Be gracious to me, O God, for men trample upon me;
All day long foeman oppress me;
My enemies trample upon me all day long,
For many fight against me proudly.
When I am afraid,
I put my trust in thee.
In God, whose word I praise,
In God I trust without a fear.
What can flesh do to me?
All day long they seek to injure my cause;
All their thoughts are against me for evil.
They band themselves together, they lurk,
They watch my steps.
As they have waited for my life
So recompense them for their crime;
In wrath cast down the people, O God! Psalm 56:1-7
Most of us have days when we feel, like David, that the whole world is out to get us. We wake up and everything goes wrong and the next thing we know our life is spiraling out of control with more and more bad news falling on us like rain.
As Christians our first thought is often, “Why me, Lord? Surely I shouldn’t have to face all these problems.” But, the reality, just like for David, is that bad things happen because we live in a sin filled world and we have to face those problems just like everyone else. There is a difference, however, and that difference is based upon the knowledge that Jesus walks with us through those difficulties and is there to support and encourage us.
Psalms 23 is one of the greatest Psalms in the entire Bible and in it David makes the following observation. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
David was a shepherd boy before he was King and he knew about the problems of protecting sheep from marauding thieves and wild animals. He also knew a lot about having a jealous and very angry king chasing him through the deserts of Palestine in order to kill him. But David also knew God and relied upon Him to bring protection and guidance throughout all his encounters with man and beast. David had known what it was like to walk through the valley of death and he knew that he survived the ordeals and experiences because of the power of God that watched over him.
David was not spared going through difficult times and we are not spared from problems. But, the difference between someone who knows God and someone who is indifferent to Him is found in our assurance that God is with us. Notice, David said, “I fear no evil,” because, “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me,” and that is the secret of the Christian life.
The shepherd’s rod had a curve in it for putting around the sheep and hauling them back from the brink of danger. The staff was heavy and with it the shepherd could defend the sheep. Armed with these tools David saved his sheep from bears and lions and kept them from straying away from the flock. Symbolically, God protects us and defends us against the attacks of evil with a spiritual rod and staff.
Go back now to Psalm 56 for a moment and notice David’s reply to the attacks on him. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in thee. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust without a fear. What can flesh do to me” (v. 3, 4) David has learned to put his trust in God and he has learned to trust without fear. He praises God through the storms of his life and when all is said and done he simply states, “what can flesh do to me?”
If you are anything like me it is easy to let your problems become much bigger than they are. I find it easier to be frightened of perceived problems than to trust God to see me through. I would love to be able to say like David, “I trust without fear,” but reality for me is I don’t. I have learned to trust God, but it is the “without fear,” part that causes me trouble.
I have thought a great deal about trust and for me the major stumbling block is how I perceive my relationship to God. Let me explain. I became a Christian under the misunderstanding that to know God was to know about God. But, the study of doctrine and theology can carry you only so far if it is not applied to the heart. God must reign within our hearts if our theology is to have any application in our lives. I thought that my salvation depended upon my understanding of the teachings of my denomination and if I knew them and believed them I would be fine. But, when pain came into my life those teachings didn’t help with the pain because I didn’t understand or know how to apply Jesus to my practical everyday life.
To live without fear, regardless of the circumstances, is to know God and not just to know about God. When we stretch our faith and allow ourselves to be vulnerable to God is when we grow spiritually.
When Nebuchadnezzar was going to throw the three young men into the fiery furnace for not bowing down to him then responded to his threats by saying, “If it be so our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and He will deliver us out of your hand, but if not, be it known to you, O King, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have made.” Daniel 3:17, 18
That’s the kind of faith I seek through prayer and Bible study. I long to have the kind of trust in God that those three men had. They understood the power of God and that He could deliver them from evil, but if for some reason God didn’t their faith wouldn’t be shaken in God.
It is easy to trust God when everything is going good, but it’s much more difficult to trust God when the sky is falling. David may have complained and anguished over the fact that everyone in the kingdom seemed to be against him but instead of giving up on God he turned to Him. The man who wrote Psalm 56 wrote Psalm 23 because through experience he knew God never abandoned or forsook him.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27, 28 Do we really believe this?
* Please remember our Christian brothers and sisters in Christ who are being persecuted for their faith. Some of their stories can be found at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/