When Your World Falls Apart

Study Guide

<strong>How to Use this Study Guide</strong>

How to Use this Study Guide

     The purpose of this Turning Point study guide is to reinforce Dr. David Jeremiah’s dynamic, in-depth teaching and to aid the reader in applying biblical truth to his or her daily life. This study guide is designed to be used in conjunction with Dr. Jeremiah’s When Your World Falls Apart audio series, but it may also be used by itself for personal or group study.

Structure of the Lessons

      Each lesson is based on one of the messages in the When Your World Falls Apart compact disc series and focuses on specific passages in the Bible. Each lesson is composed of the following elements:

     • Outline

      The outline at the beginning of the lesson gives a clear, concise picture of the topic being studied and provides a helpful framework for readers as they listen to Dr. Jeremiah’s teaching.

     • Overview

      The overview summarizes Dr. Jeremiah’s teaching on the passage being studied in the lesson. Readers should refer to the Scripture passages in their own Bibles as they study the overview. Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture verses quoted are taken from the New King James Version.

     • Application

      This section contains a variety of questions designed to help readers dig deeper into the lesson and the Scriptures, and to apply the lesson to their daily lives. For Bible study groups or Sunday school classes, these questions will provide a springboard for group discussion and interaction.

     • Did You Know?

      This section presents a fascinating fact, historical note, or insight that adds a point of interest to the preceding lesson.

Using This Guide for Group Study

      The lessons in this study guide are suitable for Sunday school classes, small-group studies, elective Bible studies, or home Bible study groups. Each person in the group should have his or her own study guide.

      When possible, the study guide should be used with the corresponding compact disc series. You may wish to assign the study guide lesson as homework prior to the meeting of the group and then use the meeting time to listen to the CD and discuss the lesson.

For Continuing Study

      For a complete listing of Dr. Jeremiah’s materials for personal and group study call 1-800-947-1993, go online to www.DavidJeremiah.org, or write to: Turning Point, P.O. Box 3838, San Diego, CA 92163.

       Dr. Jeremiah’s Turning Point program is currently heard or viewed around the world on radio, television, and the Internet in English. Momento Decisivo, the Spanish translation of Dr. Jeremiah’s messages, can be heard on radio in every Spanish speaking country in the world. The television broadcast is also broadcast by satellite throughout the Middle East with Arabic subtitles.

      Contact Turning Point for radio and television program times and stations in your area. Or visit our website at www.DavidJeremiah.org.


     People certainly have developed interesting ways to cope with the daily pressures and strains of life. Some folks obsessively read each day’s obituaries in the local paper, somehow trying to find solace in the fact that their names and birthdates aren’t found on that printed page. Then there are those who follow celebrities with an almost cult-like fascination as they try to live vicariously through the lives of the rich and famous. Still others try to numb away reality through excessive alcohol and drug use, or by mindlessly sitting in front of a television set or computer screen for thousands of hours
a year.

      But in the end, all of these efforts yield nothing but a false hope and an even greater sense of emptiness. Surely there must be a better way to find hope and healing and help when it seems like the sky is falling.

      Well, there is! God in His mercy and grace has given us His Word to guide us and edify us when we are reeling and looking for answers. And the Psalms especially serve this purpose because of their range of emotion and experience.

      Many of the Psalms are biographical prayers written and sung by King David. If anyone lived a rollercoaster life, it was David.

     He was not only a poet, warrior, shepherd, and king; he was also a fugitive, murderer, and outcast as well. The Psalms chronicle his songs of praise as well as cries for deliverance. David is not one to hide his emotions; he is very real and open when he comes before the Lord with his supplications and complaints. And we have the benefit of not only identifying with his weaknesses but also of sharing in his hope and trust in the God of Jacob.

      In When Your World Falls Apart, we are going to take an in-depth, verse-by-verse look at some of the most powerful Psalms in all of Scripture. These were words borne of tears and heartache and isolation and desperation. There is no middle ground or pulling punches to be found in these verses; these are the cries of godly men who come before the Lord with both pleas and praise.

      If you think you can’t find help and hope in the Psalms for problems regarding struggles in your family, think again. For in both Psalms 63 and 71, we will find David at odds with his disobedient sons; and in one case, we will join him as he literally hides in a cave in the desert.

      There are some difficult truths that we will encounter. Psalm 107 will show us that God at times brings the storms of life into our lives on purpose. We can’t blame Satan for every woe and difficulty that we encounter. But we will learn that the storms God brings are all for the purpose of His glory and for making and molding us more into the likeness of His Son.

      We will also learn how to pray under pressurized situations. Having a king and his army hunt you for years as a fugitive is a pretty dire situation to be in. This is where we will find David in Psalm 142, and he will offer for us a godly model of how to come before the Lord in the worst of times with both our supplications and our worship.

      So open your heart as we open these pages of God’s Word. These were words written by real people who faced real circumstances. And God has given them to us not only that we may have someone to identify with but also that we can benefit from their experience and become more spiritually mature followers of Christ and servants of the Lord.

Bonus Lesson: Is the Coronavirus in Bible Prophecy?

Matthew 24:3-14

In this lesson we explore six valuable lessons that we can learn as a result of the coronavirus epidemic.


     Throughout the ages, whenever there was a global conflict or epic plague of disease ravaging the planet, God’s people turned to the Word to see if the catastrophe they were living through was spoken of in Scripture. From the Black Death to World War I, people questioned if what they were experiencing was a long-prophesied event. Even if such events are not verified biblical prophecies, such trying events and times can always teach God’s people valuable lessons about their faith and the God they serve.

  1.      The Vulnerability of Everyone
  2.       The Credibility of the Bible
  3.       The Uncertainty of Life
  4.       The Scarcity of Hope
  5.       The Sufficiency of Jesus
  6.       The Urgency of Salvation



     At the outbreak of this global pandemic, a high-profile professional athlete that I highly respect sent me this question: “Is the coronavirus in Bible prophecy?” This is my answer to his question.

      Let’s face it—this whole pandemic feels like something we have read about in the Bible. To put it another way, this is the most apocalyptic thing that has ever happened to us. To see the rapid spread of this virus and the sudden shutdown of the economy seems like a bad dream. Surely this couldn’t have happened so quickly?

      But it did, and it leads us to this obvious question: Are we living in the Last Days before the return of Jesus Christ? Is everything that is happening to us at this moment a sign that the world is coming to an end? How do we know if the coronavirus is a sign of the End Times?

      In the Synoptic Gospels, there is a section of Scripture referred to as the Olivet discourse. In this portion of God’s Word, we have the record of our Lord’s discussion with four of His disciples about the signs of the times. Found in Matthew 24, Jesus gives a prophetic sermon that sweeps His disciples into a time that had not yet come, a time they themselves would never personally experience.

      In fact, this passage is so all-inclusive that many have called it the mini-Apocalypse. A broad outline of the future is given by our Lord, and it is almost like an overture to the book of Revelation. And the disciples asked Jesus three questions: When will these things be? What will the sign of Your coming be? And what will the sign of the end of the age be?

      As to when these things will be, Matthew 24:36 records Jesus’ reply: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” And then Jesus answers the second and third questions. Those questions were: What will be the sign of Your coming? And what will be the sign of the end of the age? In answering these questions, Jesus gives us six signs that help us to know if we’re in that period before He returns:

      1.  Deception by False Christs—Matthew 24:4-5

      2.  Disputes and Warfare Among Nations—Matthew 24:6-7

      3.  Devastation Throughout the World—Matthew 24:7-8

      4.  Deliverance of Believers to Tribulation—Matthew 24:9

      5.  Defection of False Believers—Matthew 24:10-13

      6.  Declaration of the Gospel to the Whole World—Matthew 24:14

      Now what we have to understand about the signs of Matthew 24 is this—none of these signs have anything to do with the Rapture! These six signs cover the Second Advent, which is at the end of the Tribulation period. According to Jesus, the generation that sees all of these signs will see the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Matthew 24:32-34).

      So, here’s the question: If all these signs are not about the Rapture, but occur after the Rapture when I’ll be in heaven, why should I be concerned about the signs at all?

      The broad answer to that question is this: Future events cast their shadows before them. Some of these things that are going to be happening in the Tribulation period signal the Second Advent of Christ and are going to be occurring in some insipient form long before the Rapture ever takes place. They are going to spill into the world in which you and I live. So when you see a sign for the Second Advent, in essence, it is a subtle sign for the Rapture.

      Let’s circle back to the original question: Is the current coronavirus pandemic a sign of the Rapture? Of course not! The Rapture is a sign-less, imminent event with no warning. Is this a sign of the Second Coming of Christ? I cannot say with any sense of certainty that it is. But neither can I say with any sense of certainty that it is not. It could be the early evidence of number three on Jesus’ list—devastation throughout the world by pestilence.  

      Is the coronavirus a sign of Jesus’ coming? Is this the pestilence Jesus is talking about? Probably not. It does not perfectly qualify as a prophetic sign. But it surely is a picture of it, isn’t it? It reminds us that such signs exist, and such things will happen one day.

      While this may not be a sign of the future, it is a sign for today. The coronavirus can teach us many things. And there is a lot we can take away from this time. In fact, there are six things that we can learn from this pandemic that will help us serve our Lord better, live better lives, and be better people.

The Vulnerability of Everyone

      According to most reports, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are the most vulnerable to this virus; but as time has progressed, we have seen that everyone is vulnerable—including celebrities we sometimes think are invincible.

      Entertainers Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, and Rachel Matthews are among those who have become infected with COVID-19. NBA stars Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, and Kevin Durant, along with the coach of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, Sean Payton, also became ill from this disease, and many other well-known people have died from this virus.

      Usually if you have enough money, you can protect yourself from things like this. But this crisis has shown that no matter who you are or what you do or how much money you have, everyone is vulnerable to this super plague. This ought to humble us and help us realize just how dependent upon God we really are!

The Credibility of the Bible

      This pandemic lends us a wonderful picture of the credibility of the Bible. For fifty years I have been studying the Bible. And in my studies, I have often been brought to a pause when I read of the worldwide events that are going to happen during the Tribulation because those future pandemics are much worse than the one we are currently facing.

      For instance, Ezekiel prophesied about a disastrous plague that will cover the world when God judges Russia and the coalition army that will try to destroy Israel. When God intervenes on behalf of His people, calamities like fire and brimstone, and eventually, major contagion, will decimate the enemies of God: “I will bring him to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed” (Ezekiel 38:22).

      Just how bad will that pestilence be? The epidemic of disease will take the nation of Israel seven months to bury the deceased! When I initially read that in the Bible, I thought it sounded like science fiction—like something that could never happen.

      And yet as we look around at the world today, we can see that very thing happening with bodies being stacked up waiting to be buried from the coronavirus. The Bible has accurately portrayed such events all along!

The Uncertainty of Life 

      It is safe to say that none of us saw this pandemic coming.

     I don’t know anyone who can honestly say they were prepared to wipe their schedules clean through the end of 2020; or to stop attending church for weeks at a time; or be told by the government to shut down their business and stay home until otherwise instructed. Who could have known?

      But the apostle James knew. Here is what he wrote: “You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Life is truly uncertain and only the Lord knows what lies ahead.

      I hope we can all use some of this required quiet time to reflect on our lives and to give God thanks for what He has already done for us—and for His abundant grace that is evident in our lives. We have no certainty of tomorrow. Tomorrow does not belong to us. But we can be certain that God is in control and is on His throne, even in the midst of our uncertain circumstances.

The Scarcity of Hope

      I have been amazed at the scarcity of hope during the COVID-19 pandemic. The vast majority of reporting on the coronavirus is skewed toward the negative. Yes, this is a very serious moment. But it is not going to be the end of the world. However, if you listen to the news every day, you can be overwhelmed with the negativity. There is a scarcity of hope in the reporting.

      But according to Robert H. Shmerling, M.D. of Harvard Medical School, there are many reasons for hope. There is another side to this story. Most people with COVID-19 recover! “Estimates now suggest that 99 percent of people infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 will recover.“1. Already, more than 100,000 people have had this disease and have fully recovered.

      So there is another side of the picture. Are we in trouble? Yes! But the end of the world has not come, folks, and it is not going to come—not right now. I do not believe this is a sign of the coming of Christ. It is a warning and a reminder—a wake-up call, if you will.

The Sufficiency of Jesus

      In Matthew 24, Jesus is preparing to leave His disciples and return to heaven. It is evident that Jesus cares deeply about His disciples. Recall what He said to them in John 14:1: “Let not your heart be troubled.” Also, in John 16:33, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

      These are familiar words to most of us, but I want you to look at Jesus’ words through a fresh pair of eyes. Notice that His promise to the disciples was the promise of Himself. His peace was to be found in Him! Therefore, the peace that you need is wrapped up in Jesus Himself, not in what He says or what He does. It is found in Him.

      Jesus did not say, “In the world you will have tribulation, and I have overcome tribulation . . . I have overcome the world” (emphasis added). In other words, Jesus doesn’t just overcome the world—He overcomes the entire environment where the event happens. He is in total control!

      In these challenging days, we cannot forget what Jesus has told us. His grace is sufficient for us. And you will find that out during these days if you haven’t found it out already. The sufficiency of Jesus Christ will be on display everywhere.

The Urgency of Salvation

      Everyone is rightfully focused on getting physically healed at this time. But if people are not healed spiritually, in the end the healing they receive will not be very meaningful. You may be in quarantine right now and dealing with this awful sickness. I am sorry if that’s true. I pray you get better. But more than anything else I hope that while you’re in quarantine you have some time to think seriously about your relationship with God. The Bible says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

      Through prophecy, God has made the darkness of this world’s approaching doom close to us. What we have studied about the return of Christ and the judgment that will fall on this earth before He ultimately comes back to set up His kingdom should cause us to think seriously in ways we never have before.

      When the Tribulation arrives and God’s people are taken into heaven, the door will close on those who have heard and rejected the Gospel. Have you put your trust in Jesus Christ? Has there ever been a time in your life when you acknowledged that you are a sinner and asked Jesus Christ to forgive your sin, come into your life, and give you the gift of eternal life?

