Changing Moods (Part Three)

Psalm 30:6-7, 11-12

When I was secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” Lord, when you showed your favor, you made me stand like a strong mountain; when you hid your face, I was terrified… You turned my lament into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, so that I can sing to you and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever (CSB).

People tend to think they are prisoners to their emotions or moods. This might be true of those who do not know the Lord, but the people who are in Christ have been called to freedom. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). We must draw our self-image from what we are in Christ, and not blindly accept the opinions of our culture. We do not have to be subject to our moods. The good news is that God acts to bring his people into a correct emotional condition.

The Lord is not passive about us! We tend to view ourselves as the one who initiates communication and sharing of life with God. That is a very proud, human-exalting view! Instead, God does work directly and indirectly to relate with us. Since we belong to the Lord, he is not satisfied to let us go our own way. He wants us to walk in his way and works to keep us in his way by his word and the Spirit (cf. Colossians 2:6-7; Romans 15:13; Galatians 5:16-26). God’s action in our lives may occur over a long or short time span. Study Psalm 32 for one example.

What should we learn?

A true believer can endure great turmoil due to his or her incorrect thinking. Don’t blame someone else for your joylessness or whatever. “No doubt the trouble is with you.”

Our moods should be viewed as indicators of our spiritual condition. But we in turn must test the readings of those indicators by the standard of the Scriptures and good common sense (cf. Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, pp. 14-19.) Ask yourself, “Why are you downcast, O my soul?” (Read Psalms 42 and 43.) You need to examine yourself. For example, “Do I feel secure because my heavenly Father cares for me or because ‘everything is going my way’?”

You should check various feeling indicators:

  • Coldness to spiritual truth
  • Faultfinding in others
  • Anger about situations
  • Indifference to needs of others
  • Fear of the future
  • Jealousy about another’s prosperity
  • Bitterness about anything or anyone at any time

Warning! Don’t become more involved in looking at your spiritual vital signs than in looking at the Lord Jesus Christ! As John Reisinger said many times, “Take one good look at your heart, and then take ten thousand looks at Jesus Christ!”

Here is an important point, worthy of much emphasis. The way of establishing sound emotional patterns is by focusing on one’s relationship with the Lord, not by seeking an emotional lift. Listen to the words of a man who suffered much for the Lord Jesus, and who surely endured many down times from his afflictions. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3:8a NIV).

Grace and peace, David

Changing Moods (Part Two)

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Psalm 30:6-7, 11-12

When I was secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” Lord, when you showed your favor, you made me stand like a strong mountain; when you hid your face, I was terrified… You turned my lament into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, so that I can sing to you and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever (CSB).

Our topic is the changing moods of God’s people. When we first experience God’s saving grace, we usually experience great peace or exhilarating joy or a profound sense of acceptance or some other mood that flows from being right with God. Then we begin our daily walk with God, and as we walk by faith or a lack of faith, our moods can vary. Behind the scenes of the saint’s moods lie various actions of God that are the grounds for the saint’s feelings. Here are some examples from David’s experience.

  • When David felt secure (30:6), it was because of the Lord’s favor. It provided the stability that made security possible (30:7a). It is possible to misuse the provision of God, isn’t it? Oh, we know this too well! It is right to feel secure because of God’s grace, but we should not rest in our feelings of security.
  • When David felt dismayed (30:7c), it was due to the Lord hiding his face (30:7b) to correct David. In this condition a believer lacks felt testimony of God’s favor. He or she does not enjoy the light by which he or she can discern God’s nearness.
  • When David felt joy (30:11c), it was because God had intervened in his life (“You turned… you removed… and clothed…”). As we have said, the Spirit of God wants to lead us into the joy of the Lord.

As God’s people, we need to be more God-centered in the evaluation of our lives. Surrounded by the worldview of the ungodly, we tend to adopt its philosophy about the events and condition of our lives. They do not see the sovereign God involved in human life, and so they attribute everything to the action of people, luck, the forces of nature, or determinism (“what will be will be”). Sadly, many believers fail to function like believers; they do not change their minds and view the God who really lives acting in our lives.

