Sermon, Psalm 37
Trusting God in Troubled Times
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Trusting God in Troubled Times
By The Rev. Vaughan Smith
Several Psalms and many Proverbs divide all of humanity into two groups: the righteous and the wicked.
Certainly in Psalms and Proverbs, and I think in the entire Bible, righteousness is a matter of relationship. Righteous people are not perfect. Righteous people are simply people who relate rightly to God.
Likewise, wicked people do not relate rightly to God. The righteous relate rightly to God because the righteous recognize God as God.
The righteous relate rightly to God by seeking to know God and to obey God. But the wicked reject God and God's ways. The wicked reject God because the wicked want to be their own gods. And the wicked reject God's ways because the wicked want to do things their own way.
Among other things, Psalm 37 recognizes the frustrating reality that the wicked often prosper, and the righteous often suffer. This seems unfair. The righteous try to live God's way. The wicked reject God and live their own way. And yet… the wicked often seem to have it better than the righteous.
If YOU have ever been punished for doing the right thing, if you're a good guy who seems to always finish last… then Psalm 37 is for you.
Psalm 37 is also good spiritual medicine for just about any problem a person might have.
I heard a story recently about a little boy who wanted to wash his cat. The little boy went to the store and bought some Tide detergent.
The cashier said to the boy, "It's nice of you to run errands for your parents. Do you do the laundry at your house?" The little boy said, "I'm not doing laundry. I'm washing my cat."
The cashier explained to the boy that Tide was not good for washing cats… but the boy refused to listen.
The next time the boy came to the store, the casher asked him, "How's your cat?"
The boy hung his head in sadness. He said, "My cat died."
The cashier said, "I'm sorry to hear that your cat died. Did it die from the Tide you washed it with?"
The boy said, "No. I don't think the Tide killed my cat. I think it was the spin cycle."
When we get bombarded with problems... when stress comes in waves… life can feel like a spin cycle.
Raise your hand if you know what I am talking about.
The spin cycle killed the cat… and the spin cycle can kill people too. The spin cycle can kill us quickly, like in a heart attack. Or the spin cycle can kill us slowly… by slowly sucking the life out of us, until we become joyless, defeated zombies.
When life is like a "spin cycle"or when a specific, major crisis strikes, Ps. 37 provides God-given wisdom, a plan of action for experiencing the peace that passeth understanding, a supernatural peace that transcends circumstances.
The first 8 verses of Psalm 37 give us 7 steps for enjoying God and experiencing supernatural peace, even in a spin cycle.
The supernatural peace that God offers can help us cope with the current economic crisis.The current, world-wide economic crisis might lead to one world currency… to one world government… and to the rise of "The Man of Lawlessness," (2 Thess. 2) commonly called, "The Antichrist."
On the other hand, the current world economic crisis could simply be a product of human sin and greed, and it might have nothing to do with The End of the World.
Either way… Christians have nothing to fear! Either way, Christians have nothing to fear because our God is in control… and His plan is perfect!
Whenever we face any crisis, it's helpful to review God's instructions for enjoying God and experiencing supernatural peace.
Don't worry about writing these 7 steps down. God already wrote them down for us, and we can turn back to Psalm 37 any time we need to.
Step 1: Don't Fret.
David knew that it is hard to avoid fretting. That's probably why the words, "Don't fret" are recorded three times in the first eight verses of Psalm 37.
David, Paul, and Jesus each command us not to fret, not to worry.
Fretting—or worrying—is a sin. It's a sin because God commands us not to do it.
Fretting, or worrying, is a choice. We cannot control what thoughts enter our minds, but we can control which thoughts we dwell on.
When I experience worry, I try to turn my worries into prayers. The best weapon against worry is trusting God When we trust that God loves us… When we trust that God works for our good in all things, even in hurtful things… When we trust in God's person, plan, power, and love, then we really have nothing to worry about.
I expect that most of us will never completely stop worrying, but we can grow in faith. We can worry less and less. And when we do worry, we can repent… and try to better.
Steps 2 and 3: Trust in the Lord… and do good.
These two steps are inseparable; neither can exist without the other. Faith and trust are VERBS; faith and trust are a lifestyle, and they involve action.
Real faith always includes obedience, and obedience includes doing the "good" things God commands. That is why trusting God and doing good cannot be separated.
Step 4: delight yourself in the lord.
What do you delight in? What is your greatest source of pleasure? If knowing God is not our highest joy and delight, then we do not know God very well. And if we do not know God very well, it is only because we have not invested enough time in developing our relationship with God.
Speaking from his own experience, plus the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David says that when we delight in God, God gives us the desires of our hearts. This is a blank check… with one condition attached. Much like when we are "abiding in Christ" …when we delight in God, then the desires of our hearts will be in line with God's will. When we delight in God, the desires of our hearts are in line with God's will… and when our desires are in line with God's will, God can safely give us the desires of our hearts.
In fact, when we delight in God, we desire increased intimacy with God… and God is happy to fulfill our desire for increased intimacy with Himself.
Step 5: Commit your way to the Lord.
This one is tricky. It means more than we may think. Commitment is important. Deep, satisfying relationships—like marriage, friendship, and discipleship—require commitment.
Our commitment to God is important… but, here in Psalm 37.5, being committed to God is not the point. We don't have time to dig deep into the original Hebrew today, but please trust me when I say that the word translated as, "commit," means "to roll something onto something else."
The Apostle Peter probably had Psalm 37.5 on his mind, when he wrote, "Cast all your anxiety on [God] because he cares for you."
Casting our cares on God, rolling our burdens onto the Lord, that is what David means, when he tells us to commit our way to the Lord.
Committing our way to the Lord includes going to God in prayer, taking our problems to the foot of the cross… and leaving our problems there, with God.
Committing our way to the Lord includes seeking God's presence… placing our problems in God's hands… and then trusting God will… and God's timing.
Step 6: Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.
Again, please trust me when I say that the original Hebrew includes the idea of sitting still with God in silence. David is telling us to tell God about our problems… and then to sit quietly with God.
Let's learn the lesson of the face. God gave us two ears and one mouth. We should listen twice as much as we talk, and this is especially true, in our relationship with God!
Most of us, including me, could listen to God more, and if we did, our lives would be better!
And just in case we forgot Step 1, David reminds us, saying, "Don't fret…"
Step 7: Refrain from anger and turn from wrath.
We all get angry.
The Apostle Paul gives us two especially helpful commands about dealing with the anger we all feel at times.
"‘In your anger do not sin' "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…" (Ephesians 4:26) Don't allow anger to lead us to do or say harmful things… and… let go of each day's anger, before going to bed at night.
If we sincerely desire God to help us to obey these two commands, then we can ask for… and receive God's help.
And lest we forget, for the third time, David reminds us, "Don't fret — it leads only to evildoing." (Psalm 37:8)
That's it! Seven steps to stop fretting at the wicked… seven steps to surviving the spin cycle… seven steps to enjoying God and God's peace in the storms of life.
These steps are not a one-time thing. Some days we need to go through these steps several times.
Remember, the seven steps are right there in Psalm 37. We can review these seven steps whenever necessary.
And as we practice these seven steps, we can enjoy God's presence and God's peace even in the storms of life.
As we practice these seven steps, we can survive the spin cycle… and come out clean.
And as we practice these seven steps, we can experience what Jesus was talking about, when He said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you… Don't let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful." (John 14:27)
Lord, help us to be doers of Your Word! Amen.
Copyright 2008, Vaughan Smith. Used by permission.