Ever feel like you are just out of gas. You just don’t know how much is left in your tank, but there is more on your list, more to accomplish, more responsibilities. Listen to the cry of King David: Read Ps. 4:1. Distress, tension, trouble. Who cannot relate? As I was considering this scripture I got an e-mail with bad news [changed name] Jane is extremely sick. Her breast cancer has returned, it has metastasized, and she has lesions in her brain. She won’t be returning to work and she probably won’t be fighting it. Stress in the extreme.
Before we look at today’s scripture, a story showing that God uses stress to shape us. Your character/strength is determined by how you handle the stress, how you handle yourself when you don’t have the monet for degas to make the Van Gough. The story comes from a book one of you kindly gave me, “Monday’s with My Old Pastor” by Jose Luis Navajo….
One day there was a peasant who asked God if he could rule over nature, so that it would produce better crops for Him. And God granted his wish! From that moment on, when the peasant wanted a light rain, it happened; when he asked for sunshine, the celestial king of the sky shone in all it’s splendor; if he needed water, it rained harder.
But when the time of harvest came, his surprise and shock was great, because it was a complete failure. Upset and angry, he asked God why the experiences had ended that way. Why did the crop turn out bad, since he had asked for what he thought was perfect weather?
God answered him, “You asked for what you wanted, but in reality that wasn’t what was needed. You never asked for a storm, and those are necessary to cleanse the sowing of the seeds, to scare away the birds and animals that destroy it, and to purify it from the pestilence that are very destructive.
Some of you are asking God for the wrong thing: Lord, take away my problems so that life will be easy and my world will be perfect. God uses the storms to shape you, to hone you, to build a strength of character. Let the Lord provide the weather he chooses in your life, and ask him to help you through it.
~ When you feel like you are running on empty, express confidence in God.
David is bold in addressing God even as he feels as though he is running on empty: READ Ps. 4:1. David is almost demanding, “Listen up God! Hear me!” David demands an active response from God. We do not have to approach God in a passive “if you feel like it God” cross your fingers and hope God hears. David approaches God with a bold expectation that God will hear and respond.
Be confident that God will hear your prayers. Bill Hybels tells about his father, a busy man, who traveled the world. To talk to him, you had to go through his staff first. But he had a private number that rang the phone on his desk without having to go through anyone else. Only a few select people had that number, including his children. No matter how busy he was, they could call him any time on that direct line. Hybels says, “No one's voice sounds sweeter to God than your voice. ‘Hello, Father.’ There's nothing going on in the cosmos that would keep him from directing his full attention to your conversation or your request.” David got that. David had a bold expectation that God would hear him. He had the audacity to say, “Listen up, God!” and to expect that God would actually listen.
God not only listens, but David also has confidence God answers! “Answer me! Respond!” David expects God to answer his prayer ~ it’s the first word of the Psalm, to come through again and help him refill the tank. David has a bold confidence in God, that God would listen and that God would answer his prayer.
~ When you are running on empty, respond in honesty to those who are in error.
When you are running on empty, often the problem is people, the demands, the false accusations, the unreasonable expectations, the criticisms, the stress… Something unusual takes place in this Psalm. Most of the Psalms are a prayer to God, but half of this Psalm is addressed to the people who seem to be causing the stress. READ Ps. 4:2-5.
A question, a fact and an invitation: The statement: READ Ps. 4:2. “How long?” David seems to be running out of patience. Growing up, the Crouse kids got used to a certain sound from my father when he would grow impatient with us: (sigh). This is David’s sigh. He is weary. The problem is going on and on and he is losing his patience. The problem is that the people who are bugging him are not honest. I’ve told the story before about a young fellow who went about town slandering the town’s wise man. One day, he went to the wise man’s home and asked for forgiveness. The wise man, realizing that this he would forgive him on one condition: go home, take a feather, cut it up, and scatter the feathers to the wind. After he had done so, he should then return to the wise man’s house. Though puzzled by this strange request, the young man was happy to be let off with so easy a penance. He cut up the pillow, scattered the feathers, and returned to the house. “Am I now forgiven?” he asked.“Just one more thing,” the wise man said. “Go now and gather up all the feathers.” “But that’s impossible. The wind has already scattered them.”“Precisely,” he answered. “And though you may truly wish to correct the evil you have done, it is as impossible to repair the damage done by your words as it is to recover the feathers. Even though the feathers cannot all be gathered again, Ps. 4:2-5 is David’s answer. The first thing is to stop doing what you are doing. When my father would sigh, we knew it was time to stop whatever we were doing that was annoying him. It’s deeper than just the enemies of David annoying him, they are actually dragging his name through the mud: “How long will turn my glory into shame.” This is about David’s reputation. David also charges them with loving false words and seeking after lies. Ps. 4:2b They are delusional. They love what is empty and worthless. Honestly confronting the situation when you are running on empty is part of becoming spiritually recharged.
