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Sermon on Psalm 37

August 21, 2016, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Pastor Willy Lau (Psalm 37:1-11) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Psalms
Preached at a Bilingual (Mandarin-English, Sunday) service

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Listen to sermon recording with the play button or download with the download link. 您可点播或下载讲道录音。
About Pastor Willy Lau: Pastor Lau served as a youth pastor in various churches, and as a volunteer manager in a migrant worker social services organisation.
Bible passage (ESV) of the sermon can be found at the bottom of the page.

Good morning, this morning, before I start, I would like to give you all a little challenge. A little test. Only a few of you, if any, if you focus hard enough, you may come close to accomplishing it, but it's going to take a lot of focus and concentration. Are you ready? For the next 5 seconds, do not, do not think about Pokemon Go. Some of you are trying way too hard. How did you do? You thought about Pokemon, didn't you? In the last 5 seconds, even in the slightest, you can't help but to think about Pokemon. You can't just tell someone not to think about something or someone and expect it's going to happen. And what that little exercise just demonstrated is that when you tell someone to stop feeling a certain way, it often has the opposite effect. try telling someone to stop being angry, quit being upset. They usually get angrier. Telling someone to stop feeling a certain way or telling someone to stop thinking of something, it's not some switch you can just turn it off. It's true for anger, for happiness for sadness. It is also true for worry. Isn't it? Jesus says, 'Do not worry' If only it was that easy. If only it wasn't so natural, if only it wasn't so automatic, and it's not like we don't have legitimate reasons to be concerned or to be fretting over something in our lives when you consider all the things that is attacking our well-being, our future, our spiritual well being, our health, well-being of our loved ones, but if you think, just because, worrying is natural, it's just something you have to live with, this is just something we have to get through on our own and it's not going to have much damage to our spiritual well being. Think again. If you and I even think, we have legitimate reasons to worry, or to fret, King David, the person who wrote this psalm has way more. For this psalm in particular, fretting is due to an envy of evildoers seemingly succeeding.

Rhetoric of envy is portrayed daily. Unfair. Some people have and I don't have, and that's not fair, to you. As Christians, we listen to this, everyday! We are surrounded by this and we ask ourselves, what are we to think? How can we be sure we will not be caught up in the same rhetoric, think the same way about political issues or perhaps other things in our lives as well? What do we do in this culture of envy? How is a Christian suppose to think? We go to the bible, and we go to Psalm 37. A Psalm which speaks directly about these things, a psalm that reminds us, what envious thinking can do and where it can lead us. As we come to Ps 37 this morning, there are 2 hurdles we must deal with as you approach this psalm. The first hurdle is the length of the psalm. It's 40 verses. We can't deal with the entire psalm in one sermon. For today, we will just be covering the first 11 verses. There's a reason why it's so long. Hebrew Bible will show you that it's a acrostic Psalm, meaning the structure is built around the Hebrew alphabet. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew Alphabet, each word of begins with the beginning letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

Second hurdle, trying to understand the tone. It's tone is unique. So many prayers and cries to God, Psalmist, David is calling God for help in stressful situation, or he has enemies surrounding him, calling to god for help in his desperation. For God to save him and rescue him. or perhaps has sinned like Psalm 32, and he prays to God for God's grace and forgiveness. But in this Psalm, perhaps if you have read through it, you will notice it's a different tone, instead of David speaking to God, or somehow in the psalm, God speaking to David, we have David, man, speaking to man. Some has called it a wisdom Psalm, in which like the Proverbs, so Psalms or the Proverbs is speaking about life, in wisdom, what it means to live that godly life. Some has compared to Psalm 1, contrast between the righteous man and the wicked man. What does it all mean for us? As we seek to understand it? and try to interpret it? What is David saying and why is it written this way? What does he want us to know and understand?

The question we have to ask ourselves this morning is in the face of evil and injustice, how can we still trust God and do good?

If you look at v.25. it says, I was young and now I am old. So David is writing this Psalm at the end of his life. he is reflecting a lifetime of experience, not from theory but from experience.

In this first 11 verses, David gives one negative instructions but 4 positive instructions. The negative one he repeats 3 times. v1, v7, v8. don't fret. You know how we always think of the bible as something very restrictive. Like you can't do this and you can't do that? Thus to speed things up, I shall not deal with that one negative instruction but go straight to the 4 positive instruction.

