The Comforter: Part 5

John Plunkett

September 21, 2017

Before we begin the sermon, we have some special music. I heard this song on the radio a couple of months ago, and I have been saving it up for now. I think that it fits in so well with the message of this series. The title is “That’ll Do” and it was composed by Randy Newman for a children’s movie with the unlikely title of “Babe - Pig in the City.”  The song is performed by Peter Gabriel.  I chose the song because of its very encouraging lyrics, certainly not to suggest that mediocrity or half-hearted effort is acceptable to God. Not at all.  Here are the lyrics:  

A kind and steady heart can make a grey sky blue;
And a task that seems impossible is quite possible for you.
A kind and steady heart is sure to see you through.
It may not seem like very much right now;
But it'll do, it'll do.

 When you find yourself in the middle of a storm
And you're tired and cold and wet,
And you're looking for a place that's cozy and warm,
You'll make it if you never forget:

 A kind and steady heart can conquer doubt and fear.
A little courage goes a long, long way,
Gets you little bit further down the road each day,
And before you know it you'll hear someone say:
“That'll do.  That'll do.”

 A kind and steady heart is sure to see you through.
A little courage goes a long, long way,
Gets you little bit further down the road each day,
And before you know it you'll hear someone say:
“That'll do, that'll do."


What I want to get across in the sermon today is that, if we are all doing our best – if we are all giving it everything that we have got – with our own God-given talents – plus, obviously, with the great power of God’s Holy Spirit within us –  that is all that we can do. 

I believe that our Father, and our Elder Brother, are very happy with that. They are very happy with "That’ll do."

Have you ever read the book, "Robinson Crusoe"?

Like many, I read it years ago when I was a schoolboy.  But I re-read it more recently and, to my amazement, found it to be very inspiring in a spiritual way. 

Yes, it is a work of pure fiction; but if its author, Daniel Defoe, were alive today, I would email him and tell him that his famous book helped me through some of the greatest trial periods of my life, back in the 1990’s.

How could a fictional book be so inspiring? 

For those of you who are not familiar with the story, poor Robinson Crusoe is in one of the most dreadful predicaments imaginable.  He has been shipwrecked on a desert island. He is the sole survivor of the wreck and literally does not know where on earth he is.  He faces years of the most terrible dangers and trials: loneliness, tropical heat, storms, diseases and fevers.  To add to these problems, wild animals and cannibals want to have him over for lunch!

During his story, Robinson, writing in the first-person singular in diary format, goes through a very deep and meaningful repentance.  He begins to study his Bible, which he has salvaged from the wrecked ship.  He studies every day and talks to God almost constantly.  Robinson learns to depend on God for his spiritual deliverance, as well as for physical deliverance from all the tremendous dangers, problems, and trials that now beset him.  Throughout the narrative, he quotes the Bible repeatedly; but not in a sugary or over-emotional way; but accurately and meaningfully. May I recommend that you get it out of the library and read it again, as it is very worthwhile?

Two of the scriptures that Robinson quotes which affected and inspired me most were these:

Psalm 50:15:
Call on me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you. 

Hebrews 13:5:
Let your conversation
{conduct} be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for He has said, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you."

Are you and I like the fictional Robinson Crusoe?  Have we learnt to trust in God for deliverance from danger and trials, both spiritual and physical?  Or do we think that God's miraculous protection somehow ceased after the death of the last New Testament personality – the apostle John? 

It is the purpose of this sermon to show you – and myself – that God today is just as capable of miraculously protecting His children as He always was.

Let’s go back to what we call "Bible times." 

Thousands of years ago, God made some great promises to His obedient servant, Abram (as his name was at that time – Abraham later on): promises of wealth, blessings, greatness – but also of protection:

Genesis 12:
1:  Now the LORD had said unto Abram, "Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, unto a land that I will show you:
2: And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing:
3: And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.

Genesis 14:
18:  And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and He was the Priest of the most high God.
19:  And He blessed him, and said, "Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
20:  And blessed be the most high God, which has delivered your enemies into your hand."

We won’t go into all of the detail of those deliverances; but suffice it to say that it was the LORD God who delivered their enemies into their hand.

Genesis 22:
17:  That in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
18:  And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you have obeyed my voice.

That obedience to the voice of the LORD God is an important part, as well.

As we read on now in the book of Genesis, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, we see the history of these blessings being passed down through Abraham's descendants: Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Ephraim, Manasseh, on down to the children of Israel. (See Genesis chapters 24, 26, 27, 28, 35, and 48, Numbers chapter 24, and Deuteronomy chapters 1, 7, 8, 11, 15, 16, 28, 30, and 33).

