January 22, 2017

David Sorn

Why would a good God lead us into the valley? And when He does, is He still there with us?


January 22, 2017

David Sorn

Why would a good God lead us into the valley? And when He does, is He still there with us?



Morning again.

We are in a series right now called: ATV: All Terrain Venture.

And we’re talking about how God takes us to all sorts of terrains, and so it’s important that we know how to best handle each one.

Last week, we talked about the mountaintop, but today, we’re going to talk about the valley.

Let’s not beat around the bush…we all have to walk through the valley…often more times than we would like.

Our valleys look different, but we all have them.

Some walk through the valley of failure, or the valley of sickness, or the valley of divorce.

Others through the valley of financial insecurity, or infertility, or miscarriage, or the valley of watching your teenager wander away from the Lord.

So, what do you do…when you’re in the valley?

And why would God sometimes lead you to the valley?

And where is God…in the valley?

Before, I go any further, I want to clarify what I mean by valley, and differentiate it from some similar terrains.

When I say valley, I’m talking about suffering.

I’m talking about when difficult circumstances come our way…and we maybe even didn’t even see coming.

I’m not so much talking about a prolonged, dry season in your faith.

That, we’ll get to next week, when we cover the plateau…so make sure you’re back for that.

And to answer some of our questions about the valley today, we are going to look at Psalm 23.

(Page 441)

(renovation App)

It’s a psalm about God our shepherd.

And it’s written by King David, who, before he was King, was a shepherd.

Let’s take a look at the passage

(Psalm 23:1-6) – NIV

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord


Let’s start with the question: “Why would God, if He’s a good God, ever lead us to the valley?”

If God is real, why doesn’t he just only bless us with good things?

Now, admittedly, sometimes it’s our own sin and mistakes that lead us into the valley

And sometimes it can be spiritual evil that leads us there.

But it appears, from the Bible, that sometimes, even God the good shepherd, purposefully leads us into the valley.


It says in verse 3 of our passage:


3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

God guides us along the right paths…the paths He’s supposed to take you…even if sometimes those paths lead right through the valley (like verse 4 is going to say)

Even if it may not seem like it, God has a purpose in the valley.

Even if you may never find out what it is (this side of heaven), God has a purpose in leading us through the valley.

Romans 8 tells us that ALL things work together for good…eventually.

We’re told in verse 3 of our passage that he leads us along the right paths FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE

What God does, He does for His glory.

This isn’t very American, but listen, God doesn’t exist for you.

You exist for God.

(Isaiah 43:7) – NIV

everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”

And if we suffer, God is doing something.

(again, this isn’t very American and self-focused here), but often God uses the testimony of our suffering for his glory.

I think of our friend Matt Bishop, who attended here for a number of years before he got a radio job up in Crookston…and often visits here when he’s back in town

Matt, still in his 20’s, has already had cancer twice.

And yet, I scarcely know of anyone who’s had more of a platform to share the Gospel and God’s love w/ people.

When he talks, whether in person or on social media…people listen to Him!

And God has used him immensely…in the valley.

Other times, God brings us to the valley because that’s where He intends to grow you.


3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

And hold on a second…it’s possible that you’re reading this verse to say something it’s not

The American secular version of this concept is, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (shout out to Kelly Clarkson)

It’s the idea that when life gets tough, it’ll make me tougher!

And that’s not what the Bible is saying at all.

What did it say?

All of this strengthens our confidence…in OURSELVES (NO!)…God!

See, it’s often in the valley, where God shows you His glory.

It’s in the valley where God strips you of the illusion of control that you somehow thought you had.

Because it’s when you’re in the valley…and you’ve been trying for over a year to have a baby, and you can’t…or you’ve been so sick for 6 months and nothings changing…

It’s in the valley…where God leads us to a point where we say, “I can’t do this…I can’t fix this.”

In the valley, he shows us the limitations we’ve always had, but we just didn’t notice them on the mountain (because we were giving ourselves credit for his work),

In the valley, he strengthens our confidence in Him to change our lives, and finally lowers our wrongly placed confidence in ourselves.

And so when God leads you by still waters and green pastures…that’s the right path.

When God leads you into the valley…that’s the right path.

There’s an old proverb that says; “All sunshine and no rain…make for a good desert”

Trust Him…no matter what terrain He might take you to


But the valley is a difficult terrain.

It feels dark…and lonely.

You can feel like no one else understands what it’s like to go through a break-up like you went through

No one else could understand what it’s like to deal with children like yours…or a spouse like yours.

David, the writer, understands this.

It’s why he talks of valleys.

And valleys in Israel were often a dark and scary place.

Many were steep and often only had the light in the very middle of the day.

They often consisted of rocks on both sides…maybe with a dry streambed carving through for most of the year.

These valleys could be incredibly dangerous places to walk through.

Flash floods could occur without warning

There could be attacks from animals

Often even bandits would hide there to attack an unsuspecting traveler.

But even though you might feel alone in the darkness and coldness of your valley, you’re not alone!

