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Finding

Refuge and
Strength

Harold J. Sala

OMF LITERATURE INC.


Manila, Philippines
Finding Refuge and Strength: Daily Guidelines for Finding Shelter
from Life’s Storms
Copyright 2008 © by Dr. Harold J. Sala

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the
Holy Bible: New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973,
1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of
Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Other Scripture quotations are from:


Holy Bible: English Standard VersionTM. ESVTM. Copyright © 2001 by
Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by
permission. All rights reserved.
Holy Bible: King James Version. KJV.
Holy Bible: New King James Version. NKJV. Copyright © 1982 by
Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Holy Bible: New Living Translation®. 2nd edition. NLT®. Copyright ©
1996 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Used by permission. All
rights reserved.
Letters to Young Churches. Copyright © 1947, 1957 by Macmillan
Publishing Co., Inc.; renewed 1975 by J.B. Phillips. Used by
permission. All rights reserved.
The Living Bible. TLB. Copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Publishers,
Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Copyright ©
1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H.
Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. All rights
reserved.

Cover design by Amor Aurelio B. Alvarez


Page design by Dorothy Joy Quan

Photo credits: Alan Joesel del Campo for January, February, March,
April, June, July, October, September and November. Harold J. Sala for
May, August and December.

Published (2008) in the Philippines by


OMF Literature Inc.
776 Boni Avenue
Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila
www.OMFLit.com

ISBN 978-971-511-85-6

Printed in the Philippines


To Orville Sala and Warren Clark

In 1963, these men shared my vision of using the media to


proclaim the Good News around the world. Orville, my
brother, and Warren Clark, a friend whose mother had been
my Sunday school teacher, believed that God would honor
His Word as we faithfully proclaimed it, and that He would
provide for what He wanted done. Thus, the ministry of Guide-
lines International was born in the basement of Orville’s home.
Since that day, these two men have served on the board of
Guidelines, and both have stood alongside me—encourag-
ing me, giving counsel and pouring their very lives and re-
sources into the ministry.
While many people have encouraged, helped, and sup-
ported the ministry, no other two individuals (along with
their spouses) have been more faithful or have meant more
to me personally.
Acknowledgments

SOMEONE ONCE SAID that behind every successful man is a


wife and a surprised mother-in-law. The reality is that many
individuals—most of whom are behind the scenes—contrib-
ute to the success of any major endeavor. For instance, this
book has been published because of the help and influence
of many people.
Elisabeth Moore, a spunky lady who taught a college
course entitled “Origin of English Words,” was among the
first to help me realize how powerful words can be. Some
individuals use them as fiery rhetoric to incite people to a
revolution; others choose to use them to bring people com-
fort, inspiration, healing and hope. Ms Moore inspired me to
make my words matter—like flames of light penetrating the
darkness of our world. I will always be grateful for her smile
and encouragement.
Luisa Ampil, my administrative assistant, contributed
largely to this book. She carefully transcribed and edited
materials that were first used on my radio program, “Guide-
lines—A Five Minute Commentary on Living.” Thank you,
Luisa, for your partnering to bring this book to fruition.
I’m also grateful to OMF Literature, who for four decades
now has always been behind me, allowing me to write more
than 40 books speaking to the hearts and lives of people
around the world. Thank you, Paul Aragones, Chief Execu-
tive Officer; Yna Reyes, the indefatigable Publications Direc-
tor, and Beng Alba, my editor, along with her associate Karen
Huang, whose careful scrutiny makes me look better than I
really am.
preface

ref·uge – protection, sanctuary, secret place, safety, haven,


hiding place
strength – fortitude, endurance, courage, perseverance,
power, resolve, strength of purpose, tenacity, physi-
cal and emotional toughness

WHERE DO YOU GO TO find help in a world filled with


broken promises, broken hearts, broken relationships, and
broken lives? When “bad things” happen and your dreams
are shattered, where do you go and what do you do? Some
adopt the attitude advocated by Job’s wife when his world fell
apart: “Just curse God and die!” But others seek refuge and
strength.
I have been deeply impressed with the many references
in the Bible—especially in the Old Testament—depicting God
as a stronghold, a refuge, a hiding place and high tower. The
Old Testament mentions strongholds or fortresses some 41
times, and David, who spent seven long years as a fugitive
fleeing for his life, often fled to a stronghold for safety.
Strongholds and fortresses are as old as history itself.
They are a reflection of our desire to be safe from our en-
emies. In ancient days they were often constructed as de-
fenses—ones that kept enemies on the outside and loved
ones on the inside. They were built of massive walls of stone
and defended with cannons and armament. In the fifth cen-
tury BC the Chinese built the 4,000-mile long Great Wall to
keep invaders out. But eventually it was breached. Ancient
Smyrna constructed what many thought was an impregnable
wall. It wasn’t. Eventually it was compromised. Hitler had his
“Eagle’s Nest” in the heights of the Alps near Berchtesgaden,
but today only the foundation of the building remains. You
find the ruins of these dilapidated strongholds at the entrance
to harbors, in mountains, and in the ruins of ancient cities.
Today, in this age of nuclear warfare, we still haven’t given
up on building strongholds or fortresses. They are simply
buried in the heart of the earth, based on the presumption
that there people can be safe. Yet David discovered long ago
that the safety of a man-made stronghold could eventually be
compromised and the only true refuge from the enemy was
God Himself.
He wrote, “The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a strong-
hold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will
trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who
seek you” (Psalm 9:9).
The psalmist learned from experience that God alone
can be trusted. He added, “The LORD is my rock, my fortress
and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”
(Psalm 18:2).
When dark clouds appear in the sky, your stronghold is
compromised, and your world falls apart. Do you run to Jesus
with all your might, or do you run from Him, blaming Him
for what has happened to you?
A friend had to answer this question when her husband
was dying of an inoperable cancer. She had to either flee to
the open arms of her Savior or turn and run away. Was she
tempted to turn her back on what she knew was the right
thing to do? She wrote,

