1 Samuel 7:12
The Israelites had just had a great victory over the Philistine army, a victory made certain by God’s divine intervention from heaven. The prophet Samuel stood in their midst and declared, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
In the midst of our own “wars” — perhaps health issues, financial struggles, broken relationships, major disappointments, or the like — we would do well to take stock of the Lord’s blessings in our lives over the years. In doing so, we can find great encouragement and optimism, recalling the words of Jesus: “…in me [Jesus] you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
That’s my desire today. First and foremost, I will share some biblical examples of the Lord’s goodness and His blessings to His people. Then I intend to depart from my typical sermon format and will include testimonies of God’s help to me personally in these things. Please hear my heart: I have no desire to draw attention to myself in these testimonies, but rather to obey Jesus’ words and “tell how much the Lord has done for [me].” I hope that these examples inspire you to look deeper into the very biblical truths themselves, which are applicable to every one of you.
So let’s open our hearts to praise the Lord for His goodness and His wonderful works to us (Psalm 107:8). Not only is it true that “thus far the Lord has helped us,” it’s equally true that He won’t quit now!
I was born again in 1969, at the age of 25. Up to that point I had lived a life typical of unsaved people. I regret that, but it’s a fact, and that’s why I (and all of you) needed the Lord’s saving power.
Prior to my coming to Jesus in faith and repentance, I regularly drank alcohol. Although that was a long time ago, I think I can accurately say that there were times when I drove my car under the influence of alcohol. Could I have ended up a drunk-driving fatality? Quite possibly. If so, I would be in hell’s fires today, never having received the Lord’s saving grace. But I am eternally thankful that the Lord was “patient with [me], not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” To quote and personalize our opening Scripture verse from the King James Version, “Hitherto had the Lord helped me,” keeping me safe from the time of my birth in 1943 to salvation in Jesus Christ in 1969.
Coming from unbelief to saving faith in Jesus Christ is not something that just “happens.” Rather, it is because God the Father, from His great love and kindness, has drawn us to His Son.
In the summer of 1968 I was stationed with the United States Air Force in Anchorage, Alaska. I met a young lady, who was to become my wife four years later. She was a committed Christian, and I was not. I saw impressive things in her life and conduct, and I heard her talk about the Lord, and God used that to put in my heart a drawing towards Jesus Christ. And she convinced me to begin reading the Bible, and that drawing of God in my heart grew stronger, which led to the greatest day of my life, which I’ll describe next.
Jesus took our sins upon Himself when He died on the cross for us. He rose from the dead and is the “Mediator between God and mankind” (1 Timothy 2:5). Through Him and Him alone we can come to God, be born again, and become children of God Almighty (John 1:12).
I experienced this new birth, this salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8) in February 1969. I was stationed with the Air Force in Tacoma, Washington. I was avidly reading the Bible that my future wife had encouraged me to buy. It became clear by the light of the Holy Spirit. I saw the truth that I was a lost sinner and that Jesus had personally died and risen from the grave to enable lost sinners like me to be forgiven, to be saved, and to become an heir of eternal life with the Lord.
Alone in my room on base, I was sitting on my bed sensing the strong conviction of sin in my heart. Very simply, in my own words, I acknowledged my sinfulness to Jesus, asked Him to forgive me and save me, and He did! Then for a few seconds I had a remarkable experience that I can only describe as something like a “mental vision.” I saw Jesus at the foot of my bed with His arms extended toward me. I knew what this meant: (1) He was accepting me; and (2) He was asking me to give myself fully to Him, to hold nothing back. My life changed for the better in a moment of time, and I look back on that glorious experience with sincere thanks to the Lord: “Hitherto hath the Lord helped me.” And He will absolutely help you too!
Why water baptism? Although theologians write lengthy articles on the topic, the central truth of baptism is being buried with Christ and rising with Him to walk in newness of life. Think of it this way: Jesus went to the cross for our sins. From the cross He went to the grave. And from the grave He arose to walk in newness of life. We too do the same. As Galatians 2:20 says, the one coming to Jesus in faith and repentance is [spiritually speaking] “crucified with Christ.” Then, like Jesus, we too are “buried” in the waters of baptism. We are burying that old man of sin that was crucified with Christ by faith. Then just as Jesus rose from the grave, we rise from the watery baptismal grave to walk in newness of life.
I went through this life-changing experience in April 1971. The sense of spiritual cleansing, of leaving the old man of sin behind and entering “newness of life,” was dramatic. And having the name of the Lord Jesus Christ spoken upon me in baptism made it especially real and powerful to me.
A short time later, at a charismatic convention in a church in Anchorage, I responded to an altar call to receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Just as the Scriptures promised, I began to speak in another tongue as the immediate evidence. And, as promised by Jesus, I experienced a newfound motivation, power, and willingness to be a witness for Jesus Christ.
What a powerful few years! God had preserved me, drawn me to His Son, saved me, and led me into the life-changing experiences of baptism in both water and the Holy Spirit. “Hitherto had the Lord helped me.” And every one of those biblical experiences is available to you as well.
