And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD” (Psalm 27, vv. 1-6, New King James Version).
Today at both the Center for Theological Studies (CTS) and Men and Women in the Church, the day is set aside to honor the memory of my mother, dearest friend, and inspiration, Teressa A. Richardson. For those who may not know, today marks the two-year anniversary of her death. Mom died back on February 3, 2009 after a three-year battle with breast cancer, lung cancer, and brain cancer. When it was time the Lord took His servant home to be with Him for all eternity...and mother slipped away from this life.
She died when I was still 24 years old; and even today at age 26 (soon to turn 27), I still miss my mom in my life. No matter how many seasons come and go, holidays, birthdays, or classes, I still miss her in my life. In the last two years I’ve learned that nothing on this earth will ever take her place...and nothing on this earth will ever truly heal the void she left in my life when she passed from it.
The passage above, Psalm 27, was one of my mother’s favorite passages. The Psalm begins with “The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?” If I could sum up my mother’s life in a few words it would be these. She was one who, even in her tough times, could still take joy in knowing that God was still on her side. I can remember best when mom was sent home for six months. She was battling lung cancer and her doctor told her “Ms. Richardson, you’re gonna have to be out of work for at least six months.” My heart sank when I heard the news. But mom told me something afterwards that I wasn’t expecting:
“I told the doctor ‘I will go home for six months; but I will go back to work.’ The doctor looked at me and said ‘But Teressa, you don’t understand how big this cancer is.’ And I looked at her and said ‘Oh, but you don’t understand HOW BIG MY GOD IS!’”
Mom took me by storm with those words. Even in the midst of her storm she could say “The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?”. She didn’t even fear the cancer because the Lord was her light (He led her in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s Sake, Ps. 23:3) and He was her salvation (He could deliver her from the cancer). No matter how great her cancer was, it didn’t stand a chance when standing next to her Great and Almighty God!
David cried out “When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell” (v. 2). Mom experienced deliverance from cancer in her lifetime. I remember the first time she came down with cancer when I was still in college. She told me over the phone (I was still away in college at UNC-Chapel Hill) “I’ve got something to tell you.” I kept pressing her to tell me what it was but she waited until I was home. The news broke my heart but that night, standing in her mother’s (my grandmother’s home), grandma, mom, Danielle, and I all stood around in a circle holding hands as grandma began to call upon the name of the Lord in prayer. I cried so many tears in that prayer, crying to the Lord to heal my mother...
And I can remember when He did. That day, we all went to the clinic with mom to see her to her doctor’s visit. And I can remember when mom came out crying and saying “The cancer is gone!” I remember crying and screaming and saying “Thank you Jesus!” as my family tried to calm me down. All I could do was cry and scream “Praise the Lord!” throughout the doctor’s office. My mother was healed of her cancer and I wanted EVERYONE to know that the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, had done it; He had healed my mother of her life-threatening disease! She returned to church and in her testimony broke down in tears as she began to tell the church family of what God had done for her. God had healed her and she wanted everyone to know of the goodness of the Lord. Whether in good times or bad times, mom was determined to be a witness for God with every breath she was given. As verse 3 says, even though the army enclosed around David, he was confident of God’s power. Even though the cancer enclosed mother, she was confident that her God, at any moment, could deliver her.
Verses 4 and 5 tell of David’s desire to “dwell in the house of the Lord” and his reason for so doing: “for in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set he high upon a rock” (v.5). Mom loved to dwell in the house of the Lord, to be amongst fellow believers and live in the presence of her God. Sunday mornings were church mornings---no questions asked. You could like it or not...you were going to church. If you were alive and breathing, church was the place you were headed to on Sunday morning when the sun began to shine. She loved to meet with the saints of God, encourage, and give her testimony of the Lord’s goodness. She taught Sunday school and encouraged our church family to be about witnessing to the lost and dying people of the world. She often said that God did not save us to sit down on the pew; no---He saved us so we could go tell someone else and bring them to the “Living Water” that only Christ could give. David realized the benefit of living in the presence of God and being a child of God: when the going gets tough, God is right there fighting for His children. Mom found joy in doing the Lord’s work because she knew that when trouble would come, God would always “show up” and come through for His own. She was always troubled at how people can have so little time for God, but cry out to Him so much when they have a disease like cancer that they cannot get rid of. And how could they expect God to remember them when they surely seemed to care little about Him or His kingdom? She would tell the Sunday school class “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). She used to tell them that before the days turn bad, remember God even in the good times. And she lived that out in her own life.
In verse 6 David praises God because “now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me.” God finally heard David’s cries and delivered him as David knew God would do. In response to the Lord’s goodness, David began to bless the Lord: “Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord” (v.6). Mom experienced the goodness of God in her life; and it drove her, like David, to sing praises and bless the Lord. Even during the times in her life when she felt as if God was distant, mom would still praise Him; when God would bless her, she would praise Him and give thanks to His Name for His goodness; and when she was battling for her own health and life, mom could still praise God for His goodness. Even through her tears she could still praise God. I thank the Lord that I got to see a woman who never tired of praising God, even in the storms of life.
If mom were here she would ask you, “Is the Lord your light and your salvation?” Is God present in your life? Can you agree with the psalmist David in this statement? Can you say that, because God is on your side, you have nothing to fear, no need to fear? If you don’t know the Lord I challenge you to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior today. The Bible, God’s Holy Word, declares that “nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). We can only be saved at the name of Jesus Christ, and at the name of Christ alone.
You may ask, “Why do I need to receive this Jesus?” You need to receive Him because we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). We all have done something wrong to offend the Almighty God. Because He is holy, He has to deal with sin. Each of us sinned in Adam (Rom. 5:12) and deserved to die, for “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). But I love the end of that verse: while “the wages of sin is death” it is also true that “the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Christ paid the penalty for our sin when He died on the cross. He became the curse for us, bore the curse that we deserved to bear so that we could take on His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). Here is how the prophet Isaiah summed it all up:
“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for OUR transgressions, He was bruised for OUR iniquities; the chastisement for OUR peace was upon Him, and BY HIS STRIPES WE ARE HEALED. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him THE INIQUITY OF US ALL” (Isaiah 53:4-6).
It is our sin that put Christ on the cross. But He paid our debt because God so loved the world (John 3:16). It is in love that God gave His Son, and whoever believes and calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. In times of trouble, as He hid mother, so also He will hide you.
Sickness, disease, and death will come as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow; but do you know the One that can heal your sin-sick soul? “There is a balm in Gilead,” and His name is Jesus. Only Jesus will do. There is no other that can take His place. If you do not receive Him, you are condemned already and nothing but Hell eternal awaits you (John 3:17-18). But if you receive Him, not only will you receive a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24), you will also spend eternity with Him. The choice is up to you. Don’t delay: receive Him today.