I have been tempted to just run away, pretend


nothing is going on, take my credit card and just
drive to escape. Or maybe I can lash out at those
around me . . . Or eat until I can’t eat anymore . . . Or
go somewhere where nobody knows my name, and
buy whiskey and go down that back road—just to
forget for a while. Or lock my doors, go to bed, and
literally pull the covers over my head—indefinitely!
Or even drive my car off a cliff just so this problem
will go away, and let someone else deal with it. Many
things have crossed my mind.

But, no, she did none of these things. Rather she took these
fleeting thoughts to the foot of the cross and left them with a
compassionate Savior, adding, “I don’t know how anyone
could get through this without the strength of the Living God.
The pain by itself is unbearable. The future is terrifying and
uncertain. The present is a living nightmare. But God is Good!
I know my Redeemer lives, and ever lives to intercede—for
me!”
She learned what the prophet Nahum discovered when
his world was falling apart, “The LORD is good, a stronghold
in the day of trouble. And He knows those who take refuge in
Him” (Nahum 1:7 ESV).
Don’t wait until your world is falling apart to take refuge
in the only real stronghold. Do it day by day! Finding Refuge
and Strength is what this book is about. He is the only abso-
lute security you will ever have in this fragile, uncertain world.
Before you lies a new and uncharted year
with surprises and challenges.
Realize, though, that nothing
takes God by surprise.
He knows what each day holds for you.
Walk with Him in pain and pleasure.
When storms buffet you or difficulty
knocks at your door,
Run to Him for refuge, for shelter, and for help.
JANUARY

The LORD also will be a refuge


for the oppressed,
a refuge in times of trouble.
PSALM 9:9 NKJV
January 1

The New Year

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he
will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do
not be discouraged.
DEUTERONOMY 31:8

TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY of the year and it’s quite scary staring
another year in the face. Looking back we think, “What hap-
pened to the resolutions we made a year ago?”
Looking ahead, we have hopes that things will be better,
yet sometimes our hopes are laced with cynicism. What if we
just see a rerun of the past?
But we should remember this: Nothing will happen to us
this year that is unknown to our Heavenly Father. Nothing
will come as a surprise to God—whether it is about nations
at war or the personal struggles we face. He knows.
Have you ever seen a young child and his father go for an
early evening walk? As long as there was light, the son ran
ahead of his father, playing and not thinking of him. Yet as
soon as the darkness closed in, he would run back and reach
for his daddy’s big hand.
Just like the young child trusting his father, yield your
future to Him who holds the future. Instead of stubbornly
holding out for what you want, start praying, “Lord, have
Your way in my life.”
God’s grace is ladled out on a daily basis—just for today.
Corrie ten Boom often said her father never gave her the
ticket until it was time to board the train. That’s how God
dispenses His grace—just enough for today. He knows what
you need far better than you do. You can count on the faith-
fulness of the Lord no matter what life brings.
January 2

Promises for the New Year

Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my
angel will go before you. However, when the time comes
for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.
EXODUS 32:34

SUPPOSE THAT WHEN YOU WOKE up today an angel stood


before you and said: “The LORD himself goes before you and
will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do
not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
Would you be afraid to face the new year?
Those words were actually spoken by Joshua to God’s
people as they prepared to cross the Jordan. We, too, can
claim the promises contained in this verse:
PROMISE 1: The Lord goes before you. All you have to do is stay
close enough to walk in His footsteps. It’s like following
someone who carries a torch through a dungeon. Stay
close and you won’t stumble, but lag behind and you are
quickly engulfed in darkness.
PROMISE 2: The Lord will be with you. Would you hesitate to
face your problems if you knew the Lord was with you?
Even if you’re facing a Goliath, one plus God makes a
majority.
PROMISE 3: The Lord will never leave you nor forsake you. As
Jesus walked up the Mount of Olives for the last time He
said, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the
age.”

