Psalm 37 TALK: Waiting Patiently on God (The A-Z on Christian Patience)

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

PSALM 37 TALK – WAITING PATIENTLY ON GOD

 (THE  A – Z  ON CHRISTIAN PATIENCE)

INTRODUCTION

 Many years ago I came across this little ditty that reads:

“Patience is a virtue possess it if you can, seldom found in women, never found in man”

I’m sure just as many women find patience a hard thing to practice as much as men do especially in the age we live in. We have instant coffee, instant access to knowledge (through the internet) and many labour saving devices like electric kettles, washing machines and the list goes on. It is very clear that we do not like waiting, just look around at the body language of people near you the next time you stand in a long queue or think back to how you felt the last time you were put on hold when making a business telephone call.

In preparation for this study I read an excellent article on waiting on the Lord written by a man named J. Hamton Keathley, 111 this is what he said,

“One of the important exhortations of the bible is to “wait on the Lord”; Even though God promises special blessing for waiting, waiting is one of the most difficult exhortations of Scripture. Why is it so hard? Because, as part of fallen humanity, we are so prone to take matters into our own hands, to follow our own schemes. Yet, over and over again we are told in Scripture “wait on the Lord”.

 Psalm 37 refers twice to this, in verse 7 and verse 34 where we are told to “wait on the Lord” and there are many other verses relating to this theme like verses 3, 4, 5, 39, and 40. These verses use other waiting patiently on the Lord terms like, “Trust in”, “Delight in”, “commit your way”, “their stronghold in” and “take refuge in him”.

This Psalm is the second longest Psalm in the first book of Psalms and it is an “acrostic” Psalm that some call an “alphabet Psalm”. It follows the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and uses each letter for the first Hebrew word every two verses. This devise could have been used to help people memorize it as ancient Hebrew people could only carry around the word of God in their heads as expensive and cumbersome scrolls were only kept in special places like the Temple. Another commentator, J.A Motyer suggested the acrostic Psalm was, “a poetic way of saying that a total coverage of the subject was being offered”. This is like saying that this is the “ABC” or the “A to Z” of a subject. For this reason I have called this study the A – Z on Christian Patience.

David probably wrote this Palm in his later years as the inscription at the top of the Psalm says, (New International Version),

 ”Of David”

 and verse 25 reads,

 “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread”

 David wrote this Psalm not only in the acrostic framework but as a piece of Wisdom literature like we find in the Book of Proverbs. The book of Proverbs is a collection of instructions or exhortations on various practical issues of life.

So what is the practical issue that this Psalm deals with?

I would say the central issue this Psalm deals with is the question what is God doing when the wicked prosper while many believers struggle?

I will speak to this issue throughout the Psalm but I think the answer to this question does not only relate to this question but to any issue or problem we might struggle with where there does not seem to be an obvious answer from God.

Issues like this might include:

  • Why do I suffer sickness as a Christian while others particularly non believers enjoy good health?
  • Why is my ministry for God not as successful or fruitful as others who might not work as hard as me?
  • Why does God allow people to get away with sin and even prosper as a result of it?

These and many other problems all find their answer in what the Psalm has to say about waiting patiently on the Lord and I hope that through this study we might learn how we can wait more patiently on the Lord in our daily lives.

With this in mind I have divided this long Psalm into 3 sections:

1.     TRUST IN GOD NO MATTER WHAT  (1 – 11)

 2.     SEE THINGS FROM GOD’S PERSPECTIVE (12 – 26)

 3.     WAIT PATIENTLY FOR GOD’S DELIVERANCE  (27 – 40)

 

1.     TRUST IN GOD NO MATTER WHAT  (1 – 11)

 The opening two verses of this practical Psalm of advice sets down both the problem and its solution in summary form,

“Do not fret” – The solution,

“because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong” – The problem,

 “For like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away” – The solution.

 The concept of man being like the grass is used in Isaiah 40: 8 and 1 Peter 1: 24 – 25 to depict the shortness and frailty of human life compared to the eternal nature of the word of the Lord. Here it used to describe the shortness and frailty of the supposed prosperous non believer. Recently I attended the funeral of a close relative and thought of how the people there could not fail to think about their own mortality and how life seems so short and cruel.

The Psalm now looks into this problem and its solution in much more depth and detail.

We will look at in this section:

1.     How we can trust in God no matter what  (3 – 8)

2.     Why we can trust in God no matter what  (9 – 11)

 

1.     How we can trust God no matter what (3 – 8)

In verses 3 to 8 David teaches how we can trust in God no matter what and from this we will learn how we can have God’s gift of patience.

I have broken this down to five things we must learn to do.

