Jack Graham - Get Strife Out of Your Life
Strife and stress is a way of life for far too many people. It's what the psalmist calls in verse 1, "fretting," to fret. In fact 3 times in Psalm 37 he uses the word, "fret," verse 1, verse 7 and verse 8. "Fretting," what is it? It includes allot of emotions and that includes stress and worry and anxiety, fuming and fussing, fear, blaming, bullying, self-pitty, all of the above. It is fretting and fretting accomplishes absolutely nothing in our lives. Nothing! It will rob you of peace and joy and happiness and laughter. It will take away relationships. It can rob you of your health and even your sleep. The word fret or to fret here is a word which actually means to overheat, like a combustion, an internal combustion that takes place and then an explosion.
When I was a little guy my mother used to cook in a thing called a pressure cooker. Your grandparents know what a pressure cooker is. And it literally would heat from the pressure within. And she would cook beans particularly in there. And every now and then, it worked typically, but every now and then this thing would start whistling and rattling, and the next thing and explosion! And I would hear my mother scream. And I'd walk in and there were green beans all over the ceiling. Because that thing just finally blew up. There was so much heat on the inside, so much overload, over combustion, then came the explosion.
Well, that's the idea really that we have here about fretting. That we are overloaded and overwrought and overcome with pressures, with problems and people in our lives. That's stress, that's strife. It's been said that you can describe the average American with these three words: hurried, worried, buried! And strife and stress has become a kind of new normal in the way we live. It's like a virus and with all the technology that's been added to our lives and the expectations that we have in our culture right now, the heat is on and the stress is up. And I know I'm talking to many students today and you're young and you're just getting started, but even you are feeling some of the pressures of life, some of the uncertainties.
In fact, studies tell us that there's more depression and more anxiety among teenagers than ever before. So don't thing this is for somebody else, "This is for my dad, my mom who's a single mom who's having to raise the kids, and that's stress". Well, stress attacks all of us. And don't think it doesn't. Why? Because we're human. What do we stress about? What are we worried about? We fret about the future. We fret about finances. We fret about our families, our kids or our parents. We worry about our health, our employment, our unemployment or our under-employment. We worry when things are bad, and we even worry when things are good, thinking, "Okay, can't be good that long. Something else is coming. What's left to worry about"? And so we're striving. And we know we're living in a culture where there's so much division!
Our country is so deeply divided in these days, and we're seeing that detonate on social media in particular, and even to pour out in the streets as the political left and cultural left are practicing lawlessness and rebelliousness in the streets and breaking things and igniting things. We're seeing so much anger and so much rebellion and so much resistance in our culture. That's all stress related and strife related. And you know what? It's all futile and it's all foolish. Even Jesus said that. Jesus talked a lot about dealing with worries and anxieties. And He said, "Don't do it"! He said, "Don't worry about anything! Which one of you can add to your life by worrying about it"?
He said it is unprofitable for any of us to worry about anything. You can't change things simply by worrying about them. He also said it is unnecessary. He said, "Look at the birds of the air. The birds don't toil, they don't spin, they don't work, but the Father feeds them. And don't you know if God the Father cares about the birds, He cares about believers, He cares about you and me, His children". And so it's unnecessary and unprofitable. And it's unholy because Jesus said, "O ye of unbelief or little faith" because frankly when we are worrying, we're saying, "God, I don't know if You can handle this one or not. I don't know if I can trust You with this or not". We live one of two ways: we're either taking control ourselves, or we're giving control to God. And we're seeing an escalation of strife, an escalation of stress and worry and anger and all the rest of this because we are not practicing what the Bible tells us. And get the strife out of your life. That's what I want to talk about.
And Charles Spurgeon, a great preacher of yesteryear, said: "Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of it's strength". And that is so true! So in Psalm 37 we are given some active verbs that I'm going to point out to you, and these become actions, action steps, if you will; actions that we take to get the strife, the stress, the worry and its results out of our life. So look at verses 1 and following: "Fret not", there's our word. Don't boil over; don't blow up; don't stress out, "yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they shall soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb". And then he says here's how: "Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness".
I like that. Befriend faithfulness. Faithfulness is your friend. The faithfulness of God! You could also translate this feed on the faithfulness of God. But "Trust in the Lord, and do good". We trust in the one and the only one who is finally and forever faithful. "His mercies are new every morning"! And we lean into Him, and we lean on Him, trusting Him every single day! God is good, God is gracious, God is great! And there's nothing in your life that He can't handle! So you trust Him, knowing that even when you fail and fall, He's got you in the palm of His hand; He holds you. In fact, that's exactly what the psalmist said, if you'll scan down in the text to verses 23 and 24. Some of my favorite verse. "The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when He delights in His way". The steps, our steps are established or ordained by the Lord. Now we know that God directs our steps, right?
