So Easily Distracted from Jesus

The issue of distracted driving has become a big issue in our day. Most often we see this when people are engaged in text messaging or talking on their phone while they are driving. A person can get so distracted with their phones that they forget that they are in a car going down the freeway at 70 mph or more. The consequences are often disastrous.

This can happen in our everyday life in a less spectacular but more damaging way. It happens when Christians get so wrapped up in worldly cares that they don’t pay attention to the spiritual needs that are around them

In Matthew 16:5-12 Jesus, sitting in a boat with his disciples, sought to warn them about the “leaven” of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. These religious leaders were legalists (Pharisees) and liberals (Sadducees)–two extreme errors that his disciples needed to avoid.

But instead of understanding that Jesus was speaking about spiritual things, the mention of leaven made them think about bread, and the fact that none of them had thought to bring bread on their trip. Frustrated, Jesus pointed them to the fact that he was not speaking about bread, for the clear and simple fact was that if they were in want of bread, he had proven over and over that he could miraculously provide for them the needed food.

There are some important lessons to learn from Jesus and his disciples about the reality of daily spiritual distractions that we encounter:

Three Consequences of Christians who get so wrapped up in worldly things that we don’t become properly engaged in heavenly things.

1. We run to others and not to Jesus (verses 7-8)

First,  the disciples turned to each other for bread. This is a natural response for an unbeliever who feels he has no one else to turn to because he is separated from God. But we are children of God and are no longer enemies of God. As God’s children the first person that we should run to in our need is to our heavenly Father. For a Christian who is living life not by sight and not by faith, the distance they feel between themselves and God may lead them to find their needs fulfilled in others first. We can be like a child who is estranged from her father. She may have very real needs, but because the relationship is distant and not as it should be, whether by sin or mere neglect, this child would rather seek out help from friends and even strangers before a loving parent who would readily help.

Friends,Jesus is right there in the boat! But they turn to one another. Jesus is as close as a prayer! His Spirit is within you! But when we become so overwhelmed in the things of this world, we can turn to worldly solutions and those around us before we turn to God.

2. We forget how dependent we are on God (verses 9-10)

Jesus reminded the disciples how he had provided for the crowds of 5,000 and then 4,000. The point that they should have grasped was one that we often forget. Everything we have comes from the good hand of God, and when we are in need He is the One who provides. This means that we receive not only food, but clothing, jobs, children and grandchildren, friends and homes, even the rain and the sun. The very oxygen that fills this room and fills your lungs came from God.

I am saying this because sometimes we can think in such worldly terms that we see the “extras” in life, the pleasures and blessings in life, as a gift from God, but the mundane and everyday things we regard as somehow our own doing. But we are fully dependent upon God for everything, even life itself. We can forget this when we are wrapped up in the humdrum day to day matters of life. We fail to look into the face of Jesus and thank him for things like dirty laundry, which fills our laundry hamper, remembering that those children who make all that laundry are a gift from God that so many long to have and cannot. Or we fail to thank Jesus for that unfair supervisor who makes you work overtime. We fail to see that so many people would love to have that job so they could feed their family and pay their bills.

Isn’t it easy to get distracted from Christ? We run to others when the Lord is there for us if we would just ask. And how often do we forget how dependent we are upon him and how good he has already been to us?

3. Finally, we get so wrapped up in worldly things when We forsake the lessons of Jesus for everyday troubles (verses 11-12).

Jesus was warning his beloved disciples about a very real danger—false teachers! But all they were thinking about was who forgot to bring lunch!Does this remind you of Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus? Martha also was too weighed down with worldly things. She was so wrapped up in preparing a meal that she failed to engage in heavenly conversations, choosing kitchen duty over a Bible study with Jesus!

This isn’t to say that we need to take care of meal preparations and oil changes. But the urgent things of the here and now, and worse, the frivolous and wasteful things of this world, can crowd out and take away from the time and importance of those spiritual lessons that God wants to teach us.

But that is being penny wise and pound foolish because we eventually reap what we sow! We might enjoy that TV show of football game on Wednesday night instead of coming to Bible study but our souls will be poorer for it. We might get a little bit more sleep on Sunday morning by skipping church or coming late, but our souls are drying up and leaving us open as prey for the enemy. We may choose “family time” over serving the Lord and others, but in the end, can we blame our children for growing up without a love for the Lord and his people? What shall we do then?

