For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, February 28, 2011

Preaching to Yourself

Last week was a frustrating week. I had a relapse of the bug that our family has been passing around, and round two was worse than round one. Lost my voice for the whole week, felt lousy, etc. Then Cheryl blew a tire on the van. Praise God she was ok, but in the midst of my deathly illness I had to drive out and change her tire and go buy a new one (ok, so deathly illness is a slight exaggeration, but that’s who I am!).

Then, my truck leaves me stranded on a busy city street, and the nearest parking lot I coasted into was…a bar. Not good for the guy whose most popular blog post is An Argument Against Alcohol! Managed to get it running and to my car guy, who thought he had it fixed, but when I picked it up I only made it a couple miles down the road when it shut down again. (His wife, ever the encourager, told me…”now you know how we feel when one of your sermons doesn’t quite get going!” She was kidding…I hope.) So after the second “stranding” in one day, I had it towed back.

Then word comes that my father is back in the hospital with blood clots in his lungs, making everything else look as trivial as it was all along. All in all, a stressful week. I know others have it worse, much worse, but this was one of those times when I really thought, ok, enough is enough already. Poor me. Pity party time.

Every have a day like that, or a week, or a month?! What’s nice in the midst of times like this is to have someone nearby to help put things in perspective, to give you a kick in the pants, to remind you of the goodness of God, etc. But sometimes, that person might not be there. And at times like that we may just have to learn to preach to ourselves.

I’ve always enjoyed David’s ability to do that, and one of my favorites is the duo found in Psalms 42 and 43, which many consider one Psalm. (And yes, I know the title says that it is a song given to the Choirmaster, a Maskil, either of the Sons of Korah, or for the Sons of Korah, depending on your translation. The Hebrew there is vague enough that it can be either, and if it is “for” the author can easily be David. In fact, Spurgeon said: “Although David is not mentioned as the author, this Psalm must be the offspring of his pen; it is so Davidic, it smells of the son of Jesse, it bears the marks of his style and experience in every letter.” That’s good enough for me).

Anyway, in the midst of his struggles, in the midst of the trials that have assaulted him both from within and without, David takes the time in this Psalm to preach to himself. To call his own soul to get a proper perspective on things. The common refrain throughout this song is in verses 5 and 11 of Psalm 42, and then verse 5 of Psalm 43. David says to himself: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.” The rest of the psalm, or psalms, then fills in both the trials he faces and the reasons for him to be reminded of this hope in God.

Why are you downcast? Why are you in turmoil? Have you ever said that to yourself? As someone who deals occasionally with anxiety, I’ve preached this to myself more than once. We might paraphrase it like this: What’s wrong with you? I know things might be bad. I know there are those who oppose you, and there are other trials facing you, but don’t you remember who it is that you serve? Remember. That’s the key. Remembering.

And through the course of these combined psalms our minds are called to remember several different things as we preach to ourselves, to encourage ourselves out of the muck and mire in our own hearts. So for anyone who might be a bit like me and occasionally feel the need to give yourself a little kick, very quickly, here are six things David encourages us to remember in preaching to yourself.

I. REMEMBER OUR PASSION. Psalm 42 begins: As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

My soul thirsts for Him! This should be our priority. Actually, this should be our priority at all times, not just when things are difficult; but David reminds us that when things are difficult, the first place we should be looking, the first thing we should be seeking, the most dominate thought in our mind should be a passionate desire for God. When life’s struggles get to us, the first place we ought to look is to our passionate desire for God. Preach to yourself to cry out to God: I desperately want you. I desperately need you. Seek him with every ounce of your being, and remember that being in his presence leads us to worship. Which is the second thing David causes us to remember

II. REMEMBER OUR WORSHIP. Part of the reason David is longing for God so passionately seems to be because he has been separated from the corporate worship of God’s people in Jerusalem. Verse 2 ends with the question: when shall I come and appear before God? Obviously God is present at all times and all places, so David must be referring to appearing in God’s tabernacle. Verse four carries on with that theme as the king remembers those times when he was there, leading the throng in procession to the house of God; remembering the glad shouts and the songs of praise that he shared with God’s people in worship.

Worship is powerful medicine. During our times of trial, one of the things that we should call to mind is the joy and gladness we’ve had while with God’s people, worshipping and adoring His holy name together. And once God brings us through the trials, our hearts are again brought back to worship. Verse 4 of Psalm 43, says “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with they lyre, O God, my God.” God is my exceeding joy. Remember that. Preach that to your soul as you struggle. Remember the worship of God’s people and the joy of that fellowship, and let that encourage you.