1.     Trust in the Lord  (vs. 3)

2.     Delight in the Lord  (vs.4)

3.     Commit your way to the Lord  (vs.5)

4.     Be still before the Lord and wait patiently (vs. 7)

5.     Refrain from Anger (vs. 8)

 

1.     Trust in the Lord  (vs. 3)

 The Hebrew term for “do not fret” is “do not get heated” or we might say, “Get worked up” or “become uptight”. The antidote for this in verse 3 is “Trust in the Lord and do good” which is to turn from our feelings of frustration and uneasiness and put our faith in God no matter what situation we find ourselves in. On many occasions I have had to learn this the hard way. During a prayer meeting at a missionary organisation I once worked for an older member of staff spoke of some very real problems she faced and I referred her to Philippians 4: 6 which says:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”.

 I said we all need to turn our frustrations and anxieties into prayers. This is how we practice trusting in the Lord no matter what. In Psalm 37: 3 the injunction to trust in the Lord is followed by a promise which reads,

“Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture”

 This is an Old Testament picture for the promise Paul gives us in Philippians 4: 7,

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”.

 2.     Delight in the Lord  (vs.4)

Leupold tells us that to “Delight yourself in the Lord” is to, “Let him be your joy”. Interestingly in three verses before Philippians 4: 7 we read in Philippians 4: 4,

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice”.

 Paul said these words particularly to two women in the church in Philippi who were arguing with each other over some matter. They had come to some kind of disagreement and their frustrations and ego’s clashed badly. Paul wants them to agree with each other and then practice the joy of the Lord. David is saying we should do the same thing when we see the non believer doing well as we struggle.

He is saying becoming uptight by this kind of thing makes us grumpy and full of complaints and we must counter this by trusting in God and finding joy in our Lord. David says if we do this God will,

“Give you the desires of your heart”.

 3.     Commit your way to the Lord  (vs.5)

 David now tells us to take it a step further, Kinder says that David’s word for “commit” in Hebrew literally means “Roll” or “Roll over”, this implies giving our problem to God in prayer and leaving with him. I know that on many occasions I have taken a problem to the Lord in prayer but soon after or the next day I have gone back to continuing with that problem as though I didn’t believe God can deal with it.

Real faith in God, faith that expresses itself in trusting God no matter what actually seeks to commit our problem to God and leave it with him to deal with it. Interestingly David goes on to say in this same verse,

“Trust in him and he will do this”

 Proverbs 16: 3 says,

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed”

 While Psalm 22: 8 says,

“He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him”

 This is a very real picture of a person practicing real patience as we are not letting the difficult circumstances of our lives control and dominate us but we are committing our way to the Lord and leaving our difficult circumstances with him.

This verse is followed by verse 6 which relates to our vindication and how we might have to wait for this as well. Even though might appear in this life to be down trodden or a failure in the sight of this unbelieving world God’s promise is:

“He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun”.

 David is saying here that as certain as the sun rises and shines at noonday God will show everyone your vindication.

4.     Be still before the Lord and wait patiently (vs. 7)

 Now David makes it clear how we can practice waiting patiently on the Lord with these words,

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him”

 Kinder points out that the Hebrew word for, “Be still” literally means, “Be silent” and we see in another use of “Be still” in Psalm 46: 10 why we might be still or silent before our Lord,

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth”.

 God is so great and powerful the best way we can approach him is simply stop talking and submit to his will and purpose for our lives.

David encourages us not only to be still before the Lord but,

“Wait patiently for him”

We do not just come before God and say or do nothing we consciously wait patiently for him to act. We rise from our prayers and live and act as though he is in charge and is working his purposes out for us.

David now applies this to his problem of the seeming unchecked success of the wicked when he writes,

“Do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes”

 It’s as though he is saying even if the wicked seem to be succeeding in their wickedness don’t give in to that. Keep on trusting God and wait on him patiently believing he will bless and deal with the wicked in his own good time and way.

This Psalm will soon have plenty to say about how God will deal with the wicked but our focus should be on the Lord himself.

5.     Refrain from Anger (vs. 8)

 The final thing we must do to have God’s gift of patience in our lives is found in verse 8, where we read,

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath”

 This Psalm is very real and practical in the advice it gives for so often when I have become impatient and frustrated with a problem in my life I have become angry. I have lost my cool and fell to the sin of unrighteous anger. David points out that what fretting or becoming frustrated over a problem leads to in the second half of the verse,

“Do not fret – it leads to evil”

 Paul says in Ephesians 4: 26,

“In your anger do not sin”Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry”.

Note how Paul seems to suggest that there is a non sinful anger and that all of us will become angry but we are not to sin when we get angry and we are not to let it fester in our lives because it stands opposite the concept of being,

“Still before the Lord and waiting patiently for him”

 Impatient frustrated Christians are not in tune with the God they are certainly not rejoicing in the Lord or trusting him no matter what.

