The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)
It’s easy to be intimidated by a secular culture. Many of our most highly educated elites are skeptics. They look with condescension at those who maintain faith in divine revelations. Their skepticism has permeated our society, and many of the people we run into daily have swallowed their unbelief. Their hyper-rationalism inhibits the sharing of our supernatural faith.
We are often accused of being ignorant of all of mankind’s amazing scientific, philosophical, and ideological discoveries. But have you considered the atheist and agnostic’s self limitations? They have embraced a broader ignorance than have people of faith. They have said, in effect, that anything beyond our observation is unknowable. They accept only the knowledge that unreliable senses, variable consciences, and finite little brains can learn. That’s a pretty narrow view of reality.
We know our limitations. That’s why we depend on a revelation from above. We don’t accept it naively, and we use our brains to interpret it and apply it. But we must be humble enough to realize we didn’t come up with it. God’s Word is an act of God. We would not have known Him in any coherent details unless He had revealed Himself. And what a revelation! It makes marvelous sense to those who embrace it by faith.
Don’t be intimidated by your agnostic friends. The biblical witness is clear: Unbelieving minds are usually masks that hide a desire to disobey God. They are an easy excuse of immorality and rebellion. But they are foolishness. They turn their back on divine mysteries in order to cling to a feeble and faulty human wisdom. There is nothing reliable or eternal about their frame of reference. It will end in disaster.
Rather than be intimidated, live your life of faith in front of your agnostic friends. The fruit of the Spirit has a way of refuting hostile beliefs. It is clearly from above. Let your life always point in that direction.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
Psalm 19 is all about the glory of God and the perfection of the things He has ordained. It ends with David’s desire to live consistently with God’s ordinances. In such a glorious creation that proclaims God’s goodness from the rising of the sun to its setting, David knows how tragic it would be not to fit in. He prays for forgiveness and for protection from willful sins (verses 12-13). And then he gets to the heart of the matter: the purity of words and thoughts. Most of us can maintain righteous behavior most of the time. Our deepest struggles are in our thought life and the words that proceed from it. James even goes so far as to tell us that anyone who has mastered the tongue has become perfect (see James 3:2). Why? Because the tongue is a barometer for the mind. It measures what’s going on in our heads. Sooner or later, it will tell the truth about us—that we have pride, prejudices, impurities, petty agendas, and a strong self-will. If we can keep ourselves pure within, we will be pure in our speech and in our actions, as well.
Are you fit for glory? Do your thoughts and your words reflect the truth of who God is? Do they admire His ordinances? Anyone who is honest will have to admit that, many times, our inward thoughts lie to us about God—His love, His purity, His care for us, the goodness of His plan. And, many times, those thoughts slander His ordinances. We want to violate them in ways that will be pleasing to us or that will satisfy our personal agendas. We constantly need to ask ourselves whether our words and even our thoughts fit with the God of glory and truth.
Follow David’s example. Marvel at the glory of God’s creation. Praise the wisdom of His statutes. Count on His forgiveness. And then ask that He might grant you the blessing of having meditations and speech that is pleasing to Him.
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)
Why does the Bible so insist on our waiting? We are given instruction after instruction to “wait on God.” There is story after story about someone who wanted to rush Him—Abraham, Saul, Peter, and many, many more. Why are we always being told—not so subtly, either—to slow down?
Because our timing is almost invariably faster than God’s. His agenda for a situation includes deep workings and intricate details. We just aim for superficial symptoms. He intends to grind His grain very, very fine—an excruciating work on our character that will not let coarseness remain. Or, to use another metaphor, He heats His ore long and hot, removing not just the impurities that can be seen with the naked eye, but all the impurities that exist. We usually don’t care about such thoroughness. We want to get out of our difficult situation quickly or to achieve our successes suddenly. For us, time is of the essence. For God, time is essential.
A direct correlation to the wisdom we learn from God is the patience our hearts can tolerate. Foolishness is impatient. Wisdom knows the God who redeems us and can look patiently with hope toward His deliverance and His victory. We don’t have to know how things will turn out; we know the God who is sovereign over the things.
What does that mean at a practical level? It means that answers to prayers often seem delayed in our own minds but are decisive in God’s. It means that deliverance often seems slow to us, but to God it is already accomplished. It means that when we act on our impulses, we’re violating His patient plans. It means that when our blood pressure is rising and our palms are sweating, God’s voice is always saying, “Be still. Settle down. I am on My throne.”