Our varying moods need to be owned or acknowledged by us. We ought not to expect other followers of Jesus to wear “Christian happy faces” at our local gatherings. Yes, there are times when we stand like a strong mountain. We want to see others in that condition. However, let’s not be shocked when a brother or sister admits that they are terrified. A local church will only grow when we allow others to act in a real manner in our fellowships. This can make things “messy”, but I’d rather have messy and real than tidy and fake.

We need to take action to develop a “God-involved in our lives” outlook. For example, let’s listen to how Paul speaks about God being directly involved in his life. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7b-10). During the week think through Matthew 6 in this way. What does Psalm 29 teach you about a “God-involved” outlook?

Grace and peace, David

Changing Moods (Part One)

Psalm 30:6-7, 11-12

When I was secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” Lord, when you showed your favor, you made me stand like a strong mountain; when you hid your face, I was terrified… You turned my lament into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, so that I can sing to you and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever (CSB).

In previous posts on Psalm thirty, we considered the relationship between God and his people. Since we are in a covenant relationship with God, he lifts us up when we call to him in prayer, and we joyfully respond by lifting him up in our praise. But as any believer in the Lord knows, we do not always feel the joy that belongs to us through our union with the joyful Lord: You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever (Psalm 16:11 NASV). So, what happens to us? Why can we feel happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy (1 Peter 1:8 NLT) one day, and the next feel discouraged, downcast and sorrowful? Part of this experience flows from the changing ways we interact with our God, and the changing moods that come from that interaction. Let us look at this together.

Understand clearly that it is spiritually normal for the people of God to have varying moods. We can see this in David’s experience; we all struggle through this in our own experience. Depending on your personality, you may have a greater difficulty with this than other believers.

God’s people will feel a sense of security at times. To feel secure for the proper reasons is the correct emotional state for a believer. The Bible never presents insecurity as an ideal (cf. Romans 8:38-39; Acts 18:19-20; Philippians 4:4-7, 19; 2 Timothy 1:12).

However, we need to distinguish between spiritual and fleshly security. Spiritual security rests in the Lord (Psalm 28:6-9). Fleshly security rests in oneself or one’s blessings or performance (Dt 8:10-18; Ho 13:4-6).

Think of Mr. Carnal Security in John Bunyan’s The Holy War. (By the way, if you haven’t read this book, I encourage you to do so. He misled the godly inhabitants of the town of Mansoul with deceptive promises of fleshly ease. What would make you feel good about yourself? Your answer will be a signpost pointing to what you really think makes you feel secure. Let’s think about a related question. What would make you feel good about the local church you attend? Be honest!

At other times, God’s people may feel a sense of spiritual depression. Though the Bible does not present spiritual depression as an ideal, it does teach that believers can and do enter into a depressed condition (Psalm 42:1-5; Galatians 4:15). God desires that his children live in joy and peace (Romans 15:13). Yet his children can get themselves into such difficulties that they lose their sense of felt peace and joy. Otherwise, why would the Scriptures encourage us to lay hold of these by faith? In this place, David tells us the he was dismayed. The Hebrew word is a strong way to express being troubled. The normal course of David’s life had become unsettled! So it is when any believer falls into this state. In the Pilgrim’s Progress Christian lost his assurance on Hill Difficulty.

At yet other times, God’s people may feel a sense of joy. The Lord granted David help through this experience, so that David would rejoice again. When David had a sense of joy, he would be able to praise the Lord. God wants his people to be joyful. He wants us to experience joy in him (Philippians 3:1; 4:4). Seek the Lord and find his joy in him.

Grace and peace, David

God and His People (Part Two)

Psalm 30:1-3

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit (ESV).

We all need God to rescue us. Some of these might be very dramatic. Others might be like a parent acting quickly to intercept their child before they get into dangerous situations. We daily require the help of the merciful God (30:1b-3).

In his mercy (cf. 30:10), God answered David’s prayer for help. We act very wickedly and foolishly when we leave God out of our problems, including our physical problems. We ought to pray before we visit the doctor. Think about King Asa of Judah and what happened to him (2 Chronicles 16:12). “As the writer reflects on his experience, the one thing he seems to recall most vividly is how earnestly he fell back upon prayer in his extremity, and how effective prayer proved on this occasion. The entire experience may be said to be summarized in this one verse” (Leupold).

