We all are guilty of unbelief at times. Often we face yet another struggle and allow the enemy to discourage us. We might develop feelings of inexplicable loneliness or, experiencing a sense of total inadequacy, we become convinced the Lord does not hear us. A cry erupts from our hearts, “God, where are you? I pray, I fast, I study your Word. Why won’t you deliver me from this?”
We go to the secret place of prayer but we don’t feel like praying. Our souls are dry, empty, exhausted from our struggles, yet we don’t dare accuse the Lord of neglecting us in our condition. So we just weakly approach him in what we perceive as humility. Head down, we say with discouragement, “Lord, I don’t blame you. You’re good and kind to me. I’m the problem; I’ve failed you so much.”
Wait! That is not humility. On the contrary, it is an outright insult to a Father who adopted us with a covenant promise to love and support us throughout our lifetime. When we tell him how bad we are — how weak, empty and useless we are to him — we despise all that he has accomplished in us. This grieves our heavenly Father.
Whenever we become discouraged in our faith, the Holy Spirit will speak to us in no uncertain terms. “Enough of this self-pity. Get up! You are loved, called and chosen, and I have blessed you with my Word.” We must discipline ourselves to recall all that God has brought us through. We are to rejoice, knowing he is pleased with what he has done for us.
You may have been tested time after time. Now the time has come for you to make a decision. God wants faith that endures the ultimate test and he gives you his Word to enable you to triumph. If he commands you to do something, he will supply you with the power and strength to obey: “Let the weak say, ‘I am strong’” (Joel 3:10). “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10).
Psalm 34 is all about our Lord’s faithfulness to deliver his children from great trials and crises. David declares, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears … The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them … The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles … Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:4, 7, 17, 19).
Note David’s claim: “I sought the Lord” (34:4). David has just been captured by the Philistines and when he wrote Psalm 34, he was making an admission: “I was in a situation so overwhelming that I played the part of a fool. Yet, inside I wondered, ‘How has this happened? Lord, help!’” So it seems David was saying, “I cried out from within, not knowing what or how to pray. And the Lord heard me and delivered me.”
David declared: “My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear of it and be glad” (Psalm 34 2). David was saying, in essence, “I have something to tell all of God’s humble people on earth, now and in ages to come. As long as this world exists, the Lord will deliver everyone who calls out to him and trusts in him. In his incredible mercy and love, he delivered me.”
Here is what you can learn from Psalm 34: When the enemy, Satan, comes at you like a flood; when you find yourself in deep waters of affliction; when troubles stagger your mind; when chaos swirls around you and you cannot even think straight, you do not need a prayer book or a doctrine to lean on. All you need to know is that our blessed Lord hears every sincere cry, loud or unspoken, and he responds. The Lord is faithful to hear every whimper, no matter how faint, so reach out to him in confidence.
The apostle Peter tells us, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (1 Peter 1:10).
We should note that these prophets knew what they were called to do — prophesy and speak God’s Word. They spoke a powerful word because they were certain of what was in their hearts and they wanted to be sure they understood its impact before they voiced it to the people. They “searched and inquired carefully,” patiently pursuing truth. If we are not careful, we can approach the Word of God casually and read only the parts we like. But if we do this, we will miss truths that he intends for us to grasp. Therefore, it is vital that we search the Word diligently.
Is there an area in your life that is out of control? It may be a problem with sin or relationships. Or it may be because you are not willing to open your heart to the fullness of the Word of God and ask the Holy Spirit to apply the Word to your heart.
I truly believe that God gave us all things in the Scripture for our profit, our benefit, our teaching, our rebuke and our correction. He wants us to become fully mature in him. But if we do not avail ourselves of the whole truth, we will not benefit from it. And if we do not listen to the Holy Spirit when we study the Word, we can believe things that are not actually there.
It is important that you not only know the Word of God, but that you know the God of the Word.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled; though the mountains shake with its swelling. … Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11).
“Be still and know that I am God!” is an incredible verse about which many songs have been written and countless sermons have been preached. But what exactly does it mean to be still? Does it mean that we simply do nothing?
Perhaps you are wondering how exactly you are supposed to be still when all around you is noise and flurry — even that which claims to represent God. How do you let down your hands and give up trying to figure everything out when that is all you have ever done?
In reality, the deepest work of God is that which takes place in the hidden man of the heart. It is not something that makes a lot of noise. The Lord Himself expressed this truth as He called to His own people through the prophet Isaiah: “For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength’” (Isaiah 30:15).
In other words, “You would have found true strength by letting go of all human effort and putting your confidence in the work that only I can do.” That is the real essence of Christian growth. Remember, the Christian life is a supernatural life. None of us can make ourselves holy — we can only yield our lives to the One who does this sanctifying work within us.
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001.
Former astronaut Charlie Duke once spoke about what it was like being in a tiny space capsule 28,000 miles from Earth, racing toward the moon. As the crew turned the craft to its side, someone exclaimed, “What an incredible sight!” They all looked and saw the planet Earth, hanging wondrously in black space — a huge, bright ball, supported by nothing at all. The whole crew was overwhelmed at the sight; they knew only an incredible Creator could have wrought that.
God beautifully used the reference to his creation when he was bringing Job out of his sufferings. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? … To what were its foundations fastened?” (Job 38:4, 6). He was asking, “What holds the earth up in space?” And he goes further, “Who shut up the sea in its borders? Who tells the mighty ocean, ‘Come to this point but no farther’? What keeps the waves from overwhelming the land? And where is the spring from which the seas flow?
“How is the light parted from the darkness? How is the wind divided and scattered? How is rain born? Can man produce lightning, thunder, clouds? Who put wildness and tameness in the nature of beasts? Who do you think set all these forces of nature in place, Job?”
God literally took Job through a “power course,” revealing his past creation. Through it all, Job was being told, “You accuse me of neglect and you doubt my power to deliver you, yet I have shown you how I care for all my vast creation” (read this in Job 38 and 39).
Job was totally overwhelmed and when he looked at his problems again, he said, “I’ve been so foolish. I’ve had my eyes on the wrong things. I was concentrating on my pain when I should have been looking at you and your greatness. I know you can do everything and I also know that no thought can be withheld from you” (see 42:2).
If you keep your eyes on God and his greatness, fear and doubt cannot get a stranglehold on your heart.