Read: Psalm 118:1-29
Focus: Psalm 118: 1, 5 – 9
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
In my distress I prayed to the Lord,
and the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.
What can mere people do to me?
Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me.
I will look in triumph at those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in people.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.
Have you ever had to regularly interact with someone, who no matter what you do, just seems to be against you? Whether it’s at work, at school, in your family, or in a social circle, it just seems like that person isn’t happy if he or she isn’t heaping their misery on you. I think it’s fair to say that pretty much everyone has experienced this. When this happens to me, the first action I should do is to take a self-inventory – is there anything I have done to offend or injure him or her? By the way – “should do” isn’t the same as “always do”. If God reveals something I have done to offend the person, it’s on me to make it right with the person. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 5: 23 – 24: “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”
However, what if it’s not on you? What if you have prayed, asked God to reveal anything you have done to hurt the person, and you honestly can’t think of anything? How do you handle the situation? I think one reaction (the one offered by what the Apostle Paul calls our natural, corrupt, sinful spirit) is to fight fire with fire. If we succumb to this reaction (and I’m guilty of it when I don’t handle tense situations prayerfully), we respond with gossip, backbiting, and anger. We look to punish the other person by cutting them down to a level below us or even threatening them physically if the situation has denigrated to that point. In Galatians 5: 19 – 21, Paul warns us of what it looks like when we give in to our sinful nature instead of following the Holy Spirit in us: “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
When we look back on the situation afterwards if we have responded in accordance with our sinful nature, there is never any peace. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit, which is contrary to our sinful nature. Instead of lashing out, backbiting, gossiping, and looking to go on the attack, God teaches a different way. Rather than confiding in another person and gossiping or whining about the way you are being treated, seek the Lord. In today’s focus verses, we are told, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people” and “the Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” In the Book of Proverbs (verses 21 – 22), King Solomon writes:
“If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat.
If they are thirsty, give them water to drink.
You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads,
and the Lord will reward you.”
We are called to boldness and courage in spreading the Gospel, but we shouldn’t confuse spreading the Gospel with our own honor and pride. It’s not easy to answer personal attacks against us with meekness and humility, but as Christians, that’s what we are called to do. As Paul writes in Galatians 5: 24 – 26, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”
Lord, I give You thanks because You are good. Thank You that Your faithful love endures forever. I ask to be courageous and bold in spreading Your Word. I also ask for discernment so I can understand when I’m not being humble and the courage to face fire with peace and kindness. Please help me to be a peacemaker. Help me to reflect Your light on everyone, including my enemies, so they can see how good You are and seek to follow You also. In Jesus’ name… Amen