Thursday, April 12, 2012
CONFIDENCE TO CONFRONT LIFE’S CHALLENGES
“I called to the Lord in my distress, and I cried to my God for help. From His temple He heard my voice, and my cry to Him reached His ears.” (Psalm 18:6 HCSB)
After watching TV, I am convinced that there is nothing good happening anywhere!
Do you ever feel that way? The fact is, life isn’t easy. God never promised it would be. We enter the world with nothing and exit it the same way. We are born through great trauma as we struggle to catch our first breath, and often die in great trauma as we struggle for our final breath! That sets the tone for life on a planet ravaged by the curse of sin.
The author of this Psalm, King David, could say a hearty amen to that. Life wasn’t easy for him. Yet, it was the difficulties that made the deliverance all the sweeter. The superscription of the Psalm points to this. It is, “For the choir director. Of the servant of the Lord, David, who spoke the words of this song to the Lord on the day the Lord rescued him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.” David’s testimony can inspire us to have confidence to confront life’s challenges.
We listen as he sings of CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S PERSON (v.1-3). The psalm begins,“I love You, Lord, my strength.” (v.1) This confidence is expressed in OUR WORSHIP. David expresses His love to God. God had proven His love to David. We love Him because He first loved us. Love is an act of the will foremost—more than a feeling, though emotion is certainly important. It is a promise to love forever—an oath of loyalty. He is Yahweh—and David is in a covenant relationship with Him. Out of that relationship, flows strength. David’s strength would have proven insufficient for the challenges he faced, but it didn’t depend on him—and God’s power is more than enough! Listen to his confession of faith.
There is FAITH IN GOD OUR ROCK (v.2a) “my rock” Four times throughout this Psalm, David speaks of God as rock: twice in this verse, s the word “mountain” is literally “rock” and again God is so named in verses 31 and 46. In that climate, the rock was a shade from the sun, a shelter from the storms and a stronghold from the enemy. David needed all that as he ran from the rage of Saul. So do we as we are wandering through the wilderness of this world!
There is also FAITH IN GOD OUR REFUGE (v.2b) “my fortress.” He might well have sung with Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Luther, like David, faced a ferocious foe—the power of the Pope and his determination to crush all dissent. Who was this little monk, to stand up against such earthly power? It wasn’t the stature of Luther, but the size of Luther’s God that won the day. Their plots failed for God was His refuge. We can sing this song too!
Furthermore, there is FAITH IN GOD OUR RESCUER (v.2c) “my deliverer.” God is God, whether we acknowledge Him or not, believe in Him or not, obey Him or not—nothing changes so far as God is concerned, but when, like David, we can say, “He is my God” then that changes us! Faith is the key that taps into all that God is. It gives wings to our prayers. “I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I was saved from my enemies.”(v.3)
The next stanza of David’s song expresses CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S PERCEPTION (v.4-6) The Almighty God knows OUR WEAKNESS. Not even a little bird flutters and falls to the ground without His notice. Don’t think God is unaware and uncaring. If His eye is on the sparrow, we know He watches us.
HE KNOWS OUR STORMS “The ropes of death were wrapped around me; the torrents of destruction terrified me.” (v.4) Remember the tsunami that struck Indonesia a few years ago? Just yesterday there was a tsunami warning for the same region. Thankfully, there was none. They are devastating! David felt as though a tsunami of trouble would drown him. Perhaps you can identify. Fear was threatening to supplant faith. Remember, when Jesus was asleep in the little fishing boat with His disciples as a ferocious storm seemed about to swamp the boat. They woke Jesus, frantically screaming over the howling wind, “Master don’t you care that we perish?” Maybe that’s the panic which has gripped you currently. Jesus took care of it, and it made their fear seem so foolish.
HE KNOWS OUR SORROWS “The ropes of Sheol entangled me…” (v.5a). Sorrow can bring us into a dark pit of depression. Sometimes we seem in a hole we cannot climb out of. Not only troubles, but tears, are part of our path. But there are no tears unseen by God. “You Yourself have recorded my wanderings. Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your records?” (Ps.56:8) He keeps them as a memorial; God acts in His time. What a comfort that is!
