When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4 NIV)
Please imagine the following scenes for a few moments.
- See a Christian weeping in their living room — a dear spouse of many years has died. This person has been alone in sorrow for a few days, but now a Christian friend comes to visit. Knowing that the spouse was a believer, the friend offers the following words of consolation: “You shouldn’t cry like this! You should rejoice that their suffering is over. You’re acting like an unbeliever. Don’t you know that your spouse is with the Lord?” What is wrong with this picture?
- See a Christian waiting for surgery or concerned because he might lose his job. A fellow believer senses his uneasiness after church and talks with him about his problem. The fearful follower of Jesus receives this counsel, “Why are you afraid? Don’t you know that God will take care of you? Have you forgotten Proverbs 3:5?” What is wrong with this picture?
- See a Christian who has entered into temptation and then sinned. Everyone knows what she has done. She feels miserable, though she has confessed her sin. Some won’t talk to her in church. Everywhere she looks, she sees stares of condemnation. What is wrong with this picture?
Perhaps these three scenes are all too real for you, because you have been the mourner, fearful, or the believer overtaken by sin. In each case, the person needs to experience God’s overflowing grace. The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:21 CSB). However, the struggling believer instead experiences more guilt feelings because of their failure to perform as a — are you ready for this? — a perfect Christian.
Many errors have crippled the evangelical church for over a hundred years. We must always avoid the tendency to trace all weaknesses to one source and then apply a cure-all solution. Having said that, we should understand that both sinless perfectionism and psychological perfectionism have created an atmosphere of unreality in the church. No one is allowed to struggle because… well, after all it’s so easy to be perfect! The wrong idea is that a Christian only needs to have a “transforming experience” to lift them from defeat level to victory level. Then, they can live as perfect Christians. The problem is that no believer is perfect. Someone might try to sidestep this problem by claiming, “Look pastor, I know Christians aren’t perfect. Haven’t you read my bumper sticker that says, ‘Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven?’” Well, yes I have read those bumper stickers. Leaving other matters aside for a moment, my question is, “Do you treat other Christians that way, as not perfect but forgiven?”
In order to help one another, we must accept the fact that Christians struggle, that we ourselves know how to struggle, and that we know how to help others who struggle. Our theme in this study is the struggles of true believers and how to help yourself and others in these struggles.
The writer of this psalm is David, the man after God’s own heart. Yet he wrote this psalm after one of the lowest points of his life. King Saul was intent on killing David, and so he had to run away. Strangely, David went to Gath in Philistia, the hometown of Goliath, whom he had killed in battle! (And you thought you made poor decisions!) The Philistines seized him, and he had to feign insanity in order to escape (1 Samuel 21:10-15). David learned from his sin and wrote this psalm to help others. Next, we’ll think on how he received help.
Grace and peace, David