sad young manA young man lay in his bed. He had lain there for some time now. He sighed dejectedly, rolled over, lay there some more, and then reached for the remote. Turning toward the TV, he grabbed the legs of his pajamas to adjust himself to a more comfortable position and turned on the television. He flipped through the stations until he came to a soccer game. He loved soccer. He watched for a while.

As he watched the players running and kicking the ball, he began to think about his legs. “If only I could run like that….” he thought. He sighed and flipped the channels… Animal planet. That works. He watched for a while. Hmmm… a dog show… The owners walked their dogs around in a big ring. Soon they broke out into a trot. Glancing at his legs and grunting in frustration, the young man quickly flipped the TV off and threw the remote across the room.

After a time, he sat up. He propped himself up on some pillows so that he could see out the window, adjusted his legs, and gazed outside. He had a clear view of the playground at the elementary school where the children were at recess. He watched them for a few minutes, climbing on the monkeybars, skipping, playing hopscotch, playing tag, giggling and laughing delightedly. The young man sighed, shook his head, and turned away.

– ♦ ♦ ♦ –

What do you think of my little parable so far? Are you wondering what infirmity the young man may be suffering from? Are you perhaps feeling some compassion for him? Some pity? …Well, I will let you in on a little secret. There is nothing wrong with the young man’s legs.

I’ll tell you more about what is really troubling the young man a little later, but for now, tuck the image of that young man into a corner of your brain. Meanwhile, consider with me the words of Psalm 37:

1 Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
2 For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.

7 Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
8 Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
9 For evildoers will be cut off,
But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.

I don’t know about you, but this is one of my favorite Psalms. Every time I read it, I seem to glean something new. Did you notice the contrast between the plight of the evil man and the righteous one? The psalmist points out that although those who do evil may prosper, their prosperity is only temporary. God will have justice in the end. The evil man will be cut off and wither away like grass, but those who place their trust in the Lord will receive their reward from Him.

Let me draw your attention to another contrast, a more subtle one. The psalmist also draws a contrast between two responses from righteous men, men who know the Lord, men who see those evil ones gain their wealth through corruption and ungodly gain, men who have experienced injustice.

One man chooses to focus on the world around him. He does not understand why good people are suffering while those who do wrong are prospering. He forgets that the prosperity of the wicked is only temporary. He looks around him and he gets angry.

The other man chooses to focus on the Lord. Now this man also sees the evil around him. He also suffers from injustice. But while the first man allows his anger to turn into bitterness that threatens to poison his soul, the second settles in for the long haul, looking for opportunities to do what is right and good, all the while quietly waiting for the Lord to bring about true justice.

The first man lives as if God is distant and separated from the events around him; the second man lives as if God is walking beside him every step of the way.

Let’s look a little closer at this Psalm and see whether we can discover the secret of the man who walks with God.

First, he heeds the psalmist’s admonition not to fret:

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.

Do you ever fret over your circumstances?
Do you ever compare yourself to others or your situation to someone else’s?
Ever find yourself feeling envious of what others have?
Do you get angry about it?

You see, the Hebrew word here for fret is charah and it is not talking about simply being worried or concerned about an injustice. It’s talking about burning with anger–not righteous indignation–but envy and jealousy. We are talking about, “It’s not fair. Why am I here trying to do right and getting nothing for it while those people over there who are full of sin are reaping all the rewards?” The picture here is of the person who spends his time comparing himself to others and allowing his anger to fester. This is a person who frets.

But did you notice…? This is not an unbeliever we’re talking about. This is a believer – someone who knows the Lord. You see, the Psalmist is not telling the unrighteous man not to fret. He is talking to the one who knows the Lord, but who has his focus over there on those other people and those other circumstances. Do not fret! …the psalmist says… Don’t go that way!

You’ll notice… the psalmist doesn’t linger on that first picture. He quickly turns the other way. “Don’t waste your time on fretting,” he says. “Look at what is in store for you if you turn this way.”

Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.

“Trust in the Lord,” he says, “Place your bold confidence in Him. And then put your faith into action. Do what is good! Don’t follow the example of those evildoers!”