(Psalm 23:4) – NIV

4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

When God takes you to the valley, or even if we brought ourselves there, He’s still with us.

But most of the time, in the pain of the valley, we feel alone and just want to get out.

We think, “Maybe if I get out of the valley, I’ll find God again”

But that’s not usually how God operates.

That’s not what King David is saying.

He’s not saying, “Thank you God, that when I get out of the valley, I can find you again!”

In his book, “The Pressure’s Off, the brilliant Christian psychologist, Larry Crabb tells a story from his childhood.

He writes, “One Saturday afternoon, I decided I was a big boy and could use the bathroom without anyone's help. So, I climbed the stairs, closed and locked the door behind me, and for the next few minutes felt very self-sufficient.

Then it was time to leave. I couldn't unlock the door. I tried with every ounce of my three-year-old strength, but I couldn't do it. I panicked. I felt again like a very little boy as the thought went through my head, "I might spend the rest of my life in this bathroom."

My parents—and likely the neighbors—heard my desperate scream.

"Are you okay?" Mother shouted through the door she couldn't open from the outside. "Did you fall? Have you hit your head?"

"I can't unlock the door!" I yelled. "Get me out of here!"

I wasn't aware of it right then, but Dad raced down the stairs, ran to the garage to find the ladder, and leaned it against the side of the house just beneath the bathroom window.

With adult strength, he pried it open, then climbed into my prison, walked past me, and with that same strength, turned the lock and opened the door.

"Thanks, Dad," I said—and ran out to play.

Dr. Crabb goes on to say that a lot of us treat the Christian life like this.

We just want God to free us from our valleys so we can go out and play.

And sometimes God will do that.

But he says, “Sometimes God doesn't walk by me to turn the lock that I couldn't open. Instead, he just sits down on the bathroom floor and says, "Come sit with me!"

“God seems to think that climbing into the room to be with me matters more than letting me out to play.”

And so some of us need to ask the question today:

“When I’m in the valley, am I more concerned about just getting out of the valley, or finding God in the valley?”

Do I want for my life to just be easier?

Or do I want to be with God…no matter what terrain He might meet me on?

What’s more important comfort or meeting with God and letting Him love you and shape you in a whole new way?

Honestly, I think most of us just want to get out of the valley.

And because of that…we don’t stop to look for God while we’re there.

I know, personally, I’m not very good at this

I think of when my mom got diagnosed with cancer this past spring…

Honestly, not sure that I navigated it all that well.

Or 2 years ago, when I lost my voice for a month.

Tough times for a communicator of the Gospel.

I’m pretty sure most of my prayers (silent ones) were, “Please heal me, stop this, end this…get me out of this!!”

And not so much… “Where are you in this God?”

I think, so often in our fear, we scurry around nervously in the valley…worrying and looking for a way out.

And in all our worrying and scurrying, we kick up this cloud of dust, that blocks our view of the Shepherd with us.

And we say, “Where are you God? Why is this happening? Get me out of here. ”

But just because you don’t see him right now in the dust and darkness of the valley, doesn’t mean He isn’t right there with you.

His Word says He will never leave you nor forsake you.

He is there…and He wants to meet with you right there…in the valley.

The most important thing you can do in a valley is to find the shepherd…the one with the big rod and staff.

If you’re there right now, the most important thing you can do (even before trying to get out) is to keep seeking Him…reading His Word…talking to Him…

If you calm down…and seek Him, the dust will settle, and you WILL see Him.

And if you find Him, I guarantee you your heart will change…even if your conditions don’t change right away


Think of it this way.

Imagine a 7-year old boy whose family has gone out for a week to visit with his aunt, uncle, and cousins (who live in the country)

One day, during the late afternoon, all the cousins decide to play a huge game of hide and seek outside.

The 7-year-old boy runs right for the woods because he knows there must be a thousand great hiding spots in there.

And in his youthful ambition, he just keeps running deeper into the woods.

But as 10 minutes turn into 20 and into 30, he starts to realize that he’s lost.

And no one is going to find him that far out.

And as soon as he finally admits it, he can’t stop sobbing.

He’s not even sure which way it is back to his cousin’s house.

On top of that, it’s starting to get dark.

And he can hear thunder off in the distance…and he starts to feel the first drops of rain.

The branches are waving mightily in the wind of the oncoming storm.

He’s terrified…and he can’t stop crying.

What he doesn’t know is that His father is out looking for Him.

And about 10 minutes after he started crying, his father hears him, finds him, scoops him up into his big arms, and starts to carry him home.

And at that precise moment…the boy isn’t scared anymore.

But almost all of the external factors are still there!

It’s still dark

The thunder, if anything is louder than before.

The rain, coming down harder than before.

But the boy isn’t scared anymore.

“For I will fear no evil, for YOU are with me!

And right now, if you feel like the shadows are still dancing all around you in the valley of the shadow of death, don’t fear.

A shadow can’t hurt you.

When you see a shadow…that just means that there is a light nearby

And so if you feel like the shadows are closing in…don’t forget there’s a light.

Look for Jesus. The light, your shepherd, he’s there with you!

