Tuesday, May 22, 2012
“Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart's desires. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act, making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday.” (Psalm 37:4-6 HCSB)
It is commencement time. In a few brief days, graduates from high schools, community colleges, universities and seminaries will march across a stage in cap and gown, will be handed a diploma and they and their families will celebrate.
You who are graduating are going to be making the biggest decisions of your lives in the next few years: you will be deciding about continuing your education, getting married, and about your career. These are big days—crucial days—commencement time. Graduation exercises are called commencement. We think, “That’s over! I’m finished!”
That word doesn’t mean the end, but the start! To commence is to begin! The key question is a matter of direction. How can we start on the right track? Look at this verse from Psalm 37: “A man's steps are established by the Lord, and He takes pleasure in his way.” (v.23).
It was commencement time for Solomon. His preparations for his lifetime vocation had been completed—and now his career loomed before him. Perhaps Psalm 37 was David’s “commencement address” at young Solomon’s graduation. The words are certainly appropriate.
The world our graduates are facing, and the future that looms before them, is one of incredible peril and imposing problems. I’m not trying to “rain on your parade.” I am telling you, that if you are to make a difference in this world, you must walk off the stage and quickly exchange your cap and gown for the whole armor of God. The diploma can be hung on a wall, and the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God be taken in hand.
Now, I’m not saying you have to be a missionary or pastor, but that whatever vocation you choose, you are to be led by the Spirit of God and labor for the glory of God. You have a brief time, I believe, to impact the world. If you do not unleash a movement back to God, the society will continue to disintegrate. If you do not flood your world with light, it will become immersed in darkness—that darkness grows daily, exponentially. Many believe we are at “the tipping point.”
I think of Mordecai’s words to Queen Esther, long ago, when it seemed hope was hanging by a thread, “Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14b). It was time for her to throw caution to the wind, to become totally committed—and so it is for you. It’s commencement time.
Psalm 37 tells us how to be people of impact—whether young or old—but in particular these words challenge us, as we are reaching adulthood. They tell us how to commence correctly.
EXHIBIT FEARLESSNESS (v.1-4)
Fear will paralyze us. Panic will drive us into bad decisions. As we look at our world today, if we look with human eyes alone, there is every reason to fear. But, God calls us to walk by faith and not by sight. David was high school age or younger—a pimple faced kid with peach fuzz on his chin—when he went out to fight a ten foot tall giant, armed only with a slingshot. Human perspective would lead one to conclude, “He’s too big to beat!” David chose heaven’s perspective and concluded, “He’s too big to miss!” That was the same courage David sought to arouse in young Solomon.
Here are some vital truths to help us commence with courage:
“Trust in the Lord” (v.3a); “trust in Him” (v.5b).
Faith forces out fear. Henry Blackaby has said, “Fear is having faith in the enemy.” Who is bigger—the enemy or God? Who is stronger—the enemy or God? Place your faith in the Lord!
“Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him” (v.7a); “those who put their hope in the Lord will inherit the land.” (v.9b).
So many are restless—they pace the floor, they run about trying to get ahead, they toss and turn at night consumed by worry. God wants us to rest in Him—to lie back in His arms. When Satan whispers there is no hope, quiet your soul and listen instead to the still, small voice of Him who is hope itself!
Then what? Wait! Be patient. That’s hard I know. Americans are hooked on speed. I’m not talking about drugs—but always being in a hurry. We ride people’s bumpers; we honk if they don’t go immediately when the light turns green; we’re irritated whenever we have to wait in line. We overextend ourselves with debt because we don’t want to wait until we can save to buy the latest gadget. We don’t wait for sex until we are married. Rash decisions made on impulse are rarely good decisions. I know. I said “we” for I still struggle in this area. But, struggling with it does mean we have to surrender to it! Choose to surrender to God instead. This leads to the next commencement challenge.