My wife and I became aware that a young married couple was facing some medical infertility issues. Knowing that God is faithful to fulfill His promises in Scripture, we began to pray daily for this couple to know the joy of having children. One month we sensed a particularly strong stirring within to pray diligently for that couple to conceive that very month. In retrospect, that was the exact month of conception for them, and nine months later they became joyful parents!
“Hitherto had the Lord helped [them]!” And He will help you too, as you bring to Him prayer requests that you sense are “according to his will” (vs. 14 above). Remember, He is the God who “hears prayer.”
I was 29 when I married. Until then I had been busy with my school years, then serving in the Air Force and later as an FAA Air Traffic Controller. But busy people can still be lonely! I was lonely. Having been raised in a loving, happy home, I missed that sense of family. God graciously met that need, giving me a family: a wife, and later children (and now many grandchildren), but more on that below.
There is another very important fulfillment of this verse that each one of us needs, and that is to conquer our loneliness by letting God in His wise guidance set us into a local church family. In March 1971, fresh out of four years in the Air Force, I returned to Alaska. The young lady I mentioned earlier, who later became my wife, introduced me to a Pentecostal church that she had been attending in south Anchorage. I immediately felt “at home.” The word of God was being preached. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were manifested. The pastors were dedicated men of God. The worship was uplifting and God-centered. I knew from the first service that this was my church “family.” And now, four and a half decades later, the man (Pastor Dick Benjamin) who was then the lead pastor of that church is still, in his late senior years, my spiritual father to whom I can look for friendship, encouragement, and advice if needed.
Open your heart to God to lead you from loneliness into loving family relationships, whether it be through marriage, through being embraced into other hospitable families, and/or being led into a biblically sound church family. The Lord has every intention and desire to help you in these matters.
Both Jesus and the apostle Paul spoke well of those called to a celibate life. But for the majority, the prevailing truth for us specifically is found in God’s words in Genesis 2:18 — The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” And we know the rest of the Genesis 2 account, where God fashioned Eve from a portion of Adam’s body and presented her (vs. 22) to Adam to be his wife (vss. 21-23).
God has been gracious to me twice in this regard, knowing that it was “not good for [this] man to be alone.” In 1972 I married the young lady (known to many as “Mickey”) whom I have referred to above. We happily served the Lord together and raised our four children for 38 years before she went on to her reward in heaven. After a time of mourning and recovery, I once more received the blessing of the Lord and married Linda, and we recently celebrated our fifth anniversary of a happy, blessed life together. Our blended family consists of seven adult children, plus spouses, and 22 grandchildren! “Hitherto hath the Lord helped [me]!”
And remember, you serve the same loving, giving, kind God, who will “help you” in these matters.
I first married in 1972. Six years later we still had no children, although greatly desiring them. My wife had been diagnosed with an infertility condition. After those six years, a woman of faith came to us and said that the Lord had spoken to her to tell us, “Your barren days are over!” A year later the first of our four children was born! Jehovah-Rapha! The Lord Our Healer! Without medical intervention, God healed my wife and gave us the children we had been longing for.
No matter how serious the healing need you face, you can look to the Lord Your Healer. Jesus healed 2,000 years ago. And He’s the same Jesus, the same Healer, today. Hitherto hath the Lord helped, and He will continue to help you today!
God is a delivering God, and He is a preserving God. He is a God who “delights in the well-being of his servant” (Psalm 35:27). He is a loving Father, who is pleased to bless His children, as Jesus said of Him: “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)
Most of us can look back to specific instances of the Lord’s deliverance and preservation in our lives. I am personally thankful to Him for enabling me to be both a heart attack survivor and a prostate cancer survivor. As Paul wrote, God has “deliver[ed] me…and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom.”
At age 73 I can attest to the fact that our bodies slow down. Our energies decline. But our fruitfulness for the Lord does not need to stop. How? Continue to live upright, righteous lives (12). Remain planted in and faithful to a good local church (“the house of the Lord,” vs. 13). Be willing to serve as your age, health, and circumstances permit.
God has been gracious to me. Preaching and teaching are not as easy for me in these senior years as they were when my mind was younger, sharper, and quicker to recall things. I hear my fellow seniors out there shouting, "Amen, brother! Me too." These days I’m perfectly content to bear a bit of fruit when my pastor asks me to fill in the pulpit for him when he is away. And God has been further gracious to me in helping me establish this website which you are reading now. Working on it “keeps me off the streets” (just kidding). But (more seriously) it does allow an old man to have a non-stressful way to continue to get the Word of God out, and I thank Him very much for that kindness. “Hitherto hath the Lord helped me.”
And I thank you for putting up with my breaking out of my normal sermon mode by dwelling today on personal testimonies from my life. From my heart I assure you, it has not been my intent whatsoever to draw attention to myself. Rather, I felt that a message on this topic would take on additional life and inspiration if it had some flesh-and-blood examples to go along with the timeless truths of Scripture.
I trust and pray that through the Scriptures and the testimonies the main message today has come through. That is, we serve a God who delights to bless and help His people. He has helped me, He has helped my loved ones and my friends, and He will just as surely help you. Trust Him, believe His Word, and ask Him in faith to help you in your areas of need. You can safely trust in the Scripture that says, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” And He won’t quit now!
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©2016, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.