Today a passage of Scripture popped into my head. It’s a familiar passage that many of us turn to in times of stress or uncertainty. I believe that God whispered it in my ear today for just such an occasion.
Psalm 37:23 reads “The steps of a good man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way.” Some translations specify a ‘righteous man’ instead of a ‘good man;. So I began to think about this. I pulled up my handy Olive Tree app on the phone and started reading through the notes and commentaries that relate to this particular passage.
I was astonished to find a couple of things in there that I had misread and failed to apply deeply for years. But before I go into those things, I want to address my first barrier. Unworthiness.
When I read this Scripture, a strong sense of ‘that doesn’t apply to YOU, because you are unworthy‘ flows over me. I am not a good man. I am a sinner. True, I’m saved by grace. But, as I discussed in my previous blog, I struggle with my human nature. I won’t rehash all of that now, but you can read about it here.
There is an accusatory whisper in my ear all the time. I am striving to learn to decode that voice. If you are a fellow Believer, you will know who accuses us day and night… That would be the devil. I know his plan is to keep me feeling unworthy of God’s grace… of God’s plans for my life. When I write this out on paper, the academic in me rises up and easily sees through the game. God’s grace is unmerited. His promises are eternal. His Word is His promise. He is faithful. Everything Satan’s voice whispers to me is a lie. Well… almost everything. There has to be a little bit of truth in there to make us take the hook right? That little bit of truth is that I do, in fact, possess a wicked heart. I’m not a good man. But what he isn’t telling me is that you are the same as me. And God knows what has become of the heart of man. That’s why He went out of His way to create a plan of redemption. This plan doesn’t include our ability to earn His reward. In fact, God pretty much spells out the value of any righteous effort done in our flesh as filthy rags. So it’s 100% Jesus. I have to focus on Jesus and remember that I am worthy because He is worthy. Not because I have earned any favor or worthiness. Now that I’ve got that concept, let’s move on before I lose it again!
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. So that means, I should be able to take comfort in the journey. He is with me. He is guiding me.
Currently, I am struggling with a lot of worry and anxiety about an unspoken issue. Fortunately, I can say that this situation is not coming about due to anything I’ve done. So at least I can claim some innocence before God, right? Well that’s the kind of worthy/unworthy thought process that always sets me back. Nevertheless, I am quite concerned about the issue and the worry is consuming.
It’s easy to stamp that Scripture on issues like this. They are big. They are life altering issues that this passage seems to be custom written for. But that leads me to my lack of deep understanding here. Application of this Scripture goes much further than the giant crisis. It’s everyday life. It’s in decisions we make every single day. For example, you know how you feel that ‘check’ in your spirit when you are about to do something that you shouldn’t do? That’s ordered steps. Matthew Henry calls it the ‘whispers of conscience’. Please forgive me if this is old news to you. The ordered steps spoken of in this Scripture are far more granular than I understood. God doesn’t seem to show us the big picture very much, if at all. But He is there every single day to hold our hand and guide us through our lives.
That explains the accusatory shouting in my ears all the time. The devil is striving to drown out the voice and instruction of God in our lives. If we lose that day to day knowledge of God’s presence with us, we WILL begin to believe the lies that Satan tells us. So we must be aware of God’s presence in our lives all day, every day. We must understand that He really is guiding us if we will listen with a willing heart.
Next comes the misreading on my part. The second part of that verse says “and He delights in his way“. Man oh man have I struggled with Scriptures like that over the years. I am a selfish man. Most of the time I delight in whatever it is that serves myself. In my heart I know what motivates me… me. So when I see this Scripture and I misread it to imply that “I” delight in God’s way, all kinds of guilt floods in. But if you pay close attention to the capitalized and lower case letters, you can clearly see that the passage says the God delights in my ways. God knows righteousness right? If He directs my path into righteousness, He will delight in my ways. It’s something to strive for daily. How does it feel to know that you can delight God by simply following His guidance as He gives it to you every day? It sure feels better than what Satan is selling!
The very next Scripture (Psalm 37:24) says “Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the LORD holds his hand.” So God knows I’m going to fall. He knows that my heart outside of His grace is prone to nothing but falling. Therefore, He holds my hand even when I’m laying on my back after a fall. Satan shouts accusations at me the most when I am laying on my back. When I focus on what he’s saying, I lose track of who’s holding my hand at that very moment.
I’m not suggesting that we have a free pass to fall at will. What I am saying is that God has made a provision for us to change our lives daily. If we are willing, He will do the work in our hearts. He will guide us moment by moment, day by day. The purpose is to create in us a new heart. It is to fulfill the plans He has for us. It is to take away the anxiety and cares of this world that are evidence of my lack of trust in Him.
I hope this blog made some kind of sense to someone. It all makes sense in my head as I kind of dumped it out here! I solicit your prayers that God would form me into the man He wants me to be. I also ask that you pray for me to have the courage and the determination to trust Him more.