The Attributes of God (Part Fourteen)

The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8 CSB).

God has revealed his glory as God in all his attributes. The living God wants us to know the whole truth about who he is, and not merely a part of the truth. When we think of the truth that God is love, we ought to realize that many people tend to misuse this one truth to construct a false idea of the true God. When done in ignorance, this causes people to fail to give God the honor that is due him for all that he is. And it leads people into various theological and practical problems, such as, “If God is love and he loves me, why am I suffering?” When done deliberately, it is actually the worship of a false god created by a person’s sinful imagination. An example of this would be, “Since God is love, he would never condemn a person and send him or her to hell.” Therefore, we need to approach this subject with humility and a teachable spirit.

In our time, professing Christians have only a surface acquaintance with the Bible. It is not unusual for a pastor to see blank stares when he refers to most of the main teachings of the Bible that are beyond the simplest gospel references or verses misused by prosperity teachers, for example, Jeremiah 29:11. “There are many today who talk about the love of God, who are total strangers to the God of love. The Divine love is commonly regarded as a species of amiable weakness, a sort of good-natured indulgence; it is reduced to a mere sickly sentiment, patterned after human emotion. Now the truth is that on this, as on everything else, our thoughts need to be formed and regulated by what is revealed thereon in Holy Scripture. That there is urgent need for this is apparent not only from the ignorance which so generally prevails, but also from the low state of spirituality which is now so sadly evident everywhere among professing Christians. How little real love there is for God. One chief reason for this is because our hearts are so little occupied with His wondrous love for His people. The better we are acquainted with His love—its character, fullness, blessedness—the more will our hearts be drawn out in love to Him” (Pink, The Attributes of God, pp. 90-91).

Part of the problem that people have is a misuse of the texts that say, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). Clearly both texts are teaching that God is love; that is, he not only loves, but love is an essential part of his being that he expresses even toward unworthy, guilty sinners! The error that many people fall into is assuming that John is teaching that love is God’s basic attribute, because he says, “God is love.” However, that assumption fails to notice that John also says, “God is light (1 John 1:5) previously in the letter, and that he records the statement of Jesus that “God is spirit” (John 4:24). There is no reason to deduce from any of these texts the priority of one or the other of these three statements to the other. As we have already discussed in the section on God’s holiness, there is much more reason to say that holiness is God’s basic attribute. Perhaps we should remember at this point what love is according to the Bible. Love is setting one’s heart on seeking the good of the one loved, to the point of self-sacrificial giving for the one loved. Therefore, the teaching that “God is love” is tremendously encouraging to human hearts! The Maker and Preserver of all things, the God who is unlimited spirit with unmatchable holiness and justice is also love. He sets his heart on what he created to seek its good (Psalm 145:13,17). But the question asked by inquiring minds is this. If God is love, as the Bible says, then why is there suffering in creation and why do some suffer eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46)? This question deserves to be answered, and more importantly answering it will lead us to a deeper appreciation of the glory of God. We will invest some articles on the love of God. First, we will think about the characteristics of God’s love, then of his love in a general sense, and then his love in saving his people from their sins. Finally, we will consider how the truth of God’s love ought to affect us and the way we live.

Grace and peace, David

Three Prisoners (Part Two)

Genesis 40:1-23

Difficult times in our lives are opportunities for God to work and for us to grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord. They are also occasions for God to develop us to serve him and others in new ways. Though Joseph was in prison, the Lord was with him. That was all that was needed to prepare Joseph for his life’s mission. What happened? Joseph became an interpreter of dreams (40:5-19).

At this point, we observe the mingling of God’s providence and human responsibility. They are seldom far apart, though we might not observe both. God caused the cupbearer and the baker to dream about their future in a figurative way. The Lord has immediate access to the spirits of people, which he can use for his own plans (Proverbs 21:1). Joseph rightly inquired into the cause of their dejection. Evidently, dreams like theirs came with a certain terror to their minds (41:8; cf. Daniel 2:1; Matthew 27:19). Their faces revealed their inward turmoil (cf. Nehemiah 2:2). Joseph spoke with compassion and kindness. This act of kindness led to his release from prison. Regardless of the outcome, we ought to care when our neighbors sorrow. In this case, God used his concern to help him.