Can you hear Him? If you’re in a rush, probably not. But how many times was Jesus in a rush? How often does the Word describe God as panicked? How many people who have invested their lives in Him have been let down in the end? Relax. Wait. Be strong and take heart.
I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands. (Psalm 31:14-15)
David was stressed. Enemies hounded him. People lied about him. Onlookers looked on with contempt. When everything seemed bleak, when he felt ashamed and beaten down, David was able to turn to God. Somewhere between the despair of this psalm’s opening verses and the strength of its closing lines, David took heart in the nature of God. Desperate prayer turned to confident worship. He realized that the refuge he sought was a thoroughly reliable refuge. It sank into the depths of his being: God is good.
We can relate. We get stressed. We feel as if we live in a besieged city (v. 21)—physically, spiritually, financially, socially, mentally. We may go through illness, anger, poverty, or any other evidence of our fallen world, and we begin to feel it will never end. The psychology of being “under siege” begins to affect every area of our lives. We seek God as our refuge, but it is a weak faith at first. We must be reminded constantly of who He is. We must read psalms like this one and hear the witness of others who have been through similar circumstances and have seen His faithfulness. Somewhere in the process—usually when we have no choice but to just give up—God’s power and faithfulness become real. We get a glimpse of who He is. Trust turns our despair into worship.
Sooner or later, circumstances will overwhelm you. God will let it happen—even ordain it—to force you into a necessary choice. Will you trust Him or not? There is no way to mature as a disciple without having to make that self-surrendering choice in the fires of trial; having once declared your trust is not enough. God will let it be tested, and the only way some of us are able to come to that place of rest in God is first to be absolutely overwhelmed.
Our helplessness will intensify until we realize: We can trust Him, and we must. We have no other reasonable option. We can let go and believe that all of our circumstances are His. We can relax, take a deep breath, and let it sink in that God is utterly trustworthy.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. (Psalm 40:1)
Patience is one of the hardest virtues for us to understand. We pray to an omnipotent God. We know He is able to help us at any moment. We know that He who defines Himself as “love” and gave His Son for us is not reluctant to help us. So when we ask such a God to intervene in our circumstances, why is there so often a delay?
Nowhere in the Bible does God promise us instant answers to our prayers. His promises for answered prayer are amazing and reassuring, but none of them includes a timetable. He only assures us that He is never too late. Yet in our impatience, we don’t want an answer that is simply “not too late.” We want an answer now. We have needs, and we do not understand why those needs must be prolonged.
But God has His reasons. Perhaps our needs are being prolonged because they are accomplishing something in us that nothing else will. Perhaps they are being prolonged because God is doing a necessary work in the life of someone else who is involved in our situation. Perhaps He is teaching us about prayer or perfecting our faith. Maybe He is even letting us identify with Jesus in the fellowship of His sufferings—it is, after all, His overarching purpose to conform us to the image of Christ. How can we be conformed if we have no identification with His plan?
Sometimes God will make clear that our answer is delayed because the delay will further His work in our own hearts or in another area. Sometimes He gives us no reason at all. The Christian’s wise response, in either case, is to know that if we are waiting on God, there must be a very good reason. And if we wait in faith and expectancy, the wait will be amply rewarded. His timing is always perfect.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:1-2)
When Jesus told His disciples that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed and will be filled (see Matthew 5:6), was He reminding them of this psalm? Perhaps. Or maybe He was reminding them of Isaiah’s prophecy: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” (Isaiah 55:1). Those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, and those who are meek will find in themselves a holy hunger gnawing at their souls.
Jesus was no stranger to Old Testament imagery. His Spirit had inspired it, and His humanity had been educated in it. When He announced the Beatitudes, He had recently reminded the enemy that “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (see Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4). Later He would announce Himself as the bread of life and the source of living water. It was true that all who hungered and thirsted would be filled, and it still is; we can be filled with Him.
We tend to think of discontentment as an ungodly character trait, but there is a godly side of it. The discontent soul knows that something is wrong deep down inside. It knows that hole that Augustine, Pascal, and many others have referred to: the God-shaped vacuum in every human heart. And no matter how much it tries to fill that hole with pleasure, work, people, or things, the vacuum remains. It was carved out for God, and only God can make it whole.
Do you hunger and thirst? Do not make the mistake of trying to satisfy your cravings with worthless things. Only God can effectively occupy your heart. Commune with Him there. Ask Jesus to bless you with His presence today.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)
Jesus calls the pure in heart “blessed.” It is an elusive purity for us. We have a hard time maintaining inoffensive thoughts for long periods of time. We are tainted with misplaced motives and petty agendas. If we’re really honest with ourselves and our God, we know the truth: Our corruption runs deep.
