Hope for the Anxious (Psalm 37)April 16, 2023 | Brandon Cooper
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
All right, go ahead, grab your Bibles open up to Psalm 37, obviously, where we’ll be this morning Psalm 37. As you’re turning there, in April of last year, the Atlantic ran an important but shocking article, really chronicling just how extreme the mental health crisis in our culture is, especially for our teens. So just as a baseline reading, they had said in 2009, about a quarter of teens felt persistent feelings of sadness and depression, hopelessness, anxiety, a quarter, okay, 25%. In 2021, that number had jumped to 44%. And fully 57% of teenage girls, six out of 10 almost felt persistently hopeless. In our culture, that’s the highest rate of teenage sadness ever recorded, by the way, during the pandemic, and a quarter of teenage girls had suicidal thoughts. Which means if you’re here today, it’s just about guaranteed that you know, a teen struggling with mental health. It might even be why you’re here, you might not normally come, but you saw the signs you thought this is something I need to hear about. Now, it’s interesting that they compared 2021 to 2009. What’s the difference between 2009 and 2021 year to sit two teenagers down next to each other, they’re gonna look pretty much the same. Or maybe one’s got skinny jeans, other ones got mom jeans, but you know, it’s basically the same idea, right? One big difference, the teenager from 2021 is going to be on her phone.
That’s the difference. That’s why they chose 2009. That was the year the iPhone became available in every mass market in the world and has changed our culture irrevocably at this point. I mean, our posture has literally changed as a result of these stupid devices.
The average global user global, not just you, as global users on their smartphone more than two hours every day, and the average teenager more than five hours a day.
This is not a series about smartphones, not by any means. But we can’t pretend to ignore this whole subject as we talk about mental health. So it’s going to return to regular because there’s just something about it that is causing this, this is not a correlation sort of thing. You all took statistics, you know, correlation does not imply causation is not correlation. We’re talking about the rates match exactly the rising anxiety, depression and feelings of self harm in our culture. Now, we’ve painted a bleak picture of our culture today, you may be living a bleak reality suffering, the bleak effects of this reality, what do we do about this?
The reality is that most of us are just kind of wishing it would go away.
This is the insanity approach. You’ve heard the saying before insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. And that’s what we’re doing, really, we’re going well, this is a bad thing. So
maybe next year, it’ll be better, we have to realize, of course, that our culture, and for that matter, our individual lives are perfectly set up to produce exactly the results we’re experiencing right now.
That’s just how cause and effect works. So we are set up to do this to produce these results. And to continue producing these results. Something has to change. We need to move from wishing to hoping I know some of you are here today going those are synonyms, dude. Okay. Like I hope the Cubs finish above 500 this year. And that’s just another way of saying I really wish it would be true. But biblically, there’s a huge difference. In biblical terms. Hope is something else entirely. Hope is the certainty that something will change. We don’t know the time necessarily, but we know the end result. Can we cultivate true biblical hope that will free us from our current mental health crisis? That’s the question is a big question for a small series, we’ll see how we do. We are starting today with anxiety. Why? Because I think that’s the most pervasive of the negative emotions that we are experiencing wh Auden the poet wrote way back in 1948, that we are living in an age of anxiety. Like that is the word that characterizes our age. 75 years later, I would say he was right. He just didn’t know how bad it was going to get so
To look at anxiety, we’re gonna look at Psalm 37. We’re gonna focus on verses one to 11. But I’m gonna draw from the whole song, which is why I had Karis read it for us. This is a wisdom Psalm, you probably even noticed that as we’re reading, it sounds a little bit like proverbs. In fact, parts of it are even quoted in Proverbs. Proverbs don’t tend to develop in a real linear fashion. It’s just kind of nuggets of wisdom. So we’re going to try and pull those nuggets of wisdom out and group them under some big headings here, what are we going to look at, we’re gonna look at the reason.