What help did God give David? He gave David physical healing (30:2b-3). David had been in danger of dying, but the Lord restored him to health. He gave David victory over his enemies. They wanted to gloat over his ruin, but God did not permit that to happen. We still have spiritual enemies who would gloat over our destruction, fall or disgrace. But remember the happy truth of 1 John 4:4. You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (CSB).

God lifted David up (30:1b). There is a great and mighty army of people whom God has lifted up, though their problems seemed beyond hope.

  • God lifted up Noah, when the whole race faced destruction
  • God lifted up Jacob, when he was a penniless refugee
  • God lifted up Joseph, when he was sold into slavery
  • God lifted up Gideon, when he hid in fear
  • God lifted up Ruth and Naomi, when they were poverty-stricken widows
  • God lifted up Elijah, when he was a downcast prophet
  • God lifted up Jeremiah, when his enemies had placed him in a well
  • God lifted up the woman at the well, when all despised her
  • God lifted up Peter, when he was a weeping apostle
  • God lifted up Paul, when he was a violent persecutor

How great is the grace of our God! As an old song says, “It is no secret, what God can do! What he’s done for others, he’ll do for you. With arms wide open, he’ll pardon you. It is no secret what God can do!” (Stuart Hamblen)

The God of grace has lifted us up as well! He has lifted us from the pit of hell, from the sewer of sin, from the swamp of depression, and from the slavery of doubts and fears. O brothers and sisters, will you glorify the Lord with me? Come; let us exalt his name forever (Psalm 34:3).

Grace and peace, David

God and His People (Part One)

Psalm 30:1-3

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit (ESV).

What should we think of the relationship between God and his people? Do you experience God interacting with you? Do you think that God gets involved in your life? Do you get involved with God? How does this happen? The exact occasion of this psalm cannot be determined. Even the heading of the psalm can be read in various ways (compare the NIV footnote). But this psalm does show the interaction between God and his people during his people’s difficulties. This psalm discloses the boldness of a saint (that is, a true believer) before his covenant God. We should learn how God’s children should approach him during troubles with the pure confidence that agrees with the saint’s position by grace before the Lord.

Consider the desire of a rescued person. I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up (30:1). The person whom God has delivered from difficulties desires to make known the truth that God is great and glorious. This desire is the response of gratitude. For example, a student who has been helped by a teacher will defend that teacher though other students despise him or her, if there is gratitude in that student’s heart.

This desire is evangelistic in spirit. The rescued person wants others to praise the God who saves (30:4). When people have been helped by someone (like a doctor) or by something (like medicine), they do tell others. The deeper the sense of help, the more fervent desire to tell others. The woman at the well went back into the city to tell everyone she met that she had found the Messiah (John 4). Here is the church’s purpose of evangelism. How are we doing in fulfilling this purpose?

This desire is determined in this course of action (cf. 30:12b). David has one goal—to always praise the Lord (cf. Psalm 27:4-6). We live during a time of distraction rather than focused action. People see too many things to do, and so they endlessly flit from one thing to another. But a sense of what is truly worthy of our lives leads us to life goals, like we see in this verse.

The person whom God has delivered rejoices in exalting his Lord (cf. 30:11). David is careful to point out that God’s deliverance ended in joy for him. It is like David is saying, “Yes, my God did correct me during this time of my life, but he meant it for my good (cf. Gen 50:20; Rm 8:28). For this reason, the product was his joy in God. When we travel through a “long dark tunnel” of our life’s journey, we can lose sight of this much too easily. Then we must believe that God will work for our ultimate joy. Someone might ask, “How can I do this?” You need to think and meditate on God’s holy character and then rest on him. There is no substitute for humble faith in the Holy God.

David was stirred deeply in the inner person of the heart. Notice his repeated “O Lord” throughout this psalm. True spiritual experience of the Lord and his grace overflows into an intense verbal expression like “O”. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:11 ESV). Let us draw near to the Lord our God. In him we find restoration and refreshment for our souls.

Grace and peace, David

Psalm Nineteen (Part Seven)

Psalm 19:12-14

But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer (NIV).

The last three verses of Psalm Nineteen show David’s response to God’s revelation. We should always remember that Biblical knowledge has been given to affect the way we live. It is one thing to know the truth about the God who speaks through his creation and in the Holy Scriptures and even to sing about this in worship. It is another to humble oneself before God and his message and let it teach, correct and rebuke us. David closes this psalm with the practical application of the knowledge of the Scriptures.