2.     Why we can trust God no matter what (9 – 11)

 These three verses speak of two reasons why we should trust in God no matter what. They are:

1.     Hope verses Hopelessness (9 – 10)

 2.     Meekness verses Arrogance (11)

 

1.     Hope verses Hopelessness (9 – 10)

 The first reason why we can trust in God no matter what happens is because hope is only found in God alone.

The second half of verse 9 reads:

“But those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land”

“Inherit the Land” is Old Testament language for the future blessings of God in heaven which are only available to those who put their faith and hope in God. In Matthew 6: 33 Jesus declares,

“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, all these things will be given to you as well”.

 Jesus made it clear over and over again that the promise and hope of heaven was only available for those who put God first in their lives and turn in repentance and faith to him.

Jesus also made it clear that just as there is hope for those who believe there is equally no hope for those who refuse to believe in him. Listen to Jesus speaking about this in John 3 : 16 – 18,

“ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”.

David speaks of this no hope for those who are not true believers in the first part of verse 9,

“For evil men will be cut off”

And in verse 10,

“A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found”

David is saying, you are feeling uptight and frustrated by the way the wicked are prospering well let me tell you they are not really prospering, in fact they face certain destruction. However let me also tell you who trust in God no matter what and you alone have the hope of God’s inheritance.

2.     Meekness verses Arrogance (11)

 This same message is continued in verse 11 which is quoted and used by Jesus in Matthew 5: 5 which is the third beatitude in Jesus Sermon on the Mount. Verse 11 reads like this,

“But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace”

 David is saying that we are to be the opposite of the natural state of mankind. People generally do not seek to be meek or humble rather they are often full of ourselves and even arrogant. Meekness is usually associated with weakness and is not seen in this world as a virtue people should seek after let alone cultivate. Yet David and Jesus say that it is only the meek who will be given God’s blessings expressed in Old Testament terms as the land of Israel.

Jesus applies this blessing a little wider as Matthew 5: 5 reads,

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”.

What did Jesus mean when he said, “they will inherit the earth”?

Jesus taught in Matthew 24: 35 that one day this earth will pass away and there will be a new heaven and new earth. In other beatitudes he spoke of the poor in spirit and the persecuted having the kingdom of heaven. This means that the meek will inherit the future blessing of the New Earth and New Heaven which is New Testament language for heaven.

So only those who trust in God no matter what and who turn from their natural arrogant attitudes have God’s promise of future blessing.

This too should be a powerful assistance in our pursuit of patience and faith in God alone.

2.   SEE THINGS FROM GOD’S PERSPECTIVE (12 – 26)

Derick Kinder uses the term, “The long View” in his commentary on this Psalm to describe looking at things from God’s perspective. When we are caught up in the day to day grind and problems of living for God in this world we sometimes we need to put our heads up and think of what God is going to do in the future. We need to try and develop a view of what is happening from God’s perspective. God has a much longer view of things than we have and only through what he tells us in his word can we get any real sense of God’s long view of things.

In this next section God gives us something of his long view of what will happen to both the wicked and the person of faith. I would like to separate out from this passage what God’s long view is for each category. So we will look at:

1.     The futility and judgment of the wicked

 2.     The future and present blessing of the believer

 

1.     The futility and judgement of the wrongdoer

 David in this passage describes what the person who is a non believer does to believers. He describes three things:

  • “Plot against the righteous” vs. 12
  • “The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy” vs. 14
  • “The wicked borrow and do not repay” vs. 21

 God then gives us his long view of what will happen to these people and what he really thinks of them.

God tells us five things about how he will deal with these people:

  • “the lord laughs at the wicked for he knows their day is coming” vs. 13
  • God knows that, “their swords will piece their own hearts, and their bows will be broken. Vs. 15
  • “The power of the wicked will be broken” vs. 17
  • “The wicked will perish; The Lord’s enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish- vanish like smoke”. Vs. 20
  • “Those he curses will be cut off”. Vs. 22

God’s long view is that the wicked who often oppose the people of God will not be successful in the long run because they will face certain and terrible judgement. Verse 15 speaks of the wicked taking up arms against the people of God and in David’s time this actually happened on many occasions. We might not face physical persecution, although many Christians today in other countries do but figuratively we all face attacks from the devil and all he controls and so the promise of God’s help and the perspective on this is still valid for us.

We will now look at:

2.     The future and present blessing of the believer

 David not only sets out how God sees the wicked or non believer and what he is going to do to them in the long run but he sets out how God sees and what he will do for the believer.

