I Shall Not Be Moved

Adversity exists as a great constant in life. While its form may change and though its impact may vary, always it remains, lurking in the shadows, ever ready to pounce and create misery at a moment’s notice. It challenges marriages as a couple is forced to confront differences and overcome selfishness. It challenges congregations, whether through doctrinal conflict or moral failures. It challenges individuals, introducing health problems, grief, financial issues, and personal conflict, all in an effort to create internal conflict, doubt, anger, and depression. Life does not always go your way. In fact, it rarely does completely. There is almost always some lingering issue that demands attention and distracts from the manifold blessings God bestows. This is the nature of this world. It is a world in conflict. It is a world of conflict. And we are living in it. Therefore, facing adversity, keeping adversity in perspective, and overcoming adversity are essential to success in life.
David knew adversity—even as a king. He knew the depths to which it can plunge a man, but he also understood that there is life and joy beyond the heartache and pain. While he wrote many psalms in the midst of adversity and while under great duress, in Psalm 62 we find the calm possible—even facing adversity—when trusting God determines behavior. Satan uses problems to attempt to move us from faith to doubt, from peace to agitation, and from trust to fear. He attempts a siege of the soul in order to force a surrender, but the key to survival is not giving in but in looking up (Psa. 62:1-2). We must develop our faith to remain centered and strong despite the problems we face, so that we never give in to Satan’s pressure but take a stand for God with the confidence that He will ultimately deliver from the trial. Standing firm in the face of adversity requires seeing the world and its answers as the spiritual attacks that they are. Thus, God’s people persevere, accepting the hardship rather than compromising the cause (Psa. 62:3-4). In David’s repetition we can hear the reply to his detractors and to Satan himself: “My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved” (Psa. 62:5-6). We need not turn to worldly allies and answers; we have no need to consult worldly experts and opinions; for in God we have the only ally we need. The faith of the weak crumbles at the slightest foray made by worldly assertions, but the faithful know that God alone offers true strength, real refuge, and genuine hope (Psa. 62:7). Knowing this, we can face adversity with the calm assurance that God deserves our trust “at all times,” including throughout life’s challenges, and that when we pour our hearts out to Him in prayer, He not only listens but also provides a place of protection for our hearts (Psa. 62:8).

Men cannot provide the assurance that they often think. They trust in their power, in their wealth, and in themselves. These surely are unworthy of trust (Psa. 62:9-10). But God has the power to do all that He has promised. The divine word, once spoken, carries more weight than the greatest oratory man can offer, for God alone can deliver—without exception—on every promise made (Psa. 62:11). And one promise that is worth our consideration every time life presents us with a challenge is that our choices, our behavior, our trust, make a difference with God. He is a God of mercy and care, and the determination to do His will in the face of adversity will be rewarded (Psa. 62:12).

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Overwhelmed

At this very moment, as I write, I lose count of the number of people I know and love that are facing challenges and trials in life that break my heart. Some are battling cancer—again. Some find themselves fighting the malice of others just to stay employed. Some cannot seem to catch a break financially. Some are weighed down by the sorrow of their children. Some overcome one obstacle only to find themselves confronted with yet another. Some are just trying to put their lives back together again after losing everything and—it sometimes seems—everyone. The harsh realities of life can be cold and heartless. They remind us daily that life is not fair. And yet, regardless, we feel overwhelmed by these burdens, overwhelmed at the challenge of having to start over yet again, and overwhelmed by the heartache we feel for loved ones whom we cannot help as we would like. These may seem like generic words, but only because they respect the privacy of people living with the details.

Situations such as these are humbling—not only to those involved, but also to all those who wish to help and yet feel so helpless. Sadly, it is only when confronted with the desperation of our own smallness that we truly come to appreciate the grandeur of God. We can only do so much, you and I, to solve a problem, to propose a solution, to offer counsel. The longer I live the more often it seems like I have less advice to offer people in their struggles and the more I simply promise to pray. They are overwhelmed, and so am I. But that simple recognition provides the bridge to a greater faith.

