Tag Archives: Perspective

Rich Fulfillment

Everyone has a story. You probably will have to ask. And you may need to ask some questions. But everyone who has lived for a reasonable time upon this earth has a story. All of us have endured heartache at some time. All of us have faced adversity. All of us have borne injustice in some way. All of us have had our trials. But when we see people for brief snapshots of their lives, we can make the mistake of assuming that they have had it easy—or at least easier than we have. We look at the person who has an advanced degree or successful business, or perhaps both, and we assume that they cannot understand suffering. Likewise, we sometimes see a person who is knowledgeable and forget the story of the work it took to accumulate that knowledge. We meet people who seem to have their lives together and presume that they have never faced a significant challenge. Upon reflection, we would likely recognize the folly of these passing thoughts. But in the moment, especially when we ourselves are dealing with trials, remembering others have a story can be particularly difficult.

The same principle holds true for groups of people—nations, businesses, congregations. It can be easy to forget the story of people who made our current situation even possible. How many people regularly cite their first amendment rights when burning a flag but remain completely ignorant of the people who designed that flag and wrote and voted for that amendment? How many employees have little appreciation for how much work it took for the business that pays them to get off the ground and succeed at all? And how many Christians appreciate previous generations who studied, evangelized, taught, took a stand, accepted ostracization from the world, established congregations, built buildings, and welcomed them in?

The sixty-sixth psalm is a call for joyous worship and praise to God for what He did to make their lives possible (Psa. 66:1-4). But in doing so, the psalmist recounts the challenges Israel faced as a people in the beginning (Psa. 66:5-7). For preserving them to that day, the psalmist gave thanks to the God “Who keeps our soul among the living” (Psa. 66:8-9). How did He do this and for what did the psalmist say He was worthy of praise? “For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment” (Psa. 66:10-12, emphasis mine, KWR). Because of this, God more than deserved praise, worship, and thanksgiving (Psa. 66:13-20). Rich fulfillment. In the days of David, when Israel reached a high point, politically and spiritually, finally there was perspective. All of the trials existed to chasten them from their sin and error and prepare them for further growth. And in the end, when they persevered, there was rich fulfillment. But it was important for the people in the time of David to appreciate the past, Israel’s story, so that they never took for granted what was theirs to enjoy. This remains true for all of us. We will have trials in life. We will have challenges. We will have adversity. Therefore, we must persevere. And we can do it with confidence, because rich fulfillment awaits us when we come out of the desert, travel through the valley, and finally reach the mountaintop. You have a story, but the ending has yet to be written. But if you seek God and His will, and remain faithful to Him, whatever else you may face in life, you can indeed enjoy rich fulfillment.

The Privilege of Providence

We take far too many things for granted today. We wake up in the morning and do not consider how that can even happen—and be refreshed. We enjoy running water, easy access to food of all kinds, indoor plumbing, instant communication around the world, advanced warning of and preparedness for many natural disasters, personalized music choices, electric lighting, a closet full of clothes, mobile phones, central air and heating—the list could go on and on! And while some people do not share all of these things, they likely have a list just as impressive in its own way. In fact, from the view of history, most of the things cited above are extremely new to civilization. In some places it has become common to use all these items as evidence of some inherent character flaw in society. Society has its problems, but the items listed above are not among them. Instead, they offer evidence of just how blessed we are. And that is why we cannot afford to take them for granted.

Three thousand years ago, before any of the aforementioned luxuries existed, David recognized this same principle and turned to God as the One worthy of praise (Psa. 65:1-2). And even then David saw that the greatest blessings he enjoyed were God’s willingness to forgive sin and accept worship on His terms (Psa. 65:3-4). He had confidence in God’s righteousness, salvation, and help because He took the time to notice what God had already done in His creation (Psa. 65:5). David looked at the mountains and was awed by them (Psa. 65:6). He looked at the seas on either side of the land and saw a God in control of them (Psa. 65:7), as He is over all the earth (Psa. 65:8). He recognized that man does not provide the water and the grain that provides for farmers to grow food. God does (Psa. 65:9-10), and He does so for man’s benefit and for the land’s (Psa. 65:11-12). He saw firsthand how God provides animals for food, as well as crops, and also provides what is necessary for them to grow and flourish (Psa. 65:13). And all these things remain true today.

