How do you stay positive when you face so many negative challenges each day? It is a place you need to get to because if you don’t, the negative trials will sandblast your soul, leaving you depressed, feeling you do not have life purpose, and possibly even defeated.
David is a godly man we should study in this regard for sure. Why? As a military leader, king, politician, and family man, he had his share of great life victories, followed by pelting problems. Through all the pressures he faced as a boy, a teen, and a man, you encounter a believer who pushed onward and upward with a sense of joy and expectation of better days.
Remember his battle with Goliath? Standing in front of this nine foot, nine-inch monster of a Philistine warrior, whose bronze helmet and coat of scale armor weighed a whopping 125 pounds, David, the godly teenager, didn’t flinch as he picked up five smooth stones for his trusty slingshot. The giant’s massive bronze spear with a fifteen-pound iron tip didn’t bother the shepherd boy either. He just smiled and slipped the stones into his shepherd’s bag on his waist, and wrapped his calloused hand around one lone rock.
When the battle-hardened Philistine bellowed, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks . . . Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field” (1 Sam. 17:43-44). Instead of slipping into a fearful, bone-rattling mode, David looked at his opponent through the lens of faith in the living God and he forcefully replied,
45 . . . “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands (1 Sam. 17).
Wow. When most would have imploded in fear, David exploded. When most cowered in negativity, David centered on positivity. How did He do that?
David shares some much needed insight into how he approached life with such positive spiritual power in Psalm 103. As you face your own Goliaths right now, as you are tempted to embrace the negative in light of your situation, I think God wants you to grow in your ability to push forward to victory by learning from a saint like David how to keep your positive edge, which, in turn, will lead to stunning spiritual victories.
The main idea from these twenty divinely inspired verses can be helpfully couched in the form of a question:
How Do You Remain Spiritually Positive In A Negative World? (Psalm 103)
Three helpful principles David employed in his own spiritual walk are developed in these verses. Let’s learn from them. And please note up front that David, the author of the positive psalm, did not ask God for one thing. Interesting. Try doing this the next time you walk into God’s presence when facing a Goliath.
Verses 1 through 5 give us our first lesson from our spiritual life coach who had played the game of faith well:
Let God Be Blessed By Your Blessing (Psalm 103:1-5)
First, read the text in question, and then allow me to circle back and offer some salient observations:
A Psalm of David . Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name. 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;
The opening commands in verses 1 through 2 challenge war-weary saints to develop and nurture a spiritual life focused like a laser beam on blessing God with all you’ve got. Admit it. With all the negative things you face on a given day, from dysfunction you face at home to hostility you encounter with co-workers and clients, it’s so easy to devolve into depression and silence before God.
David’s model counters this negative and quite natural tendency by living a life of blessing God for all of the benefits He has brought to his life. The Hebrew for “benefits” is gemulim (גְּמוּלִים) and it denotes gracious and charitable actions. Ostensibly, this means instead of focusing on the giant before you focus on the giant things God has done in your life before you bumped into Goliath.
Just what are those benefits from David’s perspective? I’m glad you asked. David list’s them in verses 3 through 5:
3 Who pardons all your iniquities; Who heals all your diseases; 4 Who redeems your life from the pit; Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; 5 Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
Your list of divine benefits might be, and probably will be longer as you give it quality thought later; however, for now we need only look at David’s top five. Remember, these are the five main things David blessed God for. Let’s work our way down through them in order:
God pardons all of our iniquities (v. 3)The word for iniquities speaks of something which is twisted and distorted. Think of the last time you crushed a soda ca with your powerful hand to demonstrate your prowess and you have the image of this particular word. Sin is nothing short of a twisted distortion of what God intended. Being angry because a person of one race mugged a person of another race is a justified feeling because someone’s God-given dignity has been attacked. Going off half-cocked at person who cut in front of you at the store is another matter altogether. It’s really a twisted version of how you should behave. As a believer, however, God stands ready to pardon, to wipe the slate clean of our sinful distortions of proper, holy behavior when we confess our sin before Him (1 John 1:9). David also talks about this in psalm 32:5, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
There’s nothing like getting that heavy load of guilt off your back when you come to the Savior. What a benefit.
