Tag Archives: Faith

From Fear to Fear

Christianity is under attack. Of this there can be no doubt. While some Christians remain oblivious to this or somehow believe they are immune to its effects, the growing reality in the world and in this country warns of dark days ahead for all those who seek to be true to the cause of Christ. The very real threat of direct attacks that lie an ocean away, seen in the kidnappings perpetrated by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, the bombings directed against those professing a faith in Christ in Egypt, and the persecution perpetrated by ISIS in Syria may seem limited and unrelated by some, but they reveal a pattern that cannot be ignored. Furthermore, the subtle path Satan took for decades, stripping morality and Christian values from the cultural conscience and thereby slowing but surely pushing Christianity into the background through both court decisions and legislation, has now evolved into an open advocacy for immorality and secular humanism and an open hostility toward morality and Christian values and expression. But in this we are not alone. Others have gone through similar situations throughout the centuries. Even David, long ago, felt the pain of seeing wickedness seemingly triumph, and his response offers perspective and hope.

In his reflection recorded in the sixty-fourth psalm, David found himself thrust outside of his kingdom by the plotting of his own son, Absalom. However, David accepted this with dignity despite the sense of fear that loomed throughout it all. Instead of letting his fear control him, he turned to God in faith and prayed for deliverance and safety in the midst of the storm (Psa. 64:1-2). David had to listen to personal attacks, both verbal and physical, as the forces with Absalom took advantage of their newfound power to express their wickedness (Psa. 64:3-4). How sad that such brazenness so often accompanies evil when it comes to power (Psa. 64:5-6). Regardless, God’s people can have assurance that God Himself will address the evil in a manner so sudden that no one will expect it (Psa. 64:7). On His own timetable He will bring them down (Psa. 64:8), so that while they sought to have men fear them while they feared no one, in the end, men will come to fear God (Psa. 64:9).

This must be our confidence too. We may not know how or when God will bring down those who promote wickedness from an evil heart, but we can know with certainty that He will. They may take the country down with them, but they will fall from their lofty sense of self-importance, and the eternal kingdom of God will still stand (Dan. 2:44; Matt. 16:18-19). Therefore, “The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and trust in Him. And all the upright in heart shall glory” (Psa. 64:10). The cause of Christ may not now be popular, morality may not be appreciated, and persecution may be our plight, but the rejection of the world does not define us. In fact, more than ever, our faith must speak from a heart dedicated more than ever to the truth and to our God. There may be many reasons to fear in the upcoming years, but our fear of God should trump them all.

Until Calamities Pass By

Sooner or later you will find yourself in the midst of adversity, under attack from the malicious, and trapped by circumstances. Sometimes these problems are financial, sometimes they revolve around health, and often they are spiritual. Those who have been in battle understand this reality quite literally. And yet the mindset essential to surviving with soul intact, ready to move on to the next challenge, is the same. When Saul was chasing David, the future king lived under constant threat, emotional hurt, and physical challenges. On at least two occasions he retreated into a cave to escape the notice of Saul and his men (1 Sam. 22:1; 24:3). His emotions on both occasions must have been powerful, and yet his reflection on this experience, recorded for our benefit in Psalm 57, provides practical advice rooted in spiritual insight.

The challenges that confront us may take many forms, but most take some time to develop and can push us to a very negative place. That is why, whenever life throws us off course or forces us to retreat into our own “cave,” we ought to learn from David’s experience. While the order is not an absolute, it is very telling—and beneficial.

  1. When you find yourself in the midst of adversity, do not let it overwhelm you and do not let it cause you to doubt. Instead, trust God and His care (Psa. 57:1).
  2. Then, with renewed attention to what God can do regardless of what Satan has thrown your way, pray (Psa. 57:2); pray without ceasing (1 Th. 5:17).
  3. Thus growing in faith and confidence (Psa. 57:3), and armed with the knowledge that God is with you, you can endure the hardships, endure the attacks, endure the affliction, and endure the pain (Psa. 57:4), because you know they have an end.
  4. No matter what is going on around you, and no matter how bad you may feel at that moment, worship God, praise Him, and focus once more on the things above (Psa. 57:5).
  5. While the problems that beset us seem overwhelming on their face, they often serve only as a platform for Satan to set the real trap. Therefore, during the challenge of adversity, it is essential to become even more aware of the enemy’s devices so as to avoid falling into various pitfalls (Psa. 57:6).
  6. As funny as it sounds, it is often during these times of trial that we can have greater clarity of purpose. Adversity is thus not the time to weaken our resolve. Adversity is the time to grow our commitment (Psa. 57:7).
  7. When struggles begin and we face tremendous challenges, this is the time to give even more effort, to wake ourselves up to the depths of our soul, and to arise ready for spiritual combat each and every day (Psa. 57:8).
  8. When we thus prepare ourselves, we will become more outspoken about our faith and more ready to stand out among others (Psa. 58:9).
  9. We can do all of this knowing the character of our God and gaining perspective even during trial of how much He has done for us and continues to do (Psa. 58:10).
  10. In the end, on the other side of trial, you will come to see how great God truly is, more confident than ever in His majesty, His glory, and His care (Psa. 58:11).