Some children honestly believe that their food comes from a grocery store. They have no concept of a farm or dairy. Such reports often receive attention in social media, sometimes to make fun of the child, sometimes to make fun of the schools, or sometimes to expose a problem. But many people today cannot see that all of this and more actually comes from God who blesses and blesses again. He chose not to care for us miraculously throughout the ages but chose to work providentially through nature, but that does not negate the love, care, and attention that went into His provision, and it should not dampen, in any way, our thankfulness to Him. David saw these things as worthy of praise and further evidence of what God can do for us spiritually. We would do well to do the same.

Broken

At various times when different athletes have ended up in trouble and the question arises about whether their careers can recover from the incident—almost regardless of the offense—sports journalists emphasize: Americans are a forgiving people. Considering the level of immorality associated with the world of sports and the declining interest in Christianity in society, this itself seems like an interesting take. However, it does provide insight into the way most people view forgiveness. Following these incidents, it is amazing how people will judge the offender’s apology as the foundation for starting anew. Perhaps this is due to journalists overvaluing words and undervaluing action, but most of society thinks in a similar fashion. People have grown to equate an apology with repentance, thus concluding that a proper incantation can ward off any consequences. Apology has thus become a social ritual of renewal, and many people have accepted it as sufficient. However, David’s message in Psalm 38 demonstrate that the words of contrition, while necessary, must be founded on a heart that is truly broken by the pain of having sinned.

The first step towards forgiveness depends on allowing divine rebuke to pierce the soul (Psa. 38:1-3). It is therefore not enough to feel bad about the consequences, to be embarrassed about getting caught, or to offer an apology designed to get you off the hook. Instead of being concerned about public perception, we must first feel the impact of sin’s situation. Until we take responsibility for our own sin—without trying to justify it or play the blame game—we have not sufficiently acknowledged and mourned the depths of our behavior (Psa. 38:4-6). The guilt caused by our sin should affect us deeply—so much that it builds within us a willingness to do whatever is necessary to make things right (Psa. 38:7-8). To make matters right requires far more help from an ad agency or public relations firm. Making things right depends on giving your all to have fellowship with God once more (Psa. 38:9-10). This is the consequence that matters. While other relationships may suffer and other consequences may emerge, until all is right with God, nothing else matters (Psa. 38:11-14). “For in You, O LORD, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God” (Psa. 38:15). Coming to God first, we gain perspective about life and our own sin. We accept responsibility and are prepared to acknowledge the spiritual error of our behavior (Psa. 38:16-18). There will always be those who use our mistakes and sins against us, but they do so because they do not understand or appreciate the spiritual context of life in the first place (Psa. 38:19-20).

In the end, no matter what we have done—professional athlete or just ordinary Joe—we must remember that the social consequences of misbehavior pale in comparison to the spiritual consequences. Therefore, before we concern ourselves with trying to repair our image, we must come to God, acknowledging that we are guilty and broken, so that He can forgive and build us up once more. Unfortunately, many people have attached the world’s quick and easy view of forgiveness to God. They want a quick prayer to absolve their sin and solve all their sorrows. Instead of realizing they are broken, they come looking for a band-aid. But the heart of forgiveness begins with realizing we have lost touch with God and need to return to Him. For He is the only one who can help. “Do not forsake me, O LORD; O my God, be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!” (Psa. 38:21-22).

Precious Lovingkindness

To want to be loved is a universal longing and common condition of all mankind. We crave it deeply—more than we typically are willing to admit. We long for approval, for acceptance, and a sense of belonging. We want someone to care what happens to us—good or bad. We want someone who feels for us during difficult times and rejoices with us during our victories, however small they might be. We want to feel valued and included and therefore to enjoy a sense of self-worth. This is why the hate and wickedness of men can take such a toll on us. A man who exalts himself over God will often do so at the expense of others as well. He does not care whom he may hurt along the way because he has no standard other than himself to follow. People like this put others down, walk over people, and spew hatred as part of the normal course of their lives. They fill the air with negativity and wickedness in an attempt to rise above all others to capture their heart’s desire—even if it means piercing the hearts of others in the process. For many this is every day practice—hurting others by their words and actions without even realizing that they are putting their own hurt on display in the process.