Joseph heard and interpreted the dreams. He began by honoring God (40:8). They were locked into a pagan, worldly approach to the subject. “Go to the experts; they can help you.” But they had no “experts” to turn to. Our country has heavy traffic in astrology, seances, counseling, and such things to find solace. Everything except humble, believing prayer. Joseph pointed them to the living God. It was like Joseph told them, “This is beyond human ability. You need God to intervene. Perhaps he will reveal the meaning of your dreams. I will intercede with him for you.” The revelation of the future is God’s business. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please’ (Isaiah 46:10 NIV). In our witness to our neighbors, we should reassert the proper relation between God and mankind.

Joseph told the chief cupbearer a favorable interpretation. He assured him that he would be restored to his old position in three days. Great changes can occur quickly. Note well: Joseph could foresee the chief cupbearer’s release, but not his own. A godly man with insight does not know everything. He asked the chief cupbearer to remember to show kindness to him. While we ought to patiently endure suffering, we also should use lawful means to get release from it (cf. Matthew 10:23). Joseph spoke the truth about his case without disparaging others. “When we are called to vindicate ourselves we should carefully avoid, as much as may be, speaking ill of others” (Henry).

He told the chief baker an unfavorable interpretation. As God’s minister, Joseph must tell the truth. False comfort of the ungodly is damaging to their souls. Clearly, the second man also looked for hope. “Here’s a fellow with some good news.” But he had only death to prepare for. God gave the baker a rare gift. He knew in advance the day of his death. The Bible does not say what use he made of this warning. If we knew the day when the Lord Jesus was returning, would we live differently?

The interpretations of the dreams happened (40:20-23). The occasion was an ancient birthday party for an absolute monarch. There is nothing wrong with such celebrations, provided they bring honor to God. Pharaoh celebrated by demonstrating his power. “I can restore or condemn men as I see fit.” But in reality, these things are in God’s hands. However, the chief cupbearer forgot Joseph. “This was probably no more than the usual lack of concern on the part of the high and mighty for the lowly and the disadvantaged” (Aalders). Whatever the reason, God had his hand in it. His time had not yet come for Joseph’ s release from prison. Let us remember that one of God’s answers to our prayers is “Wait.”

Grace and peace, David

Not an Easy Path (Part Two)

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Acts 16:16-24

Bringing them before the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are seriously disturbing our city. They are Jews and are promoting customs that are not legal for us as Romans to adopt or practice.” The crowd joined in the attack against them, and the chief magistrates stripped off their clothes and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had severely flogged them, they threw them in jail, ordering the jailer to guard them carefully (16:20-23 CSB).

True Christianity can expect evil people to oppose it (16:19-21). Often, the opponents, like the people in this account, are motivated by greed, which they think will provide them with happiness. They don’t like to hear about truly loving and caring for others, since they seek to get ahead of everyone else.

  • Apart from God’s common grace, the worldly-minded person runs by this formula: “cultural position or wealth equals power that yields happiness.” Many seem to succeed quite nicely by this formula, until you consider their eternal destiny (cf. Psalm 73:17).
  • Apart from God’s restraint, they will not hesitate to use their power to attack those who interfere with their desires.

Wicked people will use distortion and deceit to ruin their godly opponents (16:20-21). Error uses some truth to gain plausibility, but about the only truth they uttered was that Paul and Silas were Jews. Even that would have been used to arouse prejudice. Most public debate is carried out in this way. Name-calling to arouse fears and prejudice to incite hate are favorite tools. The rest of their charge was a lie. Without a belief in absolute truth, telling lies is a very easy activity. We must remember this as we face other religions, and especially people ruled in their thinking by Postmodernism, which denies the existence of truth and absolutes. In order to face strong opposition, we must pray for strength and our integrity.

