Tranquility Achieved

Psalm 131

Too often, Christians who are zealous in evangelism communicate some seriously wrong ideas. They love the Lord, are passionate about seeing others share in same blessings they do, aren’t always careful enough in how they try to persuade. The other person hears: “if you just ask Jesus into your heart, your life will be so much better”. And because life in a broken world is hard for everyone, they quickly translate “better” into “easier”, “more fun”, and the like.

Let’s see if we can gain a little insight here. WSC #1 asks “What is the chief end of man?” Answer is: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Consider how the unbeliever performs to that standard – for the one without Christ, is absolutely impossible to achieve. There is no way that individual can properly glorify God or enjoy him at all; they’re enemies! Even if were of a mind to try, is hopeless endeavor.

Now change the conditions: the believer who trusts in Christ, indwelt by Holy Spirit can with God’s help glorify and enjoy God. The impossible becomes possible… but not a done deal. Regeneration, going from spiritually dead to spiritually alive, is an event. Rest of Christian life is a process that requires work as God works on us. That’s where this psalm comes in, addressing aspects of the sanctification process – our growth in holiness and Christ-likeness.

It is one of the shortest Psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn.” CHS

Some sharp contrasts here between way child of God should think and act and feel… how world says it ought to be. Keep in mind, too: what world / culture says often does not match real life… for them. Most of time, what unbelievers try to project is contradictory to what is real and true. Outdo themselves trying to appear secure and successful and satisfied. Reality: fearful and anxious, disaster zones in many areas, relentlessly pursuing that one more thing that will satisfy.

Christian life, otoh, one of lifelong learning, continuous work-in-progress. Some days it’s a sprint, make huge gains; other days, more like slogging along waist deep in swamp, little evidence of change. Most important: are we facing right direction, becoming more like Christ? Rate of change far less important than kind of change and presence of change. So, have read psalm, if are facing toward God, committed to moving in his direction, what can we learn? Three things to learn: a proper self image, proper action toward self, and a proper attitude toward God.

A. proper self image v.1

don’t think too much of self (1a)

here’s one of those things impossible for unbeliever – to view self properly… as God does; comes out in conversation, comparisons to other people and not God’s standard

Pharisee – I’m glad I’m not like…; almost always sourced in a distorted view of reality, measured by wrong criteria

the one who has renewed mind has ability from God to think and reason correctly – think with a sound mind, reason to right conclusions, across full spectrum of life

Rom. 12:3 “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”

Paul addressed natural tendency to overrate self; same thought patterns in place whether high or low self-esteem – either rate perceived strengths too highly (haughty, overly positive self-image), or rate perceived weaknesses to highly (haughty, overly negative self-image)

my strengths / abilities way higher than other people’s vs. my weaknesses / failures way greater than other people’s

Holy Spirit directed thinking views all of above soberly, rationally, as close to God’s perspective as we are able

don’t think too little of others (1b)

looking around (literally or figuratively) at others, have head up seeing over top of all those around us

like previous point, this one has both positive and negative aspects – their strengths don’t measure up to ours, or… their problems aren’t nearly as bad as ours

can be correct evaluation of strengths/weaknesses, wrong evaluation of the person – not considering right things to evaluate

example: two people are perfect complements, one’s strength the other’s weakness, vice versa; my strengths better than yours, my weaknesses greater than yours, I can look down on you

Paul’s exhortation Phil. 2:3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

from perspective of proper self-image, have right view of others… as people, not product of check-list

Eph. 4:7 “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” – God has made us who we are, for his purpose

not desiring to work above pay grade (1c)

overestimating abilities without sound reason to do so – pursue vocation, position, responsibilities where success not possible

don’t tell child or young person – You can be whatever you want to be; most times a recipe for unreasonable expectations, frustration and failure

instead tell them and yourself – You can be whatever God wants you to be; all you need do is trust and depend

here’s the good news: if you pursue God-ordained vocation, you will succeed, you can achieve much of what world desires

not a self-proclaimed expert (1d)

how many times had to listen to someone expound at length on meaning of life, reason for high gas prices, some other topic-of-the-day, eventually realize they are totally clueless

one trusting in self, thinking too highly of self has to be expert on all things or self-image takes a hit

one with biblically based self-image doesn’t mind saying “I don’t know”, seeking help/perspective from those God has equipped

B. proper action toward self v.2

pro-active, not a victim

must start with Bible and its perspective (from God) on personal responsibility – what are things about us we must/can control

God doesn’t expect his children to do the impossible; he supplies necessary resources so in dependence we can obey

won’t succeed when have mindset of a victim, practice dependence on wrong things or people

learned and practiced attitude and behavior

Bible starts with thought patterns and actions, then feelings; principle: when we think as God does, act as God expects, feelings and emotions will eventually come into line

can control/direct how we think, what we do, not so much with emotions; that’s why pursuing emotional goal is futile

must learn from Bible how we are to think and act, then with God’s help go do it… repeatedly, until it becomes godly habit

purposely pursuing what leads to contentment and peace

start with pursuing God – knowing him, following him, conversing with him, listening to him, responding to his leading

Phil 3:8-10 “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord …​that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings”

Mark 8:34 He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

John 10:27 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Rom. 8:14 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”

notice source of all these things: God’s Word; Holy Spirit works in concert with Word to teach and lead and convict of sin

while pursuing right things, preach to your soul as David did

(Ps 42:5, 11; 43:5) Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.

what does Bible say about God / his character / his care of children? what promises / principles apply to present situation

what record is in God’s word of others who experienced similar, how God cared for them, supplied their need

purposely focus mind and thoughts on the truth – listen to God and talk to yourself (not other way round)

how would you comfort and settle a child who is anxious, fearful, fretful? speak God’s truth to yourself in same way

C. proper attitude toward God v.3

notice proper attitude toward self and God turns focus to others and their well-being: want them to share the good we experience

don’t stop short by pointing them to the good, the benefits; be sure to go all the way, point them to the ultimate source, God

God is personal God, not a private God; relates to us in person-to-person way, but relationship and blessing not solely for personal benefit

what God gives to us including benefits of relationship are meant to be shared with others, brothers and sisters

God is only right object of confidence, hope

world promises all sorts of things, ultimately agreeing with William Henley: “It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” Invictus

every promise world makes a two-ingredient blend: enough truth to deceive, enough falsehood to destroy – think Satan, Garden

no one but God can deliver what is promised perfectly and completely – only God has purity, accurately promising truly/accurately… and power to make it happen

only God has sufficient knowledge and power to provide hope that extends beyond this life into next

true for all of our existence, not just now

three great graces: faith, hope, love; faith only for here and now, will eventually be realized; love endures… and so does hope

hope has two-fold sense: patient waiting is one, in that sense only for this life; confident expectation, for now and then

confidently expect that God will continue faithful, providing for creatures and all their needs; true in heaven also

Is good to go back, review again path to peace, to achieving tranquility. You only get to verse 2 by way of verse 1 – is futile exercise to try to calm/quiet soul with only things self can supply. Hence, verse 1, putting aside pride and confidence in self and world (’cause world caters to self), hoping in God. Here’s how it works: have a container full to brim of jello, now pour water into it without spilling any. So long as we are full of our own resources, God will not work to add any of his to our mix. Only as we are emptied of what cannot truly help and satisfy will God fill us from his boundless supply of riches.

Strive in full dependence on God to learn three things: a proper self image, seeing yourself as God sees you; properly acting toward self, taking charge of thoughts and actions with God’s help; and a proper attitude toward God, resting fully and confidently in him. End result: “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:7


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