My Testimony: An Introduction

Psalm 27 is like a dear and trusted friend to me. If you have ever had someone stand by your side during a very dark and painful time in your life, you know what I mean. It started several years ago, when I changed my normal devotional pattern from going through the entire Bible in a year, to focusing on one passage of Scripture. For 365 days, I meditated on Psalm 27. Early in the morning, I would take my Bible and my prayer journal, get a cup of coffee, and make my way down to a park along the Pacific Ocean. There, I would memorize, reflect and pray over this psalm. I would ask the Lord to speak to me through each word and sentence. Then, I would use those thoughts to shape my prayers to God. Throughout that year, I would record what I was hearing and learning. I experienced something of what the psalmist referred to when he claimed to “have hidden the word of God in his heart.” [Psalm 119:11]. The words of God not only were positioned in my head, they became imbedded in my heart. 

I carried the words of the psalm with me throughout the day. I would speak them to myself as I would be driving my car during the day or as I would be lying on my bed at night. Those words became my constant companion. I do not think that I would be too far off to say that I probably recited those wonderful lines thousands of times during that year. I had no way of knowing how important they would become to me in the days ahead.
Then, a series of painful storms came into my life. Like the storms that often line up to attack the shores of California in the winter, I was subject to a series of disturbing attacks. Each one seemed more violent than the previous one. During that time I sensed that God was telling me that he was using them to increase my faith in him. After each blow I would ask, “Is that the last one?” and it seemed to me that I would hear the words, “No, more is coming.” Then one day, the mother of all storms hit. It was deeply personal and shook me to the core of my being.

Time does not permit me to fully describe what I went through at that time. For the purposes of this study, it only needs to be set out that I went through the darkest time of my life. I could not sleep and I struggled with grief, fear and depression. In those long dark nights, I heard words in my head, like: “It is all over for you;” “You are no man of God.” “You are a failure as a husband, father and pastor;” “You will never know joy again”; “You are getting exactly what you deserve.” And, that struggle did not happen in one night. It happened over and over. I felt like I was in a battle for my soul.

It was then that my Friend came to me, the One who has promised never to leave me nor forsake me. [Hebrews 13:5] He came to me in this psalm. He spoke to me through the struggle of the psalmist. Although our circumstances were different, we had the same enemy. And, although we live in different times, we had the same faithful God.

It was during this time that I learned to fight with the weapon of God’s Word. Just as Jesus fought off the attacks of the devil with “It is written,” I fought off the lies of the enemy with God’s truth. Every line became a useful weapon in my hand to combat the specific lie that confronted me. The battle did not end with one skirmish. It went on day after day. But, I received sufficient grace from the Lord to win each battle every night. [1 Corinthians 12:9] My hope was strengthened as I meditated on these words of the psalmist: “I am still confident in this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord. Be strong, take heart, and wait for the Lord.” I was in an intense battle for my heart. It was real. But, behind or above it was a God who was ruling, even over the pain and lies of the enemy. He was using the fires of conflict to prepare me for greater opportunities to honor him. So, the struggle was long and painful, but it would end. In time, God would accomplish his purpose in me. I just needed to be strong, take heart, and wait for the Lord.

If you are a Christian, you are also a soldier. That is because as a member of God’s family, you are an enemy of the devil. Although his power over you has been broken by your faith in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross, he is still able to prowl “around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” [1 Peter 5:8]. He seeks to devour your faith and so destroy your joy in the Lord.  But you need to know that our God uses his evil schemes. He permits painful situations so that when we turn to him in faith, his salvation means a deeper joy in him and a higher praise to him. That is why God said, “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”[Ps 50:15]

The battle takes form when the enemy brings situations into our lives that tempt us away from trusting in God. In this psalm, the enemy comes in the form of attackers seeking to kill the psalmist. As he looks out he sees an army of real, breathing bodies, intent on doing him no good. There lies the real battle. Can he trust an invisible God when he is in the cross-hairs of a visible threat? In those moments, fear can become the enemy of faith.

In my situation, there were real visible and painful storms beating upon my house. My problems were not just “psychological”. Evil had taken bodily form and was seeking to hurt real persons with destructive consequences. My struggle centered upon whether I could trust the Lord to turn even these evil happenings around for me and my family’s good? It was a battle of fear versus faith. And here is the significant point of all this: The significant battle was not on the outside, in what was happening to me, but what was happening in me. If God is my stronghold, I am safe no matter what is thrown at me. The question is whether I believe that and live like that.

That is why the Word and prayer are crucial weapons in our war. The Word supplies the truth of God’s promise and provision. Prayer calls forth the dynamic of the Spirit to bring those truths to life in our hearts. So, memorization and meditation put God’s truth in my head, prayer make those truths come alive in my heart, and obedience puts God’s power into my hands. We will see how that all works out in this study.

An Invitation and Challenge: If you would like to enter into an adventure of faith; if you would like to experience the power of God’s Word in your life; if you would like to become strong in faith and defeat fear; then join me as we gather around “My Friend, Psalm 27”. Here are some things you will need to do. 1] Dedicate a time and a place to get alone with God; 2] Each day read through Psalm 27; 3] Each time you do so, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes so that you can see the wonderful things God has hidden there; 4] Begin a daily discipline of memorization of the text; 5] During the day and at night, turn your thoughts toward the psalm; 5] Record in a journal all the things that God is saying to you; 6] Relate what you are going through to what you are hearing in the text; 7] Don’t stop, even though you skip a day, keep at it; 8] and, share with somebody what God is teaching you through this discipline.

If you can, let me know how God is saying to you and how his Word has made changes in your life. I would love to hear your testimony. Let’s glorify Jesus together.  Gary Rieben