As a minister my job brings me into peoples' live when they are extremely happy or extremely sad. For example, I've just performed weddings. It's great to participate in one of the most joyful moments in a family's life. On the other hand I've received many calls in a single week from members telling me they've just received news that they have cancer or a parent has died, or a child has been in a wreck.
Ministry is a kind of a roller-coaster emotional ride as you go from high to low several times in one day at times. Happiness is easy to share, my role is usually to help celebrate and offer praise to God for the blessing of moment.
Trouble and tragedy are a little tougher because there is usually less to say, and nothing much you can do when people are extremely ill or have just lost a loved one. Thankfully God knew that we would experience both good and bad in life and He has provided words to helps us celebrate as well as mourn during those times.
In Psalm 27 David provides an example of the kind of attitude a believer should have when facing tough moments. This attitude can be summarized in one word - trust.
David, in this psalm however, describes the many facets of trust that a true child of God should have because of his relationship with God.
Facets of trust
Some people have the wrong idea of trust. They think trust is:
- Crossing their fingers and hoping for the best.
- A type of resignation, "Oh well we have no choice, might as well pray."
- Blind faith and optimism "It will all work out okay."
David shows in his prayer that real trust in God has much more noble and specific qualities than these.
1. Trust is Fearless
1The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
2When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
3Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.
In the first few verses David gives reasons why he is not afraid of putting his trust in the Lord. The Lord is the one who enlightens him, gives him understanding. The Lord is the one who will ultimately save his soul.
David compares the damage that his enemies can do to him against the ultimate power of the Lord and concludes that there is nothing to be afraid of. Of course his point is that God has given him the ability to understand that his enemies can only harm him physically - and then only some of the times.
His soul, however, is safe with God; it is out of the reach of his enemies so he has trust - fearless trust in God. Some are brave only when they are in a superior position or winning the battle - David is fearless even when he is outnumbered because no enemy can remove what is most precious to him - his soul and its salvation.
Trust is fearless when it can stand before great enemies and not blink and eye knowing, what John says, " He that is in you is greater than he who is in the world." I John 4:4
2. Trust is Joyful
4One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
5For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.
6Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.
A trust in God that is as or fatalistic or doubtful is not really trust in God. If your trust in God is really trust in God it will be full of joy and praise. David speaks with confident anticipation of the final victory that he will eventually have, and it leads him to praise God who will provide it. He says that through his trouble he has remained close to God by worshipping Him and meditating on His word.
- This experience has focused his attention away from his problems and onto the Lord.
- The result is a grateful and joyful spirit of praise.
In times of trouble and tragedy the first thing we want to do is go into a corner and hide - retreat from the world and from the Lord as well (or complain, blame and criticize). David does the opposite, he asks God to draw him closer to His side during these times - to hide him inside His dwelling place, to allow him a more intimate knowledge of the Lord than he has had in the past.
The drawing near, this complete trust results in joy and praise.
His troubles and enemies may still be there but the new vision, the deeper relationship with God has caused him to rejoice and praise the Lord with great enthusiasm. Here's where we see the link between suffering and joy. Suffering causes us to trust God more and more The greater our trust the greater our vision and appreciation of God.
The greater our understanding of God the greater joy and desire to praise Him.
3. Trust is Confident
7Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.
8My heart says of you, "Seek his face!"
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
9Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.
10Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.
David reviews his past experiences with the Lord and notes the God has always answered, always helped, always saved him in one way or another. He says that his parents have left him (probably because they died) but God will never leave him.
There is great comfort in the fact that the God we place our trust in is eternal and all-powerful. We feel confident if our bank is solid; our investments are in blue chip stock; we feel safe our pension plan is with the government and our medical insurance is paid up. But banks and governments fail; and insurance companies will drop you if you get too sick.
David demonstrates that if our trust is in the Lord it is surer then even the trust we have in our parents who are loyal and loving but weak and temporal.
11Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
12Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.
13I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
Once he has described the kind of trust that he has in the Lord and why:
- Fearless trust - because God protects what is most precious to us - our souls.
- Joyful trust - because trusting God leads to knowing and knowing God leads to joy and praise for God.
- Confident trust - because God's care is more loyal and loving that even our parent's care.
Having encouraged his readers to trust God David leaves them with a final exhortation about what to do when in times of trouble, in addition to trusting the Lord.
In verses 11 and 12, he asks God for two things.
1. Enlightenment - vs. 11
Teach him how to deal with his enemies according to God's will. His human nature would just as soon destroy his enemies but this may not be God's purpose or will. This is a good prayer for us to make concerning our troubles and enemies - what do you want me to do, how should I act Lord?
God has a purpose for us, even when we're suffering - ask to know what it is, not just for the trouble to go away.
2. Protection - vs. 12
This is a natural request. Don't let them win over me.
- The enemies
- The disease
- The depression
- The problems etc.
God saves the soul, yes, but He also can and does save the body at times. Hezekiah prayed for relief from his terminal illness and God granted him 15 more years of life.
We all die but we can ask for relief from suffering and imminent death - God answers these prayers.
In verse 23 David says that unless he had trusted the Lord the way he did and prayed the way he did - he would have fallen into despair.
He is writing this psalm about an episode that happened in his past and he is encouraging his readers to trust in God and ask God for what they need. He says that he did and things were so bad that unless he trusted and prayed in the way he did, he would have fallen apart and given up. He ends the psalm with a final word about what to do between the moment you decide to trust the Lord - and the moment the Lord rewards that trust (Cause trust and prayer are not always answered on the same day they're made.
1. Be Patient
David says wait on the Lord twice. Twice is not resignation or tapping your toe kind of patience. It's not a whining or begrudging type of waiting.This patience is a willingness to wait and endure whatever it takes to finally see the complete work of God in your life or the life of another.
Sometimes the only thing you'll do in your entire life is plant a seed and the harvest will only come in old age or another lifetime. Waiting on the Lord is waiting with the knowledge that it will be right, it will be complete, it will be acceptable when God is through with it - no matter how long it takes.
2. Be Strong and Courageous
This doesn't mean that the troubles and enemies don't frighten you - fear is a natural human emotion. But despite this natural tendency, don't give in to doubt, loss of confidence, discouragement. You don't have to win or have the solution to be brave. You need simply to refuse to give up or compromise or be willing to accept the situation without losing faith - this is courage, this is bravery.
The adversity may defeat your dreams, your health, your family, your wealth, but in the end if you stand firm continually trusting and waiting on the Lord - this will be the greatest act of courage that is pleasing to God.
Summary / Invitation
Oh what a different kind of life we would have if we just trusted in the Lord each day for all those big and little things.
Oh what a church we would have if each member had fearless, joyful, confident trust in God who saves, who provides, who does great and mighty things.
Let's each of us make a decision tonight that from now on we will trust, really trust God with everything and everyone in our lives - oh what a blessing awaits every person who leaves here having made that decision and prayer.
If you need to go beyond that to come forward in repentance and baptism or to come forward for prayer and restoration - trust God to help you make the first step.