      If you have never done that, you can do it today. You can make that decision right now wherever you are—in your home, in the hospital, or in some faraway place where nobody knows where you are. Wherever you are, there is One Who sees you, and that’s God Himself. And He will hear you if you will pray this simple prayer from your heart:

      Dear God, I know I am a sinner. I know that the wages of sin is death. I do not want to die in my sin. I want to be forgiven and live in hope. Lord Jesus, come into my heart and forgive me. Give me the gift of eternal life which You have promised. Give me salvation, Lord. I trust You. I believe in You. I know that You love me and gave Yourself for me. And I receive you as my Savior today.

      That is my prayer and hope for you, that you come to know the joy and ultimate healing that comes from salvation through Jesus Christ. May this treacherous time caused by the coronavirus bring many to the foot of the cross.


1Robert H. Shmerling, M.D., “Is there any good news about the coronavirus pandemic?,” Harvard Health Publishing, March 19, 2020, https://www.health/harvard.edu/blog.




1.  Read John 14:1-3.

  1. What does Jesus command us not to do? (verse 1)
     Why should we have hope?

  3. According to Jesus, what does heaven specifically contain? (verse 2)

  5. What does Jesus say He will do for us when He gets to heaven? (verse 2)

  7. Why is the reality of verse 2 such a beacon of hope for us here on earth?

  9. Jesus said if He prepares a place for us, He will also do what? Why? (verse 3)

  11. How does this passage give you perspective in relation to the panic  regarding the coronavirus?


2.  Read Psalm 71:14-16.

  1. How often are we to hope? (verse 14)

  3. How often should we offer praise? (verse 14)

  5. Reflect on verse 14. How can you actively incorporate such acts and attitudes into your own life?

  7. What two attributes of God have no limits? (verse 15)

  9. Why do you think the psalmist says it is important to declare these things with your mouth? Explain.

  11. Verse 16 says we should go forth in what?

  13. How can verses 14-16 anchor you during these dark days? What is the hope of its message?

  3.  Read Job 14:1-2.

  1. How can this seemingly bleak passage actually bring perspective and hope during a crisis? Explain.


4.  Read Proverbs 10:27-28.

  1. What will prolong your days? (verse 27)

  3. What does the hope of the righteous produce? (verse 28)

  5. How can the fear of the Lord help you mitigate this global pandemic?


5.  Read Hebrews 6:9-12.

  1. This passage speaks of confidence, diligence, hope, and assurance in working for the Lord. Write about an instance where serving God has lifted your spirit to a much better place.


6.  Read Job 38:1-7.

  1. How does God displaying His omnipotence and eternal nature over creation in this passage give you peace and perspective, especially in modern times?


7. Read Jeremiah 17:5-8 and answer the following:

  1. This passage clearly contrasts trusting in God and trusting in man. Honestly reflect on how much you are trusting in man these days versus trusting God.

  3. Is your trust misplaced? If so, why?


Did You Know?

While the world has seemingly stopped spinning because of the coronavirus pandemic, this is by no means the worst pandemic in history. Just 100 years ago, the Spanish Flu raged across the globe, infecting 500 million people, almost one third of the population at the time. The equivalent infection rate today would be 2.5 billion people! And the Black Death plague of the fourteenth century actually killed 30 to 50 percent of the European population at that time, between 75 and 100 million people. So while the coronavirus is a devastating and cataclysmic event in our lives today, it pales in comparison to some of the plagues that mankind endured over the centuries.

Lesson 1: A Bend In the Road

2 Corinthians 12 and Hebrews 12

In this lesson we learn how life’s troubles can make us stronger.


     Most people go through life trying to avoid pain. We use money, medicine, and any other method to protect ourselves. Scripture teaches the opposite. While we aren’t to seek out trouble or trials, when they find us, we should look for their hidden lessons and blessings.

  1. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
    1. The Purpose of the Disruptive Moment
    2. The Pain of the Disruptive Moment
    3. The Provision in the Disruptive Moment
    4. The Product of the Disruptive Moment
    5. The Perspective of the Disruptive Moment
  2. Hebrews 12:5-11
    1. The Purpose of the Disruptive Moment
    2. The Pain of the Disruptive Moment
    3. The Provision in the Disruptive Moment
    4. The Product of the Disruptive Moment
    5. The Perspective of the Disruptive Moment
  3. Principles to Remember in Disruptive Moments
    1. Disruptive Moments Are Often Divine Appointments
    2. Progress Without Pain Is Not Possible
    3. The Promise of God Is the Provision of Grace
    4. Disruptive Moments Produce Dynamic Growth
    5. What We Receive From Disruptive Moments Depends Upon How We Respond



     In his book, The Life God Blesses, Gordon MacDonald coins a phrase to describe the times when God brings great blessing into the lives of His servants—he calls them “disruptive moments.”1 According to MacDonald, disruptive moments are “those unanticipated events, most of which, one would usually have chosen to avoid had it been possible.” He adds, “We don’t like disruptive moments; they are too often associated with pain and inconvenience, failure and humiliation. Not that they have to be, but that seems the way of the human condition.”2

      That they are the way of the human condition is documented by many of God’s wisest saints. MacDonald cites the words of Malcolm Muggeridge who said, “As an old man . . . looking back on one’s life, it’s one of the things that strikes you most forcibly—that the only thing that’s taught one anything is suffering. Not success, not happiness, not anything like that. The only thing that really teaches one what life’s about—the joy of understanding, the joy of coming in contact with what life really signifies—is suffering, affliction.”3 The Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn also knew something of disruptive moments. He wrote about his time in prison, “It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. . . . So bless you, prison, for having been in my life.”4

      In 1994, I experienced a disruptive moment in my own life, an illness that came out of nowhere. It came unannounced, unexpected, and without my getting to vote on it. While it was a very disrupting event in my life, it also became a very instructive event. I drew heavily during that time on two passages of Scripture that contain principles for how to handle disruptive moments in life: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 and Hebrews 12:5-11. There are five key principles about life’s disruptive moments which are illustrated in each of these two passages. Before studying the principles in detail, we’ll identify them in both passages.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

      The apostle Paul had been granted a unique opportunity at some point in life after becoming a Christian: He had been transported into the part of heaven in which God dwells (2 Corinthians 12:1-6). This could have been a source of great pride for Paul, but God orchestrated a disruptive moment for him which caused him to keep his apostolic privileges in perspective. That moment is described in verses 7-10.

The Purpose of the Disruptive Moment

      “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations . . . lest I be exalted above measure” (verse 7).

The Pain of the Disruptive Moment

      “A thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me” (verse 7).

      “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses” (verse 10).

      Many have been the attempts to discover what Paul’s “thorn” was. Literally, the word “thorn” is the word “stake.” Paul had a stake driven into his flesh. Some have suggested that Paul had eye problems (Galatians 4:15), while others have suggested epilepsy, malaria, hysteria, hypochondria, gallstones, gout, rheumatism, sciatica, gastritis, leprosy, lice in the head, deafness, dental infection, and remorse for the tortures he had inflicted on Christians prior to his conversion. The truth is that we do not know what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was. We do know this: It was a disruptive moment in Paul’s life and it was painful!

The Provision in the Disruptive Moment

       “My grace is sufficient . . . strength is made perfect” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

      Paul asked God three times to remove the thorn in his flesh, and three times God said, “No.” But God promised something better: Grace to live with the thorn and to find perfect strength in the midst of his human weakness.

The Product of the Disruptive Moment

      “That the power of Christ may rest upon me. . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong” (verses 9-10).

      God told Paul that he would have grace and strength to do his job as an apostle, but that it would be given in such a way that no one would think the strength was Paul’s. His life and ministry would be humanly “unexplainable.” The greater Paul’s human weaknesses and limitations, the more conspicuous is God’s all-sufficient grace.

The Perspective of the Disruptive Moment

      “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (verse 9).

       What a perspective! Paul seems to be looking at himself apart from his sufferings and seeing a totally different dynamic at work in his life. He wouldn’t exchange this disruptive moment for anything because he recognizes the deep experience of God’s grace he has entered into. He went around a bend in the road in his life and discovered something that he had not experienced before and could not have comprehended from where he was before the disruptive moment.

      Christ’s power was descending upon him and filling him just like the Shekinah glory did in the Old Testament temple. The Shekinah was the guarantee of the presence of God in the midst of His people —all His favor, protection, and power. Seeing that the glory and grace of God is upon him, he does not resist what God is doing in the disruptive moment. Rather, he welcomes and embraces it.

Hebrews 12:5-11

      The letter to the Hebrews was addressed primarily to Jewish converts to Christianity. They were under pressure to revert to Judaism or to incorporate elements of Judaism into their new faith which was based solely on God’s grace. They were suffering pressure at the hands of those who opposed them.

The Purpose of the Disruptive Moment

      “For what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening . . . then you are illegitimate and not sons” (verses 7-8).

      God’s disruptive moments are to correct us and to prove our sonship. When you are suffering and you call for someone to help, the most comforting thing in the world is when that person says, “Stay where you are—I’ll be right there.” That human experience reminds you of the spiritual truth that you are a child of God and that He will always be there when you need Him. Disruptive moments give you the opportunity to call out to Him and prove His presence. They are the moments in which your childhood is proven once again to you.

The Pain of the Disruptive Moment

      “Do not despise the chastening. . . rebuked . . . scourges . . .corrected . . . painful ” (verses 5-6, 9, and 11).

      We would be less than honest if we said disruptive moments are anything but painful. Children don’t vote for their fathers to discipline them. Why? Because it hurts? And yet there is a divine purpose in those times of correction and training.

The Provision of the Disruptive Moment

      “God deals with you as with sons” (verse 7).

       The Father watches over us as we walk through the bend in the road. He watches His children go through their disruptive moments, and He is never far from them.

The Product of the Disruptive Moment

      “That we may be partakers of His holiness . . . . It yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (verses 10-11).

The Perspective of the Disruptive Moment

      In verse 5 the author says we have three choices we may make in response to disruptive moments in our life:

      1. We can despise the moment and rail against it (verse 5).

      “Why did this happen to me? Why am I going through this? Why is God letting this take place in my life?” Railing against God when you come around a bend in the road is always an option.

      2. We can become discouraged by the event, lose heart, and give up (verse 5).

      Sometimes I see people who give up when they discover what’s around the bend in the road. They just hang their heads and quit.

      3. We can endure it and be trained by the disruptive moment (verses 7, 11).

      The right response is at the end of verse 11: Everything that happens to us, every bend in the road, every disruptive moment is for the purpose of God training us. Through the process, He wants to educate us, to teach us what we cannot learn in any other way.

       In both these important passages of Scripture, we see the purpose, pain, provision, product, and perspective concerning disruptive moments in life. Having lived through more than one disruptive moment in my own life—and in anticipation of future ones to come —I have identified five principles that will help you embrace what you find around the bend of your own life’s road. Whether your disruptive moment has been a divorce, a death of a loved one, a devastating business experience, or a disaster of some other sort, you need to know that God is with you and wants not just to take you through it but to teach you through it.

Principles to Remember in Disruptive Moments

Disruptive Moments Are Often Divine Appointments

      Believing that your disruptive moments are divine appointments will change your whole perspective. Years ago, someone gave me some words that were penned as if from God to someone going through a difficult time, a disruptive moment. It is called This Thing Is From Me, and I have summarized some of its key points:5

      Nothing comes into our life that is not from God. God reminds us that whatever touches us touches the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8); that when the “enemy comes in like a flood,” He defends us (Isaiah 59:19). We are precious in His sight (Isaiah 43:4), and He has limitless resources by which He meets our needs (Philippians 4:19). In Him we have “everlasting consolation” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17), a defense against our enemies (Psalm 37:1, 6). When life gets too heavy to bear alone, He comes alongside to help us (Exodus 18:18). When we are put in a position too difficult for our abilities, we are reminded that He will bless what we put our hands to (Deuteronomy 15:10).

      Our response to disruptive moments changes according to our ability to see them as coming from God’s hand—by His grace and for our good.

Progress Without Pain Is Not Possible

      We live in a skin-deep world that emphasizes clothing, fashion, makeup, plastic surgery, tummy tucks, and nose jobs. Although there may be nothing wrong with any of these, they are just cosmetic. Character and substance are shaped in the crucible of adversity. When someone tells me they have no problems and have never gone through anything difficult, I can say with confidence that I am looking at a shallow person.

      Ron Mehl’s words bring perspective: “Storms [disruptive moments] always leave us with a list of things to clean up and fix. They are times when God restores to us the things we lose through negligence, ignorance, rebellion, or sin. For the Christian, storms [disruptive moments] are a no-lose proposition. They help us to see and acknowledge the loose shutters, missing shingles, and rotten fence posts in our lives while turning us back to the only One who can make the necessary repairs.”6

The Promise of God Is the Provision of Grace

      In John 15 we have a beautiful picture of God’s provision in making us more fruitful. The gardener prunes the fruit-producing vines so they will produce even more fruit. Pruning is painful, but it is productive, and the gardener is never closer to the vine than when he is pruning it. Everyone who has gone through disruptive moments gives the same testimony: “Never have I sensed the closeness and provision of God as I did when I went around that unexpected bend in the road.” I add my voice to the others: During the time of my illness in 1994, God’s grace and strength were more than sufficient.

Disruptive Moments Produce Dynamic Growth

      The three passages of Scripture I have mentioned demonstrate how much more God gives during disruptive moments in our lives: More power (2 Corinthians 12), more righteousness (Hebrews 12), and more fruit (John 15). Those are God’s purposes during disruptive moments, if we will allow Him to do His work in us. God doesn’t allow difficult times to hurt us for no purpose. He does it for “more” than that. Power, righteousness, and fruit, and His purposes.

      Botanists tell us that plants grow more during times of stormy weather than during peaceful, warm days—their roots actually dig down deeper when the strong winds blow. Then when the calm days return, the new roots provide a deeper foundation for new growth. That is the way it should be with us.

What We Receive From Disruptive Moments Depends Upon How We Respond

      I mentioned three responses we can have to disruptive moments. The right question is never, “Why, Lord?” It is always, “What, Lord? What do You want to teach me through this disruptive moment? Take me around and through the bend in the road as my teacher. Don’t let me miss anything that You want me to see and learn.”

      Dear friend, if you face a disruptive moment with any other perspective than that, it will just be a bump in the road that bounces you all over the highway. When it is over you will just be sore, and you won’t be any better. Purpose now, before you get to the bends in the road that you know are coming in this life, that you will respond in a way that produces more of God’s will in your life.