God heals all our diseases (v. 3) Is this true? No, sometimes He wisely permits the disease to remain in your life to accomplish greater, loftier purposes. Paul’s eyesight issues served to keep his pride in check because God has so intellectually gifted the man (2 Cor. 12:1-10). At other times, God moves to heal, as He did when He empowered Peter to heal the lame man at the temple prior to Pentecost (Acts 3:1-10). Of course, the healing served to validate the teaching ministry of Peter who now readied himself to be one of the foundational leaders in the new divine entity called the Church. God does heal. I’ve seen Him do it in a profound fashion in my walk. I’ve also seen Him permit certain disease to remain for purposes I grasped or for purposes I groped for; however, in the end there was, and is, always healing. The Hebrew word for healing used here, rapha (רָפָא), can apply to physical or spiritual healing. Hence, while God might not always heal you a given physical malady, He typically heals you of the bitterness, anger, and lack of trust the disease might bring to your fragile spiritual life. Again, I’d say, What a benefit.
God redeems you from the pit (v. 3). “Pit” is just another word for Sheol (Psalm 28:1; 30:3; Job 33:24), or the grave. Isaiah 14, “15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.” From a New Testament perspective, Jesus has redeemed us from the grave insofar as we have eternal life in the here and now, just as He said we would: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believe has eternal life. I am the bread of life” (John 6:47-48). To “eat” of Him in faith is to welcome eternal living into your life, and in this way you have defeated death which cannot hold you. Likewise, Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5, “8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” Is this not something to bless God about? Indeed. The Goliath of disease might take its terrible toll on you, but at the end of the day you win because death will be swallowed up in life. Benefits from God don’t get any better than this.
God crowns your life with lovingkindness and compassion (v. 4). When those around you wear ugly crowns of bitterness, nastiness, racism, rudeness, ruthlessness and the like, your spiritual head, as a saint, sports a crown made of loyal love and deep, heartfelt compassion. Look at a saint like Mother Theresa, who loved on the poor and destitute in India, or a Corrie Ten Boom, who loved on Jewish people fleeing the Nazis and you’ll see these two characteristics in action. Oh, how other-worldly they are, especially in our day. Oh, what a benefit they are to those who use them to touch lives.
God gives you good things to give you strength (v. 5). If life were all negative it would suck the life out of you. When, however, you know and walk with the living God, He brings good things to your life to give you hope, help, and health. This, in turn, empower you for the rough, demanding road of life. What are the good things He has brought to you lately to give strength to your tired, worn out spiritual body? A card which arrived at the right time from a wise saint? A breakfast with a believer you look up to which helped you move into a better life direction? A new place of employment to get away from the toxic, destructive environment where you were for many years? Yes, God always looks down from heaven as the Good Shepherd and searches for ways to bless you with goodness. And when He blesses you it is tantamount to giving you strength to soar like a powerful eagle. Once again, how can we not bless Him for this benefit?
If depression and despondency have become your new friends, and they are dragging you down like a heavy anchor tied to your legs as you attempt to swim in deep water, I think you know how to cut the restrictive rope. Start by purposefully blessing God for His benefits instead of asking anything from Him. So, get alone today and tell God, “Lord, forgive me for not blessing you as I should. Fill my mouth now with words of blessing so you might be praised.” God will not only be praised as you do this, you’ll also discover new positive spiritual power will be released in your life because you are doing what God designed you to do.
Let Your Past Empower Your Present (Psalm 103:6-18)
This is what David did when told King Saul why he, a youthful shepherd, was prepared to take on Goliath:
34 But David said to Saul, "Your servant was tending his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36"Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God. 37 And David said, The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine (1 Sam. 17).
What a great, logical, and highly positive argument. David reasoned that since God empowered him to take on and defeat powerful and vicious beasts like a lion and a bear, God would empower him to take on and defeat the likes of this over grown, muscle-bound, overly confident Philistine.
Do you do this? When you face the negative problem do you focus on the positive past? This is how a man after God’s own heart rolled down the road of life. In verses 6 through 18 this is exactly what David does. He thinks back to what God has done and revealed about Himself over the years, and he, then, uses those great concepts to put wind in his sails as he encounters the present. All of these verses can be summarized or classified under three over-arching time-markers.