David spoke of “the transgression of the wicked” in terms such as these (Psa. 36:1-4), but he followed it with a praise of the precious lovingkindness of the LORD that deserves all the attention our heart can muster. “Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O LORD, You preserve man and beast. How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings” (Psa. 36:5-7). When the LORD asks you to have faith in Him, He does so only after showing you just how much He loves you. David’s description of God’s love, offered in these glimpses of various attributes, show the immeasurable character of the love of God. He can be trusted above all others because He loves as no one else has loved. No matter what any man may do and no matter how much evil men may commit, the love of God still surpasses (Psa. 36:8-12). We should never let the sins of others cause us to doubt the love of God.

In the course of this life you will inevitably face a number of trials—trials of your patience, trials of your character, and trials of your faith. Satan will attack you through wicked men. He will attack you by attacking those whom you love. He will attack you by causing you to doubt yourself, doubt others, and doubt even God. And when these trials come, there is but one thought to consider: God is love (1 Jn. 4:8). He loved us enough to send His Son to die for us (Jn. 3:16). He loved us enough to make salvation for us possible even while we remained in the midst of our sin (Rom. 5:8). He loved us enough to sustain us in life and suffer long with us during our rebellion so that we could repent and return to Him once more (2 Pet. 3:9). The precious lovingkindness of the LORD surpasses the heights of heaven and the depths of the deep. It is indeed a great God who can love us this much. And this kind of love should motivate us to love Him and trust Him like no one else, for He is like no one else. He is our God, and He is love.

A Blessed Nation

The blessings of being God’s people is something that Christians sometimes forget in the hustle and bustle of daily life. We get caught up in the day to day grind of school or work (and sometimes both) and then come home to give our time over to various forms of digital entertainment before collapsing for the night and beginning the cycle again in the morning. This only amplifies the importance of setting aside time to gather with the saints to study the Bible and worship God. Unfortunately, we can make the sad mistake of bringing the attitude developed throughout the week into the assembly when we really ought to bring the attitude we develop in the assembly into the rest of our week.

Meditating on the thirty-third psalm provides us an opportunity to refresh our perspective and renew ourselves spiritually. It reminds us of why we became God’s people in the first place. It begins emphasizing how the joy we have available in life by living for God should lead us to worship and praise the LORD even more (Psa. 33:1-3). This connection often goes unnoticed as life runs by us at the speed of the world. However, one only need consider the misery and despair that the ungodly suffer and feel—often without reason—because they lack the perspective of righteousness. Instead, we can trust God’s word to provide a valuable perspective to guide us through life that offers peace even in the midst of trial (Psa. 33:4-5). Viewing the simple beauties of creation reminds us not only of God’s glory and greatness but also of how much can be accomplished by His word (Psa. 33:6-9). Thus we can appreciate, as others cannot, the value of God’s guidance through all the storms of life (Psa. 33:10-11). Truly then does the psalm speak, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance” (Psa. 33:12). Being God’s people—in any generation—offers blessings beyond compare. He knows us all (Psa. 33:13-15), but He will deliver those who reverence Him (Psa. 33:16-19). This powerful promise, though, has meaning only so far as our faith extends and accepts all that He has said and done.

How then should God’s people respond to such majestic promises? God’s faithfulness should help us be patient, because we are confident He will do exactly as He has promised (Psa. 33:20). God’s blessings should bring joy to our lives that others cannot even comprehend because of their transcendent nature (Psa. 33:21). All that God has said and done should make us the most hopeful people on earth, for we have more to look forward to in one day in Christ than the world can expect in a lifetime (Psa. 33:22). Truly it is a blessing to be part of God’s people. Truly it is a blessing to be a Christian, God’s child, and a member of the Lord’s church! “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Pet. 2:9-10).

Feeling Forgiven

David truly was a man after God’s own heart. This distinction he received—not because of his perfect life but because of his willingness to correct his imperfections and seek forgiveness. We see this on three different major occasions in David’s life: when he brought the ark up to Jerusalem on a cart (2 Sam. 6:1-11; 1 Chr. 13:1-14), when he sinned with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:1-12:25), and when he numbered the people (2 Sam. 24:1-25). Each time the Bible records not only David’s sin but also his repentance. On one of these occasions, and I believe it is the first, following the granting of forgiveness by God, David penned Psalm 32. It is a stirring reflection on the meaning of forgiveness, and why it should never be taken for granted.