For our anxiety, we’re gonna look at the remedy. And then ultimately, we’re to look at our response. So let’s start with the reason each of these sections by the way, has a has an action word next to it. And the first one here is look, and I’ll explain what that means as we go. So the reason Look, just start with verse one. For now, do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong. Don’t fret. It’s almost an insulting way to start a song, isn’t it? Like if you go to a therapist because you got anxiety? And your therapist says, Hey, don’t be anxious anymore? You’re probably not scheduling your second appointment. Right? And that’s how this feels. Derek Kidner, one of my favorite commentators on the Psalm says, As a bear command, this would be of little use. Unless, of course, he gives us some help here. And David certainly does give us that help, we’ll get there. But notice, David also understands why we fret, he assumes there are very good reasons for our anxiety. Those who are evil, those who do wrong, he mentions right away in verse one by verse 17. He says that the wicked possess real power, they have power in our world. In fact, verse 35, it says they often flourish and succeed. They’re like a tree planted by streams of water, so that they’re just thriving, it would seem in this world, I don’t need to work hard to explain this point to you. Like, I don’t need to convince you of this. You can open your newspaper and see reasons absolutely every morning, reasons to be anxious. And often it is wicked and evil people. We get anxious about dictators, and war criminals, we get anxious about those who exploit and marginalize others, we get anxious about abusers of power. So sure, what can evil people we could think of for sure. But sometimes we get anxious just because it seems like bad often seems to be winning the battle against good. And so you could be anxious about the economy, the environment, the election. And then that’s all societal, we probably have some personal reasons to feel anxious. I don’t know what you brought in. But it could be an uncertain job situation, it could be dwindling savings, or it’s a health scare that you’re undergoing. Or you got a kid in crisis, maybe even a mental health crisis that’s causing you anxiety. In other words, one reason, the main reason we fret is because we have eyes.
We just look around and go Yeah, of course, I feel anxious. How could you not like David.
But we also live in a really different culture today. Like there’s some big differences between our culture and David’s culture way back and you know, 1000 BC or so. So, David’s looking outward and seeing causes for anxiety that hasn’t changed. But now we’ve added something else. So much of our anxiety comes from looking inward. At this point, we look within ourselves, and I just gotta warn you up front, we’re going into the weeds here a little bit. Okay, so bear with me buckle up. This is a complex issue. Our anxiety has complex causes. And I don’t think you came here this morning hoping for easy answers. Like that’s just not worth our time. So we’re really going to dig in here for a moment. So ironically, both the outward and the inward anxiety and the increase in both is related to technology, particularly the fact that we have our technology with us 24/7 At this point. So you know, that’s one reason we feel anxious is because we are now aware of all of the bad things happening everywhere in the world all of the time. We have become effectively omnipresent, and we were not made for omnipresence, that is one of God’s incommunicable attributes, meaning that is not one that he develops in us like wisdom or love. And yet there we are, or at least we’ve got the whole world in our pocket all of the time. So you just can’t escape the bad news. It’s always there. But then there’s another piece we don’t have the capacity to absorb all the wickedness of the world but we also don’t have the capacity to be on all of the time in front of our peers all the time. 24/7 like we’ve all experienced
As a core, especially if you’re little bit older, you graduated safe before smartphones came out, you know that feeling of peer pressure and whatever it is thinking of you, and then you could go home and put on your sweatpants and not care anymore. Well guess what your whole peer group comes with you now. And they’re right, they’re constantly talking to you. So you can’t go home to get away from it all anymore.
But get away from what what is that we’re trying to get away from the primary cause of our anxiety, I am convinced why it is an age of anxiety. The primary cause is
the fact that we are now trying to create and curate an identity, an image before the world really before ourselves. That is our culture is one of what Robert Bellah way back in the 1970s called expressive individualism. And 50 years later, again, we’re more so not less so expressive individualism, the idea that the meaning of life is found by looking within and maybe discovering yourself, but probably a better way to describe will be defining yourself by looking within. In other words, you have to express the individual that is within you.
This sounds freeing, but there is such immense pressure. Because now you have to create an identity for yourself. You have to define yourself, that wasn’t the way it always worked. Like if you’re in a more clan-based society or something like that, like you are who you are in relation to other people. I’m Brandon, son of Bill from Glenview. I’m probably going to learn my job from him, be an apprentice, so I already know what I’m going to do with my life. Apparently, I’m doing point-of-purchase marketing, because that’s what my dad did. And so all those questions are taken care of for me already. Not anymore. Not anymore. Now we are blank canvases.
So what if you’re a bad painter?
Now you see why we’re feeling anxious, depressed, and lonely. Because we are
constantly managing our brand at this point. And if you don’t know what I mean, by managing your brand, you’re over the age of 40.