First of all how God views the believer:

  • They are : “poor and needy” vs. 14
  • “those who’s ways are upright” vs. 14
  • “The days of the blameless are known to the Lord” vs. 18
  • “The righteous give generously” vs. 21
  • “They are always generous and lend freely” vs. 26

Now we look at what God is doing and will do for all believers:

  • “The Lord upholds the righteous” vs. 17
  • “Their inheritance will endure forever” vs. 18
  • “In times of disaster they will not wither” vs. 19
  • “In days of famine they will enjoy plenty” vs. 19
  • “Those the Lord blesses will inherit the land” vs. 22
  • “If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm” vs. 23
  • “though he stumble, he will not fall” vs. 24
  • “The Lord upholds him with his hand” vs. 24
  • “Never seen the righteous forsaken” vs. 25
  • “Their children will be blessed” vs. 25 and vs. 26

How does taking God’s long view of things relate to the topic of Christian patience?

I think having God’s long view on things is crucial. Becoming caught up with day to day problems can very easily take our mind off God and his future promises for us. It is not that God only wants to bless us in heaven, “pie in the sky when we die” as some put it, but rather what God is going to do for us in the future has current implications for us today as well. As Christians we have been saved from sin by the death of Christ and through his spirit we are being transformed into new creatures and we now do not belong to this world but look forward to the world to come.

Paul spoke of this in 2 Corinthians 5: 16 – 21,

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.

God’s long view for us namely what he has done for us in Christ, what he is doing in us now and what he will do for us in the future should be the very things that directs us, shapes us and inspires us in our daily lives. The devil does not want us to think and act like this so he will do whatever in takes to distract us from God’s plan for our lives.

Having patience then is to stop letting this day to day struggle with the world the flesh and the Devil control us but to let God’s work in us now and let his future promises be our controlling influence.

Interestingly one verse I did not commit on in this section of the Psalm is verse 16, which says,

“Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked”

When we consider what God is doing for us now and will do for us in the future than things like worldly wealth pale into insignificance for when David put that into the long view he wrote, verse 17,

“For the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous”

Now David points us even more into God’s Long view of things and exhorts us to:

3.     WAIT PATIENTLY FOR GOD’S DELIVERANCE  (27 – 40)

 David now exhorts his readers to choose the path they will take in life. All of the wisdom literature like The Book of Proverbs and many Psalms offer the two ways to live, it is often described as the way of the wicked and the way of the righteous like Psalm 1: 6,

“For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish”.

 So David commences this last section with, verses 27 and 28,

“Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful one. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off”.

 David now sets down again a continual contrast to the way God deals with the wicked unbelievers in this world and with those who turn to him and seek to live the way he wants them to live.

Again we will look at these two contrasting views separately and then I will make some final comments about how this relates to the topic of Christian patience.

1.     The destruction and defeat of the wicked

 2.     The protection and deliverance of the righteous

 3.     How this relates to the topic of Christian patience

 

 1.     The destruction and defeat of the wicked

 This last section features more the protection and deliverance of the righteous than what it has to say about the destruction and defeat of the wicked but what it has to say about the fate of the wicked is pretty devastating.

There are only two more mentions of the fate of the wicked and the first mention of these is verses 35 and 36 where it says,

“I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil, but he soon passed away and was no more: though I looked for him, he could not be found”.

 This is the third time the wicked are compared with something from the world of horticulture. In verse 2, they are like grass and plants that wither away, while in verse 20 they are compared to wild flowers of the field that vanish like smoke and here they are like a flourishing tree that passes away almost unexpectedly,

“though I looked for him, he could not be found”.

 Each time David is emphasizing the fleeting nature of the prosperity of the wicked. It might seem that some non believing people you know seem powerful and invincible however one day they will be die and their seeming power will be gone forever. Worst than this they will face God in judgment and there they are powerless before the God of heaven and earth.

The second time the fate of the wicked is mentioned in this section is verse 38,

“But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off”.

 This verse is telling us that the wicked will not only pass away in death but will face certain judgment and destruction in a most terrible way. They will be, “cut off” another horticulture image I think. This is best understood for us as Christians by Jesus use of this image in John 15. Jesus tells us the fate of those who refuse to turn to him and the blessing of those who turn to him in the image of a vine and its branches in John 15: 1 – 4,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me”.

 

David is not necessarily referring to grape cultivation but he is referring to pruning and the wicked will be lopped off in judgment like a dead tree branch.

2.     The protection and deliverance of the righteous

This section has much more to say about the protection and deliverance of the righteous or those who faithfully seek to trust in God no matter what. This can be narrowed down to four things this kind of man must do and four things God will do if he does those things.

