This week's Bible Study - December 7, 2014
The Shelter of God's Salvation
Quotes of the Week:
"Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it."
Dorothy M. Neddermeyer
How important is confidence in your life? Whether you are attacking projects at work or at home, the appropriate amount of confidence helps you to feel more comfortable. If you are a student, confidence when taking an exam helps you to relax and generally have a better outcome. An athlete that is confident is more likely to perform his or her task better. Confidence is a key component in how we live our lives, and if we are unsure, we generally want to avoid anything that may be perceived as being difficult.
When things are going our way, confidence is easy. Berkley and I are big fans of sports. I don't believe that she was as big of a sports fan prior to our marriage, but we have been to a bunch of St Louis Cardinals baseball games (and other sporting events) and have enjoyed watching sports (at least some of them) on TV. If you are a sports fan, have you ever considered the impact of confidence within sports and how that often leads to momentum? In some games, it seems that a team succeeds on almost every play, and the other team seems to be unable to perform at all. Believing themselves to be unbeatable (and overconfident) and immune to a 'bad day', a better team may reduce practices or believe that they can win with half effort. Teams often look past 'lesser' opponents, in preparation for a game against a rival. This can lead to a loss of momentum within a game and increased confidence on the other side, resulting in an upset situation - one of the times when David beats Goliath in modern day sports. It is one of the reasons people enjoy "March Madness", unless it is their team playing the part of the losing 'Goliath'.
Most of us are not associated with athletic teams for our financial livelihood (although they can make us happier or more depressed!), but the idea of confidence and momentum in our everyday lives are also crucial. At times, we seem to be on a roll, and everything clicks or somehow falls into place for us. Don't you love the times when things seem to be clicking and you are successful at different endeavors? However, we all know that we will experience times when we have problems, and when that happens, the 'clicking' sound is going in the 'wrong' direction. We all have hit the point where we question if 'anything' can go right. Certainly, in these trying circumstances, we begin to lack confidence (specifically in our own selves).
The title of this lesson is "The Shelter of God's Salvation". As believers, we most often think of salvation through Jesus Christ. This salvation truly saves us from eternal separation from God, and offers us eternal life, but what is the role of salvation that impacts our day to day living? Are we saved from eternal death only to fend for ourselves in everything we deal with each day? We need to realize that there are many benefits for those who seek God. These benefits do not imply that we are immune from problems in our lives, but we are promised that His presence will be with us in the midst of our problems. At times, we see the enemies of the Lord rising up and finding apparent success, and it would appear that the goodness of the Lord is nowhere to be seen. How is it that we can be confident during these times?
Psalm 27:1 states, "The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid?" One of the keys to confidence in this life is where we place our focus and where we find our fulfillment. Some will pour their lives into their jobs. Others pour their lives into a relationship with their spouse or children. I've seen some people that seem to be confident, as long as they can continue to participate in some hobby or sport. If any of these are your key drivers for confidence, then a loss of a job or relationship problems or the inability to do what you have always liked doing can cause a lot of problems in life, and a loss of confidence. Certainly, these things would cause some issues in any person's life, but if these were THE focus of their lives, any of these would be devastating.
In this verse, we read that the answer to all of our fears is the Lord. He is my light, my salvation and my stronghold. He is my reason for living and life is about pleasing Him. When we truly can say this, there is no place for fear of our situations, up to and including death. There is no place for us to panic based on situations in life and there is no place for us to dread. Certainly, we will find times where we dread things. Certainly, we will find times where we are scared. Who doesn't get at least a little crept out hearing noises in a dark house at night, especially if they are visiting someone else's home? If you are scared to speak in front of people, you will still have some fears to get over, and you will likely dread that time when you are called on to speak. However, even in these times, we can know that the Lord will give us confidence and help to reduce fear.
In these verses, we read of those who seek to rob our confidence and our joy. Verse 2 talks about the wicked that seek to devour, and other enemies and foes that seek to destroy. Assuming that we are in line with God's will, our enemies and our foes are standing against God, as opposed to us. Each of us will have adversaries who would like nothing more than to see believers fall. In this verse, we read that these enemies of the Lord stumbled and fell.
In verse 3, we read of an army that besieges and of war broken out against us. In the United States, most of us are blessed with the ability to move relatively freely wherever we want to go. Certainly, there are places that you would want to avoid at different times of the day, but we do not have to deal with snipers and others who seek to cause mayhem on a daily basis. (Of course, some of the more recent protests in different places have turned violent, so in one sense, there is danger in our land). Certainly, there are parts of the world where chaos exists nearly every day due to these conditions. However, based on this Scripture, we realize that, even in the midst of armies and war, no person or persons can ultimately succeed against God.
It is in God that we are to find confidence that helps us deal with our fear. The wicked cannot rob our confidence. Our enemies and foes cannot rob our confidence. If your confidence is based upon what you can handle or control, your confidence will often be lacking. However, our confidence is not in ourselves, but in our Lord. Nobody can rob that confidence that the Lord provides.