The disciples were so earthly minded that they were no heavenly good. Their interests were stuck in this world and not in God’s kingdom.Our world offers so many resources outside of God. But for a Christian, God is the only resource we ever need. Run to him. The conversation that the disciples had in that boat was a conversation that is totally natural for any person on earth to have. BUT Jesus was sitting next to them. Jesus had fed them. Jesus was seeking to teach them. We need to make sure that we don’t carry on like everything is normal. God is with us. Nothing will ever be “normal” again, praise God!

Pastor like Paul, part 1

“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.”

‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭3:10-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

New York Magazine ran an article in January this year entitled “Yet Another Person Listens to GPS App and Drives Car Into Lake.” The story reads:

“A driver in Vermont steered his car right into Lake Champlain on Friday. The driver says he was using navigation app Waze, which apparently insisted that driving into the lake was the right way to go. “The app directed the drivers to turn onto the boat launch near the Coast Guard station,” the Burlington Free Press reports. “By the time they realized what was happening, the car had slid 100 feet onto the lake. The three people in the car managed to climb out.” Another passenger in the car described conditions as “dark and foggy.” The car remained at the bottom of the lake before it could be retrieved by divers. A Google spokesperson said that it would be “impossible to comment here without seeing the user’s driving file,” and that the company hadn’t “received permission to do so.” She also reminded people that while using Waze, they should still “use all environmental information available to them to make the best decisions as they drive.” As in, if it looks like a lake and quacks like a lake, don’t drive into it because it’s a lake. The unnamed driver certainly isn’t the first person to blindly follow technology to a watery end. In June 2017, there was a guy who drove into a lake in Massachusetts and blamed his GPS. He’s joined by a woman in Ontario who similarly navigated into a pond and … blamed her GPS.”[1]

The first nine verses of 2 Timothy 3 contain a detailed description of false teachers who seek to lead people astray spiritually. The warnings signs are there and we need to be vigilant. But now in the next two verses, Paul is going to turn things around and point to a positive example–himself. Paul is a faithful leader, one who will assure that Timothy is on the right path.

This call by Paul to Timothy to continue to follow his example acts as a strong counteraction against the false teachers from vv. 1-9. The activities of the deceivers are to be replaced by the continue example of timothy as he followed the Apostle Paul.

The verb “followed” (‘fully known” in KJV) means to give careful attention to something, “to conform to someone’s belief or practice by paying special attention, to follow faithfully, follow as a rule.” [2]

We are going to begin seeing how Timothy had been doing this with the Apostle Paul. Paul had been ministering for years, but there was a need for Timothy to continue to be faithful to practice what had been modelled for him so that he would be able to set an example for those who would follow him in the Church because Christian faith depends upon not only faithful discipleship, but on faithful disciples who continue in the pattern they have received.

1. Follow the Same Doctrine

The word here is “teaching” meaning that Timothy was well aware of the content of Paul’s doctrine. This teaching is the basis of everything else that will follow.

Everyone has doctrine, and the content of that doctrine affects one’s conduct, aim in life, faith, patience love, steadfastness and how they handle persecutions and suffering. Paul knows that if Timothy, or anyone veers from biblical doctrine in even a small way that this could lead to a massive shift in everything else.

Not long ago I read the sermon by the famous liberal pastor Harry Emerson Fosdick, entitled “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” Fosdick, like many theological liberals, didn’t think that doctrine was a bid deal—as long as we can all just love one another and get along. Now remember, this was preached back in 1922, and yet it sounds like many liberal theologians today.

Read what he said in that sermon about those who would do what Paul said to Timothy, and guard the trust of doctrine:

“It is interesting to note where the Fundamentalists are driving in their stakes to mark out the deadline of doctrine around the church, across which no one is to pass except on terms of agreement. They insist that we must all believe in the historicity of certain special miracles, preeminently the virgin birth of our Lord; that we must believe in a special theory of inspiration…; that we must believe in a special theory of the Atonement—that the blood of our Lord, shed in a substitutionary death, placates an alienated Deity and makes possible welcome for the returning sinner; and that we must believe in the second coming of our Lord upon the clouds of heaven to set up a millennium here, as the only way in which God can bring history to a worthy [finale]. Such are some of the stakes which are being driven to mark a deadline of doctrine around the church…. It was a wise liberal, the most adventurous man of his day—Paul the Apostle—who said, “Knowledge puffeth up, but love buildeth up.” [3]

To Fosdick, and those like him, correct doctrine cannot be known and it is unbelievable and unacceptable for anyone to fight for such things as the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the inerrancy of Scripture, miracles and the physical return of Christ. To him, love trumps everything else. Since Fosdick called the Apostle Paul a “wise liberal” like himself, let’s test that and see what Paul actually wrote about doctrine:

