Tough Sledding

Psalm 119:49-56

Repeated warnings about persecution/suffering, tough sledding, for Christians. Jesus: “sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matt. 10:16ff), “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33); James, classic: “count it all joy!” (James 1:2-3); Peter: “those who suffer according to the will of God (1 Pet. 4:19)”; Paul: “all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Example of early church – Smyrna: “I know your suffering”, “you will experience suffering for ten days” (Rev. 2:9-10).

Some people are weird, pursue suffering on purpose. Most people not like that, many will do whatever they can to avoid suffering and affliction and difficulty. Is really inescapable – remember what God said to Adam and Eve! Gen. 3:16-19 Multiplied sorrow, the pain of childbirth, toil, thorns and thistles, sweat… And that’s the small stuff! The big stuff came before – Satan’s enmity/hostility that will never end. Don’t forget, though: suffering / affliction and joy are not mutually exclusive; they can and do co-exist.

“G (zayin) then reminds us that while all of that is true, that doesn’t make it easy. Just because the path is spelled out, does not mean that it will be effortless to walk. Thus our lives will be marked difficulty. Happiness is connected to holiness, but that doesn’t mean that holiness is easy.”

Remember Jesus’ challenge: Luke 14:25-28Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it;” – one of costs of following Christ will be affliction, keep that in mind.

Often a difference between what we want and what we get: want God to give us different kind of hill to sled on; instead, we get him in the sled with us. According to one source (American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms), “tough sledding” first showed up in 1839 – time when heavy loads were moved on sleds drawn by animals. Can easily imagine what sorts of things would represent hurdles, obstacles to progress; also what would serve as useful helps. Psalmist here makes reference to 5 hurdles he has experienced, 3 helps God graciously provided.

A. hurdles

affliction (50)

a general, collective word; accompanied by particular things described in the context, different aspects of affliction

good graphic image of what affliction is: people of God and their experience in Egypt toward the end of their stay – no freedom of religion, no affordable healthcare, no paid vacations or performance bonuses

life was hard in many different ways; for psalmist, his affliction had added sting – was the consequence of his public expressions of faith

“There is no escaping trouble! We are born to it as the sparks fly upward. When we are born the second time, though we inherit innumerable mercies, we are certainly born to another set of troubles, for we enter upon spiritual trials, spiritual conflicts, spiritual pains and so forth—and thus we get a double set of distresses.” Spurgeon

afflictions we face may be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual – various diseases of body and mind, relational issues, spiritual issues that cause difficulty

can be the challenges associated with living in reduced circumstances – faced with choice between medications and food, heat and taxes

or…hardships that result from opposing worldviews: “The worldview of a group of people underlies every aspect of their life – their language, social system, religious beliefs, even the way they go about their daily life. Worldview can be defined as a set of concepts that relate individuals within any culture to the natural universe and to other humans who comprise their social reality.” Doug Hewitt

language with conflicting definitions, social systems with conflicting values, religions with contradictory beliefs, mutually exclusive expectations about daily life – all lead to interpersonal conflict and, ultimately, affliction

derision (51)

mock, scoff at, ridicule, make light of – comes in many different packages: spoken language, body language, actions

spoken: direct ridicule – you don’t really believe that about ….(from the Bible) do you? response to “spiritual truth” – yeah, whatever, change the subject….or….I outgrew that way of thinking (Sunday school stuff) years ago; “oh my…..golly gee whiz, wink wink”

body language: roll the eyes, smirk, sigh when God/church/the Bible comes up; outward impatience – don’t have time for that stuff, my stuff is more important

actions: scheduling family events so they conflict with church services; phone calls when you’re getting ready for church; supporting public figures who openly oppose Biblical worldview

then those sources of ridicule that are more public – e.g., in entertainment, media, classroom, halls of government

how are Christians portrayed on network tv entertainment, in the average movie, in news reports? Consider the language used to present the issues, the kind of character portrayed as a Christian – nothing (or at least very little) positive can be said

in one classroom after another, grade school through grad school, Bibles/prayer/expressions of Christian faith not welcome; one who tries to bring it in made to feel second-class

government, well….prepare to be laughed out of town; nobody in government takes a Christian seriously

ridicule hurts, stings; an incessant diet of it will eventually (without outside help) encourage doubt, restrain confidence, dilute courage

blasphemers (53)

Jesus cleansing the temple a clear example of that John 2:14-17Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.”

what if you work / live next to someone who wears their disregard for God and his laws openly – how to respond to them in way pleasing to God…day after day

kind of the reverse of Jesus’ challenge to Saul and his persecution of the “church” – we take it personally when someone sins outrageously against God by word or deed

pilgrimage (54)

one word to describe journeys, pilgrimages: change; different place each day, different bed each night, change following change without end

as much as we might like things to stay the same, are always changing; some change is good, much change is difficult

dangers we face each day constantly changing, especially as Satan changes it up to catch us off guard

sleeplessness (55)

what are things that keep you up, wake you up at night? – anxiety, uncertainty, all the things talked about so far, concern for well-being of others

add to that the weight of wanting to do what is right and pleasing to God in all parts of life

then the difficulty of performing up to par the next day, on a short night’s sleep, experiencing fatigue

hurdles come not just during dark part of day, during dark parts of life as well – niece’s husband killed Thurs. night

discouraged yet? ready to give up and go home? not so fast! there are 4 wonderful helps woven through paragraph

B. helps

hope (49)

distinguishes this section from other psalms classified as laments – hope may be deferred or delayed but is umbrella over all afflictions

Eddie Fisher lyrics: “You’ve gotta have heart / All you really need is heart / When the odds are sayin’ / You’ll never win / That’s when the grin should start / You’ve gotta have hope / Mustn’t sit around and mope / Nothin’s half as bad as it may appear / Wait’ll next year and mope”

except we can’t generate our own (genuine, effectual) hope – is God who gives his people hope, instrument is his Word: is what keeps us from being overwhelmed, giving up

comfort (50, 52)

notice comfort is in his affliction, not in being removed from it; like hope, comfort comes from God’s Word

remember Jesus’ words, Peter’s response: John 6:63, 68“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” …you guys gonna leave too? Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

we find those words in the Word, that by God’s Spirit give life, assurance of his presence, comfort in affliction

further words of comfort: declaration of God’s character, record of God’s past actions, evidence of God’s faithfulness

songs (54)

Thegodlypersonhasbettersongsthanthoseoftheworld! We have a treasury of psalms and great hymns, rich in theology, that are increasingly neglected and are being forgotten.” Pilgrim Bible Notes

single gal, Patti, used Hymnal with 700+ hymns, most from prior centuries, as her daily devotional; yes, are new hymns written for the church that have sound theology, but are in short supply

songs that are faithful expressions of God’s truth are always relevant – remember we’re talking about the words here!

confidence (56)

rooted in obedience – this has been by experience because I have obeyed your Word; obedience will result in blessing…when accompanied by right attitude/spirit

starts with desire to please Heavenly Father because we love him; empowered by dependence on God to supply whatever we need to please him; encouraged by understanding that we please God because he graciously stoops to accept what we do, really his own work in us

God supplies the hope, the comfort, the songs (joy) and the confidence by his Word and Spirit to bring us through whatever experience he has for us. Matters not how tough the sledding, can count on God to remember his promises to his children.


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