The Lord is not just to be our abstract focus. He is not to be represented by a picture on a wall that we look at to find focus and confidence. Our focus should be found in a life that seeks Him. None of us, not even the 'greatest' believer (if there was such a thing) defaults to seeking God. Certainly, each of us can create habits of seeking God (in daily Bible Study or prayer), but you will find that there is consistently a pull to let it go for a day or two. It doesn't take long for a habit to be forgotten. Some have said that it takes 21 days to form a habit, and only 2 or 3 days to lose it. However, to form a habit, most of us go through a phase where it seems easy, because it is something we want to do. Perhaps we decide that we want to tangibly seek God through daily Bible Study and for a few days, it seems easy. Then, there comes a phase where we have to fight thru the reality of life, when other things vie for our time. When we don't 'fight thru' these types of situations, we tend to regress. When we 'fight thru' these daily distractions, a habit can start to become second nature. Even when we are in the habit of consistently seeking God, we may become discouraged (when things don't go as we had hoped), or we may become disrupted (due to illness or vacations or other things that take us out of our pattern) or we may believe that we have succeeded, which tends to make us minimize what we need to keep going. If we allow distractions, discouragements, disruptions or the idea that we 'made it', we can easily slip out of our habit.
We read of a concentrated focus in verse four. There is the aspect of a concentrated prayer and effort, as the Psalmist asks and seeks for the presence of the Lord. Even when we spend time in prayer and seeking God, are we seeking for His presence, or are we asking for our requests to be fulfilled? Often, I believe that we spend more time in our prayers asking God to 'fix' situations and less time in truly seeking to be with God. Verse four says that the request was to enjoy the presence of the Lord (dwelling in the house of the Lord all the days of my life) and meditating on the person of the Lord (beholding the beauty of the Lord and meditating in the temple). When we are truly seeking God's presence, we will find confidence. If our goal is only to use God fix a circumstance in life, our focus becomes the problem (our confidence tends to rise and fall on how the problems goes) and not on God.
Verse five continues to say that there will be days of trouble. We would like to think seeking the presence of the Lord would excuse us from having to deal with times of trouble in our lives. However, the verse begins with "for in the day of trouble". We realize this and know that we will face trials in this life. Perhaps there are some people that are so young that they believe they can control what happens by the way that they live. As we age, we see that trials are part of our lives, regardless of how we live. Don't be surprised. However, we read that in the day of trouble, the Lord will protect us. The verse says that He will keep me safe in His dwelling and that He will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. In that time of trouble, we can find protection through our Lord.
In verse 6, we realize that there is more than just knowing that we will have adversity and expecting that God will deliver us through those circumstances in our lives. When we realize that God has protected us and provided for us, there should be sacrifices and songs of praise. The Psalmist writes "And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me; And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord." When God has provided for you, do you praise Him for what He has done? How many times have we prayed for God to provide in a circumstance, yet after He has provided, we are on to the next new thing? Take time to praise God for what He has done and all that He will do in your life.
How much different would your life be if you really took the verses in this lesson and put them into play in your life? We all would say that we want the confidence that has mentioned in this passage, but most of us would live to just have it somehow engrained, without all of the effort.
We all deal with fear in life. Some of it is being scared. A believer can be scared, but at the same time, they can also be in peace. For me, fear of conflict was prevalent in my life for a long time. Although I was a believer, I found it more 'comfortable' to avoid conflict, due to that fear. However, I have found that facing the fears and asking God for help, I found that I often caused more fear by avoiding conflict than I found by facing it. I still don't like conflict and would avoid it if possible, but I realize that God is with me, even when it is inevitable.
We realize that we will face against enemies and others who have far different beliefs. It can be difficult to deal with them at times. However, there are times when believers struggle against one another. I feel sure that both of them are looking to God for confidence. Does God choose sides? In those instances, we need to seek to deal with the situation as God has defined in Scripture. Romans 12:18 says "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Certainly, we will have disagreements with other believers, and in those times, we need to seek peaceful reconciliation, rather than continuing to act in a way that promotes strife.
What godly habits do you need to instill in your life? Do you realize that a greater reliance upon God will result in increased confidence in how you live? Perhaps you can make a change to spend more time in Bible Study or prayer or just getting together with other believers. Perhaps you need to change the way you view others with whom you have problems. As you begin this trek, you will encounter discouragement and disruptions that will throw you off course, if you allow it. Fight thru the thoughts that tell you that you don't really need to work at it. Anything in life that is worth gaining is worth working for. Will you seek God in all areas of your life, despite the difficulties in getting there? If you want confidence in life, you need to realize that it comes through a greater reliance upon God, and that will not happen by default.
Lastly, when God has worked in our lives, we need to thank Him and not act as if you did what you needed to and He just owes it to you somehow. In our culture today, there is a sense of entitlement, as if everything is expected or owed to us. We realize this to be problematic on so many fronts, but this is further exacerbated by the lack of thankfulness that is seen. I know my grandmother would be appalled at the number of times that things are done for people, gifts are given, and there is little to any sign of thanks for what has been received. Is this something that no longer matters? We should realize that even when we don't feel entitled, the neglect of simply saying 'thank you' for what we have been given makes it seem as if we feel entitled. Each of us can likely relate to times when we have neglected to say thank you, for a present received, or perhaps even for some other action in life. While we may be thankful; if we don't share that with the giver, are we really thankful? And, on the other hand, we have all likely given to some who will gladly accept what we give, as if it is owed to them, rather than a gift. In our own personal lives, we need to remember to thank others for what they have done. Let us remember to thank God through worshipping Him, praising Him and seeking Him for all that He has done in our lives.