1   Gordon MacDonald, The Life God Blesses (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1994).

2   Ibid., 25.

3   Ibid., 25-26.

4   Ibid., 28.

5   Laura A. Barter Snow, “This Thing Is From Me,” Faith, Prayer and Tract League, Grand Rapids, MI 49504-1390, Silent Evangelist No. 120.

6   Ron Mehl, Surprise Endings (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Press, 1993), 60.




1. Read Deuteronomy 8:2-6.

  1.  Although the Israelites seemed lost, in reality who led them those forty years in the desert? (verse 2)

  3.  Verse 2 reveals four reasons why the Lord kept them in the desert. List them.

  5.   In addition, what three actions did God take on His people in verse 3? Why?

  7.  What does man truly live by? (verse 3) Why is it easy to forget this truth?

  9.   What two miracles did God accomplish for His people as they wandered the desert for those forty years?

  11.   What is God’s disciplining work compared to in verse 5?

  13.   Verse 6 concludes with the exhortation that in light of what God has allowed in the life of His people, we are to do what three things?

2.  Read Proverbs 17:3.

  1.   Where will you find silver? Gold? How do these places relate to God’s testing of the heart?

  3.   When God is done testing the heart, what will be left? Explain.


3. Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

  1.   What phrase is repeated twice in verse 7? Why do you think this was such an important thing for Paul to avoid?

  3.   How many times did Paul plead with God? (verse 8)

  5.   What is sufficient for all believers? (verse 9) What is made perfect in our weakness?

  7.   Paul goes from begging for deliverance to boasting in what? (verse 9) Why?

  9.   List the five things that Paul takes pleasure in. (verse 10)

  11.   Why is there any pleasure at all to be found in these things?


4. Read Hebrews 12:3-4.

  1.   When we get discouraged, who are we to consider? (verse 3) What did He endure?

  3.   We have no grounds for complaint because we have not resisted sin to what level? (verse 4)

  5.   How do these two verses put in context all that we have studied about the bend in the road?


Did You Know?

     Second Corinthians 12:8 says that Paul pleaded with the Lord three times to take away the thorn in his flesh. This is not the only time in the New Testament where we find a repetition of three. Recall that in Matthew 26:69-75, Peter denied Jesus three times just as Jesus said he would. Then in John 21:15-17, Jesus restored Peter by asking him three times, “Do you love Me?” And finally, God is described in all His glory and majesty in both Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8 by the long familiar and grand repetition — “Holy, holy, holy.”

Lesson 2: A Psalm for a Dark Night

Psalm 71

In this lesson we learn about life’s dark times and how to respond to them.


     It has been well said, “Never doubt in the darkness what God has revealed in the light.” When Christians go through difficult times in their lives, they often forget who they are and who God is. The secret to surviving dark days is focusing on the light of God’s truth.

  1. The Reality of Trials in the Believer’s Life
    1.   Trials Because of Ungodly Foes
    2.   Trials Because of an Uncertain Future
    3.   Trials Because of Unfaithful Friends
    4.   Trials Because of an Unequaled Father
  2. The Result of Trials in the Believer’s Life
    1.   The Feeling of Vulnerability
    2.   The Feeling of Insecurity
    3.   The Feeling of Dependency
    4.   The Feeling of Emergency
  3. The Response to Trials in the Believer’s Life
    1.   Remember the Character of God
    2.   Review the Compassion of God
    3.   Rejoice in Celebration to God
    4.   Renew Your Consecration to God
    5.   Reclaim Your Confidence in God and the Future



     When in the hospital during my bout with cancer, I awakened in a morphine-induced grogginess with the thought to read Psalm 71. I recall noting the hour—3:00 a.m.—but could not remember who, prior to coming to the hospital, had encouraged me to meditate on that particular psalm. I reached for my Bible and began to read the words of the psalmist, who wrote concerning a dark night he had been through. The words of that psalm were a bright light in a dark night in my life—and can be for you as well.

      Most scholars believe Psalm 71 was written by David when his son Adonijah was trying to usurp the throne which David had promised to another son, Solomon. King David was in his old age and going through quite a period of heartache. His son Absalom had already tried to steal the throne, and now Adonijah was trying to replace Solomon. David was feeling the pain that every Christian parent feels when children rebel against the ways of the Lord.

      Regardless of the name of the author of this psalm, we do know this about him: He was thoroughly familiar with the ways and words of God. The psalm only has 24 verses, but within those verses are found at least 50 quotations from or allusions to other psalms. It is a compilation of truths about God’s deliverance of His saints during times of trouble.

The Reality of Trials in the Believer’s Life

      It is not the absence of suffering, but the response to suffering, that makes Christians unique. Believers are not exempt from trials in life, but we can be exempt from failure in those trials. The writer of Psalm 71 rehearses in his own words some of the reasons that we suffer in this life.

Trials Because of Ungodly Foes (71:4)

      Verse four indicates that there were wicked, unrighteous, and cruel men opposing the psalmist. If the author was David, then there are numerous individuals to whom he might be referring. The word “cruel” in this verse is the root word for “leaven”—something that spreads and grows. When someone is opposing you, it is easy for their opposition to grow as they convince others to oppose you as well. Perhaps you have been the target of such cruel opposition.

Trials Because of an Uncertain Future (71:9)

      Notice the ninth verse of the psalm where David speaks of getting old. There are trials which come our way simply because we grow old. Infirmities, sicknesses, lack of mobility, and the ability to care for one’s self. Some people wonder why God would allow cancer to strike a pastor or a missionary or an evangelist who is doing a great work for God. But affliction in old age is no respecter of persons. We are people before we are anything else, and all people suffer trials in the latter stages of their human life on earth.

Trials Because of Unfaithful Friends (71:10-13)

      In verses 10-13, it is obvious that David is being opposed in his role as king. If the foes spoken of here were Adonijah and his followers, then they are from within David’s own family. He is being opposed by his own family and friends. Terrible hurt can come from those who once shared love together when something causes one to turn against the other. This happens all the time in our country, even in the church, when couples who once pledged love to each other become bitter enemies in divorce court. Something dies inwardly in us when we experience, or even witness, this kind of unfaithfulness between former friends.

Trials Because of an Unequaled Father (71:19-20)

      God is not only involved in our troubles—sometimes He sends them! Many Christians need to come to this understanding about their heavenly Father. Just as a human father will sometimes allow his children to undergo difficulties and distress in order to make them stronger and wiser, so God will as well. Not only does He allow things to come our way, He sends things our way. For that reason, He is unequaled—“O God, who is like You?”

       Why would God allow—even send—these various kinds of trials? Trials put us in a position of needing God, first and foremost. We see from reading this psalm exactly how trials caused the psalmist to reach out for God.

The Result of Trials in the Believer’s Life

      A number of things happen when we experience trials in our lives. When I was told I had cancer, I experienced a number of conflicting feelings, faith and fear being the most compelling. I wasn’t afraid to die, but I did have some initial fears about the loss of my ministry and my relationships with people I love very much. The author of Psalm 71 chronicles his own responses to the trials he was enduring.

The Feeling of Vulnerability (71:7)

      Men, especially, become very vulnerable to that which they have no control over. We have the next several decades of life planned out with a roadmap drawn out for where we want to go and how we are going to get there. Then something occurs that short-circuits our well-laid plans, and we feel totally vulnerable, completely powerless to “fix” it.

      The psalmist seems to have been experiencing that same vulnerability. In verse seven he states that he had become a “wonder to many,” meaning that people were watching him to see how he was going to handle the adversity he was experiencing. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I felt my whole life was on public display: “Let’s see how Jeremiah is going to react; see if he’s been listening to his own sermons the last 30 years.” How did David handle his vulnerability? He looked to God, his “strong refuge.” He didn’t know what he himself was going to do, but he knew that he could do no better than to watch God.

The Feeling of Insecurity (71:2, 9)

      Not only is there vulnerability, there is insecurity. In verse two the psalmist cries out for salvation and repeats his cry in verse nine: “Do not forsake me.” While we don’t know for sure if David was facing his later years, we do know that old age brings with it a handful of temptations to feel insecure. Most older people are living on fixed incomes without the prospect of increases. Sometimes their health has failed, and mental faculties are not what they used to be. Their friends are dying, and with each passing day they sense the end of life drawing nearer. It is a time of insecurity, and therefore a time when the need for God is greater than ever before. 

      What is needed when we feel insecure? Something secure! And the author says that God is that source of security. He is a “strong refuge . . .  [a] rock and . . . fortress” (verse 3). When all the things that once provided security begin to fade away, God is still a secure and strong rock to cling to.

The Feeling of Dependency (71:12)

      One of the great characteristics of strong people is their self-reliance, their independence. They make their own decisions and chart their own course—at least, that is, until some greater and stronger event comes into their life. Then they cry out, “O my God, make haste to help me” (verse 12). Perhaps for the first time in life, they recognize that they have lost control, that they are dependent on God alone. No one can save them but Him. If you haven’t been there yet, you will at some point. All of us lose our independence at some point and find that we are dependent on God to see us through. And when that happens, there is almost a feeling of panic or emergency.

The Feeling of Emergency (71:12)

      Notice in the twelfth verse that David says, “Make haste to help me . . .” That is, do it now! “Lord, I know this could take a long time, but could You just wave Your wand over this whole situation and make all the hurt go away, make all the pain disappear, take away whatever it is they say is in my body that shouldn’t be there? Lord, just make it be gone.” Isn’t that what we feel? I love the Psalms because they were written by real people facing real trials just like we face. The psalmists would have made terrible modern politicians because they never put a spin on anything—they told it exactly like it was. It’s that honesty that makes us know we can trust God the same way they did.

      So how should the believer respond to trials once we recognize how vulnerable and dependent we are?

The Response to Trials in the Believer’s Life

      We are lacking a theology for adversity in the contemporary church. We have the theology for prosperity down pat, but sooner or later our prosperity will give way to adversity. If you don’t have your theology finely tuned for that part of your life, you won’t do well. Unexpected, unannounced, uncharted, unplanned—adversity eventually comes to everyone. The psalmist tells us how he responded to the trials he faced.

Remember the Character of God (71:1-3)

      Sometimes during trials we focus so intently on our experience that we forget to focus on God. But the psalmist didn’t. Over and over in this psalm he calls to mind the character and attributes of God: His glory (verse 8), His power and strength (verse 18), and His faithfulness (verse 22). And five times he mentions God’s righteousness (verses 2, 15, 16, 19, 24). The one thing that we must never lose sight of in the midst of our own suffering is the righteousness and goodness of God. It is because of God’s inherent goodness that we are able to trust Him in all things. When you are in the middle of trials, everyone will have an opinion or a suggestion or a remedy—and if they are from people you trust, then you should consider them. But after all is said and done, there is only one thing that you can put all your trust in, and that is the character of God. Only He knows the reasons and the results of your situation.

Review the Compassion of God (71:4-6, 17a)

      David goes back in his memory bank and reviews what he knows to be true: God has been faithful to him throughout all his life. Every believer should be able to review the compassion of God. Stop and think about all the paths God has led you down like a shepherd throughout your spiritual life. God has been faithful to you! Is there any reason you have to doubt His faithfulness now? As the psalmist says, from our mother’s womb God took us and He has upheld us from our birth. Even if we have been a believer for only a matter of days or weeks, the grace of God has brought us life and health and strength. God’s past faithfulness and compassion toward us is a heritage upon which we build our faith in the future.

Rejoice in Celebration to God (71:6b, 8, 14-15, 22-24)

      It’s easy to look right past something that is found throughout this psalm—David’s praise for God’s faithfulness and goodness. There he was, pouring out his heart because of the affliction he was enduring, and yet woven throughout his words of pain are words of praise.

      Whenever you go through a trial, God will give you a verse and a song of praise to sustain you—a song to take you through the dark night. We devote the major portion of our church’s services to learning how to worship and praise God so that when our members are away from church, living through the dark nights of their lives, praise and worship will be their natural response to God. It is praise in the good times that will allow us to praise God in the dark times.

Renew Your Consecration to God (71:18)

      Of all the great truths in this psalm, this is the one that moved me the most. When you are looking at the possibility of the end of life and ministry, you begin to pray as the psalmist did:

      “Do not forsake me until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.” I took that as the marching orders for the rest of my life! For the remainder of the days God gives me on this earth, I want to declare His praises to my generation and to “everyone who is to come.” That refers to the heritage we leave behind for those who look back on our life after we’re gone. Our heritage must be one of consecration to God.

Reclaim Your Confidence in God and the Future (71:21)

      In verse 21, the psalmist is not asking God to make him great for the sake of his personal benefit, but to extend his influence and his opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. Trials are meant to improve us and expand our greatness—our ability to impact others for the sake of God and His glory. God wants to magnify our influence, and one of the ways He does that is by sending trials our way that have the potential to extinguish us or expand us. If we choose to submit to His plans, our testimony for Him will eventually be greater because He is the one who brings us through those trials.

      Life is not easy, but it can be victorious. By the grace of God, and through faith in His Son, you can face every trial and emerge victorious in the battle. If you are not facing a trial right now, praise Him and prepare for what’s coming. God wants to make you great for His purposes. Will you allow Him to do that through the dark nights of your life?


1.  Read Psalm 71:19-21.

  1.   What other Old Testament book has verses similar to that found in verse 19? Explain why prayers for deliverance often end in praise.

  3.   What has God shown the psalmist? (verse 20)

  5.   But what four things will God do in turn?  (verses 20-21)

  7.   What does this tell you about the nature of God?

  9.   How can this help you in your own life as you face the weeks and months ahead?

2.  Read Psalm 119:65-72.

  1.   Verse 65 tells us that God has treated the psalmist in what way? According to what? Is this true for all believers? Why or why not?

  3.   Good judgment and knowledge are based upon what? (verse 66) Why is this such an important thing to remember?

  5.   What happened before and after God allowed affliction in the life of the psalmist? (verse 67)

  7.   In all seasons of life, what two truths about God can we hold on to? (verse 68)

  9.   Why does verse 71 say that the affliction suffered has been good? Recall and describe a time in your life where this has been true for you. What did you learn?

