ADVICE FOR CHRISTIANS
T. Pierce Brown
In Psalm 37, verses 1 through 9, we find some advice that sounds almost like what we might expect from Solomon or Christ. It is good advice for Christians today. Let us examine some elements of that advice.
First, “Fret not thyself because of evil doers, neither be envious of them.” This is a great sin against ourselves, for it destroys our peace of mind, creates bitterness, harshness and fault finding. It is a sin against others, for it robs them of happiness that might be theirs if we were not envious of them. It is a sin against God, for it is disobedience to his command and shows a lack of faith.
It does not mean that we should not be concerned about what harm evil doers work in the world, and the end to which they will come. It has to do with the kind of fretfulness that is produced by worry and envy. For a Christian to be envious of evil men is about as silly as an eagle being envious of a worm, or an ocean being envious of a mud puddle. We should remember what Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:6-8, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, for neither can we carry anything out; but having food and covering we shall be therewith content.”
The cure for that, and for various other ills is found in the following verses. “Trust in the Lord and do good.” To be content and fret not, while we are not trusting in the Lord is not a virtue; it is madness. To be “care less” because we have cast our care on the Lord, and to be “careless” because we do not care are two very different things.
This verse carries in a summary form all that is essential to Christian life. It carries the remedy for all the political, commercial, social and religious ills that plague mankind. Think of what would happen in the political realm if all the nations and all politicians in them trusted in the Lord and did good! Think of what would happen in the commercial world if all business deals were carried on in this fashion. If in all social activities and human relationships this principle were followed, it would be the closest thing to heaven on earth one could imagine. In the religious area, if all religious persons and institutions would simply stop doing according to their own desires and the “dictates of their own conscience” and take God at his word, neither going beyond what he authorizes, nor falling short of his will, then Christ’s prayer would be answered as he said, “Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.”
The psalmist touches another thing that will keep one from fretfulness. In verse 4, he says, “Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he will give thee the desires of thine heart.” We should question the degree of our trust if it does not lead us to delight in the Lord. There are many things about the Lord that should give us delight. All of the things that appeal to our human senses, such as the beautiful things in nature, the greatness of the universe, the novelty of all things God has made should give us delight. All of the things that appeal to our moral and intellectual nature should delight us. All of the things for which we hope as we strive to follow our Lord, and seeing the love of God manifested in the giving of his Son are some of the things for which we should have great delight.
We cannot have this delight without an acquaintance with God and conformity to his nature. Notice that the delight is to be in the Lord, not just in the gifts that he provides. That includes delight in his favor, approbation, friendship and doing service for him. We should delight in his doctrine, and keep it pure.
Notice the promise attached to that admonition, “He will give thee the desires of thine heart.” This does not mean that every transient wish we may have will be gratified. When Jesus was in the garden before the cross, he wished that the cup would pass from him. Paul wished his thorn in the flesh would be removed. Although those whose lives are committed fully to God may not get their every wish, they get their deepest desires. Nor does he promise that this desire will be immediately fulfilled.
We need to realize that the heart’s deepest desire may be granted the most fully when the petition we make is denied. I am sure that I have wanted to go down some particular path in life, or through some door that seemed inviting, but God turned me back from it and granted my real desire, which was to take the course that would best glorify God.
David continues his advice in verse 5, “Commit thy way unto the Lord, and he shall bring it to pass.” Commitment is a conscious and deliberate act, not simply a habitual or accidental one. One may attend the services of the church regularly, but not necessarily because he is committed to glorifying God. Not only will this kind of commitment free us from anxiety, it will result in accomplishing the things which are in harmony with his will.
In verse 7 he says, “Rest in the Lord.” This rest that Jesus promises us is the result of a whole-hearted commitment of our ways to the Lord. We can rest, for we will always have all sufficiency in everything (2 Corinthians 9:8). We will always have wisdom available to do the best thing (James 1:5). We will always have the protection and care we need to do that which God wants us to do. We can rest assured that he will faithfully keep every promise he has made to us (Hebrews10:23). We can rest in the Lord, for we will have a sense of the gracious love of God in every aspect of our lives.
Then the psalmist advises us in verse 8 to “Cease from anger and forsake wrath.” I do not have time or space in this article to go into detail about the kinds of things about which God wants us to be angry. But God and Jesus were angry. Paul says, “Be ye angry, and sin not” (Ephesians4:26). Even when it is right to have “righteous indignation” the advice of the psalmist is good and fits with Paul’s statement in the latter part of Ephesians 4:26. “Let not the sun go down on your wrath.”
Sometimes a person says, “He made me angry.” The truth is in Proverbs 25:28, “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.” If anyone can “make you angry” your are little more than a puppet on his string. We should be able to say, “I became angry at what he was doing because I chose to be angry” rather than “He made me.” God and Christ were angry because of their nature, not because they allowed someone to make them that way in spite of themselves.
Then the psalmist gives another wonderful piece of advice in verse 9. “Wait patiently for him.” Even after having ceased from our will, and having committed all to him, there is a danger of growing weary in well doing (Galatians 6:9). Hebrews10:36says, “For ye have need of patience, that, having done the will of God, ye may receive the promise.” I confess that I have often prayed for patience, but sometimes with this attitude, “Lord, give me patience, and give it to me right now, or forget about it.”
All three things in verse nine are significant. “Wait” involves holding out in spite of all difficulties. However, one may wait, but wait impatiently. Have you ever waited for your spouse to get ready for a church service, or in a shopping mall? So we need to wait patiently. Yet it is possible to wait patiently, but not wait for him. This has to do with concern for finding his will, his way, his direction and then following it.
Although David did not always follow his own advice, we would be hard pressed to find better advice for Christians today. We would do well to read the psalms and proverbs regularly, for outside the teachings of Christ we can find few things that are more practical.