Forgiveness makes an amazing difference in our lives. It provides the difference between just understanding the reality of our sin and taking responsibility for that sin. It makes the difference between recognizing the consequence of that sin and God eliminating the consequence of that sin (Psa. 32:1-2). Forgiveness makes the difference between wallowing in guilt, anger, and despair and seeking the LORD’s compassion, acknowledging our transgressions, and moving past them in feeling and in life (Psa. 32:3-5). Forgiveness is the beginning of hope and the promise of grace that makes God the first one we turn to when we have failed, precisely because we know He wants us back—if we take the opportunity afforded us (Psa. 32:6). Forgiveness makes the difference between hiding in God’s care and hiding from God’s wrath (Psa. 32:7)—a difference that should not be lost on anyone who has reflected seriously on his own sin. Forgiveness paves the way for us to keep learning and growing. It shows that God has not given up on us but desires to show us a better way (Psa. 32:8). However, with deep sincerity, appreciation, and love, we should approach our LORD ever desiring to learn and do better instead of constantly defying him. This indeed is the penitent heart he requires for forgiveness (Psa. 32:9). Forgiveness is the difference between experiencing constant consequences and multitudes of mercy. It is the why trusting the LORD is always better than trusting yourself (Psa. 32:10). God’s offer of forgiveness is what makes joy possible in the moment, in life, and in eternity because it is built on the foundation of righteousness—both the LORD’s and ours (Psa. 32:11). Forgiveness is not some emotion we enjoy; it is not a right we reach out and grab. Indeed, some people “feel” like they are forgiven when they have not sought God’s forgiveness as God requires (Acts 22:16; 1 Jn. 1:8-10). However, once we, like David, have sought God’s forgiveness and received it in faith, we should allow ourselves to bask in the glow of joy and hope that forgiveness makes possible. Feeling forgiven, when we are truly forgiven, is the best feeling in the world—because it is the only thing that can prepare us for heaven.

Into Your Hand I Commit My Spirit

Most people do not like to think about death—even when it might be imminent. The human drive for survival remains so strong that, even in the most desperate of circumstances, the mind concentrates on how to survive rather than on the alternative. However, Psalm 31 provides insight into how faith can look beyond survival to see something more. David faced the jeopardy of warfare throughout his life. From his encounter with Goliath to his victory over the Philistines, from his narrow escapes from Saul to his survival in a civil war, from wars outside to intrigue within, danger almost defined David’s life. But it did not for a simple reason: faith did. In the midst of all of these life-threatening situations, David turned to the Lord and trusted in Him. “In You, O LORD, I put my trust; Let me never be ashamed; Deliver me in Your righteousness” (Psa. 31:1).

When you consider these words and metaphors in the very real context of warfare, they become even more powerful: “Be my rock of refuge, A fortress of defense to save me” (Psa. 31:2b). Glorifying God and follow His will should be the context of our lives and therefore give purpose to living (Psa. 31:3-4). However, in the next phrase David offers the perspective so meaningful that our Lord quoted it, “Into Your hand I commit my spirit” (Psa. 31:5). David saw himself as a spirit whose preservation depended entirely on God. Thus, while this is true in the preservation of life, it is even more true in the preservation of the spirit beyond life. However, the words that follow demonstrate that committing the spirit to God is part of living—not just a cry for the end of life. David’s description of his faith and faithfulness through adversity (Psa. 31:6-8), his dependence on God’s mercy through all his trials of soul and body (Psa. 31:9-1-), and his steadfastness even amidst social rejection (Psa. 31:11-14) are presented as evidence of the truth of this commitment. This, however, was not a matter of pride, for anyone should be ashamed who would not do this (Psa. 31:15-18). David’s faith was well founded, for God did deliver him, and David honored Him accordingly (Psa. 31:19-23). However, this is what makes Jesus’ quotation so significant. Jesus had lived this way throughout life, but His commitment even at the point of death poignantly demonstrates the full force of the statement. David committed his spirit into the LORD’s hands to deliver him from having to die. Jesus committed His spirit to the LORD’s hands to deliver Him even though He had to die (Luke 23:46).

We should approach each and every day with this same kind of commitment—a dedication to the Lord defined by an unswerving faith, even in the harshest of circumstances. Indeed, we have no control over the circumstances we might face in life, but we have complete control over the strength of faith we develop in order to face them. That decision made the difference for David, it made the difference for Jesus, and it can make the difference for you. “Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD” (Psa. 31:24).