Friday, March 11, 2011

What are you doing with your fears?

“How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and hear me, O LORD my God;
Enlighten my eyes,
Lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Lest my enemy say,
“I have prevailed against him”;
Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
Psalm 13:1-4

David lived a difficult life and seldom enjoyed long periods of peace and prosperity. It was left to his son Solomon to enjoy such things while he himself was a man of war.

Because he was a man of war, he routinely found himself in tight spots. Mocked by his brothers, harrassed by Saul, scorned by his wife, pursued by his son Absalom, David often found himself facing enemies – some outside his house and some, tragically, inside.

The psalm today was composed in just such a circumstance. David was in trouble, his enemies were surrounding him, his defeat at their hands was upon him.

Imagine, if you will, the turmoil that struck David in each of these circumstances. The pain and fear that must have confronted him. Well – we need not imagine. For we find his fears, pains, and anxieties expressed in the psalm before us today.
“How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?”
Now consider your own circumstances. What troubles are you facing? Which enemies are surrounding you? What fears, pains, and anxieties are troubling you?

One last question: what are you doing with those fears? Notice David’s response – he brings his anxious longings to the presence of God. He does not suppress them; he does not fester over them; he does not wallow in them. He gathers them together and puts them in the best hands possible – the Lord’s.
“Consider and hear me, O LORD my God;
Enlighten my eyes,
Lest I sleep the sleep of death;”
Our Lord Jesus counseled us:
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”
Reminded of our failure to entrust our worries into the Lord’s hands, let us confess our sins in Christ’s name, seeking the forgiveness of our Heavenly Father. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. Let us kneel as we confess.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What is the Good Life?

“How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word…
I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
I will meditate on Your precepts
And regard Your ways.
I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word.”
Psalms 119:9, 14 – 16

What is the good life? And who has the capacity to define it? Is it a can of Michelob beer on a camping trip? Is it a good cigar? Is it fast cars and fast women? Massive biceps? Enlarged breasts? A full head of hair? Cocaine? The cheer of the crowd? What is the good life?

Among no class of men are these questions more urgently and ardently asked than those who are young. Children and young adults are gifted by God with an appetite to have their questions answered, a desire to find and secure the good life. As they gaze out over the future, they want to know, “What will bring me joy and pleasure in the course of my life?”

Because this is true, Solomon meditates on this very question in the Scripture that we have just read. How can a young man keep his way pure? What is more valuable than riches? Where should one find his or her delight? What is the good life?

At no time in history have the brokers of the good life been more prolific and skilled in their marketing. However, whether the good life is to come through technological advances, organic foods, high protien diets, treatments for balding, or exercise machines, these peddlers never ultimately know that their recipe for the good life will not end in disaster. Finite creatures are unable to identify what is genuinely good for them. for how do we know, infallibly, that some trend we have jumped on today will bring joy and happiness in the end? As Solomon reminds us elsewhere,“There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end it is the way of death.” We are not omniscient and so we are unable, as humans, to identify the good life. The most that we can identify on our own is what brings momentary happiness or pleasure. But we can never be sure whether these momentary pleasures will bring devastating consequences in the future. One thinks of the radical reversal that has come in the last century over smoking cigarretes. Once admired as the mark of the debutant, the rich and famous, the discovery of its ill effects has relegated it to the addictive pasttime of the down and out. So how do you know that the microwave popcorn you’ve been sneaking after the kids go to bed won’t prove your undoing?

Do we then have no hope in the world? Must we live our lives in constant uncertainty, blown about by every scheme for the good life that fills the Sunday paper? Are our youth unable to answer the questions which they most hunger to know? Are we left without a sure foundation?

No – Solomon gives it to us. God has defined the good life. And because He is omniscient, He knows all the end roads, all the results of various actions. He knows that homosexuality is destructive; knows that sexual immorality saps one of character and strength; knows that life is more than what enters the belly; knows that humans can have no greater pleasure than when we find our satisfaction in Him. And the glorious thing is that He has revealed all of this to us in His Word. We can know what the good life is – for the Creator of all has revealed it to us and makes life understandable and meaningful as a result.

Despite the clarity of God’s revelation, however, we often spurn His revelation. Attempting to run our lives on our own sense of what is good and right, we find ourselves repeating the sin of our First Mother who, judging for herself, saw that the tree was pleasant to the eyes and desireable to make one wise. She spurned the Word of God in favor of her own intellect.

Reminded of our failure to rely upon the Word of the Lord and our tendency to trust in our own wisdom and wit, let us confess our sins together – first privately and then using the public confession found in your bulletin. Let us kneel as we confess together.