DAVID boldly declared, "...God ...is the health of my countenance ..." (Psalm 42:11). And he repeats the same statement in another psalm: "...God...is the health of my countenance..." (43:5). In the original Hebrew, the proper rendering of both these verses is, "God is the salvation of my face!"
I believe David is saying something very important here. You see, your face is a billboard that advertises what's going on in your heart. All the joy or turmoil that's inside you is reflected in your countenance. When I speak of countenance, I'm talking about facial expression, body language, tone of voice.
For example, when my mind is loaded down with the cares of our church - sermon messages, finances, relationships - I have a tendency to slouch. I look preoccupied. My brow is furrowed. Some people even tell me I look sad.
Not long ago I was walking along 52nd Street near Hannah House, totally absorbed with church business and probably slouched over. I came upon a crack house where a woman sat on the stoop, smiling from ear to ear. I could see she was high on crack. She watched me approaching - and as I got nearer she spoke up, "Mister, it can't be that bad."
I was flabbergasted! I thought, "Here is this woman, high on crack - and here I am, a man of God. She's smiling and looking good - and I'm slouched over, as if all hope is gone." What a rebuke it was to me!
Now, I thank God for His great salvation - for redeeming our soul, our spirit, even our body. But many of us need to get our faces saved! We need a Holy Ghost face-lift - because our faces are giving the wrong message to the world!
You've probably heard that an aspirin a day is good for the heart. It helps stop blood clotting, which can cause heart attacks. But now research has led to "aspirin face-lifts." Dr. Nageena Malik, a research scientist in Oxford, England, conducted a study recently that produced some amazing results. Her research shows that aspirin helps to prevent wrinkles by keeping the skin flexible, preventing collagen stiffening, and blocking some of sugar's bad effects on the body.
So, now science says you can actually look younger by taking aspirin. Or, if you want a more radical change in your appearance and can afford it, you can pay a plastic surgeon to alter your facial features.
But, beloved, it doesn't matter what kind of face-lift you get - medicinal, surgical or any other kind. Your countenance will still reflect what is going on inside your heart! You cannot hide your inner emotions. Your face is the index of your soul!
Nothing Hardens a Face As
Much as Sin and Worry!
"A wicked man hardeneth his face..." (Proverbs 21:29).
If you live in New York City, all you have to do is look around you on the streets - and you'll see faces aged and hardened by sin! Visitors from the Midwest can't understand it. The people here look twenty to thirty years older than their actual age. Sin ages people fast!
I recall about ten years ago, a young film actress - a rising star in her twenties - had just recovered from a long addiction to crack. The newspapers reported that she was trying to get back into movies - but her face had aged about thirty years! I saw a photo of her, and indeed, her face was etched with sin and hardness. Eventually she had to accept older roles, because her skin had become hardened and wrinkled.
On the other hand, I see miraculous changes in the faces of the men and women we take in at our Timothy and Hannah Houses. They enter our programs with a dread, fallen countenance - and within days, as Jesus heals their inner man, they begin to shine. They look as if they've had face-lifts - literal, Holy Ghost surgery!
One young woman came into Hannah House a year or so ago with lines of sin etched deeply in her face. Her countenance was extremely hard. Yet, two weeks after she was saved, no one could believe the change. I didn't even recognize her!
Why such a change of countenance?
"...a man's wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed" (Ecclesiastes 8:1).
I take "wisdom" in this verse to mean Jesus Christ. Indeed, the very presence of Christ in your heart has a direct impact on your face! It affects your walk, your talk, the very tone of your voice.
Worry can also harden a person's face, just as much as gross sin can. We all know that as Christians we aren't to worry. Our Lord is fully aware of all our needs and problems. Yet, you may say, "Come on, Brother Dave. You worry, don't you?" Of course I do - but I'm not supposed to. (And I wonder how many wrinkles on my face are the result of worry!)