  11.   Explain why verse 72 concludes this passage on affliction and God’s statutes.

  13.   Why is God’s law better than great riches?

3.  Read 1 Peter 4:12-16.

  1.   When trials come, we are not to react in what way? (verse 12)

  3.   What word is emphasized twice in verse 12 to make this point clear?

  5.   Instead, what should be our reaction to suffering when His glory is revealed? (verse 13)

  7.   What two things rest upon a believer reproached for Jesus’ sake? (verse 14a)

  9.   Explain the dual nature of what happens when someone reproaches a Christian. (verse 14b)

  11.   As believers we are admonished not to act in what four ways? (verse 15)

  13.   How are Christians to act when they suffer? (verse 16) How are they not to act?

Did You Know?

     We are all aware of the great trials that the apostle Paul faced as he proclaimed the Gospel to both the Jews and Gentiles. But many of the great men who have declared God’s Word faithfully throughout the ages have also suffered greatly. Both the reformer Martin Luther and the great preacher Charles Spurgeon battled with bouts of deep depression in their lifetimes. But God never forsook them, and they never lost their faith in Christ. In fact, Martin Luther was so convinced of God’s sovereignty in the life of the believer that he penned the great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

Lesson 3: Lord, I Need Help for My Life

Psalm 121

In this lesson we discover the best place to look for help when in trouble.


     When something goes wrong in your life, where (or to whom) do you instinctively look for help? As children and adolescents, we turn to our parents. As adults, we look to our peers. But the Christian learns to turn heavenward to the God who helps and protects.

  1. The Possibilities for Help on Our Journey
    1.   We Can Look Around for Help
    2.   We Can Look Within for Help
    3.   We Can Look Above for Help
  2. The Promises of Help on Our Journey
    1.   The Lord Perceives You
    2.   The Lord Will Protect You
    3.   The Lord Will Preserve You



      It is part of our modern culture for our lives to be lived “on the go.” As one person put it, more than a home, what we need most is a garage! While that may be symptomatic of some of the negative ways our societies have evolved, it is also emblematic of a profound truth: This world is not our home; we are only pilgrims passing through.

      Living the spiritual life “on the go” has its own set of liabilities, however. We encounter many obstacles, trials, and roadblocks on our journey, and must constantly turn to God for help in clearing our path. Psalm 121 is a record of one pilgrim’s journey through life and how he cried out to the Lord. If you ever felt like saying, “Lord, I need Your help! I’m not even sure how, but I know I need help!” then this lesson—and Psalm 121—is for you. It is a Psalm that reflects the overarching care that God exercises for His people, a Psalm that reminds us that God is bigger than all of His creation and the problems that occur within it. Therefore, He is able to maintain constant vigilance over the affairs of our lives.

      Psalm 121 is a “song of ascents.” This designation is included at the beginning of each of Psalms 120–134, and for good reason. These songs were sung by Israelite pilgrims as they made their way from the lowlands of Palestine to the heights of Jerusalem at the designated feast times during the year. It is thought that they would progress through the songs of ascents at different levels of their journey as they progressed toward the temple in Jerusalem. A taste of this part of Israelite life is found in Psalm 42:4, which says, “For I used to go with the multitude. I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.”

      The songs for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem become metaphors for us today. We are not going up to Jerusalem for religious feasts, but we are on a journey from the lowlands of this earth to a heavenly Jerusalem, our eternal home. As the songs of ascent encouraged the pilgrims on the way to the earthly Jerusalem, so they can encourage us as well. And we do need encouragement. The Bible never suggests that our life on this earth is going to be an easy one. It is a false assumption to think that Christianity will take all the bitterness and sting out of life. We are pilgrims and strangers in a foreign land and should expect to be treated that way. Our need for help from God is simply the normal Christian life.

The Possibilities for Help on Our Journey (121:1-2)

      When we are on a journey and need help, there is usually more than one place to look. In the case of our spiritual journey, wherever we look we discover that ultimately our help must come from God.

We Can Look Around for Help (121:1a)

      The psalmist says, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills”(KJV). Mountains are important all throughout the Bible for a variety of reasons. Great things happened on mountains: The giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, the sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah (where the temple was ultimately built), Christ’s Sermon on the Mount by the Sea of Galilee, and His death on the hill called Calvary. Mountains were not only the setting for important spiritual events, they spoke (and continue to speak today) of the majesty of God. Mountains were even personified with human attributes as in Isaiah 55:12: “. . . the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you . . . .” And Psalm 125:1-2 says that the Lord Himself is like Mount Zion which cannot be moved but abides forever. The Lord surrounds His people like the mountains surround Jerusalem.

      But mountains were also a source of danger. Wild animals, bandits, and idolatrous, pagan altars were to be found in the mountains. So the hills were a source of faith as well as fear, of insight as well as intimidation. It was normal for an Israelite to look to the hills.

We Can Look Within for Help (121:1b)

      It is interesting that many people grew up hearing and reading the King James Version of this verse one, which reads: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” It makes the verse suggest that the psalmist expects his help to come from the hills. But all modern translations have corrected that mistranslation. It should read as does the New King James Version: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help?” The second part of the verse is a question, not an affirmation.

      The point in this verse is that the psalmist is contemplating within himself his need for help. He knew he had to get through those majestic and sometimes dangerous mountains on his way up to Jerusalem, and he is wondering, “Where will my help come from?” It is not from the mountains, and it is not from within, but it is from the Lord.

We Can Look Above for Help (121:2)

      In verse 2 he answers his own question with the central affirmation of the psalm: “My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” He has looked to the mountains, and he has looked within, and finally he looks above and realizes that his help can only come from the God who made him and all the heaven and earth.

      Over and over again in the Old Testament God is described as the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 115:15; 134:3; 146:6). The Hebrews’ worldview was based on the fact that their God was the maker of all things, and as such He had the power and strength to meet all their needs. Therefore it was part of the continual confession, almost as a reminder, that their God (who is also our God) made all things—nothing was too hard for Him. The apostle Paul reminds us of the same truth in Colossians 1:16-17. God created all things, and by Him all things are held together. Now if God holds the entire universe together, is it not reasonable to assume that He can hold the different aspects of your individual life together as well? He created us for the journey and sustains us through the journey as well.

      So when you arrive at a place on your journey and you don’t know what to do, and you say, “Lord, I need help,” remember this: The One to whom you are praying is the One who made heaven and earth. He can help you! That is the core truth of Psalm 121: The God who created us for life is the One who can help us with life. A number of promises throughout the rest of the psalm illustrate just how God brings us His help.

The Promises of Help on Our Journey (121:3-8)

      Note that, beginning in verse 3, the psalmist directs his speech to what appears to be another person (note the use of “you” and “your”). Some have suggested that another person is speaking to the psalmist, answering the question he raised in verse 1. I personally think that the psalmist is talking to himself—dialoguing with himself, if you will—about the reasons that he knows God will be his helper. These are meditations within the psalmist’s own heart as he walks the road up to Jerusalem (note the many references which apply to a journey: feet, sleep, sun, shade, moon, protection from evil).

The Lord Perceives You (121:3-4)

      It is one of the least appreciated but most amazing facts about our God that He never slumbers or sleeps. Every human being sleeps because of our physical limitations. We can only stay awake for so long, regardless of how hard we try. We would not make very good “gods” because those who need us might call us at a time when we are sound asleep. What good is a God who is not there when you need Him? Elijah caught the idolatrous prophets of Baal on this very point in the Old Testament (1 Kings 18).

      Elijah arranged a contest on the top of Mount Carmel to demonstrate to the prophets of Baal that the God of Israel was the only real and true God. They set up an altar with sacrifices on it, and whichever “god”—either Baal or Yahweh—could consume the sacrifices with fire from heaven would be the true God. All morning long the prophets of Baal pleaded with him to send down fire—but the meat of the sacrifices lay on the altar untouched. And then Elijah did something I don’t encourage or condone for believers today, but he used his prophetic license to get a little sarcastic with the prophets of Baal. Here’s what he suggested to them as a reason for the inaction of Baal: “And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, ‘Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.’”

      Perhaps he is sleeping! What an insult to a being who is supposed to be a god. Just when the prophets needed Baal to prove his existence, he’s taking a nap. Elijah seized the moment and called out to the true God who sent down fire from heaven that licked up the sacrifices on the altar in a mighty display of His existence and His power. Think of yourself in your time of need on your journey through this life. Which “god” would you rather call upon to help you? The God of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. He is there all hours of the day for you.

The Lord Will Protect You (121:5-6)

      Not only does the Lord perceive our every moment and need, He also promises to protect us by day and by night. The language of these verses is reminiscent of one who is a shepherd, watching over his flocks and protecting them from all harm. In a general sense, God is like one of the most prized possessions in the Middle East —shade! For any who have traveled to Israel, shade is an excellent metaphor for protection. The blazing heat reflecting off the rocky and sandy floor of Israel can be unrelenting. The sun was almost like the enemy of the weary traveler. So at the pilgrim’s right hand was protection from the heat of the sun, a shadow large enough to protect him on all his journeys.

      In verse six, the psalmist breaks God’s protection into two parts—the day and the night.

     1. He will protect you by day (121:6a).

      This refers again to the heat of the sun, but notice the physical image that implies protection: The sun “strikes” the pilgrim who journeys with no shade. The sun was just one of many physical dangers encountered by the pilgrim on the way to Jerusalem, and the striking of a blow graphically suggests the need for protection. If God can protect the pilgrim from the sun, think of the more complicated dangers He can protect you from on your own journey through this life.

     2. He will protect you by night (121:6b).

      The second reference to protection is a little less clear in our modern age. What kind of danger did the “moon by night” present to the traveler? The night, and the moon as the light of the night, has always been surrounded by superstitions. In fact, the term “moonstruck” refers to the superstitious belief that the moon caused insanity (a marginal reading in many study Bibles suggests “moonstruck” for the boy taken by seizures in Matthew 17:15). So from Hebrew times to the present day, the fear that many people have of the darkness is very real. But the psalmist says that God is there, even on the darkest night, to protect us.

The Lord Will Preserve You (121:7-8)

      Finally, we read that the Lord will preserve us from “all evil,” even to the preserving of our “soul . . . forevermore.” He does this four ways:

     1. He preserves us from evil (121:7a).

      There is no sort of evil from which the Lord does not protect us. Everything is filtered through His hands before it ever enters our life.

     2. He preserves our existence (121:7b).

      “Soul” here refers to our very existence, our life. Our life does not end when we breathe our last physical breath because our life is in our soul. Some religious cults today teach the annihilation of the soul—that life ends with physical death. But they are wrong. God keeps our soul forevermore.

     3. He preserves us every day (121:8a).

      This next phrase sounds like our modern life—the garage-centered life: “The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in.” This doesn’t refer so much to the business of life (though it certainly includes that), but refers rather to the totality of life. God protects us when we leave and when we return and all the time in between. God is involved in all of the daily routines of our lives, protecting us as we go.

     4. He preserves us eternally (121:8b).

      It’s easy to wonder if the apostle Paul wasn’t stimulated by these final words when he penned the great truth of Romans 8:38-39 where he declares that nothing—nothing at all—can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ.

      I challenge you, in light of Psalm 121, to try to think of one aspect of your life that God is not fully able to protect. And then, I encourage you to rest in His perception, protection, and preservation of your life.


1.  Read Psalm 18:16-19.

  1.   List the three verbs that describe the actions taken in verse 16. What does this tell you about God?

  3.   What three types of people did God deliver David from? (verse 17)

  5.   Where was God in David’s day of calamity? (verse 18)

  7.   Why did God deliver David? (verse 19)

  9.   Why is this such an amazing statement?

  11.   How is this truth a comfort to you personally?

2.  Read Psalm 18:31-36.

  1.   God is described like what object in verse 31? What are some traits and attributes of God that you can derive from describing this object?

  3.   Put verse 32 into your own words.

  5.   How can the truth of verse 32 lessen the stress and anxiety involved in your daily life?

  7.   What has God given us to protect us? (verse 35) Where does salvation come from?

  9.   What does David say has made him great? (verse 35) Describe an instance where Jesus displayed this attribute in the Gospels.

  11.   Verse 36 is similar to what verse found in Psalm 121? Explain why.

3.  Read Isaiah 51:12-16.

  1.   How many times does God refer to Himself as the One who comforts in verse 12?

  3.   Why do you think this is so highly emphasized?

  5.   Instead of trusting in God, what were the people fearing? (verse 12) What will be the eventual end of this threat?

  7.   In contrast, the people have forgotten that God is what? (verse 13) What has He done?

  9.   What event in the life of Israel is recalled in verse 15? Why would this be referenced in a passage on the God who comforts?

  11.   List the five verbs that describe the actions of God taken in verse 16.

  13.   Reflecting upon those verbs, articulate in your words how God involves Himself in the lives of His people.

  15.   Now reread Psalm 121. Is what you wrote in the previous question similar to what you read in Psalm 121? Explain why or why not.

Did You Know?

     In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus gives one of the best illustrations in all of Scripture demonstrating why we can trust in God to sustain us in everyday life. Jesus says that God feeds the birds of the air even though they don’t toil for food, and that we are of far greater value to God than birds (verse 26). He also says that God arrays the lilies of the field with more beauty than Solomon could ever afford, even though they will perish tomorrow (verse 30). By explaining how intimately God involves Himself in His creation, Jesus gives us  assurance that God will especially care for us—for those who were made in His very image (Genesis 1:27).

Lesson 4: When God Delays

Psalm 13

In this lesson we learn what to do when the answer to our prayer is delayed.


     Whether via email, phone, fax, video-conferencing, or face-to-face communication, we rarely have to wait to speak our mind and receive a response. But God’s ways are not our ways. What do we do when He doesn’t answer as quickly as we would like? 

  1. Our Struggle When God Delays
    1.   When God Delays We Can Feel Forgotten
    2.   When God Delays We Can Feel Forsaken
    3.   When God Delays We Can Feel Frustrated
  2. Our Supplication When God Delays
    1.   The Foundation of Our Prayer
    2.   The Form of Our Prayer
    3.   The Focus of Our Prayer
  3. Our Song When God Delays
    1.   Our Song Is a Song of Triumph
    2.   Our Song Is a Song of Thanksgiving


     From the moment David killed the Philistine giant Goliath, the giant that had taunted Israel, David himself became a hunted man. King Saul, who had been the former hero of Israel, became bitterly jealous toward David. The women of Israel celebrated the victory of David over Goliath by singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). From that time forward, David entered into a frustrating period of testing—waiting on the Lord to deliver him from the attacks of Saul.

