All of us like to compare ourselves to people around us. We do it unconsciously for the most part but it can have a very negative and unfair effect on our life. In Psalm 37, the author David, encourages us to not do this with these words:
Don't worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. For like the grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither. Psalm 37:1-2 NLT
When we compare ourselves to other people we put ourselves into a no win situation. Always looking at others will do at least three things:
How often we live our lives becoming sidetracked by what is going on in the lives of others? How often we play the comparison game and then spend our time feeling sorry for ourselves?
As I was preparing for this message I begin thinking about each point of the message which is directly from Psalm 37 and I thought about songs from my past that have helped shape who I am and what I believe. I will share those with you along the way.
There is an old song that sums up these feelings:
Tempted and tried, were oft made to wonder Why it should be thus all the day long;
While there are others living about us, Never molested, though in the wrong.
Farther along well know more about it, Farther along well understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine, Well understand it all by and by.
The idea is that when life is giving you what feels like the worst dont waste your time and energy comparing your life to other people. Instead place your focus squarely on God.
The Psalmist gives us five very clear actions that will enable us to live our lives with a correct perspective. Normally I look at the scripture and give you my thoughts as points but what you will notice today is that the scripture is the point!
The reason we don't trust God is generally tied into our circumstances. When things are bad we have two ways to go. We either trust God completely or we begin to doubt and waver in our faith.
I once heard the story about a wealthy man who had no need for pocket change, yet he still took the time to bend over and pick up lost pennies and other coins. Whenever the man found a coin he would stop look at it in his hand, then after standing quietly for a moment, he would then put the coin in his pocket and continue walking. He was once asked about his unusual habit. Why does a man who has no need for money stand still as though he had just found a gold coin? The man replied, When I find a coin I look at the words, In God We Trust, and I can hear God asking me, Do you still trust me? Once Im certain that I still trust God more than money I can continue with my day. Perhaps we should take the time to hear God ask us the same question, Do you still trust Me; am I still first in your life?
Listen to the words of a song I grew up hearing while I sat on the front row in service after service: Trust and Obey
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Refrain: Trust and obey, for there's no other way, To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.
We are to Trust in the Lord and do good.
There is an ascent in what is really our third action. We were first instructed not to fret or worry, then commanded actively to trust, and now we are told with holy desire to delight in God. "Take delight in the Lord." Make God the joy and rejoicing of your spirit.
The idea here is that when our focus is God-centered or Christ-centered He becomes the source of all our joy. Happiness my come and go but a Christ-centered joy is much deeper and less effected by our circumstance.
People that delight in God desire or ask for nothing but what will please God.; hence it is safe to give them what they want. Their will is subdued to God's will, and now they may have what they will. Our innermost desires are here meant, not our casual wishes; there are many things which nature might desire which grace would never permit us to ask for; these deep, prayerful, asking desires are those to which the promise is made. He will give you the desires of your heart, is solely based on having a focused and surrendered heart.
Perhaps Daniel Defoe gave us some good advice through his fictitious character Robinson Crusoe. The first thing that Crusoe did when he found himself on a deserted island was to make out a list. On one side of the list he wrote down all his problems. On the other side of the list he wrote down all of his blessings. On one side he wrote: I do not have any clothes. On the other side he wrote: But its warm and I don't really need any. On one side he wrote: All of the provisions were lost. On the other side he wrote: But theres plenty of fresh fruit and water on the island. And on down the list he went. In this fashion he discovered that for every negative aspect about his situation, there was a positive aspect, something to be thankful for. It is easy to find ourselves on an island of despair. Perhaps it is time that we sit down and take an inventory of our blessings. I well imagine that there are some of us here this morning that are long, long overdue in expressing our thanks to God.
Here's a song from my youth:
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart Where?
Down in my heart! Where?
Down in my heart! I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart Down in my heart to stay
And I'm so happy So very happy I've got the love of Jesus in my heart
Down in my heart And I'm so happy So very happy I've got the love of Jesus in my heart.
6 He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
The word commit sounds serious and it is. Commit is a form of commitment and you and I to escape the effects of our circumstances must learn the discipline of committing our lives to God. It is the ultimate form of surrender.
Many translations use the phrase your way. Commit your ways to God. Wherever they take you or whatever you do commit it, dedicate it and surrender it all to God.
In 1878, when William Booths Salvation Army was beginning to make its mark, men and women from all over the world began to enlist. One man, who had once dreamed of becoming a bishop, crossed the Atlantic from America to England to enlist. Samuel Brengle left a fine pastorate to join Booths Army. But at first General Booth accepted his services reluctantly and grudgingly. Booth said to Brengle, Youve been your own boss too long. And in order to instill humility in Brengle, he set him to work cleaning the boots of other trainees.
Discouraged, Brengle said to himself, Have I followed my own fancy across the Atlantic in order to black boots? And then, as in a vision, he saw Jesus bending over the feet of rough, unlettered fishermen. Lord, he whispered, you washed their feet; I will black their shoes. Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome, K Hughes, Tyndale, 1988, pp. 45ff
Samuel Logan Brengle went on to become an officer in the Salvation Army and one of their most published authors. God had him right where he needed to be in the basement blacking boots to teach him the lesson of surrender and commitment.