Proverbs 3:5-6: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don't lean unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge and he will direct your path or direct your steps". So it's good to know that God directs our steps. But this is a stronger word. Verse 23 of chapter 37. He ordains our steps, He establishes our steps. In other words, our steps are steady because God is in the details, as well as in the destinies of our lives. Every day God is guiding us and guarding our steps. In other words, there are no accidents with God. There are no circumstances out of His control. There are circumstances certainly out of our control, but there are no circumstances out of God's control! And whatever comes your way as a believer and follower of Jesus, it's not fate or luck or blind chance or the fortuitous conjunction of circumstances... ha! It's not just happening! If you are a believer God has you and He is holding you! Because look, verse 24 says, "though he fall".
Now it doesn't say if he falls. The presumption is there, "though he fall", though we slip and stumble and fall, and we all face failures. We all end up falling from time to time, "but he will not be cast headlong". In other words, you won't land on your head. It won't be a catastrophic, end-all fall for why? "The Lord upholds him with His hand". One of the great promises of the Bible for every believer is that God has you in His hand! That you have security and certainty in life because He's got you; He's holding you. Just as a parent, when you were a small child, would take hold of your arm and make sure if you fell, they would hold you up, God the Father has you right in the palm of His hand, and He's holding you by His strong right hand.
One of the great teachings of the Bible... okay, get ready for some great doctrinal, theological truth. One of the great teachings of the Bible is that the believer, the born-again, bonafide believer in Jesus Christ can never fall out of salvation! We are preserved forever! In fact, some of those verses that teach that are right here in this scripture. "For the Lord loves justice; He will not forsake His saints". That's you! If you are a believer, you are His child; you are a saint of God. And notice, they are preserved how long? Forever! So when you are born into the family of God, you can no longer ever cease to be a child of God. And that's a great truth we can talk about a long time, but I want you to nail that down in your heart and in your head, that as believers our salvation is preserved by the hand of God forever. He holds us.
Jesus said, "No one will pluck them out of My Father's hand". You say, "Well, the devil, he's pretty strong. Can he get me"? Don't you know if he could he would? Ha! If he could he would! But he cannot because we are in the omnipotent grip of God! And in life when we stumble, when we fall, when we slip, look there are various kinds of failures and falls in our life. We may fall into some kind of a catastrophic trial or crisis. It comes out of nowhere, blind-sides us! The Bible says "we fall into various trials". We're going down the road, we're having a good day, and bam! We're in a trial. That's a fall. It could be a spiritual fall or failure.
Perhaps we're not living up to God's call in our lives. It's called backsliding. We're slipping backwards. We're not growing in our faith. Or maybe we're not spending time in prayer like we promised God. Maybe we're not being faithful to God in His Word as we promised. We're not getting in church and serving God in the family of God. That can be a spiritual failure and fall. We can slip and fall. And then, of course, there's moral failure. When we disobey the laws of God, and we fall into moral sin or moral failure. You say, "It couldn't happen to me". Sure, it can! I used to keep a little sign on my desk when I was a college student that said, "He who would not fall down should not walk in slippery places". You get too close to the edge, close to the fire, you're going to get burned.
So while the Lord is there to hold us and help us when we fall, and to lift us up again, you don't want to tempt the hand of God. "Let him who stands take heed, lest he fall". So you need to protect yourself and make sure that you're walking with God and keeping your eyes focused on Him, because if you don't, failure is sure to come. But when you go down, when you go down, whatever the circumstances, Jesus is there to pick you up. He's a Father who loves us, and we can trust in Him.
So there's trusting. Secondly, here's the next action you take. You want to get strife out of your life? It's trusting God, it's giving Him control of your life. Before we move on, there are two options in your life. Either I trust in myself or I trust in God. And I guarantee you if you will get up every single day and say these four words: "I trust you, God! I trust you, Jesus. I trust you, God"! And say it again when you face confrontations or strife or struggles or slippage in your life. Say it again. "I trust you, God"! In fact, everybody, students, I want you lead the way, on three! One, two, three! "I trust you, God"! It's a simple thing but so powerful! And you'll see just the stress melt out of your life when you begin to say it and live it. "Trust in the Lord and do good". There's an old hymn that says "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey".
So then, there's delighting, look at verse 4. It says: "Delight yourself in the Lord". I often sign this verse with my name. It says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart". Now, students in particular, and really everybody, but I learned this and memorized it as a young student. To delight myself in God and that He would impart in me the desires of my heart. This doesn't mean, you know, delight in God; He's going give you anything and everything you want. That's not what it's saying. But it's saying when you delight yourself in God, when you find your happiness, your fulfillment, your joy in Him, then He fills your heart and fulfills your desires. He puts in your heart the right and righteous desires of a lifetime.
Happiness is in Him! That's what I learned as a young student. I used to think like some of you. Maybe you're 13 or 14, and I really thought about this a lot then truly. I'm thinking about, as I'm getting a little older and I'm thinking about, you know, everybody having fun. They're not Christians. They're not really living a Christian life. And I don't want to be, you know, I want to be popular; I want to be in the in-group; I want people to like me; I want to get on the team; I want to be invited to the parties. If I become a Christian, if I really sell out to follow Christ, I was a Christian, but I'm thinking if I really live for Jesus, I'll be unhappy and miserable. If I really do the will of God, it would be the worst decision I ever made. But I learned that the opposite is true. That there is incredible happiness in loving and living for the Lord! Right?