      This was perhaps the most complicated period of David’s life. He was running from Saul, but Saul’s son, Jonathan, was his closest friend; and Saul’s daughter, Michal, was his wife. David lived on the run—in caves, deserts, mountain crags, forests, and even in the land of his enemies, the Philistines (he had to feign insanity in order to escape from the Philistines). David had a faithful band of soldiers who followed him, but even they turned on him at one point. When they returned to their camp, David’s family, and the families of his soldiers, had been carried away by an enemy. He was nearly stoned to death by his own men (1 Samuel 30:6).

      It was perhaps out of the context of living like a hunted animal, instead of like the anointed king of Israel, that David wrote Psalm 13: “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?” (verse 1) David wrote this psalm when he was exhausted and depressed and there seemed to be no way of escaping the unrelenting pressures of Saul’s hounding pursuits. He did not think he could go on any further; he appears to be near the point of death (verse 3).

      Most of us have been at a place like David was at some time in our life—or you may be in such a place now. Perhaps there is a long-standing health problem, or financial situation, that appears to have no solution. Maybe there is a personal relationship that places a constant source of strain on your life, or a difficult work-related situation. Or maybe you have a wayward child for whom you have been praying for years. Whatever the cause, many Christians find themselves living in David’s shoes, asking, “How long, O LORD?” You scan the horizon for some sign of God’s approaching deliverance, but day after day you feel you are battling your enemy alone.

      David was like an innocent child before the Lord. He said the things that sometimes we think, but are afraid to voice. Like a child who unashamedly cries out from the back seat of the car, “How much longer is it?” David cries out, “How long, O LORD?” In Psalm 13 we have the chance to identify with a godly man who faced real pressures in his life, and also to see how he resolved those pressures. We will learn David’s answer to his, and our, question: What to do when God delays?

Our Struggle When God Delays (13:1-2)

      So often we fail to talk honestly with God. We are so used to saying, “Fine,” when someone asks how we are doing (even though we’re struggling to survive) that we posture the same way before God. People may not know how we are really doing, but God does. Therefore, we ought to speak honestly with Him like David did.

When God Delays We Can Feel Forgotten (13:1a)

      Let’s be honest. Sometimes, when God delays, we feel forgotten. Someone has said that it is the length of the trial, not the severity of it that is most threatening to us. When a painful trial begins, we rally our resolve, we call our comrades, and we determine to defeat our “enemy.” But as the days wear on and nothing changes, we lose heart and begin to grow weary. We never imagined God would let us suffer so long!

      Remember Job? He was hit in quick succession with a number of tragedies—his property was destroyed, his livestock taken, his children and servants were killed. He was strong and patient initially. But when it became apparent to him later on in the book that this was a long and protracted trouble, he just caved in. The same is true of us. We almost like the challenge of a new trial or obstacle, because we take pride in our ability to overcome it. But when it doesn’t go away, we can become as impatient as Job.

      God says it is as likely that He would forget us as that a mother would forget her nursing child (Isaiah 49:15-16)—though it doesn’t seem like it in the midst of our trials. Not only can we feel forgotten —we can feel forsaken as well.

When God Delays We Can Feel Forsaken (13:1b)

      David feels that God has purposefully hidden His face so as not to have to remember David’s plight. Forgetting is one thing—that can even occur accidentally. But to be purposefully forsaken can be a hurtful experience. David thinks God may have, for some unknown reason, decided to “un-anoint” him, to remove him from the place of favor in His eyes. Wouldn’t that be a terrible experience? David expressed this feeling more than once—we find almost the exact same words in Psalm 22:l: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

      Psalm 22 has no known historical basis in the life of David. Rather, it is what scholars call a “Messianic” psalm—a psalm about the Messiah who was to come. Psalm 22 predicts and pictures the horrible experience of crucifixion which Jesus underwent on the cross, part of which was His cry to His Father, “‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (Matthew 27:46). From this account of our Lord, and from David’s own account in Psalm 13, it becomes quickly apparent that we are not the only ones who have ever felt abandoned and forsaken. Even Jesus Christ Himself was momentarily abandoned by His Father as the sins of the world were placed upon Him on the cross.

      So when you pray to God in your hour of seeming abandonment, just remember: God has heard that prayer before, even from His own Son. He knows what you are going through. In fact, He deliberately turned His back on His own Son so that He would never have to turn His back on us. He tells us in Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

When God Delays We Can Feel Frustrated (13:2)

      “How long” implies the passage of time. It’s easy to get frustrated for at least two reasons.

     1. Frustrated because of our emotions (13:2a)

      This is the well-known experience of having a problem take over our lives—it just won’t go away. We begin to lose the daily battle of prayer, Bible study, walking in the Spirit, and staying in close fellowship with others. Our daily disciplines begin to go, and all we think about is the problem we are facing. It’s not a question of knowing what we should do (trust God), it’s a problem of having the emotional will to do it. This is apparently where David was. He had “sorrow in [his] heart daily” (verse 2), and he had no idea how long it would last.

     2. Frustrated because of our enemies (13:2b)

      David had an enemy, King Saul, who was bigger and stronger than any human enemy we will likely ever have. You see, David spent approximately fifteen years waiting to receive the crown God had anointed him to wear. David was first anointed to be king by Samuel at the home of David’s father Jesse, and was anointed twice more after that. But there were still many years of trials before he ever assumed the throne. And David grew frustrated because of his enemy.

      As strong as Saul was, he was nothing compared to the strength of our enemy, the devil. It is easy for us to grow frustrated with his unrelenting attacks on our life (1 Peter 5:8). Fortunately, we can learn from David what to do when the enemy doesn’t give up.

Our Supplication When God Delays (13:3-4)

      The best (and really the only) place to learn to pray is on our knees. And that’s where we find ourselves when we are in David’s situation. David repeats the word “lest” three times in verses 3 and 4, giving evidence of the intensity of his prayer. “Unless” you answer me, Lord, I will perish. That’s when we learn to pray.

The Foundation of Our Prayer

      David prayed out of three fears:

      1. “Lest I sleep the sleep of death.” The thought of dying motivated David to pray, as it would for any of us. He thought his enemy was going to triumph over him.

      2. “Lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him.’” David knows he is supposed to be the next king, but he is afraid that Saul is going to keep that from happening.

      3. “Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.” All Israel knew about the struggle between Saul and David, and David didn’t want others who opposed him to have reason to rejoice should he lose. He feared the disgrace that would come with defeat.

The Form of Our Prayer

      David’s three kinds of prayer mirror the three needs he felt in his heart:

      1. “Consider . . . me.” The original word actually means, “Look on me.” This goes back to his feeling of having been forsaken, and he wants God to turn around and look at him again.        

      2. “Hear me.” David is pleading with God to hear his questions, and then having heard, to answer those questions.

      3. “Enlighten my eyes.” This literally means, “Lord, put the light back in my eyes.” Instead of wisdom and discernment, David needed life itself! The light was slowly disappearing from his eyes and his countenance.

      So David prayed. But something is going to seem out of place in his prayer momentarily. In the last two verses, this beaten-down, would-be king suddenly will declare his trust in God. How is that possible? It’s only possible when we keep our focus on God when we pray. The key to effective prayer is not so much what we say as who we say it to. And the focus of David’s prayer was God.

The Focus of Our Prayer

      Right in the middle of verses 3 and 4 David sharpens the focus of his prayer by addressing, “Oh LORD, my God.” No matter how discouraged or defeated David got, he never altered his focus. He never cried out to Baal, the god of the Canaanites. He never went to the high places and cried out to the Ashtoreth idols. David attached his deliverance to the very One who was allowing his desperate situation to continue. By looking away from his problems and looking unto God, he stayed focused on who had the power to deliver him. He knew God had made the promise of kingship to him and that God had the power to see him ascend to the throne. By keeping his eyes on God, he kept himself from falling from faith.

      But this is not easy. You must honestly get on your face before God and say, “Lord, I’ve let my emotions take over in my life, and I’ve let these troubles come in on top of me and overwhelm me. I don’t know what to do. I know this is not the way it is supposed to be. But O Lord God, in the midst of all of this, help me to see You as the Mighty Awesome One, Jehovah Elohim, who can deliver me.”

Our Song When God Delays (13:5-6)

      When David gets his eyes off of Saul and off his own troubles, he is able to begin rejoicing in the Lord again. This is a powerful reminder to those of us who like to “share” our problems with others instead of focusing on the Lord.

Our Song Is a Song of Triumph (13:5)

      How did David get to the place of singing? By keeping his eyes on God. As a pastor, it always amazes me to discover that people have stopped attending church and Bible study meetings because they are going through a time of difficulty. Of all times to redouble your efforts and seek the Lord, that’s the time! The last thing we should do when trouble comes is let embarrassment or shame tempt us to sideline our faith. That’s exactly what our enemy wants us to do.

      David keeps looking for God in the midst of his circumstances, and when he sees Him he sings a song of triumph. Note that nothing has changed externally for David. Saul is still after him. He’s still outnumbered physically. But spiritually, he has his eyes on God, and that puts a song in his heart and on his lips.

Our Song Is a Song of Thanksgiving (13:6)

      Over and over in the Psalms we find David reminding himself of what God has done for him in the past. David remembered the victory over Goliath and his escapes from Saul and other enemies —even deliverance from wild animals when he was a shepherd. His confidence about the future was based on his deliverance in the past. Why would God abandon him now? He wouldn’t!

      You may not think it feels right to sing in the midst of your trials, but it’s not about feelings. It’s about the choices of a character being molded and tested by the hand of God. The test is: Will you remember the past and rely on it for the future? Will you let God continue to shape and mold you into the person He wants you to be?

      God is not nearly so concerned about our circumstances as He is our character. Regardless of your circumstances today, won’t you entrust your character to Him? What seems like a delay in God’s action is really a decision made in your best interest.



1.  Read Psalm 13.

    a.  David opens this psalm with five questions in a row. Is it all right to question God in times of trial? Explain why or why not.

    b. What are the three reasons why David implores God to hear his cause and enlighten his eyes? (verses 3-4)

    c.  What does the psalmist trust in? Rejoice in? (verse 5)

    d. Why does David sing to the Lord? (verse 6) How can he say this in spite of his present circumstances?

2.  Read Isaiah 49:14-18.

  1.   What is the complaint of God’s people? (verse 14)

  3.   Why is it so easy for us to fall into this same pattern of thinking?

  5.   God says that He is more faithful and compassionate to His people than what relationship? (verse 15) Why is that so staggering?

  7.   God intimately says that He has done what in verse 16?

  9.   According to verse 17, what will happen to the enemies of God’s people?

  11.   What are all the promises described here predicated on? (verse 18) Is this worthy of our hope and trust? Explain why or why not?

3.  Read Jeremiah 20:11-13.

  1.   In spite of his unpopular ministry, Jeremiah has such faith in God that he calls Him what? (verse 11)

  3.   The remainder of verse 11 expresses Jeremiah’s confidence that what will happen?

  5.   Whom does God test? (verse 12) How can this be an encouraging thought to believers in times of despair?

  7.   What does God see? (verse 12) How should this truth affect our everyday lives?

  9.   What important action does Jeremiah take at the end of verse 12 that all believers should regularly practice?

  11.   What do Jeremiah (verse 13) and David (Psalm 13:6) both do in response to what they know in God?

  13.   Why should this never change in light of our circumstances?

Did You Know?

     David was not the only person in the Bible who had to face painful delays in life from God. Abraham and Sarah had to wait until old age to have their promised son, Isaac (Genesis 21:2). Job had to endure not only the loss of all he had but also the long and heavy criticism of his friends until God in His mercy restored all that he once had twofold (Job 42:10). And God faithfully delivered His people to the land promised to their forefathers (Deuteronomy 1:8)—but only after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 2:7).

Lesson 5: Worship in Times of Trouble

Psalm 138

In this lesson we learn why worship must be a constant in all of life.


     Often our desire for worshiping God is tied to how we feel about life. If life is good, we worship readily; if life is hard, we don’t. But worship shouldn’t be tied to circumstances. Worship should be a constant for the Christian regardless of the direction life takes

  1. In Times of Present Trouble the Lord Is to Be Worshiped
    1.   Let Us Worship the Lord Thankfully
    2.   Let Us Worship the Lord Wholeheartedly
    3.   Let Us Worship the Lord Courageously
    4.   Let Us Worship the Lord Intelligently
  2. In Times of Future Triumph the Lord Is to Be Worshiped
    1.   All Kings of the Earth Will Praise the Lord
    2.   All Kinds of People Will Be Acknowledged by the Lord
  3. In Times of Personal Uncertainty the Lord Is to Be Worshiped
    1.   The Lord Continues to Protect Us
    2.   The Lord Continues to Perfect Us
  4. Conclusion


     A child prodigy named Barclay Allen was born in 1918. By the time he was four he knew all the notes on the piano and, being blessed with perfect pitch, could identify any note just by its sound. At the age of 13 he was directing an orchestra in one church and playing the pipe organ in another. In addition to the organ and piano, he had mastered the violin, the trumpet, the clarinet, and the xylophone.

      His mother insisted he learn and play nothing but classical music, but during his teenage years he got bitten by the jazz bug. He was soon traveling with professional bands and composing million-seller songs. He eventually formed his own band and began traveling in the same circles as the best-known entertainers of his day. But as his professional star was rising, his personal life was deteriorating. An alcohol-related auto accident paralyzed him from the neck down, and he turned bitter and angry toward everyone, especially God.

      While recuperating in the hospital, a local pastor began visiting Allen and eventually led him to a saving relationship with Christ. Within a few months, he regained enough use of his arms and hands that he could play the notes on the piano—and he began to compose music once again. Only this time, the songs were about the One who had saved him and become his best friend. George Beverly Shea sang one of Barclay Allen’s songs at every Billy Graham crusade for years. Its opening lines say,

“I found a Friend when life seemed not worth living,
            I found a Friend so tender and forgiving.
            I can’t conceive how such a thing could be,
            That Jesus cares for even me.”