The NIV translates that next phrase, “dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” But I like the way the New American Standard version says it, “Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” The image of a farmer working the fields is a powerful picture of trust. No farmer can cause his crops to grow. But he can trust that if he does his part to plow and plant and water and fertilize – that God will also do his part, and cause the crops to grow.

I want to share with you, though, the picture the psalmist had in mind is an even more intimate one. You see, the Hebrew word translated cultivate has more the connotation of cultivating a relationship than of a farmer cultivating the ground. When the Psalmist said, “Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness,” in essence he was saying, “Settle in for the long haul and make faith your constant companion.”

What does trust look like in your life?
Do you trust in the Lord?
If you do, is your trust more than a word?

You see, the kind of trust pictured here is an active trust. It is the kind of trust that goes into action to do its part, trusting that the Lord will also do His part.

And there’s more… the psalmist tells us:

Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.

What does he mean? Is God promising to give you anything you want? What does delighting in the Lord have to do with trusting in the Lord?

The Hebrew word which we translate delight means to be soft. Soften yourself in the Lord. Soften your heart toward Him.

Think about that for a minute… can you really say you trust someone if you don’t break down your walls and let him in? You say that you trust the Lord… have you let Him come in past your barricades?

The psalmist says that when you do, “…He will give you the desires of your heart.” Not your passing fancies, but your deepest longings. Acceptance. Unconditional love. Security. Purpose. Personal Value. Meaning for your life. A place your soul can rest.

Commit your way to the LORD,

Your way is your journey. It’s the road before you and the next step you will take. And the next. And the next. So often, this is where our burden becomes heavy. What am I to do? Where am I to go? How will we ever manage? The Hebrew word for commit is to roll. He is saying, “Roll that burden off your shoulders and right over to the feet of the Lord.”

Trust also in Him. And He will do it.

Did you catch that? He will do it.
Surrender it to Jesus. Let Him do it through you. And then… rest in the Lord.

The psalmist says,

Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him;

It sounds easy, doesn’t it? It’s not. You know a more literal translation of this verse might read:

Be still and silent before the Lord as you writhe in anguish before Him.

The word chul translated wait patiently is used to describe being in labor to give birth. Why would the psalmist paint such a difficult picture? Because he knew that when you are in anguish, the best place to be is in the presence of the Lord.

The psalmist knew,

– when he had put his trust in the Lord and determined to do what was right,
– when he had softened His heart toward the Lord and let the Lord in past his protective barricades,
– when he had given over his burdens to the Lord as a part of his daily journey,
– when he had done his part in trusting the Lord,

he knew the Lord would also do His part.

The psalmist knew that when he was writhing in anguish because of his circumstances, there was no place he would rather be than still and silent in the presence of the Lord, waiting patiently to see what the Lord would bring out of it.

Now I promised you we would return to the little parable I shared with you at the beginning of my sermon. You may have been wondering, “If there was nothing wrong with the young man’s legs, why would he lie there and fret? Why wouldn’t he get up and walk? Why wouldn’t he run? Why wouldn’t he go learn to play soccer? What is really wrong with him?”

Let me ask you a question… Why do you and I fret over our circumstances?

The young man in my story chose to fret rather than choosing to trust that his legs would carry him. Because he did not trust, he did not act. Instead he convinced himself that his situation was hopeless and resigned himself to immobility.

How often do we choose to fret, rather than choosing to trust?
How often are we paralyzed by fear or atrophied by inaction because we do not trust?

Trust is more than a word.
Trust requires action.

You have a choice before you. Will you fret? Or will you cultivate an attitude of trust in the Lord?

If you choose to cultivate an attitude of trust, you will have to purposefully work at it. Allow the Lord to break up the hard, fallow ground of your heart. Tear down the barricades. Soften your heart toward the Lord. Let Him carry your burdens as you walk along the way. Make faith your constant companion. And cultivate an attitude of trust in the Lord.


Pastor Cindy

[adapted from a sermon originally preached February 7, 2010]

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