I am continuing to share the series from Nancy Leigh DeMoss on living out Psalm 37 on what we should do instead of fretting (see Fret Not). Yesterday in Filling Your Mind with God’s Word, we talked about Trusting in the Lord, Delighting Yourself in the Lord, and Commiting your way to the Lord. Today, we will discuss Being Still before the Lord and Waiting Patiently for Him in Nancy’s article, True Security.
We’re looking at Psalm 37, one of the most beloved passages in the Old Testament, but one of the least-lived passages, I think. It deals with this whole issue of wrongdoing and evil in the world and how we respond to it.
We’ve been reminded that we are not to fret about it. We said that fretting is more than just worrying. Fretting has to do with being heated. Don’t get heated. Don’t get overheated. Don’t get angry about what’s going on. We will see there is a righteous sort of anger, but most of our anger is not righteous. “The anger of man does not [ever] produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).
So the thing we’re not to do is fret. We’ve seen that repeatedly in this passage. Then we’re looking at what we are to do, which is to look up, to focus our energy, our attention, our effort, our response on the Lord.
I’ve used a phrase, “to tether our hearts and our minds to the Lord.” That picture has been a vivid one to me as I think about how many of us tend to tether our lives to events and people and circumstances that can change. When those things give way, when they fail, when they break, we go with them.
Our emotions go up and down—our wellbeing goes up and down—because we’re tethered to things that can change. In fact, that’s a great definition of insecurity. Insecurity is connecting my heart or my mind or my emotions to things or people that can be taken away from me.
- They can fall.
- They can break.
- They can die.
- They can go away.
- That makes me insecure.
If I want to be secure, I have to tether my mind, my heart, my emotions, my life to something—Someone, that is—that can never change, can never be taken away. That bridge, that secure place, that unchanging reality in my life is God Himself.
The Psalmist David says in this Psalm, don’t tether your heart to evil-doers, to wrong-doers. Don’t let your sense of wellbeing go up and down with how they’re doing.
You know how we do that? I’ve seen how my own emotions can get so frazzled by someone around me doing something wrong. I’m saying, why should my whole future be tied to whether that person is doing right or wrong?
I need to tether my heart to God Himself. That’s where we have these exhortations, beginning in verse 3, that tell us look up, don’t fret. What’s the cure to anger, to fretting? Look up.
We looked in the last session at the first three of those exhortations. “Trust in the Lord. Delight yourself in the Lord. Commit your way to the Lord.” Now we come to the fourth of those, and it’s found in verse 7, where the Scripture says, “Be still before the LORD.”
The New American Standard says, “Rest in the LORD.” The literal translation is, “Be silent to the Lord.” The word in the Hebrew translated “Be still” or “rest” or “silent”—it means to be dumb, not as in lacking intelligence, but as in not able to say anything.
The implication is to be astonished, to be speechless, to stop in your tracks, to cease, to hold your peace, to quiet yourself, to be silent, or to stand still. Be still before the Lord. Be silent to the Lord. Be so astonished in His presence that all your ranting and raving and hyperventilating and your anger and your anxious thoughts and your anxious words—they stop. Be still before the Lord.
That’s not just what we do outwardly, but it’s something that starts as a matter of the heart. He’s saying:
- Don’t murmur.
- Don’t complain.
- Don’t resist what is happening around you.
- Quietly submit to God and to His dealings in your life, realizing that God is the one ultimately who is in charge of everything that is going on in this world.
There is nothing happening in your life that God does not control and cannot change if He chooses to do so. So quit fighting it. Be still.
Some of you have two-year-olds or have had two-year-olds, and you know that when they get their mind made up about something—maybe having a temper tantrum or determined to have their way—they’re going to flail and kick and whine and wail. And you just say, “Stop”! Sometimes you just want to physically put yourself over that child’s body and say, “Be still, don’t get so upset.” They can really work themselves into a tizzy. Well, we can work ourselves into a tizzy emotionally, spiritually, mentally. God’s Word says, “Be still.”
- Stop flailing around.
- Stop resisting.
- Stop having a temper tantrum inwardly or outwardly.
- Be still.
- Quietly submit.
- Cultivate a still heart.
That’s something in this world most of us have a very difficult time doing. If you aren’t in the habit of doing it regularly, of cultivating a quiet heart, you’ll find that when you get in the presence of evil-doing or wrong-doing or things are going crazy around you—you’ll find that your own heart, instead of being tethered to God, is tethered to that shakable circumstance.
A friend sent me an email recently and said something that I so relate to and that most of us can relate to. She said, “I have a tendency during my quiet time to jump up every few minutes to tend to something—laundry, dishes, email, googling something, adding to my to-do list or whatever.”
