How do you deal with distress, sickness or trouble? Sometimes we offer suffering or sick friends our own remedies as though we are the experts. Even Christians can deal with sickness and distress poorly. They ignore the reality of their troubled fellow Christians by saying, “God will heal-just pray.” They reduce trouble to only the physical when problems might be emotional, mental, relational or a combination thereof. The only solution is to turn to God for help, like David did in Psalm 34:1-8.
The background for this psalm is found in 1 Samuel 21-22. In jealousy, King Saul pursued David and threatened his life, forcing David to live on the run. In one of the loneliest times of his life, David sought refuge with the Philistines. When they realized who he was, he feigned insanity to protect himself.
David was physically weak and didn’t have any allies to help him. He was weak spiritually and aware of his sin. In spite of his weakness, he sought the Lord and the Lord heard him and delivered him from all his fears. Only through prayer can fear be overcome by faith. Like David, when we gather for worship every week, we come seeking the Lord’s guidance, direction, healing and hope.
The psalm begins with a call to worship. It’s an invitation for us to identify with David. The praise of the Lord is always in David’s mouth. David’s invitation is a call to continual worship that lifts the hearts of others, drawing them into a chorus of delighting in His name. The invitation is followed by comfort. We will only have happiness when we surrender our lives to God. When we do, God will provide for our needs. He will protect us from the devil’s attacks.
The psalm is a realistic view of the plight of worshippers who love the Lord. There is no prosperity gospel in it. It speaks of the righteous person’s many troubles. Those troubles come in the form of fears. The psalmist refers to such troubles by referring to the need for angels to surround the righteous.
How good it is for us to remember that we have a song of praise that we can sing to our Creator. There are lots of times when our mouths fall short of the glory of God or the words that come out of our mouths shock other people. When that happens, God wants us to chew on some compassion, mercy, grace and forgiveness. We will “taste and see that the Lord is good.”
The phrase, “to bless the Lord at all times” comes easily when times are prosperous. But David sang his song during tough times. When God’s people are afraid, they should worship. When they are filled with panic, it’s time to sing praises to God. When worry overwhelms us, the time for worship has arrived. Can you remember a time when you were in a time of trial? What did your heart and soul cry out? Did they cry out to God? When you have the opportunity, do what David did-praise God. Tell someone else what you learned.
When we are at a loss as to how to respond, it’s good to know that we can depend on God to bring order out of chaos. As we lean into Him, He will lead the way for us and for others. God calls each one of us to come to Him and develop a firsthand understanding of His love and kindness. No one else can do this for us. We must personally experience His presence and learn what it means to delight in Him.
Stepping out in faith means that we don’t know all that is going to happen but we are putting our trust in someone who does. Putting our trust in Jesus is not always the comfortable way to go. The risk we take is that God knows what He is doing better than we know what we are doing. History and common sense tell us to put our faith in the infinite Creator and Saviour of the universe rather than our unstable selves. Are we ready to take another step in the direction of faith? Then we have to accept God’s challenge to “taste and see.”
The phrase “the angel of the Lord” appears only three times in the Book of Psalms. Jesus appeared several times in the Old Testament as the angel of the Lord. Not only has God promised to deliver His people, He has promised to give them the deliverer! Jesus himself draws near to believers in their fear.
Praise is accepting from God all that comes our way, both the good and the bad. Praise takes our minds off our situation and focuses them on God. Praise acknowledges that God has a plan for our lives. We praise God for our current situation. Praise releases God’s power.
In a scene from the classical musical Oliver!, Oliver has just come to the orphanage. It’s dinnertime, and he’s been served very little to eat, and he’s hungry. He eats what he’s been given, gets up and walks down the dining hall toward Mr. Bumble. Oliver lifts his bowl and asks, “Please, sir, I want some more.” Shock and disapproval followed that request.
In contrast, God generously invites us to taste and see that He is good. We have a God who, when we come and say, “Please, sir, I want some more,” smiles and generously gives us more. More of Himself and His goodness. More of His kindness, His mercy, His graciousness.
