Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. (NKJV)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
I am amazed and embarrassed at how slow I am sometimes to turn to God FIRST, instead of as a last (or at least secondary) resort. Despite the fact that God has NEVER failed to comfort me, calm me, assure me and work all things out according to what He knows is best for me, I still have the aggravating habit of trying to handle life my way first, and then turning to God only after I mess it all up.
When will we ever learn to turn to God first,
instead of as a secondary option?
For me, it’s not typical to get to the point of “last resort”; but I have to admit that I often go through a period of “handling it myself” before finally turning to God and casting my care on Him. God is often my “backup” in case I can’t handle it myself.
Looking at that habit objectively, it seems so absurd. I have proven to myself a thousand times that I will only mess things up when God is not running the show. And yet when a difficulty or situation arises, I immediately launch into Mr.-I-Can-Manage-My-Own-Life and try to fix things without ever asking God what He wants me to do. My type-A personality doesn’t help matters, but that is no excuse.
As I was reading Psalms 34 this morning, verse 4 really smacked me. I thought “how true!”. Every single time I seek the Lord, He responds and yet for some uniquely human reason (spiritual pride!), I still have this repeating pattern of:
- Here’s a problem or situation
- Don’t worry, I can handle this one
- Like always, I’ve messed things up
- God, what do you want me to do?
The goods news is that I am the only person in the entire world that does this! Right?… Seriously, I have talked to countless people who go through this same process, so it would seem to be a common experience for many. I love our verse this morning because it reminds us of God’s faithfulness to respond, while prescribing what we have to do FIRST….
I sought the Lord…
As Christians , we are not passive bystanders. God often says “I’ll do this, if you will do that”. God constantly calls us to action, to responsibility… giving us something we must do in order to expect a response from Him. Now this is not the same as some of the current dangerous teaching about “spiritual laws”, “keys to success” or “God must respond” teaching that would have us to believe our mighty God is obligated to respond in certain ways if man will but say the right words, or perform a certain act (which all too often is to give money to the person proclaiming these “truths”). God is bound by no man, no words and no “spiritual laws”.
God is bound only by His own nature.
He must, and will, act according to His own nature…
and for no other reason than that.
God is obligated to no man, no matter what we say or do. But in His mercy, He can be counted on to respond in some typical ways if we will do our “part” (as determined by God about certain things). If we pray according to His will, He will hear us (John 15.7); if we repent and ask for forgiveness, it will be granted (1John 1.9); if you are humble, God will give you grace (Prov 3.34); if you respond appropriately to the Gospel, you will be saved (please, this is not a Calvinist debate, just take that in the context in which I am delivering it).
Back to our verse… I sought the Lord. Most often, we do not receive response from God until we seek Him. God rarely forces Himself on anyone (although the Day is coming when His wrath, reward and judgment will be “forced” on all). He is full of mercy, goodness and grace but expects us to turn to Him in obedience in order to receive it.
I doubt seriously if God has ever thought “well, Brent’s off doing his own thing again. I think I will give him peace, assurance and blessing anyway”. That doesn’t fit His nature. No doubt that God loves me so much that He is constantly trying to get my wandering attention but I cannot reasonably expect God’s comfort, help and guidance until I actually seek it by turning to and trusting Him.
How much trouble and pain would we forego if only we would learn to seek God first, early and often? So the first thing is for us to seek God and then…
…and He heard me…
God hears us. Have you ever thought about how unbelievable that is? I’m hard pressed to dream up an analogy for it. Imagine that the most lowly, insignificant, unimportant person in the world can pick up a phone anytime they want and speak to the President of the United States. That’s not even close to being comparable to God listening to us.
Okay, how about this… imagine a worm. Somehow this worms knows that all it has to do is wiggle and the ENTIRE world will stop and pay attention. Even that is not comparable to God hearing us, because God is infinitely greater than the gap between one worm and the whole world. If the ENTIRE UNIVERSE stopped to “listen” to the worm, that would still be infinitely “less” than God actually hearing us when we seek Him (when you consider how much greater God is than us).
We have loss our sense of awe and wonder
about the vastness and greatness of God.
So to contemplate the fact that He listens to us
doesn’t evoke much amazement, if any.
But try to imagine: the God who created everything from countless indescribable galaxies to infintesimally small quantum particles; the God who is everywhere, all the time; the God who knows everything, all the time; the God who knows every detail of every person of every time of every place of every thought of every word of every dream of every motive of every act of every star of every grain of sand of every blade of grass….. that very same God hears you, and responds to when you simply seek Him.
If that doesn’t AMAZE you, it can only be because you simply don’t understand it, or haven’t taken time to consider it.
…And delivered me from all my fears.
God delivers us from heart conditions such as “fear”, not primarily circumstances or consequences. We have an unfortunate segment of Christianity today teaching that when we seek God He will deliver us from all the circumstances that we don’t particularly like. We will be delivered from the “spirit of poverty”, or sickness, or unhappiness, or lack of success… whatever doesn’t fit our idea of personal happiness. While God most certainly does (occassionally, at His pleasure and timing) deliver us from some uncomfortable circumstances, what we are promised is to be delivered from HEART PROBLEMS, not external discomfort.
What do I mean by heart problems? When we seek God, He is faithful to deliver us from fear, from lack of peace, from confusion, from uncertainty, from anxiety…. DESPITE CIRCUMSTANCES. He delivers us from SPIRITUAL poverty, and SPIRITUAL sickness. The unfortunate by product of the modern “health and prosperity” teaching is that many people who emphasize the material aspects of God’s blessings never learn to procure inner peace, contentment and happiness despite their external surroundings.
True peace (lack of fear) is peace regardless of suffering, injustice and hard times. True contentment is contentment whether rich or poor, weak or strong, lack or abundance. True “deliverance” is resting in God’s love and protection even when the uncomfortable and distressing circumstances are still present.
True deliverance is not financial prosperity or perfect health;
it is the absence of fear despite circumstances.
And only God can provide it, and as a rule, only after we seek it from Him first.
I work with a friend who hopped in a cab went to the worst part of a large city by himself. He was the wrong color, wrong social status, wrong everything… to be in that part of town. Because he sought the Lord as he did it, he was completely without fear as he witnessed to dangerous people who were threatening him. He experienced peace beyond circumstances that had nothing to do with material prosperity or comfort.
Well, I’ve been preaching to myself this morning. I need to learn to seek God FIRST, and He will hear and deliver me from my fears. I need to learn to go to Him first instead of waiting until I have tried a few things my own way first which only increases my fear. God will not force Himself on us. He is waiting patiently, in perfect love, for us to seek Him and be delivered from fear.
That’s what I need to do. How about you?
Lord, Help us to learn to seek You first instead of trying our own way. Thank You for hearing us and delivering us from our fears. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Contemplation: Do you seek God first when life’s difficulties arise? Or do you finally turn to God when you figure out that “your way” has only made things worse? Do you seek deliverance from your circumstances primarily, or do you seek deliverance from fearing them? Do you feel like God is “delivering” you if He doesn’t remove the uncomfortable situation you are in, or send you money, or take away your sickness?
Application: If God were to remove all our unpleasant circumstances, would we really be delivered from “fear”? How do we learn commitment, contentment, trust and peace in the midst of perfect health, financial abundance and a life of roses? If we can only be “delivered from fear” when our circumstances are pleasant, then our trust is not in God, but in the circumstances. Learn to seek God first instead of only after you have messed things up.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?