  • “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.” (Romans 16:17, ESV). Paul is warning the church in Rome that there are divisive men who want to argue—not about the truth, but cause division and obstacles to the doctrine already received by the church at large. They want to bring change to doctrine—it is not doctrine dividing here, it is heresy that is bringing division! Must a Christian sit back and do nothing while the truth is attacked? We must be on guard, Paul warned!
  • When addressing those who were immature in the faith, Paul wrote, “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4:14, ESV). What tosses the immature around? It is the changing of doctrine that Paul warns against. It throws the spiritual children of the church to the ground hoping to drag them away into the surf to drown them. It is human schemes and craftiness that wants to sound like reasonable dialogue and Christian love, but it is destruction masked as love.
  • “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,” (1 Timothy 1:3, ESV). When Paul was made aware of false teachings in the Ephesus, he didn’t call Timothy to get along with them because they simply had a difference of opinion. He didn’t say, sit down and get to know them. Paul, the supposedly wise liberal called upon Timothy to rebuke them and command them to stop teaching this “different doctrine.”

You see, Paul was not a theological liberal! He was a fundamentalist—he held to the doctrine as delivered to him by Jesus Christ himself. He believed it all, every word!

And this doctrine he had taught in every church, synagogue, marketplace and home he could. And that was what Paul told Timothy to do himself. “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:13, ESV)

Paul’s ministry was a Christ-centered ministry because it was a Bible-centered ministry. Liberalism wants to put a wedge between people and the Bible because the devil knows that if people are taught the Bible they will be taught about Christ.

Paul told Timothy—you know that as you followed me, that I have taught the Bible—I read it, I explain it, I apply it. Do the same. His word to Timothy is his word to us as well. Read it, explain it, apply it.


[2] BDAG, parakoloutheo.


3 More Blessings of Biblical Meditation


In an earlier post on Psalm 119:97-98, I shared two blessings of meditation upon the Word of God. You can read that post here.

Spurgeon, always had great illustrations of spiritual truth from the world around him. Listen to how he relates failure to meditate on the Bible:

A sudden glance at truth without meditation upon it bringeth nothing to perfection; as a hen that soon leaveth her nest never hatcheth her chicks.”

How can she? Patience is needed, and the quiet self-denial by which she renders up the warmth of her heart, otherwise her eggs will lie as dead as stones. The value of truth will never be known by those who look at it and hurry on: they must brood over it, and cover it with their heart’s love, or it will never become living truth to their souls. We must apply ourselves to a doctrine, giving our whole soul and heart to it, or we shall miss the blessing. Herein is wisdom.

Lord, when I hear a sermon, or read in a good book, let me not be as the partridge which sitteth on eggs and hatcheth them not; but make me to see life and power in thy word, and to rejoice over it as one that findeth great spoil.[1]

Brood over the Word! Let it become living truth in your soul!

Last time in Psalm 119, I wrote that meditation upon the Scriptures:

  1. Provides an Increased Love for the Word (v. 97)

“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97, ESV)

The psalmist declared his love for the Law of God. Like a baby longs for the pure milk of the Word, so too does a Christian long for the Word of God. The more he drinks deeply, the thirstier he becomes. As we consume the Word, we internalize it, like our bodies use milk to feed our bodies, so too the Word build us up in the true faith.

  1. It Also Provides Wise Counsel Against Enemies (v. 98)

“Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.” (Psalm 119:98, ESV)

As the psalmist built spiritual muscle, he found that he was able to overcome the schemes of his enemies. They may have tried to outwit him, but he found that his meditation upon the Word allowed him to avoid the traps they laid because he knew their schemes.

In this post, I want to lay out three more of the blessings which meditating upon the Scriptures provides

  1. It Provides Better Insight Than Worldly Teachers (v. 99)

“I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.” (Psalm 119:99, ESV)

Back in v. 98, the psalmist compared his wisdom to his enemies, in this next verse he compares his “understanding” of the Scriptures to his teachers.

The NASB says “insight” here. Of course, insight and understanding have the same meaning. His knowledge goes beyond the acquisition of mere knowledge. He sees deeper and understands more than simple knowledge.

The psalmist desires and has gained deep insight into the Word of God. Wanting to know more of God through knowing more of his Word is a very good thing! We should desire to “prosper” in this way! We should long to outpace our teachers in our insight into the Word of God, not in a prideful way, but in holy desire that sees that God continues to purify and instruct his people.