I’m also over the age of 40. All right, so we’re in this together now making fun of anyone. Most young people could probably even articulate their brand at least to some extent. Especially if you’re on Instagram like for sure. Then you got you know, the girl who’s she’s granola, all about sustainable, healthy, all that kind of you got the outdoorsy type. You got the smart one who’s famous for her snarky one-liners, you got the Christian, you look at the Instagram feed, what are you gonna see 7000 pictures of the Bible open with a designer coffee next to it all the highlighters out with a filter on punctuated by occasional shots of your recent missions trip.
The Moody kids are laughing really hard right now, it’s almost say
didn’t mean to call you out. Sorry. What happens though, is pretty soon you’re no longer defining your brand, but your brand actually begins to define you. Because you’ve got to keep up appearances. This is who I am. And so I better keep it going all the time. Like I’m with a healthy person. That’s what I’m known for. And you know, what is a bad day and I just want cheesecake. But I can’t post that any more. Here’s the way one young woman put it in a recent podcast scrolling alone, talking about this whole phenomenon. She says the things I was doing with my day weren’t things that I wanted to do.
There were things I thought would look cool when I posted.
Okay, this is the hike I’m going to do because it has a great view because I wanted to look really cool on Instagram, and I want to look really outdoorsy and awesome. I was deciding where I wanted to eat based off what food would look good.
And here’s the thing, because some of you are feeling judgmental right now, because you’re older. This is not just social media posts. We have been doing this for a long time in our culture. So maybe when you grew up, it was just clicks, right? But you know, the preps looked like preps. And the jocks looked like jocks, and the non-conformist Goths conformed to what all the other goth kids were doing. Right? Like we’ve been doing this all along. So there’s this constant anxiety though, because now we’re going to get to keep up appearances. You’re the football star. What happens when you blow the game? What are you now or you’re the smart kid? What happens when you fail the test? Or you’re just feeling like this? This class just didn’t make sense to you and it’s never happened before. Of course we bring this into our adulthood as well. You’re the executive famous for your ability to turn things around what happens when the project is still failing. You’re the awesome mom
What happens when the laundry isn’t done and you just realize you haven’t taken your kids to the dentist in over a year?
We are anxious because who we are. Our worth always depends on what we’re doing right then to prove who we are, to justify are worth. What’s interesting though, is this individual focus leads to a systemic, a society-wide anxiety. And here’s where it gets a little complicated. Just track with me, okay, by the end of this, you’ll be like, Yes, I know what you’re saying. What does society exists for at this point, society exists to provide us with freedom to define ourselves and approval of how we’ve defined ourselves. This is true of both the right and the left, by the way. Okay, this is not a question of which team you’re on here. Which is why both the evangelical Christian and a member of the LGBTQ community both have perpetual victim status in our culture. We both feel that way, all the time, because society is not giving us the perfect approval that we think they owe us. So you see this on the right, what is the right do in terms of freedom, it’s famous for free market economics for civil libertarian liberties, things like that. What about the left, of course, here, we’re talking about sexual reproductive freedom, things like that. Both of these involve the tearing down of traditional structures that curtail freedom. Things like the church, for example. So we are suspicious now of structures that inhibit freedom, like church and family, even though those structures are essential to the mental peace that we seek. Like the way mark Sayers pastor in Australia, how he says it, he says, we are drowning in freedoms, but thirsting for meaning.
That’s right. That is there is this growing chasm between what expressive individualism promises and what it actually delivers for us. And here’s what it looks like in our society, Edwin Friedman, Rabbi and family systems theorist, talks about the fact that this toxic anxiety is spreading throughout our culture. In fact, he said, we have become so chronically anxious that we’ve actually entered a stage of emotional regression. That is, we’re getting less mature as the years go by. So we keep congratulating ourselves on our progress, but we’re actually going backwards at this point.
