approval of others, right? But God has something better, He has true goodness and true mercy waiting for us. And we don't have to pursue those things, they follow us.

Eric Estes: 21:19 So how do we do that? How do they follow us? How do we live a life where goodness and mercy follow us. And the secret, the clue is in this last part of the verse, and they follow us when we pursue his presence. The last part in here says, "And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord Forever." This word dwell here, we see this idea throughout scripture, all the way back to the garden of Eden. God dwelt with Adam and Eve, he would come and he would walk with them before sin entered the picture. Then we look at even after that relationship was severed, God still looked for ways to dwell with his people. The Israelites, as they were wandering through the wilderness, he would dwell with them in the tabernacle. Then as Solomon built a temple, he would dwell with them in the temple. Then the prophets talked about somebody else coming, and it was the person of Jesus. When Jesus came and he dwelt with us, John 1 talks about, that he tabernacled with us. The name given to Jesus was Emmanuel, which means God with us. And then when Jesus accomplished what he came to accomplish, he ascended into heaven, and he sent the Holy Spirit, which is God himself, who dwells in us.

Eric Estes: 22:46 God's all about dwelling with us. What does it look like to dwell with him? Oftentimes, when we read this we say, "I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." We look at this word forever here and we think, Oh, okay, that means when I die, I go to heaven and I live with God. That's true, but it's not complete. You see the word forever, it lines up, it's parallel with all the days of my life. These are parallel ideas, it means forever isn't just a future thing, it starts today. All the days of my life and beyond, I will dwell in the house of the Lord. God is available to us now, we can dwell with him now.

Eric Estes: 23:30 Psalm 145 verse 18 says, "The Lord is near to those who call upon him in truth." Psalm 27:4 says, "The one thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple." Isn't that a beautiful picture of dwelling with the Lord? His one focus, he wants to dwell with the Lord and gaze upon his beauty. What would that look like day in, day out, if we just gazed upon God's beauty? Acts 17 verse 27 says, this is Paul, he's talking to the Athenians about who God is. And he says, "That they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us." He's not far. And then Ephesians 3:17, "So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love."

Eric Estes: 24:33 Psalm 23, if you think about it, is really about dwelling with God. When the sheep is in the presence of the shepherd, things are good, right, he follows the shepherd and things are good. It's when he wanders away from the presence of the shepherd that things get bad. And that's the idea, that we are to seek his presence and dwell with him. And when we pursue his presence, we don't have to pursue goodness and mercy. We pursue his presence and goodness and mercy come, they kind of come along for the ride. So, we see this when Jesus says, "But seek first, the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all things will be added to you." If we seek first God's rule, his authority, then everything else falls into place. We seek his presence, everything else falls into place. John 15 verse 5, Jesus tells us this. He says, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you abide in me and I in you, then you will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing." If you want to live a life of significance, seniors' as you're going out if you want to impact the world, it says, you can do nothing apart from him, seek his presence first. And then what you do, how you impact the world, will have significance not only now, but for eternity.

Eric Estes: 26:05 If we abide in him, if we pursue his presence, if we want goodness and mercy. It's true goodness and mercy, that's only found in his presence. And oftentimes we forget about this, right? As we go about our day to day lives, we kind of forget about his presence, and most religion. Whether it's false religion, other religions, or the way people practice Christianity, most religion is the idea of keeping God far away from us and just going to God for certain things, but trying to keep that at a distance. But what we see here is that God wants us to pursue a presence with him.