                                          — Barclay (Ron) Allen

      That song is very much like some of the songs (psalms) we find in the Old Testament—songs about the friend that God is to us when we find ourselves in need of His help. Barclay Allen is not the only person God has come to in an hour of need. He has done the same for thousands of people for thousands of years. In Psalm 138 we have the record of David’s discovery that the most direct path to God in times of trouble is the path of worship. And the path of worship leads to a God who is a friend indeed in our time of need.

In Times of Present Trouble the Lord Is to Be Worshiped (138:1-3)

      The essence of worship is thankfulness—gratitude for who He is and what He has done.

Let Us Worship the Lord Thankfully

      The majority of this psalm, and certainly these first three verses, is focused on worshiping God. David only mentions the trouble he is in briefly in verse 3 (“In the day when I cried out”). The word he uses for praise is a very interesting word that would perhaps be better translated in the text by these words: “I will give thanks to You.” David begins his time of worship in trouble by giving thanks to God. Isn’t that an amazing thing? It is often a challenge for us to remember that, no matter what we are going through, we still have many reasons to give thanks to God.

      The Bible says we are to “come before His presence with thanksgiving” (Psalm 95:2) and “enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name” (Psalm 100:4). Instead of thanksgiving to God, it’s easy when we come to Him to just back up our truck of troubles and petitions and unload them all on His desk. We stay so burdened with the troubles and cares of this life that we forget to come into His presence with a thankful heart.

Let Us Worship the Lord Wholeheartedly

      David wasn’t someone who just sat in the presence of the Lord in a passive way. Doesn’t it make sense if we are going to worship God, that we should be totally devoted to it? We don’t mind yelling and screaming at a football game—i.e., cheering wholeheartedly—but when it comes to worshiping the Lord we sometimes have no heart in it at all.

      All the way through Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, is sprinkled the word “wholehearted” or the phrase “with a whole heart” (Psalm 119:2, 34, and 58). We are told that when we come to God and seek to obey His Word, we are to do it with all that we have. Every Christian ought to stop and take an inventory of their heart to see how much of it they bring to the Lord in worship, not only in times of trouble but even in times of blessing. I have discovered that my own worship seems more wholehearted when I am hurting than when I’m blessed. God sends difficulty into our lives to drive us upward toward Him so we will praise Him with a whole heart.

Let Us Worship the Lord Courageously

      David says he will praise God before all the pagan gods and the rulers who worship them. David was not ashamed of his God. He would boldly praise the God of Israel in the presence of false gods without worrying what anyone said or thought of him. Are you willing to do that today?

      I can remember when it was very common to see families and others in restaurants bowing their heads and joining hands to worship and thank God before their meal. Our family does that, but I don’t see as many today as I used to. It is a wonderful way to encourage other families to say to them, “We saw you praying before your meal. You were a real encouragement to us. Thanks for your testimony!” People who are not ashamed to pray publicly to their God stand out in an age when it is common to be ridiculed for your faith. I see some people who sort of bow their head, or look like they’re looking for their napkin, or scratching their forehead—trying to pray before their meal without looking like they are praying. Who are they fooling? David said, in effect, “I will praise my God before all the pagan Gods.” He praised God courageously.

Let Us Worship the Lord Intelligently

      David notes three things for which we are to praise God when we are in trouble. These make a great outline for praying in times of trouble.

     1. Praise Him for His mercy and truth.

      David praises God for His “lovingkindness and . . . truth” (verse 2). The word “lovingkindness” is the Hebrew word hesed, and is the word for mercy. Mercy and truth are often paired in the Old Testament, occurring in many verses together (Psalm 85:10; 25:10; 57:3). It is not unusual to find a person in possession of much mercy, but they often have difficulty applying truth. Likewise, many teachers of truth often are very unmerciful. But God is perfectly balanced in mercy and in truth. When you come to Him, His truth is tempered by mercy and His mercy is illumined by truth.

     2. Praise Him for His magnified Word.

      What does it mean to have magnified His word above all His name (verse 2)? Can anything be magnified above the name of Almighty God? In some mysterious way that is hard to comprehend, God places such a high value on the integrity of His Word that it appears more valuable even than His name. We praise the name of God because of His words of “lovingkindness and truth,” so in that way His words become the causative factor in praising His name. When you read God’s Word and read of His lovingkindness and truth, you can know that the integrity of God and His name are behind those words.

     3. Praise Him for His mighty provision.

      Verse 3 has words of hope for every troubled soul. In the day we cry out, God answers and makes us bold with strength! The psalm doesn’t say that when we cry out God makes all our trouble go away. It says He answers—and there is a big difference. By His answer, He may take us through the trouble, help us in the trouble, or keep us from the trouble. But what He doesn’t do is not answer. God answers when we cry out to Him.

      However He answers, His answer gives us strength which makes us bold. And boldness allows us to face troubles without fear. We don’t face trouble presumptuously or arrogantly, but we do face it with confidence and strength, knowing that God is with us and will see us through. That kind of perspective keeps us from cowering in the corners of life and gives us the confidence to face each day unafraid of what it might bring.

In Times of Future Triumph the Lord Is to Be Worshiped (138:4-6)

      In verses 4 through 6 David looks to the future, a day when all the kings of the earth will praise the Lord. This is another reason to worship the Lord, even in the midst of trouble.

All Kings of the Earth Will Praise the Lord (138:4-5)

      It will come as a rude awakening to many in high places, but the day is coming when every ruler, king, and leader will bow before King Jesus and give Him glory and honor (Philippians 2:10-11; Revelation 11:15b). David, in the time of his trouble, was wise enough to recognize that the posture of worship and humility before God is the posture that every human being was created to live in. Better to assume that posture now, willingly, than to assume it later by obligation. As the television commercial used to say, “You can pay me now or you can pay me later.” That is a worldly way to state a spiritual truth, but it makes the point: All the kings and rulers of the earth will one day bow before God’s throne, and we should prepare for that day by worshiping Him now.

All Kinds of People Will Be Acknowledged by the Lord

      Did you know that the Lord acknowledges everyone? Verse 6 demonstrates how the Lord divides all of humanity into two classes: the lowly and the proud. And He has a relationship with both of them.

     1. The Lord receives the lowly—“Through the Lord is on high, yet He regards the lowly.”

      I often think about this when I visit places in our world that are filled with people from humble circumstances. I sense the love God has for them, and the love many of them have for God. There is a special relationship between God and those who have gone through very difficult times in their lives. The church of Jesus Christ is, and should be for the most part, made up of the lowly. If we weren’t lowly when we were saved, we should be as we grow in the Lord. For all of us recognize the poverty of our souls when it comes to God’s grace and mercy. He has regarded us as those who could not help themselves.

     2. The Lord resists the lofty—“but the proud He knows from afar.”

      God has a different relationship with the proud. While He embraces the lowly to His breast, the proud He relates to at arm’s length. The proud are so full of themselves that they have no room for God. Though God’s grace can remove pride, those who live in and relish their pride are known by God only from afar. How dangerous to have only a far-off relationship with the living God!

In Times of Personal Uncertainty the Lord Is to Be Worshiped (138:7-8)

      In the last two verses, we find the heart of the true believer, the one who can worship God even in times of personal uncertainty. Note that David says he “walks in the midst of trouble.” That’s different than being in trouble, or being troubled. It is an ongoing process of living through the reality of trouble—not letting trouble derail or wreck one’s life. Two things happen for the one who walks in the midst of trouble: protection and perfection.

The Lord Continues to Protect Us

      David spent most of his life in trouble. Before he is king he is running from Saul, as king he is warring with his neighbors, and toward the end of his reign his house (family) rises up in rebellion against him. David walked most of his life in the midst of trouble. Yet David said in Psalm 23, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” David was confident of God’s protection, just as David’s sheep had been “confident” of David’s protection when he was their shepherd in the Judean hills. Does that mean we will never be injured? Apparently not, for David says God will “revive” him when needed. But it does mean that God will proactively stretch out His hand on our behalf. He will protect us.

The Lord Continues to Perfect Us

      Finally, the Lord perfects us. Psalm 138:8 is a beautiful conclusion for the soul in trouble: “The LORD will perfect that which concerns me.” It’s easy in the midst of trouble to lose sight of the big picture. Our perspective grows foggy, and we begin to wonder if God is still walking with us in the midst of our troublesome days. Here is the promise that He is. Day by day, God is perfecting us. That perfection is happening in the “good” days as well as the “bad.” He is moving us toward perfection at every moment (Romans 8:29).

      Never have you had a friend like Jesus. Even on the days when life seems to you not to be worth living, your faithful Friend is protecting and perfecting you.


      “Do not forsake the works of Your hands” (Psalm 138:8). David views himself in the hands of Almighty God. You are in the hands that created the universe—nail-scarred hands that hung on the cross to pay for your redemption. These hands will one day welcome Christians to glory.

      When we give up and give in, He reaches down with those hands and lifts us up and walks us through the difficulty as He has promised. Whatever you may be facing, whatever challenge you may be going through, God is able to do above and beyond all that you can ever ask, if you will just grab hold of His hands and let Him take charge.


1.  Read Isaiah 43:1-5.    

  1.   What is the opening command in verse 1?

  3.   List the three reasons why we are to follow this order. Why is this so compelling?

  5.   What historical event in the Bible is alluded to in the passing through water? In walking through fire and not being burned? (verse 2)

  7.   Write down the names for God listed in verse 3. Why are these names so appropriate in this given context?

  9.   What did God’s people receive because they were precious in His sight? (verse 4)

  11.   What is reiterated in verse 5? Why is it especially good to heed this word in troubled times?

2.  Read Philippians 3:20 -21, 4:1.

  1.   Verse 20 tells us that followers of Christ are what?

  3.   How can this fact alleviate some of the pain involved in this present life?

  5.   What will Jesus do when we are finally in heaven? (verse 21)

  7.   The power involved in that transformation is also able to do what incredible thing? (verse 21)

  9.   Paul calls his fellow believers in Christ what four affectionate names? (verse 1)

  11.   Why is it so important for Christians to encourage and minister to one another in the way in which Paul does in this passage?

  13.   What is Paul’s final exhortation to the Church in this passage? (verse 1)

3.  Read 1 Peter 5:6-11.

  1.   If we humble ourselves before God, what does God promise to do? (verse 6)

  3.   What is the key word to hold onto in verse 6? Why is this word critical to not losing faith in times of trial?

  5.   What does verse 7 tell us to do? Why?

  7.   Explain why being sober and vigilant are the commands used to combat the devil in verse 8 as opposed to being strong and smart.

  9.   What is the comforting truth found in verse 9?

  11.   Verse 10 tells us that God will accomplish and complete what four acts in the believer’s life after they have suffered?

  13.   What verse in Psalm 138 is similar to 1 Peter 5:10? Why?

Did You Know?

     Psalm 138:7 says that the Lord’s “right hand will save me.” And there are references to the right hand of God from the beginning to the end of Scripture. In Exodus 15:6 we read, “Your right hand, O LORD, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O LORD, has dashed the enemy in pieces.” And Revelation 5:7 tells us that Jesus “came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” We can take comfort that the right hand which will save us is mighty and full of power and strength—for Hebrews 8:1 tells us that Jesus sits at the “right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.”

Lesson 6: A Desert Psalm

Psalm 63

In this lesson we discover the reality of spiritual desert places and how to prosper in them.


     On the range of every person’s life there is a wilderness place—or several. Survival is what we think of first when we think of desert places. Not prospering, not rejoicing—just surviving. David took a different approach and blossomed spiritually in the wilderness.

  1. David’s Hunger for God
    1.   David’s Desire
    2.   David’s Decision
    3.   David’s Delight
  2. II.  What David Did
    1.   Praise God
    2.   Picture God
    3.   Pray to God


     This study is entitled “A Desert Psalm” since it describes a “wilderness” experience of David that took place in the Judean deserts (see the superscription of the psalm before verse 1). Wilderness experiences are difficult at any stage of life, but especially in the latter years. People tend to expect the more difficult times in life to be the early and middle years while raising children, putting them through college, and going through midlife crises of one sort or another. Retirement is called by many “the golden years” due to the naïve assumption that those are the years to kick back and enjoy a richly-deserved rest.

      Well, the latter years can be enjoyable for everyone (although there are no guarantees), and certainly a king might expect his to be, but such was not the case for David. By the end of David’s reign, when his son Solomon was scheduled to become king, other sons of David rose up and rebelled against their father causing the last of his days to be worse than the first.

      David’s son Absalom, a handsome and charismatic man, had convinced a number of Israelites to follow him as he sought to overthrow David’s waning rule. He would wait at the gates of Jerusalem and give ear to the problems and legal matters of the people. Absalom earned their affections by pretending to be sympathetic to their plights, suggesting that if Israel had a king who cared about them, things would be a lot better. Gradually, Absalom developed a following, and word was delivered to David that a coup was imminent. But the storm clouds darkened even more. Ahithophel, David’s favorite counselor and friend, and Amasa, his nephew, both defected to Absalom’s camp.

      Absalom set up his rogue headquarters a few miles from Jerusalem, and spread the word throughout Israel that when his trumpets blew, Israel was to rally to his leadership. David knew his only hope was to flee Jerusalem and take refuge in the desert. Who knew? Perhaps Absalom also intended to take his father’s life? From the perspective of his desert hideout, David gives us a glimpse into his feelings during this tumultuous part of his life.

      Few people will ever experience the rebellion of children, friends, and counselors like David did. But for one reason or another, in the early years or the latter years, we will find our way to the desert as David did. And probably at a time when, like David, we would least expect it. Reading the account of his spiritual survival during a physically threatening time will provide resources for all who have a wilderness experience.

David’s Hunger for God (63:1)

      It is hard to imagine the grief David must have been feeling as he wrote this psalm. Having been removed from his royal palace in Jerusalem and its marble and cedar furnishings, he now views life from within a dusty tent in the arid wasteland of the Judean wilderness. Once a proud father and respected king, he now is a refugee in his own homeland, an enemy of his own family and court. Deserted by nearly everyone at the human level, he knows he has not been deserted by God. And it is to Him that he turns in this desperate hour.

David’s Desire (63:1)

      It is plain to see that David desires to meet God in the wilderness: “I will seek You . . . my soul thirsts for You . . . my flesh longs for You” (verse 1). He refers to God as Elohim Eli, “O Creator God, my God.” Even in the barren wilderness he sees God for who He really is, the One who has created all things. David’s desire for God is revealed in three ways.