I believe ours is "a religion of the face." When we allow Jesus to be Lord of all - when we cast all our cares upon Him, trusting fully in His Word and resting in His love - our appearance should undergo a deep change. A quiet calm should begin to radiate from our countenance.
Scripture gives us many examples of this:
When Hannah laid her burden down, "...her countenance was no more sad" (1 Samuel 1:18). Her face was no longer etched with sorrow or sadness. Joy radiated from her!
When Stephen stood before hostile, angry men in the Sanhedrin, "...his face [shone] as it had been the face of an angel" (Acts 6:15). Stephen stood among unbelievers with the shine of Jesus Christ - and the difference was clear to all!
The men in that synagogue council were so angry at Stephen, "...they gnashed on him with their teeth" (Acts 7:54). Have you ever had angry people grit their teeth at you? If so, you probably remember exactly what their faces reflected!
There Are Many Sad, Downcast, Despondent,
Wrinkled Countenances in The House of God!
I'm convinced we have a duty to let our countenance speak of God's faithfulness in our lives. But the problem is, our facial features and body language often say just the opposite!
Many believers' faces say, "My God has failed me! He doesn't care for me anymore. I have to carry all my burdens and problems alone. I grieve and weep - I have to decide my own fate, plan my own deliverance - because God doesn't come through for me!"
Now, you may not consciously say such things to yourself - but they will show on your face! Perhaps at this very moment you have a troubled look. It may be because of family problems - your marriage, children, finances. Every day, you wake up and these problems hit you in the face. They hang over you like a dark cloud!
I want to show you from God's Word that what you are going through is not new. Someone else has been exactly where you are:
"...my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted....I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.... Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night...
"Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?... And I said, This is my infirmity..." (Psalm 77:1-10).
When the psalmist says, "This is my infirmity," he means, literally, "This is what I have to endure." I ask you: Could your condition possibly be worse than this man's?
In his own words, he is beyond all comfort. His spirit is overwhelmed. He can't sleep. He is so troubled he can't speak. He has to jog his memory to think of better times. He feels cast off and alone, forgotten by God, haunted by memories of better days.
Yet the psalmist eventually comes out of his trouble with his happy countenance restored. Why? It is because, he says,
"I cried unto God with my voice...in the day of my trouble..." (Psalm 77:1-2).
There are many Christians who believe in Jesus and take Him at His Word - and yet they continue suffering day after day, year after year, because they won't take their problems to Him. How many homes are miserable because one spouse is wrapped up in his own problems or his children's, and he forgets the needs of his spouse?
For example - a wife may carry her children's problems for so long that they actually become etched on her face. Year after year, her husband hears only complaints from her - he never sees joy in her face - because she is bound by her children's burdens. The husband tries to hold on in love, but her obsession gradually wears him down. Living with her becomes like living in a morgue!
This wife is slowly ruining her marriage - embittering her patient husband - because she is enslaved by her problems! She has no peace, no calm, no smile, no normal days or nights. She is consumed with sorrow, and she can't lay it down. Day after day, it's the same old story: She sleeps with it, eats with it, talks about it - and she stays forever depressed.
Even her friends are eventually turned off by her. They try to offer her strength through prayer. But their counseling and encouragement to turn it all over to Jesus goes unheeded. It's as if this woman never hears a word. And, little by little, her friends drop away. Eventually, all that's left in this woman's life is her own little world - all wrapped up in somebody else's problems!
Many such people come to their wits' end and wind up divorced or having a nervous breakdown. Their faces are etched with the lines of sadness. And their worry has devastating effects on their children and even their grandchildren.
If this describes you, I beg you: Today, this very day, get alone somewhere with the Lord and cry out to Him! Tell Him all your problems - everything about you. Tell Him you're at the end of your rope, that you can't take it anymore, that you're ready to lay it all on His shoulders. Have it out with God!