Back in Ps 119:99, we see the source of this deeper spiritual insight. What could it be? Would it be reading more theology books? Could it be reading through the Bible more than others? Could it be going to church more than others? All of these have value, but his source of insight is plain—it is meditation on the testimonies of the Lord—his holy Word.

You may remember that the leaders of the Jews were sometimes called the “teachers of Israel.” Nicodemus in John 3 was called this by Jesus. Even though they knew massive portions of the Old Testament by memory and knew the ins and outs of the Law and were careful to at least outwardly obey the Law, they often did not care about understanding the real meaning of God’s Word, and so they would do things like we see in Matt 15: 1-9. There it says:

“Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”” (Matthew 15:1–9, ESV)

Have you ever seen anyone guilty of doing what they did? It happens all the time. There are people who claim to be leaders in Christ’s Church who claim to know the Word, and yet, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, they ignore what it says and put on another layer of tradition to cover the truth up.

You, brothers and sisters in Christ, have more knowledge than these teachers, and you will grow more effective when you stay true to the Word of God and refuse to compromise. You will be wiser than liberal Bible professors that deny the inerrancy of Scripture and miracles. As you meditate on the Word, as you proper in your intake of the Scriptures, gaining wisdom and insight, you will be able to say profound things to the so called wise that will confound and frustrate them, all to the glory of God

2. It Provides Practical Wisdom for Life (v. 100)

“I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.” (Psalm 119:100, ESV)

In general, the Bible has a positive outlook on those that are older and more experienced, and we should have this same attitude of respect and reverence for the elders among us. Do you remember Elihu in the book of Job? He was the young one among the group of Job’s friends/counselors.

After everyone had said their piece, and Job had responded, only then did Elihu speak. Why did he wait? Job 32:4 tells us, “Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he.” (Job 32:4, ESV). Elihu is a good example of a young man who had more wisdom than his elders. But, the younger need to learn his ways—he waited, he was respectful, and thoughtful. But he also did not stay silent when he needed to speak the truth!

In Job 12:12, Job himself said, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” (Job 12:12, ESV). Age and experience bring wisdom, and often there is nothing that will substitute for the understanding and experience of life. But old age does not automatically mean a person is wise! There are many foolish old men and women!

When the Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, he showed that stubborn sinfulness bypassed the wisdom that the people should have had from God’s Word. You see, they may have known the Word, but they foolishly ignored it, even knowing the consequences they knew were coming.

Jeremiah 8:4-9 says:

“You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord: When men fall, do they not rise again? If one turns away, does he not return? Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return. I have paid attention and listened, but they have not spoken rightly; no man relents of his evil, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle. Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the Lord. “How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, so what wisdom is in them?” (Jeremiah 8:4–9, ESV)

To know the Word and not obey it is knowledge without wisdom. This can lead to destruction! Jesus warned of this in Matt 7:24-27 in his parable of the wise man and the foolish man. What is the difference? One heard and obeyed, the other heard and did not obey! Who cares how old you are if you don’t obey the Lord?!

That is what Psalm 119:100 is saying. Read it again. It says, “I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.” (Psalm 119:100, ESV). Do you see it? You might be a long time in a church, you might have read the Bible 100 times. You might have been born on the steps of the church and never missed a Sunday school class, but do you obey?

Do you want to be wiser than the aged? Do you want to be a wise old man or wise old woman? Then learn the Word, and meditate upon it so that you can obey it!

3. It Provides Help to Resist Evil Temptations (v. 101)

“I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.” (Psalm 119:101, ESV)

A major metaphor in the Bible for living life is the idea of a “pathway.” A path leads somewhere. It is the idea of making one’s way in life, making decisions about which direction to go as the road forks in two different directions.

Matthew 7:13-14 uses this imagery when it reveals that there are only two ways in this world. That is it, two ways—two destinations. Jesus said, ““Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13–14, ESV)

The wide and easy way has many paths that criss-cross, making it seem like there are a lot of options out there that we can make in this life—many varying paths and many different choices. But Jesus lumps all of them together because the destination is the same—whether you choose to live for yourself, live as a good and moral person, or live somewhere in between. A life without faith in Jesus Christ is a life that will end in destruction.

Only the life lived in faith in Christ, lived as a humble disciple of the Lord, will find that they inherit eternal life. It might be hard, at times stressful and painful, but in the end, the road opens up into the presence of God himself.

The psalmist speaks in v. 101 of the “evil way,” the path, which is one doesn’t depart from, will lead to his or her destruction. How does one make sure they aren’t on this path that leads to destruction? The path is chosen in obedience to the Lord’s Word.