      1. Seeking

      This expression is related to the Hebrew word for dawn, and it literally means that the earliest thought he has as he awakens is the thought to seek God. The expression, “Early will I seek you” has such an impact upon this psalm that the Arminian and Greek Orthodox churches often refer to this psalm as the Morning Psalm. In their liturgy they sing it because of this expression: “Early will I seek You.”

      2. Thirsting

      David looks around at the parched desert where there are no wells of water and sees it as a picture of his own life. He thirsts for the cool refreshment which only God can give. David said in another psalm, “My soul thirsts for God, for the Living God” (Psalm 42:2). What makes a person thirsty for God? In David’s case, it was the difficult times he was going through. Thirst for God should be a natural by-product of the strenuous exercise of the soul in difficult periods of life.

      3. Longing

      The word “longs” is actually the word “to faint.” David is saying, “Lord, I am in such a place where I am literally without strength, and I faint, O God, for your presence.” What is happening to him physically has taken on a spiritual and yet a deeper physical dimension so that he feels the pain in every part of his body—and that pain drives him to long for God. It is amazing that with no knowledge of eternal life, no knowledge of a sacrificial Savior, no knowledge of the Resurrection—all the things we know well in the New Testament era—that Old Testament saints like David had such a longing for God. They had a sense of His presence with them that few Christians seem to enjoy in our day.

      David must have already learned that even the royal trappings of kingship could not provide what his heart needed, that only God could slake his thirst and satisfy his longing. He had lived long enough to know that none of what the world offers, whether in the desert or the palace, could satisfy the longings of his heart. Someone has said that Satan knows nothing of true pleasure and satisfaction, that he is an expert only in amusements. David had learned the difference, and we would do well to imitate him. True pleasure comes from knowing God, being known of God, and being at rest in His presence.

David’s Decision (63:2)

      Verse 2 illuminates a fascinating part of the story of David fleeing for his life from Absalom. Unbeknownst to him, Abiathar and some of the priests had gone into the sanctuary of the temple and lifted up the Ark of the Covenant and carried it out of the temple, accompanying David out of the city. As they were leaving the city, David saw what they had done—and commanded that they return the ark to its resting place in the sanctuary of the temple.

      The priests’ actions were not without reason. The Ark of the Covenant was the most important possession in the entire nation of Israel. It represented the sole place where God had promised He would dwell among His people—hovering over the ark in the Holy of Holies. So the priests who were loyal to David wanted the presence of God to go with him as he fled for his life. But David made them return it (read the story in 2 Samuel 15) for two reasons: First, because it belonged in the temple, not outside it; and second, because he knew that God was not limited to the presence of the ark. He needed the actual presence of God, not the earthly, emblematic presence of God. If God were going to be with him, he knew it was not necessary for the ark to be there. So he sent the ark back and proceeded to the desert with the promise of God’s presence, not a picture of it.

David’s Delight (63:3)

      Why was David able to go through the kinds of debilitating trials that he did without losing his confidence in God? He tells us in verse 3: He valued God’s lovingkindness more highly than life itself. David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), and when the pressure of life surrounded him he clung to his relationship with God with both hands and all his strength.

      I recall perhaps the lowest day in my battle with cancer. It was on an Easter Sunday, and my wife and I were in a hotel near the hospital where I was to undergo treatment. I searched on the television Sunday morning to try to find a church service to watch, and before I knew it, I was sobbing convulsively. It suddenly hit me how much I missed being in the house of God, in the presence of God, worshiping God with God’s people. That is my life! And I was holed up in a desert-like hotel room in the most troublesome moment of my life. I was reminded again that, live or die, the most important thing to me is to be in the presence of God. And it’s not because I am a pastor. I think every Christian is supposed to feel that way. We are supposed to delight ourselves in the presence of the Lord.

      In the next few verses David gives some very important clues for living in the desert—yet staying in the presence of God.

What David Did (63:4-8)

      David did three things while in the desert hiding from his attackers and hiding his soul in the presence of God: He praised God, pictured God, and prayed to God.

Praise God (63:4-5)

      The first thing David did wouldn’t make sense to a lot of people. But things that are spiritually correct sometimes don’t make sense in the rational realm. What did David do? He lifted up his hands and blessed the Lord, and praised the Lord with joyful lips. When your life is hanging by a thread, you don’t worry about what makes sense. You focus on those things that will keep you in the presence of the only One who can save your life. The last eight verses of the psalm describe the ways David praised the Lord. There is a sense that David is not completely sure how much life he has left to live. But whatever time he has left, he wants to spend it in praising the Lord. In other words, “Lord, whatever breath You give me, I am going to give it back to You in praise.”

      This psalm is an instruction book on how to praise the Lord. There are seven different ways to praise God in the first six verses of Psalm 63:

      1. We praise Him with our lips (verse 3).

      2. We praise Him with our tongue (bless; verse 4).

      3. We praise Him with our hands (verse 4).

      4. We praise Him with our will (soul; verse 5).

      5. We praise Him with our mouth (verse 5).

      6. We praise Him with our memory (verse 6).

      7. We praise Him with our intellect (meditation; verse 6).

      As David praised God, rehearsing the goodness of God, he was able to picture in his mind all that God had done for him in the past.

Picture God (63:6-7)

      Many people spend their nights tossing and turning when they face difficult circumstances. Perhaps they never sleep at all. But not David. When he laid upon his bed at night, if he happened not to be sleeping at that moment, he simply meditated on the Lord. He remembered, via the pictures that his mind gave him, the many ways in which God had been faithful to him in the past.

      Are you losing sleep over a situation or circumstance in your life? Are you not sleeping because you are tossing and turning, worrying over the predicament you are in? As you think about the past, the present, and the future, meditate upon it from God’s perspective. Keeping hope alive is partly based on reliving the memories of the good things we have experienced as a child of God, and the difficult things God brought us through.

      On nights when he couldn’t sleep, David must have meditated upon the nine-foot-tall Philistine giant named Goliath. David stood before that mountain of a man with three things: a sling, a bag of stones, and faith in the power of God to give him victory. And that was all he needed—the battle was his. Never forget what God has done for you in the past. Those victories will fuel your faith in victories yet to come.

Pray to God (63:8)

      The text of verse 8 literally says, “My soul clings to You” (NAS). Does your soul cling to God when you are in the desert experiences of life?

      Here’s a way for you to think about this the next time trouble comes: If you and God are standing apart from one another, and trouble comes between you, it can drive you further apart. But if, when you see trouble coming, you cling to God with all your might, never letting trouble come between you, then you have the victory. In fact, the pressure of the trouble will push you closer and closer to God. It will only serve to strengthen your grip on Him. People tell me all the time, and I can testify as well, that they never experience the nearness of God as much as they do when they are in the desert places of life. That happens by not letting trouble come between you and God.

      Prayer is a way to cling to God. You reach out to Him and grasp Him with the words of your heart. You pour out your praises and your petitions and you stay in an attitude of prayer until deliverance comes. That’s what David did. Absalom’s armies were defeated, Absalom himself was killed, and David’s kingdom was restored.

      The next time you find yourself in the desert, do what David did: Hunger for God and feed your hunger with praises and prayers based on the faithfulness of God in the past.




1.  Read Psalm 18:1-3.

  1.   What does David declare in verse 1?

  3.   In verses 1–2, David names God in nine different ways. Fill in his descriptions:
  4.     1. my  

        2. my    

        3. my  

        4. my  

        5. my  

        6. my  

        7. my  

        8. the horn of my  

        9. my  


  5.   Take one of these attributes and describe a time when God revealed Himself to you in that way.

  7.   What is David’s response to realizing all of the good works of God? (verse 3)

  9.   What is David convinced will ultimately happen? (verse 3)

  11.   What verse in Psalm 63 echoes that sentiment exactly?

2.  Read Psalm 18 and Psalm 63.

  1.   Psalm 18 was written early in David’s life and Psalm 63 was written in his later days. In what ways has David changed? In what ways has he stayed the same? Use verses from both psalms to support your answers.

3.  Read Nahum 1:7.

  1.   God is not only described as good, but as what?

  3.   What is a benefit of trusting God?

  5.   Read the verses that come before and after verse 7. How does this put the “day of trouble” of verse 7 in context?

  7.   How could you use the verse to encourage a fellow believer going through a difficult time?

4.  Read Matthew 11:28-30.

  1.   What does Jesus invite us to do? (verse 28)

  3.   What especially marks the countenance of those whom Jesus is calling? (verse 28)

  5.   What does He promise to do? (verse 28)

  7.   How does Jesus describe Himself in verse 29?

  9.   Jesus reiterates a promise from verse 28 and in verse 29, but he adds more detail in the second verse. What is the difference, and why is it so important?

  11.   Why do you think Jesus employed the image of a yoke and burden in calling people to salvation through the Son?

Did You Know?

     Second Samuel 18 tells us the story of the battle between the armies of David and his rebellious son Absalom. The fighting took place in the woods of Ephraim (verse 6), and it is recorded that over 20,000 people were slaughtered there in just one day (verse 7). To put that in perspective, 8,000 men died during the bloody Battle of Gettysburg—and that occurred over three days! The most interesting and mysterious aspect of David and Absalom’s battle concerns how the majority of the men died that day: “and the woods devoured more people that day than the sword devoured” (verse 8).

Lesson 7: Life's Ups and Downs

Psalm 30

In this lesson we learn how to stay balanced in a world that isn’t.


     From the moment we rise in the morning until we turn out the lights at night, we have no control over the changes life brings our way. Fortunately, we can rest in a God who knows all about the changes we can’t see coming—and can take us safely through them.

  1. From Hurting to Healing
    1.   Prayer for Healing
    2.   Praise for Healing
    3.   Purpose for Healing
  2. From Weeping to Joy
    1.   This Is an Everyday Truth
    2.   This Is an Eternal Truth
  3. From Prosperity to Poverty
  4. From Mourning to Dancing
  5. From Silence to Singing


      Being a father and the pastor of a church that is associated with a Christian high school and college, I am around athletics a lot. More than any other game, sometimes I think life is a lot like soccer—or at least the average Christian perceives it to be. Soccer is one of the most demanding of all sports: a huge field, constant running from one end to the other, lots of collisions with other players and the hard ground, and very little scoring to reward all that effort. Because there is so little scoring in soccer, sometimes an entire game will come down to one play: A blocked shot, a missed block, a deflection, a missed kick. Soccer is totally unpredictable—we can be winning one minute and losing the next.

      Psalm 30 in the Old Testament reflects that kind of perspective on life: full of the emotions and reactions to life that reveal our humanity and our dependence on God. This psalm reflects a volatile period in the life of Israel and her king, David. The superscription of the psalm (look in your Bible right before verse 1), says it was written at the “dedication of the house of David.” Most scholars believe this refers to the period in which David brought the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem and set it up in the place where it would ultimately be enclosed in the holy place in the temple built by Solomon, David’s son. The ark, Israel’s most important religious object, had been kept in the tabernacle during Israel’s years in the wilderness, and had been brought into the promised land when Israel entered Canaan. But the Philistines had captured the ark, which was a national disgrace for Israel. So many judgments came upon Philistia because of their possession of the ark that they finally sent it away. Yet even when Israel got it back, they failed to bring it up to Jerusalem and reposition it in the center of their worship.

      When David set out to bring the ark up to Jerusalem, the instructions in the book of Numbers on moving the ark were not followed. As a result, one of the men moving the ark was killed by God when he touched it as it was being transported on an oxcart. David was furious over this incident, though he shouldn’t have been since the ark represented the holiness of God. But in 2 Samuel 6:9-11 we read where David’s anger turned to fear—he was afraid to have anything to do with the ark. So he left it right where it was, in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. David was so upset and confused over what had happened that he just abandoned the whole project. Yet, three months later, when he heard that Obed-Edom, a non-Israelite, was being blessed profusely by God because of his possession of the ark, David changed his tune again. He went and retrieved the ark and brought it to Jerusalem. But this time he followed the instructions Moses had given on moving the ark of God.

      Psalm 30 was probably written by David as a song to be sung during the transporting of the ark from Obed-Edom’s house up to Jerusalem. David’s fear of the ark had been dispelled by his studying the Mosaic descriptions and stipulations concerning the ark (the ark had been basically forgotten about since the days of Saul; 1 Chronicles 13:3), and he rejoiced at its relocation to Jerusalem. During this period, David went up and down, from hot to cold and back to hot again, in his emotional walk with the Lord. That’s what makes David so appealing, and his psalms so refreshing—he was a real live, fraught- with-frailty human being just like us. Most of us have experienced the same ups and downs that David did.

      Sometimes we can’t make sense out of life—things happen that we don’t plan on, and we respond at times in ways we wish we hadn’t. Sometimes we think we’re back in adolescence given the breadth of our emotional fluctuations. Yesterday we were on the peak, today we’re in the valley, and tomorrow we’ll be on the plain. Some people can’t handle the changes, but the ones who learn what David reveals in Psalm 30 are the ones who learn to make sense out of life’s ups and downs.

From Hurting to Healing (30:1-4, 8-10)

      Though we have no historical narrative in the Old Testament describing sickness in David’s life, there are several references in the psalms to periods of physical illness. He sings about his prayer for healing, and then his praises for healing in this psalm.

Prayer for Healing (30:8-10)

      David’s prayer for healing begins with an interesting approach in verses 8-9. Rather than praying for healing for self-centered reasons, as we might be inclined to do, he argues with God, presenting his case: “Why are you letting me be sick? What is the point in my dying? If I die, is the dust that I turn into going to be able to rise up and praise You? If I die, You are going to lose an enthusiastic worshiper.” He was focused on the glory of God, and wanted to stay alive to continue as a worshiper. In the end, however, in verse 10, he just cries out to the Lord for mercy: “Have mercy on me; Lord, be my helper!” All of our reasonings, noble or self-centered, have their final plea in David’s words: “Lord, help!”

Praise for Healing (30:1-3)

      David’s praise for deliverance from his illness (as well as from his enemies), comes at the beginning of the psalm. He has come from death’s door to the heights of praising God. The word “lifted” is the same word used for dipping a bucket into a well and drawing water up. David knows God has almost reached down into the grave and lifted him up right before he was about to die. And the word “extol” also means to lift up or raise up. So David is saying, “I will raise You up, Lord, because You have raised me up from the edge of the grave.” 