And so he says, there are five characteristics of emotional regression, I’m going to walk them to actually be up on the screen for you so you can track with me as we go. The first characteristic is reactivity, reactivity. So we react intensely to external circumstances with negative emotions, anxiety, primarily. Because we’re no longer driven by inner values that would provide a certain ballast for us as we navigate the storms of life that would actually help us move in a direction through the storms of life. Instead, we’re just bobbing on the sea, no balance whatsoever. So we react negatively, that then leads second to hurting, hurting. So we claim this radical individualism, I got bad news for you, the Lord made you and so you are what he made you He made you to be a social creature, and we cannot escape it. So it’s always there. We are social by nature, this increasing negativity, what does that do to our social structures? It leads to a mob mentality. Tribalism. Often how we call it today that makes sense, hurting tribalism, same idea. And what happens though, with these tribes, these are herds is that because of the emotional immaturity of the group, the goal is to please or at least not offend the least mature members of the group. It’s a little bit like how families work, anything to make the two-year-old, stop crying. We just brought that into our society as a whole that leads to three then blame displacement. There is a focus on symptoms and not root causes. And so what do we do since we’re not going to really dig in and figure out what’s going wrong, let’s just retreat into victim status and blame others or external circumstances, again, anything but ourselves. Along with that is a quick-fix mentality. Number four quick fix mentality. Again, looking at the symptoms, not the root causes. So one of the problems with our current culture is that we have a very low pain threshold. It is one of the unfortunate gifts a secular humanism is that it is hedonistic at its core, the purpose of life is to make you happy, which means then suffering can serve absolutely no purpose, while we’re the first culture in the history of the world that can’t make sense of suffering. So it’s we’ve got this low pain threshold, that means we’re not going to persevere through the pain
mean, in order to experience a breakthrough, instead, we just want a quick fix for the symptoms. Like let’s not go to the dentist and get a root canal, let’s just keep taking Tylenol all day long in the hopes that it will go away. And then fifth, coming out of this is a lack of influential leadership. Why? Because we’re too emotionally immature to allow someone to lead us away from numbers one to four. We just pick leaders who are going to help us in this quagmire that we’re stuck in. And so we just cycle through immaturity and negativity again. Edwin Friedman died in 1996.
It’s like he’s reading our newspapers, though. I mean, like this guy was a prophet. He had to be he has so completely described who we are today. Like, take what happened in Nashville. How did that shake out for us as a culture?
Immediate, intense negative reaction? And understandably, of course, but it was purely emotional. Hurting? Of course. Are you Team Red or Team Blue? Only question that matters at this point. Blame displacement, let’s not figure out the root causes. Right? Let’s not figure out why as a culture, we keep producing teens this troubled young people this troubled instead, let’s just well, if I’m on Team Read, it was team blues falls on the Team Blue Team reds fault, of course, quick fix mentality if we could just pass this one law, we would deal with the root of all evil in the human heart, of course, and where are our leaders, as the old quip has it?
There go my people and I must follow because I’m their leader, right? That’s the sort of people we have elected, of course, today.
This is why we persist and anxiety. And frankly, it feels hopeless. Like I read this, and I was not encouraged, not encouraged at all. We’re anxious because we look outward. And there plenty of causes for anxiety. We’re anxious because we look inward. And that’s got plenty of causes for anxiety. And now we’ve discovered they’re actually reinforcing each other. And here’s the first help that David offers that. David says, the problem is you’re looking outward and inward when you should be looking forward. You need to look forward. Look, look at verses one and two. Again, do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong. Why David why, for like the grass, they will soon with her like green plants, they will soon die away. So something similar in verses nine to 11, for those who are evil will be destroyed. Those hoping the Lord will inherit the land a little while and the wicked will be no more though you look for them, they will not be found. The meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. I emphasize the word that really helps us out here will future tense, right we are looking forward. That’s the whole ad you can see it throughout the song by the way. Now look forward. By the way, it means no guarantees for today. I need you to hear me say that. Because I don’t want to set up false expectations for you. There is no guarantee that the right side will win the war that the right leader will be elected that the right decision will be made that you’ll get the right diagnosis or if the wrong diagnosis, you’ll get the right treatment, I can promise you none of that. The economy may crash environment may be completely wrecked. But God is making all things new. That’s the good news. And we just had that reminder last week, didn’t we? Because we’re living in the cross part still. Like how did it look on Friday, when they laid Jesus in the tomb? Not so good looked like the wicked and the evil were flourishing like those trees planted by streams of water how to look on Sunday a little bit better. And here’s the good news. Sunday is coming. God is making all things new. That includes judgment, by the way, which shows up throughout this psalm, including those verses I just read I know that judgment is a bad word for us today. Don’t judge me. But we want is a righteous judge. We want a judge who gets it right all the time who renders just verdicts so that the world can flourish. There can be no human flourishing apart from justice, that peace and prosperity that verse 11 talks about.
In the end, there will be perfect justice.