EXPRESS FAITHFULNESS (v.5-6)
These verses have been life-changing to me. It was the evening of July 30, 1976—imagine almost 36 years ago as I write these words(!)—that my wife, Marilyn and I were in an open air auditorium, on a warm summer night at the Ben Lippen Conference. That facility still stands on what is now called the Crest. The late Stephen Olford took these verses and challenged us to full-time Christian service. I had been wrestling with God’s call on my young life. Marilyn and I had prayed and talked and wondered where God was leading. That night we knew. When a commitment call was issued at the end of the sermon, we both stepped out and surrendered to the will of God. We signed a card, “Lord Jesus, anything, anywhere, anytime, I am ready.” We embarked on an incredible journey and we haven’t looked back. Though there has been a stumble or two along the way, we have tried to be faithful to God’s call.
Here are some insights into how to express our faithfulness to God:
Verse 3 includes this exhortation: “do what is good.” This is the being faithful—doing the right thing. The time for talk is over, and the time for tasks has begun. This is commencement. It is a call for action.
“Commit your way to the Lord” (v.5a)
Picture a plane roaring down the runway as it prepares for take off. There is a line drawn on the runway—known as the point of no return. If the pilot reaches that point, there is not enough room left to stop. He is committed to flight. That is the place you are racing toward. When you hear the voice in heaven’s control tower say, “Clear for take-off,” then go full-throttle!
God will bring this glorious new day for you, “making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday” (v.6) If we will be faithful, our righteous life and just conduct will be evident to all. Let your light shine.
EXCLUDE FRETFULNESS (v.7-8)
Three times in these verses we are told not to be agitated (v.1a, 7b, 8b). Some translations render this, “do not fret.” If God says something once, that should be enough. If he repeats it three times, it isn’t that it is necessarily more important, but that we are more apt to ignore it! Don’t!
The Hebrew term for agitate is literally “to boil.” We might say, “hot under the collar.” We are tempted to boil over when we see others succeed, even though we may have worked harder; or someone else gets ahead by cheating, while we try to do it right. Don’t get steamed when you think life isn’t fair—it isn’t! Neither is God, by the way, but He is just—which means in the end He’ll do right. Fairness is a human, subjective ideal. Justice is a heavenly, objective standard. Do the right thing and trust God to take care of the results. He will in His time and in His way.
Envy is a vexing evil, and hence the command, “do not envy those who do wrong.” (v.1b) We fret because we envy what others have. It will ignite desires in you that cannot be legitimately fulfilled. Are you reaching the boiling point? “Refrain from anger and give up [your] rage; do not be agitated-it can only bring harm.” (v.8) It will give you ulcers or cause a stroke. Anger will poison your relationships: with your spouse, your kids, fellow workers and everyone else. Don’t be a time bomb waiting to explode. Envy lights the fuse.
EXPERIENCE FRUITFULNESS (v.9-11)
Those who exhibit fearlessness, express faithfulness and exclude fretfulness will experience fruitfulness! This is a life that will make a difference in the world.
Don’t miss the difference that makes the difference:
We read, “dwell in the land and live securely.” (v.3b); “those who put their hope in the Lord will inherit the land.” (v.9c); “But the humble will inherit the land.” (v.11a) To the Jew all the blessing of God was tied up in the land—a land flowing with milk and honey. Jesus quoted this passage as a promise to us (Matthew 5:5). We do not get ahead by striving but serving—not by promoting ourselves, but humbling ourselves.
Would you want everything your heart desires? You can have it! “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart's desires.” (v.4) When we desire only what God desires, then He delights to give what we desire. It is wondrous when our will is linked to His will and our heart beats as one with His! Then you, “will enjoy abundant prosperity.” That is to have all you need, to do all God wants you to do, and be able to enjoy it. Now, there’s success!
“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act,” (v.5). If you commit yourself to God, then it becomes His responsibility to enable you to fulfill His calling. David knew what he was talking about. That had been his experience, “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous abandoned or his children begging for bread.”
Do you want the conclusion of your life to be like that? Then make sure the commencement of your journey is in the right direction.