Joy (In Christ) In Suffering (Psalm 27)
We continue swimming in the Psalms this summer
by diving into Psalm 27, one of my favorites:
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?
There is a cause and effect to faith in Christ; since THIS…then THIS…
salvation/new life/forgiveness doesn’t happen “in a vacuum”—
it has effects/outcomes/fruit.
- The Lord Jesus being our light & our salvation & stronghold
can & should affect our fears—
can & should cause us to be less afraid of—even confident in—
the storms we face.
We should desire this…
& we should seek to cultivate our relationship with Christ
so that it has effects in all the areas of our lives—
that is what the Bible calls “fruit.”
Too many are content just to get forgiven OF sin
but not to be set free FROM sin.
We may want Jesus to mop up the water we’ve spilled (consequences of sin)
but not to turn off the faucet that causes the spills
(source of sin—our evil hearts/desires).
Maturing in Christ isn’t what saves us…
but it does show that we have been saved.
- It isn’t: “Grow fruit/maturity first to become a son or daughter of God;”
- it’s: “because God has made you a son or daughter in Christ first,
maturity/fruit will grow.”
Back to Psalm 27:
2 When the wicked advance against me to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.
Spiritual forces against us may win the battle,
but they will lose—already have lost!— the war.
Christians are killed everyday around the world for their faith in Christ;
The world says those Christians lost–they’re dead!
But they haven’t—they’ve won the war because of Jesus,
they are fully alive in Him & in His presence forever!
The world says we Christians lose when we suffer,
the world says, “How could a good God allow THAT?”
But see Job 23:8-10: But if I go to the east, he is not there;
if I go to the west, I do not find him.
9When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.
[Job can’t see God in his present situation/circumstance,
Job can’t make sense of what he is going thru & why,
can’t understand how God will be glorified in it…
But then Job says:]
But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
[That’s it. Job can’t see the LORD in his present situation,
but Job knows that the LORD sees His present situation
and is at work in it, testing Job, refining his character like gold.
That is the heavenly perspective that we need in suffering,
that David has in Psalm 27…
- Imagine how different World War II would’ve been for the allies
if they could’ve known how the war would end…
- during the early years when they lost every battle,
they would’ve stayed confident if they’d known
that ultimately they would prevail,
no matter how bad the situation became
(and it was so bad for so long,
it was seemingly impossible/hopeless at times).
Christianity, the Gospel message, has seemed to be declining
& on the verge of extinction at various times over the past 4,000 years
since the LORD called Abraham.
Battles have been lost—the spiritual forces against us are fierce—
and we have dishonored our Lord & Savior Jesus numerous times.
But ultimately the war has already been won by the Lord Jesus Christ.
How important for us to have this eternal/long-term perspective
in our earthly/short-term suffering.
Back to Psalm 27:
3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.
[David doesn’t say that he will have no enemies, to trials,
no seemingly hopeless situations
because the Lord is his light and his salvation.
David doesn’t say that he won’t ever face scary situations…
No, David says that he won’t fear the fearful situations,
David says that he will be confident in the LORD–
not confident in David–
IN those situations
that try to shake/undermine David’s confidence in God.
We can have confidence in our Savior & King during our trials,
not just before and after the trials!!!
4 One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
We have discussed this at length (HERE), so I won’t go into it this post.
But knowing the LORD deeply & personally
is the reason we are alive in Christ:
knowing & obeying & enjoying Him!
It’s why David,
- surrounded by enemies looking to end his life,
- desired above all things to know the One Who gave him life.
5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.
Please don’t miss this: the safety David talks about,
the shelter the LORD provides His people,
is in the middle of trouble,
not just before & after trouble.
God’s safety is not promised without trouble, but within trouble.
We must understand this & have Biblical expectations—this is key.
- Our sinful expectation is constant ease/comfort,
- to stay where we are in our spiritual growth—
- in the boat not walking on the waves,
- in the locked room not out proclaiming the Gospel,
- in the huddle not out running the Father’s plays;
- our false expectation of ease/comfort leads to discouragement & despair
when our Father lovingly puts us in His refining oven.
Consider Zechariah 13:8-9: In the whole land,” declares the Lord,
“two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it.
9 This third I will put into the fire;
I will refine them like silver and test them like gold.
They will call on my name and I will answer them;
I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”
Malachi 3:1-4: “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.
Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple;
the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,”
says the Lord Almighty.
2But who can endure the day of his coming?
Who can stand when he appears?
For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.
