Pathway To Freedom
INTRODUCTION: I think the reason the Psalms are such a favorite to believers of all stripes is found in the humility and honesty of the psalmist. He bears all. He reveals his struggles and his strengths. He declares his boldness and then cries for help. He is weary and in sorrow and then he is running in joyous freedom. In other words he is just like us. No super human here. Just a man after God’s heart who loves His law and walks in His ways. Sure he falls and fails but then we see him rise and run. Psalm 119 is a microcosm of our fight for faith. It is not easy. It is impossible without the guidance of God’s Word and the faithfulness of His grace. We will take some good hits. We will fail miserably. But we have had a taste of God and He is good. We want more. The wonders we have seen are just a down payment of the infinite riches that await us as we pursue our joy in Christ and His Word.
There is no doubt that the psalmist is convinced that in the written law he has the Word of God. How can he be so sure? How can we be sure? Many great defenses of the Bible have been articulated through out history. Some trace the historical and archaeological accuracy of its facts. Others cite the wonderful subject matter that seems beyond the minds or hearts of men. Still others might cite the integrity and consistency of a book written by 66 writers over thousands of years. However, in spite of the reasonableness and legitimacy of such endeavors there is a way we can know that the Book we have in our hands is in fact God’s divine inspired Word to us.
“I am laid low in the dust;
preserve my life according to your word.
26I recounted my ways and you answered me;
teach me your decrees.
27Let me understand the teaching of your precepts;
then I will meditate on your wonders.
28My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
29Keep me from deceitful ways;
be gracious to me through your law.
30I have chosen the way of truth;
I have set my heart on your laws.
31I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD;
do not let me be put to shame.
32I run in the path of your commands,
for you have set my heart free.
Struggles: You can’t get any lower than eating dirt. (Obviously, the psalmist is trying to convey the times of deep anguish he has experienced.) It is not the absence of struggle that sets apart a man or woman of God. The Hebrew children ended up in the fiery furnace precisely because they did what was right. Paul struggled through deep trials so that he “despaired even of life” and even felt “the sentence of death” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). And the devil goes about seeking to devour you simply because you have faith in God. The thing that set them apart and will set us apart is faith in God and His promises no matter what we are going through. We glorify God when we by live boldly and courageously because we know that God will use whatever is thrown our way for His glory and our good (Romans 8:28).
So, the psalmist could share humbly and honestly the struggles he waged. He is not like the TV evangelist who struts and dances and says, “Bless God, if you got what I got you would be dancing too.” I have known too many of those “stars” off the stage and in real life. That is just image. Image means nothing to a man or woman of God. Honesty demands humility. The psalmist knew his own heart. He knew his private struggles. But his life was not wrapped up in impressing others but in pleasing his God. God is using this psalmist to let us know that faith is a struggle. It is a fight for joy.
Need: So, what do you do when you are suffering the deep emotional pain? Do you go deep into your past to find the hurts and abuses that have determined your emotional state? Do you seek medications to relive you of the painful symptoms you are experiencing? The psalmist didn’t. He recounted his ways, yes, but it wasn’t for the purpose of deep introspection or self pity. He recounted his ways in the presence of God, for he said, “you answered me; teach me your decrees.” Are you seeing the pattern here? We do have real deep struggles, but God is the Wonderful Counselor. It is in His decrees that we find truth to build solid God-honoring lives upon. The feelings may go or persist but His truth stands like a rock.
Weariness comes to those who battle in the arena of truth. That is part of the deal. How many times do we read in Scripture passages that warn us of battles and persecutions and fiery darts? And, then when we get into those we whimper and wonder what we have done wrong to have such a hard time of it. People who have no battles with faith are not soldiers of the cross. They are like little brothers who play army while the big brother goes to war. I like the words of that great English preacher, John Henry Jowett:
“It is possible to evade a multitude of sorrows by cultivation of an insignificant life. Indeed, if a man’s ambition is to avoid the troubles of life, the recipe is simple: shed your ambitions in every direction, cut the wings of every soaring purpose, and seek a little life with the fewest contacts and relations. If you want to get through the world with the smallest trouble, you must reduce yourself to the smallest compass. Tiny souls can dodge through life; bigger souls are blocked on every side. As soon as a man begins to enlarge his life, his resistances are multiplied. Let a man remove his petty selfish purposes and enthrone Christ, and his sufferings will be increased on every side.” (Quoted in A Call to Excellence, Gary Ingrig)
Prayer: So, if the battle is our calling we better get training. We better get ammunition. We better get reinforcements. That is the why we pray: “preserve me” (25), “teach me” (26), “give me understanding” (27), “strengthen me” (28), and “be gracious to me” (29). The enemy is too great for us. We were never meant to win the battle on our own. Psalm 50:14 tells us why: “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Ps 50:15). If all of life is about glorifying God then winning the battle is about glorifying God. The one who provides the grace gets the glory. The one who gets the grace gets the joy. So, when we are in trouble our God says, “Call upon me. I will deliver you and you, by your prayer and by your faith and by your perseverance, will reveal to the world an awesome wonderful God.”