My friend was relating to this, and she said, “This morning when I sat down for my quiet time, I set the timer for 30 minutes and told myself I could not get up until the timer went off. I want to cultivate the habit of actually being quiet and still with the Lord and less distracted.” That’s a wise word.
We all need to cultivate a quiet heart. We are so pulled, so distracted. Most of us have variations on adult ADD. This culture built it into us. Family activities—more than any family should be involved in, in so many of our cases—doing, busy, active, thinking, talking, noise. We get in the car; we turn on the radio. We walk in the house; we turn on the television. We get up first thing in the morning and check our email. That is not a way to keep a quiet heart.
We can’t make the rest of the world quiet, but by God’s grace we can make our own hearts quiet. Be still before the Lord.
Blaise Pascal said, “The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” I think there’s a lot of truth to that. I don’t know if it’s the sole cause, but it’s a big cause.
It starts with little children and teenagers—always have to be doing. By the way, moms of little ones, it’s important to teach your children how to be still. They don’t always have to be doing something. They may think they have to be. They may be whining about being bored, but you need to teach your kids to learn how to have a contented heart when there’s nothing major going on.
Read a book. Take a nap. Think—something the world doesn’t do a whole lot of anymore—think! Be still. Learn to stay quietly in your room. We are so restless today, and as a result our souls are impoverished by our incessant moving around and activity. You need time to be quiet.
You say, “But I’ve got six kids! There’s no way I can be quiet.” You can have a quiet heart. You can have a quiet heart in a houseful of kids because it’s not a matter of what’s going on around you. It’s a matter of what’s going on inside of you. That means you need to take opportunities, as you have them, to get still and quiet before the Lord. Stop running around all the time. Sometimes you need to be doing a lot of things, and even then God can give you a quiet heart. But you need to control, to the extent that you can, the clutter and the noise in your life so that you cultivate a quiet heart.
There is some clutter that is a necessary part of life and a right and good part of life. But a lot of us throw in extraneous, extra unnecessary noise and activity and clutter. We have to always be doing something and this a sign of a sick soul, an impoverished heart. “Be still and know that I am God. Cease striving.” Let go. Relax. Let God be God.
Be still before the Lord, and then again in verse 7, “wait patiently for him.” That word means to wait longingly, to wait for Him. We’re talking again about tethering our hearts to the Lord. You see this theme throughout Psalm 37.
Verse 34: “Wait for the LORD and keep his way.”
That word wait in verses 9 and 34 is a little different word than it is in verse 7. This word means “to bind together by twisting,” like to braid something; to bind it together so it becomes one strand instead of separate strands; “to be gathered together; to be joined to; to expect.” It means “to look for something patiently.” Then it means “to be confident, to trust, and to be enduring.”
Charles Spurgeon in his commentary on the Psalms says about this verse, it means “to await in holy patience the time for clearing up the difficulties of Providence.” What does that mean? There are things we can’t see now; there are things we don’t understand.
So what do we do? We tend to fret. Why this? Why that? Why is this happening? What about this? What am I going to do about that?
It says: Stop fretting. Be still. Wait patiently for the Lord. What are you waiting for? You’re waiting patiently for the day when God will make all things clear. In the mean time, you trust that He knows what He’s doing. You trust that He’s on His throne, that He’s in charge so that you don’t get yourself all in a tizzy, you don’t get all stewed up over this. You don’t get overheated. You wait patiently for the Lord.
Now, waiting is not something passive. Waiting in the Scripture is an active thing.
It’s not like you just take a long nap or go into hibernation mode while God runs the universe. No—we are connected with Him. We are braided together with Him. We are tethered to Him so that our well-being, our future, our hope is totally connected to how God is doing. And God is doing just fine.
That’s why you can be doing just fine. I see my precious friend Kathy here, who’s been through a long ordeal with leukemia. I’ve seen in Kathy a woman—and in her family, a family that has learned to wait on the Lord, to be still, to lean on Him. Kathy has learned that there are some things in life that just don’t really matter all that much. Her perspective has been changed. Her sense of priorities has been changed. She’s had to learn to have a quiet heart.
I’ve watched the beauty of Christ come through this woman and a peace and a radiance and a joy that we envy, but we don’t want the process of getting there. God uses those circumstances. God uses evil. God uses evildoers to accomplish His purposes in this world if we will wait.
See, we don’t mind waiting as long as God comes through in about four minutes. But the Psalmist says, “No, I’m going to wait all the day long.” You say, “How long is the day?”
With the Lord, a day is as a thousand years. So it may seem like forever, but it’s not. It’s God’s day. I will wait for You all the day long. What does that mean? Don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel.
Don’t say, “I’ve waited long enough; God’s ways just don’t work. I’m out of this marriage; I’m out of this circumstance.” Don’t default to fretting or anger when God doesn’t come through on your time table, when the evil-doer doesn’t change and you think it’s been high time enough that something happen.
