Being a Christian in the United Kingdom is remarkably peaceful and unproblematic in comparison to the lives many of Christ’s people must live in other parts of the world. I suppose the same could be said of life in the USA, or New Zealand or Australia too. However, as we read our newspapers, listen to the radio and watch the T.V. it appears that trouble may be coming, if it is not already here. If seems to loom just over but ever nearer our time horizon.
It seems every week there is a new and very public assault on the Church, or Christianity, or Christian morality. Issues of free speech and freedom of religious expression are no longer to be taken for granted, or assumed. Those with liberal moral agendas seem to have the upper hand in government, local and national, in the education system and so forth, and the evidence of a spiritual downgrade is everywhere present to be seen.
What must our reaction be as Christians? Psalm 37 gives us some sound counsel. The Lord through the psalmist gives us six wise words to follow, all of which may be evidently seen in the life and conduct of Christ himself (if we have space and time to observe it).
Psalm 37:1-5 Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! 2 For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. 3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
Don’t fret because of evildoers.
Don’t fret when you see evildoers in the ascendency, when wickedness seems to be progressing, when the morals and ethics of our society are degrading at concerning speed, God says, ‘don’t fret’. Don’t let anger burn too intensely, don’t let it consume you, or even nearly so. Be angry, but don’t blow up!
Psalm 4:4 Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.
Yes, there’s a place for anger and even disgust,
Psalm 119:158 I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands,
But perhaps a more constructive reaction would not be long and intense periods of anger, but long and intense periods of grief and prayer!
Psalm 119:136 My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.
Anger is such a productive seedbed of many kinds of sin, we need to take up this counsel and exercise close self control in this regard.
Don’t be envious of wrongdoers.
Perhaps sometimes you have been tempted to ‘give in’, to ‘give up the fight’, to ‘throw in the towel’, to adopt the ‘if you can’t beat them join them attitude’. We get disturbed as we seem to be making no headway. When evil flourishes perhaps in the depths of our soul we even think, perhaps we’re wrong and they’re right. But no says the Lord, don’t be envious of their success, nor of them, for they and progress and their success are but temporary, the gains you have in Christ far outweigh them and are eternal.
2 For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.
Or as Psalm 73 puts it (we do well to read the whole psalm)
Psalm 73:16-18 16 But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. 18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.
Trust in the Lord.
But why? Why is it this way? Ever asked that, of yourself, or of a friend? Why is Christ’s name tramped into the ground? Why is evil growing and taking hold with such ease these days? Why are you allowing this God? Well not only has the Lord allowed it, he has ordained it – and his counsel to us when all seems bleak, when there are no apparent explanations, when it all seems contra-God’s glory is this – we must trust the Lord. We must recognise that our lives, our times, our circumstances as well as those of the wicked are ordained by God, and we must trust him, his wisdom, his will, his goodness. We must trust that his purposes will be done, that his promises will be fulfilled and that his grace is sufficient for us in every and all circumstances.
Jeremiah 17:7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
Whatever wickedness is prevalent and accepted in our world, our responsibility is clear,
3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Compromise is never an option for us,
Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Indeed our righteousness, and uprightness may even be a means to evil being overcome in certain circumstances,
1 Peter 2:12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Delight yourself in the Lord.
Whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, even suffering at the hands of the wicked, we will not loose heart, nor become envious of the wicked, if we, as we should, are taking our delight in the Lord. We know that at God’s right hand are pleasures evermore, true peace and contentment is to be had through communion and fellowship with him. These things cannot be taken from us, whatever freedoms and privileges are taken from us.
1 Peter 1:8-9 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
In the midst of the possibility of loss (of freedom, rights etc.) never loose sight of what you have and cannot loose!
Commit your way to the Lord.
What will the future hold? Will it get worse, or better? Who knows? God does! All is laid out. What does it mean to commit? Give you life, circumstances, comfort, peace and happiness to the Lord, cast your cares upon him. In the original there is a sense of implicit complete trust in him – a proper complacency, that does not just say ‘whatever will be will be’, but rather that that which will be, will be God’s will and because of who God is the perfect, holy, just and righteous God, his will, will do me very well!
Psalm 37 has a New Testament counterpart of course
Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
How excellent is this psalm which not only shows us what we ought to do, but even gives us understanding of where we might go wrong, or indeed are going wrong. We cherish the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, but sometimes we’re not much better at applying this truth than those who deny it! Whatever we face in the future, don’t fret, don’t be envious, trust God, do good, delight in the Lord, and commit all your ways and all your days to him.Pastor Paul Wallace, Pastor Magherafelt Reformed Baptist Church .