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“Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).
Sadly, the life of faith is too often lived from a negative perspective; a preoccupation and satisfaction with just not doing certain things. While there are, certainly, destructive behaviors and attitudes that should be put away, a fuller understanding of the life of Christ is to be found doing those things that ought to be done and best exemplify the fruit of the Spirit. What best represents your faith? Doing? Or, not doing?
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
I sometimes hear it said that becoming a Christian means you get to go to heaven when you die. While the statement is true, such a long look at the life of faith is too short-sighted. To live life committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ transforms your daily existence, not just your eternal destiny. Looking only to the end is to miss the abundance of today.
“Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and upon the lyre I shall praise You, O God, my God” (Psalm 43:4).
Desiring just a glimmer of light (v.3) that might lead him from the darkness of despair, the psalmist determines that he will go to the altar of God and worship. The wisdom of his decision is to be found in the life, and mind-altering effects of worship. An encounter and interaction with the living God reframes every one’s perspective on everything…problems become smaller; priorities are adjusted; possibilities spring forth in hope. Even when you don’t “feel” like it, get to church and worship. It may not change your circumstances, but it will transform you.
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:11).
Our testimony and witness is of such importance in living out the missional task; we cannot allow circumstances to determine our demeanor. Like the psalmist, we find ourselves in a world that often thrusts upon us unwanted and unexpected exile experiences; turning the comfortable and predictable routines of life into absolute turmoil and disarray. Even when we don’t feel like it, we can act our way into a new feeling. Just as scripture has long told us that “for as a man thinks, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7), science has now revealed that deliberate changes in body language and facial expressions can alter one’s mood and disposition and, thus, your influence on those around you.
“While they say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” (Psalm 42:3).
Intrusive thoughts are involuntary, unwelcome, upsetting, distressing and, sometimes, obsessive. The psalmist’s overwhelming sense of despair, that has left him feasting only on the bitterness of his own tears (v.2), is made all the worse by the constant thought of God’s absence. As irrational as it may be, especially in the light of other verses describing his much fuller faith experience, it is a very real and debilitating thought at the time it was written. Whether it’s admitted to or not, all saints have been there. And while we may, at times, find ourselves in the company of the struggling, we must also know there is never a time when we are not among the fellowship of the hopeful.
“These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, with the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival” (Psalms 42:4).
In the tentacles of depression, the psalmist has isolated himself from those with whom he normally associated. As often happens, disassociation leads to dysfunctional thinking. The darkness of despair can so blind us to the possibilities of the future that all we can see is a nostalgic past. Even so, just as the yesterdays of glory and celebration would eventually give way to the melancholy of today, this, too, will pass on to the hopes of tomorrow. It’s the promise of the living God.
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence (Psalm 42:5).
The psalmist, of course, is speaking of himself, and his state of being. His self-conversation is an attempt to reframe and reinterpret his circumstances through the prism of faith rather than the emotions of the moment. Faith reigns triumphant when God’s people understand the fleeting nature of circumstances; that while they may have their day, they do not determine our destiny.