1.     Four things a man of faith must do 

  1. First verse 27 tells us he must,

Turn from evil and do good”.

Verse 30 says much the same thing,

“His tongue speaks what is just”.

 How can we do this, how can we truly both know what is good and be able to do what is good?

Verse 31 gives a vital clue when it says,

The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip”.

 This is telling us that seeking to both know and follow God’s word helps us both know and do what God wants.

  1. Second verse 30 tells us,

“The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom”,

 This follows the first point of turning form evil and doing good and finds its inspiration in the word of God or as verse 31 puts it

The law of his God”.

 To turn from evil and do good involves what we say as well as what we do both of these go hand and hand together as Paul indicates in Romans 10: 9,

 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God

 raised him from the dead, you will be saved”.

3.  Thirdly verse 34 tells us,

 

 Wait for the Lord and keep his way”.

 This is the second time David has said we must “Wait for the Lord” and of course strikes at the heart of this Psalm and its message to us. We have learnt already that a person that has real faith in God seeks to truly trust in God no matter what. Our patience or ability to be still and wait on God’s leading in our life truly shows we are putting our faith into action. As James tells us a number of times,

“Faith without works is dead”.

        4.     Finally verse 40 tells us,

 “They take refuge in him”.

 This is the final way of saying if we want the promise of God’s protection and deliverance in our lives than we must turn to him for that protection and deliverance. The real test of our faith is what do when problems and difficulties come upon us. Who do we turn to for help?

For if we say we trust in God no matter is he the first person we turn to when we face problems and difficulties in our lives.

 

 2.     Four things our faithful God promises to do for us

  1. Firstly verse 27 tells us,

“Then you will dwell in the land forever”

 While the end of verse 28 says,

“The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever”

 and verse 34 says,

“He will exalt you to inherit the land”

 The concept of dwelling in the land was very important to an Old Testament Jew as it was the fulfilment of the covenant. Hebrews 9: 14 – 15 tells us about the New Covenant how it was made and what it’s fulfilment will be for us,

“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death so that we may serve the living God!

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

 So God’s promise of ‘the land” in the Old Testament is now in Christ the promise of eternal life with God in heaven.

2.  Secondly verse 28 tells us,

“For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones”

 Verse 31 says,

“His feet do not slip”

 Verse 33 says,

“But the Lord will not leave them in their power or let them be condemned when brought to trial”

 In all of these verses God is promising that he will never forsake his people that he will constantly come to their aid when they need him and his love and protection can be relied upon. Jesus promises us the same thing as we read in John 10: 27 – 30,

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

 In many parts of the bible God promises to never leave or forsake those who belong to him. If we have truly put our faith in Christ and have turned from our sins to serve Christ then we are his and he is ours and Paul says in Romans 8: 37 – 39

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

     3.   Thirdly verse 39 tells us,

“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord”

 and verse 40 says,

“The Lord helps them and delivers them”

 Here David is telling us that the Lord will save or deliver his people especially from the attacks of the wicked as the middle of verse 40 says,

“He delivers them from the wicked”

 Jesus of course is our great Saviour a Paul told Timothy in 1 Tim. 1: 15,

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”.

 In fact Paul teaches that through the cross,

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.

 When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead the Devil and all his forces were defeated as Hebrews 2: 14 – 15 says,

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death”.

 These verses teach us that not only was the devil defeated by Christ on the cross but so to was the fear or power of Death.

So the words of David 700 years before Christ in Psalm 37 find their ultimate fulfilment in the death and resurrection of Christ.

4.   Finally verse 39 tells us,

“He is their stronghold in time of trouble”

 and verse 40 says,

“They take refuge in him”

 David often spoke of God being his stronghold and refuge. This is because so often in his life God wonderfully came to his rescue and protected him. He was protected from the mighty warrior Goliath, the mad and deadly King Saul, the wild and rebellious older Son Absalom and the many enemies both within and outside of Israel that sought to bring David and his Kingdom down.

Like David we can go to Jesus for protection and help as he says to us in Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 3.     How this relates to the topic of Christian patience

In the middle of this final section of Psalm 37 David tells us to,

“Wait for the Lord and keep his way”

 I mentioned that David probably wrote this Psalm in the later years of his life and he is teaching us to have patience in the Lord. He knew that throughout life many trials and difficulties can and will come upon us but he also knew that the only answer to these trials and difficulties was to wait on the Lord. To trust in the Lord no matter what happens to us. For as this last section revealed to us:

  1. God is giving us life and the promise of heaven itself

2. God is giving us his promise of never leaving us.

3.  God is giving us his promise of Salvation and deliverance

4.  God is giving us his promise of help and protection.

All this should inspire us to never give up trusting God no matter what which will lead us to be a more patient servants of the Lord.