Right after Russia invaded Ukraine. Shane and Shane are one of the groups whose music we do here wrote a story. You wrote a song I think it’s called you’ve already won, but don’t quote me on that. It’s got this refrain in it though. I know how the story ends. Right. That’s the I know how the story ends ultimately. And when the other things they keep saying throughout the song is we’re fighting a battle that you’ve already won. And that’s the truth, that we’re fighting a battle against sin against death against evil and God’s already decisively defeated all of them the cross and the empty tomb. We need to look forward. But of course, you could be sitting there right now going Yeah, but this is just a pipe dream. Okay. Like this just sounds like the pie in the sky when you die kind of religion that Marx called an opiate of the masses. Sure, if we stop there, I agree with Marx, but there’s a set
Second step, that is we got to look forward, we really also have to look upward we need to look and trust. In other words. So that’s our second point. Let’s turn now and look at the remedy. Okay, trust. Before I started reading anything, though, let me just ask you this question as we get going, what is your remedy for the anxiety that you experience?
And then is it working?
Is it actually working? I think many of us are listening to Dory instead of David, our approach is just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Like you know, fingers crossed again, wishing, wishing here. It’ll get better. Eventually, you know, after this next project, after we get through this season, does it ever get better? You ever finished a project and when good now my life has peace? No, because the next project is always there. So this isn’t working for us, maybe yours is a little bit darker remedy. Maybe it’s another drink and a taller one the second time around. Maybe you open an incognito tab and Google Chrome, or you get on Amazon for that little buzz you get when you buy something, because this is the one that’s going to get your life in order. Finally, or most likely, for most of us, when it comes to anxiety, you just start fixing problems. Right? Just got to clean the house. I know it’s midnight, but I’m gonna I’m gonna tackle a couple of work emails so I can get ahead. I’m gonna go out and protest. I’m gonna be an activist. Whatever it is, David recommends a really different approach. With look at it. Here’s verses three to seven. Trust in the Lord, and do good. dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart, Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and He will do this. You will make your righteous rewards shine like the dawn your vindication like the noonday sun, be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him. Do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Trust in the Lord David says, He goes on to say that there’s this type of still waiting. That leads to no more fretting. In verse seven.
We need to know who God is, what he’s done, what he’s going to do. That’s what we’ll call our anxious hearts. We have every reason to trust Him as we rehearse his character and his praiseworthy deeds. We look at just some of what David says even just in this one Psalms, I just read verses four and five, if we delight in the Lord. In other words, if we love him first he gets the right place in our hearts, he will give us the desire of our hearts. And that by the way, does not mean Maserati and a villa in the south of France. It means we discover that God is the desire of our hearts, that our hearts are restless, until we find our rest in him, as Augustine said, and in verse five, but David goes back and says, If you trust in Me, he will do this. Like there’s your guarantee by verse 13. We’ve got the Lord laughing at the wicked because he knows how the story ends. In fact, he wrote the ending of the story. This is like World Series of Poker where the guy is smirking, because his opponent just went all in and he’s going I have a royal flush. Like there’s literally no card you could be holding that could defeat me. That’s the sort of laughing that the Lord has in your verses 17 and 18. It says, “The Lord upholds the righteous so that they spend their days under his care, and that we will be given an inheritance that lasts eternally.” Verse 28, he loves the just and will not forsake the faithful. That’s not perfect people, but people who are pursuing him by verse 33. He’s saying that God won’t let the wicked overcome them. And He will never leave them. Like we don’t need blind faith here either. Like you just better believe all those verses I just read, we have the proof. Because we have the cross and the resurrection. Bad may come evil may seem to win, but not in the end. So we can trust because our future is secure. And we can look forward look upward. But there’s more to it than that also. So back to Edwin Friedman for a moment. He said the key to renewing an anxious toxic system was a non-anxious leader. That was the key to this. Somebody who would not be reactive, tribal, you know, blaming others and then quick fix problems somebody else entirely but here’s the key.
In his studies, he discovered it was not a question of the leaders, intelligence or vision or technique. It’s not like the leader actually got them out of all of these problems necessarily. What mattered was merely the ongoing presence of that leader. Just the leader being there. It was not about what they did. It was about who they were their courageous presence there swimming against the stream brought change.
Here’s the good news. It’s exactly what we have in God.
Here is one who is completely untouched by toxic anxiety.