Choices: So, in our trouble we recognize our need, we turn to our help, we cry out to God and He answers for His glory and our joy. The promise of God transforms us from being fearful, faint-hearted followers to being confident, consumed and controversial conquerors. We leave no doubt where we stand or where we are going. The psalmist declares his made up mind in bang-bang fashion: “I have chosen the way of truth” (30); “I have set my heart on your laws” (30); “I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD” (31); “I run in the path of your commands.” (32). No wishy-washy, namby-pamby kind of man here. He has set his sail. He has chosen his course. He isn’t going back and he won’t be stopped.
I love the story of Joan of Arc. She and her army were facing what seemed to be insurmountable odds. There was a necessary objective ahead but her generals could see no chance for victory. When she insisted that they go anyway, they replied, “Not a soldier will follow you.” Her reply was priceless: “I will not be looking back to see if they are following me.” In other words she was committed. The objective had captured her heart and she was willing to give her life for it even if no one else was. She made her choice.
That is what the psalmist is saying. I have made up my mind. My heart has been captured by a love that is better than life (Psalm 63:3). I will hold fast no matter what comes my way. I will hold nothing back in my passion for God and His glory.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 3:12-14].
Freedom: When we find the truth and it is clearly marked out as a pathway before us, we no longer need to play it safe. Set free from the deceptive lies of the enemy we are freed to run with joy the race marked before us. “Trust in the Lord, lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:4-5).
Sure there will be traps and pits along the way. Life does not turn out the way we thought it would. Our dreams for ourselves and our family are shattered by the real power of sin. It leaves us grieving and sorrowful and in danger of giving up our faith and losing our joy. But in those moments, when we will turn to the objective written words of God and see His written promises, we will be strengthened. We may not know all the whys but we know the Who. Our Sovereign God rules in the midst of darkest days. When it looks like sin has won, grace comes to wins a glorious and more wonderful victory than we ever imagined.
So, don’t listen to the enemy’s lies: “Now you have done it. It is too late for you and your family. There is no hope. God is not listening. Darkness is greater than light. God’s Word is not sufficient. Turn to drugs. Turn to psychology. Give up.” God’s Word trumps the devil’s lies. “I am still confident of this one thing: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart. Wait for the Lord.” The prayers of the righteous are powerful and are still ricocheting around heaven long after the pray-er has gone home. Keep on asking. For His glory. And your eternal joy.
David Brainerd’s life was short on years but long on the grace of God. He died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-nine after giving his life for the souls of the Indians of New York. A few weeks before he died, he called his friends to his bedside. Here was a long man, in the prime of life, serving God with all of his heart, dying with tuberculosis. What he say? Would there be regret, self-pity, anger or bitterness? Here is what he said:
“My heaven is to please God, and glorify Him, and to give all to Him, and to be wholly devoted to His glory. That is the heaven I long for; that is my religion and that is my happiness …. I do not go to heaven to be advanced, but to give honor to God …. All my desire is to glorify God …. I see nothing else in the world that can yield any satisfaction besides living to God, pleasing Him, and doing His whole will.”
That is what the psalmist found. In God’s Word he saw the glory of God. It was so wonderful that nothing else mattered. It might land him on his face or on a death bed with tuberculosis. It made no difference. He had been freed to run. Nothing in this world or the next would keep him from seeing and savoring the glory of God. May our eyes be opened so that we see the same wonderful things that set his heart free. Let us run with passion and persistence the race set out before us. God bless you as you meditate upon his awesome life changing truth
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Dr. Gary Rieben. © Give Me That Book. Email: Grieben@aol.com. Website: www.GiveMeThatBook.org. Postal: GMTB | P.O. Box 1045| La Quinta, CA 92247 USA | 619.829.2390
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