Psalm 119:1–8 NKJV
1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, Who walk in the law of the Lord!
2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart!
3 They also do no iniquity; They walk in His ways.
4 You have commanded us To keep Your precepts diligently.
5 Oh, that my ways were directed To keep Your statutes!
6 Then I would not be ashamed, When I look into all Your commandments.
7 I will praise You with uprightness of heart, When I learn Your righteous judgments.
8 I will keep Your statutes; Oh, do not forsake me utterly!
The first word of Psalm 119 is “blessed,” in Hebrew “as-re.” Literally it means “oh how blessed” or “oh how happy.” This is the same way our Lord began the beatitudes, “Oh how happy are the ...”
This is an interesting beginning because, as we will see, the writer of this psalm indicates some 65 times in 176 verses that he is suffering affliction. He can identify with us, and we with him!
These are trying times for us all, each day with surprises and lots of uncertainties. About the time I am encouraged by one pundit sharing some good news, the tube changes to a different speaker who unfolds doom and gloom!
But the author of this psalm has found the way to pluck the berries without the cuts and sticks of the briars. He has discovered happiness that flows out of heaven when only sadness and grief blow in the winds upon the earth.
We cannot know with certainty who the author is, for he is never named. However, the psalm reads like it came from the hand of one who walked in the valley of the shadow and found God there beside him. The words and phrases resound like they were spoken by a man who has been both sheep and shepherd. I think it is one of the many psalms of David, likely written over a period of years, like a journal or a diary.
It is only a point of interest who the human author is for we know that the ultimate author is the Holy Spirit who inspired the words in the heart and hand of a man to record God´s truth for us to be able to read today.
So, how can we be blessed? What can anoint us with the oil of gladness in the middle of these troublesome times? He tells us plainly.
Happy and blessed are the
Vs. 4 You, Lord, have commanded complete obedience.
Vs. 5 I wish that I lived more completely that way.
Vs. 6 Because I do not always obey, reading Your commandments makes me feel ashamed.
Vs. 7 I renew my commitment to worship You, Lord, and learn more about Your ways.
Vs. 8 I will try to do better, just don´t abandon me!
Wow! I can really identify with David here. David was a man after God´s own heart, not because he always did what was right or godly, but because when he didn´t he was honest and repentant. And God did not forsake him.
Jesus has promised all of us who have trusted Him who paid the penalty for our sin that we might become righteous in Christ, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
I am so grateful.
In the past several blogs I have been addressing the HOW of the question HOW does God accomplish His goals and purposes in our lives as we walk through difficult times.
We have already seen the answer from the New Testament and observed an example from the Old. I now want us to go to Psalm 119, which is the longest psalm of the Bible.
The subject matter of Psalm 119 is the Word of God, but not just that. It is a collection of poignant statements of truth about HOW the Word of God accomplishes the purposes of God when it is obeyed and practiced.
I will offer several examples, but the entirety of the psalm is worth reading with these two truths in mind.
A person cannot cleanse his way of life without the instruction of the Word of God, but just hearing the instruction is not enough. We must hear and do. We must heed the Word!
The Word of God has the counsel we need. But it will only help us as we delight in its counsel and do it.
It is the truth of God´s commandments that offer wisdom, but we must make them a part of our lives. The way to do that is to meditate upon God´s Word so that it pops in our mind the very moment we need it. Then when we recall it, we keep it. That is the way change is accomplished.
My friend, knowing and doing this is what will allow us to walk through times of trial with success. This is what will enable us to come to the end of a period of great difficulty and see God´s purposes accomplished and His goals fulfilled in each of our lives.
Is that what you want to happen as a consequence of this pandemic in your own life?
To that end, I am going to at least begin to walk us through Psalm 119. The psalm is written in twenty two sections, each section being eight verses long. If you could read Hebrew, you would see that each verse in a particular section begins with the same letter.
So, the first eight verses of Psalm 119 each begin with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet – Aleph. This is where we will start tomorrow. Psalm 119:1-8.
Each day, we will read the Treasury of Wisdom, meditate upon it, and see how to apply it directly into our lives.
Times of hardship and trial are always times of opportunity, because God always has purpose in the things He sends or the things He allows into our lives. The Lord has given us a sure way to cooperate with what He desires to do, a way that always works.
James 1:22 NKJV But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Gideon was a young man in a land in much greater trouble than our own. Every year at the time of the harvest, the Midianites would invade Israel and take all the crops and livestock that the Israelites could not successfully hide.