III. REMEMBER HIS LOVE. Verse 8 of Psalm 42 calls us to remember that by day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. By day and by night, remember His steadfast love, and let that be a song of joy to us. In fact, the word here for steadfast love is the word Chesed, which describes God’s covenantal love; His merciful kindness towards the objects of that love. It implies an active work on His part, a kindness that He exhibits, a mercy and love He demonstrates. And we see the demonstration of that over and over. Remember His love and what He has done for us.

IV. REMEMBER HIS TRUTH. Verse 3 of Psalm 43. “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!” God’s truth, like His love, is concrete and unmovable. His light and His truth remain intact no matter what the outward circumstances of our lives might look like. It may seem like we are failing and falling. It may seem like the enemy is gaining ground and that the shadows and darkness of evil are growing and winning. But His light and His truth will prevail. We need to remember and look to that light and truth. We need to let His Word, His truth lead us and guide us and pull us out of our despair. Because included in that truth are the myriads of precious promises God has given to His children.

Among His promises is never the promise to keep us from every trial, but He does give us the truth that in all things, He is at work, and He will uphold us in and through any trial. Which is the next thing to remember.

V. REMEMBER OUR REFUGE. Psalm 43, verse 2, for you are the God in whom I take refuge. Verse 9 of the previous psalm calls God our rock. He is our rock and our refuge, our hiding place.

He is the stronghold of my life, my rock, my fortress, my refuge. Of whom shall I be afraid? When the enemy attacks, know that God is our defense. When trials threaten to overcome, know that God is our strong tower to hide in. When things seem to be getting shaky, know that God is our rock, our firm ground to stand on. Preach this to yourself. God is my rock. God is my refuge. Run to Him. Take cover in Him. Hide in Him. He will vindicate His people. As Paul said in Romans, If God is for us, who can be against us? Good question, isn’t it.

VI. REMEMBER OUR HOPE. Look again at this recurring theme: Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Hope in God. He is our hope. Nothing else is worth holding on to.

He is our hope and our salvation. In fact, He is our hope because He is our salvation. Christ is the only one worth holding on to because Christ is the one who brings us salvation. He died to give us that. He paid the ultimate price to bring us into a relationship with the Father. That ought to give us the ultimate hope and confidence.

Again, preach that to yourself. Tell yourself over and over again: He is my hope and my salvation. He is my refuge and my rock. His truth and His love are solid foundations on which to stand, and they both promise me His presence through all things. And that presence ought to be the one thing I desire more than anything. Even more than the removal of this trial, I long for Him. I long to worship Him, to enjoy the fellowship of His people as we worship Him together.

So why are you downcast? Remember these things. Hold on to these things. Preach it to yourself over and over. No one said it would be easy. Of course, that’s why even better than preaching to yourself is having a good, solid church family to embrace you and encourage you and uplift you. But in addition, we need to continue preaching to ourselves.

I hope this might encourage someone today. I hope it helps you move forward in faith and confidence, preaching these truths to yourself and to others who may need to hear it. And may God be glorified in us as we live for Him each day.

6 comments:

Eddie Eddings said...

Brother, thanks so much for the post. We all have those days where nothing seems to go right...and how quick we are to look to the Heavens and cry, "Why me, Lord?"
You have been an encouragement to me in more ways than one. My daughter showed me the book you sent, on Skype the other day. I can't wait to get my hands on it and read it! Thanks again for your kindness to me.

...too bad, they haven't invented tires that will not go flat yet.

Gregg said...

I can only echo Eddie's words. This has been such a black or dark weekend for me, that I didn't even desire to gather will God's people this week. I chose to sit at home and be disappointed, angry, and pitiful. Thank you.

Scott said...

Eddie: With all of our technology, you'd think... Hope you get to enjoy the book soon. I know I got to enjoy "da book" and am giving a copy to a friend.

Gregg: Brother, you are in our prayers.

T.A. said...

Brother it's good to see another's faith at work.
T.A.

Anonymous said...

Pastor ..I may and probably did say it wrong..it should of been We know how You feel when a sermon doesn't take off.

Scott said...

Ahh, that does make a bit of a difference. Sorry if I heard it wrong. But you have to admit, it makes a pretty fun story this way! (He told me..."I wasn't going to say that!" And I told him, "You should have...it's a great line!) I don't mind a little ribbin' now and then, either way. Thanks for letting me use your comment, if if I did misquote you. :)