The story goes that a court jester went too far one day and insulted the king. The king became so infuriated that he sentenced the jester to death. The King’s court pleaded with the king to have mercy for this man who had served him well for many years. After a time, the king relented enough to give the jester his "choice" as to how he would like to die. The jester considered his choices and finally responded, "if it's all the same to you my Lord, I'd like to die of old age."
Your choice is not how you are going to die, the choice God gives you is how are you going to live? That’s what the Psalms are all about! How are you going to live? What is the tone of your life? the mood? What direction to walk.
The book of Psalms speaks to our hearts, our emotions. I affirm the basic truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ: there is only one way to salvation, Jesus Christ died on the cross to forgive our sins… and our emotions are a major part of the equation that determines the quality and character of our lives.
This first Psalm declares there are only two choices: a path that leads to happiness or a path that leads to destruction/ the godly vs. the ungodly/ righteousness vs. wickedness. If you are struggling with your faith/life, trying to figure out what direction to go, understand there are really only two choices. We make things complicated ~ but it isn’t. Later many Psalms deal with a myriad of frustrations such as wanting to know why the wicked prosper, why is there evil, thoughts of depression, anger, remorse, guilt, sadness, hopelessness but at the outset in Psalm 1 the truth is firmly rooted that there are only two choices. Satan complicates. Christ simplifies. When your emotions start to overwhelm you and complicate your world, when your mind start down a thousand “what if” possibilities, go back to the basic truth that there are only two options: as Jesus said, you are either for me or against me. Don’t make the world so complex: choose good or choose evil. Happiness is found by those who choose God!
My mother fell this week, broke her pelvis, facing 8 weeks of recovery, nobody is more happy than my mother, while frustrated with herself, nobody is more content. She is my hero. How can she be happy? She could fully recover, or this could be a game changer for the rest of her life, and that’s ok. Happiness is a choice ~ what happens to us and how we respond are so different. My mother has the contentedness of a life long believer in Jesus Christ who has chosen to trust no matter what. She’s already had about 53 years of walking after being stricken by polio in 1961 ~ more is desirable, but no matter what happens, she is walking with God. Happiness is a choice. Choose the way of God! How?
READ Ps. 1:1. Look around! There are only two ways we can be influenced. Either we are influenced with godly influence, or with ungodly influence. How are we being influenced? What/who are we allowing to influence us? To shape us? If you cannot be strong around certain people or places, the counsel is to stay away from those place. The classic joke: “Doc, I broke my arm in two places. ” Doc: “Stay away from those places.” In order to live a life of righteousness look around at who is influencing you. Maybe the people who you consider to be good aren’t good influences. I like the story of the company who hired a consultant to improve efficiency and called a meeting of all the workers. Stressing the need to listen to experts, the consultant said, “Imagine you’re on the Titanic, and it’s sinking. You climb into a lifeboat. Which direction would you row?”/// Then he asked, “What if you had the ship’s navigator with you? Now which way would you go? You’d row the way the navigator told you to, right?” There were murmurs of agreement until one fellow in the back piped up, “Well, I don’t know. He’s already hit one iceberg!”
Look around. Who is influencing you? At this church we want to influence people to go in the way of God, the way of righteousness. I want to be a godly influence to people. I want you to be a godly influence. People have a choice, but only one way leads ultimately to happiness. In verse 1 notice the progression of life’s journey: Walk, Stand, Sit. Walking implies looking around, standing means soaking in more of your surroundings, sitting implies to be settled in, to have determined the structure of your life. Don’t be influenced by the wicked, sinners and mockers the Bible says. Walking with the wicked leads to standing with the sinners leads to sitting with the mockers. The choice of the ungodly leads to a downward spiral of flirting with the wicked as you walk along, standing with sinners in solidarity, to sitting with the mockers as a way of life.
Contrast Ps. 1:2 READ. Two choices: you can choose to walk the path of the ungodly, or choose to embrace the Word of God. Where your mind dwells is what shapes your life. Look around, who is influencing your walk, your stand, your sit? Is it the wicked, sinners, mockers, OR God? “Delight” is an emotion. Delight in being obedient to God. Live daily with God, walking in his ways, standing in solidarity with him, sitting in his presence as a joy. “Meditate day and night” so that thoughts of the Lord are constantly in your mind, your decisions are based on what God wants from you, and frankly what you expect from God. That is part of thinking in a godly way. I like the way one man puts it: “…I urge you to make the most of your walk with the Lord! Don’t be a careless Christian who lives day by day with no thought of a deeper walk with Christ. I would seriously question my salvation if I did not feel and sense God’s presence from time to time…. I would seriously question where I stand with God if I did not desire anything of the Lord.”