One, God showed Moses and Israel His amazing character during the Exodus (vv. 6-8). Here’s how David develops this bit of historical analysis:
6 The LORD performs righteous deeds, and judgments for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel. 8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
Here David takes us down memory lane to the time when God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage under the leadership of Moses. All throughout the ordeal, God showed these poor, downcast, browbeaten, and hopeless slaves His miraculous power designed to free them. In a desert land where water really meant life, God struck the water by turning it into something akin to blood to break Egypt’s iron-fisted grip on Israel (Ex. 7:19-24). All of a sudden, the opposed slaves who couldn’t fight for themselves, hand a heavenly One who stood ready to intervene for them. Also, throughout the next 40 years, Moses learned much about God. From his intimate times with God as he walked through loose, shifting desert sand, Moses learned that God was, in fact, compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness. Even when Moses broke the first stone Ten Commandments when he saw the people partying around the golden calf, he lived to see God agree to write on a second set (Ex. 34:1-2). What grace.
Similarly, step back and take stock of your own wilderness wanderings. Has He not given you a memorable miracle or two, or three? A few weeks ago, a video introduced you to my good friend from high school, Hubert Graybiel. He showed up here and surprised me as he traveled to North Carolina from work. We hadn’t seen each other since 1976 when I led him to Christ. His video recounted the miraculous nature of how he became a believer.
We both graduated from high school. I headed to Los Angeles to college and he joined the Navy in San Diego and became a Navy medic. Then on one Friday in November of 1976, I traveled home four hours to see my folks, and he, unbeknownst to me, drove over from the coast to see his folks. We met “accidently” at the game, and afterward I took him home. Sitting in the car I shared the gospel with him again, as I had done many times over the years, and that night God had prepared Hubie for the gospel seed. Not only did a young man get saved that night, but two young men learned about the wonderful character of the living God.
Folks, Exodus events like this which God arranges in your life are what you look back on when the proverbial chips are down, when the storm clouds are closing in, and when Goliath is beating his massive shield and waving his heavy javelin.
Two, God is tender when, not if, we trip (vv. 9-12). Watch how the wise king opens up this rich, eternal truth.
9 He will not always strive with us; nor will He keep His anger forever. 10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Look back at the countless times in your Christian walk you’ve blown it, maybe baldly. An affair here. A sexual sin there. An addiction here. A prideful manner there. Admit it. You are only here today because God chose not to treat you according to His law but according to His love. Had He focused on Law, you’d be vaporized. But because He chose to move toward you with lovingkindness when you decided to fear Him who is holy, you discovered he forgave your sin in a magnanimous, off-the-charts fashion. Never will He now throw that sin up in your face. You are free because your return to walking in the fear of God moved you to confession, which, in turn, moved Him to forgive and restore you.
So, have you tripped up in this past? Has God disciplined you? Did the discipline, be what it may, get your attention and show you the need to fear Him again? And did you repent and then find His rich forgiveness wash over your sin-stained soul? Here’s some sound advice. Next time you bite the spiritual dust, next time Goliath happens to get the best of you, stop and remember past moments when you sinned and lived to experience the tender, and emotional, forgiveness of your good heavenly Father.
Three, God remembers we are finite, frail creatures (vv. 13-18). God knew Moses had a stuttering problem, but He chose to use him anyway to be His deliverer. God knew that Elijah could only be fearless to a point and then he’d withdraw when he faced the wrath of that wicked woman Jezebel, but He chose to use him anyway. God knew that David’s carnal man would be overcome by the sight of Bathsheba taking a ritual bath, but He chose to use him anyway. God knew James and John had anger management issues, but He chose to use them anyway to carry His gospel to the known world after His death. God knew Peter typically acted before his brain engaged, but He chose to use him anyway to build the Church. Such is the nature of God as displayed in his past action. David puts this all in proper perspective when he writes:
13 Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. 14 For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. 16 When the wind has passed over it, it is no more; and its place acknowledges it no longer. 17 But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children's children, 18 To those who keep His covenant, and who remember His precepts to do them.