And yet he never leaves us and never forsakes us, he is always with us. God’s presence is the healing agent in this world. That is the entire story of the Bible, by the way. Like Genesis one God is there with Adam and Eve walking with Him in the cool the afternoon. What happens in Genesis three, when we sin, when we rebel against that good and gracious God, we lose his presence. We’re exiled from the garden, the rest of the Bible, we’re just trying to get back into his presence. And to the Old Testament, Ezekiel says the name of that city what’s coming, that data is coming is the Lord will be there. And Revelation 21 and 22 Describe that exactly the end of days when we live in the city with God himself. That’s his presence. And now that makes sense of the Bible’s promises, doesn’t it? I mean, Isaiah 26 verse three. Interestingly, this is the passage I preached that last Sunday before we all had to shut down because of the pandemic, in the midst of some anxiety, we talked about this passage, you keep in perfect peace, those whose minds are steadfast, fixed is the idea there I love the way the King James says, whose minds are stayed on the like fixed on you, because they trust in you trust because they know that God is there, we got the peace of his presence, the awareness of it are Philippians, four, six, and seven. Do not be anxious about anything. Again, one of those really insulting commands, do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, what happens to God solve all the problems? No, it’s not what it says. It says simply by speaking to the Lord who is present. There is a peace that surpasses understanding in Christ Jesus, that last part is key. In Christ Jesus, here is the fundamental transformation. As Paul says in Galatians, two, it’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me when I trust in Him. This scratches the deepest, most irritating itch we feel. Because what’s the big question? Who am I? Am I loved? Am I enough? Am I worthy? Am I significant? And expressive individualism is not helping us answer those questions. It’s leaving those questions unanswered. In fact, this is the this is the moment but here’s it. Here’s a word for the church. This is Sam Albury. He said this, we don’t live in a moralistic age where we need to prove people to be sinners. We live in an anxious age where we need to prove to people they’re worth something.
That’s it. That’s it exactly. And the proof is in the Gospel, who am I is answered by who is God, and what has he done. So who is God? God is the one who made you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made his merit said for us earlier. He made you he knows you. He loves you. He will neither leave you nor forsake you. Who are you? Well, first, we got to say you’re broken. That’s where you are. You are imperfect. You are messed up. Absolutely. But in Christ, you can also be forgiven, accepted, welcomed, secure.
That’s where the psalm ends. The gospel is the key to overcoming anxiety. Here’s verses 39 and 40. Let me read them for us again, the salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord. He is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them, he delivers them from the wicked and saves them because they take refuge in Him. Do you see salvation is from and in the Lord. It’s not what we do. It’s what he has done for us through Christ. And all we do is take refuge in Him. We hide ourselves in Christ. We’re saved by grace through faith. In other words, we trust true trust by the way, not just intellectual assent true trust, this is leading their whole weight on the gospel. It’s like ziplining, right? You get yourself all hooked in and you’re like, I trust this process. You’re sure you hold on a little thing ease or whatever. And then there comes a moment where you got to
step off the platform. And that’s where you prove Yes, I actually trust these things are gonna hold me. That’s what we’re telling you. Your whole life is in God’s hands. You’re actually seeking refuge in Him, not in some self-created identity. You’re letting him lead all that you do. You trust. That trust is then expressed in last point, the response? The response in our key word here is act, act. So let’s look at verse three. Again, trust in the Lord.
There’s more to it than that trust in the Lord and do good by verse eight. What is David saying, “Refrain from anger. Turn from wrath. Do not fret, it leads only to evil. So if you’re anxious about wicked people and evil seeming to win the day, well, step one is don’t join them. Or don’t participate in that evil, refrain from it be blameless, David says in verse 18, do you don’t like the wicked exploiting people? I certainly don’t. Well, are you living in self-indulgence yourself? Or are you giving generously, as David says, verses 21 and 26, turn from evil and do good. He says in verse 27. And that includes speaking wise, and just words, verse 30. And I checked and went through all my Hebrew commentaries, that includes on social media, crazy, even there, we have to speak wise and just words, who are the wise and just they’re the ones who’s where the law of God is on their hearts, verse 31, so that their feet don’t slip. They’re not making missteps because they can, because they hope in the Lord, they keep his way. Verse 34, this is all throughout the psalm, this is so important. Trusting in the Lord does not produce apathy, but a confident engagement with the issues in this world. He’s shown us what He requires of us, Micah six, eight, to walk humbly, to do justice, to love mercy. So I get it, verse seven, when it says, Be still wait patiently, that sounds a little bit like lethargy, like grin, and bear it until you die or he comes again, not at all. And word be still, it’s a little bit like,
you got a lot of kids like some of us do, and one of them gets hurt, and there’s blood. And so everybody’s screaming, and the parent goes, shush,
And then you act, then the parent says, I need you to go get this, I need you to go get this, you stay with him while I go. That’s what the Lord had be still cherish, recalibrate, trust,
that renewed purpose, vigor will come then in our actions precisely because we know how the story ends, there’s not despair, there is true hope, like, Are you anxious about injustice in the world, good. Like you shouldn’t be this should grieve us deeply. But look, look forward, and trust, recalibrate, and then labor, from a place of rest. Labor from that place of peace. This would be like, imagine you’re taking an art class in college, you’re in a painting class or something like that. And it’s coming up on the end of the semester, and you are not close to being done with this painting. Because you care so much about it, you have put your heart and soul into this and you’re not going to finish and you’re now you’re painting with blurred vision, because you got tears streaming down your face, because you know how this is going to go and your professor comes over to you and says, Look, I see what you’re doing. I love it. You are painting in a different way than everyone else in this class. You have an A plus, now finish the painting.
