Praying, Not Plotting

November 8th, 2018

Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away. (Psalm 36:10-11 ESV)

The trait of faithful people is that they choose to pray for others and not plot against them. David, inspired of the Spirit, authored this psalm and in it he worked his way through the evil that is in the hearts of some men. He learned who not to entrust himself to, but he did not consider himself helpless so long as he could pray to God. Rather he brought these people and these circumstances to God in prayer.

Peace comes from God, not from tearing others down

David avoided the sin of blatant, inappropriate criticism and the judging of others. He recognized what was in their hearts, but he left it at that. One of the most common causes of a critical, judgmental attitude is low self-esteem. We criticize others in order to feel better about ourselves. David, however, knew that peace comes form God.

He knew God through his faith, through God’s Word, and through the movement of the Spirit in his life. His knowledge of God had changed his life from the inside out – the revelation of God’s love for David had transformed his worldview. Centuries later, Paul used similar words when he wrote:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. (Phil. 3:8-9)

The secret to a transformed life is not to try and feel better about yourself because you can criticize others on your bed in your own mind, but that you know God, and are drawn to Him. The love of God is enough, and nothing else really satisfies our hearts.

Faith, not fault-finding, and Prayer, not plotting

The recognition of who to trust and whose ways to emulate is a necessary part of gaining wisdom. We have people all around us who would lead us down the wrong path, whose ways we should not seek to copy. The recognition of these people is not judging, neither is choosing not to follow the wrong person plotting against them. They are God’s problem and not ours.

David prayed for two things: that the foot of arrogance not come against him and that the hand of the wicked not drive him away, or deter him from doing what he needed to do. The foot symbolized disrespect in that culture, the contempt that the arrogant would feel toward others. Feet are considered unclean and to push another person with one’s feet is to treat that person as though they were less than human. The hand was symbolic of intentional action against someone, to deter him from doing what was right.

We face both of these attitudes in our daily life – disrespect and opposition. David’s example was to bring these matters to God in prayer, asking for divine intervention, asking also for the courage and strength of righteous character to continue doing what is right. We can let the wrong people discourage us from doing what we ought to do.

Patient, steady, and gracious

The proper action for a believer who seeks to do right is to patiently, steadfastly, and graciously continue to do what is the right thing to do. There is humility in David’s words, for the admission that evil holds some attraction to our hearts is the confession of our own weakness. It is easy for us to react in the same evil spirit as others, it is easy for us to treat them with the contempt they treat us, it is easy for us to fall into the same problem of pride as others.

Patient steadfastness says, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). The strength is not in us. Neither is the wisdom, righteousness, guidance in us either. It is all in Christ and the only credential that we may offer to others that would enjoin them to follow us, to support us, to respect us, is that we follow Christ. Avoid the ungracious, judgmental, and arrogant, but don’t become like them in spirit.

Pray, don’t plot.


My Times Are in Your Hand

November 7th, 2018

My times are in your hand… (Psalm 31:15)

These are words of faith. There will come a moment in life when all signs of God’s providence are stripped away, when, due to events, circumstances, loneliness, or our mood, we feel forgotten and abandoned by God. We are not, but it may seem as if we are at some point in life. That is the moment that faith is essential – to simply rest in the reality of God.

This passage comes from the Old Testament Hebrew, and the word translated “times” may also be translated “seasons.” This word captures life with all of its ups and downs, its seasons of plenty and need, of sickness and health, of joy and sorrow, of success and failure. All of these times and seasons are in God’s hands, even those that are less pleasant.

In the Greek of the New Testament, there are the two words kronos and kairos, both of which are translated “time” but mean different things. Kronos means the steady passing of hours, days, and years. Kairos, however, means the opportune moment, the time written of by Shakespeare in Julius Caesar: 

There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat.

These profound words, moving that they are, reveal the thinking of man, not the thinking of God. From God’s perspective we find that all of our times are in His hands, not just the days of opportunity. And even if the “voyage” seems missed from an earthly perspective, the Lord is still with us. It is, in fact, a secret of a joyous life in Christ to see His hand at work in circumstances that may place us in a disadvantage in human eyes, but in an opportune place in God’s eyes.

Remember, for Joseph slavery and imprisonment were pathways to greatness, “the saving of many lives.” For Stephen his stoning became the opportunity for witness to a young Pharisee named Saul. For Paul and Silas, beatings and stocks led them to see a prison guard converted. And for Christ, and for all of us, His cross because the instrument of intercession for our sins.

All the seasons of life are in God’s hands. Upon this truth, David could pray, “Save me for thy mercy’s sake” (Psalm 31:16). The mercy of God exists for a reason, and for its existence’s sake, we are well within proper bounds to ask for God’s mercy to be directed toward us. See your life and your times and your circumstances within the hands of God – pray that way to Him, for God answers prayer – and see that those hands are merciful hands, full of grace and undeserved kindnesses toward those who believe.

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