It amazes me that so many people who say they're in love with Jesus come to a hard place and yet won't turn to Him. Why won't we shut ourselves into His presence and pour out our hearts to Him?
You may answer, "I'm just not in the habit of doing that. I'm not much of a praying person. Instead of going to God, I carry the whole load myself."
Indeed, when a sin problem or crisis hits, many Christians have a tendency - like Adam and Eve - to run and hide. But, beloved, the best time to learn to run to Jesus is at such a time - when you're in great need! David said that was his secret of deliverance in time of trouble:
"Deliver me, O Lord, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me" (Psalm 143:9).
You can start doing that today. And as you do, you'll see a miracle take place: Your load will be lifted. Your heart will change. You will experience a whole new realm of victory - and you'll get a face-lift in the process!
Now, let me get to the heart of my message:
I Want to Talk About the
There is an unexplainable spiritual depression that comes upon the holiest of God's servants at one time or another. The psalmist says:
"Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me?... O my God, my soul is cast down within me..." (Psalm 42:5-6).
Scholars aren't certain who the writer of this psalm is. But we do know for sure that something is bothering him. His soul is deeply disturbed - but he can't explain why!
This psalmist is on fire for God. He pants after the Lord the way a deer pants for water (verse 1) - thirsting after Him, yearning for intimacy. He asks, "...when shall I come and appear before God?" (verse 2).
We never do learn what the psalmist's infirmity is. No doubt, he tried to figure it out himself, crying out to God, "Why, Lord? Why this unexplainable spiritual depression in me? I love You more than I ever have. My heart pants after You. But for some reason I'm going through this depression. I feel so down - but I don't know what's bothering me. I can't explain it!" "My tears have been my meat day and night..." (verse 3).
Have you ever experienced this kind of unexplainable melancholy - an unexpected, unnamed spiritual blues? You're doing fine one day, with no known sin in your life. But one day you wake up with a disturbance deep in your soul. Some kind of depression has come over you - and you can't put your finger on it!
There is a dear Jewish brother named Joel who attends our church. He's a poet, and I know he has a sensitive spirit. I saw him one day as he was entering the subway, and greeted him with, "How's it going?" Joel answered with a half-smile. Then, with a quizzical look, he said, "Okay, I guess. I'm feeling something I can't explain."
I knew just what he meant - because I personally have just come out of such an experience. I can say with the psalmist that I hunger and thirst for God, that my soul pants for intimacy with Him. I have no family or personal problems that might cause a disturbance in my soul. In fact, I have never felt closer to the Lord.
But out of nowhere came an unnamed infirmity! I felt a sense of worthlessness - a boredom and monotony. I felt also that perhaps I wasn't accomplishing much. My mind was in the doldrums, and I couldn't figure it out. I didn't feel like praying at all.
Beloved, this affected my face! My countenance was sad, and the feeling hung on for days. Finally I prayed, "Lord, what's going on? Why do I feel this way? I know You love me - but I feel like a total failure!" All day long I felt my eyes welling up - and a few times I let the tears flow freely. I ended up saying with the psalmist, "Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why are you disturbed? Why the inner mourning?"
A woman minister once told me, "Occasionally I wake up with an empty feeling. Now, I realize I am very secure in the Lord, and I have a wonderful intimacy with Him. I believe my spirit is strong. But I experience these depressing feelings when I wake in the morning, and I just can't explain it. I feel my life is on hold - as if I'm operating on three wheels instead of four."
This affliction is widespread among men and women in ministry. One pastor's wife told me, "My husband has a good church and is well-respected. God has opened many doors for us, and our needs are well-supplied. My husband has everything he has ever wanted - all he has ever prayed for.
"But at times, something comes over him, and it concerns me. He gets restless and tells me he doesn't feel like he's accomplishing much. He can't explain what comes over him - and it makes me feel really insecure."
