If you have ever had times of feeling low and troubled, then Psalm 77 was written for you. The writer of the psalm, a man named Asaph, was a Levite from the priestly line in Israel. He was also a singer and served as David’s appointed choir director. Altogether, Asaph wrote eleven psalms and they were filled with righteous instruction for God’s people.
Asaph wrote Psalm 77 after he fell into a horrible pit of despair and his condition grew so bad that he was beyond comfort: “My soul refused to be comforted” (77:2). Yet Asaph was a praying man. We see this in the same psalm as he testified: “I cried out to God with my voice … and He gave ear to me” (77:1). I am sure Asaph had heard David’s very similar testimony in Psalm 34: “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry” (34:15).
Asaph knew David’s compelling story of how he had to flee Gath to escape Saul’s wrath. He had felt like such a failure that he had cried out to God in agony and was totally delivered. In fact, God put a song in David’s heart. In Psalm 40 David wrote a new song of faith which surely made it into the hands of Asaph as a testimony: “[He] heard my cry. He also brought me up out a horrible pit … and set my feet upon a rock” (40:1-2).
Does Asaph’s story describe your own spiritual battle? This godly, praying, faithful man was facing depression and there seemed to be no way out. But he concluded, “God’s ways are not known. I don’t know why he allowed me to go through such discouragement, but I can only rejoice that he has made me free.”
David said, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). Truly, the Holy Spirit will comfort you in your dark times and help you recover your joy, peace and rest as you seek him.
Have you ever wondered what your purpose in life is? Do you ever get discouraged because you cannot figure out your true calling?
Jesus sums up our core purpose in John 15:16: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.” Our purpose is simply to bear fruit. Many sincere Christians think bearing fruit means simply to bring souls to Christ, but bearing fruit means something much larger than soul-winning. The fruit Jesus is talking about is reflecting the likeness of Christ.
Growing more and more into Jesus’ likeness must be our purpose in life. It must be central to our activities, our lifestyle, our relationships. Indeed, all our gifts and callings — our work, ministry and witness — must flow out of this core purpose.
If you are not Christlike at heart — becoming noticeably more like him — you have missed God’s purpose. You see, God’s purpose for you cannot be fulfilled by what you do or measured by anything you achieve. His purpose is fulfilled in you only by what you are becoming in him, how you are being transformed into his likeness.
The disciples took Jesus on a tour of the temple in Jerusalem to show him the grandeur and magnificence of the structure, because they thought he would be impressed with it as they were. Instead, Jesus told them, in essence, “Not one stone of this temple will remain. It all looks very impressive, but it is man-centered.” In short, Jesus refocused the disciples’ attention to the spiritual temple and Paul later wrote to the church, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Many believers today are like the disciples, impressed by the wrong things, but Jesus’ message is clear: our focus should be on our spiritual temple. The fact is, the Holy Spirit abides in our bodies and as we spend time with him, he is prepared at any moment to bring us into his purpose.
Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, was on his way to Damascus with a small army to take Christians captive, bring them back to Jerusalem, and imprison and torture them. But Jesus appeared to Saul on the Damascus road, blinding him. “And [Saul] was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank” (Acts 9:9).
In those three days’ time, Saul’s mind was being renewed. He spent the entire time in intense prayer, considering his past life, and he began to despise what he had been. That is when Saul became Paul.
This man had been very proud, full of misguided zeal. He sought the approval of other high-minded religious men but then he said, “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).
Paul was a man who could say, “I once was somebody. All my peers, including my fellow Pharisees, looked up to me. I was climbing the ladder, and I was considered a holy man, a powerful teacher of the law. I had a reputation in the land and was blameless in the eyes of the people.
“But when Christ apprehended me, everything changed. The striving, the competing — everything that I thought gave my life meaning — was surrendered. I saw that I had missed the Lord completely.”
Paul thought his religious ambitions — his zeal, his competitive spirit, his works, his busyness — were all righteousness. But Christ revealed to him that it was all flesh, all for self. Therefore, Paul stated, “I laid aside all desire for success and recognition and I determined to be a servant” (see 1 Corinthians 9:19).
If you desire to be emptied of self, ambition and worldly reputation, I encourage you to follow Paul’s example. I know of no other way to achieve a servant heart except through prayer.
“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5).
How amazing it would be if all believers were walking in humility! How attractive the church would be to a lost, hurting, broken world, and how healing for people who have been wounded in the house of the Lord. And further, how wonderful and glorious it would be for our Father to see his church putting on the garments of humility.
Some may think that being humble means not offending others when, in reality, that is man-pleasing rather than God-pleasing. The world may despise humility but as we see in this passage, God exalts those who walk humbly. It is not always easy to walk in humility; actually, it is impossible without the grace that God promises.
Humility is necessary in order to have the outpouring of God’s blessings. The opposite of humility is a domineering attitude, a person who is always commanding, always exercising authority without any kind of mercy or grace. Peters says we are to clothe ourselves in humility. I always thought humility meant stripping off things, taking away, getting down to nothing. But Peter is saying humility is putting on certain things.
One of the ways to grow in humility is to put your complete trust in God. “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (5:7). It is impossible to cast your cares onto the Lord until you first know that he is mighty; you would not cast your cares on God if you thought he was going to let you down or fail you.
Humility frees us from the arrogance of saying, “I can take care of myself,” and empowers us to trust the strong hand of God. It brings us to a place of peace, grounded and established in him. Determine today that you are going to grow in humility by allowing God to orchestrate the events of your life. Humble yourself before him and in due season he will exalt you (see 1 Peter 5:6).
Do not be afraid to ask God for great things! Anything less dishonors the One who has given us such awesome promises. When his blessings come showering down upon us, let’s praise him with all our hearts. But on those occasions when he whispers, “Go! Arise, and do what I’ve shown you to do,” let us remember that many of the sweetest answers to prayer involve working together with God to accomplish his purposes.
Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to the noise of an intruder seeking to break in. You lie frozen with fear, slowly remembering that the phone is right beside your bed and you can dial “911” if you choose. But in order to get help, you must pick up the phone.
We have the same kind of “911” access to God, but our direct line to the throne of grace will do us little good if we fail to use it. Throughout the Bible we see how victories were won and negative circumstances overcome when a man or woman prayed the right prayer at the crucial moment. We could choose from hundreds, but the psalmist David offers a classic illustration:
“Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray. In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” (Psalm 5:2-3).
Notice the fervency of David’s prayer as he asks God to “listen to my cry for help.” This is a matter of desperate pleading, not relaxed prayer, because David is contending with enemies. If he is to survive their attacks, he has to have help from heaven. He has no “Plan B” because he is petitioning “my King and my God,” the Lord for whom nothing is impossible.
David was a man who prayed much and received much; his faith was not in the power of prayer itself but in the God who answers prayer. That is the secret of everyone throughout history who has learned firsthand about God’s faithfulness.
Avail yourself of God’s help today — don’t forget to “pick up the phone” and make the call.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.