trust

My sons enjoy video games, especially Mario games. The story for most of the Mario games revolves around a bad guy taking something or destroying something. The goal of the game is to beat levels, defeat the boss, and ultimately win the game. In video games, we can play until the good guys win. But in real life, what do we do when the bad guys win?

The question that forms the title of this post derives from my devotional reading this week. Throughout Scripture many have wrestled with the tension of the apparent/real success of the wicked. In today’s chaotic world (pandemics, politics, and personal opinions), it is easy for us to lose heart and become frustrated.

It is good for us to remember that we are not alone in these frustrations. The Bible offers us some really good advice on this topic.

Take a moment to read David’s thoughts regarding this topic from the Psalms.

Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
    be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
    and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
    and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!

David, Psalm 37:1-7

It is all too easy for us to “fret” because of the wicked and forget about the eternal and important. David’s psalm reminds us to focus on what matters, not what doesn’t.

Here’s an analogy. The other day I was talking with one of my sons about frightful thinking. Something he had read was causing him fearful thoughts and making it difficult for him to go to sleep. One option when thinking bad thoughts is to tell ourselves not to think bad thoughts or even to pray about the bad thoughts. The problem with this approach is that we are telling ourselves not to think bad thoughts or praying about thinking bad thoughts. Essentially, we are thinking about the bad thoughts by telling ourselves not to think them. Instead of this option, I encouraged my son to think about something else. I suggested that he quote a Scripture verse, meditate on something good, and pray about something completely different. The key, in this analogy, is to replace our sinful thoughts with good thoughts.

With regard to Psalm 37, we need to replace our frets and frustrations regarding the apparent success of the wicked with thoughts and actions that reflect trust in Lord.

Here are some good thoughts from the text that we should dwell on:

Remember that life is not temporal but eternal. Everyone will answer to God. It may appear that some in our world are getting by with their sin. They are not, and God is the only Holy Judge. Having an eternal perspective is spiritually healthy.

Trust in the Lord by doing what’s good. It is not our place to fret or fix everyone else. The best thing we can do most days is focus on what we know is right. We trust God by doing what we know to be good and right. Doing something good for someone else is a great way to refocus energy away from fears and worries.

Delight in the Lord through worship and prayer. Psalm 37:4 is one of the most quoted Old Testament verses. But if we are not careful, we will misread it. If we think God will grant us our wish list when we worship him, we are misguided. The point of the verse is that when we truly delight in the Lord, we will recognize that he is all we need.

Commit your day and your way to the Lord. Each day offers opportunities for worry, worship, fear or faith. Committing your way to the Lord is an act of trust where we obey God with what we know to do (the clear imperatives in Scripture). We also commit our way to the Lord when we pray and seek his direction for the uncertain areas of our lives.

Wait on God to be God. Too often I get myself in trouble trying to fix what is not my responsibility. Part of what gets us in trouble when the wicked are successful is acting out of frustration and trying to control what is outside our responsibility. Sometimes we just need to wait and be patient.

God knew that I needed to reread Psalm 37 this week. These thoughts have helped me today, and I hope they will help you as well.

March 2021. A year ago this month, the Covid-19 pandemic shut down society. Schools went remote. Churches stopped gathering. Remote school became a thing. Daily virus updates began. The list could go on. By now, we are very familiar with the changes that have affected each of us during this past year.

For many, the change in circumstances has been intensely personal and difficult. Some of us have dealt with sickness and disease. Some with Covid-19 and some with other illnesses. Some have lost loved ones. Some have experienced isolation. Some of us have battled demons we thought were long gone. Some of us have faced new temptations. Some of us have been devastated by our fears. But all of us have been affected.

In light of the circumstances of the past year God spoke to me through my devotional reading, and I wanted to share these thoughts with you.

I’m reading through the book of Exodus. One of the most powerful verses in the Bible comes from God speaking to Moses in Exodus 12.

For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. 

Exodus 12:12

The people of Israel have been in Egypt for more than 400 years. Most of those years they were enslaved. God sent Moses back to Egypt from the wilderness to lead the people of Israel out of slavery. At this point in the story, Moses and Aaron have been back and forth in front of Pharaoh requesting permission to leave Egypt to worship God in the wilderness. Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to relent even after 9 devastating plagues on Egypt. So God promised a final plague of judgment on Egypt’s gods. Pharaoh himself was a god in Egypt, so the act of judgment against the firstborn is God’s judgment on the worship of Pharaoh. The truth of the text is that God executes authority over false gods. The LORD alone is sovereign.

What stood out to me was considering this text in light of how the people of Israel had to feel. They were enslaved, burdened, beaten, and treated poorly. They did not have freedom. They suffered greatly even after Moses’ arrival and promise of rescue. Israel’s experiences of suffering and difficulty kept them in a place of unbelief. From the rest of the Exodus account, it is clear that even God’s miraculous interventions and judgments were not enough to keep Israel believing in the Lord.

What is the most important lesson in this text? What is the best medicine for our circumstances in life?

It is the statement, “I am the LORD.” This affirmation is the name of God, Yahweh, that God gave Moses in an earlier conversation (Exodus 3:14).

The LORD, when used in all caps in the Bible is the personal name for God, Yahweh. It is literally, “I AM that I AM.” The LORD is. He alone is God. He is sovereign. He rules. He can be counted on.

In the context of Exodus 12, God is affirming his existence, reality, and sovereignty over the supposed deities of Egypt. And the LORD proved these through the plagues and judgments on Egypt.

The Psalmist picks up on this very idea as well when he pens the beautiful affirmation of the LORD’s love and goodness in Psalm 100.

Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Psalm 100:3

The Psalmist uses the personal name for God, Yahweh. His point is the same as God speaking to Moses in the book of Exodus. The LORD is in control, and he wants us to know him and trust him.

Are you struggling with isolation? Know the LORD, and know that you are his. You are never alone.

Are you worried about powers, circumstances, and politics that have changed our lives so drastically? Know that the LORD is the one who defeated Egypt’s deities and rescued his people from slavery. The LORD alone is God.

Are you afraid of what’s going on around you? Know that the LORD is God. He cared for his people in Egypt, as they left Egypt, as the wandered in the wilderness, and as they entered the promised land. He will care for and keep you wherever you are.

Are you unwell and facing physical illness? Know that the LORD is Creator. He made you, and he is able to heal. And if he does, then you will be well. And if he doesn’t, then your illness cannot separate you from the Lord.

Are you confident in him today? Know that the LORD is with you. Remember that if you are his, he will never lose you or let you go.

Pause and thank God today that you know him. Pause and praise God today that he knows you. And trust that he is LORD.

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