TRUST
The first active verb we want to look at is found in verse 3. Trust in the Lord and do good. TRUST.

Those of us who grew up in church perhaps has been repeatedly told to trust God and have faith many many times be it from the sunday school teacher and from the pastors. But perhaps you never really knew how it look like in a practical sense. So this morning, I will attempt to show you, for each of these verb that I am using, I will be using a life example. So TRUST, what does trust look like?

Do you recognize this lady in the picture? Her name is Corrie Ten Boom. This story of unwavering trust in God's sovereignty comes from World War 2. A Christian family was sent to prison for hiding Jews in their home to prevent them from being slaughtered by Hitler's holocaust. This Psalm remains one of her favourite Psalm where a story is told that one day she and her sister came back from a hard day's labor only to find that the thin mats they are to sleep on are infested in fleas. The sister began to thank God for it and she protested, 'How can we thank God for fleas?' However, later did they know that it's precisely because of these horrible fleas that repulsed the guards from entering their barracks and the women could enjoy the freedom to hold bible studies unhindered by the prisoner guards. Trusting God regardless of our circumstances, enables us to remain positive, believing what seems horrid at that time to accomplish what otherwise would not be possible in and through us. Read her book, 'the hiding place' and one of the stories where she forgave a prisoner guard will bring you to tears.

Will you trust God enough to be faithful and grateful even in times of testing?

Here are some of Corrie's quotes.

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, it empties today of its strength.

Never be afraid to trust your unknown future to a known God.

If you look at the world, you will be distress. If you look within, you will be depressed. But if you look at God, you will be at rest.

V3 says trust God and do good. So the question we need to constant us ourselves who claim to be trusting God is how is our lives adding value to the people around us?

DELIGHT
The next active verb I want to talk about is found in verse 4.

This ties in very closely with the next point, which is this kind of security in the faithfulness of God is much more available to those who supremely delight in Him. We must intensify the English word, 'delight in the Lord, because the Hebrew accentuates taking exquisite delight in him. The Hebrew word is an intensive reflexive form of a verb that suggests that their delight is so sensitive that it catches the softest nuances of God's love.

That idea challenges us as Christians to grow so close to the Lord that we would be delicately aware of his presence and guidance even in the tiniest circumstances of our lives. In this way, we would take delight in him thoroughly.

For example, you know you have a very bad Teh-C or Kopi-C when they added too much C, condensed milk into your tea or coffee.

Have you ever come across tea leaves that cost 30 times more expensive than gold? Some of Chinese tea leaves such as 'Da Hong Pao' or 'Long Jing Tou Cha' are such examples. Imagine you load this tea with sugar and cream and see if you can get any flavor out of this tea. Similarly, many Christians load up their lives with sugars and creams of luxury and thus unable to see the exquisite ways in which god is working in their lives.

We who lived in such a wealthy and wasteful country have so many things and so many varieties of things that we have lost our appreciation for them. We clutter our houses with too many possessions rather than thoroughly enjoy a few. The unsatisfied longing in our lives keeps us thinking we need more, consequently, we don't cherish the finer points of what we have.

In our spiritual lives, we rarely delight so thoroughly in the Lord that he is the whole focus of our existence. Consequently, we find it difficult to enjoy the little moments of his relationship with us.

Notice that when we do delight ourselves in God, he will give us the desires of our hearts. That is because our intentional desires will be his. The closer we are to God, the more we will want only what he wants.

George Müller's life is a powerful answer to modern scepticism. His name has become a by-word for faith throughout the world in the 19th century. Disturbed by the faithlessness of the Church in general, he longed to have something to point to as 'visible proof that our God and Father is the same faithful creator as he ever was'. He was more successful than anyone could have believed possible and is as much an example to our generation, as he was to his. His book, 'Delighted by God' based very much on this verse that directed his entire life. His biography where he took care of more than 10,000 orphans without asking for a single cent from anyone but just simply by praying is very inspiring as well. By the way, he has read the whole bible more than 100 times in his lifetime. Here are some of his quotes.

Faith ends where worry begin and worry ends where faith begins. We see here that faith and worry are actually anti-thesis to each other.

COMMIT
The third active verb we want to look at is found in verse 5.

