“Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
While I live I will praise the Lord;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”
Praise is pretty common. If you have ever watched a sporting event you will hear it. One team goes ahead in the final seconds and the arena bursts forth in praise. Sometimes however the opposing team hits the final shot at the buzzer and the crowd is stunned into silence and the praise evaporates from the room.
Often we approach God in the same way. If all is well in the world we offer him praise, but as soon as things become difficult we have nothing to offer except complaint. We base our praise on our emotional condition rather than basing it upon who God is and what He has done. Regardless of what our day is like God is worthy of praise. Rain or shine, blessing or buffeting, joy or sadness, God is still the one who loves us, saved us and promises to work in and through us. If we are in the midst of a difficult season of life it is important that we do not lose sight of God or become consumed with our grief. Whatever hardship we are facing Jesus is still alive from the dead, seated at the right hand of the Father, sending forth His Spirit to work in our lives and preparing a place in eternity for us. While we cannot always celebrate our circumstances or our emotional condition we can certainly celebrate the amazing great and unending love of God who promises to be with us as we walk through the fire.
“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, Which cannot be moved, but abides forever.”
4,000 years ago Abraham was instructed to take his son to Mount Zion and offer him to the Lord. 2,800 years ago David purchased the threshing floor of Ornan on top of Mount Zion so his son Solomon could erect a permanent house for the Ark and a place for Israel to worship. 2,000 years on that same mountain the son of God was sacrificed for the sins of all mankind as a means of providing salvation for anyone who would humble themselves and call upon the name of the Lord. And today countless people from all over the world make pilgrimages to mount Zion to reflect upon these events and so many more. Millions of visitors, thousands of storms, hundreds of wars and mount Zion has yet to be moved.
The psalmist boldly declares that those who trust in the Lord will be just like mount Zion. Although time passes and difficulties come, those who trust in the Lord will be as unmovable as mighty mount Zion. Not only will our lives be unshakable but they will one day have a testimony to share with all who are willing to take a look. That testimony will declare the faithfulness of the Lord regardless of our failures or the tragedies and triumphs of life.
“Who turned the rock into a pool of water, The flint into a fountain of waters.”
Israel was in a bad place. Conservative estimates calculate the camp of Israel to be nearly 2 million souls. They had left the comfort of the Nile river and began the arduous journey through the desert en route to the land of Promise. It did not take long before the difficulty of their journey began to take its toll physically and emotionally. The hardship of their experience coupled with the lack of basic provisions caused them to doubt the power of God to carry them safely to their destination. When their water supply ran out it is understandable that their faith was challenged and their weaknesses revealed. Their hardship would provide another opportunity for God to reveal His loving kindness. The characters in the scene include the congregation of Israel, an arid desert, a solid rock and a stick in the hand of Moses. What looked to be an impossible situation turned out to be a means for God to reveal Himself to the nation.
All of us find ourselves face to face with difficulty that is beyond our ability. We might not be in a physical desert or be in want of water but we are certainly in the midst of circumstances that are beyond our ability to handle. What a joy to know that God can use whatever means are at our disposal to provide whatever is lacking in our lives. The one who turned the rock into a pool of water is the same one who will provide for you in whatever struggle you are currently facing.
“Give us help from trouble,
For the help of man is useless.”
David knew what it was like to receive help from others. One of the greatest stories in the Bible speaks of a time when he was so deeply discouraged that he felt as though there was no hope. It was into that scene that his friend Jonathan appeared and “strengthened David’s hands in the Lord.” In another place, David famously wrote
Psalms 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!”
Clearly the king knew the value of fellowship and had often experienced the help of man. It might seem almost contradictory then for him to speak of man’s assistance being useless. However I think we have all known times in our life where we appreciate the kindness of others but have found their words to be too weak to actually provide us with the help we need. There are situations in life that create a hurt so deep that only the Words of God Himself can bring us the comfort and hope we need. I am so glad that the promises of God were designed for seasons in life like that. When all else fails it is good to know that the promises of God are always yes and amen and that there is no force in heaven or earth that is strong enough to break them. Jesus said that a day will come when heaven and earth will pass away, yet not even the smallest marking within His promises will fail.
Whatever circumstances you are facing you can count on the promises of God.
“…The word of the Lord tested him.”
This psalm recounts the faithfulness of God during the days of the patriarchs. After mentioning Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Psalmist reminds us of the struggles Joseph faced after being sold into slavery by his own brothers. We know he experienced betrayal, beating, false accusations and imprisonment. Each trial he faced was a means by which the Word of God put him to the test.
We face similar experiences that put us to the test. When we face heartache, confusion, difficulty or disappointment, we are essentially being put to the test by the promises of God. We are left to decide if we will trust in the scattered array of emotions we face, or in the ever changing experiences of life, or in the unchanging promises of God. Down through the ages, saints have faced extremely difficult experiences. Some have allowed these to undo their faith and even sideline them from their Master’s service. Others have chosen to cling to the promises of God, allowing them to provide comfort and direction, as they continue following Christ. There is little question that we will face trials in life. It is important that we realize, the promises of God can stand the test of trials. God will be faithful to His word, and His promises will carry you through till the end.
“Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.”
It seems the devil and the Lord both understand the importance of the church. The Lord exhorts us regarding the need to be in fellowship, and the devil uses a wide array of tactics to keep us away. We have all heard phrases like,
“I am too busy.”
“No one was nice to me there.”
“The church is filled with hypocrites.”
I even heard the story of a man, who said, “As long as Mr. So and so is still alive I will never step foot in that place.”
It seems that we are the only ones who fail to recognize how important church attendance is. The Psalmist declares why we should be willing to endure sick children, music that might not be our first choice, crowded parking lots, awkward seasons of not knowing people very well, and even sermons that may on occasion be a bit too long. He declares, it is the one who plants himself in the house of God who will find himself flourishing in his relationship with the Lord.
The church was designed by God and purchased with the blood of His Son. He created it to be the place where His people would gather for fellowship, corporate worship and the study of His word. The reality is that all the difficulties we endure to remain a fixed part of the local church, are part of the sanctification process where God uses the circumstances of life to conform us into the image of Jesus.
Come and be planted in the house of the Lord!
“Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men.”
Where we can go to see God work?
We could start by attending a church where people are serving the Lord. We can watch God work in the lives of others. We can observe His transforming work as people respond to the Gospel, or His equipping work as young and old, men and women, offer themselves in service of the Lord. We might see His comforting work as the broken hearted are encouraged by the Word of God, and the presence of Christ. We might see His restoring work as the prodigals return to relationship with Jesus. But there is another way to see the works of God. We can step out of our comfort zone and offer ourselves as servants. The chief reason people don’t see God work in their lives is because they are afraid to step out in faith and serve the Lord. If we continue to use the excuse that we can’t, we will never find the power and enabling of God to assist us beyond our abilities. On one occasion the disciples found they could not accomplish the ministry they were faced with, when they asked Jesus why He responded,
“Why could we not cast it out?
‘So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.'”
Jesus promised if they trusted Him, they would see God accomplish tasks they knew to be impossible. Our problem is we do not want to be in impossible situations. We like to have control of our life and the events surrounding us. It is when we will step out in faith, trusting in the provision of God, and enlisting ourselves in His service, that we will see the works of God.
Perhaps God has been stirring your heart to serve. Maybe you have been thinking about volunteering to teach children or to join a mission team or to open your house for a home fellowship, but you have resisted because you feel inadequate. Allow me to encourage you, God always calls the inadequate. His methods are to choose the weak and foolish things of the world so He is always glorified through whatever is accomplished.
“Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men.”