Don't feel sorry for me because I'm a Christian! I've been living for the Lord a long time now, and it's the greatest life imaginable! And God has done exceedingly, abundantly above all that I could have ever dreamed or asked from Him! Delighting yourself in the Lord means find your fulfillment in Him! Desire Him! Delight in Him )Psalm 16:11) It says, "In your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore". Psalm 84:11: "The Lord our God is a sun and a shield; he gives grace and glory. And no good thing will he withhold from them who walk uprightly". If it's wholesome, if it's holy, if it's good, if it's godly, if it is enjoyable from Him, He wants you to have it. Delight yourself in the Lord and He'll give you the desires of your heart. He'll give you everything in life you need and even more than you want when it comes from Him. Delighting.
And then the next action is committing. Verse 5, back in chapter 37... Psalm 37, verse 5. Look at it: "Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act". Now the idea of commit is stronger than even to trust. )Hang with me!) Stronger than the word trust. Trust is simple faith; child-like faith. To commit is to submit; it is to give your life unconditionally to God! It means that you are committed. Like a husband and wife stand before one another at an altar and they make promises, and they commit their lives to one another. The idea is to make a deposit. If you were walking around with a $100,000 in your pocket, you would be a nervous wreck. I would. You might carry a weapon to protect it. You'd be making sure that it was still there.
Talk about strife and stress in your life. All this gets piled up in your life and you're trying to protect your stuff. But if you take that $100,000 and you deposit it in a bank then somebody else is taking care of it; you don't have to worry about it. It's deposited; it's committed. That's what the Bible is saying here. That's what God is telling us. That you can commit your life, your possessions, your everything to God and He will take care of you and everything that you have. Commitment. Students, it means taking hands off your life and truly letting God have it, and to commit. For some of you that means to follow Jesus for the first time, to come to the cross. He died for you, He rose again on the third day! That's the Gospel!
And some of you have yet to commit your life to follow Jesus Christ. We're going to give you an opportunity in just a moment to do that. For others, you are a believer but you're not all that committed! You see, that's why I'm saying this is stronger word! "Commit you way to the Lord". It means to give yourself unconditionally. Back to when I made my first commitment to the call of God on my life, they were singing a song at our student camp which said, "I take hands off my life". And that's what this is talking about. It's saying, "God, I'm taking hands off my life. I am surrendering. I am submitting. I am committing my life to You".
Pray a prayer like this: Lord, Your will anywhere, anytime, any cost! That's commitment! It's laying your life on the altar of devotion and dedication to Him. Lord, Your will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. That's the commitment we're reading about here. Say, "Lord, here am I"! That's what Isaiah the prophet said. God called him to be a prophet. The prophet said, "Lord, here am I". Now he didn't say, "Lord, here I am. Aren't you luck, God, you got me. Lord, here I am". No, in humility he said, "Lord, here am I. I give myself, my life to you". Would you do that? There's one final action that we take and that is resting, or waiting on God. Resting and waiting on God.
Do you see it there in verse 6? "He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him". Be still, be quiet. This is why we need worship every week. This is why we need to take time in our day to be quiet. Psalm 46:10: "Be still and know that I am God", fret not yourself. You'll see your life calm down. "And quietness and strength is your confidence," the psalmist said. The serenity and calmness. I have a friend who says that's the key to life. And I see it in his life even through some storms. And in particular, he's talking about when we're being still and being quiet in particular when people are attacking us. That's what the psalmist is saying.
You know you look at people and they're coming after us, and they're doing the wrong thing, and you're trying to do the right thing. And you wonder is this really working? It seems that the evil people are prospering, that they're getting where they want; they're running over people. They don't have integrity; they don't have character, and yet, they seem to be getting, you know, they're getting all the dates, or they're invited to all the parties. Maybe you're a young person or even a single adult, and you're trying, you're living a life of purity and faithfulness to God in your morals and in your commitment to your future marriage. And you're doing the right thing, and others around you are not. And they seem to be rewarded and they seem to be so happy and so fulfilled and so excited about life.
And you know, you're just not getting there, and you're wondering is it ever going to happen? Well, let me remind you that there is another day coming and that's what the psalmist, you can read this when you get home. But he's saying, look, payday's not on Friday. You may see that people are climbing to the top over the backs of others and hurting people. Maybe you've been hurt, maybe someone has stepped on you, maybe someone has cut you out, maybe someone is shutting you out right now. But you wait on God! You do the right thing! You trust in God's word! You obey God even when anybody else, everybody else is not obeying God! You be willing to stand even if you stand alone, and you wait on God to come through and in God's time I promise you He'll come through for you. Rest in the Lord. His time, your time is coming. Get the strife out of your life by trusting, by delighting, by committing, and by waiting, resting in Him.