That’s what I mean, when I say labor from rest, because honestly, that’s a perfect illustration for what we’re doing in this world. The only difference is that it’s actually God’s painting. Like he’s the master. We’re just the apprentices working in his school where he says, Hey, can you finish blending in this area for me or something like that? God will see it done. This is true for the whole world. He’s making all things new, but it’s true for your life, too. You don’t need to establish your brand. Or define yourself. You are God’s masterpiece. Ephesians 210 exactly what it says you are God’s masterpiece. Have you been vandalized by sin? Yes, yes, you have been okay. But you are being restored in Christ. If you trust in Him, the picture is there and it is glorious. You are already beautiful, loved worthy, significant. You get an A plus, if you’re in Christ, so go finish it.
I love the way Derwin Gray says it pastor, he says God wants to give us a new identity. He wants to give us a new self which is greater than a new reputation, a new identity that God gives us. It’s not something we achieved, but something that we freely receive. Said, that’s great. So as you look outward, and inward, Are you overwhelmed by anxiety? I get it. There are all sorts of reasons to feel that way. But don’t stop there. Look forward. How does the story end? look upward and trust God who he is what he did what he will do, and then from that place of peace, act, do good. Dwell
IN HIS PRESENCE, enjoy his peace. So as you go from here, I want you to be asking yourself today, how would God have me respond now? To what I just heard? How can I look and trust and act this week? So for some of you, this may mean starting at the beginning, are you going I can’t look forward or upward because I have no idea who God is you got to start by looking at the book, you got to look at the Bible. So you learn how the story ends, you learn who this God is, and what he’s done. This might be a very practical step that you feel like you need to take. It might be a social media fast, or deleting accounts altogether, limiting your news intake severely because you weren’t meant to be omnipresent. Praying before you post, you should always do that, of course, maybe God’s calling you to act to do good in this world to bring the future kingdom into the present, that would be a good thing, to practice, that non-anxious presence that can transform the world. So many of us, we look around at the causes for anxiety, and we get paralyzed. Because there’s so much to do. But practicing non-anxious presence, that’s something else entirely. It localizes. The solution, like a lot of us, for example, might be concerned about what’s being taught in college campuses all across the country, you know what you can do about that? Not a dang thing.
So stop worrying about it. You know, you could do get to know some of the kids who are the college campus within walking distance for our church. So that’s a step you could take. Let’s do that kind of stuff. Let’s act. Don’t fret. Don’t fret. But that’s not just an impossible command. Don’t fret because you look at what he’s done, and what he’s doing because you trust and delight in him and then you step out in faith and act. Let’s pray.
Father, we are speaking to you as the God who is there, we know who you are, we know Your goodness and Your Grace, your wisdom and your power, that you are omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, omniscient, in all things and can do all things.
And so we trust in you, especially because we know what you’ve done for us. You did not relieve us in our anxiety in the world that we messed up, but you came to rescue us. You suffered the injustice of this world, you allowed your son to be put to death by the wicked and evil people that caused us such anxiety and of whom we number ourselves, of course,
but you conquered it as well. The resurrection is the proof that we can trust you that we can look forward we can put our whole lives in your hands help us to do just that ordain as we do it as you give us that peace that surpasses understanding in an anxious age. Show us how we can step out to minister your non-anxious presence to a world in such desperate need. We pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.