There is also another subtle truth in this verse. Part of being honest is keeping things in perspective. I never once get the sense David is believing the smearing of his reputation. Somebody in the RV Park handed me a quote two days ago from John Wooden that they appreciated: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think.” Make sense? (somebody tell Marilyn I used her quote). I don’t like being smeared, but I try hard to keep a healthy perspective. This week somebody tried to warn me about this church and said we should be careful about a certain situation. I told the person we have never ever ever been a part of the concern. He told me he’d heard it from 2-3 sources. I told him I didn’t care who said it, but it wan’t true. People will always say stuff, it is annoying, tiring, discouraging at times, frustrating, but keep it in perspective. Your character is far more important than your reputation, and in the long run your character is what will shine through. When you are running on empty, I suspect that more often than not part of your problem is weariness from falsehoods of what people are saying….
Ps. 4:3 is a statement of fact to the slanderers. READ. God responds to the faithful. Remember that David’s name is being dragged through the mud. His honor has been turned to shame. It probably looks like everyone has abandoned him. But David reminds his enemies (and reminds himself) that God has not turned his back. When somebody expresses weariness about what other people are saying my counsel: Hold Your Head High! Don’t fight, don’t argue, don’t become a detective…
David issues a bold challenge: READ Ps. 4:4. David calls for repentance from his enemies. We cannot force others to change their heart, but we can have high hopes. David is being slandered, but he has high hopes the slanderers will change. If that doesn’t put a dose of fuel into your tank I don’t know what will… David is going on the offensive, not only about himself, but wanting the best for those who are against him. It’s a very good day when an enemy turns into a friend! Amen?
David is honest about the situation causing stress as he talks to the problem people. He keeps a healthy perspective. He holds his head high. And he challenges his enemies to change.
~ When you are running on empty, speak boldly to God, honestly face your enemies, and you will find peace in God. READ Ps. 4:6-8.
Ps. 4:6 is a short sighted way of finding peace. David does not want this limited peace. It’s a peace that says I will be at rest when good things happen to me. “Who can show us any good?” is a way of saying, “what’s in it for me.” We hear that all the time ~ people reject God because there are bad things in the world. The level of their depression rises or falls with the level of stress. “Let the light of your face shine upon us, O God.” This is short sighted because life is not about perfect weather, healthy crops need storms. we do not always have a full tank of gas, enough money, sometimes we do not know how we’ll make it through the day, yet we need the peace of God.
I met an amazing woman this week, I cannot tell her story because it is hers, too profound, you would not believe me if I told you the depth of the horror of her world, yet her face is like the brilliance of the sun, she has a warm and inviting smile that reflects the depth of an inner peace in the Lord Jesus Christ. She told me she has been to this church, I don’t remember her, she’s been to the Clothesline, I can’t even pronounce her name, and she told me she has never been to a better church, and she prayed to the Lord and she wants her tithe to come here…. She has every reason to be depressed, to feel sorry for herself, to die… but she has chosen to bless others, to be amazed by the Lord. She does not depend on the circumstances of her life for peace….
David says, READ Ps. 4:7. This is the kind of joy/peace that you need to experience, the joy of the Lord… not depending on circumstances, but depending on the presence of God. I do not care how difficult your life is right at this moment, how deep you are in problems, how empty you feel, nothing has to change in your life to find contentment except your mind. READ Ps. 4:8. David ultimately finds his safety in God. This is enough for him. He has a deep peace despite the circumstances.
How to fill up the empty tank! boldly approach God expecting him to answer: he will. Be honest about the problems and the problem people, putting aside your own reputation and carry yourself so that you can walk with your head held high before God. Pray for your enemies to change. And the presence of the Lord, not the circumstances of your life, but the presence of the Lord will bring you peace.
Be bold with God, Be honest, Hold your head high a nd that equals peace! Amen.