A Fugitive of Righteousness

man in shadow

Are you in a situation right now where you are oppressed and mocked just for standing up for the truth—whether at work, on the road, or even in your own home? Do feel like you are in the wrong place at the right time? You are certainly not alone. Millions throughout history have gone through situations similar to what you are experiencing right now. Some made it through successfully, although not always the way that they had envisioned that the outcome would be. Thousands of years ago, even mighty King David of Israel struggled daily with enemies who would have swallowed him up.

David wrote about his situation in the book of Psalms: “Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me. Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High” (Psalm 56:1-2). This was a very difficult period of his life. He was on the run from King Saul, who continually refused to surrender to the fact that God had appointed David to be king of Israel instead of Saul. David even escaped once into the land of the Philistines, a perpetual enemy to the people of Israel. But to his dismay, the Philistine king, reminded of great victories David had won against his enemies, did not approve David’s entry into his land. Then David pretended that he was insane to escape the king. King Saul had given up his pursuit of David for the time being, but the Philistines picked up where Saul had left off. So David ended up trading one enemy for another, who had many more to fight against him!

The first few verses of this psalm state that every day David felt that his enemies were about to devour him. In verses 5 and 6 he made it known: “Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul.” This appeared to be a most hopeless situation. But David didn’t give up or give in to his enemies, because He knew someone infinitely greater than all of his opposition combined. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. In God I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me” (vss. 3-4).

In spite of the great number of enemies bearing down on him, David put his trust in God. He knew God could take care of the situation. He declared a second time: “In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me” (v.11).

David did not let his situation pull him down to a level of murmuring and complaining. Instead, he turned to praising God. Four times in this psalm he mentions giving praise to God and His Word. This is a definite quality that we, as children of God, need to make note of. In times of distress and impossible situations, our recourse should be just like David’s—trust and praise. When we let our stubborn and rebellious self, or ‘flesh,’ control our walk with God, then many of the problems we encounter will hopelessly overwhelm us. By trusting in God and giving Him praise, we demonstrate that He is in charge, not us. If David trusted in himself or those with him, he would have easily been defeated. Yielding this situation over to God and letting Him resolve it led him to victory.

woman in praise

Our first inclination should never be to worry or despair, but to trust and praise. It is actually a good thing to receive opposition and be a fugitive for righteousness. The devil does not like it when we make the truth known in this world. He will strongly oppose it whenever he can. This does not mean that we are to run away with fear and anxiety, but rather, we are to trust and praise God. Whether open and audible, or deep within our heart, we should always give God praise and thanksgiving in every situation.

We may be inclined to think that David had no pain, anguish or suffering, that whenever a problem arose, he just gave it over to God and everything was fine afterward. But verse 8 tells us otherwise: “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” David spent a good portion of his life in difficulties and struggles, even to the point of joining the enemy’s side. Yet God was aware of all that he was going through, and He kept a record throughout David’s life. No matter what the situation, God stayed by His side.

If the greatest king of Israel—a man declared by God to be one after His own heart—went through trials and problems that nearly killed him as he faithfully followed God, do we believe we will have none? In the end, God brought David through them all because he turned to Him. Even when David committed sins that caused thousands to die (including one of his own sons), he still put his trust in God for forgiveness and mercy, and came to Him repenting of his sins. And God still kept him in His hand. When we become a fugitive of righteousness and are at a loss as to what to do, let’s not put our trust in the world’s solutions. Turn instead to God and give Him our trust. Our hearts should be filled with praise to God Almighty, never to another mortal human being, who has no more hope and victory than we do.

Our resolve needs to be like David’s: “Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee” (Psalm 56:12).

Since Psalms is the largest book of the Bible, full of praises to God both for what He has done and who He is, shouldn’t our hearts be full of the same? We owe it to God to give Him praise and trust whether our situation looks bad or good.

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What God Wants for Christmas

christmas gifts

Near the end of every year, millions around the world take time from their busy schedules to shop for the highest day of gift giving—Christmas day. For the sake of just one single day of celebration, people push themselves until they go beyond their maximum threshold for stress. The results of these frantic efforts to try to make someone else happy or satisfied too often are arguments, disappointment, jealousy, heartaches, and sometimes even severe injuries. How ironic, that all of this is done in celebration of the birth of the One who came to make the way for eternal joy and peace in our lives!

In the midst of all of our efforts to give each other gifts at this time, how often do we simply forget about, or even totally overlook the One who gave us the ultimate gift—Jesus Christ? We have become so engrossed in our giving to each other, that we relegate the remembrance of what God and His Son did for us to just a service or two at a church somewhere, if we do even that. Then, after all the songs and celebrations are over, we scurry back to the stores in the days that follow Christmas to exchange or return gifts we have received, or to buy even more things. We have not even mentioned the multitudes who do almost all their gift-giving on a computer, while never even setting foot inside of a physical store for the whole holiday season!

shopping mall interior at christmas

Now consider the other aspect of Christmas gift-giving: how much do we give God in return for the gift He has given us, and for what He has done for us? God the Father gave the only begotten Son He ever had to suffer and die for us on the cross, so that we could escape the just penalty of death for our sin against God, and the awful thought of spending eternity without Him. What God actually expects from us in return is our praise. “By him [Jesus] therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15). He eagerly desires to receive our thanksgiving, appreciation, and love.