Think about it this way: In Vietnam there are 16.3 million acres of land that are still contaminated with landmines from the Vietnam War. More than 42,000 people have been killed by hidden mines since 1975.[2]

Can you imagine standing on the edge of a vast field in the Vietnamese countryside? Your eyes see many footpaths that cut across these fields, but you are aware of the danger of these hidden mines. How will you make your way across to the other side?

The Word of God is like a map, it lays out the path to take, where to turn, where to avoid, where to stop and wait and where to move quickly. The whole thing is laid out right here in this Book we call the Bible. How can we avoid the evil path that destroys, maims and brings immense pain and suffering in our lives and the lives of others? Follow the Word! Keep it!

How often we can foolishly set aside the Word and rush into life with reckless abandon. We say things like, “I know the Bible says I shouldn’t do this, but…” and then we justify our path and run into painful disaster.

Proverbs 5 is one of those paths that screams warnings about adultery, but how many have ignored all the warnings and been undone by its devastating wreckage? Listen to me, YOU ARE NOT DIFFERENT, YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL. YOU WILL BE DESTROYED BY YOUR SIN. It is true for me and you. Stay on the pathway God has laid out. Meditate on the path in the Word, and meditate upon the examples in Scripture of those who were foolish enough to ignore God and were destroyed because of it.


So can you see how practical and necessary meditation on the Bible is for the Christian life?

        1. It Provides Better Insight Than Worldly Teachers (v. 99)
        2. It Provides Practical Wisdom for Life (v. 100)
        3. It Provides Help to Resist Evil Temptations (v. 101)

In God’s Battle Plan for the Mind, David Saxton wrote:

“Though many believers excel at Bible study, some are not as skilled at putting the truth into actual practice. Reflexive meditation seeks to solve this unfortunate dilemma by asking, “What have I personally done with this truth that I have learned?” As Thomas Manton aptly expressed, “The fruit of study is to hoard up truth, but the fruit of meditation is to practice it.”[3]

Like Spurgeon’s hen, we need to sit upon the Scripture until it is fully hatched in our souls. To change the metaphor, the Holy Spirit will take our efforts, those seeds of his Word, and he will plant them deep in our hearts so that they will sprout up and grow strong and produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. It begins with the Word and meditation.

[1]C. H. Spurgeon, Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden, Distilled and Dispensed(New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1883), 66.


[3]Saxton, David W.. God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation (Kindle Locations 1005-1008). Reformation Heritage Books. Kindle Edition.

7 Lessons Learned While in the Darkness of Despair (Psalm 88)

In light of all the comments made in regard to Robin Williams’ death, I thought this post might be helpful. Depression is a serious matter that so many people struggle with, but it is an affliction that some Christians see as a weakness of faith and unbecoming for a person who claims Christ as Savior. But throughout Church history, there have been those who have struggled with an internal darkness that comes upon them. Whether we call it melancholy, depression, or some other name, the Word of God gives hope even in the midst of the dark nights of affliction. Tim Challies wrote about the struggle that hymn writer William Cowper (pronounced “Cooper”) faced his whole life, even after coming to Christ.

William Cowper was born in 1731 in Berkhamsted, England. His mother died when he was only 6 years old, leaving him to be raised by his father. The mental pain Cowper struggled with was primarily depression…. He had four major battles with it through his life, leading him to attempt suicide on several occasions. He was never successful, however, and God would preserve his life until death by dropsy in 1800, aged 69. Cowper apparently became a believer in 1764 while in residence at St. Albans Insane Asylum. He happened upon a Bible on a bench in the garden, and God used John 11 and Romans 3:25 to open his eyes to the goodness of Jesus and the sufficiency of his atoning work…. Throughout the rest of his life he remained convinced of God’s sovereignty and goodness, even if at times he had great difficulty believing he himself was a beneficiary of them. Cowper’s hymn writing came as a result of his friendship with John Newton. They became friends in 1767 when Cowper moved to Olney, England to be under Newton’s ministry.[1]

With Cowper and others in mind, I would like to briefly point out 7 lessons that we can learn while in the darkness of despair so that we can help others who are struggling, or so that we might find comfort and relief from our great God and Savior.

  1. Scripture does not deny the reality of a “darkness of the soul” (Ps. 88; Job 1)
  • The mere existence of Psalm 88 (among others) and the book of Job, as well as other parts of Scripture demonstrates for us that there is such a thing as “spiritual depression” (to use D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ preferred term).
  • By denying this reality, we become like Job’s worthless counselors for those who are in the most need of spiritual healing and care. Not only that, but we may also be guilty of speaking against many godly people who suffered while maintaining their righteous stand before God. It is one thing when a person suffers for their sinful choices, but what about those who suffer for no apparent cause of their own? Do not all those suffering, sinner or saint, require the grace of God to be applied to their souls?
  • Finally, when we deny this reality, we not only deny the truth of Scripture but also experience. We hurt those who are truly suffering and need us to minister to them, not lecture them to some sort of Stoic idea that is foreign to Christianity. Godly people really do suffer!