God certainly had plenty of purpose in allowing Midian to “get away with this” year after year. His purpose for Israel was to bring them to repentance. But God also had purpose in the lives of each family and each individual. Gideon was the youngest of his family, but God had a work in this young man´s life He wanted to accomplish.
The only portion of the written Word of God in existence at this time were the Books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy) and possibly the Book of Job. So when God wanted to give Gideon a word, the Angel of the Lord brought it to him.
When the Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and told him the Lord was with him, Gideon didn´t believe the angel. He said, “If the Lord is with us, why is all of this happening? The nation is impoverished. People are dying.”
How many people are asking that same question today? Are you one of them?
Then God revealed that He Himself was the Angel of the Lord, and He said to Gideon, “I am going to deliver Israel through your leadership.” But Gideon doubted and demanded a sign. He prepared a meal for Lord. The Angel of the Lord reached out with His staff and touched the food, and flame vaporized it; and then the Lord disappeared.
The Lord returned to instruct Gideon later that night. At last Gideon believed he really had talked with the Lord, and the Lord told Gideon to destroy the altar of Baal built in his city. Gideon did! He obeyed the Word of the Lord.
God gave Gideon success in tearing down the altar of the pagan god, and Gideon began to exercise the leadership God had called him to do. He began to raise an army, but again battled with doubt, wondering if God could really empower him to defeat the Midianites. So Gideon went through the test of God´s call asking for there to be dew on a fleece in the morning when the ground was dry. When the Lord did this, Gideon reversed the sign to be sure it really was the work of the Almighty.
Folks, “putting out a fleece” as a way to get a sign from God is not an act of faith but of doubt! Nevertheless, God was growing Gideon, and He confirmed the sign. But when He did, Gideon again responded in obedience.
The next time God gave a command, this one to trim the size of his army from 32,000 to 300, Gideon obeyed without seeking a sign. Do you see the growth?
Israel was set free.
Gideon was a changed man!
Every time of trial and difficulty is an opportunity for growth in the Lord.
The twin keys to unlock God´s wondrous transformation are
We are exploring HOW God uses His Word to accomplish His purposes in us, especially when we are walking through difficult times.
Saturday, we were in the middle of looking at …
2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
We noted the magnitude of the promise here that God-breathed instruction would
tell us the truth, show us when we err, instruct us how to make correction, and in general train us in being righteous as God is righteous.
My, my, what a word from God!
But we paused when we noted that the Spirit said that this Holy Word from Holy God MAY make us complete, MAY equip us for every good work.
Do I dare be completely honest here?
I have learned across the years, when I am not understanding something well or completely, to read before and after – to get the context. So, let´s back up to verse 14.
2 Timothy 3:14–17 NKJV 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Paul is speaking to Timothy as his father in the ministry. He tells Timothy…
Timothy, and us by the way, must continue in the Scriptures. What does that mean?
The word translated continue means to
HOW does the Word of God cause His purposes to be accomplished in our lives?
I confess: I always loved the TV show “How It Works.” I still watch re-runs when I can. I have just never been fully satisfied to know that something does work, I really want to know how.
When I was in college, my university bought its first computer, primarily for use by the business office. However, they opened up a night class to us math majors in Computer Programming. I hated night classes, and although I was a senior, I had never taken one. I took this one. I wanted to learn how to make that beast work!
I loved it. We learned to code in Fortran (I know that dates me, but it´s not like you can´t tell the same thing by looking at my face!). Some years later the first home computers came out, and I bought one of the first offered by Radio Shack. The operating system it came with accepted Basic as its programming language, and I learned it. Again, I wanted to know how to make this brand new, cutting-edge machine work!
A friend of mine in the first church I pastored had similar inclinations. Together we wrote programs to computerize the records of the church, more than a decade before commercial church software was available. We digitized our membership records, contribution records, church accounting, and word processing. We did all of that just because we wanted to, out of our desire to know how.
Everybody is not built that way, and I attribute no godliness to the characteristic. But maybe you are that way. Maybe you like to know how something works. I find that there are others that do not have that innate curiosity, but learning how something works increases their confidence that something does work and will do so consistently.
Perhaps that is the reason why God tells us in His Word why obeying His Word works in accomplishing His goals for us, not just in hard times, but all the time. Look at what He reveals.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
How does reading the Scripture work to accomplish God´s purposes in our lives?