Psalm 1 is a plea for a deeper, more solid, more productive walk with God. The person who has a close walk with God is called Blessed! How to embrace the way of God as your choice? Look around and also…
Look within! Those who choose the way of God are changed in character. Whoever influences you from the outside, helps transform who you are in the inside: READ Ps. 1:3: What are you becoming? Two choices, walk/stand/sit in the way of God and you come “Like a tree planted in streams of water” but walk in the way of ungodly and Psalm 1:4 says, READ.
Look Inside your heart. Ask yourself, “what kind of person am I becoming?”
The person who delights in God’s Word will become like a tree planted by the rivers of water. There are three signs of a healthy spirit and renewed life:
1) Fruitful. Do you produce fruit? When you choose to walk in the way of righteousness, you will be a fruitful person. What is a fruitful person? John Piper describes them, “They are refreshing and nourishing to be around. You go away from them fed. You go away strengthened. You go away with your taste for spiritual things awakened. Their words are healing and convicting and encouraging and deepening and enlightening. Being around them is like a meal.” Is that you?
2) Are you durable? Consistent? The person who chooses to stand with God is like a leaf that shall not wither. The hot winds may blow, and the rain does not fall. As the Summer turns to the heat of August and my grass dries up, I enjoy sitting in the back year listening to the leaves of my ash tree flutter in the breeze, my favorite tree. And I enjoy so much looking at the green of the leaves… The leaf is contrasted with chaff in Ps. 1:4… The person who has chosen the way of God is planted in God’s Word ~ you will find endurance. While other people are withering away, you remain nourished, strong and vibrant in faith.
3) Prosperous. The person who chooses to sit in the counsel of God will be successful. Whatever he does shall prosper. The older I get the less things mean to me… Prosperous means far more than earthly wealth. Prosperous, in the godly sense, means to have your spiritual cup full, to be content in all circumstances, to discover peace and satisfaction. There is an old joke about shooting an arrow at the side of a barn, painting circles around it and declaring you got the bull’s eye! There is actually, in my mind, a reality to that. When I am walking with the Lord, the details of my life may take unexpected twists and turns, but whatever happens is a bull’s eye because I have found God to be so amazing that what happens to me is not important. He who has found the Lord is wealthy!
You have two choices: the way of God or the way of the world. Walk, stand, sit with God and you will be transformed into a fruitful, durable and prosperous person.
Christianity is a chosen way of life! Christianity is not like a new diet that you try and modify of give up if it doesn’t work for you. To choose the Lord is to be committed expecting every aspect of your life to be effected. Do you want to walk in the way of the Lord Jesus Christ? Two choices. Yes or no. Say YES to Christ! What you need to do to stay focused on Christ as a way of life: Look around you at who is influencing you. Look within at what you are becoming. And finally, Look ahead for what is coming.
READ Ps. 1:5-6. This puts everything in perspective. God promises a future ~ a day of judgment is coming! “What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see, and I look upon his face, the one who saved me by his grace, when he takes me by the hand, and leads me to the promised land, what a day, glorious day, that will be.” The present may be difficult, but the future is glorious for those who choose to worship the Lord Jesus Christ and live for him. How can we be positive in a gloomy world? We know the end of the story, the day of judgment in which the Lord will redeem those who love him and want to spend eternity with him.
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ changes the way you think, forms your values ~ what is most important ~ directs your emotions. One thing we will discover this Summer as we go through a few of the Psalms is that every emotion is common even to those who choose the way of God. Sadness, depression, confusion, doubt, anger…, are not removed, but for those who choose God, we never need to be consumed by our dark moods. In the next month I am planning on reading through all the Psalms ~ 3 a day ~ (let me know if you want to join me in this 30 day challenge and we can be accountable to each other). I am pretty sure that no matter how much negative thinking the writer expresses, every Psalm moves towards a high note, every Psalm includes the perspective of trusting in God… The Christian life does not mean putting on a happy face. The Christian life means we never have to be consumed by our moods, because no matter how the world looks, trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ means there is always HOPE!
Psalm 1 starts us out with the declaration to choose the way of the Lord! Choose God. Look around at who is influencing you. Look within to see the shape of your character. Look ahead ~ Jesus Christ is coming again. Amen.