“Who can discern his errors?” To ask the question is to answer it. Those who know God and his message best will have some understanding of their errors, but none of us can truly discern all our errors in the complexity of all that we are: heart, soul, spirit, mind, conscience, etc. As we view ourselves Biblically, which means in Christ and his grace, we make progress in self-discernment, but still much escapes us. Perhaps this is a reason that the saints who have walked with God the closest have the most tender conscience of their sinfulness. Repeated living in the light produces a richer fellowship with God and the forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:7). “Many books have a few lines of errata at the end, but our errata might well be as large as the volume if we could but have sense enough to see them. Augustine wrote in his older days a series of Retractions; ours might make a library if we had enough grace to be convinced of our mistakes and to confess them” (Spurgeon).

“Forgive my hidden faults.” This one phrase speaks volumes about the spirituality of the believer’s experience and our absolute need to be saved by free grace alone. First, let us consider the meaning of hidden or secret faults.

  • Some sins are hidden because of our ignorance of God’s will (whether through spiritual inexperience, sitting under inadequate or false teaching, laziness, distraction, etc.) or of an unwillingness to acknowledge an attitude or action as sinful. Too often we try to paint our sins as virtues. “I’m not stingy, but prudent and thrifty!” This hides them to ourselves and to the less spiritually discerning. “Many have unknown sins, as a man may have a mole on his back and himself never know it” (Thomas Adams, quoted by Spurgeon).
  • Some sins are hidden because others do not see them. They are sins “behind closed doors” that others might see if they were present.
  • Some sins are hidden from any physical observation because they are spiritual sins, such as lust or greed. A rules-centered spirituality never touches these, because there is no need to change inwardly and still maintain an outward religious or spiritual testimony. However, consider Matthew 5:27-28; 23:25-28; Ezekiel 14:3-4,7.

Grace and peace, David

The Godly Person Looking at Life (Part Two)

Psalm 36:1-12

Next, David turns his attention to the character of God (36:5-9). When we think of all that God is, well we might say, “Here is a whole world to explore” (Kidner). David directs those who listen or read to three specific areas.

Consider the Lord’s immeasurable love and faithfulness (36:5). These two qualities of God are joined in various places (cf. Psalms 57:3; 61:7; 86:15; 89:14; 115:1; 138:2). How can you think of love apart from faithfulness? There is no need for uncertainty about God’s character. David wants us to fill our souls with the grandeur of God’s love and faithfulness. Go outside on a clear night; gaze upon the wonder of deep space; understand that God’s love and faithfulness reach beyond what you can see and comprehend.

Ponder God’s incalculable righteousness and justice (36:6a). We see these two joined in other places (Psalms 33:5; 89:14; 97:2). Have you ever seen the Rocky Mountains? Great mountains are “firm and unmoved, lofty and sublime” (Spurgeon). Mighty winds disturb them not, and so nothing affects God’s righteousness and justice. “Not even to save his elect would the Lord suffer his righteousness to be set aside. No awe inspired by mountain scenery can equal that which fills the soul when it beholds the Son of God slain as a victim to vindicate the justice of the Inflexible Lawgiver” (Spurgeon).

Survey the Almighty’s active involvement with his creatures (36:6b-9).

  • God preserves life. Since the fall, we pursue destruction, but God keeps life going, constantly providing and restoring the balances of nature.
  • His love is precious. Think of valuable coins and costly jewels. The regalia of a mighty emperor is a shabby rag compared to the love of God. The value of God’s love surpasses all! What can be compared to having the almighty, eternal, all-wise, everywhere present, Sovereign Lord fully committed to love and cherish you?
  • He provides secure shelter. We can hide under the shelter of his wings (cf. Ruth 2:12; Matthew 23:37) during life’s scariest times. Sometimes we all need a hiding place. We need to be kept safe until the storm passes by. Listen my friend; the Lord Jesus invites you to find refuge under his wings. Why will you tremble naked and defenseless before sin, condemnation, and death? Run to Jesus while you may!
  • He gives abundant joy. Since sinners are at war with God, they view him as sour and dour, as full of gloom and doom. But when we see God’s justice forever satisfied in the cross of Christ, we understand his kindness and sternness (Romans 11:22). God is good and joyful; at his right hand are eternal pleasures (Psalm 16:11). When we trust him, we may drink from his river of delights.
  • He is the source of life and light. God is self-existent, having life in himself. He chooses to give life to his creatures. To have life, we must connect with God himself. This happens when you turn from your sin and trust in Christ for salvation. In a world of darkness, God is light in the full biblical meaning of purity, clarity, truth and joy.