Read the poem based on Psalm 37 verses 1 to 11

 WAIT FOR THE LORD

 Wait for the Lord

For you can trust in his word

Be still before the Lord

For he will carry you through

Cause’ he loves you.

 

Do not fret when evil men rise

For they are like withering grass

Trust in the Lord and seek to live right

Delight in his love and might

And he’ll bless you.

 

Commit your way to the Lord

Trust in him and his powerful word.

He will make us rise like the dawn

We’ll shine like the noonday sun

When he comes again.

 

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath

Do not fret for it leads to strife

For evil men will be cast from the Lord

And blessings will come to the meek

Cause’ God loves them.

 

Wait for the Lord

For you can trust in his word

Be still before the Lord

For he will carry you through

Cause’ he loves you.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

SECTION 2: THREE NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATION OF CHRISTIAN PATIENCE

The article on “waiting on the Lord” by J. Hamton Keathley, 111, says this about the modern world we live in.

“Due to modern technology and all our conveniences- telephones, refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, fast foods, airplanes, etc – we have many things immediately at our fingertips”.

 He goes on to say,

“The simple fact is, in spite of our modern age and dislike for waiting, life is full of waiting. And one of the most challenging exhortations of Scripture is ‘Wait’. But waiting, despite our impatience and our dislike for it, is a vital element in life. Indeed, waiting has a number of benefits that we will discuss in this study”.

 So Psalm 37 and many other scriptures exhort us to “wait on the Lord” and this is really an exhortation to be patient to let go of our plans and schemes, to stop being faithless and to trust in God no matter what happens.

Patience and waiting in the New Testament is bound up in waiting for the return of our Lord and in fact if we looked at only the word “Wait” all of the passages will one way or another exhort us to be patient and hold fast to the Lord as you wait for his return. I have chosen one passage on this but have chosen two others that don’t use the word wait but teach us about Christian patience.

1.     PATIENTLY WAITING FOR OUR LORDS RETURN: TITUS 2: 11 – 14

Paul is writing this letter to his faithful fellow worker Titus who at the time of the letter was working in the struggling church of Crete, 1:5 and in chapter 2 Paul gives Titus a summary of what his teaching should be to various groups of people in the church. From verses 11 – 14 Paul encourages Titus with words that speak of why he should do this ministry of teaching in the church. In this he uses one of the main Greek words for “wait” which is, “Prosedechomal”, which is a word that means literally, “expect look for”, or “wait for” and is used in many other New Testament passages.

In this passage I will highlight three things:

1.     What waiting for the return of the Lord should do to us

2.     What we are actually waiting for

3.     Why we can have confidence while we wait

 

1.     What waiting for the return of the Lord should do to us

 Paul commences this passage with the words,

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men”.

 Note what brings salvation to “all men” or “Any Man” it is the grace of God, that is the unmerited love of God that is the basis of what Jesus did for us and is the power of God to save us. This grace or love of God coupled with the hope we wait for has a powerful effect upon our daily lives, Paul says:

“It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self- controlled, upright and godly lives in this age, while we wait”.

 Note how the grace of God that saves us works hand in hand with the eager expectation of the Lords return to transform our lives giving us the power to say “No” to sinful ways. The idea of the second coming being a spur to holy living is found in many New Testament passages like 2 Peter 3: 11 – 13,

“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed it’s coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells”.

If we become inpatient and stop exercising faith in the Lord, forgetting that one day he will return to judge this world then we are in danger of slipping back into ungodly ways.

2.     What we are actually waiting for

 Verse 13 tells us clearly what we are actually waiting for,

“while we wait for the blessed hope- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ”.

Keathley in his article on, “Waiting on the Lord”, speaks of how the word wait has a lot to do with the concept of “hope” or “wait expectantly”. Note how Paul says to Titus, “wait for the blessed hope”.

So what is this blessed hope?

Paul tells us immediately, “the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ”.

Some Christians believe that Jesus will come in secret and we will only know he has come because those left on earth will notice some people missing but this is a miss understanding of the words of Jesus in Matthew 24: 40 and Luke 17: 24. Jesus is telling us here that at his second coming there will be a separation of people with believers rising to God and non believers being left to face the coming judgment.

I think the best passage on what this “glorious appearing” will be like is in 1 Thessalonians 4: 13 – 18,

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words”.

 If the sinfulness and difficulty of this life causes you to become disheartened then just think of what awaits us in the glorious return of Christ and this certain hope should make us push on in faith and patience.

3.     Why we can have confidence while we wait

 The final thing I would like to comment on in this passage in Titus is what is said in verse 14,

“”Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good”.