He has a purpose in the valley, he is with you in the valley, and eventually, he will take you out of the valley.

Perhaps the best word in Psalm 23 is “THROUGH”

Verse 4: “Even though I walk THROUGH the darkest valley”

You know what this means, it will end.

This is why the valley is so important.

There is nothing like the dawn after a long, hard night.

There is nothing like the light, coming out of the dark valley…

Coming out of a dark valley, with your shepherd, and seeing a glorious mountain in the sun…nothing like it!


And I would be remiss to leave here today and not talk about the most serious valley we all face: death.

David alludes to it with his shadow of death…and the darkest valley.

We face a lot of things on this earth, but I suppose none scarier than our actual deaths…that we will all face at one time or another.

And even that, the Bible says, with God, you need not fear.

(1 John 4:17-18) - NIV

17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

What does that mean?

How can a person have NO fear on judgment day?

How can a person have complete confidence that they are LOVED and going to heaven?

This is what God’s story is all about!

In perhaps one of the greatest prophecies of all time, 700 years before Jesus was born, God said his messiah would do this:

(Isaiah 53:6) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION – Leave up for a minute

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.

And this is what God did.

He knows that we sin…that we’re not perfect…and for that we deserve punishment (for God is just)

But he sent his own Son Jesus, to die on the cross in our place.

(John 10:11) – NIV

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

And the bible says, if we believe in Him, he will forgive all of our sins.

Taking the punishment off of us, and onto Jesus.

Making us clean in his eyes.

And He will make us His.

But it is the only way for us to be saved…to be forgiven.

We cannot earn our way to heaven…

It’s not possible to bribe God with your good deeds.

You can’t ignore that He sent his son to die for you, and then try and sneak into heaven by being a good person instead.

(john 10:9) – NIV

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

He says in that same chapter, you cannot climb in another way.

And if you put your faith in Jesus as your Savior…and you let Him start leading your life…you can have confidence that He will forgive you and be with you, no matter what comes your way.

And you can have confidence…that when your death comes…you will still be with your shepherd.

Author David Platt tells the story of Casey Black from his former church.

Casey Black was in his early 30’s, but was diagnosed with stomach cancer and died just 2 months later.

Platt says, that on the last day of Casey’s life, he went to visit him in the hospital.

He writes, “When you go to the hospital in a situation like that, as pastor, as friend, you wrestle with what do you say?

Do you say, “I’m sorry. I wish it wasn’t happening.”

“However,” he says, “for anyone who went to visit Casey on that day, when they rounded the corner into his room, they received a surprise. Because there sitting on a hospital bed in the valley of the shadow of death, was a man sitting up and smiling, and before you had an opportunity to say anything to him, he would look at you with a smile on his face, point up to heaven, and say, “I’m going to be with Jesus today!”

Platt writes, “Suddenly, “I’m sorry” no longer seemed appropriate. More like, you found yourself wanting to go with him.”

And that’s the promise God puts on the table before you:

As verse 6 in Psalm 23 says, “You can dwell in the House of the Lord forever” IF he is your shepherd.

And so right now…I want to give you an opportunity to let God into your life…to be your shepherd… truly become His follower…to accept his sacrifice for you…to let Him truly lead you through life…no matter where it may take you.

In fact, let’s just have everyone bow their heads and close their eyes as I want this to be a special moment between you and God.

If that’s you…and it’s time for you to believe in Jesus…to be born again…in a moment…I’m actually going to ask you to respond by quietly standing up right where you are.

It’s a symbolic way to say to God, “Here I am. I believe in faith. I believe you died for me. I want to follow YOU”

NO ONE will be looking at you…no one (don’t even think about that!). This is about you and God.

So wherever you are, if I’m talking to you.. and you’d like to become a follower of Jesus Christ, to enter into a relationship with Him, and accept his gift of forgiveness, I want you to stand up wherever you are.

If God is nudging your heart in this…that means He’s talking to you. That means…it’s TIME. If you feel it in your pulse…in your heart…that’s God. Accept His forgiveness. Start a new life with Him. It’s amazing!

If you’re standing up, would you pray this prayer with me?

It’s not a magic prayer…but just a prayer to tell God where you’re at… the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.

So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me

IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.

So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.

Repeat after me

Dear God

I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.

But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place

And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.

And now I commit, to following you, with my life.

As everyone else still has their eyes closed, I want to talk to those of you who are standing for just a moment

I need you to do one more thing for me.

It will only take a few small minutes, but I believe these are a few of the most important minutes of your life.

You’ve just made the most important decision of your life, and I believe in any scenario, that requires some more information…

So here’s what we’re going to do…In just a second, I’m going to pray, but right before I do that, I need you to quietly sneak out of your row, and head towards the hallway where it will be quiet.

Members of our follow-up team are standing there to talk to you right in the hallway, and they want to give you some extremely important resources & next steps to get you started on the most important journey of your life.

I promise you’ll be able to sneak right back into the service & back into your seat in just a few moments.

But for now, would you please had out there.

Go ahead. You can all go together. Thank you.

Let me pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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