David Livingstone.

David Livingstone, well known as Africa's greatest missionary. All the examples I am quoting today are people who has held this psalm close to their hearts. The verse in particular was Psalm 37:5. Dr. Livingstone said that this verse sustained his time when he was in Africa. He recites this verse 5 times a day. As you hear this, are you thinking that it was all very well for someone like David Livingstone to serve God with such fervour and commitment? You feel that you cannot serve God wholeheartedly because you have too many problems, too many things that are holding you back.
My friend, no one who has done great things for God has had it easy. I can mention name upon name to you of people whom God has used mightily down through history; every one of them has known hardship and difficulty.

REST
The last active verb I want to deal with today is found in verse 7, Rest. Verse 7 says, Rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him. In some other versions you may have is, Be Still.

Today, we have lost the practice of asking each other how is your quiet time. We are drown in a sea of noises. When I say noises, I am not talking about actual sound that you hear but I'm talking about distractions. The moment we have a smart phone in our hand, we are no longer bored. Initially it's social media, then now, it's Pokemon Go. I'm not sure what's next there could be to occupy people to mind and time. I still like to call my devotional practices 'quiet time' to remind me that this block of time is set apart for being still before the Lord in order to hear God, so that my ways are not my own devising.

The visual image of patiently waiting has this tension or yearning for release, like mother who goes through labor as she awaits the birth of her child.

That image has deep significance for our spiritual lives. We live in the in-between times - days and years between the moment or progression when Christ became the center and focus of our existence and the time when he will come again or we will die and go home to be with him. So how do we live in the meantime? Christ didn't call us to any easy Christianity, a comfortable 'I'm saved' lifestyle that isn't intensely wrapped up in the work of His kingdom. Rather, as we wait for the Lord to come back, we wait with eager longing and anguish, for often what surround us is corrupted.

Lastly, I now want to introduce this guy called Paul Gerhardt. He is the greatest hymn writer during his time in Germany and some would even consider him to be the greatest religious poet ever lived. His hymns hold such great influence throughout Germany that it was these very hymns that Dietrich Bonhoeffer memorized throughout his days as a prisoner for the discipline of his prayer life.

He said, sadly, our senses are so darkened, deluded and disturbed that our hearts do not rightly receive the blessings that God showers on us day by day.

As I close, I want to point us to verse 6.

The Jerusalem Bible phrases it this way, 'Making your virtue clear as the light, your integrity as bright as noon.' These words virtue and integrity stresses the character, the goodness and the wholeness, of righteousness and justice. God will certainly vindicate us with the blazing light of justice and this truth will be clear to everyone. For this reason, the poet urges his listeners to 'consider the blameless'. In v. 37 of this psalm, 'Take note of the one who has integrity! Observe the godly! For the one who promotes peace has a future. '

Usually, I do not give so many examples of missionaries or bring up so many names in a sermon, but today is an exception for there is a reason for this.

For the past 10 days, everyone in Singapore is probably talking about our Singapore own Olympic winner Joseph Schooling. How inspiring he is, perhaps many parents talking to their children about him etc.

However, the few names I have mentioned today are spiritual giants, people of the past who have lived their lives by trusting God, delighting and committing in Him and resting in him. The more we observe those who have integrity, the more we will follow their example and be inspired in this walk of faith. There is a reason why i bring my family to Yunnan China every year. It is to spend time with the missionaries there, to see what God is doing in the lives of these people and hear their stories. Inspiring as it is, I sure hope what I shared today can be an encouraging and inspiring and know that life is not just all there it seems. As we put ourselves fully trusting God, delighting, committing and resting in Him, he will definitely see us through and never fail us. Amongst us, may God raise spiritual giants from us in our midst as well where we can say that your virtues are clear as the light and your integrity as bright as noon.

Psalm 37:1–11 (Listen)

Of David.

37:1   Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
    be not envious of wrongdoers!
  For they will soon fade like the grass
    and wither like the green herb.
  Trust in the LORD, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
  Delight yourself in the LORD,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
  Commit your way to the LORD;
    trust in him, and he will act.
  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
    and your justice as the noonday.
  Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!
  Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
    Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
  For the evildoers shall be cut off,
    but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
10   In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
    though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11   But the meek shall inherit the land
    and delight themselves in abundant peace.

(ESV)