Friday, December 3, 2010

Praying to the Good God in the Bad Times, Part 2

Balance RockI don’t know what you are facing today—maybe the loss of a job, the loss of a loved one, or the loss of health yourself or from someone you love. Afflictions and trials hit all of us. No one is immune from trouble, it is part of life on this sinful world. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." For the child of God, afflictions can bring us closer to God. This often happens as we pray, as we talk with God during our trials. But how do we pray?
In my last post I saw from Psalm 119:65-67 two ways to pray to the good God in the bad times:
1. Lord, You are so good, though I’m so undeserving (v. 65).
2. Lord, give me wisdom to apply Your Word in this situation (v. 66-67)
Here are two more:
3. Lord, teach me in this trial how to glorify You (v. 68-69)
68  You are good, and do good; Teach me Your statutes.
69  The proud have forged a lie against me, But I will keep Your precepts with my whole heart.
Verse 68 says God is good and does good. His actions flow out of His attributes. This is a glory-driven, Godward, God-centered prayer. The focus of my prayer in my difficulty should not be first on me, and it must not be first on what others did to me (v. 69), the focus must be first on God’s goodness and God’s glory, that God would teach me (v. 68b) and help me to obey His principles (v. 69b).
God’s goodness is His very glorious nature; compassionate, loving, gracious. The very goodness of God and His dealings is seen in the very beginning of the Bible: As God creates the world and all its creatures, He repeatedly pronounces it good, and finally very good. It is God’s very nature to be good and do good, and it should be the very nature of someone saved by His good grace to pray thankfully, “Lord, teach me in this trial how to glorify You.”
David says in Psalm 50:15, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”
We cannot always know why God gives certain afflictions, nor do we have to know before we can know Him to be good. But one thing we can know is that ultimately one purpose in my affliction is that God would be glorified, that His goodness should be magnified for all to see.
4. Lord, help me to delight in You and Your Word no matter what (v. 70-72)
70  Their heart is as fat as grease, But I delight in Your law.
Do I find delight in God and His word or the world and its fat? Fat may taste good, but it’s bad for our health. Spiritual fat is a flabby fatty layer of spiritual cellulite due to spiritual inactivity and lack of exercise of the heart towards God. Often, prosperous sinners, because they live in luxury where every desire is gratified, have lost all feeling for God. Whatever God needs to do to wean us off loving this world is good. So affliction in this case is a blessing:
71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.
Martin Luther confessed, “I never knew the meaning of God’s word, until I came into affliction. I have always found it one of the best schoolmasters.” Affliction is not good in itself and does not usually seem good to us when we are enduring it, but it has a good purpose when God sends it, as he frequently does in the case of his cherished children.
Some of God’s purposes in afflictions:
To show Himself good through His dealings (v. 65).
To give us discernment and knowledge (v. 66).
To restore us from straying (v. 67).
To teach us how good God is (68)
To bring about wholehearted obedience in us (v. 69).
To cause delight in God and His Word (v. 70).
To cause us to learn His Word and ways (v. 71).
To make us see the priceless nature of God’s Word (v. 72).
Verse 72 says, “The law of Your mouth is better to me Than thousands of coins of gold and silver.” This verse reminds me of one of my favorite hymns and the story behind it. In 1933 our nation was trying to recover from the Great Depression. Business curves were still heading downward and there was rumor of a salary cut at the New York insurance office where a twenty-two-year-old man was employed as a clerk. With his deep melodious voice, he was offered a radio contract with NBC and immediately saw opportunities for fame and possible riches in his regular appearance on the radio program.
He had been pondering the matter for several days when he sat down to the piano early one Sunday morning to rehearse a hymn he was to sing in church that morning. As he played and sang his eyes fell on a piece of paper. It was a poem by Mrs. Rhea Miller that had been placed there by his mom. As his eyes raced over the words, the lines struck his heart. His fingers unconsciously left the tune he was rehearsing and began to set this poem to music in a melody which is today known to millions. George Beverly Shea, instead of singing on the radio, devoted his life to Christian ministry travelling with Billy Graham. Maybe you’ve heard the song that was on the piano that day:
 I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand.
Than to be a king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway,
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

Has this Psalm given you something to pray in your affliction?

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