Biblical Text: Psalm 37:1-9, 25
A Psalm of David
Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.”
“ I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”
Today we’re going to class together. Those of you who were blessed enough to be here today will soon admit that it’s a class every man, woman and child needs to take. The curriculum is intense, passionate, and even extreme. I wish I could take credit for having written it, but I did not. It was written by the greatest of all Professors, and David, King of Israel, first taught it.
You wouldn’t want to be taught by someone with little or no experience in his field. So today, for the sake of clarification of credentials, we’ll begin with verse 25 of our text, before we study the actual curriculum. “I have been young, and now am old” the writer David says. Immediately we are reminded that experience is the best teacher…and David has a wealth of experience to certify him as a qualified teacher for this course on Contentment.
In fact, the entire Psalm 37 is ripened with the wisdom and autumn calm of a seasoned man who is able to reflect back and realize that it is senseless to become agitated by what ceases so soon. All of life’s changes have not soured nor disquieted him, for he has learned to see God in it all. And now, to the textbook…
We’ve all heard that you can have peace in the time of storm. But when the storm is raging, how do you handle your discontent? How do you hold your peace when you’re under attack? How do you stay your anger when the frustrations and disappointments of life beat upon your breast with unrelenting force? For those who desire to grasp permanent hold of this elusive peace, David is about to give us the keys…of which there are three.
The first key to contentment is the key called Delight… “Delight in the Lord.” This simple statement embraces the first secret of tranquility, which is the realization that life is troubled not so much from without as from within. In his senior years, David has come to know that it is not our changing circumstances that rob us of peace…it are our unregulated desires. We are feverish, not because of external temperatures, but because of the heat of our own blood. The very emotion of desire disturbs us:
1 We wish we had what someone else has.
2 We wish we could be what someone else has become.
3 We wish we could do what someone else does.
Wishes disturb our peace!
And when a whole heart full of varying, sometimes contradictory longings, is boiling within a man, how can he help but tremble and quiver? One unfulfilled desire is enough to banish all tranquility and peace. How can we survive a dozen dragging in as many different directions?
The first key to peace, then, is the focus of our desire. What is it that delights us? Unbridled and varying wishes are the worst enemy of a state of repose. They destroy our tranquility by putting us at the mercy of externals. And whatever is necessary for our contentment…it is that thing that we have made lord of our life.
When we desire the earthly and the external, we give these perishable things supreme power over us, and allow them to become intertwined with our spirit.
Then, in comes the apprehension and the fear as we go through life like mountain climbers tied to an Appalachian guide…one slip and we fall to our death. The heart that depends upon THINGS for peace is sure to suffer a lifetime of perpetual restlessness because disappointment is the law for all earthly desires; for as our appetite increases, our satisfaction decreases. The food may remain the same, but its power to appease us is diminished. Possession brings indifference.
The proof is found no further than in our own children. Our children have VCR’s, DVD’s, TV in their bedrooms, cell phones, designer clothes and name-brand sneakers, expensive toys…but do they consider themselves blessed? NO! All these things have done is create in them an insatiable desire for more and more of the transient things in life. And we have put them on the road to irrevocable and crushing disappointment in the end.
But, David says, those who “delight in the Lord” first, shall be blessed. Those who reach for the purest and highest form of religious emotion and cry, “Whom have I on earth beside Thee?” instantly find the cure for all feverish unrest from unfulfilled desires. The Lord’s peace fills the soul that delights in Him, and its hunger is blessed with instant satisfaction.
Envision this…a soul freed from a hundred distractions and desires by One Masterful attraction! While all the world is scrambling to explore the thousands of small rivulets, streams and eddies of the great river of life, those who “delight in the Lord” have set the current of their being toward God and stilled themselves in the Great River above…who is the Source for fulfillment of all… “and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart”.
But lest we cheapen God and vulgarize His great promise of blessings, David does not mean that God will grant every earthly desire we wish. Sometimes He will, and sometimes He won’t. But what does it matter to our soul? …IF all we delight in is HIM! Those who want God, have Him, and enjoy the truest joy of His fellowship and His grace. Just as the sunshine floods the eye, or breathe expands the gasping lung, so God fills the waiting and wishing soul. To delight in God is to possess all delight. Desire for God puts all other desires in their proper place. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness…” David says, ‘let that be the dominant desire of your heart’. So, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in!” (Psalm 24:7)
The second key to peace and contentment is: commitment… commitment to the Lord. There are times in every man’s life when he is led to a high dividing point, a precipice of decision, where his whole future depends upon the direction he chooses to take. He cannot see beyond the immediate moment, for the future is clouded in a mist of uncertainty. But powerless as he is, he must choose, and his choice determines the rest of his days.
We were never intended to be challenged by the perplexity of choosing our own path. Even the smallest decisions in a day’s monotony are better handled by the Master of our days, for very often, the greatest events in our lives grow out of our seemingly insignificant decisions.
David says, just “commit your way unto the Lord.” The word commits in the original Hebrew – galal (gaw-lal) - means ‘to roll, or to wallow’. God’s invitation is to “roll away” all of our troubles by simple committing ourselves to Him, and wallowing in His goodness!
If we can learn to commit our daily monotonous steps to Him, we will not find it hard to seek His help when we come to a fork in our road. Like the coral reef that is built by a multitude of creatures, one at a time, whose united labors are strong enough to withstand the ocean’s tide, we too, over time, and putting our trust in the Lord, will be able to withstand the unrelenting tides of life unscathed.
But what does such a step require? It requires the extinction of our own inclinations. We begin by ceasing from SELF…not that we cast out all of our wishes, but that our wishes are never allowed to settle the question of our direction. All of our wishes are held in subordination to Him who is able to grant all wishes.
Then, the third key to contentment is REST: …the kind of rest that keeps you free from the anxiety of an unknown future. Man knows so little of his future, and what we do know is so sad, that the ignorance of what MAY be, and the certainty of what MUST be, disturb us equally, with hopes that soon melt into fears, and with apprehensions which soon gather like blustering clouds on the horizon of certain storm. Man can be sure that the future holds loss, sorrow and death. But those who ‘belong to the Lord’, says David, are sure that He is in it! :
He is with us in every agonizing advent,
Every challenging confrontation
Every distressing dimension
Every horrible happening
Every sorrowing season
Every stormy skirmish,
Every terrifying time;
And if we are sure that God is with us, then we can afford to say, “let it be as HE WILLS, and it will be well!”
Oh, the sweet calmness of knowing that whatever our trials, whatever our fears, we can find REST in Him! What better peace for a man who faces the flagrant fears of uncertainty? Shall we fight our storms alone, or shall we invite the Lord to fight our battles? Do we dare live precariously saying, “let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die?” Isn’t it better, more joyful, nobler, and in every way superior to look past our perilous future and into the arms of a loving Father and wait patiently on Him? But ‘rest’ can never be found in the Lord unless a man first possesses the other two keys. Only the man who delights in the Lord, and commits his way unto the Lord, will find REST in Him and be able to confront whatever lies ahead. Only the man, who delights in the Lord and commits his way unto the Lord, will be able to cast his burdens upon a Faithful Father, who is his protection and peace.
What a calm! …This peace of God! How blessed to leave all of our disquieting tomorrows in HIS HANDS, because we know that change and death will only melt away the gulf that separates us from our DELIGHT! We are one with Him:
Our thoughts run parallel to Him.
Our ways are traced to Him.
Our paths lead to Him.
And we rest in Him!
Cradled in the certainty of His caring arms;
Aided by the assurance of His abiding love!
Delight thyself also in the Lord…
Commit thy way unto the Lord…
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.