True Christianity may lead to terrible suffering (16:22-24). This is impossible to accept, if you think that spiritual success is measured by personal ease and prosperity. Too often we see professing Christians mesmerized by worldly success: “A growing church is a successful church.” Christians fail to consider that growing attendance might only mean that their services are more comfortable to worldly-minded people. Paul performed a great miracle through Christ’s power, but church attendance at Philippi did not zoom to one thousand. “Wow! We’re going to have to start a second service!” By the way, let’s read all the New Testament Scriptures! Yes, sometimes churches might see thousands added to their numbers. But it is just as true that sincere, godly people of faith in God might have little to show for their labors.

This is impossible to accept if you listen to lies claiming that God doesn’t want people, especially his people, to suffer. Paul and Silas, two men of faith yet severely flogged and locked in prison, are a painful refutation of such lies. But the Lord Jesus predicted suffering, for the whole church (Matthew 10:16-39; 24:9), and for the apostle Paul (Acts 9:15-16). And the Lord blessed those who are persecuted because of righteousness (cf. Matthew 5:10-12).

True Christianity is not an easy path. Let us remember what Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 15:19-20). I really don’t know what God will do in our present situation. Hatred grows daily. As Christ’s ambassador, if you trust Him as your Lord and Savior, all I can offer you is a cross in this world—and eternal glory in the world to come! Should we quit? Never! What did Paul and Silas do as they suffered horribly? They prayed and worshiped (16:25)! We will be very wise to follow their good example.

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

Thinking about God and His Friendship with His People (Part Four)

Psalm 25:8-15

Previously in this series, we have thought about God as the friend of his people. The Lord is good and upright, he forgives great sin, and he confides in his people. Next, we want to consider how to respond to God’s friendship. We must remember that this is an unequal friendship. The awesome Creator and Controller of all wants to be our friend, yet he is God. Therefore, we must always realize that he is God, and not try to pull him down to our level.

This text mentions four ways to express friendship with God (humility, obedience, godly mindedness and fear of the Lord). In this article, we learn that we express friendship with God by being humble before him (25:9).

Humility is hard for postmodern people to come to terms with. Certainly, people claim to be turned off by arrogant, pushy people. Yet, since people like to think they can interpret the world in agreement with their own ideas and preferences, arrogance is fueled by their core values. This results in humility being interpreted as weakness. From a Christian world and life view, humility is valued and essential. How do we attain humility before God? Two ideas:

  • By having a correct view of God (Hebrews 11:6; 1 Timothy 1:17) – We cannot be a friend of the living God, unless we know him as he has revealed himself to us in the Bible. Until we are convinced of his majestic holiness, we will struggle with his right to do as he pleases (cf. Romans 9:20-21), and this will hinder our friendship with God. “You are God; you are God!”
  • By believing that righteousness before God is only through the gospel (Philippians 3:4-9). Too many try to develop a relationship with God based on their religious efforts; that is, by keeping the rituals and rules of religion or spirituality. Paul knew religion quite well, and he rejected all he could do in favor of relying on Christ and his righteousness to be right with God.

Is your friendship with God based on the grace of God in Christ? Only those who rely on Christ alone for salvation are accepted by God (cf. Ephesians 1:5-6).

How is humility expressed? Humility is expressed by an active faith in God (1 Peter 5:6-7). Faith acknowledges God’s almighty power and is willing to wait for God to lift the believer up in his time. Until that time comes, he or she casts every anxiety on God. We see examples of this in the life of Abraham. Consider how Abraham humbly obeyed God by faith.

  • The Lord said to Abraham, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” What did Abraham do? “So Abram left, as the Lord had told him” (Genesis 12:1, 4).
  • Abraham was distressed greatly, because Sarah wanted him to get Hagar and her son Ishmael out of their household. God tells him, “Listen to whatever Sarah tells you…” What did Abraham do? Early the next morning he sent Hagar and her son away (Genesis 21:11-14).
  • The Lord said to Abraham, “Sacrifice Isaac there as a burnt offering.” What did Abraham do? Early the next morning, he took Isaac to the appointed place (Genesis 22:1-19).

In our lives, there are four special occasions that require us to especially humble ourselves before the Lord.