“I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works” (Psalms 9:1).

Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name” (Psalms 18:49).

“I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalms 34:1).

“In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever” (Psalms 44:8).

“Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee” (Psalms 67:5).

“O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth” (Psalms 25:1).

“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:25).

person in praise to the sky

There are many places throughout the Bible where praises are made unto God, because He deserves all of our praise. As we deepen and mature in our relationship with Him, our desire to praise and thank Him should increase as well. But when our relationship with Him weakens, then our praise and interests turn away from Him also.

At this Christmas season, and on into the next year, let’s pause from our hectic endeavors to try to please others, and consider instead the One who died to give us a new life and an eternal future in Him. Jesus is the reason for celebrating. Let our giving be to Him first, and then we can give to others to share our joy with them. He is the One who is worthy and who deserves our praise and thanksgiving.

male clasping hands in prayer

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

“O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods” (Psalms 95:1-3).

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

Afflicted or Merry?

 

“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms” (James 5:13).

 “Is any among you afflicted?”

Are you currently in distress? Have you been extremely annoyed or highly embarrassed lately? Or are you experiencing pain or suffering? Now is the time for you to exercise your faith and hope in God. You may need physical healing, or your need may be spiritual healing. We frequently need both, since some physical suffering and distress comes on us because of a spiritual affliction.

We cannot always tell the difference between afflictions and sickness. James connects sickness with sin here in chapter five, and healing the sick follows forgiveness of sin. The sickness spoken of here seems to have been the result of doing wrong. And there are many sicknesses that can be related to sin in a very direct way. But trying to relate all sickness to sin is a very dangerous error. Doing this puts you in the position of judge, and we often judge wrongly. It is cruel and dangerous to say all sickness is the result of sin in someone’s life.

statue of despair

photo credit: Michel Meynsbrughen

God seems to use afflictions for purposes of correction. When they come, pray and find out what He is trying to teach or tell you in your case. Too often, we are not sensitive to the things of the Spirit. In fact, a spiritual dullness seems quite widespread in the church today. Has God been forced to beat you over the head to get your attention? Then pray and find out what He is trying to tell you! He most likely wants your attention in some particular area of your life. Sometimes He has to use rather harsh or painful means to get it.

I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee” (Psalm 32:8-9).

To lead a stubborn mule around, a bit has to be put in its mouth. The reins pull the bit up against his mouth so it hurts and he turns his head. Don’t be stubborn like the mule, forcing God to use pain to get you to turn. He does not want to use pain to guide you. But He has so much love for you that He will, since it is so important to be guided by His Spirit. You need this for your own good. If you stop paying attention and start to stray from Him, He will pull the bit to get you back into position. Be sensitive and attentive to God’s will and His plan—then He will gladly guide you with just His eye.

“let him pray.”

Come before God at times like this and beg Him to forgive you of your sin. But do not bother if cold and formal prayers are all you have to offer Him. Don’t look to man’s merit either to qualify for the answer you want from God. It all comes from His grace, which we do not deserve and cannot earn. The right kind of prayer is the prayer of faith. Nothing is more effective than praying in faith to get answers and blessings from God. But prayer itself has no power in its own right. Unbelievers would get all their prayers answered, without having faith in God or being obedient to Him, if it did. When you pray, don’t just say a prayer. Pour out your heart to God and believe that He hears you. Continue until you get your answer. Actually pray when you are in prayer to God!

“Is any merry?”

People naturally sing when they are cheerful and happy, but not those who enjoy wickedness. Most earthly songs have some degree of sadness; sacred things of God are never the subject of their songs. But heavenly songs are sung in joy and thankfulness to the God they praise. Praise in the form of song and prayer should be offered up by both congregations and individuals.

“Let him sing psalms.”

Singing songs that glorify God actually becomes a form of prayer. This keeps our hearts for the longest time on what we are saying. God is the One who made all that makes us merry. Therefore, the message of the songs from any who are merry should be praise to God.

happy girl

photo credit: Audrey Johnson

“Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage” (Ps. 119:54). Someone traveling a long way alone may sing to himself to keep merry. Believers in God—take note and do the same! Every true child of God will inherit heaven and is a “stranger in the earth” (Ps. 119:19). Therefore, you can stay cheerful in the midst of weariness and sorrows by thinking all the time of the words of our heavenly Father, and saying or singing them aloud. The ancient Greek states made their laws into songs so the people could remember them better. The words of God can be sung to help us remember them better too, and keep us cheerful when we are far from home, whether physically or mentally.

Singing on the outside encourages worship on the inside. It wakes us up and brings our hearts to life in praise to God. Therefore, sing in devotion to God whenever you can. How could you not be blessed if you do? Are you heavy-laden, suffering, or afflicted? Or are you joyful and merry? Whatever state you are in, sing your praise to God!

— Alana Pangburn