Wait all the day long. Wait for the Lord. Hebrews 10:36-38 tells us “you need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay” (paraphrased).
You say, “but it’s not a very little while.” Yes, it is. It doesn’t seem like a very little while to you, but if we could see things from the vantage point of eternity, it is a very little while. His promise is, He will come and He will not delay. So wait for the Lord.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Time is nothing to Him. Let it be nothing to you. God is worth waiting for. In a story we wait for the end to clear up the plot. We ought not to prejudge the great drama of life, but stay until the closing scene.” Wait until the last chapter. It’s already been written, but God is in the process of unveiling it for us, and it’s good. It’s worth waiting for. Stay until the end of the story.
So the difference between these two types of responses in Psalm 37 is really a matter of focus. When we’re fretting, we’re focused on self; we’re focused on our feelings; we’re focused on the wrongdoers; we’re focused on the evil that is going on around us, and we’re going to live these upset, uptight lives, fretting.
But when we focus instead on the Lord, look up. Fret not. Look up. Trust in the Lord. Do good. Delight yourself in the Lord. Commit your way to the Lord. Be still before the Lord. Wait patiently for Him.
Orient your life around the Lord rather than around the wrongdoers. Be intentional about redirecting your mind, your emotions, your focus, your heart on Him.
We tend to think, “I can’t help the way I feel.” Yes, we can. We fuel our emotions by what we let ourselves think about. So be intentional about directing your focus to the Lord and responding to Him instead of directing your focus to the circumstance.
Will your spirit be fretful and angry, or will it be meek and quiet? As I was preparing, doing some last minute preparation for this series, I came across a list that my friend Kim Wagner sent me some time ago. Some of you have heard her on Revive Our Hearts. She just compared and contrasted the fretful spirit with the meek and the quiet spirit, which is the contrast we see here in Psalm 37.
Let me read to you some of those comparisons. The fretful will be fearful in the storms of life, but the meek will be at rest in the storms of life. The fretful will attempt to manipulate individuals or circumstances, but the meek will react to circumstances with a peaceful trust.
The fretful will make life choices based on emotions or fleeting passions of the moment, but the meek will make life choices based on Scriptural principles. The fretful individual’s trust is in his own abilities and his power to control others or control details, but the meek person’s confidence is in the security of the truths of Scripture and the faithfulness of God.
The fretful person finds his worth and his value in his own accomplishments and what others think of him, but the meek finds his worth and his value in knowing who he is in Christ. The fretful finds his strength of character in his own personality traits, but the meek finds his strength of character in Christ.
Fretting fuels the stormy tempest by venting passions and emotions; whereas, meekness restrains the stormy tempest of our emotions and our passions by commanding them “Peace. Be still.”
The fretful is too fearful and weak to trust God, so he allows his sinful emotions and passions to rule. But meekness gives us the strength and the courage to do battle and to overcome our sinful anger and our passions by trusting in the providence of almighty God.
The fretful person is filled with suspicions, doubts, and assumptions based on her emotions, and allows those imaginations to determine the course of action. Meekness, on the other hand, does not allow the mind to run away with vain imaginations and to dwell on thoughts that could inflame our volatile emotions and passions.
The fretful woman is always on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, continually up and down. The only thing consistent about her is that you never know what mood to expect. Whereas, meekness provides constancy and steady composure in spirit and frame of mind. It reflects the consistent stability of our Lord, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (click here for entire list)
So the Scripture says, “Fret not.”
- Don’t fret.
- Don’t get overheated.
- Trust in the Lord instead.
- Look up.
- Delight yourself in the Lord.
- Commit your way to the Lord.
- Be still before the Lord.
- Wait patiently for Him.
Then that wonderful verse 11: “The meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.”
Let me say, you may be doing all those things—trusting, delighting, committing, being still, and waiting patiently—and you think “I’m still not inheriting the land.” Let me tell you, if you are tethering yourself to the Lord, you will be inheriting the land. You may not have all the things of this earth, but you will have enough to be satisfied.
You will have abundance of peace in the midst of the storm. But you won’t have everything that your soul longs and waits for here and now, because some of that is yet to come.
Your circumstances may not change immediately. In fact, they may not change in this lifetime. That’s why we need not only to look up but to look ahead, to keep our eyes on the finish line.
That’s what we want to talk about in the next program as we continue to look at Psalm 37. Fret not, look up, and then look ahead.
O Father, how I pray that You would take our wild and wandering and up and down roller-coaster emotions and You would cause our hearts to be tethered not to any circumstances that can be changed, but to You. You are firm. You are constant. You are steady. You are faithful. You can be depended upon. May our hearts be connected, tied to You as we look up, as we look ahead and believe Your promises that the meek will inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. I pray it in Jesus’ name, amen.