We all face adversity. We all experience challenges throughout life. We all go through trials of one form or another. And some of these will likely reach the point of overwhelming us from time to time. But that is all the more reason why we should embrace David’s perspective. He went from triumph to tragedy multiple times through his life. Yet, through it all, his faith provided the foundation for him to overcome each test and emerge stronger than before. You will face trials in life—most of which you would never have anticipated. Regardless, you can always know how and where to turn. “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, Until these calamities have passed by” (Psa. 57:1).

God Is My Helper

There are few feelings to compare with having your life threatened. The victim of a hold up while working retail during college, I can understand in a very small way what some have felt often. It can produce a piercing sensation that reaches down deep within, challenging your purpose, your direction, and your preparation. In those moments you must come to grips with the distance between what your priorities are and what they should be. But most of all, you simply feel helpless and alone. But you have Someone who can help, and that is the real key to get through not only threats to your life and their aftermath, but all of life itself.

David had more than his share of peril throughout his life. From the early dangers he faced serving as a shepherd for his father to the violence he encountered on the battlefield to the persecution he faced at the hand of Saul, David knew from an early age what it felt like to have his life threatened. The loneliness and helplessness that such circumstances naturally created must have been tremendous. Even when you have friends and family that support you, feeling like you have a target on your back has an isolating effect that few can imagine. When David was running from Saul, he sought refuge in an isolated area among the Ziphites only to have those people report his presence to the king. When he spotted Saul and learned how his location had been revealed, it must have been frustrating and frightening. Yet, this occasion provided the backdrop for reflection when he penned Psalm 54. Rather than panic, he trusted in God to deliver Him (Psa. 54:1), listen to him (Psa. 54:2), and save him from the treachery of the Ziphites (Psa. 54:3). He then penned these words, “Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is with those who uphold my life” (Psa. 54:4). This perspective, a perspective that had confidence in victory because of God (Psa. 54:5), confidence in God’s goodness (Psa. 54:6), and confidence in deliverance because of faith (Psa. 54:7), is the mindset that offers peace in the midst of turmoil and serenity in the midst of life’s storms.

This was no blind expectation or self-delusion. David’s faith was justified entirely. In this instance he even had opportunity to take Saul’s life but refused to do so…because of the same faith that expressed confidence in deliverance. Had he struck Saul himself, he would have violated a principle of respect for the LORD’s anointed, and his faith trusted that God would provide the way, knowing that killing Saul himself was not in accord with the Lord’s will. God is our helper, but His help will come in His way according to His will.  Therefore, our faith must be strong enough not only to trust in the possibility of deliverance, but to trust God’s means as well. All of us will face times of turmoil and peril. We may even have enemies who make our lives extremely difficult. But even if our problems stem from health issues or economic woes or persecution on the job, David’s answer is still our answer: God is our helper. When we have that thought firmly planted in our soul, the greatest attack Satan may bring will not put a dent in our faith.

A Matter of Trust

The nature and object of your trust determines the direction of your life. This simple principle seems obvious on its face and yet in application often surprises. Perhaps this exposes the difference between the trust we claim and the trust we show. Regardless, our behavior places our priorities on display, and thus the true object of our trust. When Saul pursued David, in the midst of his paranoia, he accused his servants of conspiring against him, assuming that they knew of Jonathan’s actions in support of David. Therefore, sensing an opportunity, Doeg the Edomite spoke up and told Saul that he saw David receive aid from Ahimelech (1 Sam. 22:9-10). Saul then called for Ahimelech, his family, and the rest of the priests of Nob, so that he could question them and punish them. When Saul called for his men to execute them all, they rightfully refused to kill the priests; however, once again, Doeg accepted the charge without a thought, killing eighty-five priests before then turning his sword against their families (1 Sam. 22:18-19). When Abiathar escaped to David and related the news, David was grieved, feeling responsible for their deaths (1 Sam. 22:20-23). Surely he was angry! He most certainly desired justice. David saw Doeg as the opportunistic mercenary that he was. But David also kept his perspective—not seeing Doeg through his own eyes, but more importantly, through the eyes of God, as his reflection recorded in Psalm 52 attests.