When David found himself in a circumstance too difficult to bear, he too felt the emotional weight of his situation and came to the same conclusion. “Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psa. 61:1-2). These words, both beautiful and powerful, offer hope to all who have endured a similar experience. When your heart is overwhelmed, remember that others have been there too—frustrated, emotional, and unsure of what to do next. Remember, like David, to pray your heart out. Do not be afraid to open up to God about your fears, because He knows them already. Pray with a confidence that He does listen, that He does care, and that He can help. Most of all, remember that you cannot do it all on your own. Your own resources can only take you so far. That is the beauty of David’s request, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” There are times when the pathway out of darkness and despair is murky and unclear, but God can provide what you need to rise above the fray and emerge from the darkness to find peace, safety, and serenity once more.

We are all overwhelmed by our circumstances from time to time. We all have to suffer and endure pain—physical, emotional, and spiritual—as we journey through life. But God is never overwhelmed. He can handle all our problems, calm all our fears, and lift all our burdens. When I think of all the pain that those close to me are having to endure, it hurts so deeply that I cannot do more to help, but I am so thankful that I serve a God who can.

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.

My Own Familiar Friend

The emotional and poetic nature of the psalms both highlight the true meaning of a relationship with God and make them more difficult to interpret. This is especially true of psalms applied in some way to the Messiah while other portions of the psalm make it quite impossible to refer to Jesus completely. David’s reflection on God’s having come to his aid, recorded in Psalm 41, falls into this category. Jesus’ own quotation of Psalm 41:9 in John 13:18 demands a Messianic meaning, and yet clearly Psalm 41:4, “I said, ‘LORD, be merciful to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You,’” does not apply to Jesus. So how are we to understand this beautiful psalm?

The Jews themselves recognized the close tie between David and the Messiah, so much so that they assumed the Messiah’s kingdom would be identical to David’s kingdom. However, in this they failed to appreciate the most important element of the relationship between that two that the Holy Spirit provided in scripture: the Messiah would be better than David—in every way. Jesus Himself pointed to a psalm of David to make this point to the Jewish leadership, “He said to them, ‘How can they say that the Christ is the Son of David? Now David himself said in the Book of Psalms: “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool’”’ Therefore David calls Him “Lord”; how is He then his Son?’” (Luke 20:41-44). Therefore, while the life of the Messiah would have many parallels to David, both the highs and lows in David’s life were a mere shadow of what we find in Jesus.

Therefore, when David reflects on how God cares for those in trouble and preserves them alive, he referred to a deliverance that kept him from death, but in Jesus these are heightened to refer to victory over death (Psa. 41:1-3). David indeed had sinned and felt it in times when his enemies gathered against Him, but Jesus never sinned; nevertheless, He still had enemies who hated Him, wanted to hurt Him, and wished to end all memory of Him (Psa. 41:4-8). However, it is in verse nine where Jesus pulls the parallels together to highlight a place where David’s situation so mirrored His own: “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me” (Psa. 41:9). During the rebellion led by Absalom, David’s trusted advisor, Athithophel left David to give advice to his rebellious son (2 Sam. 15:12, 31). He knew what it was to be betrayed by a close associate, and in this Jesus found a parallel practically identical to His own situation.

Therefore, having drawn our attention to this psalm and having established Himself as greater than David, the fulfillment of the rest of the psalm promised greater things too. Jesus was indeed raised up, but in a very different manner than David (Psa. 41:10), and His enemy did not end up triumphing over Him (Psa. 41:11; Heb. 2:14-15). Instead, not only was it possible for Him to face God with integrity, but through His integrity He was able to be face to face with God once more (Psa. 41:12). This victory of the Messiah is thus the victory of the LORD, and the plan that made it possible is a reason to give Him thanks forever (Psa. 41:13).

