3 Steps to Conquer Fear (Reflection on Psalm 34:4)

Psalm 34:4 I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.

Eat and Run

I walked into the McDonald’s because the drive-thru was packed. There, waiting in line was a man who had already ordered. He looked at me and said, “Wow. I can’t believe people are so lazy they would rather wait in the long drive-thru line rather than Psalm 344 [widescreen]coming inside. There’s no one in here! He was right. The place was empty.

Drive-thru lines get longer and longer it seems. Some places are even putting in two drive-thru lanes to deal with the increased use. Why? Are people really lazy? Or have we become so busy that sitting in the car answering email, or talking on the phone as we pick up our food and eat on the way to our next activity seems the best use of our time? Some of us are so busy a “sit down meal” means eating in our car as we drive to our next meeting. With so much to do, we fear taking time out to eat will put us behind.

Delivered

My eyes fall to verse 4 where David writes, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

That’s a powerful statement considering Saul was trying to kill David and David was running for his life. Saul had the entire Israel army at his disposal while David only had a few hundred men. David had every reason to be afraid, yet, God delivered him from all his fears.

Fear Factor

We don’t have to have someone trying to kill us to be afraid. Fear influences all of our decisions, even when we don’t know it. While fear helps us survive, fight or flight and all that, most of us don’t have to worry much about tigers, lions, and bears (oh my). Our fear is of a different nature.

We are afraid of missing out (FOMO), losing what we have, not getting what we need, upsetting others, being misunderstood, being rejected, just to name a few. Perhaps our biggest fear is making mistakes or failure. We may even decide to play it safe and stick to our ‘comfort zone.’ Comfort zones are nice because we can handle anything there. While our comfort zone is void of fear, it can limit our faithfulness to God.

Fear of losing a job causes workers to “just do what they are told” instead of putting their whole self into their work. Fear of missing out causes us to spend weekend after weekend on ball diamonds, soccer fields, basketball courts, dance recitals, and other activities. While we enjoy the events, fear that if our children aren’t fully involved, they will miss out on future scholarships is what drives us. Some children start playing organized sports at 4 or 5 years old because parents believe if they don’t their future will be limited and they won’t have as good of a life as they could.

Why are we so fearful? Because we have lost our center and we believe we are on our own. David, in this Psalm, praises God because God had delivered David from all his fears. David gives us guidance on how we can be delivered from our fears as well.

3 Steps to Be Delivered from Fear

Notice David’s progression:

1) I Sought the Lord
2) The Lord answered
3) He delivered me from all my fears

This three step process seems simple, but it isn’t easy. We all want #3, but #1 can be a problem. David sought the Lord. He was a seeker. He was seeking God in the midst of his fear as he was running. In other psalms (Psalm 5:3) David writes about seeking God in the morning. Because David sought God, God answered.

How can we expect God to answer, when we don’t fully seek him?

Habits

Do we seek the Lord, so that the Lord can answer us? What’s your habit of seeking God?

When David heard God answer, he knew he was delivered. God answered, because David was intentional to seek God. My fear is that we have become a culture who talks about seeking God, but don’t. Instead of intentional, focused, time with God, we pray “on the run” or try to “multi-task” God into our lives. God has become like our lunch…we head to the drive-thru, pick up our food, and eat as we are on the way to somewhere else. Such a meal keeps us going, but doesn’t feed our soul.

Seeking God

When we seek God, God answers. When God answers, we discover we are not alone. When we realize we are not alone, our fear dissipates. The process begins when we spend focused, intentional, time with God.

God may not answer the way we want him to answer. It has taken me years to come to terms with God not answering me the way I wanted. What I have discovered is that God answers with his presence, which, I find ends up being much better than the answer I was looking for. In Jeremiah, God makes this promise, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) That promise, when realized, drives away all fear.

Morning Reflection 2/17/12 – Psalm 5

 

Trust in God for Deliverance from Enemies
To the leader: for the flutes. A Psalm of David.

1    Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my sighing.
2    Listen to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
3    O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.

4    For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil will not sojourn with you.
5    The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
6    You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.