2. God does not always give answers for our suffering (Ps 88; Job)

  • We live in an age where a problem is introduced and resolved in the span of a 30 minute sit-com on TV. And there is a tragic perversion of Christianity that exists and is thriving that teaches that God doesn’t want you to be unhappy, but rather he wants to bless you with all the material possessions you desire. Many readers might reject this theology, but struggle dealing with how to deal with a godly person who sees no end in their suffering. But we cannot demand or even expect that God will either remove suffering in this life or even give an answer to the question “why?” But life is not like a movie or sit-com and Scripture accurately portrays real life.
  • As Derek Kidner has written,“The happy ending of most psalms of this kind seems to be a bonus, not a due; its withholding is not a proof of either God’s displeasure or his defeat.” [2]
  • Sometimes suffering is hard and long, and it may not end with a healing, comfort, or even any apparent reason why the suffering has occurred.
     3. God needs to be our anchor and life-line in the darkness or we shall have no hope (v. 1)
  • Verse 1 is the only positive line in the whole psalm. It frames the whole because it is a starkly honest conversation between the psalmist and his God. But what if the psalmist had no understanding of God or no relationship with him? What if the psalmist’s god was not the One true and living God? How could he account for his suffering?
  • Was it because his god was too weak? Incompetent? Evil? Unloving? All of these would make some sense and would have caused the psalmist to either seek his own aid or allow the darkness to swallow him up in death. But the reality of God’s existence and his goodness of character cause him to seek him and plead with him for help. There is hope to be found in our God and His Son Jesus Christ.

     4. Even in despair, prayer tethers us to the Lord, so do not allow the darkness to silence you (vv. 1-2, 9, 13)

  • “This author, like Job, does not give up. He completes his prayer, still in the dark and totally unrewarded. The taunt, ‘Does Job fear God for naught?’, is answered yet again.” Kidner, 350.
  • Night and day impassioned cries come from the heart of the psalmist. He knows God hears, but he cannot understand why he has not answered his prayer. But the lack of understanding and answers to his prayers do not stop him from praying. The prayers are not long, sterile, liturgical prayers either. They are passionate pleadings mixed with heart-felt questions. The psalmist does not understand, and so he asks and argues his case before God. His prayers are wrestling with the One whom he seeks a blessing from. He will not let go until he is either dead or God has heard his prayers and answered by lifting the darkness.

     5. The grave is silent, but God attends to the living (vv. 3-5, 10-12)

  • “Am I dead?”, asked the psalmist. He asked this because he felt that God was treating him like someone who is in the grave, long lost and forgotten. But he was not dead, and as a man still in the land of the living he would still be able to praise the Lord for his steadfast love, faithfulness and righteousness. And as one among the living, the Lord could still act in working wonders that would remove the pain and suffering that would lead the psalmist to further praise and glory. At death there is no praise from the dead. But we must keep pleading and praying and trusting until our last breath.

     6. Hard providences point to our Sovereign God’s Mysterious Ways (vv. 6-8, 16-18; Isa 55:8-9)

  • C.T. Studd wrote, “A man is not known by his effervescence but by the amount of real suffering he can stand” [3]. Many Christians would like to protect the honor of the Lord by denying that God is sovereign in all things, including the suffering of men. But the psalmist knows his God and he knows that God is sovereign not only in the good, but also the bad, including suffering.
  • Job 2:9-10 speaks about this idea. It says, “Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Just because we do not understand why God does not stop our suffering or why he doesn’t bring relief does not mean that there is no reason.
  • Isa 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