The Measure of My Days

Not long ago, a friend on Facebook wrote a post that I do not believe I will ever forget. He said, “Hello to all my Facebook friends and family. After forty-two days in the hospital, I’m home!! The bad news is, however, that I’ll not be around for long. My life expectancy is not more than six months. Please remember me in your prayers. Love y’all” (Rodney Cheatham). Situations such as this are never easy, and yet it is a blessing to have an opportunity to see your whole life in its true context and be able without distraction to prepare for its end. In Psalm 39 David wrote, “LORD, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah” (Psa. 39:4-5). David was feeling the burdens of life, including all its worst fears, yet he understood that clinging to this life is never the answer. Instead, he concluded, “And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You” (Psa. 39:7).

Many people say something similar to this, but David focused his words spiritually. For him, the idea of death approaching emphasized the seriousness of dealing with the problem of sin (Psa. 39:8a). He did not ask for death to be taken away because he accepted what had happened as the Lord’s will (Psa. 39:9), asking only that he would remove his reproach (Psa. 39:8b). The wording of verses ten and eleven hint at the plague that followed David’s unauthorized census of Israel (2 Sam. 24:1-25), thus he is feeling the full weight of his sin and realizing that, while the king of Israel, his part in life is limited and brief. This is life in perspective. Death is certain, and wealth is fleeting, but a relationship with God can be eternal. It is so easy to attach ourselves to this world and what it offers. We can quickly forget how quickly life passes and how meaningless many of our accomplishments truly are. No matter what we do and no matter how long we live, we are frail beings whose existence is but for a moment upon this earth. This we cannot change, but we can change how we approach it as we live.

Three days after he left the hospital, our brother Rodney passed from this life. Three days. I never met Rodney in person, but others’ testimony of his faithfulness is meaningful. I am sure that it was a comfort to leave the hospital and return to the surroundings he knew with the people he loved. But how much greater comfort is there for Christians when, whether three days or more, we can then truly go home (2 Cor. 5:6; Phil. 1:21; 3:20). Let us therefore live as those who do not know how long we have upon this earth but yet are certain where we are going and live to go home. As James then echoes, “whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Jas. 4:14).

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).

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).

My Heart Greatly Rejoices

The harsh rhetoric and violence that have come to America in recent years has threatened to replace the American Dream with an American nightmare. It is not that extremism and violence are new or even new to the North American continent. The change that so many feel as a burden every time they wake to a new riot or new shooting is that such evil reappears with such regularity and is even promoted or condoned to an extent unimaginable just a few years before. Spiritually-minded people recognize that the root of these problems is the growing secularism and immorality that has accompanied the abandonment of biblical principles as the foundation for social mores. Therefore, they see the return of these values as essential to correct these problems in society. And they would be correct. However, Christians often forget that returning to scriptures is the answer for the anxiety that these problems can create as well.

David experienced tension and turmoil throughout his life, both before and after his coronation. Nevertheless, regardless of his age or the situation, David consistently turned to the LORD during tribulation. In the twenty-eighth psalm he wrote in heartbreaking fashion, asking for God’s help in bringing evil to justice—a prayer the the LORD answered in the affirmative (Psa. 28:1-6), but it is his reflection on the LORD’s answer that should give us pause: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him. The Lord is their strength, And He is the saving refuge of His anointed. Save Your people, And bless Your inheritance; Shepherd them also, And bear them up forever” (Psa. 28:7-9). If we are to move forward in life with confidence and assurance—regardless of circumstances—we must have a heart that trusts God’s strength and God’s wisdom to handle it instead of our own designs. This is essential lest we become so caught up in the machinations of the world that we let society’s problems rob us of our joy. Instead, we should reflect in faith and worship in confidence. The LORD has promised to deliver us from this world, but not from all the headaches of this world. However, no matter what we face in life, our faithfulness to our God offers rewards in abundance, because He will care for us like no one else can—including ourselves.

My heart greatly rejoices—not because of where I live or who is in elected office or what is happening in the world. My heart greatly rejoices because of what is happening within me because of my trust in the Lord. I can rejoice at my spiritual growth despite temptation and trials. I can rejoice in the hope of heaven regardless of what is happening upon this earth. I can rejoice in the Lord always because I have been forgiven of my sins. I can rejoice in the peace that comes from knowing what truly matters and what does not. My heart greatly rejoices…when my heart is filled with my God.

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