Persevering Under Pressure

Psalm 55

For years William Wilberforce had pushed in Britain’s Parliament for the abolition of slavery. Discouraged, he was about to give up. His elderly friend, John Wesley, heard of it and from his deathbed called for pen and paper. With trembling hand Wesley wrote: “Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them stronger than God? Oh be not weary of well-doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery shall vanish away before it.” Wesley died six days later. But Wilberforce fought for more than 40 years and in 1833, three days before his own death, saw slavery abolished in Britain.

Not all are Wilberforces, called to do the great things he did, be the statesman he was. All God’s children face opposition, pressure, discouragement – fears without and doubts within – part of living Christian life, at least some of the time. Often it’s one or two things, manage them OK; then things gang up on believer, each adding to the pressure. Eventually grows to point where pressure overwhelms, tempted to just give up (like Wilberforce), go with the flow – “que sera, sera” attitude.

Deep down, know that’s not the way it should go; know you should persevere under pressure. But how? Where to find resources you need? Grit teeth, fire up willpower, keep plugging? Or how about counseling? Street drugs are off limits, how about a prescription? Besides, nobody else ever had it as tough as you do!! Umm, think about our Savior – under enough pressure to sweat blood, within the hour betrayed by one friend and abandoned by the rest, treated more unjustly than anyone in history of world. Yet he persevered, like countless others – seeking and finding needed help in God. Have example of David, another servant of God and man after God’s heart before us.

A. supplication v.1-8

please listen (1-2a)

repetition of concept/request 4x – listen to me, do not ignore me, be attentive to me, answer me

vain repetition or importunity?

first is condemned by Lord Jesus, second is commended by him

Matt. 6:7do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.”

Luke 18:3-5 “because this widow troubles me I will avenge her”

importunate one is confident of response because of character of one being addressed

Christian pleads with urgency on basis of Father / child relationship, recognition God is only hope

I’m overwhelmed (2b)

problem is too big to get mind around

changing too rapidly, too many details, confusing, maybe can’t even identify all the issues

had visit months ago – situation had become too much to bear alone; thinking so clouded couldn’t figure out where to begin to sort it all out, how to break it down into manageable pieces

circumstances truly beyond limits of personal resources

opposition too great, too powerful, too well-supplied – cannot effectively resist, much less overcome

cannot even articulate problem or need or solution – don’t let that paralyze your lips!

I believe that some of our sweetly-composed prayers have no prayer in them, and some of our broken petitions are those that reach the heart of God.” CHS

here’s why (3-5)

under vicious verbal assault – a big deal since enemy has resources to back up threats

symptoms of impending full-blown panic attack

heart palpitations, paralyzing fear – hyperventilating, uncontrolled shaking, unable to reason

expect next event to be total meltdown – just can’t cope with circumstances

get me outta here (6-8)

need peace and quiet in order to think, to deal – if they won’t go away, leave me alone, let me go away

turmoil, uncertainty, threats of danger too great to handle – must escape in order to cope

one problem: not good for man to be alone; not designed to thrive in wilderness

B. situation v.9-15

not just imagination

real enemies with real effects on real people, other than just the one pleading with God

important for us to remember nature of enemies: both human and spiritual – spiritual power at work through human agents

real people doing real evil for which they are accountable; backed by real (ultimate) enemy, Satan

true target is God, in particular Christ; can’t reach him, the head, so attacks the body instead

enemies in the culture (9-11)

enemies of God’s people are enemies of God – are determined to frustrate his plan, act contrary to him

God stands for good, they do the opposite – violence, strife, iniquity, trouble, destruction, oppression, deceit

think about other parts of the world – how those terms describe life in Egypt, Syria, India, N Korea, Sudan, Somalia….

think about how describes what life here is becoming, as this country becomes more like rest of world

not a coincidence!

turncoat within (12-14)

not just them, it’s us too – one (at least) of those who professed friendship, acted as a friend for a time

this is final straw – could have handled it if not for betrayal by a friend; makes it too much to bear

especially hard coming from fellow-worshiper: the very last one who should be guilty of betrayal

deal with them (15)

is it wrong to pray God will deal with his enemies? frustrate their plans? take them out of the way?

not if we believe God is holy and righteous and just; those who stubbornly refuse to repent must pay the penalty

our desire must be – God glorified, evil punished, saints rewarded, all as God promised

C. consolation v.16-23

what to do??

can’t fly, can’t escape, can’t use their tactics, can’t deal, only one option: call out to God for help

“as for me” – emphatic position, first – doesn’t matter what anyone else says/thinks/does, I turn to God

God will help (16)

hear the childlike confidence – I will call, he will save

not “that’s how it works” but “that’s how God is” – child calls out in faith, Father answers intending to act

God will hear (17)

prayer must be regular habit of believer

cannot expect God to answer if only time he hears our voice is in time of crisis

is natural expression of continual dependence on God who alone can supply what is needed

is the means God has ordained to provide for his children – no prayer, no guarantee of provision

God will act (18-20)

peace and security found in God, not in wilderness

God is the one who must deal with covenant-breakers; not only can do it, he will do it

in answer to prayer of his child, prayers of his people

those who persist in rebelling against God will not prosper (long-term), will not ultimately prevail against his children

momentary distraction (21)

the betrayer’s true colors are now apparent: when focus turns to God, character of enemies becomes obvious

God is faithful (22-23)

he will sustain and strengthen when we trust him, when we let God carry the burden

Hudson Taylor, pioneer missionary to China, was deeply distressed by many burdens that weighed him down. As he prayed for strength to carry on his ministry, Psalm 55:22 suddenly came to his mind: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you.”

Springing to his feet, he cried, “This fear-allaying truth has evaded me too long! I see it all now. If we are obeying the Lord and still run into difficulty, the heavy responsibility rests with Him, not with us!” Then he prayed, “Lord, You shall have all the burden! At Your bidding I will go forward, leaving the results with You.” With lightened heart, Hudson Taylor went on to establish a great work in China.

D. reflections of Christ

v.4 – “the terrors of death”

Matt. 26:38Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”

v.9 – “I have seen violence and strife in the city.”

Matt. 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

v.13 – “it was you, …my companion”

Matt. 26:23He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me.”

Lord Jesus has been this way before us; has dealt with enemies and betrayer and overwhelming fear and sorrow. He persevered because he continually depended on God his Father for strength. If we follow in his footsteps, will find all we need to remain faithful to God in spite of all Satan throws at us.

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