      7. Behind a frowning providence hides the smile of God (vv. 14-15; Matt 27:46; 2Cor 6:10)

  • In the end, God is good and knows what is best. And that includes our suffering and the darkest clouds of despair. After all, God the Father turned from His only begotten Son in the midst of the worst of his suffering for both Jesus’ glory and our good. But had we been standing there at the Place of the Skull, would we have believed that was true?
The [Cowper] hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” is a combination of assertions about God’s goodness, sovereignty and wisdom along with commands to take courage and trust in him. Cowper’s use of the metaphors of storms, mines, smiles, and flowers illustrate this meaning in a timeless way. The hymn is a beautiful expression of the kind of faith that sustained Cowper through long periods of darkness and despair.!We cannot yet claim to know all the mysteries of God’s plan for William Cowper’s life. In time, as Cowper himself says, God will make plain his bright designs. But until then we can praise God for one of the fruits that is already evident—this hymn. Only he knows how many saints have had their faith sustained amidst storms and sorrows by these words. It reminds us that many of the greatest hymns grow out of life’s most difficult circumstances. [1]
William Cowper, 1774 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”
God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea And rides upon the storm.Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs And works His sov’reign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flow’r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

[2] Derek Kidner, TOTC, Psalms 73-150, 350.
[3] Quoted by Steven J. Lawson, HOTC, Psalms 76-150, 70.

2 Blessings of Biblical Meditation


What is Biblical Meditation?

Most of the time, when we hear about meditation today, we think of eastern forms of meditation–that meditation that is practiced by Hinduism, Buddhism and other eastern religions. In those religions, the practitioner is called upon to empty the mind, to find a sense of what they often call “mindfulness.”

We do not have the time to address this dangerous and unbiblical practice, but let me just say that this is not what the Bible is talking about when it speaks of meditation.

The words in Hebrew and Greek which are used in the Bible speak of a lingering thoughtfulness which turns the thoughts of God’s Word over and over again. It can be likened to a cow’s chewing of her cud, seeking to extract as many nutrients from the grass as she can.

In his excellent book, God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation, David Saxton gives us a good starting definition of biblical meditation in contrast to unbiblical meditation:

“…Biblical meditation does not seek to empty one’s thoughts. Rather, it seeks to fill one’s thoughts with Scripture, fastening them to the objective truths of God’s Word. Rather than seeking to arrive at a plane of self-actualization, biblical meditation seeks to think God’s thoughts after Him. It seeks to grow in appreciation that all of life is lived before a great and mighty God. Biblical meditation realizes that thoughts reveal beliefs. Whether we wish to admit it or not, our thoughts define our religion.”[1]

That last sentence is important. Here it is again, “Whether we wish to admit it or not, our thoughts define our religion.” You see, in a sense, we don’t need to learn to meditate because everyone already does. We meditate all the time. Saxton goes on to write:“As the heart is, so will be the thoughts. An unconverted person—a natural person—will also have reflections, but these are consistent with his nature.” Everyone meditates on something, whether it is right, wrong, or neutral.” [2]

What do we meditate upon is the real question! Says Saxton, “There is a meditation that is sinful and wicked, and that is when we meditate upon things that are wicked (Pss. 7:14; 36:4; Prov. 12:2)…. There is a meditation that is holy and godly, and that is when we meditate upon things that are holy and heavenly.”[3]

What are some of the benefits of Christian Meditation?

Psalm 119:97-98 give us two benefits. Those verses say, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.” (Psalm 119:97–98, ESV)

  1. It Provides an Increased Love for the Word (v. 97) 

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97, ESV)

The Word of God is a cool drink to the thirsty soul. Better yet, it is like milk to a newborn baby. First Peter 2:2-3 says, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:2–3, ESV)

We are commanded here to long for the Word like a newborn baby longs for milk. But nobody teaches a baby to long for milk. They might need help in other things, but a newborn is born with a longing for milk. And Peter here is clearly stating that those who do not long for the Word have not tasted and seen that the Lord is good (v. 2)!

We should never outgrow a love for the Word. At first as babes in Christ, our love may be ravenous, but it isn’t usually too deep. Over time, it should grow deeper, and our souls should begin to require more nutrients—meat!

In Hebrews 5:12-13, the writer rebukes those Christians who had not become dissatisfied with simply milk. He says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.” (Hebrews 5:12–13, ESV)

You see, we need to grow in our love for the Word, and this growth includes more than reading it, it must include meditating on it deeply–thinking about its application to our lives and what God would have us think or be or do because of his Word. We meditate upon those things which we feel most deeply about. For the psalmist, it is the law of God, because within it he comes to know God himself.

Have you ever done this? I remember that several times, someone in our family has

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Photo by Snapwire on

started talking about donuts—especially the hot donuts at Krispy Kreme. It’s probably beginning right now—you are meditating on those hot glazed donuts. The way they melt in your mouth. With some cold milk or hot coffee to perfectly compliment that sugary treat. Before long, we are on our way, sometimes late at night, to Krispy Kreme.