Sometimes we get very impatient with our circumstances and we tend to want to go off and create a better scenario when God sometimes wants us to sit still and learn.
Learn to commit!
Heres my song:
All to Jesus, I surrender; All to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender; Humbly at His feet I bow, Worldly pleasures all forsaken; Take me, Jesus, take me now.
All to Jesus, I surrender; Make me, Savior, wholly Thine; Let me feel the Holy Spirit, Truly know that Thou art mine.
All to Jesus, I surrender, Lord, I give myself to Thee; Fill me with Thy love and power; Let Thy blessing fall on me.
O God may this ever be our prayer.
5 Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. 6 He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
"Rest in the Lord, is the rendering of some versions of the Bible.
This most divine precept and action, requires much grace to carry it out. To hush the spirit, to be silent before the Lord, to wait in holy patience the time for clearing up the difficulties of Providence - this is what every gracious heart should aim at. A silent tongue in many cases not only shows a wise head, but a holy heart. "And wait patiently for him." Time is nothing to him; let it be nothing to you. God is worth waiting for. "He never is before his time, he never is too late."
In a story we wait for the end to clear up the plot; we ought not to prejudge the great drama of life and God, but stay till the closing scene, and see it through to the finish.
You and I way too often get in a hurry and turn prayer into a time of taking God to task and telling Him what He ought or should do on our behalf. What David the Psalmist saying is that we should be quiet and wait. We should embrace the discipline of waiting on God and being silent in the process.
The first thing we often do is talk. We run to the first person that will listen and lay out our woes. Sometimes that is okay and certainly the Bible teaches that two are stronger than one but there are times when we just need to sit quietly and wait on God.
This time I want to give you a song from hymnody that reaches all the way back to the 1700s. This hymn was reportedly the favorite of Eric Liddell, the athlete who became famous in the 1924 Olympics for refusing to run on the Sabbath (see the movie Chariots of Fire). Liddell later became a missionary in China, and was imprisoned during World War II. He is said to have taught this hymn to others in the prison camp (where he eventually died of a brain tumor).
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.
Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.
Let it go! This verse sums it all up for us. When our focus and attention turns to those around us we can become consumed with envy and bitterness. We lose our way and become self-absorbed which does us no good.
The Psalmist simply says: Stop being angry. More often than not those that are angry think that they have masked it and buried it deep inside but anger seeps out in everything we do when we try to bury it. Deal with it. Get over it. Move on. Let God heal it.
It is fascinating that the culture approaches it differently than the bible. The word of God just simply says STOP. We to manage it: Sign up for anger management classes.
What happens when we live with anger?
I would encourage you to let it go and move on. Seek professional help. I have never understood the arrogance of people that think they are above the counsel of others. If you need counseling to help you get healthy and somebody to talk you through your issues, go get some help. Be emotionally healthy or it will affect everything you do and everyone around you.
Now I know some of you are wondering what song I could possibly apply to this principle. You know what I think? I think it is amazing that God loved me enough to rescue me and give me salvation that I don't deserve. I think that is amazing and when I step back and think about what makes me angry especially when you think about the context of these verses (angry over the success of others) I realize that I have no right to be angry. I need to extend grace and be graceful instead of a jerk.
Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost by now Im found was blind but now I see.
Classic verses from Psalm 37 that you need to know:
16 It is better to be godly and have little than to be evil and rich. 17 For the strength of the wicked will be shattered, but the Lord takes care of the godly.
23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. 24 Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.
25 Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.
34 Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along his path. He will honor you by giving you the land. You will see the wicked destroyed.
39 The Lord rescues the godly; he is their fortress in times of trouble. 40 The Lord helps them,
rescuing them from the wicked. He saves them, and they find shelter in him.
Diane Sawyer recently interviewed Jaycee Dugard and her mother. The kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard occurred on June 10, 1991, when she was 11 years old. Dugard (born May 3, 1980) was abducted from a school bus stop within sight of her home in South Lake Tahoe, California. Searches began immediately after the kidnapping, but no reliable leads were generated. She remained missing for more than 18 years.
On August 25, 2009, convicted sex offender Phillip Craig Garrido visited the campus of UC Berkeley accompanied by two young girls. Their unusual behavior there sparked an investigation that led to his bringing the two girls to a parole office on August 26, accompanied by a woman who was then identified as Dugard.
Law enforcement officers believe Dugard was kept in a concealed area behind Garrido's house in Antioch for 18 years. During this time Dugard bore two daughters Angel and Starlit, who were aged 11 and 15 at the time of her reappearance.
While watching this interview I was taken with the contrast between mother and daughter. The daughter has apparently worked through it and is moving on with what appears to be a healthy outlook on life. Her mother appeared to be just the opposite. She truly experienced a great loss but she is still fighting the battle and appears to be very angry. Her whole demeanor overshadowed the interview.
I thought to myself, I wish she could let it go and move on for the sake of enjoying the new day with her daughter and two granddaughters.
Song: Turn Your Eyes