During the Feast of Unleavened Bread every year, we read about the great miracles that God performed at the Red Sea to rescue His people from the Egyptians.  Let’s take another look at this story, in the context of God's physical protection and rescue:

Exodus 14:
9:  So the Egyptians pursued them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and overtook them camping by the sea beside Pi Hahiroth, before Baal Zephon.
10:  And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them.  So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. 
13:  And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid.  Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today.  For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.
14:  The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
15:  And the LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me?  Tell the children of Israel to go forward.
16:  “But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it.  And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.
17:  And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them.  So I will gain honour over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen.
18:  Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gained honour for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
19:  And the angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them.
20:  So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel.  Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.
21:  Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided.
22:  So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

Fantastic miracles, to be sure!  But can God – does God – still perform such miracles of physical protection in modern times?

After a long deferral, due to the great sins of Israel, God began to fulfill His promises to the patriarchs more fully, and to shower blessings on their descendants, beginning around the start of the 18th century.  In the late spring of 1940, God had not yet finished with His blessings of miraculous protection in favour of the descendants of Israel.

Right now, there is a movie called “Dunkirk.” I haven’t seen it; but I would like to. It has rekindled a lot of recent interest in the evacuation of the allied forces from Dunkirk in 1940, which is looked upon, even by secular historians, as a huge miracle.  Its account contains some striking parallels to God's evacuation of the Israelites through the Red Sea. 

Here is an edited quote from the sub-chapter entitled "Miracle at Dunkirk" from "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" by William Shirer:

Ever since May 20, when [German General] Guderian's tanks broke through to Abbeville on the sea, the British Admiralty, on the personal orders of Churchill, had been rounding up shipping for a possible evacuation of the B.E.F. [British Expeditionary Force] and other Allied forces from the Channel ports.  Non-combatant personnel... began to be ferried across the narrow sea to England at once.  By May 24... the German armour, striking up the coast from Abbeville, after taking Boulogne and enveloping Calais, had reached the Aa Canal only twenty miles from Dunkirk.  In between were caught the Belgian army, the nine divisions of the B.E.F. and ten divisions of the French First Army.  Though the terrain on the southern end of the pocket was bad tank country, being crisscrossed with canals, ditches and flooded areas, Guderian's and Reinhardt's panzer corps already had five bridgeheads across the main barrier, the Aa Canal, between Gravelines on the sea and St. Omer, and were poised for the knockout blow which would hammer the Allied armies against the anvil of the advancing German Sixth and Eighteenth armies pushing down from the northeast and utterly destroy them.

Suddenly on the evening of May 24 came the peremptory order from the High Command, issued at the insistence of Hitler with the prompting of Rundstedt and Goering but over the violent objections of Brauchitsch and Halder, that the tank forces should halt on the canal line and attempt no further advance. This furnished Lord Gort [Commander of the Allied forces] an unexpected and vital reprieve which he and the British Navy and Air Force made the most of and which, as Rundstedt later perceived and said, led "to one of the great turning points in the war."

How did this inexplicable stop order on the threshold of what seemed certain to be the greatest German victory of the campaign come about?  What were the reasons for it?  And who was responsible?  The questions have provoked one of the greatest arguments of the war, among the German generals involved and among the historians...  Goering had intervened with Hitler...  He offered to liquidate the entrapped enemy troops with his Air Force alone!  The reasons for his ambitious and vain proposal were given the writer [William Shirer] in the letter from Halder...

Finally, on the evening of May 26, Hitler rescinded the stop order and... the armored forces could resume their advance on Dunkirk.  By then it was late; the cornered enemy had had time to strengthen his defenses and behind them was beginning to slip away to sea...

No more now than in all the years before did he [Hitler] comprehend the character of the British nation... Nor did he and his generals, ignorant of the sea as they were and remained dream that the sea-minded British could evacuate a third of a million men from a small battered port and from the exposed beaches right under their noses.

At three minutes before seven on the evening of May 26, shortly after Hitler's stop order had been canceled, the British Admiralty signaled the beginning of "Operation Dynamo," as the Dunkirk evacuation was called.  That night the German armor resumed its attack on the port from the west and south, but now the panzers found it hard going.  The tanks made little progress... 

How reminiscent of Exodus 14, in which "the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians, through the pillar of fire, and the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians and took off their chariot wheels, and they drove them heavily"... just like He did to the German tanks!

Lord Gort had had time to deploy against them three infantry divisions with heavy artillery support.  In the meantime, the evacuation began.  An armada of 850 vessels of all sizes, shapes and methods of propulsion, from cruisers and destroyers, to small sailboats and Dutch Skoots, many of them manned by civilian volunteers from the English coastal towns, converged on Dunkirk.

The first day, May 27, they took off 7,669 troops; the next day, 17,804; the following day, 47,310; and on May 30, 53,823, for a total of 126,606 during the first four days.  This was far more than the Admiralty had hoped to get out.  When the operation began it counted on evacuating only about 45,000 men in the two days' time it then thought it would have.