Life apart from the living God is very uncertain and troubled. But why continue in that path? You may have joy and peace as you trust in Jesus Christ!

This produces the response of prayer (36:10-12). This prayer flows out from the truth already presented. Three ideas in his prayer:

  • A request for love and justice (36:10). We need both. We were made to experience and to share the love of God. Our lives are empty apart from his love and sharing it with others. As we live forever with the Lord, we will know more and more of how infinite his love is. And we will share this with others loved by the Lord. It won’t just be “God and me”; it will be “God and us”. And we need his righteousness at work to put our world to right. So much is wrong now! This is like the days of Noah; violence fills the earth.
  • A request for protection from the wicked (36:11) – Since we are frail, we need God to protect us from those who would harm us. “Our best defense against violence is still prayer” (Leupold).
  • An affirmation of faith (36:12) – David concludes with a look to the future. He talks about the destiny of the wicked. Many times, it seems as if evil is sure to win. But this verse calls us to look to the end of God’s story. The Sovereign Lord will triumph, and we will share in his final victory!

Keep these two contrasts before your view: the wickedness of the sinner and the incredible goodness of God. The way of life is to turn from sin and trust the life and joy giving Savior. Call on him without delay. We need to share the God of faithful love and righteous justice with others. We will have many opportunities, if we are able to stir ourselves to action. Warmer weather is on the way. We can invite others over for dinner, to go for a walk together, to attend a ball game or an outdoor concert together, or perhaps to go on a day trip together. Go where people are gathering, like some of the new town centers or special evenings in the gardens.

Grace and peace, David

The Godly Person Looking at Life (Part One)

Psalm 36:1-12

God knows that we all need to make sense out of the world we live in. He has designed us to be interpreters of reality, so that we bring honor to him by sharing his joy. Many events are difficult to explain, especially as they upset our personal part of the world. You can observe this daily as people gives their opinions in social media, in the mass media, in small social circles, in one’s family, or person to person. The issue might be as small as someone’s illness or a family’s interpersonal struggles, or as large as a blizzard or an earthquake. We all want to make sense of the world around us.

This psalm is given to help us. It does not explain everything, but zeroes in on God and wicked people in the events. David wrote that he had received an oracle or revelation about people who live in sin and for sin. We should remember that sin is rejection of God, refusal to love God, and rebellion against God and his ways. So, David tells us more about how sin affects people. Then he brings in a dramatic contrast with the goodness of God, because we also need to know about the true God to interpret life. This will lead him to respond to both truths. Let us listen to what the Spirit of the Lord says through him.

David spoke of the character of the wicked. I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes. In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin. The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful; they fail to act wisely or do good. Even on their beds they plot evil; they commit themselves to a sinful course and do not reject what is wrong (36:1-4 NIV).

A wicked person is anyone who is not rightly related to God by faith. They live according to their own ideas and reject being personally involved with the living God. They do not fear God (36:1b). There are only two ways to live. Either God is in your thoughts and you deeply respect him, or you have no room for God in your worldview and have no fear of him. These are two opposite ways of looking at life. The wicked person laughs off any ideas of God and responsibility to him. This is the characteristic of all sinners (cf. Romans 3:9-18).

They have wrong perceptions of reality (36:2). Two factors in the inner person of their hearts drive how they look at the world.

  • Conceit – The wicked person practices self-flattery. “How wise I am! I can see things that others can’t. I can handle this!” With a million such thoughts their view of self is warped. Oh yes, some do this in a more refined and sophisticated way, as they listen to counselors, coaches, colleagues or college professors. But each one deeply believes that he or she is the final judge of right and wrong, good and evil.
  • Deceit – This produces self-deception. When your world and life view blames everyone and everything but yourself, and when you’ve set yourself above everything, how can you be helped or corrected? You are right by your own definition—even if your personal world is collapsing.