God is just like a wise father who knows children will eventually go off the rails as they attempt to grow up. He doesn’t stop loving them at that point of departure, but He calls them to fear Him who is holy. Yes, He could, based on His holiness, remove the wayward child, but He doesn’t. Why? He loves each of His children, and He intimately knows they are finite and frail creatures, prone to being weak, not strong. He knows they are like the peony flowers in my yard right now: gorgeous while they are in full bloom, but many of them are fading fast . . . and it all happened so quickly. And because we are all so utterly temporal, we are tempted to grab all the gusto from life, and some of that gusto is, well, downright sinful.
God, conversely, knows how we are wired, which probably means He is patient with us. When He finally gets our spiritual attention (for David it took a heart to heart confrontational conversation with Nathan the prophet), and when we walk away from our sin and start living for Him again, He treats us with loyal love and compassion.
David, I’m sure, thought of the many times in his life he walked off the spiritual reservation and lived for David. He also lived to pay a price for his sin, as when the Lord caused his son Absalom to rebel against him; however, this whole sad process also moved the king to hold on that much tighter to the Lord. At this point of the Psalm, David is merely reflecting on a lifetime of the Lord’s rich grace pouring down upon him, and every time he looked back at God’s amazing provision he felt divinely empowered for the road ahead.
We, of course, can do no less as we seek to live for God. We, like David, must let God’s exploits in the past of our lives translate into power for the present. Do this and you’ll move from darkness to light, and from weakness to power.
Let God’s Reign Be Your Rain (Psalm 103:19-22)
David talks a lot in the Psalms about the universal, eternal reign of the Lord (Psalm 9:4, 7; 11:4; 45:6; 47:8; 89:4, 14, 29, 36, 44; 93:2; 97:2). Why does he do this? Not only because it is true, but because it is a concept which changes everything. When I cognitively recognize and remember that the Lord is always on His glorious throne, then I know all events in life are not by happenstance, that what appears to be out of control is in control for purposes beyond my paygrade, and that darkness will not overcome light, nor evil the good. This is why David loved to talk about God’s rule. Psalm 103 is no exception:
19 The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all. 20 Bless the LORD, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word, obeying the voice of His word! 21 Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, you who serve Him, doing His will. 22 Bless the LORD, all you works of His, in all places of His dominion; Bless the LORD, O my soul!
Mark well the cause/effect relationship between God rule and the responsibility of God’s created beings. Verses 19 through 20 call the angelic class to bless the God they serve on a moment by moment basis. Verse 21 challenges mankind to bless Him too. Why? Blessing should be rendered unto the One who is always the King of Kings and Lord of Lords for He alone is worthy. Additionally, the person who blesses Him, not only joins in the chorus of blessing with the angels, he, you guessed it, finds that this time of blessing becomes like much needed rain on dry, parched ground.
I take it your ground is dry and parched because you have forgotten the Lord reigns. What has caused the ground of your life to be cracked and broken?
A wayward child.
A wayward husband or wife.
A troubled teen.
A mixed up, messed up world.
A troublemaker you can’t get beyond.
A desertion you can’t shake.
A sickness which seems, well, unfair.
A relationship you should sever.
If any of this sounds familiar, I know one thing is for certain. Negativity is sweeping over your life, turning it into a perpetual dustbowl. The way you get back to having rich, red, fertile soil is you bless the God who reigns over all and at all times. And because He reigns, it will rain.
I’ve dreamed many dreams that never came true,
I’ve seen them vanish at dawn;
But I’ve realized enough of my dreams, thank God,
To make me want to dream on.
I’ve prayed many prayers when no answer came,
I’ve waited patient and long;
But answers have come to enough of my prayers
To make me keep praying on.
I’ve trusted many a friend who failed,
And left me to weep alone;
But I’ve found enough of my friends true-blue
To make me keep trusting on.
I’ve sown many seeds that fell by the way
For the birds to feed upon;
But I’ve held enough golden sheaves in my hand,
To make me keep sowing on.
I’ve drained the cup of disappointment and pain,
I’ve gone many days without song,
But I’ve sipped enough nectar from the rose of life
To make me want to live on.
Charles Allen, The Secret of Abundant Living