-Reproof – telling us things that are wrong
-Correction – Telling us how to make the wrong things right
-Instruction in righteousness – practical instruction in how to be who God wants us to be
That is truly wonderful!
But I must admit that one word bothers me. “MAY”
I want to read “WILL” or “SHALL.”
The text says “MAY,” and that is what the Greek text says.
Hummmm. There must be more to HOW this works than I have so far explained. We will pick up here tomorrow.
When hard times come, God has His reasons. Those reasons are always righteous and good, because that is who God is.
During those times of difficulty and even pain for God´s children, God is very intentional in how He desires to use the season of trial to accomplish goodness and righteousness in the lives of those who belong to Him.
But in order to reap the goodness and the righteousness in our lives, we must cooperate with what God is doing. He will not force us to make positive changes. Instead, He enables us to make those changes if we are willing.
So, we have been looking at what He teaches us through His Word about how to cooperate with what He wants to accomplish in our lives, especially as He works in and around us in hard times.
We saw first that we had to admit that we are inadequate to handle the difficulty or make the changes He desires by ourselves or in our own strength.
We were reminded that we need to admit to ourselves and to Him that we cannot live the Christian life on our own.
Having declared our inability, then we trust in His super ability. That description seems trite – super ability. Today the world reads and watches movies about all these super heroes with super abilities. But we know they are not real. Sadly, their lack of reality breeds doubt in some people´s minds that there is a real God who has genuine super abilities. But our God is real, and He is all-knowing; He is all-powerful; He is present everywhere. Even those of us who believe this cannot fully comprehend His abilities.
Luke 1:37 NKJV For with God nothing will be impossible.
Ephesians 3:20 NKJV Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
But we must not stop with just believing in God and His power. Sadly, this is the place many Christians quit! They acknowledge the power of God and really do believe it. But they do not take the next step which is essential in cooperating with God and reaping the blessings that come with having His purposes accomplished in their lives.
The fourth and final step of what we are to do is…
OBEY HIS WORD!
If Paul had not gotten in the basket, his troubles would have greatly multiplied.
If the Hebrew children had not obeyed the Word of the Lord, they would not have enjoyed His protection.
If the children of Israel had not marched forward according to the command of the Lord, many would have been slain on the shores of the Red Sea.
If the leper had not believed in Jesus and asked for His help, the leper would have died in misery.
If either Elijah or the widow had not obeyed what God said to do, both would have gone hungry.
When trouble comes, what do you do? What are you doing now in this time of trial brought on by the Coronavirus?
Are you boasting to yourself or others, “I can handle this”?
Are you saying, “Well since I am a Christian, I am confident that I can just walk through this unscathed”?
Admit your inadequacy.
Acknowledge that you cannot live the Christian life in your own strength.
Trust in God. Depend upon God. Rely upon God.
And obey His Word. Do what He tells you to do and do it immediately!
Repent and confess sin.
Stop doing that which He says is wrong.
Start doing that right thing He has been urging upon you.
Just obey what the Word of God says.
What do we do in times of trial? How do we cooperate with God´s plans and purposes for us during difficult days?
WE ADMIT THAT WE ARE INADEQUATE TO HANDLE THESE THINGS BY OURSELVES.
WE ACKNOWLEDGE THAT WE CANNOT EVEN LIVE THE CHRISTIAN LIFE ON OUR OWN OR IN OUR OWN STRENGTH.
The third thing to do is
RELY ON GOD WHO IS MORE THAN ADEQUATE TO DO THE IMPOSSIBLE.
The Bible is filled with the accounts (all 100% true and unexaggerated) of how our God, who spoke the universe into existence in six days, in His glorious power chooses to use that power for the good of His people!
When Paul preached in Damascus,
When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to the image of Nebuchadnezzar,
A leper whose limbs were decaying on his body,
I am inadequate to handle this alone.
I am not able to even do what is pleasing to You in my own power.
But Lord, I trust You.
You have all the power.
You love me.
I am Your child.
I trust You to get me through this,
For my good and Your glory.
What do we do when trouble comes and we want to cooperate with the purposes the Lord wants to accomplish in our lives as we endure difficulty and work through it?
First, ADMIT OUR INSUFFIECIENCY.
Second, ACKNOWLEDGE THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.
God’s standard is perfection! Jesus told us!
Matthew 5:48 NKJV Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
We cannot meet the standard. That is why we must be saved.
1 John 1:8-9 NKJV 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The fact of the matter is No one lives the perfect Christian life!