David describes Doeg as a man of big words with little faith (Psa. 52:1). Doeg’s words led to the death of many people because he cared little for their actual guilt in a conspiracy but only for advancing his own career, whatever it took (Psa. 52:2-3). For this, David had no doubt, God would judge him, so that no matter what reward he received for his deceit and violence in the short term, he would lose it all in the end (Psa. 52:4-5). Thus, David, speaking while a fugitive from the king about a man who seemingly had risen quickly through the ranks, did not fear Doeg, but God (Psa. 52:6). Despite the events that had led to the death of the priests of Nob and despite being on the run, David’s perspective depended on trust. Thus, as he began to close the psalm, he presented a contrast—a contrast between himself and Doeg, a contrast of trust. “‘Here is the man who did not make God his strength, But trusted in the abundance of his riches, And strengthened himself in his wickedness.’ But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever” (Psa. 52:7-8).

From a worldly perspective, Doeg’s trust in wealth had paid off, but David’s trust in God had left him a refugee. However, that perspective depended on the moment instead of looking to eternity. Everyone must choose where to place trust. As Jesus taught, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24). We must choose. We must decide whether we will trust the world and its ways or trust God Almighty and His. And in this, David’s trust—and future—should provide all the direction we need. We do not have to know the immediate outcome of every challenge we face; we just need to trust that God does, and that He will do what we need. “I will praise You forever, Because You have done it; And in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good” (Psa. 52:9).

Thirsty Soul

A few years ago I remember talking to Gavin McGilvray while he served in the Marine Corps in southern California. The challenges of the service did not bother him; that was why he enlisted. Future deployment overseas during a war was not on his mind either. Instead, our conversation centered on how far removed he was from the church and being able to worship with his brethren. In fact, some youth had taken it upon themselves to call during worship so he could listen and participate. This became a major motivation that led quickly to live-streaming Bible Class and worship. But during that conversation, certain wording Gavin chose stood out to me. He said, “I’m starving here!” The Marine Corps kept him supplied with regular meals, but they could not supply spiritual nourishment. And this reminded me a great deal of Psalm 42 where the sons of Korah began, saying, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psa. 42:1-2).

The psalmist’s lament depicts a feeling of living and serving in a spiritually desolate area where a relationship with God is undervalued. Rather than having others’ encouragement, the people offer discouragement and doubt (Psa. 42:3), draining the soul rather than nourishing it. Surely many a missionary, isolated and perhaps lonely in an area where Christians are few and encouragement minimal can identify with such a sentiment! It remains a difficult challenge to this day. But what is one to do? The psalmist recalls a time when he enjoyed the beauty of fellowship with a multitude, when worship was a joy and praise abundant, when the people gathered to do God’s will (Psa. 42:4). Such reflection could be difficult, but the results are powerful. This memory is important in finding assurance that the work is worthwhile and that there is indeed always hope in God (Psa. 42:5). So even while away from large numbers of the faithful and separated by a vast distance from others of like precious faith, we may be far away from others, but we can still be close to God (Psa. 42:6-7). This realization—the power of faith, the power of God’s love, and the power of prayer—helps overcome the sadness and the loneliness because we can bring our concerns and cares before the throne of the Almighty (Psa. 42:8-9). This does not change the circumstances we face—not at all. The godless will still challenge us, our enemies will still mock us (Psa. 42:10). However, this should never be a reason for alarm, nor become a reason to give up. There is still hope, because God is still my God, and He has given us no reason to doubt Him (Psa. 42:11).

Every Christian may one day face some circumstance where he feels cut off—stranded even—in the midst of nowhere spiritually. You might find yourself away from family, away from your home congregation, away from practically everyone, whether due to a decision of your own or one of your employer. You might be a missionary or a marine. It does not matter. But at some point you will feel a great ache deep inside, a thirst for God. It is a hard thing. But if you use it as the psalm describes, you can be stronger—rather than weaker—for it.