Jesus knows the impossibility of a pure heart, and He offers to fill us with His purity. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, with an emphasis on the holy. Even so, our purity fluctuates as widely as does the vibrancy of our relationship with Him. What can we tell ourselves to avoid discouragement?
We must remember the essence of biblical purity. It is single-minded devotion to God. It does not imply that we will always have perfectly sinless thoughts. It means that the direction of our lives will be solidly, irrevocably invested in Him. When arguments between self and sacrifice resound in our hearts, the godly impulse will eventually win the argument. Perhaps we may fail many times. Regardless, our desire for godliness must remain steadfast. The “steadfast spirit” must constantly be renewed.
God knows the frailty of our character. The human heart is a fickle thing; it caves in to the voices of this world and the compulsions of our flesh. But it is utterly redeemable: “He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
Have we forgotten the call of the holy God? He understands our imperfections, but He calls us above them. The pure in heart—the steadfast, passionate, faithful lovers of the Savior—are a work in progress. But it is a relentless work. Our direction never changes. God will always show more of Himself to those blessed enough to crave purity.
My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. (Psalm 57:7)
Reading the Psalms, one gets the impression that life for its writers, especially David, was one tumultuous episode after another. There are psalms of praise and joy, of grief and defeat, of deep meditation and inspiring victory. But regardless of the focus of each psalm, it is hard not to notice that many of them—most, in fact—are written in the context of crisis (see v. 1, for example). Cries to God come out of the crucible, and God’s response comes into it.
One thing God looks for when we are in the crucible is a steadfast heart—a heart that will not, under any circumstances, fall away. No matter what uproar is going on around us, no matter how much pressure is applied, God will wait to answer us until it is clear to Him, to us, and to those who observe us, that our heart is resolutely fixed on Him. And more than just steadfastness of hope is required; it is a steadfastness of worship, too. The heart that learns to make music in its darkest moments is the heart that is delivered.
The deliverance usually comes twice. First, a worshipful heart has risen above oppressive circumstances, even when the circumstances remain. It is an inward liberation that can find deep joy regardless of what’s happening on the outside. But a resolved, singing heart then finds deliverance in a God who responds. He frequently invades circumstances and scatters our enemies, sometimes dramatically. The wait may be long, but the victory is sure. God does not remain silent in His love when we do not remain silent in our worship.
When circumstances oppress, the battle rages, and the heat of the crucible rises, where is your heart? Is it steadfast in its worship? Does it sing of the God who reigns above every cloud? If so, expect deliverance. Expect it within and without. You can sing your song of victory before victory even comes. In the most important sense, it already has.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. (Psalm 63:5)
When we speak of learning God’s wisdom and having the mind of Christ, it often sounds like we’re sitting in a sterile classroom environment. We assume that we’re being mentally trained in a new way of life. We are, but it’s not in a cold, calculated transfer of information; it’s a warm, wonderful learning experience, a hand-in-hand adventure with a loving Father who wants us to be like Him.
With God, familiarity does not breed contempt. It breeds passion and pleasure. We can dispense with the idea that we serve a cold, hard master. We can let go of the image of the ever-unsatisfied holiness of our Creator. He has satisfied His holy requirements Himself in the person of Jesus. What’s left for us is an affectionate Father who laughs when we laugh and cries when we cry. The more we get to know Him the more we come to love Him. It is, of course, a holy and respectful kind of love—He is entirely above us and worthy of our awe. But there is a warmth to Him that many people never feel. And we are called to feel it deeply.
How would you characterize your relationship with God? Cold and sterile? Distant and frustrating? It need not be any of these. It can actually be—dare we suggest it?—fun.
Yes, the wisdom of God—His mind, His ways, His character—can be beautiful and charming. He is not the cruel killjoy we often make Him out to be. And that’s the great tragedy of sin: It fails to understand the amazing implications of knowing Him. It turns Him into someone He’s not.
Learning the wisdom of God is not just an intellectual pursuit. It is a heartfelt pleasure in His personality. The presence of the Almighty can be an emotionally satisfying affection. His character is lovely, His words winsome. Abandon the image of the stern, distant God. His wrath toward us, though entirely legitimate, was poured out on Jesus. It has been fully satisfied. Our only response is to be fully satisfied in Him.