[If you could talk to clothes when they are washed,
especially the old way of being scraped back and forth
over a washboard,
the clothes would be in pain,
the clothes would think that the one washing them
was being cruel to scrape them over the abrasive surface
over & over again–
that’s the earthly perspective.
But the heavenly perspective is that the scraping is kind, not cruel;
after dying in our place,
the pinnacle of the Lord’s compassion & mercy
is to make us clean,
to transform us,
not to leave us stained and dirty.]
3He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver;
he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.
[The Levites were the priests in the Old Testament;
who are the priests in the New Testament?
1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
God’s special possession,
that you may declare the praises of him
who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”]
Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness,
[Oh to follow the Lord Jesus in righteousness,
in acts of humble obedience,
not in constant sinning,
oh for our practice in Christ (sanctification)
to match our position in Christ (justification)!]
4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord,
as in days gone by, as in former years.”
1 Peter 1:6-9: 6 In all this you greatly rejoice,
though now for a little while [compared to eternity]
you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—
of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—
may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him;
and even though you do not see him now [in your trials, like Job!],
you believe in him
and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy
[in the middle of your grief & trials!],
9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
This refining oven of God burns away everything that isn’t faith/isn’t holy—
- it doesnt happen in the comfortable/vacation heat of the beach,
- or in the cozy heat of an easy-bake oven.
- It happens in trials of intense heat—
fine china can only be made in 2,000 degree ovens.
Our Father’s promise isn’t that we won’t suffer EVER…
It’s that we won’t suffer FORever—
we must have a “theology of suffering”,
understanding trials from God’s perspective, how He uses them for good.
The Lord Jesus told His disciples about this suffering for two reasons:
- John 16:1: “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away…”
- John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Seek peace in Christ, not in comfort.
God even designed this in nature—
the calm that is at the center of a devastating hurricane.
That is what David does in Psalm 27
while David was surrounded by his enemies.
6 Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.
David is surrounded by enemies, but the LORD exalts (lifts up) his head.
Christians are often surrounded by an oven of trials,
yet our heads, our identities, our position as
reborn & forgiven & adopted sons & daughters in Christ,
in Him we are forever exalted—
- “an inheritance that cannot spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:4),
- we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6)
above our temporary trials.
Thus, while David’s situation is awful, his status is awesome–
& so the effect of this, the fruit, is that David
- calls on the Lord & seeks His face during the suffering
- worships the Lord with joy, music & acts of sacrifice during the suffering.
Back to Psalm 27:
7 Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.
[Why “because of my oppressors?”
Because when I’m suffering in trials,
I’m more tempted to go my own way,
a crooked way, shortcuts, to get thru the trial—
- when I’m physically starving
I start filling my belly with whatever I can get my hands on,
whatever is closest/easiest/quickest.
Oh teach me YOUR way, Lord, the straight/narrow way,
living the life You designed as You designed it to be lived,
fill me with YOU when I’m hungry & empty,
bless me to taste & see that You are good,
no matter how bad things get…
We see this human tendency in Scripture:
Jeremiah 44:15-18: Then all the men who knew that their wives
were burning incense to other gods, along with all the women who were present—
a large assembly—and all the people living in Lower and Upper Egypt,
said to Jeremiah,
16 “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord!
[The message to repent of their sin & turn from their idolatry
& return back to the LORD, the one true God.]
17 We will certainly do everything we said we would:
We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven
and will pour out drink offerings to her
just as we and our ancestors, our kings and our officials did
in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem.
[Why will they willfully continue in their idolatry?]
At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm.
[Pragmatism at its worst–life gets easier when we serve idols,
and life gets harder when we serve the LORD.
We’re going with whatever gets us the short-term results
that we are looking for…]
18But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven
and pouring out drink offerings to her,
we have had nothing [but you have the LORD!!!!!]
and have been perishing by sword and famine.”
Back to Psalm 27:
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations.
13 I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Please click HERE for more about what it means to “wait on the LORD.”
So what do we do in our trials?
- Call on the Lord & seek His face in prayer & Bible reading,
- weave thoughts of Him in our daily lives,
- confess sin & turn from sin,
- sing songs of praise to Him,
- celebrate Christ’s sacrifice on the cross &
- live lives of personal sacrifice as a thank You to Him.
That’s what we do IN our suffering,
& since all of that is not easy, we must not try to do it alone—
we must learn to intentionally cultivate community with each other
so that we can do all those things together,
as the united Body of Christ,
not a dismembered body part of Christ:
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Galatians 6:2: “Carry each other’s burdens,
and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”