Keeping Your Head Above Water by Missionary Stephen Benefield
Below is an excerpt of the sermon “Keeping Your Head Above Water” from Missionary Stephen Benefield at Hopewell Baptist Church on Sunday Morning, 5/23/2021.
All right, we’re in Psalms chapter 119. And I want to just read one verse, and then we’ll pray and begin the sermon this morning. Just by a quick word of introduction, I love Psalm 119. I strongly encourage all Christians to spend a lot of time in Psalm 119. 176 verses, the longest chapter in the Bible. Now when I was a kid at the Christian school we were in, we memorized Psalm 119. We literally had to learn eight verses a week, and at the end of the year, we had to stand and quote the entire thing all at once without sitting down. I can’t do that now, but I did it then. I loved Psalm 119 back then, and I love it now. I’ve had several kinds of interactions with Psalm 119, but about a year ago I read a quote by a man (this is 400 or 500 years ago). His name was Philip Henry. His son, Matthew Henry, was a famous theologian and author. And Philip Henry told his son and daughter that if they would read and meditate on one verse a day out of Psalm 119 (again, there are 176 verses), that they could actually go through Psalm 119 two times in a year. And he told his children (they wrote about it in their memoirs later on) that if they would learn to love Psalm 119, then they would, in turn, learn to love the whole Bible.
Now, why was that true? Well, the reason that’s true is that the theme of Psalm 119 is the Word of God. And there’s a whole bunch of words — about eight or nine words — in Psalm 119 that repeat over and over. Words like “precepts,” “statutes,” “law,” “testimony,” “judgments,” and all of these things are synonyms for the Word of God. There are only about two or three verses in all 176 that don’t mention the Word of God. And so, I tried that last year and I really enjoyed it every single day. I read other things as well, of course. But every single day I took the next verse in line. I read it. I meditated on it. I read a lot of other people’s thoughts and views on the verse, and just kind of studied it out. Thought about it, meditated on it, memorized some. Not all. I was trying to memorize all; that didn’t work. I’m getting too old for that, I guess. But I really enjoyed that. So, what I want a preach to you today came out of that study, that time of just concentrated time in Psalm 119.
I want to read this — verse number 92 and read this verse, and we’ll get started. Psalm 119:92 “Unless thy law…” That’s the synonym for the Bible in that verse, the Word of God. “Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction.” I’ll read one more time. “Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction.” I want to speak to you this morning on the subject of the importance of the Word of God in our day-to-day lives.
Now we know the Bible is true. We know the Bible is the Word of God and we know it’s important. We know it’s how we learn of salvation. But I’m afraid that many Christians don’t understand the Bible is vital for your everyday life. The importance of the Word of God. And so, the title of the message this morning is simply this, “Keeping Your Head Above Water.” Keeping Your Head Above Water.
Let’s pray. Lord, I pray that You bless this time we have together in the Word of God. I know there are all sorts of different situations represented in this group today, in this crowd. I know there are longtime Christians. I know there are brand new Christians. I know there are those who are doing well right now, and then there are others that are struggling in any number of areas. But Lord, that’s the marvelous thing about church and preaching the Word of God, is that the Holy Spirit is able to take a sermon and literally just bring it home to every single heart, every single life. Meet the need of each and every person who’s here today. We ask Lord that you do that. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Thank you and you may be seated. Let me read the verse one more time. It simply says this: Psalm 119:92 “Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction.” Now, most of the time when I read or study averse, I start at the beginning and go to the end. Every once in a while, I’ll take words a little bit out of order for various reasons. This morning, I want to start with the last word in the verse. Now, we’re going to look at some other verses, but I want to start at the last word. The last word is simply the word “affliction.” Affliction. Now, that might not be a word that every single person in attendance today fully understands the meaning of. So let me help you a little bit with that. I guarantee you if you don’t know the meaning of the word, I guarantee you have experienced the word. Even if you don’t know necessarily what that word means, I guarantee you there’s not a person here today that has not experienced in the past or currently your share of affliction in this life. It is just the way that life goes. As the Bible says in Job, “Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward.” So, it’s just as natural as sparks going up out of a fire for mankind to have troubles and difficulties in their life.
The word “affliction,” the first definition that I found is that it means a state of pain, distress, or grief. Now, that’s actually a pretty broad definition. But I want you to think about that — a state of pain. When I think about pain, that’s generally reflective of something in the past. The things that are going to happen in the future don’t hurt yet. You know, I might stub my toe tomorrow, but that doesn’t hurt yet because it hasn’t happened. Right? But if I do something in the past, that causes pain in my life. So, when it talks about pain being a part of affliction that leads my mind a little bit towards the past.
But then I look at the rest of that definition, “distress.” When I think about distress, that kind of talks about the present. That’s now. Those are the things that have got my life really kind of all turned upside down. Those are the things in my life that are bothering me today. That’s the thing I’m confused about and afraid for right now.
And so, we have pain in the past, distress in the present, and then the definition goes on to say, “or grief.” And I think grief can really kind of encompass all of those terms. The second definition is this — listen to this — the cause of continued pain of body or mind as in sickness, loss, calamity, adversity, persecution. I didn’t make that list up. That’s right out of the dictionary. Now, that’s pretty broad, isn’t it? Especially when it talks about body or mind. I mean this is a very, very all-inclusive word, this word “affliction.” And it talks about our disappointments, and our hurts, and our stress, and our trials, and things that are going wrong in our lives — things that go wrong because of some malice on someone else’s part and things that go wrong just quite accidentally and not that anyone is trying to do us wrong. It talks about things that go wrong in our physical lives. It talks about things that go on spiritually, mentally, emotionally. All of these things are encompassed in this word “affliction.”
But here’s a question after I’ve defined the word affliction. Do you have any in your life now? You don’t need to answer out loud or raise your hand or anything, but just think about that in your mind. Do you have any affliction in your life in the last, say, 30 days? Have there been any disappointments? Any hurts, any stress points in your life, anything that’s left you afraid or confused, or angry, or not sure what to do? Not sure what steps next to take in your life? In the last 12 months, have you had any affliction?
Hopewell Baptist Church is an Independent Baptist Church in Napa, California pastored by Mike Ray. It is Bible-based with a warm, friendly atmosphere. Hopewell dedicated to bringing the water of life to the Napa Valley and beyond.