Monday, April 09, 2012
FAILURE NEED NOT BE FINAL
“Turn away from evil and do what is good; seek peace and pursue it….The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:14, 18 HCSB)
God allows U-Turns! If we are going the wrong way, we can turn around. If we stumble, we can get back up. Failure need not be final.
When we look at the superscription of Psalm 34, it helps us understand the context of this song. It states:
“Concerning David, when he pretended to be insane in the presence of Abimelech, who drove him out, and he departed.”
He was at one of the most critical junctures of his young life. King Saul was hot on his heels. David panicked and behaved in a manner unworthy of a child of God. Rather than trusting the Lord, he sought refuge in the world. He went to a pagan king for help. When the Philistines recognized it was their old nemesis David, they began to threaten him—so, the Bible tells us David acted like a lunatic, drooling and scratching at the door like a dog—leading the Philistines to drive him away with scorn. The young soldier has learned a hard lesson. His escape from trials will not be found in adopting worldly wisdom, but in hearing and heeding God. David failed, but he did not allow the failure to be final. His heart was broken over his sin. David was crushed that he would fail God so dishonorably. But, in that brokenness, God found an opening to pour in His grace!
Remember Simon Peter? He denied the Lord Jesus when Christ needed him most. When Jesus looked into his eyes, Peter melted. He repented. According to Scripture, the vacillating fisherman was restored and became a valiant man of God.
Perhaps you are thinking, “I’ve blown it again.” “I’ve really messed up.” “God won’t hear me now.” You are shocked at the depths of depravity you still find lurking in your heart. Surely you are beyond God’s reach—but, no! Failure need not be final. Turn around! There is a way back to God.
BY WHAT WE SPEAK: PRAISE (v.1-3; 11-13) Words are powerful—to help or to hurt. When we speak words of worship, we unleash power.
It is power for BLESSING THE FATHER AND BUILDING OUR FAITH.
“I will praise the Lord at all times;
His praise will always be on my lips.
I will boast in the Lord;
the humble will hear and be glad.
Proclaim Yahweh's greatness with me;
let us exalt His name together.” (Ps.34:1-3 HCSB)
It seems a strange time to be praising God. If David had allowed his mood and circumstances to dictate his speech, his mouth would have been filled with negativism. He had just made a fool of himself, and peril still hunted him like hounds tracking their prey. But he chose by an act of the will to bless the Lord, and in so doing would build his faith and that of those around him. His men needed confidence, and that would either be underpinned or undermined by what he said. Everyday, by what we say and how we deal with the challenges of life, we are fortifying faith or fueling fear. Is there a failure in your life that would change the facts concerning the faithfulness of God? Of course not! Then you can choose to speak these words. No matter how you feel, the facts don’t change.
This is also a power for TEACHING THE TRUTH AND TAMING THE TONGUE
“Come, children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Who is the man who delights in life,
loving a long life to enjoy what is good?
Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from deceitful speech.” (Ps.34:11-13 HCSB)
Our tongue has such potential for good, as we teach the truth of the Word of God. But the potential is also there for great evil if we do not tame the tongue, fueling a fire that will destroy. How many men no longer try to be spiritual leaders because their wives nag and find fault and they feel like failures? How many wives feel unloved because of the harsh speech of their husbands? How many kids are scarred by the corrosive words that burn and burn? James warns us that the tongue can be set on fire by hell. There are people who once were active in church, and have been driven away by hurtful words. There are also those who have been reclaimed from failure by helpful words of encouragement. That is what I am trying to do today. If you have failed and found failure not to be final, then God has given you a testimony to lift the fallen.
The way back to God is found not only in what we speak: praise, but BY WHAT WE SEEK: PRIORITY (v.4-10; 14). Are we feeling hopeless? Are we worried about the repercussion of our actions in our family or among our friends? Are we fearful of all the evil things that haunt our future? Jesus addressed that. In dealing with anxiety over our circumstances, He said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” (Matt.6:33).
You get back on the road at the spot where you took the devil’s detour. Time for a U-Turn! You sought your own way and that brought a horrible failure. Now, seek God’s will and that will bring a hope-filled future.
This means AN EXPRESSION OF DESIRE.
“I sought the Lord, and He answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant with joy;
their faces will never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard [him]
and saved him from all his troubles.
The Angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear Him, and rescues them.” (Ps.34:4-7 HCSB)
David made seeking God his priority. If we fear God, we need fear nothing else. His face was thus transformed from a shameful expression of irrational fear to a radiant one reflecting the glory of God. It reflects from the countenance of one who has spent time with the Lord. It is said that the people who encountered the early Christians took notice that they had been with Jesus. Do others see that glow in our faces? That can help erase the memory of seeing us drooling and disgraced like David once displayed.
This means also AN EXPERIENCE OF DELIGHT.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good.
How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!
You who are His holy ones, fear Yahweh,
for those who fear Him lack nothing.
Young lions lack food and go hungry,
but those who seek the Lord
will not lack any good thing.” (Ps.34:8-10 HCSB)
My wife, Marilyn and I have been eating out, when I have bitten into a delicious entrée. I gave her a portion—I wanted her to just taste it and see how good it was. If we will but get a taste of God, our senses will be overwhelmed, so that we would never return back to eating the hog slop of the world. If we then put Him first, all the other needs we have will be supplied—God promises!
Further this means AN EXAMPLE OF DEVOTION.
“Turn away from evil and do what is good;
seek peace and pursue it.” (Ps.34:14 HCSB)
We need to loathe that which God despises and love that in which God delights. That’s what David is counseling here. It’s a simple test—are you doing those things that are at the core self-centered and therefore sinful? If so, then you are fueling the fires of your depraved nature. If you are pursuing peace in your relationships with God and others, God will be pleased to douse those flames.
There is a way back to God. Failure need not be final. It is a way by what we speak: praise, by what we seek: priority and BY WHAT WE SECURE: PRESERVATION (v.15-22) I do not want to minimize the consequences of failing God. They are real—and can be far-reaching. But, if the foundation is solid, then we can rebuild. In fact, if we learn these painful lessons, we can shore up our life against this weakness now exposed. God can deliver us from our failure.
He is THE GOD WHO REMEMBERS US.
“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and His ears are open to their cry for help.
The face of the Lord is set
against those who do what is evil,
to erase all memory of them from the earth.” (Ps.34:15-16 HCSB)
Quite a contrast isn’t it—those that God’s face is set against and His holy fire burns to nothing, and those God remembers—His eyes and ears open to them? We get to decide which group to belong to—and the wise choice should be obvious!
Then, there is THE GOD WHO RESCUES US.
“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,
and delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is near the brokenhearted;
He saves those crushed in spirit.” (Ps.34:17-18 HCSB)
Who among us can deny, that like David, we have failed God at some point or other? You aren’t going to always get it right—but you can have a broken heart of repentance. That is the way back to God.
We will encounter THE GOD WHO REDEEMS US.
“Many adversities come to the one who is righteous,
but the Lord delivers him from them all.
He protects all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
Evil brings death to the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
The Lord redeems the life of His servants,
and all who take refuge in Him will not be punished.” (34:19-22)
We aren’t exempt from trouble but can endure the trouble. Verse twenty “He protects all his bones; not one of them is broken” is prophetic of the death and resurrection of Christ (see John 19:33, 36). There is the promise of redemption—that God can take that which is badly ruined and make it beautifully restored. Our scars can be transformed into reminders of God’s deliverance.
God would make something of David despite his failure. God is no respecter of persons. He can do it for you!