The Patient Beggar

The Patient Beggar

“Fret not yourself because of the wicked, 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; so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security… I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging bread.”

Psalm 37:1-3, 25

Unfortunately, I’ve never been accused of being a patient man. When I want something, I want it now. I’m not proud of that, but at least I recognize it. And, since I’ve learned to recognize that about myself, I have learned to ask God for patience. The things I’m most impatient about seem to be the things I ask God for the most. I want to be patient, I really do, but I often resemble more of a beggar in the way I treat God in my prayers. I guess you could call me a ‘patient beggar’. After all, patience is a virtue, or so the old saying goes. If that’s true, and I believe it is, then I think there may be a lot of people in my ‘Patient Beggars Club’ – maybe you?

If you’re in my club, then Psalm 37 is for you today. It’s a beautifully worded treatise on patience. King David is writing from the vantage point of his older years. He understands that sooner or later, sin will catch up with the wicked. He learned from experience, it certainly caught up with him. The psalm is written to give hope to the downtrodden. David tells the righteous who trust in God to be patient while they see the wicked prosper all around them.

Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over him who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! (Psalm 37:7)

It’s hard to be patient when you see people prospering whom you know don’t deserve it, isn’t it? It’s hard because all we see is the here and now. Our sense of fairness and justice is bound up by the time of this world. What need to remember is God doesn’t measure time. Time exists for this world. In God’s economy there is no time, only eternity. A thousand years in our world are like one day to God (Psalm 90:4). Of course, that’s a metaphor, but it’s given to help us understand that we can’t bind God with our time table.

When God says the wicked will get what’s coming to them, He means it. So, when we see the wicked inherit what seems like wealth and fame, let’s remember that in the scope of eternity, it will all vanish like the wind. The important thing for the child of God to remember is that he or she is not forgotten. God knows your every need and will bless you accordingly. As David said in verse 25, have you ever seen the righteous go begging for bread? I haven’t.

It may seem like the righteous are begging, but are we begging for what we truly need? The bread represents what we truly need. Jesus taught us to pray for our true needs: “Give us this day our daily bread”. Instead, we often beg for what we want, because we haven’t really settled the difference between our wants and our needs. So often we think we’re being patient because we’ve waited on God to “bless” us with something we’ve always thought we needed. But, what we really are is a ‘patient beggar’. We keep asking God for the same thing, but in reality the reason we don’t get it is because God knows we don’t need it, or we’re not ready for it.

Rather than be ‘patient beggars’, we need to become ‘patient trusters’ (I know that’s not a real word, but it’s fun to say). If we can’t trust God to know the difference between our wants and our needs, then who can we trust? We can trust God for everything. St. Paul reminds us that if God is for us, nothing can come against us (Romans 8:31). The question isn’t, “Is God for us?”. The question is, “Are we for God?”. If we are, we will show it by trusting Him for everything.

Shalom,

Pastor Brad

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What Ever Became of Sin?

What Ever Became of Sin?

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. 

2 For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated… 9 For with thee is the fountain of life, in thy light do we see light.

 Psalm 36:1, 2, 9

Words are a fascinating thing. They have an intrinsic meaning yet over time it seems the meaning can change. Societies change the meaning of words all the time as people begin to use them in ways they were not intended. The changes aren’t necessarily made on purpose and they don’t happen over night. Yet, they do change. I think one of the most dangerous yet consistent contributing factors to such change in words is a lack of education. When we fail to speak about things as they should be we are limiting the knowledge of those things for the next generation. I fear that is the answer to Dr. Karl Menninger’s question from the title to his classic book, What Ever Became of Sin?

Transgression is a fancy word for ‘sin’. The Psalmist speaks from his own experience. He knows he has sinned (transgressed) against God. You need only to read Psalm 51 to hear David’s broken and contrite heart as he confesses his sin to God. But how did David know his sin? He was raised by God-fearing parents who no doubt taught him the meaning of the word. He knew that his choices to satisfy his own desires rather than obey God’s law were sin. Sin is always a matter of our choices. While theologically there are sins of ignorance we commit as flawed humans, those are not the kind of sins David speaks about in the opening verses of Psalm 36. The sin that separates us from God and scars our conscience, the kind that speaks wickedly deep into our hearts is the sin we willfully choose.

Today, I believe we are in danger of completely losing the meaning of sin. Things understood as sin for millennia are now being tolerated in a measure that is even raising them to the status of normal behavior. Dr. Menninger knew and taught that there is no mental health without moral health. The present culture of death we see around us is crying out for someone to speak moral truth into their lives – but where are the preachers? Where is the message that sin kills and destroys from the inside out?

David knew in his heart that God could see his sin yet he couldn’t get to healing by himself. Without truth preached to him, he wasted away from within…

“When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long.” (Psalm 32:3)

It took the Prophet Nathan confronting the King, after his sin of adultery with Bathsheba, to bring David to repentance. When confronted with the truth of God’s word, David knew he must confess if he ever wished to be whole again, to have the joy of the Lord restored to his soul. I’m so glad Nathan wasn’t afraid to preach on sin.

What troubles you today? What aches deep within your heart? Perhaps it has been buried so deep you don’t even know it’s there anymore. Yet, you can’t explain the emptiness you feel inside. You can’t seem to understand why life is not fulfilling. I hope that doesn’t describe you, but if it does, allow me to be Nathan to you today. May the words of my mouth be for your edification, that you may not languish in sin, but know the joy repentance…

“Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:12)

“For with thee is the fountain of life, in thy light do we see light.” (Psalm 36:9)

Shalom,

Pastor Brad

image credit: http://joymag.co.za/article.php?id=519