  • In times of visible confusion in the world (cf. Psalm 46:2-3, 6). How does the person of faith humbly respond? “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:7).
  • In times of amazing, divergent variety in the conditions of believers. Think about this. “Some under persecution always, — some always at peace; some in dungeons and prisons, — some at liberty in their own houses; the saints of one nation under great oppression for many ages, — of another, in quietness; in the same places some poor, in great distress, put hard to it for daily bread all their lives, — others abounding in all things; some full of various afflictions, going softly and mourning all their days, — others spared, and scarce touched with the rod at all; — and yet, commonly, the advantage of holiness and close walking with God lying on the distressed side” (Owen, Works, Vol. 9, p. 114). Why does God deal so differently with his people whom he loves? “Who can, now, with an eye of reason, look upon them, and say they are all the children of one Father, and that he loves them all alike? Should you come into a great house, and see some children in scarlet, having all things needful, others hewing wood and drawing water, — you would conclude that they are not all children, but some children, some slaves: but when it shall be told you that they are all one man’s children; and that the hewers of wood, that live on the bread and water of affliction, and go in tattered rags, are as dear to him as the other; and that he intends to leave them as good an inheritance as any of the rest; — if you intend not to question the wisdom and goodness of the father of the family, you must resolve to submit to his authority with a quiet subjection of mind. So is it in the great family of God; nothing will quiet our souls, but humbling ourselves to the law of his providence” (Ibid, p. 115).
  • In times when their circumstances change suddenly. At sunrise, life seems wonderful, but before twilight comes, one’s life seems ruined beyond recovery. Yet how does humble faith respond? Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).
  • In times of deep, continual, apparently hopeless suffering. But how does humble faith respond? It says as Joseph said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

In all things, the humble friend of God rests on the revealed truth that God is righteous, in control, and wise. “When darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace… When all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay.” Bow in humble dependence before your God this day.

Grace and peace, David

God’s Reign over a Broken World

IMG_3173Psalm 9:3-12

Last night Sharon and I attended an informational meeting about Social Security. The presenter went over recent changes and how they can affect a person’s financial strategy. But a couple times he mentioned that changes can be made to the system at any time by Congress. The old adage that goes something like this came to mind: “Past performance is no indicator of future returns.” With that in my mind, I thought about if and how that saying applies to the truth of our Lord’s reign over our broken world.

In one sense it is definitely not true, because many times in the Bible God assures us that what he has done for his people in the past, he is surely able to do, and will ultimately do, to rescue us from the brokenness of our world. However, in another sense it is true, because we cannot expect our sovereign God to act in our lives in exactly the same way that he acted in David’s life, or in the lives of many others. Some misuse the narrative portions of the Scriptures as guarantees that God will do the same for us, “if we have faith”. That is false teaching and clearly not supported by the God’s word. The Lord delivers some, while others he helps to endure severe suffering. (Read carefully Hebrews 11:32-38). For example, though Elijah prayed and God ended the drought does not mean that you or I can pray and God will end droughts. Elijah acted in faith on the orders that God gave him, and not on his own desires. With that in mind, let’s think about what God did for David and his kingdom, as God pursued his plan of sending the Messiah.

  • David thanked God for acting for his deliverance (9:3-4). Notice how David presented God as the powerful Judge. David’s enemies had to retreat, because they could not stand in God’s presence. The Lord is honored for the righteousness of his rescue of his chosen king. God was faithful to the promises he had made to bring the Messiah, Jesus, through his line. This required deliverance for David. His thankfulness echoes down to our day and into eternity.
  • David acknowledged the doom that fell upon the nations (9:5-8). We must recognize the justice of the Lord’s act of judgment on them. They chose to walk away from the true God to follow idols, and God acted to punish them for their rebellion and rejection of him. Since God is holy, sin must be punished, either on the sinner or the substitute, Jesus Christ. They opposed God’s chosen king, and so they suffered the consequences. As David sang about God’s judgment, he leads us to think about how extensive and lasting God’s justice is. He contrasted the end of the wicked nations with God’s enduring throne, and he stressed the rightness of God’s justice.
  • David celebrated the happy condition of God’s people (9:9-10). The rebellious nations met their doom, but God never abandons those who belong to him. Observe four characteristics of those who belong to God: they are people who need refuge, who know God’s name (who he is), who trust him, and who seek him. They might be in a situation where they are presently oppressed. David was in such circumstances many times. But the Lord God never abandons his own.
  • David called worshipers to join in mission with him (9:11-12). He led those singing this psalm to praise God and to tell the nations what the Lord had done for them. As we noted in our last article, in our day we are to tell the world the good news of what Christ has done to save those who turn from their sins and trust in him for eternal life. We are responsible to spread the word about salvation.

