Psalm 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray . . .

“Before I was afflicted, I went astray,

But now I keep Your word.”     Psalm 119:67

The MAIN CONCEPT from this verse is that the Lord gives affliction as a gift, because oftentimes the Lord’s best training takes place in the furnace of affliction (consider also Hebrews 12:5-11).

In Psalm 119:67, we will see that there are at least two messages in this one verse. There is a primary teaching and there is a secondary teaching. We will first consider the primary teaching of this verse, but we will spend the most time on the secondary teaching. So first, the primary teaching.

The first thing that this verse clearly teaches us is that sin results in affliction. The author of this psalm went astray and that resulted in affliction. Now although painful, this sin-produced affliction is actually a gift of God’s grace, because when an unsaved person is in the midst of affliction as a result of their sin, they are often open to hearing of the Lord and of His healing. In fact, in our study verse, it is certainly implied that by keeping God’s word, the Lord’s affliction is removed.

Sin results in affliction, but when a sinner turns to the Lord and calls on His name (Romans 10:13) and keeps His word, “the affliction” of the person’s lostness and the affliction of their separation from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) is taken away. “But whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil [“affliction”] are taken away” (2 Cor. 3:16). So this is the primary teaching of the verse. Consider this as similar to Romans 2:4, where affliction leads you to repentance.

There is here, however, also a powerful secondary teaching that I see in this verse. For the same Lord who is sovereign over the salvation of the ungodly is also sovereign over the affliction He allows into the lives of those whom He has already saved. In other words, affliction is allowed into the life of the believer for the purpose of greater sanctification. The sovereign Lord gives affliction as a gift to those He loves (Hebrews 12:6), for it is in the furnace of affliction that much spiritual dross is burned away. Here I am not speaking necessarily about remaining, indwelling sin in the life of the believer, although, of course, this would certainly be included, but I am speaking instead about besetting habits of mind or patterns of behavior or negative ways of thinking which rob a man or a woman of joy and which render them of decreased usefulness to the Lord and to His people.

As an example, I have been wrestling with discouragement bordering on depression for several years. I frequently wake up a little depressed and then my mind goes to places that further discourage me, dredging up fear and anxiety. On those days I will spend most of my morning time with the Lord in prayer about myself, asking the Lord to drag me up from the pit of destruction (Psalm 40:2),” rather than praying for others or praying big Kingdom prayers. Those mornings are very difficult and this affliction brings me almost to the point of despair.

“Before I was afflicted, I went astray . . .”

This discouragement and fear feels like affliction, but I realize that I have landed in that emotional place because I have gone astray. How have I gone astray? I have dwelt in the land of discouragement. I have not obeyed the Scriptures in taking every thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). I have gone astray in believing the devil’s lies and in comparing myself with others, in not being content and in not rejoicing always. By going astray in my unsanctified and faithless thoughts, I have wandered into the affliction of ongoing depression and anxiety, and now the pain and misery of that affliction have acted as a goad to seek the Lord for relief.

So the Lord brings or allows the affliction so that the affliction will make me desperate for peace. In my case, the affliction of persistent discouragement drove me to discover how to discipline my mind and exercise self-control over my thoughts. I learned where to focus my attention: namely, on whatever is true and honorable and right and pure and lovely (Phil. 4:8). My affliction trained me not merely to memorize and meditate on Scripture, but also to fix my mind on the truth until I firmly believed what it says and to hold the truth of Scripture in my mind so that its power allowed me to stand firm.

My point, then, is that when the Lord brings affliction into the life of His child, He does so as a gracious gift, knowing that the deep places of sanctification are only reached through the flames of affliction. When affliction comes into your life, embrace the testing, knowing that it is from your loving Lord, and seek the Lord diligently to discover His purpose in it.

SDG                             rmb                             2/16/2017

Enemies of Thankfulness – Part 3a – Worldliness: Definition

(This series of writings was prompted by listening to an excellent sermon from Dr. John MacArthur entitled “Thanks, No Matter What” on 1 Thessalonians 5:18. The sermon was from 1995, I believe.)
“in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I have been prompted to pen a series of writings on the enemies of thankfulness. One of the ironic features of American Christianity is that despite living in the most affluent society in the history of the world, there is a general lack of thankfulness among believers in America. I find this glaring flaw present in my own life, as well, and am very convicted by it. Living in great abundance and with every need supplied, there is little evidence of thanks in the prayers and the conversations of even committed, genuine believers. Listen to the prayers of American Christians and you may hear some token thanks given for general things, but sincere and heart-felt thanks for the amazing spiritual and material blessings that the Lord has showered on them is usually absent. Again, I know that I am guilty of this and so I may be projecting this on others, but I don’t think so. I think it may be a trait of fallen humanity that the more that we have materially, the less thankful we are.

So I have made a commitment to be more thankful and to have vital, deep thanksgiving become a regular part of my prayers and my conversations. To help me in this endeavor, and hopefully to help you also, I wanted to discuss five enemies of thankfulness, which, if present and prominent in my life and in your life, will smother thankfulness. Again I am grateful to Dr. MacArthur for identifying these enemies. I am taking his ideas and developing them a little further.

The Enemies of Thankfulness – Worldliness:

The third enemy of thankfulness is “WORLDLINESS.” Like the other enemies, worldliness will rob you of the joy of thanking the Lord for His blessings, will remove the taste from the salt of your witness and will dull the brightness of your light for Christ. What is this worldliness? What does it look like? I tried to come up with a concise definition and did not succeed, but here are some ideas.

What is worldliness?
Worldliness is being enamored and obsessed by trivia and by the pretty trinkets of this world. It is wasting my life, which has great value, by chasing things that have little value. Worldliness is marked by striving to achieve things or obtain things which don’t matter to God. It is indulging myself on things that are temporary and that dull my spiritual hunger. It is becoming very entrenched in the possessions and the experiences of this life and forgetting that I have a heavenly home and a heavenly King. Worldliness is stimulating the senses and starving the spirit. It is spending extravagantly for things that will break and rust and burn. Worldliness manifests itself in my need to be entertained and amused rather than to be trained and disciplined. It is a growing attachment to this life and to this world and a lack of longing for the next.

Yes, there is certainly a balance in the stewardship of money and in the owning of nice things and there is nothing wrong with owning nice things and even expensive things. Nevertheless the believer must be very aware of the constant temptation to become overly fascinated with beautiful homes and fine automobiles and fancy gadgets and to lose sight of the Lord Jesus and of the believer’s heavenly home. The flesh tempts us to neglect the work that the Lord has clearly given us to do and to lay down the cross that Jesus demands that we bear. The believer must listen very carefully to the Spirit in these things. If we are careless, the flesh will encroach on our sanctification and will insinuate itself into our life and will draw us toward the world.

In the next post I will consider what the Bible has to say about this and we will look at biblical examples and specific passages that deal with this subject of worldliness. RMB 4/20/2015