Wicked people wreck their world (36:3). They do it by distorted communication. As Jesus told us, people communicate out of their hearts (Luke 6:45). So out of their mouths come deceit, blame shifting, bitterness, anger, hate, impatience, profanity, vulgarity, etc. They also do it by refusing to act wisely or to do what is good. Here is fanatical devotion to evil. How can you help someone who knows they are destroying their life or the lives of others and don’t care? Why not? Because they would rather enjoy evil than good.

They are devoted to evil (36:4). They hatch plots on their beds (cf. Micah 2:1). As they review their day as they get ready to sleep, their thoughts relentlessly pursue how tomorrow can bring more personal pleasure, without regard for God or others who might get in their way. They fail to reject what is wrong. They might know something is wrong, but they just can’t stop pursuing it. All sin is addictive. The sinner believes that the next experience will be a better and longer lasting buzz.

No sinner wants to hear this about himself or herself. It isn’t flattering. We all want a mirror that will make us look great, instead of flabby, pale, wrinkled and overweight. The truth hurts, but we need to know it. We need to know the truth about ourselves and others. That is why God gives us this revelation—to help us. Are you listening to God? This weekend, read God’s word and listen to what your Creator says to you!

Grace and peace, David

A Prayer During Affliction (Part Two)

Psalm 25:16-22

The living God is deeply interested in our lives. Though the Lord knows us fully, he invites us to open our lives to him in personal friendship. In these verses, we see that David in faith presented his requests to God

David started with his great spiritual need. He wanted to be sure of God’s favor. He wanted his sins to be taken away. It is too easy in our troubles to forget our sins. But David was spiritually wise, even if he had offended God greatly. (We are unsure when he wrote this psalm.) We have the assurance that God takes our sins away, because Christ is the Lamb of God (John 1:29). We depend on Christ alone and our sins are gone!

Affliction can come on us for a number of reasons, including our union with Christ in his sufferings, the glory of God, the fact that we live in a world cursed because of sin, and getting attacked in spiritual warfare. In addition, we may suffer discipline because of our personal sin (cf. Heb 12:4-13). In this psalm, David displayed an ongoing awareness of his need for forgiveness of his sin (25:7, 11, 18). To cry to God for our sins to be taken away is “the cry of a soul that is more sick of sin than of pain, and would sooner be forgiven than healed” (Spurgeon). Perhaps this is the deeply piercing sliver that is festering in your heart? Do you want prosperity more than spiritual cleansing? God wants your heart, but do you want God’s gifts more than God alone? Are you God-centered or self-centered?

David wanted God to “turn to” him. Picture two lovers in a quarrel. Can you see how while they are upset, they turn their backs to each other? Now David desired to see God’s face again. In reality, the source of any quarrel with God is always in ourselves. When our sins are confessed, there is nothing to prevent full fellowship with God.

David prayed for grace in his affliction. He sought God’s friendship in his loneliness (25:16). Feeling abandoned and lonely in is no new experience in this world. Sometimes, our dearest friends desert us, or merely move away, or we lose them through death. So, we turn to others, expecting them to feel our pain, but they don’t! The disappointment is extreme. The ache in the soul is painful and not easily mended.  This is when we must dare to draw near to God in fresh, new ways.

David needed to be freed from the anguish ensnaring him because of multiplied troubles of heart. There are seasons in life when troubles do not seem to end. One follows another in apparent endless succession. It is like body surfing and being tossed by the waves when the sea is rough. You are smacked by one wave and struggle to catch your breath before the next one pummels you. The current won’t seem to let you go, and you start to despair of escape! Then you need the Almighty God to lift you up!

He asked to be rescued from his many enemies (25:19-20). We live in an evil world where some people are bent on destroying others. The godly do not have to do anything against the ungodly; the mere existence of Christ’s followers is excuse enough for all sorts of hatred and malice. Persecution of Christians grows daily in our world. We should not be shocked, but we should pray seriously for God to deliver his people.