We meditate upon those things that we feel most deeply about. A baby longs for milk. A Christian longs for the Word of God. He longs to pore over it, to think about it, to study it, to fulfill its commands. You can’t keep a true Christian from his Bible. That has been proven by those who have been willing to die in order to have a copy.

It isn’t really about the book though. Our love for the Word is produced by a love of our God and a desire to know him more fully. Our love for God drives our love for the Word. Show me a person who doesn’t love the Bible, and I don’t care what they say, they don’t really love God.

2. It Provides Wise Counsel Against Enemies (v. 98)

“Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.” (Psalm 119:98, ESV)

At first, it might seem like verse 98 is a bit boastful because they claim that the psalmist is wiser than others because of his knowledge and meditation on the Word. But the boast isn’t in his own wisdom, but rather in the wisdom acquired from God’s Word.

Listen to what Paul wrote about the wisdom of God in Romans 11:33-34, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”” (Romans 11:33–34, ESV)

So, the question he asks is “who has known the mind of the Lord?” What does 1Corinthians 2:16 say? ““For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16, ESV)

That is a staggering thought. It doesn’t mean that in our own minds we have obtained all the thinking and thoughts of God. What it does refer to is the fact that in the Scriptures, through the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit of God, we can think God’s thoughts after him as revealed in the Scriptures.

The very next verse in 1 Corinthians begins chapter 3, which is a rebuke of those Christians in Corinth who had not taken advantage of the Word and were like spiritual children, they are “mental midgets.” In other words, you can’t call upon the wisdom of God if you haven’t first put it into your head, and then it needs to be meditated upon.

Meditation upon the Word leads to wisdom. Simple knowledge without reflection will profit less than knowledge which has been illustrated and applied. The enemies, which the psalmist says he is wiser than, either do not know the Scriptures, or they know and do not practice what it says. Either way, the power of the Word of God is not available to them.

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18, ESV). David had learned this, probably from the Word as well as by experience. He may have taught it to Solomon, his son, who put it in the book of Proverbs. One example of the downfall of pride can be seen in a time of great turmoil in the life of Israel when David’s son Absalom had overthrown his father’s government and David chose to flee instead of fighting.

When David’s wise counselors Hushai and Ahithophel were sought for the next step, Hushai, who was secretly still serving David, played on Absalom’s massive pride and gave him bad counsel. You can read the whole account in 2 Samuel 16:15-17:23.

absolamdeathAbsalom was putty in Hushai’s hands. Why? Not because Absalom wasn’t cunning or a great war strategist as his father David, he was both of these things. Hushai was wiser than his shrewd enemy Absalom because he knew what the Word of God says about the proud, and he used this truth to his advantage. But that took deep thinking about his situation and how the Word of God applied to it.

Psalm 1:1-2 speaks about the two types of counsel that are available in this world—either wicked or righteous. We need to understand that it is the counsel of the Scriptures which gives us the help we need form our enemies. And since the attacks of our enemies come at a time when there is usually not time to have a Bible study, we need to be gathering a supply of wisdom in our arsenal for the day when the enemy attacks.

In Ps 119:98, the psalmist says that the commandment “is ever with me.” That is what we would expect of a weapon, isn’t it? What good is a weapon of war back in the safe confines of the home? A sword needs to be strapped to the thigh to be ready for battle. So too we must be ready.

Psalm 119:11 reminds us, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11, ESV)

The storage of the Word of God is good for self, but it is also good for counsel to protect us from our enemies both internal and external enemies.


So, what can we do to begin getting these blessings? We must begin with prayer. At the beginning of this post I told you that we didn’t need to learn you how to meditate because we already meditate upon many things all on our own. And that is true.

But we are not in glorified bodies, and we do not have glorified minds yet. And so, we must battle our own flesh so that we may have the strength and focus we need to meditate on the glories of Scripture. Our spirits may be willing, but our flesh is weak!

William Bridge explained, “If you would meditate on God, and the things of God, go then to God for this skill of meditation. Friends, there is an art, and a divine skill of meditation, which none can teach but God alone. Would you have it, go then to God, and beg of God these things.[1]

[1]Saxton, David W.. God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation (Kindle Locations 2705-2707). Reformation Heritage Books. Kindle Edition.

[1]Ibid. (Kindle Locations 452-454).

[2]Ibid., (Kindle Locations 373-375). Quote is from Wilhelmus à Brakel, “Spiritual Meditation,” in The Christian’s Reasonable Service, ed. Joel R. Beeke, trans. Bartel Elshout (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 1995), 4:26.

[3]Ibid., (Kindle Locations 380-382). Quote is from Calamy, Divine Meditation, 2–3.