Friday, November 13, 2015

Tough Faith

I've been reading through the Psalms for the past four days, and I will finish it in three days. Spending a week in the Psalms is one of the parts of my Bible reading schedule that I look forward to the most, as they are the praises and pleadings of God's children.

One phrase from the notes from my study Bible summed up one of the themes of Psalms: Tough faith will not let go. We see examples continually of the Psalmists when they're in the deepest valleys struggling with depression, despair, and discouragement. Their fears are real, and God knows that. He doesn't condemn them for their sorrow and hurt, but rather responds to their faith that would not let go. God brings them comfort and relief in Him--not necessarily relief and comfort by removing the difficult circumstances.

One of the first examples comes in Psalm 3, when David flees from his son Absalom.
O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. 
David was often in physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional trouble, and this setting is no different. Yet in the next two verses, he is instantly reminded of who God is, and he finds his salvation in God. Tough faith doesn't let go, but consciously reminds oneself of God's faithfulness. God met David where he was and provided strength even in the presence of his enemies.
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. 
Psalm 13:1-2 gives another example of David's pleas to God when he feels like he can't endure any longer:
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long mustI take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
 That's how David begins the Psalm, but because tough faith doesn't let go but rejoices in trusting God, he ends the Psalm very differently.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me. 
Psalm 27 shows the contrast of fear and faith in almost each line. Tough faith takes courage in God's past, present, and future protection and rests in the knowledge of a glorious future with Christ.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? ...Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident...For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock....I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
Psalm 35 is one of David's pleas to God for vindication from those who maliciously accuse him, but again David's tough faith won't let go, but chooses to rejoice in a God who will restore justice and righteousness for him.
Malicious witnesses rise up; they ask me of things that I do not know. They repay me evil for good; my soul is bereft....But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered; they gathered together against me; wretches whom I did not know tore at me without ceasing; like profane mockers at a feast, they gnash at me with their teeth....Vindicate me, O Lord, my God, according to your righteousness, and let them not rejoice over me! ...Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness and of your praise all the day long.
Psalm 71 is another lament by an unknown author. Here tough faith doesn't let go, and chooses to hope in a God who has always been greater than the discouragement of fear. 
O God, be not far from me; O my God, make haste to help me! May by accusers be put to shame and consumed; with scorn and disgrace may they be covered who seek my hurt. But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. Wiht the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.
But it was from on of the Psalms written by the sons of Korah that this phrase ("tough faith will not let go") comes from. Psalm 88 describes a person who is consumed with troubles so much so that even his closest friends avoid him. This isn't a Psalm that even "ends well", but rather describes the severe sorrow, pain, and discouragement that God's people often face. But even in the suffering tough faith will not let go, but chooses to continually cry out to God for mercy, refuge, and healing. 
You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape; my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you. 
Even in the troubles that overwhelmed his soul, tough faith chose to relentlessly pursue God through prayer. Each day he called upon God pleading with him through the darkness for salvation. 

Tough faith never gives up. 
Tough faith never loses heart. 
Tough faith never breaks faith. 
Even in the valleys. 

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