 How can we be sure that Jesus is going to return as he promised?

One of the reasons we can have confidence in this is that he came the first time and when he came he did so much for us. Jesus did not come to this world to live as some kind of powerful earthly king. He was born in a barn, had a stone as his pillow and in Mark 10: 45 Jesus himself claimed,

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus not only gave himself to a life of poverty but he gave himself up to death even death on a cross. He did all this Paul as tells us in Titus and Jesus tells us in Marks Gospel to,

“redeem us”

and

“to give his life as a ransom for many”

How do we know this giving of his life achieved anything?

The answer to that is twofold:

Firstly because Jesus did not stay dead but rose from the dead three days after his death. Paul was so certain of this that in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul lists a number of witnesses to Christ’s resurrection and says that there are over five hundred others most of which are still alive when he wrote this (1 Cor. 15: 6). He completes this passage by saying in 1 Corinthians 15: 20 – 25,

 “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet”.

Secondly as Paul indicates in Titus 2: 14 we have the proof of changed lives, people who give their elegance to Christ and who are members of his church here on earth as verse 14 reads,

“to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good”.

All through history since Christ died, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven people have come to him and their lives have been transformed by the power of his love and by the indwelling power of his spirit that has led them to do all kinds of good deeds in this life.

So when we become in-patient owing to the pressures of this life we should re-focus on what Jesus has done for us when he first came to this world and what he promises to do for us when he returns as,

“Our great God and Savoir, Jesus Christ”.

2.     PATIENTLY BEING CONTENT WITH THE LIFE OUR LORD GIVES US:

Philippians 4: 10 – 13

As I said in the introduction to this New Testament section I want to look beyond New Testament passages that use the word wait to other passages that will exhort us to be patient as we live in this life holding fast to the Lord as you wait for his return. The first of these passages is Philippians 4: 10 – 13.

I would like to draw three things out of this passage:

1.     What Paul’s main state of mind was

2.     Why he had this state of mind

3.     What made all this possible

 

1.     What Paul’s main state of mind was

One of Paul’s reasons to write to the church in Philippi seems to be to thank them for a special monetary gift he received from them when they heard he was imprisoned in Rome. This gift according to chapter 1 verse 5 represented there,

“Partnership in the gospel from the first day unto now”

He says that this gift caused him to,

“Rejoice greatly in the Lord”

Paul had previously exhorted them to “Rejoice in the Lord always” and this seems to be the main state of mind Paul had. When he was beaten up and thrown in prison with Silas in Philippi we read that,

“Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God”, Acts 16 : 25

So Paul demonstrated that he practiced what he preached for even a severe beating and a cold prison cell could not stop him rejoicing in the Lord. He wrote this letter to the Philippians from prison and as we see from the passage he was still, “rejoicing greatly in the Lord”.

 In chapter 1 Paul speaks of some of the difficulties he faced not only imprisonment in Rome but opposition from some leaders in the churches who he says that although they preach Christ they,

“Stir up trouble for me while I am in chains” (verse 17)

But Paul sees God’s hand in this and instead of complaining he writes in verse 18,

“But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice”.

If we want to show our faith in action we too should not let the difficult circumstances of our lives dominate us but instead of focusing on the difficulties we should be like Paul, who focused on the Lord and rejoiced.

2.     Why he had this state of mind

Paul goes on in this passage to give us the key to having a positive and rejoicing mind. He writes in verses 12 and 13,

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want”.

Paul is saying that he never lets his circumstances whether good or bad control his sense of being content. This is the perfect picture of patience of looking beyond ones circumstances and focusing on the Lord. I wish I could say I always do this but alas I know that I have grumbled when things don’t go my way or the way I think they should go. I have a long way to go in being able to say I am, “content whatever the circumstances”. But this is what all of us must seek to cultivate.

3.     What made all this possible

Finally Paul fully reveals his secret of living a life of contentment no matter what the circumstances and verse 13 reveals this,

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength”.

This is a remarkable statement and the story of Paul’s life once he turned to Christ on the road to Damascus demonstrates the truth of this. From that day on Paul fulfilled the prophecy Jesus gave him through Ananias for his life, Acts 9: 15 – 16,

“This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Paul did suffer much in the name of Jesus his Lord and Savior but Paul always showed what it is to have faith in Jesus no matter what. Paul in fact does not take the credit for this remarkable powerful testimony but rather tells us he did it all,

“through him who gives him strength”.