I believe this no-name infirmity is behind many "two-year teachers" and "four-year preachers." These are ministers who remain in a church for a certain period, then become restless and leave. Or, sometimes they stay but feel compelled to "make something happen" in the congregation. A strange restlessness overtakes them.
It is often during such times that a pastor decides to launch his church into a huge building project. One prayer group in a certain city has written to our ministry, requesting prayer for their pastor. They write:
"Something is going on in our pastor that we can't explain. He wants to build a gymnasium - and our congregation is mostly over sixty years of age! Everybody is wondering what in the world we would do with a gymnasium. No one wants it. Our pastor can't explain why he wants a gym, and his wife doesn't know what's behind it, either. Please pray that he'll get over this soon - before he builds it!"
There are many others in ministry who are just like this man. But now let's talk about you. Do you feel that your life is on hold? Are you cast down, troubled at heart, with all kinds of sad, confusing thoughts in your soul - all unexplainable? Do your prayers go unanswered? Do your dreams not come to fruition? And do you feel it is affecting your countenance, your face?
I've got good news for you: This is an infirmity of the righteous! It strikes only those who hunger after Jesus. We are not to be afraid of such an infirmity - because the Holy Spirit has a part in it!
I am now in my sixties, and I have experienced enough of life to know that a time comes when this happens to every Christian. But we mustn't try to figure it out - because we can't! The psalmist never did get his "why" answers. And there isn't a book, counselor or psychologist on earth who can tell you why an unnamed infirmity has come upon you.
I believe this strange infirmity is "the sighing of the Holy Spirit" within us. He is letting us know what it feels like to be without God - to be on our own, without comfort, hope or guidance. He allows us to experience just a taste of such an awful, horrible condition!
You see, our bodies are His temple - and He has been sent to prepare us as a chaste bride to Christ. He knows what it takes to keep us unspotted for the Bridegroom. And He knows how important it is for us cry out to God for daily strength and for power over every besetting sin. We simply cannot stand in these times unless we are intimate with the Lord - trusting in Him fully and constantly fleeing into His presence.
The Holy Spirit also knows the mind of God and the way out of every problem. He has the power to deliver us out of any burden or difficulty. And from His holy sanctuary in our heart, He breathes His influence on all our emotions - wooing, pleading, encouraging, comforting, convicting, guiding, teaching, reproving, manifesting the reality of Christ.
Yet we neglect this wonderful gift inside us. We ignore God's Spirit completely! We go about our daily affairs as if He doesn't abide in us. And the evidence is in our faces - our heavy, drooping countenances!
It's Sad to Say - But Many
Christians Neglect Seeking God!
Many of us read the Bible with boredom. We open God's Word only because we know we should, and its message doesn't register with us. It brings no quickening life. We also pray less and less. We no longer look forward to shutting ourselves in to talk to our Lord.
Beloved, the gift of the Holy Spirit within us provides us with all the power, resources, hope, grace and peace we will ever need. And yet we subject Him to the awful abuse of neglect! It is absolute abuse against the Spirit for us to carry unnecessary burdens - to walk before a wicked world fretting and looking downcast, as if God were dead.
That is why the Holy Spirit sighs and groans in our spirit, with unutterable groanings. He sighs within us as He withdraws for a season! No, He doesn't totally abandon us - but at times He does remove Himself for a season to test our faith.
Why does He sigh? It is because, rather than running to Him, we stay up all night talking to friends, reading how-to books, trying to find some answers. And all the while we neglect His presence! He sits in the very sanctuary of our heart, offering us everything we need. But we insist on crying our needs to others and walking around with a heavy countenance!
When the Holy Ghost sighed in my life, I used to examine myself, asking, "Lord, what did I do wrong? Is there some hidden sin in me?" I have dug and dug for answers - reading books, doing word studies. I've tried desperately to discover why I was going through an unnamed infirmity.
Sometimes this overwhelming spirit still comes over me. But now I know what it's all about - and I'm not afraid of it anymore. I know it has nothing to do with being in sin. Rather, it is the Holy Spirit at work in me. He is sighing so that I'll run back into Jesus' arms!