Do Not Fret

Worry challenges almost everyone, regardless of wealth, intelligence, situation, or even circumstance. We all experience negative feelings from time to time—some introduced to us from others but many of our own making. We worry about whether we are raising our children in the best way possible. We worry what someone else might do to hurt us at work or sometimes even at home. We worry about the past; we worry about the future. We worry whether we will have enough money just to get by; we worry about what to do with the money we have. Sometimes we even worry that we worry.

At its core, worry is simply wasting time and energy thinking about things that have not happened and/or that are completely out of our control. We get caught up in the possible negative outcomes we might face and, as a result, lose sight of all the positive experiences we have to enjoy. King David had plenty of reasons to worry. He had the responsibility of all of Israel on his shoulders. He knew the challenges of hunger and the trials of sitting at the king’s table. He had experienced the danger of battle and the intrigue of politics. He had plenty of reasons to worry. Yet, in Psalm 37, he offers this guidance: “Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity” (Psa. 37:1).

“Do not fret.” This is easy to say but hard to do. But David did not simply issue a command not to worry; he gave other guidance to pave the way. “Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass” (Psa. 37:3-5). When you place your faith in the Lord completely, it means handing over all those issues you might otherwise worry about to Him and His care. Rather than worrying about things you cannot control, we should busy ourselves with doing good, which is always in our control. Rather than worrying about what we do not have, we should delight in what we have in a relationship with the Lord, realizing He will care for all our needs. We can either waste our time on matters beyond our ability to affect or we can place ourselves in the hands of the LORD with confidence in what He can do. Once we do this, we will not worry about someone who seems to profit in this world through wickedness (Psa. 37:7) or allow that worry to lead to anger (Psa. 37:8), because we accept not only the Lord’s guidance in what steps to take in life but also in how to go about that life. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand” (Psa. 37:23-24). Once we accept this way of life, we can lay worry aside and concentrate instead on the things that truly matter, saying, “I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread” (Psa. 37:25). Truly this is the foundation of Jesus’ own words when He said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).

Where Do You Stand?

Where do you stand with God? It is a simple question on the surface, and yet it requires an answer that reaches into the depths of our souls. Some ignore it or consider it irrelevant. Others just do not care. But those who do often answer it without sufficient thought or meditation. They assume they are right with God, so they reply in the affirmative without significant reflection on God’s perspective. This matters significantly. Feeling like you are saved and being saved are two very different things. Calling yourself faithful and God calling you faithful are two vastly different things. This is what makes David’s opening request in Psalm 26 so challenging: “Vindicate me, O Lord, For I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the Lord; I shall not slip. Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart” (Psa. 26:1-2). David was willing to have the LORD look on his life with a microscope—not because he was perfect but because he had integrity and faith. He was ready and willing to change whatever he needed to change and do whatever he needed to do. Therefore, he drew attention not to what he did openly, which anyone could examine, but to His mind and heart, which only the LORD could examine.

This draws attention to a simple truth. Our integrity and faithfulness begins within. It is not a simple matter of sincerity but rather a commitment to God’s will that swells up within and then is expressed without. Faithfulness responds to God’s love with a life lived according to God’s revealed truth (Psa. 26:3). Faithfulness does not have anything in common with false religion, hypocrisy, or wickedness (Psa. 26:4-5). Faithfulness lives daily in innocence, anticipating opportunities to worship God (Psa. 26:6-7). Faithfulness prefers fellowship with the LORD to the company of the world (Psa. 26:8-10). Faithfulness focuses on God’s mercy and redemption that make integrity meaningful (Psa. 26:11). Faithfulness means that we stand with God and His people (Psa. 26:12).

These principles should form the basis for daily reflection, and we should examine them and ourselves in the light of the specifics of God’s Word. We should spend time examining God’s truth (John 17:17) and considering where we still fall short of living that truth. We should examine our doctrinal ideas, our religious practices, and our very lives to root out inconsistency and worldliness. We should live as God’s servants and God’s worshippers, considering what He wants from us instead of just what we want to offer Him (John 4:24). We should come to identify with the LORD so much that popular culture seems out of step rather than feeling out of step with popular culture (Rom. 12:1-2). We should remain constantly aware of all that God has done through Jesus Christ to give hope in being “faithful unto death” (Rev. 2:10). And we should obey our LORD with such steadfastness that we show a willingness to stand with Him when all others fail (1 Cor. 16:13). Where do you stand? It is not as simple a question as you might think. But it is a question you should ask yourself regularly, inviting the LORD in to examine your answers now so that you are ready for the final test on Judgment Day.