4.     PATIENTLY FIXING OUR EYES ON JESUS: 2 Corinthians 4: 16 – 18

The last New Testament passage I want to share on the topic of Patience is in 2 Corinthians. It is interesting to note that the context of 2 Corinthians is in itself a testimony to the faith and patience of Paul. This is because 2 Corinthians was written soon after 1 Corinthians and the first letter because of some of its disciplinary aspects was used as ammunition by a small group of opponents who sought to destroy the authority of Paul in Corinth. This would have caused Paul some pain and difficulty yet Paul shows throughout the letter his love and patience towards both his opponents and the problems they caused him.

At the start of 1 Corinthians 4, Paul speaks about his often-difficult ministry in this way,

“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart, rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God”.

By the end of this chapter Paul rounds up his argument concerning how and why he conducts his ministry in contrast to the false teachers in the church in Corinth. This opens up the three things I would like to share on Christian patience. The three points are:

1.     How we can be patient even though we are constantly ageing

2.     How trouble helps develop patience and Christian growth

3.     How we can have true Christian patience

 

1.     How we can be patient even though we are constantly ageing

I now know what Paul means by his words,

“Though outwardly we are wasting away” (verse 16)

As I have entered my sixties in recent years and feel the early on set of growing old coming to me. You are just not as physically agile as you once were. I presently enjoy good health but do feel the odd aces and pains of growing older. Paul wrote these words towards the end of his life and his body faced far more of a battering than I have ever faced. All of us are in the same boat, as even in our youth we are continually growing older.

Paul says that even though outwardly we are all aging we should not lose heart for,

“Inwardly we are being renewed day by day”.

I like how Paul puts it in the previous chapter of 2 Corinthians where in verse 18 he says,

“And we who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”.

 One older Christian man said to me many years ago he praises God for every new grey hair because each of them tell him he is one step closer to being with the Lord. So even old age should not disturb our Christian patience because even in that God has a positive for us namely the fact we are continuing to be renewed from within and we are step by step getting closer to being with him. As Paul wrote in Philippians 1: 21 – 25,

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith”.

If only we all could have that kind of faith and if we did we would certainly be a more patient and faithful Christian.

2.     How trouble helps develop patience and Christian growth

Paul has already touched on this in verse 16 when he speaks of how we are inwardly be renewed even though we are constantly growing old. Now he goes on to say in verse 17,

“for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all”.

Paul taught in many places of his letters that God uses the troubles and battles of this life for many positive outcomes. Here are three good but different examples of this,

Romans 5: 3 – 5,

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 7

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Philippians 3: 7 – 11,

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.

I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead”.

So troubles in this life that causes so many of us to loose our patience is by Paul’s reckoning one of God’s tools to change us for the better. To equip us to help others and make us more committed to Christ and the eternal hope we have in him.

I once prayed a dangerous prayer, I prayed for God to give me more patience. It was dangerous because God answered that prayer with a time of great difficulty. I very quickly lost patience and had to go to God in prayer for help. However once I received his help I grew a little more in my commitment to him and in the long run developed a better sense of patience.

This seems to be how God often chooses to teach us. He puts us in difficult situations to both test us and help us grow in patience and faith. I like the way Peter puts this in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 9,

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 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. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls”.

3.     How we can have true Christian patience

The last verse of our passage in 2 Corinthians 4, is a fitting conclusion to this little look at the topic of Christian Patience for it teaches us how we can have true Christian patience, verse 18,

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”.

In our study of Psalm 37 I spoke of how one of the commentators I looked at, Derik Kidner used the expression, “The Long View” to describe how David encouraged his readers to look to God and not the trials and tribulations our enemies might cause us in this life. The long view saw that the wicked who might prosper a bit now will one day die and face judgment. We of cause through Christ and his death for us do not look forward to judgment but Salvation and deliverance.

Paul is encouraging his readers to have the long view of life, which is not fixing our eyes on the problems and difficulties of this life but on the unseen spiritual glory in Christ, which is eternal. The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way in Hebrews 12: 1 – 2

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”.

Fixing our eyes or life on Jesus is the chief source of not only Christian patience but faith itself as Hebrews 12: 1 and 2 are the climax of a great chapter that defines what real faith is.

CONCLUSION

Paul demonstrated not only from his teaching in the three passages we just looked but from his very own life that he knew the secret of real Christian patience. He faced lots of hardships and opposition yet he always looked to Christ and showed he did this by rejoicing even in his difficulties. He had the long view of life, which focused on the end game, namely the return of the Lord and the salvation, and deliverance that offers to all true Christians.

May we to cultivate this kind of patience and may the Lord give us his strength that makes us more than conquers.

PRAYER:

Dear father in heaven help us in our daily battles of life to fix our eyes on your dear Son Jesus. Help us not to be dominated by the circumstances of this life but by faith trust in you no matter what. Give us this kind of patience so we can more effective for you in our ministries of reconciliation as your ambassadors. In Jesus Name we pray, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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