7    But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house,
I will bow down toward your holy temple
in awe of you.
8    Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.

9    For there is no truth in their mouths;
their hearts are destruction;
their throats are open graves;
they flatter with their tongues.
10    Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of their many transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.

11    But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
so that those who love your name may exult in you.
12    For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover them with favor as with a shield.

One of the things I’ve noticed about the Psalm are how earthy and raw they are. David doesn’t hold anything back, but opens his heart to the One he trusts. He cries out to God to deliver him. He knows that there is no way God can be on the side of the wicked and those who lie, boast, flatter, destroy, and rebel. Continue reading “Morning Reflection 2/17/12 – Psalm 5”

Morning Reflection 2/16/12 – Psalm 4

Confident Plea for Deliverance from Enemies

To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.

 

1 Answer me when I call, O God of my right!

You gave me room when I was in distress.

Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.

2 How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?

How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? Selah

3 But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;

the Lord hears when I call to him.

4 When you are disturbed, do not sin;

ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Selah

5 Offer right sacrifices,

and put your trust in the Lord.

6 There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!

Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”

7 You have put gladness in my heart

more than when their grain and wine abound.

8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace;

for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.

via Psalm 4 (NRSV) – Biblia.com.

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There is much good to ponder in this Psalm. David knew what it was like to have enemies.  David was also confident that God heard his prayers. He knew that his enemies would not be victorious. Instead, God would answer.

The time between crying out to God, and feeling that God has answered is uneasy. It is easy to fear and fret. It is also easy to try to take matters into our own hands. Notice what David does here. After he prays, he reflects on what his response should be. Here is how I would list this response: Continue reading “Morning Reflection 2/16/12 – Psalm 4”

Morning Reflection 2/15/12–Psalm 3

Psalm 3

1    O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2    many are saying to me,
“There is no help for you in God.”     Selah

3    But you, O Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.
4    I cry aloud to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy hill.     Selah

5    I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.
6    I am not afraid of ten thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.

7    Rise up, O Lord!
Deliver me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.

8    Deliverance belongs to the Lord;
may your blessing be on your people!  Selah

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When I first started reading the Psalms I was surprised at all the talk of enemies. I had a hard time identifying with this because I try to live in peace with others. I don’t want to have enemies, so I try to not make any. So I wasn’t real sure how all of the “enemy talk” of the Psalms applied to my life.

Maybe you don’t have many enemies. Maybe you do. No matter how hard I try, I still have enemies. They might not have a face, but they do have a name and they are enemies. My tendency to criticize others is an enemy. My tendency to be judgmental and jump to conclusions is another enemy. I have an enemy I call selfishness and it shows up even when I’m trying to love selflessly. I have an enemy I call pride. He shows up quite often.

These are the enemies of holiness and will try to convince me that there’s no hope. They tell me that the way I am is the way I am and there’s nothing I can do to change.. The Psalmist reminds me that God is my shield and when I cry out to him, he answers. Lord, I’m crying out to you today!

Morning Reflection: Psalm 1

 http://biblia.com/bible/nrsv/Ps1

Psalm 1:

1 Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
3 They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.

4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

I have grown to love this Psalm. The Psalmist reflects on two different approaches to life. One way is to delight in the law of God and it leads to life in season and out of season. The other way is characterized by rejecting God’s law and way and it leads to destruction.

I often think of this Psalm and wonder which approach I’m taking. I would like to believe that I delight in God’s law, but do I really? Is the way of God a delight to me? Does following God’s law bring me to places of delight? I hate to admit many times it does not. Instead, I want to go my own way because deep down I believe that my way is the best way. I believe this even though the evidence shows I am wrong.

The Psalmist reminds me that delighting in (and living out) God’s law leads to life. Neglecting and, perhaps, even rejecting God’s law will eventually lead me to places where I don’t want to be. I continue to forget that and wander onto paths of my own creation. Oh that the law of God would be my delight!

Jesus, remind me often that your way leads to life. When I turn from the right or the left, remind me that only delighting in your way and your law, will lead me to Life.