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Into Your Hand I Commit My Spirit

May 7th, 2019

For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. (Psalm 31:3-5 ESV)

The believer ultimately leaves his entire life in the hands of God, for God to lead him through whatever challenges He has ordained for him to face. This is not a matter of hopeless resignation but of hopeful confidence in the grace and power of God. 

Notice that this prayer is not merely about entrusting circumstances into God’s hand, but rather it is about entrusting the very spirit of the psalmist into God’s hands. It is in our spirits that victory must be found. As Christ prayed this very prayer on the cross, He reminded us that our bodies shall be taken from us one day and it is the spirit that lives on. It is the spirit, not the body or our finances or any physical or material element of this life, that will live on for eternity. 

Our spirits are built up by God’s Word and by His Spirit, and we are strengthened in the midst of the passing but physical realities of this life. While the psalmist prayed for mercy, deliverance, and for every consideration, he ultimately said – as we all must say – “Lord, my times are in your hand” (31:15). This is faith – the faith to remember that we are not n end in ourselves alone, that God has called us to bear witness to His grace and power. If we may bear a better witness through our sufferings than we can through our blessings, then we leave those matters in God’s hand. 

We should remember when there are frustrations, that every life has such things. Rather than being jealous of someone else’s struggles that seem less than ours, we should realize that the very understanding of what a struggle is depends entirely on the strength of faith and character in each of us. What to one Christian may be a matter of great difficulty, may be to another who has greater faith and who displays the transforming work of God’s Spirit in a deeper way simply a mild inconvenience. 

The secret of enduring all difficulties is an ever deepening faith that trusts the Lord in all circumstances. There is nothing wrong or immature about praying for our deliverance, for Christ Himself taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil!” And it is also plain foolishness to try to leap into hardship and difficulty, as Christ also said, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34). But having lived our lives with prudence and holiness, having entrusted our souls to the Lord, having daily dedicated ourselves for the good of the Lord, and having discharged all duties God has assigned to us, then we have nothing to worry about, other than the duty to be faithful to God.

What circumstances are you currently dealing with that you would prefer not to? Health issues? Difficult people you have to bear? Frustrating work and challenging situations? A person is entitled to his reputation, but do not seek to endure these things only for your own reputation. Seek to do it for the reputation of the Lord and of His people. Live beyond yourself, as God has called you to, and you will find the peace and grace of God will sustain you in all that you face. 

Do not aspire merely for a happy and problem-free life on the surface – no such life exists. Do not compare your life with others, for we can never fully understand another’s burdens. But rather entrust each day into God’s hands and be prepared to handle whatever He gives you. Remember the prophetic words Christ spoke to Peter at the end of John’s gospel. When Peter asked about John’s challenges, which seemed at first sight to be less than his own, Jesus said, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22)

Daily Devotions, Dealing with Difficulties, Psalms

The Purpose of Problems

November 4th, 2018

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. (2 Corinthians 12:7)

A serendipitous event last week brought a scripture to my attention. The event was a water leak that happened in the men’s washroom above my office at the church. Most of the damage is repairable, but it did leak down on some of my personal books I have amassed over the years. Before you ask, let me say that it was clean water – the first question in my mind! – and that things just got wet. We say that a good mind is like a sponge, that soaks up the knowledge of books. But I have learned that books can be like sponges as well, and they can absorb a great deal of water!

I have downsized my library several times over the years, and there are still some books that I need to re-read more often. Like friends, the older ones are the better ones for many reasons – perhaps only for the fact that they resonate with something within us that harkens back to a younger time in our lives, times when life was newer and we were too.

But this hidden blessing, that resulted in some of my books getting absolutely drenched, also did something good. In the clean up I looked through a few of these old literary friends this weekend that I probably would have let sit on my shelf for a much longer time. And, again, like old friends they held forgotten wisdom. Many, if not most, are out of print how, so the titles are unimportant, but they reminded me of truths that I had not thought of lately.

One of these authors, writing on dealing with problems, reminded me that one of the reasons that God allows problems in life is that they keep us humble, they keep us real, they keep us from becoming arrogant and proud. That is exactly the thought that Paul shared above – that God had blessed him with great spiritual experiences, but to prevent him from becoming conceited God had also entrusted to him a “thorn in the flesh,” a nameless physical malady that kept him humble and dependent on God.

We do not know what this thorn was – the speculations have been endless, from some recurring malarial fever, to arthritis, to some eye problem (which scriptures seem to hint at – see Galatians 4:13-15, 6:11 – perhaps a physical weakness due to his stoning at Lystra where he was presumed to be dead – see Acts 14:19-20). Some of the more cynical around us have supposed that it was his wife – but the scriptures are not clear about whether he was married at all and most seem to think that he was not. But, even if an eye problem was the most likely, this thorn has been left unnamed so that Christians through the centuries could identify with him on this principle.

We all seem to have something that God gives us to keep us humble, to keep us real. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6), and we do not want the Almighty to be opposed to us. So we ought to embrace these weaknesses which we all have with a little more understanding. The slightest amount of success in life can turn us to very annoying egomaniacs – annoying to ourselves as much as to everyone else. God’s grace is sufficient for us, and He will give us the grace to bear up under the challenge, the grace to smile in pain, through the tears, through the disappointments, and even to laugh at ourselves.

So my soaked books were not completely ruined and brought enduring truths to my attention – another problem that helped me spiritually. Better a wet book that is read than a dry one that sits on a shelf.

To parlay this analogy one step further, I remember a quotation from when I was a teenager: “You are the only ‘Bible’ that some will read.”  We could go a step further, that you and I are the only books that some will read, so we should also not spend all of our lives on “the shelf of life.” We need to get down and open our pages or share our thoughts and lives with others so that we can bless them with whatever means we have at our disposal.

So share the hope of God that is found in the midst of limitations and problems. Anything that keeps us humble and real is a good thing for our spiritual lives.

Daily Devotions, Dealing with Difficulties