It was not until this fourth day of Operation Dynamo, on May 30, that the German High Command finally woke up to what was happening.  For four days the communiqués of the OKW had been reiterating that the encircled enemy armies were doomed. 

Let’s go back to Exodus 14:

Exodus 14:3:
For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, "They are entangled in the land, the wilderness has shut them in."

Back to the quote:

A communiqué of May 29... stated flatly: "The British army, which has been compressed into the territory... around Dunkirk, is also going to its destruction before our concentric attack." 

But it wasn't!  It was going to sea!  With the certainty that the men would live to fight another day...

The next day, May 31, was the biggest day of all.  Some 68,000 men were embarked for England, a third of them from the beaches, the rest from the Dunkirk harbour.  A total of 194,620 men had now been taken out, more than four times the number originally hoped for. 

Where was the famed Luftwaffe?  Part of the time... it was grounded by bad weather.  The rest of the time… it encountered unexpected opposition from the Royal Air Force, which from bases just across the Channel successfully challenged it for the first time.  Though outnumbered, the new British Spitfires proved more than a match for the Messerschmitts...  It
[the Luftwaffe] failed to achieve what Goering had promised Hitler: the annihilation of the B.E.F. 

On June 1... the second-highest day's total was evacuated 64,429 men.  By dawn of the next day, only 4,000 British troops remained in the perimeter, protected by 100,000 French who now manned the defenses...

The Luftwaffe at that time did not operate after dark and during the nights of June 2 and 3 the remainder of the B.E.F. and 60,000 French troops were successfully brought out.  Dunkirk, still defended stubbornly by 40,000 French soldiers, held out until the morning of June 4.  By that day 338,226 British and French soldiers had escaped the German clutches...

A deliverance Dunkirk was to the British.

Author William Shirer, after weighing the evidence, felt that the stop order originated with Hitler himself, influenced by Herman Goering who, in his vanity, wanted the Luftwaffe (the German air force, of which he was the head) to have the glory of the victory, rather than giving it to the German army.  Just like Israel's exodus from Egypt, the course of history was again mightily changed – through vanity! 

Who stopped Guderian's tanks?  Did God harden Hitler's heart as He did with Pharaoh's?  It certainly looks that way.

We look at that account as amazing; but some might say, "Okay; but that Dunkirk episode was eighty years ago!  I wasn't even born then!"

After WWII we can ask the question: Did God cut our nations off from His protection because of our national sins?  When I first came into the church, I believe that He probably had, because of the sins of modern Israel.  Or, did He protect and deliver the descendants of Israel in more recent years?

Deuteronomy 7:
17:  “If you should say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I; how can I dispossess them?’ — 
18:  You shall not be afraid of them, but you shall remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt:
19:  The great trials which your eyes saw, the signs and the wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out.  So shall the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid.
20:  Moreover the LORD your God will send the hornet among them until those who are left, who hide themselves from you, are destroyed.
21:  You shall not be terrified of them; for the LORD your God, the great and awesome God, is among you.
22:  And the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you little by little; you will be unable to destroy them at once, lest the beasts of the field become too numerous for you.
23:  But the LORD your God will deliver them over to you, and will inflict defeat upon them until they are destroyed.
24:  And He will deliver their kings into your hand, and you will destroy their name from under heaven; no one shall be able to stand against you until you have destroyed them.

The British found it necessary back in 1983 to do some military "dispossessing" of their own after Argentina invaded the British Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.  This brief war captured the attention of the whole world and much has been written about it.  There is, in fact, a whole book, "The Falklands Miracle," that deals with the "incredibly good luck" that Britain experienced at so many different times during that very short conflict.

One example is that, at the very time the Argentine army surrendered at the Falkland Islands' capital, Port Stanley, the British were almost completely out of ammunition!  If the Argentineans hadn't surrendered at precisely that time, the British would have had to retreat, thus prolonging the conflict and the loss of life, and possibly even reversing the final result of the war.

A second Falklands story comes, not from that book, but rather from a cousin of mine who lived close to my relatives in Liverpool, England.  He was serving in the British army at the time and, after some special training, was, along with thousands of his comrades, embarked aboard the luxury P&O liner "Canberra" (which had been hurriedly converted and pressed into service as a troopship).

As they steamed into the South Atlantic, their floating home came under severe attack by Argentinean jet fighters. These planes attacked one side of the ship with their rockets, peeled off and came back again, concentrating their aim on the same side of the ship.  Although the rockets did explode, their explosions for some reason did not penetrate the hull of the ship.