So then, David leads us to worship the God in charge of this broken world. We need this big picture, because at times all we might see and think about is the pain and sorrow of brokenness. Perhaps you are in a rough situation today, or you might have family and friends that are. If so, look at an enduring reason for hope: the sovereign God rules over the nations. He will bring all his people to the refuge they need.

Grace and peace, David

Prayer and Triumph through the How Long Times

IMG_0683Psalm 13:1-6

As we have observed, David kept God in his thoughts during his struggles. He did this although he felt that God had forgotten him. But he did more than think about the Lord. He sought the Lord by prayer (13:3-4). There are times to think and there are times to pray. Too often we do the one when we should be doing the other. Spiritual maturity brings the wisdom needed.

David prayed for God to hear him. He earnestly addressed his God. Though he was at a low point, he did not forsake his confidence in the living God. Recently, I wrote about assurance; there can be various degrees of assurance. A happy believer can hear the voice of the Spirit of adoption, crying out, “Abba, Father”. During times of wrestling with problems and sorrow, we should head straight to the throne of grace. Claim God’s word of promise and run there (Hebrews 4:16).

David used arguments in his prayer. God has told us his story in the Bible, so that we can know how he kindly interacts with his people. Remember how Abraham pleaded with God for Sodom (Genesis 18). He used arguments as he prayed for that wicked city. (By the way, do you pray for our cities?) He presented two related consequences if God did not help him as arguments for God to act for his benefit. The first argument was that without God’s help “I will sleep in death” (cf. Psalm 30:9). David told the Lord that he would be losing a worshiper on earth if he died. He grabbed hold of the concept of one of the purposes for a godly life (cf. 1 Peter 2:10), and turned it into an argument for God to act for him. The second argument was the gloating of God’s enemies, which were also David’s enemies. “My enemy will say.” As John Trapp put it, they were composing “comedies out of my tragedies.” Turn trouble from the adversary into a prayer request. “Save your child from this cruel monster.”

After God answered him, we read of the believer’s triumph of faith (13:5-6). Faith in God brings victory (cf. 1 John 5:4). Very often failure to trust the Lord gets us into trouble, such as what happened to Peter. He looked at the waves and fell, when he should have focused on Jesus (Matthew 14:29-31). Trust in God’s unfailing love. As someone wrote, “He cannot fail, for he is God. He cannot fail; he pledged his word.” Trust of this nature will be accompanied by joy in salvation. Here we find the desire of our inner persons satisfied. We go to God despondent, fearful and needy. We leave filled with joy.

There is the joy of victory (13:6). This is greater than any athlete’s thrill of victory. Now the storm is past and the sun shines. David’s heart was filled with song. His thinking changed. He thought about the goodness of God rather than his problems.

Some final points as we close this article:

  • Too often we erect monuments on the graves of old problems. We are wiser to raise “Ebenezers” where the Lord has helped us (1 Samuel 7:12).
  • The next time you suffer as David did, reach for the remedy that helped him. Use this psalm as a pattern for your approach to God. Make the Scriptures a valuable weapon in your hands against the enemy.
  • If you are in a spiritual struggle you can’t seem to get out of, please go to other gospel partners for help. God has placed us in gatherings of believers that we might be able to help each other in our struggles. Get rid of pride! Every believer has weaknesses, in spite of our perfectionistic quest to keep them hidden, or so we wrongly imagine. Listen to others; let them hold you up in prayer.

Grace and peace, David