We usually fear what we don’t understand, but God is


telling us as we face the unknown: “Do not be afraid and do
not be discouraged.” Where are you in relation to this
passage in Deuteronomy? Write your name next to the verse
and say, “As for me and my house, I will serve the Lord no
matter what this year brings.”
January 3

A New Year Lifestyle

Elijah was a man just like us.


JAMES 5:17

I LIKE WHAT JAMES SAID! Imagine, Elijah, the prophet, “just


like us!” He had his ups and downs and God used him. He
can use you, too. Interested in developing a lifestyle that is
peaceful and fulfilled? Here are eight steps that can make a
difference:
1 Let God direct your course. This was the motto of Oswald
Chambers, author of My Utmost for His Highest. Don’t
make God your co-pilot. Instead, let Him take over the
controls.
2 Simplify. You don’t have to have the latest PDA, iPod or
laptop. Clean out the closet and garage, delete your un-
wanted e-mails, and throw away the pile of magazines
you will never read.
3 Pull the plug on distractions. It’s a noisy world. Turn off
the phone for dinner or try leaving the TV unplugged for
24 hours.
4 Turn your assets over to God. If you really believe what
you have is a gift from God, sign it over to Him and ask
Him how you can use it wisely.
5 Get out of yourself. Count the number of times you say,
“I”, “me”, or “my” in a conversation. Then stop talking
and start listening.
6 Touch someone’s life. Baby-sit. Volunteer at an orphanage.
Visit a convalescent home. Write a check for a charity.
Take a meal to a sick neighbor. Do something.
7 Don’t sweat the small stuff. Remember, it’s all small stuff.
Trust and don’t worry, just for today.
8 Give up anger and thoughts of revenge. They are killers.
God’s big enough to handle the person who wronged you.

Follow these eight steps and pursue a lifestyle that is


genuine and meaningful.
January 4

Strongholds

The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble.


NAHUM 1:7 NKJV

VISIT CORREGIDOR IN THE PHILIPPINES, and you will find a


deep tunnel. Originally built to store arms and ammunition,
Malinta Tunnel was also a stronghold that bombs of the en-
emy couldn’t penetrate. It served as a haven for wounded
soldiers and as headquarters for General MacArthur.
Strongholds are important because they provide protec-
tion. They allow you to sleep at night without fear for your
safety.
When David was a fugitive from Saul, he hid in strong-
holds in the desert. He learned that safety is not the absence
of danger, but the presence of the Lord.
Repeatedly he referred to the Lord as his fortress. In Psalm
18 he wrote, “I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my
rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in
whom I take refuge” (Psalm 18:1–2).
You will never understand that God is a refuge until you
run to Him and throw yourself upon His mercy, until you
pound on His door and say, “Take me in. I need Your protec-
tion and help!” Yet far too many stand outside the door think-
ing, “I can handle this on my own.” If someone were chasing
you with a weapon, and he was getting closer, would you
stand outside the fortress and wonder if it was strong enough
to protect you?
You may be thinking, “Having God as a fortress worked
for David, but I’m not sure it’ll work for me!” How would you
know unless you try? I’ve never heard anyone say, “I threw
myself upon the Lord and He closed the door of help in my
face.”
Need a refuge? Most earthly strongholds have massive
doors and can be entered by walking. The refuge God pro-
vides is entered by kneeling.
January 5

Taking Your Emotions Out


on Your Family
And now a word to you parents. Don’t keep on scolding
and nagging your children, making them angry and re-
sentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the
Lord himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice.
EPHESIANS 6:4

A MANAGER COMPLAINED, “I just can’t seem to leave my


stress at work. I come home angry and take out my emotions
on my family. What can I do?” Here are some guidelines to
make your home a place of refuge and safety.
GUIDELINE 1: Get your values straight. Your family is forever;
your job is not. There’s an issue of fairness that comes
into the picture. You can’t take out your hostilities on
your boss (or at least, it isn’t a good idea to try), so what
right do you have to inflict them upon the innocent mem-
bers of your family?
GUIDELINE 2: Love your family more than you dislike your boss
or fellow workers. Is your love for your husband or wife
not stronger than your dislike of a job situation?
GUIDELINE 3: Tell your emotions where to get off. Leave your
feelings of unrest and irritation at work. Don’t pack them
in your briefcase for you to take out at home. Sometimes
saying, “Look, I’m not upset with you. I’ve had a hard day
at the office” helps you clear the air and release what
annoys you.
GUIDELINE 4: Be your own person. Nobody can make you lose
your cool unless you allow others to take it from you. If
you have detractors at work, view them with pity and
pray for them.
GUIDELINE 5: Look for another job when all else fails. Your kids
would rather have less money and enjoy a parent who
smiles and laughs than have more money and have you
react like drops of water on a hot skillet.