David prayed for God’s people (25:22). He remembered that he was not the only one in a difficult situation. Many of God’s people are in equal or greater distress than you and I may be currently in. This does not make our affliction less! That is not the point! We are not talking about some kind of trite “misery loves company”. No, we are talking about unselfishly remembering our union with others in Christ. “Sorrow had taught the psalmist sympathy, and given him communion with the tried people of God; he therefore remembers them in his prayers” (Spurgeon). “We are never to become so immersed in our own problems as to forget the needs of all God’s saints.” [Leupold] Why should you pray for other believers? They are God’s friends, and shouldn’t you be concerned about the friends of your best friend?

Knowing Christ brings us into a spiritual family, in which we no longer live for ourselves, but for God and one another. Show the Father’s compassion and reach out to one another today! Pray for one another daily.

Grace and peace, David

A Prayer During Affliction (Part One)

Psalm 25:16-22

We live in a world of troubles. As painful as it might be, think with me on this theme for a few moments. People suffer from fire, flood, storms and tropical storms, drought, landslides, earthquakes, and occasionally volcanic eruptions. Some people live in anguish because of disease or serious disabilities. Others find their lives in turmoil because of wars, terrorism, civil unrest like riots and looting, economic recessions, oppression by tyrants, or religious persecution. And still others suffer spiritually and emotionally through guilt, depression, betrayal, loneliness, anger, abuse, fear and disappointments. No one is exempt from affliction—no one.

The Bible talks much about afflicted people. “If you were to take out of the Scriptures all the stories that have to do with poor, afflicted men and women, what a very small book the Bible would become, especially if together with the stories you removed all the psalms of the sorrowful, all the promises for the distressed, and all the passages which belong to the children of grief! This Book, indeed, for the most part is made up of the annals of the poor and despised” (Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 32, p. 301). Think about how much of the Bible talks about a young man sold as a slave who suffers in prison in Egypt. And what of that baby boy, left to die in the river, and yet whose life is spared, only to lose forty years of his life in the wilderness, and then who spends most of his next forty listening to the bitter complaints of an ungrateful people. We read many chapters of a man who loses all his children and property, and then suffers from a dreadful disease, only to have his best friends accuse him unmercifully of being wicked. The Bible tells us of two widows, suffering in poverty and uncertain of their future. And have you read of a despised boy, left out in the fields to tend sheep? He becomes a hero, but then runs for his life for years, while having to care for other oppressed people. And we haven’t even begun to talk about a prophet whose only food came from ravens and a destitute widow, about women who longed for children, but who for long years were childless, or about a homeless teacher, who was mocked and eventually killed by those who hated him. And these are those favored by the God of heaven! Yes, it seems to me the Bible is a book for afflicted people and his plan for them. And listen to these words. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 NIV).

Yes, God cares about the afflicted, and he invites us to draw very near to him in our suffering. He is so desirous of our approach that in his word, he even gives us the words to say to him in our anguish of heart. Let us, therefore, listen to this prayer with an understanding of God’s great compassion for us.

In this song, we hear an intensely personal approach to God. The psalmist David had meditated upon his friendship with God; now he acted upon it. We must know how to interact with God as his friend. David referred to himself some seventeen times in these verses! Notice the first-person pronouns I, me and my. After exalting God in worship, he boldly spoke as a friend in need. He or she who worships well can fellowship well. David expected God to be personally interested in his troubles. He was not of the opinion that we must only pray for God’s concerns or the needs of others. But having put God first, David was not ashamed to present his neediness to God. He knew that in this unequal friendship, he could depend upon God’s real awareness of and deep compassion for him. If this doesn’t convince you, meditate on Christ’s revelation of God’s compassion (cf. Matthew 9:36).

David used two pleas to persuade God to act for his benefit. He pleaded his trust in God (25:20-21). Notice the phrase “in you” (cf. 25:2-3, 5). Faith is a God-focused activity. It is consciously relying on the all-powerful God to be directly and personally involved in one’s life. It is looking out of oneself to God. He pleaded his miserable condition (25:16-18). Notice the words he piles up in this appeal: “lonely… afflicted… troubles… anguish… affliction… distress.”  But notice what David understood. He knew that he did not need to instruct God about what to do for him. He only wanted God to “look upon my affliction” and he was confident of help. Why is this enough? He knew the character of the God that he relied on (cf. Exodus 3:5-8).

Grace and peace, David