Luke 21:34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life…”
As I have been seeking the Lord and spending time in His Word, in prayer and in worship, I am being reminded through various passages of our need to be lifted up above our problems and troubles. If we are not careful, our hearts will be and do get weighed down by the anxieties, burdens, cares and troubles of this life. This can and does cripple many people. And it robs them of the peace and joy and life God wants for us to have.
We have to learn to live above and be lifted above our problems. Notice I didn’t say we need to find a way to live free of problems. I hate to break it to you, (and I probably don’t have to!) but in this life we are not going to escape troubles and problems. Rather we need to learn to trust God and look to God and experience His peace and joy even in the midst of troubles surrounding us. We need to focus on His character, not be consumed by our troubles. Pray for deliverance, but you can be delivered in the midst of your problems, before God delivers you out of your problems. This is the key element missing in many of our lives. We are missing peace and joy in the midst of our troubles because we fail to see God in the midst of our troubles. We are waiting for Him to deliver us out, but not focusing on Him delivering us through and in the midst of. But listen to what David (a man who knew what it was to have problems and troubles on every side!) writes in Psalm 3:
Psalm 3 “O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” Selah
(Everything in the natural looked bleak, hopeless and overwhelming).
“But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.
“ Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.”
Notice David had troubles all around him. He was surrounded on every side. And his foes rising up against him and drawn up against him on every side were vast and overwhelming. Yet in the midst of this and in the midst of David praying for deliverance, David could say His heart was at peace and that he could lie down and sleep. In the midst of being outnumbered, overpowered and overwhelmed, David said the Lord was sustaining Him and was a shield around Him. God was protecting him and preserving him and providing for Him even though all seemed against him and there seemed to be no hope for him! Do we have that kind of faith, trust and rest in the Lord? Do we have that kind of spiritual vision? Can we see with the eyes of our heart the Lord shielding us, sustaining us and strengthening us, even when we feel weak, feel like we can’t endure anymore and feel completely vulnerable?
We need to learn to not only seek God for deliverance, but see God in the midst of our problems before we are delivered out. We need to learn to cry out for deliverance, but not get distracted by all that is against us. We need to set our heart on seeking Him and seeing His glory no matter what troubles surround us and we are facing. Notice this dynamic in Psalm 27:
Psalm 27 “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? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.
“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.
“Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence.
“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
Do you see David’s focus? Do you see his heart? Do you see his trust in the Lord? Do you see that in the midst of trouble and trial he set His heart to seek the Lord and see the beauty of the Lord? In the midst of being surrounded on every side by enemies, he trusted the Lord to keep him safe and give him victory over his enemies. He trusted God would exalt him above and over the enemies that surrounded him! He anticipated the victory. He committed to praise God for the victory. This was a man of faith. He didn’t wait till he was delivered to trust God, He trusted God before being delivered.
And he wasn’t distracted by or consumed by all these troubles. In the midst of all this, He set His heart, His gaze, his desire on the Lord. He wanted to see the beauty, the glory of the Lord. He had a passion and hunger to know Him even more than a desire to even be delivered. He didn’t just pray to God to help him, he prayed to God because he desired Him. Do we truly desire God? Is the passion of our heart to gaze on His beauty or simply have a better life? Do we desire fellowship with Him or simply freedom from problems?
Here’s a secret. You can know true freedom even in the midst of troubles on every side and all around you. That freedom is found in fellowship with God. When you abide in Him and hide yourself in Him (read Psalm 91), you will know freedom, peace and joy. That is how we get lifted above and over our problems, even in the midst of our problems. Don’t wait to praise God and seek God and focus on God until He delivers you from your present problems. You are going to constantly have troubles. If you focus on the troubles, you will be consumed by them. But if you focus on the Lord He will consume you with His love and mercy and grace and faithfulness and glory and beauty. And He will then consume your enemies as you worship Him and delight in His presence.
Psalm 34:1-8 says: “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”
I was reading Ezekiel chapter 1 today. It contains some things (a vision) that sounds very strange to our human ears. But there is a beauty and awe in the vision Ezekiel has of God that blessed my heart and spirit. But one of the things that struck me was how Ezekiel saw “visions of God” while among the exiles of his people who had been taken captive. The situation and circumstances couldn’t have been worse. Yet it was in the midst of this that Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord.
Some of the most meaningful times I have had in relationship with God have been in seasons of trial, trouble, darkness and seeming hopelessness. God wants us living in that reality of seeing His glory and being lifted up and above our circumstances and situations. He wants us to see His goodness and beauty in the midst of trials and troubles and difficulties. His light shines the brightest in the deepest darkness. But we must seek Him. We must focus on Him. We must set our hearts on Him. We must look up, to be lifted up. Acknowledge what is around you, but don’t let it distract you and weigh your heart down.
Colossians 3:1-4 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.