A Message

It's rare, but sometimes I feel called to give a message, and sometimes I even get asked. Here's the planned part of a message I shared with my church on August 21st. It's not what I actually said, because what I said included about 20% of unplanned material and a few funny moments, but it is the base of the message.

Message for August 21st: A Walk with God, David’s Life as an example, Mountaintops and Wilderness, Psalms 13

Awesome God, Creator, Redeemer, and Holy Spirit, please enter into our hearts today. Help me to speak a message that glorifies you, and help us all to listen to your guidance in our daily lives. Amen.

We all have a daily walk with God. Each day brings us new insights, new moments of joy, new moments of sorrow, new moments of purpose, but also new moments of that contain a feeling of unsurety. What is the purpose of each day? Does the daily routine have meaning? Is our walk with God full of purpose, or are we just going through the motion of putting one foot in front of the other, plodding with weariness?

When I read Psalms, I am often struck by the Psalmist’s ability to get to the heart of the matter. There is struggle, there is joy, there is sorrow, there is thankfulness, there is fear, and there is hope, there is anger and there is bewilderment, but there is also trust and love. The Psalmists brought everything in their lives to the Lord. They didn’t hold back the highs, the lows, or even the muddy middles.
Let’s look at Psalm 13:

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
(Have you ever felt like God is hiding his face? As if His love is so quiet that He’s forgotten you? This Psalm speaks to that fear and sorrow.)
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?
(There are two ways to read this Psalm – from a historical perspective – which we’ll get to in a few moments, or from a personal perspective. What is this Psalm saying to me, right now? What is it saying to us? This Psalm speaks to me about the sorrows that I’ve felt and wrestled over when I feel like the evils in this world are overwhelming, or when I’ve listened too long to doubts that come from the enemy of God. One of the things I love about this Psalm is that the Psalmist may sorrow, but he doesn’t give up. Listen to what he says next.)
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
(The Psalmist is directly asking God to do something, to answer. He’s pretty demanding. He doesn’t hold back from getting to his point. And then, he ends with trust.)
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.
(One of the first times I read this Psalm, I had to go back and read it again. In six verses, we get sorrow, fear, a demand for help, and then trust and praise. By the time we get to the end, we know this Pslamist had a close relationship with God in his daily walk because he addresses God with all of his needs and all of his trust. He doesn’t hold back the sorrow, but he also doesn’t hold back the joy of knowing God’s ultimate salvation. He gives it all to God.)

Do we give everything to God? The sorrow, the struggle, the fear, our needs and hopes, and our trust in his salvation, our joy and praise of his goodness even in the midst of our problems?

I know that there are times when I give it all to God, and there are times when I stumble to a stop in my faith walk and I just stand still, not sure if I am able to keep trusting.

Thankfully, God is there, even when we stumble, even when I stand still, even when my faith is not as great as His faith. And, God gives me reason to step forward. He speaks to me through His word, through family and through friends, through those that encourage me to continue to walk in faith. And, I think this is true to how God works. Let’s look briefly at the Psalmist behind the Psalm.

David had a complex life. He was a shepherd boy, anointed to be the next King of Israel. He killed Goliath, he played music to soothe King Saul when Saul was tormented by evil spirits, he was pursued by King Saul when Saul wanted to kill David and assure that his throne would pass to his son Jonathon. At the same time, Jonathon had a covenant friendship with David. 

1 Samuel 20:42New International Version (NIV)

42 Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.[a]

David is lifted up by his faith, but in a time when he must flee the King’s wrath, Jonathon vows his friendship. David is encouraged by this and his men, and he goes into hiding. Time passes, and Saul chases David again and again, but David waits for the Lord.

Saul and Jonathon are killed in battle by other men, but David doesn’t rejoice. He mourns Saul as the anointed King. He mourns Jonathon as his dear friend. Throughout all of this struggle, we see David turn to God in prayer and inquiry. We see him trust God, even when he’s hurting. Finally, after all of this, we get to 2 Samuel 2: 1-4

2 In the course of time, David inquired of the Lord. “Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?” he asked.
The Lord said, “Go up.”
David asked, “Where shall I go?”
“To Hebron,” the Lord answered.
2 So David went up there with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 3 David also took the men who were with him, each with his family, and they settled in Hebron and its towns. 4 Then the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the tribe of Judah.

But Psalm 13 was written in the midst of the struggle, and David still trusts the Lord’s salvation and sings praise to God. David sorrowed, he wrestled, he struggled, and he trusted, and he praised.

Getting into the life of David, who wrote many of the Psalms, shows me God’s purpose, direction, and trustworthiness even more than reading the Psalms by themselves. God’s word works in us like this, I think, in our daily walk with him. We read, we pray, we talk to friends and family, and we walk. Sometimes, we run. Sometimes, we stumble. Sometimes, we plod along and can’t see the ground beyond our feet, but walking in faith simply requires God’s presence, and His faithfulness, and one step at a time, even steps with long pauses between them. Sometimes, we need a friend like Jonathon to encourage us. Sometimes, we need God to speak into the stillness of our hearts. Sometimes, we need to give thanks and praise him in the middle of the struggles.

I think that David did that. I think he praised God, even when everything looked bleak. There is a strength that comes from thanksgiving, a closeness to God that is hard to find in any other place than Thanksgiving. Sometimes, it’s tough to find that thankfulness. We have to stretch out the simple things, the breath we take, the sound of water lapping against a shore, the smell of coffee, the smile of a friend, the brightness of an unexpected bit of color on a rainy gray day. All of these small moments were created by God in his goodness, and we can praise Him for those, and in praising Him for those small things, we can find our way to praising Him for our salvation in the midst of struggle, like David did.

Yesterday, I took a short hike for my 45th birthday. It was only 4.5 miles and it was marked as moderate. I thought I could handle it, but about halfway up the hill, I wanted to give up. I had to plod along. It was hot, I’m terribly out of shape and each step felt like an act of will-power over the inertia of tired muscles. I could only see the ground right in front of my next slow step. If I looked up, the steepness of the trail just seemed too much. And yet, I kept going. I was encouraged by my husband. I kept putting one foot in front of the other. And, I made it to the top of the incline, and then across several small bridges over different creeks, and then down the hill. The reward was sitting in an air-conditioned van and knowing I had finished, but also knowing that I had taken steps towards getting in better shape. My walking days aren’t over, both physically and spiritually. I have more steps to take, more hills to climb, more streams to cross.

We know that the end of our spiritual walk is God’s heaven. We have been assured of our salvation. We walk to share His salvation with others. We walk to grow in relationship with God. We know that we have been given streams of water to rest by, and green grass to feed on. We know that on this spiritual walk with God, He will fill us to overflowing so that we can share his love with our neighbors, our friends, and even our enemies.

Psalm 23
A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3     he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

The Lord walks with us as our shepherd, he fills our cup to overflowing with his salvation.

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