How do we magnify the Lord? By sharing our stories of how He has worked in our lives. Our lives aren’t perfect. When we show our imperfections we shine the spotlight on Jesus, the One who has healed our wounds. He takes our failures and mistakes and uses them for our good and His glory. He has led the way for us even in the darkest times in our lives, so we can confidently follow Him into the future, regardless of the trials we face.
Our testimonies are not boring because they involve the action of God, the one whose ears are tuned to us, the one who has delivered our forefathers, and the one who is ready to deliver us if we are bold enough to ask. We are reminded that when God does deliver us, we are to share that story so that our individual praise can become a communal praise.
We also make Him bigger by fixing our eyes on Him and not on our circumstances, lack, fear, insecurity, doubt or conflict. When we do that, when we shift our perspective to focus on God, faith will rise in our hearts and we will live knowing the truth that we serve a big God who can do big things.
How often do we focus on the small things in life instead of the big God that we serve? We can have twenty great things happening in our lives, but when one thing doesn’t go right, we lose sight of the twenty and focus on the one little problem. That is why we must always decide to make God bigger than anything else in our lives. The more we focus on Him, the smaller the problems in our lives will become.
There are times in our lives when we need fresh eyes. We have to stop and get a new perspective. God often makes us stop what we are doing because He knows we need to see things and Him differently.
Praise opens our eyes and ears to God. When we focus on God in praise, we’re much more likely to hear God’s Word. Praise isn’t easy for us because it demands that we make changes in our lives. Most of us don’t like change.
So how do we delight in the Lord? It begins with a mindset. It starts first thing each day. We have to make a conscious effort, even before we get up in the morning, to place the day in God’s capable hands. Look for the good. Begin with gratitude. When we start the day by praising God, it keeps a song in our hearts throughout the day. When we offer our praise and worship to the Lord, He can dry our tears and banish our fears. His praise will be continually on our lips.
Also, God wants His Word to be an oasis for our souls. His word is filled with comfort and promises to give rest and peace. Read it. It is satisfying food for a sagging spirit. Finally, meditate. Let the healing balm reach into your mind and soul. Taking refuge in God-that is, being protected, warm, and loved-can result in a deep, inner sense of contentment, a feeling in the very depth of your being that all is well. Those who allow themselves to be wrapped in the arms of God will find true peace, love and contentment.
Glorifying God isn’t limited to worshipping in church. In fact, praise should permeate our lives. One way that we can praise God is with our voice. We can either speak or sing our worship. True worship flows from the mouths of believers who are focused on God’s attributes. They want to honour Him because of who He is, what He has done, and what He has promised for the future.
God is praised when we serve Him. People are created for the purpose of bringing glory and honour to His name, therefore, nothing should limit our willingness to work for the King, particularly when we have a chance to share Him with others. Christ is honoured when we speak boldly about His grace and His work. Believers’ testimonies are an amazing form of praise that magnifies God’s name.
What people think about God will strongly be influenced by what they see in us. We have been baptized into His name. With His eyes wide open, God chose to align His reputation with ours. What is the best way for us to glorify God? As we penetrate a dark world with the light of the Gospel, what is the best way for us to build God’s reputation? What will people see in our example and hear in our testimony that will cause them to admire God even more? How will their experience with us in congregations and communities cause them to admire God even more?
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p.728)
- Williams, D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 13: Psalms 1-72 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1986; pp. 270-274)
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp. 727-728)
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- Amy Carroll, “Finding the Happy Ending to Our Sad Story.” Retrieved from www.proverbs31.org
- Elizabeth Cole, “Please Sir, I Want Some More.” Retrieved from www.homeword.com
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- Dr. Charles Stanley, “Expressions of Praise.” Retrieved from www.intouch.org
- “When We Don’t Know.” Retrieved from www.leadllikejesus.com
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- Christine Caine, “Make God Bigger.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Eric Mathis, “Commentary on Psalm 34:15-22.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2615
- Eric Mathis, “Commentary on Psalm 34:1-8.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2613