January 21st, 2023 - Petition and Provision

Petition and Provision

From the moment we wake up in the morning, our conscious mind is flooded with an endless number of thoughts and tasks. Often before we even swing our feet out of the bed, the mental renewal that sleep provided has evaporated. If we aren’t intentional in posturing our mind toward God, we’re likely to be off kilter all day, less receptive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Be intentional now, in this moment. Turn away from the present concern. Give your attention to God. Don’t worry about the “feeling” you think accompanies his presence, what you should say, how you should position yourself, etc. Just offer yourself, in love and obedience, to God. Be with him.

Today we’re looking at Psalm 143 and how David sought the presence of God through prayer and supplication.
 Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy!
In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
2 Enter not into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you.
3 For the enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground;
he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
4 Therefore my spirit faints within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
5 I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
6 I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah
7 Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let the morning bring me word of your steadfast love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Make me know the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.
9 Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord!
I have fled to you for refuge.[a]
10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!
11 For your name's sake, O Lord, preserve my life!
In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
12 And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies,
and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul,
 for I am your servant.

Psalm 143
We don’t know if David’s turmoil is the result of inner conflict or external threats, but the emotional pain of his words is vivid. Verses 3-4 read like a tired fighter on his knees, not sure if he can get up again, not sure if he wants to. Crushed to the ground by the enemy, emotional pain can seem never ending. When we give divine importance to the problems and anxieties of life, our hearts are dismayed. Our spirits grow faint.

We’ve all prayed some variation of verse 4. I don’t know if I can do this; I don’t know if I can take this. In the desperation of verse 7, we strip away religious niceties. Are you hearing me, God?!

David pleads to God’s merciful nature, his faithfulness and righteousness. From the Old Testament to New Testament, God delights in rescuing his people, in coming to our relief. He doesn’t do this because we deserve it. David acknowledges this in verse 2. For no one living is righteous before you. God delights in rescuing us because it is who he is, his nature. And God designed human nature to find our truest relief in relationship with him. The best pleasures and coping mechanisms of the world offer only a distorted substitute.

Faith in Christ ensures our eternal salvation; it does not ensure our earthly journey will be without suffering. Nor does it ensure we will experience the peace he offers. There is effort required on our part, over and above just a general awareness of God’s promises. David remembers the days of long ago; [he] meditates on all [God’s] works and considers what [God’s] hands have done. This is not rose-colored reminiscing on the good-old-days or obtuse pondering on the heavens. David recalls the actual real-life situations when God saved him from the abyss of uncertainty. This is spiritual defense. You’ve likely not been plucked from obscurity and chosen as the next king or slayed a giant man on the field of battle, but you can attest to God’s goodness in your life. Remember your testimony. When the pain of life crushed you and the anxiety of the future paralyzed you, Jesus climbed down into the darkness with you. When the terrible fantasies of what could-be suffocate your spirit, push back with the reality of God’s faithfulness.

The Apostle James instructed believers to consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4). This isn’t some quixotic demand that we always be positive. James doesn’t command us to ignore our pain, quite the opposite. He encouraged us to lean deeper into it. It is only in God’s presence that our perspective on pain begins to shift.

Don’t let heartache and disappointment plunge you into cynicism or bitterness. God does not cause our pain, but he can use it if we allow him. He is with you. He keeps his promises. He does not change. Take refuge in that secure love. Like a parched land, thirst for his presence.

Consider what emotions you may be allowing to dictate your perspective. Do the trials of life find you moving toward the practices of scripture and the presence of God? Or are you moving toward something else? The constant distractions offered by the digital attention economy. The temporary escape provided through pleasures of the flesh. Maybe you’re chasing materialism and earthly security. Or the ever-fleeting sense of control the world promises if you could just master a particular habit, lose ten pounds, read the latest spiritual self-help book, start that relationship, end this relationship, get through the business quarter, finish the semester, kick the addiction, land the job, gain that recognition… The world calls out to us: You’re not enough as you are. You’re not supposed to feel like that. Just keep scrolling and you’ll see. Everyone else is doing better than you.

In the vulnerability of our pain, the enemy whispers the old line (Genesis 3:4-5): Did God really say that? Surely, you won’t die. He’s holding out on you.

Amidst the uncertainty of life, are you leaning deeper into the presence of God or chasing the promises of the world?
Recognize where your heart turns for relief. Accept Jesus’s invitation for rest; trust the Spirit to do his work; go deeper into God’s presence. Jesus gave everything of himself so you can have life eternal and life to the full. Don’t just believe in him, believe him. Believe what he says about you and about life.

Pray: Heavenly Father, I seek your kingdom first and foremost. I desire to know you deeper, to align my will with yours. When the darkness surrounds me, help me to remember your faithfulness.  Make me know the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Amen.