Sermon Titled “Who Will Dwell Well?” (Psalm 37:1-11) – Sunday 24th August, 2014
King David wrote Psalm 37 when he was much older and wiser. Reflecting on days gone by, and the lessons he learned along the way, he came to understand what it takes to live righteously in a hostile and unfair world. If anyone knew what it was to face adversity and persecution, King David did, and yet he somehow managed to endure without resorting to self-driven responses. Granted, he also did some terrible things when he later became King, but the culmination of his life experiences, both those that were noble and those that were not, are what enabled him to write these God-inspired verses.
- Psalm 37:1-2 Do not fret because of those who are evil, or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
To fret means to feel or express worry, annoyance, or discontent, to the point of agonizing over something. Most of us have been in a position, maybe more than once, where we have agonized over a situation that we considered unfair or unjust. David, for example, was an innocent young man when King Saul hunted him down and tried to kill him. David tried everything to appease the king and assure him that he wasn’t a threat, but King Saul would not listen. Ironically, during King Saul’s pursuit of David, an opportunity arose in which David could easily have taken King Saul’s life, but he chose not to. Such self-restraint would not have been possible if David did not love and trust God.
Unlike David, who was despised to the point of murderous intent, it’s unlikely that our enemies are going to cause us to run for our lives. The problems most of us will have with others will be far less grave, and some probably quite trivial, yet we’ll struggle to respond as honorably as David did. “An eye for an eye” is how we are naturally wired to think, but God is asking us to let go of that mentality and trust that His justice will prevail, in His time and in His way.
In addition to not fretting, we’re also instructed not to envy or covet what others have. There is a popular saying that says “Comparison is the Thief of Joy,” and it’s true. When we envy what others have, or when we start playing the comparison game, it never leads anywhere positive. On the contrary, it leads to a place of unrighteousness, where sinful temptations are difficult to ignore.
And what exactly do I mean by sinful temptations? Let me provide a couple of examples. A company employee feels resentful because someone who is less dedicated gets promoted ahead of her. She feels tempted to dig up all the dirt on her colleague and report it to management. Or, on a business trip, a single guy is partnered with an attractive, but married colleague who seems to be flirting with him. He is surprised at first, but is quickly lured by a sense of lust and desire that continues to grow.
In these types of situations, where sin tries to steer us down a dark path, Pastor Reimer suggests that we force ourselves to stop for a moment and weigh the actual cost of going forward. He used a food analogy (not serious by any means, but you’ll get the point), to illustrate how opening our eyes to the outcome of a situation can save us from reaping a disastrous outcome.
During one of his recent lunch breaks, Pastor Reimer thought he’d enjoy a little self-indulgence and treat himself to a BK Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich Combo meal. As he drove up to the menu board, he saw that it would cost him $7.50 for the meal – not bad at all, he thought. But then he saw the nutritional information that was also displayed on the board and it caused him to “open his eyes” to the real cost of the meal: 1310 calories! The calories from fat accounted for more than half the total calorie count! Did he really want to follow through and consume a meal that calorically, he really couldn’t afford? No, he didn’t. He chose a healthier meal option instead.
If we’re willing to be a little more cautious in how we proceed when faced with temptation, we’ll stand a far better chance of staying faithful to God’s commands. And when we are obedient, we are rewarded in ways that cause us to be content whatever our circumstances. We will experience the fullness of God, and that’s our antidote to living in an angry and narcissist world.
- Psalm 37: 3-6 Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.
The final verses (7-11), address the dilemma of living in a place where evil runs rampant, or of living in a place where we just don’t fit in. These verses encourage us to continue standing upright, and to not waver in our faith or lash out in anger.
- Psalm 37:7-11 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed In their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.
At Koza Baptist Church, we’re stepping out in faith and opening a new campus right outside Camp Hansen in the northern part of the island. Located in the town of Kin, Koza Kin Campus is surrounded by a few bars and other “adult-entertainment-type” establishments, so hardly in a spot where people might think to look for a church. But the leadership at Koza Baptist Church feels confident that the opening of a campus in Kin is God’s will, and armed with that belief they have moved forward in obedience.
While certainly not despised or seen as a threat (as when the Israelites were sent into exile centuries ago), our presence in Kin, or even in Japan for that matter, may at times be misunderstood and therefore resented. It’s our obligation however, as Christians living away from our homes, to treat our neighbors and hosts with the utmost respect.
The reason I mentioned the Israelites in the previous paragraph, is because Pastor Reimer talked a little about their exile to Babylon, and the strategy used by the Babylonians to ensure that there would not be an uprising. The Babylonians opted to “assimilate” the Israelites into their community; in other words, the Israelites could live freely among the Babylonians, as long as they fell in line with the Babylonian culture, rules, and expectations.
The world is like Babylon; it wants everyone to conform to its ways. But if God’s word is true, as we believe it to be, then the act of conforming (assimilating) is not acceptable. We cannot call ourselves Christians if we choose to live by the world’s standards, which we know conflict directly with those set by God. On the other hand, we are not to set ourselves apart, and walk about with an air of pretentiousness or self-righteousness. Christ never once esteemed Himself above others, and neither should we. He set the example, and we are to follow.
Our only goal and purpose therefore, as Christians living in an anti-God world, is to do as Christ did and go and do good things.
- Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”)