HE KNOWS OUR SNARES “the snares of death confronted me.” (v.5b) Troubles, tears and traps—it is a perfect picture of peril. Still, distress has a way of driving us to God. David recalls, “I called to the Lord in my distress, and I cried to my God for help. From His temple He heard my voice, and my cry to Him reached His ears.” (v.6) We never get a busy signal; we are not put on hold or get a mechanical voice—press this or that!
David expresses confidence in God’s person and perception, but also CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S POWER (v.7-45). Focus on verse 39: “You have clothed me with strength for battle; You subdue my adversaries beneath me.” We face the reality of OUR WARFARE. In most of his battles, David was outmanned and overmatched. It is still true—the enemy is powerful and we are puny. When feeling overwhelmed we ought to recall the words of William Carey, founder of the modern missions movement, who rightly said, “One with God is a majority.”
GOD DELIVERS (v.7-19) The key text is in verses 17-19: “He rescued me from my powerful enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my distress, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out to a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.”
In poetic language, David recalls the mighty deliverances of God in the nation’s past (v.7-16)—the deliverance from Egypt’s slavery in the Exodus; the victories in Canaan under Joshua. David had experienced his own deliverances. In facing the challenge of the colossus, Goliath, David testified, “David said to Saul, ‘Don't let anyone be discouraged by him; your servant will go and fight this Philistine!’ But Saul replied, ‘You can't go fight this Philistine. You're just a youth, and he's been a warrior since he was young.’ David answered Saul: ‘Your servant has been tending his father's sheep. Whenever a lion or a bear came and carried off a lamb from the flock, I went after it, struck it down, and rescued [the lamb] from its mouth. If it reared up against me, I would grab it by its fur, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed lions and bears; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.’ Then David said, ‘The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.’” (1 Sam.17:31-37) The word “paw” is the same Hebrew word for Saul’s “hand” found in the superscription of this Psalm. Somebody or something was always wanting to get their “paws” on David. But He was held in the palm of God’s hand!
GOD DISCERNS (v.20-27). Look at this: “The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; He repaid me according to the cleanness of my hands.” (v.20) If we want God to be on our side, we best be sure that we are on His side. God discerns our heart and is true to those whose hearts are true to Him. This is what God is looking for, “For the eyes of Yahweh roam throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His.” (2 Chron.16:9a)
GOD DIRECTS (v.28-45) This is underscored in verses 33-36: “He makes my feet like the feet of a deer and sets me securely on the heights. He trains my hands for war; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand upholds me, and Your humility exalts me. You widen [a place] beneath me for my steps, and my ankles do not give way. “ God directs us to firm footing, like a deer running upon the mountains. He directs us in winning warfare. In all of life, despite the enemy’s attempts, God makes a way
The psalm builds to a crescendo with CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S PURPOSE (v.46-50). David’s personal triumph leads him to a public testimony. It inspires OUR WITNESS.
NONE CAN OUTLAST HIM “The Lord lives-may my rock be praised! The God of my salvation is exalted.” (v.46) He is the living God—eternal and unchangeable—a rock that cannot be moved. That which He has purposed concerning us, moves inexorably to its completion.
NONE CAN OUTRANK HIM “God-He gives me vengeance and subdues peoples under me. He frees me from my enemies. You exalt me above my adversaries; You rescue me from violent men.” (v.47-48) He is the Lord God—all powerful and unconquerable. He subdues our enemies. His purposes cannot be thwarted. God wants is to know, “and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength. He demonstrated this [power] in the Messiah by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavens—far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put everything under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way.” (Eph.1:19-23)
NONE CAN OUTDO HIM “Therefore I will praise You, Yahweh, among the nations; I will sing about Your name. He gives great victories to His king; He shows loyalty to His anointed, to David and his descendants forever.” (v.49-50) David in essence sings, “How great is our God!” He wants all the world to know. Even the Gentiles should know. Paul refers to this text (Rom.15:9) in speaking of God’s great missionary heart—and it should be ours. Our world is a desperate place and we alone know where hope is to be found. Like David, having experienced deliverance from sin, we extend this witness to others.
Do you have this personal relationship with God I’m describing? Are you confronting life’s challenges with confidence? The challenges are great, but God is far greater!