What about Paul? If anyone did, he did. Let’s ask him. Paul, we are looking for a noble example. Give it your best shot. We want you to tell us the best things about your life. Just, take a break from the humility thing for a minute and boast on what you do best in following Christ.
Here is his answer:
2 Corinthians 11:30-33 NKJV 30 If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. 31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.
Paul says, “I was a basket case preacher.”
The crowds loved me so much they made me the star of a rock group - they stoned me.
The government took notice of the beneficial effects of my preaching and guarded the city gates so I could not escape. They were even willing to put me up at government expense in the Sheraton Dungeonton.
Paul says, “All because of my weakness, my inadequacy, my inability to live the Christian life.”
This helps me personally to identify with Paul more than at any other point. I cannot touch him when it comes to his strengths. I am right there with him when it comes to his weaknesses! And, …
It is Paul who says to the Romans
Folks, do not be discouraged by this news about Paul because it is good news to you and me. Listen, when trials come, and we want to cooperate with what God is doing in our life,
And with this we are ready for the third step which will bring greater success and blessings than any of us can imagine. We will examine it tomorrow!
Let´s talk about step number one of What To Do When Trouble Comes. How do we cooperate with God so that His reasons for allowing this pandemic to fall upon us will cause His goals to be accomplished in our lives?
Do you remember Charles Shultz “Peanuts?” I read the cartoon strip “religiously” from the time I learned to read until I went off to college and did not have a daily newspaper handy.
Why do I feel inadequate to assure that I keep my family and myself safe from COVID-19?
Why do I feel so inadequate to navigate the financial troubles that this pandemic has brought?
Why do I feel so inadequate to make the necessary decisions to let the church re-gather at the right time and in a safe way?
The answer is easy to figure out. It is just hard to accept.
I am inadequate!
And that brings us to the first thing we need to do when walking through difficult times.
Step # 1 - WE MUST ADMIT OUR INADEQUACY.
Who is sufficient? 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 NKJV 14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?
Not me! 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 NKJV 4 And we have such trust through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
I am insufficient to handle this by myself and with my own power.
Galatians 2:20 NKJV I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Let me raise a translation issue. It is a matter of great consequence. The Greek can be translated both ways. So, is it
When great trials and difficulty come, and if you have matured enough in your walk with the Lord that you recognize God is up to something, then purpose in your heart, “I want God’s will to be done in and through me,” and start your cooperation with what God is doing by admitting “I am inadequate to handle this by myself. It must be Christ in me!”
Before you read anything below, can you guess what it is that we cannot do and God will not do?
The answer is… (did you make your guess, or are you just reading ahead????)
Better to say, an answer is (because there may be more than one thing like this).
God does not force us to become the men and women He desires us to be.
Think about it in light of Scripture.
God wants all people to be saved.
2 Peter 3:9 NKJV The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
1 Timothy 2:3–4 NKJV 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
We know everyone is not saved, because Jesus told us about a man who died and went to hell. So, if God WANTS everyone to be saved, why are some not saved?
John 3:16–18 NKJV 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Jesus said that (even though God wants everyone to be saved,) God will not save those who do not believe in the name of His Son.
The same thing is true concerning our growth in Christ. Growing to be like the Lord Jesus is called sanctification. This is God´s will for us.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 NKJV For this is the will of God, your sanctification: …
But God will not force us to grow. He gives us opportunity. He empowers our growth, but He will not do it if we refuse. He will not force it upon us.
A whole lot of Christians are walking through difficult days right now, but not everybody is growing in the Lord because of it. Some are enduring the pain, but profiting nothing!
We don´t want to be like that, do we? If we have to go through the difficulty, if we have to endure the pain, do we not want to be the better because of it? I believe we do. I do!
We have spent a couple of weeks looking at why the Lord allows these difficult times and what His goals for us in times of trouble could be, all according to the Scripture, revealing Heaven´s perspective.
Today we are going to begin to look at it from a more earthly perspective, from our perspective. We are going to look at difficulties in a very practical way and ask, “What do I do when trouble comes?”
In doing so, we are not going to forsake what the Word of God has taught us concerning God’s goals in our difficulty. So as we seek the answer to what to do, the question becomes How do we cooperate with God’s purposes? Let´s start our consideration (and end today´s blog) thinking about two Scriptures.
2 Corinthians 2:14-16 NKJV 14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?
2 Corinthians 3:4-6 NKJV 4 And we have such trust through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
We pick up here tomorrow with step number one of What To Do When Trouble Comes.