The soldiers watching (somewhat fearfully, no doubt) said that the explosions seemed to merely bounce off the hull and that they inflicted very little damage.  On later investigation, it was discovered that, when the Canberra was first built (at Harland and Wolff's shipyard in Belfast) back in the 1960's, there was an unacceptable twist in the hull, which threw off the whole balance and design of the ship.  To correct this twist, more weight was required in one side of the hull.  The weight was provided by lining that side of the hull with a couple of inches of reinforced concrete!

Many such accounts could be told of God's miraculous deliverance; but space does not allow. It appears that the physical descendants of Israel have been miraculously protected and delivered in order to fulfill God's promises to Abraham. We do know, however, that one day soon, due to the unrepentant disobedience and idolatry of our Israelitish nations, those blessings of protection and deliverance will be taken away.

But what about spiritual Israel?  What about God's true church?  What about you and me? Does God protect us?  Do His promises of physical deliverance apply to us

We can have confidence that they do!

One instance that comes immediately to mind, takes me back to a winter's night in Ontario, some years ago, when one of our church ministers fell asleep at the wheel of his car while driving home after a particularly exhausting day.  His wife was also dozing in the car.  Suddenly, they both heard a loud, clear voice shout, "John!" which, of course, woke them both instantly, thus averting a possibly dreadful crash.  The minister stopped the car and got out to clear his head with the aid of some fresh air.  He retraced the car's tire tracks in the snow for a short distance and found that the tracks disappeared as they approached the side of the road, then reappeared again a few yards further on.  The car should have crashed into a deep, roadside ditch! 

Many of you can recount similar stories.  They are always inspiring to read about, or to listen to.  But why should we be surprised at such things?  They are wonderful accounts.  God has given us a solid, but conditional, promise of protection.  We have seen this in the scriptures that we have already read.

I said "conditional."  I believe that these words that God spoke to Joshua, before he led the Israelites into the Promised Land also apply to you and me. 

Joshua 1:
5a:  No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you

We should apply this to ourselves.

5b: … I will not fail you or forsake you. 
6:  Be strong and of good courage; for you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them...

Now, here are the conditions:

7:  Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you; turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 
8a:  This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night... 

Just like Robinson Crusoe did.

8b: … that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success. 
9:  Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go...
Verse 18:  Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death.  Only be strong and of good courage."

And again, we ask the question, “Were those promises only for the people of Old Covenant physical Israel?  And the answer is, No.  In the Book of Hebrews, we see these same words repeated to the New Covenant Israel of God: 

Hebrews 13:
5:  Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have; for He has said, "I will never fail you nor forsake you." 
6:  Hence we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?" 

If we strive to keep His word and obey Him in all ways, He promises His protection.

If we happen to be still alive when the end times come, He will protect us even from the future worldwide hour of severe trial:

Revelation 3:10:
Because you have kept my command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. 

We can have the fullest confidence that God will give us His divine protection when we need it.  Like Joshua, and the members of the early church, we too should be strong and of good courage.  If we remain content with the many blessings that God has given us (which I am sure we are!) and, if we worship Him, obey Him and serve Him, as He commands us, He will never leave us, nor forsake us.

Now, as we have come to the end of this long series, how do we wrap it up?  Let me just summarize what we have been through in the last five sermons.

In our own local area, we are going through a very troubled time.  Not just our local area, though; but also many other congregations, church groups and brethren.  As you know, every week we have prayer requests mainly for health problems. We seem to be going through a particularly troubled time in God’s church.

Yes, we are going through trials; but most of us are not being persecuted in the classic sense of the term.  Many of us are going through some very severe trials; but still, they are not necessarily trials that have not been commonly suffered by God’s people in past eras.  They are not necessarily trials that are not commonly being suffered, by other Church of God brethren around the world right now. And non-Church-of-God people too suffer similar trials. 

We need help with these trials. We need help from God the Father, Jesus Christ and from one another.  What kind of help do we ask for from God the Father and Jesus Christ?  In many cases we are asking for relief and for healing, according to their perfect will.  

If our complete healing is not their will now, then we need some major encouragement and comfort to help us to get through these tough times.  How?  By what means can we expect this encouragement and comfort to come to us?  Yes, we talked about seeking encouragement and comfort from our physical family members and friends; but also more so from our beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in God’s true Church.  But primarily, from our Almighty Father and from our Elder Brother, who voluntarily went through so much of what we are going through now, but much worse.  

But, is that all?  We go through the scriptures, and we ask the question: “Can we be fully comforted and effectively encouraged just by and through the mere academic knowledge of the great power of God the Father and Jesus Christ?  Can we be comforted and encouraged by their desire to encourage and comfort us?   Can we be encouraged by our knowledge of Jesus’ past sufferings? 

The answer is, No!  In addition to these things, we can, and we should, have their encouragement and their comfort in us. 

How?  Once again, by having and by allowing Jesus and God the Father to live in us, and to work in us.  Again, how?  By the coming of the Comforter!  By being imbued with the Holy Spirit of Truth.