That is exactly the effect the Spirit's sighing had on the psalmist. It gave him a renewed hunger for God:
"And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings. Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God? Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people" (Psalm 77:10-14).
"...bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy..." (Psalm 43:3-4).
The Spirit allows this no-name infirmity to plague our lives until we say, "I can't figure this thing out! I know I can't fight the devil in my own power, and I can't overcome any temptation without the Holy Ghost. I'm tired of going to others to try to get an answer. Oh Lord - I'm calling out to You now. I can't do anything without You. Holy Spirit, take over!"
Simply put, what we experience in this infirmity is a loneliness for Jesus. It really isn't a depression. No - it's a yearning to enjoy our Savior's presence! That's what the sighing and groaning are all about.
You see, when we don't have His presence, it shows on our face. And the psalmist wrote,
"...they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?" (Psalm 42:3).
Evidently he was so downcast, it was reflected in his face and body language. Seeing him in such sorrow and hopelessness, others said to him, "You're supposed to be a person of faith. So, where is your God?"
Beloved, if you don't run to the Lord and your face reflects that - then the world has every right to ask you the same question: "Look at you! You look awful - so sad, so hopeless. Where is your God? Where is the Christ you preach so much about?"
Does your face say to a lost, confused generation, "My soul is at rest, my mind at peace - because I have dwelling in me the very Spirit of God Himself! He is guiding me, comforting my troubled soul. And I need fear no evil - because I sleep and wake in the saving power of the Holy Ghost, who lives in me!"
Let Me Tell You How God Brought
Me Out of My Infirmity!
I was going through just such a time of heavy sighing and groaning recently when God sent me a special word from heaven. As I was walking through the hills in Pennsylvania, the Lord dropped this word into my heart - and I repeated it again and again until my unnamed infirmity was lifted and gone. The word was a simple verse:
"Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you" (1 Peter 5:7).
Now, it is one thing to quote this verse - and another to believe it! As I walked through the woods, I was reminded that the Lord cares all about me and what I'm going through. He is touched by my infirmities. And I cried, "Oh Lord, You do care for me! You do love me. You watch over me continuously!"
Suddenly the Holy Spirit whispered to my soul: "That's the secret! It is why the Father has sent Me - to help convince you of this Word. You've got to believe that no matter what you're going through, no matter what your burden is, He cares!
"God is not mad at you. He is not hiding from you. On the contrary, His heart is moved toward you. He cares about everything affecting you. Will you believe it, David? Will you cast all your cares on Him - all your sins, failures, troubles and needs?"
Dear saint, if you truly believe God loves you, and you lay all your cares on Him, you can walk in glorious freedom. Your face will be lifted, as mine has been! Now, as I walk the cold, uncaring streets of New York City, I lay all my cares on the Lord. And I am reminded, "My heavenly Father watches over me. He loves me - and He cares!"
And the next time I see that crack-addicted woman on 52nd Street, I can say, "You're right - it really isn't that bad at all. It's good!" Hallelujah!
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This data file is the sole property of World Challenge. It may not be altered or edited in any way. It may be reproduced only in its entirety for circulation as "freeware," without charge. All reproductions of this data file must contain the copyright notice [i.e., "Copyright (C)1999 by World Challenge"]. This data file may not be used without the permission World Challenge for resale or the enhancement of any other product sold. This includes all of its content with the exception of a few brief quotations. Please give the following source credit: Copyright (c) 1999 by World Challenge, Lindale, Texas, USA.
This material is solely for personal use and is not to be posted publicly on other web pages. The Lorain County Free-Net Chapel holds exclusive rights from World Challenge, Inc. to publicly post these messsages on its web page. You are free to download, copy, print and distribute this material, so long as you do not post it on a different Internet site. You may, however, link this site to reference these messages.
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