Eric Estes: 26:52 So what does that look like? How do we pursue his presence? And I just want to give you a couple of thoughts on that, how we can pursue his presence as we kind of wind down and wrap up. Two thoughts. First, we pursue his presence intentionally, we carve out time in our day to pursue him, to read his word, to pray to him. It's what we call here at 121 the table for two, me sitting across from God, no distractions, just focused on him. Now, most of us know that this is what we're supposed to do, right? That we are to seek his presence, but oftentimes we still find ourselves not doing it. Right? What happens is oftentimes we find ourselves pursuing the good things, or pursuing the favor and approval of others, over pursuing his presence. It's happened to me. As a matter of fact, going into this quarantine, how many of you guys thought that, hey, you know, this is going to be rough, but at least I'm going to get to spend a lot more time with the Lord. I'm going to get to pray a lot more, I'm going to get to seek him in his word a lot more. I know that was my thought going in, and I gotta tell you, my confession is, that's not how it's played out. Here's what I've done in a lot of cases is when I wake up in the morning, rather than going scripture, then screen, I reversed them. I get up and I want to know, okay, what's going on with the virus? What's going on with this? What's the case count up to? What's the status on the vaccine? What's going on? And when I start there, I just got to tell you, either when I'm here I'm thinking about other things, or I don't get here. But we need to pursue his presence, and when we pursue his presence, goodness and mercy will follow.

Eric Estes: 28:42 Lifeway Research did a study a few years ago. And what they did is they looked at thousands of students, and they looked at okay, as they were growing up, what spiritual practices do they have going on? And then after they left the home and went off to college, or wherever they went, a few years later, who was still following Christ? And what they found, guess what the number one indicator is for those students that continue to follow Christ in their life after they left home. Time in God's word, the number one thing. So seniors, as you take off and you go out in the world and you want to anchor yourself and stay firm on your relationship with Christ and follow Christ, the number one thing you can do seek his presence here. Parents, if you want your kids to follow Christ their whole life, the best thing you can do, the most important thing you can do is get them in God's word. That's what it looks like to seek his presence.

Eric Estes: 29:45 If you need resources or help with that, we would love to help you with that. If you're not really sure where to go and scripture or anything else, on our website at the bottom, you can subscribe to the table for two. It'll send you an email every day with a little bit of scripture, a little bit of commentary on it, and a devotional. That's a way to get started. If you want to do it with other people, we've got, starting in July, we're doing a summer Bible study. Come join us, we're going to be online Wednesday nights for four weeks, and we're gonna be walking through the Book of Philippians. But whatever it looks like, pursue his presence intentionally in his word and in prayer.

Eric Estes: 30:22 Second thing, is to pursue his presence continuously. What would it look like if we just went through our day understanding and acknowledging that he's with us, his presence is there? Just as we go into a meeting, go, okay, God, what do you have in this? As my boss is mad at me, what's going on, God, what do you have for me in this? Or as we get bad news, or whatever it is, just a little bit of conversation with God throughout the day. Just that idea that our father is behind us, that he's got our back. And as we go through the day, we just acknowledge that we know that his goodness is following us. What would that look like to just live with the knowledge of the presence of his goodness? To live, knowing that we're approved? We don't need to seek the approval of others, because we have been approved through Christ from our Father.

Eric Estes: 31:16 So that's what it looks like to have goodness and mercy. So for our seniors, as you go out of here, and really for all of us...I just want to charge you as you go out, don't buy the imitation goodness and mercy that the world is selling, the good things and approval of others, instead pursue his presence, pursue, pursue, pursue his presence. And then when you look back at the rearview mirror of your life, you'll see that goodness and mercy followed you all of your days when you've dwelt in the house of the Lord forever.

Eric Estes: 31:59 Let's pray. I want to give you guys a little bit of space just to let the Holy spirit seal anything that he's been speaking to you as we've been in his word. But I want to do it a little bit differently today, I want to put the words of Psalm 23 up on the screen, and we're just gonna kind of slowly go through Psalm 23. So as you're praying, just be reading Psalm 23 slowly over in your mind, over and over and over again. It's the idea of meditation, which just means to kind of chew it over. And ask God, what do you have for me, what are you speaking to me in your word through Psalm 23 today? So we're gonna just give you a little bit of silent space as Psalm 23, kind of rolls over through your mind.



Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051
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