I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken….He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. (Psalm 16:8. 40:2)
An Insecure Star
Paul Newman (1925-2008) was an American actor, film director, race car driver, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, received an Oscar, and won humanitarian honors. But he suffered lots of disappointment. Newman abused alcohol to cope with his troubles and his son, Scott, died at the age of 28. Paul admitted, “I am faced with the appalling fact that I don’t know anything.” He was also plagued by self-doubt, always questioning his choices and haunted by past mistakes. Newman said, “I’m always anxious about admitting to failure, to not being good enough, to not being right.”1
Paul Newman reminds me of Augustine’s statement that God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) has made us for Himself and our hearts and minds and lives are restless until we rest in Him.2 Psalm 37 is about King David running back to God in tough times. And David teaches us how to do the same.
Remember That God Gives Special Care to Jesus’ Faithful Followers
Many times in Psalm 37, God calls Christ’s believers His blameless, just, faithful, righteous ones.3 Christians are the Lord’s holy people, His chosen ones, His treasured possession.4 Scripture says:
- We are blessed with every spiritual blessing because we are united with Christ
- We are heirs of God’s glory with Jesus
- We are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven
- We are the salt and light of the earth
- We will see Christ face-to-face and be with Him forever.5
God wants His children to know how special we are, so we can live out our high calling and privileges. We must continually renew our minds to know all that God has done for us and in us.6 This is especially important in a world that does not properly value the worth of being a Christian and persecutes us.
Our behavior never earns us favor with the Lord. But Jesus’ behavior, His life, death, resurrection, and ongoing work for us makes true believers Christ-like. The Holy Spirit also works in us to help us do Jesus-like good works and deeds. We are God’s justified, adopted, and sanctified children, and one day we will be glorified and taken to paradise.
God is our compassionate Father who forever shows mercy to His stumbling, fumbling children who fear Him. For He knows how weak we are. He remembers we are only dust.7 He calls us to keep on returning to Him all along the road to heaven and promises to cure us of backsliding.8 Our Lord will love us again, restore us again, enjoy us again, and never condemn us. Then we are to pass on His blessings to others. Christ rubs off on us and we are to be imitators of God.9
Made Like Jesus
What does Christ-likeness look like? Paul Borthwick writes of Muriel, a cranky British retiree living in a ramshackle hotel in Jaipur, India. She is wheelchair-bound, so the staff assigned a poor Dalit or outcast woman named Shilini to care for her. Shilini invites Muriel to her home to meet her whole family. Muriel brings a translator because the outcast family doesn’t speak English. Shilini showers Muriel with food and hospitality and Muriel asks, “Why?” The translator responds, “Because you have been kind to her. You’re the only one who acknowledges her.” Shilini loved that Muriel saw her, talked with her, and acknowledged her worth and their common humanity.10 Others didn’t do that!
Borthwick says that when we have and are pursuing an eternal relationship with Jesus, we start to notice people that no one else sees. God’s heart becomes our heart. The Lord bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to selfishness and imitate God’s righteousness. By Jesus’ wounds, we have been and are being healed from our old ways of life.11 We experience life with meaning when we serve Jesus and other people, not ourselves.12
According to the Bible, not one of us is good enough to please God on our own. But Christ is the righteous one, the Son of God, who came down to perfectly obey God’s law in the place of His believers and also to pay the death penalty for our failure to obey. Now gratefulness to the Lord motivates us to follow in Jesus’ steps.
Jesus the Right One
Martin Luther’ hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” says that Christians have Christ the Right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing. Another hymn says:
Christ died that we might be forgiven, He died to make us good,
That we might go at last to heaven, Saved by His precious blood.
There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin.
Jesus only could unlock the gate of heaven, and let us in.13
Prayer: Lord, You have lifted us out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. You set our feet on a rock and gave us a firm place to stand. May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify us through and through. May our whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The God who calls us is faithful, and You will do it.14
Notes (various Bible translations): 1 Dave Itzkoff, New York Times (10-16-22). 2 Adapted from Augustine, Confessions, 1.1.1. 3 “Righteous” alone is used ten times in this Psalm. 4 Deut 7:6; 1 Peter 2:9-10. 5 Eph 1:3; Rom 8:17; Matt 5:3-16; Rev 22:1-5; 1 John 3:1-3. 6 Rom 12:1-2. 7 Psalm 103:13-14. 8 Jer 3:22. 9 Eph 5:1-2. 10 Paul Borthwick, Missions 3:16, page 105. 11 1 Peter 2:24. 12 2 Cor 5:15. 13 There Is a Green Hill Far Away by C. Frances Alexander. 14 Prayer based on Psalm 9:10 and 1 Thess 5:23-24.