      Anyone who has had a brush with death of any sort, whether by way of illness or accident, never looks at life the same way again. You know you were lifted up by the hand of God and you can’t help but lift up His name in praise and worship. But the truth is that every day we live is a day that is a gift from God. Whether we are saved from death or not on any given day (remember: we’re all going to die one day), God is the one we lift up for giving us the life we have when we have it.

Purpose for Healing (30:4)

      One of the purposes for God’s mighty acts in our midst is that we might declare His praise to the world. When we pray for someone who is sick and God raises them up, it is just as much our responsibility to praise God for the healing as it was to pray for the healing in the first place. Are you careful to praise God when He answers your prayers and does a mighty thing for you or someone you have prayed for? It’s easy to forget, to push on to the next urgent thing. There is always another crisis to become involved in, another critical need. But one of the reasons for God responding to our prayers is that we might praise Him and declare His glory.

      David has gone from hurting to healing, with a lot of prayer in between. But praise to God is the connector that ties the extremes together.

From Weeping to Joy (30:5)

      David records another set of extremes: From weeping to joy. Normally, weeping and joy don’t go together, except for when women sometimes cry for joy (something men have a hard time understanding). Most of the time, weeping accompanies sadness and joy goes with gladness. But we can go from one to another in a moment.

This Is an Everyday Truth

      Sadness is an everyday truth in this life, and one we have to reckon with. But just as a day can bring sadness with it, it is also true that the day of sadness passes. We can be accused of being trite or trivial when we say it, but it is true that “things are going to get better; just hang on; you’ll get through this.” That’s the truth. Sadness does turn to joy.

      I don’t know how many times I have faced a group of family and friends who have lost a loved one unexpectedly—a funeral can be the saddest day of our lives. Looking at people’s faces, we wonder if they will ever smile again. And yet, I will see those same people in a matter of weeks or months and the joy has returned. It’s just the process of life. We weep and then we rejoice. God gives us the grace to move from one phase to the next, from one day to the next.

This Is an Eternal Truth

      It’s interesting that David follows a pattern of looking at the day that was begun in the creation account in Genesis. He says that weeping comes in the night, but joy comes in the morning. If you remember, when God created the heavens and the earth, He said, “the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1:5). We think just the opposite, don’t we? We think of a day as the morning followed by the evening: “The morning and the evening were the first day.” I think there are wonderful truths embedded in God’s perspective on life. If you will look at your day as the evening and the morning instead of the morning and the evening, you will begin your day in the evening by meditating on what you need to accomplish the next day and asking God’s blessing on it. Then He is free to work in your heart and mind as you sleep to prepare you for accomplishing those things. Also, we are living life at present in the darkness, in the shadows of life, due to sin. A bright, “gettin’-up” morning is coming that will follow the weeping we have endured for the night in which the world now exists. When Christ returns, everything will be the morning of joy—there will be no more weeping. Weeping is ours during the night, but our eternal joy is coming in the morning of Christ’s return.

From Prosperity to Poverty (30:6-7)

      Another roller coaster ride that we can experience in life is to go from prosperity to poverty. And sometimes this happens because of presumptuousness on our part. We get things under control and think we have become invincible. Then we lose it all and think our world is falling apart. David apparently thought that way at one point in his life. He had become so prosperous that he thought he could never be moved (verse 6). We may think it is foolish to think that way, but it is easy to fall into that trap. As has been said, “We lose our health to gain our wealth, then spend our wealth to regain our health.” We go in a cycle from prosperity to poverty and sometimes back again. There is nothing wrong with being successful in what we do and having what we need to live life. But when we begin to put our confidence in those things, we run the risk of having them removed from us and crashing to the earth in a pile of poverty—and wondering why. It is not worth having the things of this life if they keep you from knowing God and having eternal life forever and ever.

From Mourning to Dancing (30:11)

      Verse 11 is one reason scholars believe this psalm was associated with the bringing of the ark back to Jerusalem—David talks about his mourning being turned to dancing. If you read the rest of the story in 2 Samuel, you see a beautiful thing David did: “David danced before the LORD with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14)—and he did it wearing nothing but his linen ephod. Now some people don’t like this because they’re against dancing. But this wasn’t social dancing; it was the dance of praise and worship. David had mourned over the ark’s absence and the judgment of God in the loss of the man’s life, but now his mourning is turned to dancing. By the grace of God he has moved from one extreme to the other as he has walked in the purposes of God at that time of his life.

From Silence to Singing (30:12)

      The last transformation David makes is to go from silence to singing. “To the end that” connects this verse to verse 11, and shows that David saw his mourning turn to dancing in order that he might sing praise to God “and not be silent.” The lesson here is that God is certainly with us when things are going well, but He is also with us when things aren’t going so well. God is there when we achieve a major accomplishment or victory in life, but He is also there in the hospital room when we receive the bad news we were hoping not to hear. Whether in the ups or the downs, God is with us in every case.

       The key thought to retain from this glorious psalm of David is this: Whether you are going through weeping or joy, give thanks to God. Whether you are in an up time or a down time, give thanks to God. If you are experiencing prosperity or poverty, give thanks to God. If you are in times of dancing or mourning, give thanks to God. Don’t ever forget that the one constant in all of life is God’s presence with you, and for that He deserves to be praised.


1.  Read Psalm 30:6-7.

  1.   What attitude did David display in verse 6?

  3.   What is God’s method of defeating arrogance in the lives of His children? Is this fair? Why or why not?

  5.   Why is it so difficult to keep a proper perspective and attitude in times of prosperity?

2.  Read Psalm 31:21-24.

  1.   Why does David bless the Lord? (verse 21)

  3.   David admits to acting in what way in verse 22? What did he accuse God of doing?

  5.   What was God’s response to this behavior? (verse 22) What is this a manifestation of?

  7.   Recall and describe an instance in which you were hasty in accusing God of forsaking you, only to find out that He was working on your behalf all along.

  9.   What does David admonish us to do? (verse 23) Why?

  11.   If we are of good courage and hope in the Lord, what will He do in turn? (verse 24)

3.  Read Proverbs 30:5-9.

  1.   What does the Bible reveal about itself in verse 5?

  3.   If we trust in God, He in turn will do what? (verse 5)

  5.   Why are we so strongly admonished to not add to the Word of God? (verse 6)

  7.   What are the writer’s two requests of God? (verse 8) Does this seem like an odd request to you? Why or why not?

  9.   Put into your own words the very simple and wise reasons why those requests were made. (verse 9)

  11.   How does verse 8 fit in with Psalm 30’s theme of the ups and downs of life?

4.  Read 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18.

  1.   Verse 14 instructs us to actively counteract the conditions of those that are hurting around us. List the actions that we are to take.

  3.   How does verse 14 correlate with Psalm 30:11?


  4.   Verse 15 commands us to live our lives in what way?

  6.   What did Jesus say that is similar to the sentiment of verse 15?

  8.   What is the threefold will of God for us in Christ Jesus? (verses 16-18)

  10.   Compare this threefold will of God with Psalm 30:12. Is God’s Word consistent? What is the constant theme you see rising in these verses?

Did You Know?

     The Ark of the Covenant has a great history and presence throughout the Bible. It is referenced in thirteen books of the Bible—eleven in the Old Testament and two in the New Testament. God gave Moses specific instructions for its construction (Exodus 37:1-9), and we are told in Hebrews 9:4 that it contained “the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant.” Although we don’t know what happened to the ark, we know that it will be seen again one day—for Revelation 11:19 says that “the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple.”

Lesson 8: Praying Under Pressure

Psalm 142

In this lesson we learn how to keep communication lines open with God even in times of discouragement.


     Someone has said that modern societies are collections of “intimate strangers.” We are around people, yet we are often lonely and sometimes discouraged. In times of discouragement, it is important to know that God is always available through prayer.

  1. The Description of David’s Discouragement
    1.   He Feels Disoriented
    2.   He Feels Deserted
    3.   He Feels Depressed
    4.   He Feels Defeated
  2. The Defeat of David’s Discouragement
    1.   He Verbalized His Problems to God
    2.   He Visualized His Problems Before God
    3.   He Recognized His Presence Before God
    4.   He Realized His Provision in God
    5.   He Resumed His Praise to God


     I am not surprised when people tell me King David is one of their favorite people in the Bible. He is one of mine as well, along with Peter in the New Testament. I think these two are favorites of mine because they touch life in more places than most of the individuals we encounter in the Bible. They seem to mirror the emotional and practical responses to life that most of us have. They are people we can identify with easily.

      David has been called a man for all seasons because his life ran the gamut of human experience. He had great faith, but was also plagued with discouragement and depression. As best we can tell, he wrote at least 8 different psalms during the years he was fleeing from the persecution of Saul. The psalm we will study in this lesson is one of those psalms. The superscription to Psalm 142 says, “A prayer when [David] was in the cave,” the cave referring to a place David hid when Saul was pursuing him (see also Psalm 57). We might call David’s hiding place the cave of discouragement. Perhaps you have visited such a place. If so, what you will learn from David during his stay in that cave will help you learn to pray under pressure.

      In a way, David’s psalms during the difficult periods of his life are like a glimpse into his personal journal. We see the struggles he faced, the doubts he considered, and the faith that rose up to meet those struggles and conquer those doubts. But he did more than just journal his thoughts, of course. He actually wrote out his prayers to God, allowing us to chart the progress of his spiritual struggles as he prayed to God about them. So as David escaped to the cave of Adullam to hide from Saul (1 Samuel 22:1-2), we get a glimpse from Psalm 142 of what he was experiencing.

      When David escaped to the cave, three categories of people, in addition to his family, rallied around him there: the distressed, the debtors, and the discontented (1 Samuel 22:2). Scholars believe that King Saul had imposed a heavy tax on the people of Israel, and that these people who gathered around David were upset about the conditions created by Saul. Upwards of 600 people eventually rallied around David (1 Samuel 23:13), supporting him in his struggle against Saul.

      So here we have David, retreating into the cave of Adullam to lick his own wounds, and he looks up and sees hundreds of malcontents standing on his doorstep. It’s hard to imagine what he must have been feeling. He needed someone to help him, and suddenly there are hundreds of people looking to him for help against King Saul. Fortunately, Psalm 142 gives us a record of what David was thinking and what he did. We learn that he did what everyone should do when discouraged—pour out one’s heart to God.

The Description of David’s Discouragement

      One reason people today love to read the psalms by David is because he doesn’t sugar-coat things. He uses emotional language and tells it like it is.

He Feels Disoriented (142:3)

      David’s spirit is “overwhelmed” within him, the Hebrew phrase literally meaning “in the muffling of my spirit.” It was as if a giant blanket had been wrapped around his senses and he had become disoriented. He could see, hear, touch, taste, feel—but his ability to remain spiritually upright and in touch had greatly deteriorated. He was being pursued by Saul, the entire village of Nob had just been wiped out by Saul because they had provided refuge for David earlier (1 Samuel 22:19), and he has hundreds of disenfranchised people standing there expecting him to tell them what to do. He was probably sitting in the cave just as we tend to do at times like these —with his head in his hands, wondering how he could possibly have ended up in such a situation. This was not a good day for David; it is no wonder he felt overwhelmed.

He Feels Deserted (142:4)

      This verse is, in my estimation, one of the saddest in the Bible: There was no one whom he felt was with him on his behalf, who didn’t want or need something from him. He felt completely alone, even though there were hundreds of people, even his own family members, who had joined him at the cave. This is the same David who wrote in Psalm 16:8, “I have set the LORD always before me . . . I shall not be moved.” David didn’t write that on this occasion, though.

      Can you identify with the feeling of being surrounded by people, yet being alone? David doesn’t say there wasn’t anyone around him; he just says there was no one who cared for his soul. It’s so easy at times like that to turn inward with our problems, to bury them deep inside because we don’t feel like there is anyone we can turn to. We build a shell around ourselves, thinking we are the only one feeling what we feel. The more we think about it, the more certain we are that no one else would understand. The truth is, we are not usually deserted—but it is what we think. It is what our disoriented minds tell us.

He Feels Depressed (142:6)

      It’s a matter of debate among Christians as to whether a true believer could ever be depressed—but David sounds like he is depressed when he says, “I am brought very low.” And what about Elijah, Jonah, Moses, and others? The language David uses is hard to mistake. The word he uses for brought low means “indentation”; he writes as if he has an indentation, a depression, in his soul.

      Having counseled people going through a period of depression, I know what a heavy burden this can be. I have even known people, as perhaps you have, who have taken their own lives in a state of depression because the future seemed so bleak; and they were so full of despair that they could not go on. David was probably close to that point. His hope and joy were gone, and his thoughts were turned inward. It was no longer King Saul who was harassing him; it was despair and depression. He had lost the peace of God because of allowing his circumstances to blot out any hope that things would change.

      Even the great American president, Abraham Lincoln, became depressed: “I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on earth. To remain as I am is impossible. I must die or be better.” So mature people, even mature believers, do become depressed. David, at this point in his life, was numbered among those.

He Feels Defeated (142:6)

      This verse makes us think of modern plus-and-minus exercises. When we have a big decision to make, we take a legal pad and draw a line down the middle. On one side we put the “positives,” and on the other side we put the “negatives.” David seems to have done that here, listing everything and everyone he had going for him on one list, and everything and everyone going against him on the other list. His conclusion: “They are stronger than I.” I can see him just throwing up his hands and saying, “This is it. It’s over!”

      David had consigned himself to defeat, which is the natural result of progressing through disorientation, desertion, and depression. David’s experience should serve as a warning to anyone who starts down the same path. It is a dangerous path that can lead to personal defeat. Thankfully, it did not end there for David. Instead of being defeated, David rose up and defeated his own discouragement—with prayer to the living God.

The Defeat of David’s Discouragement

      Having diagnosed David’s condition, we can go back through the psalm and see how he defeated discouragement in his life. His actions become a prescription for us, a way to learn to pray under pressure.

He Verbalized His Problems to God (142:1-2)

      Sometimes we’re tempted not to verbalize our problems to God: “He knows what my problems are; why should I go through them point by point?” The simple answer is because that is the pattern we find in Scripture, and especially in the first two verses of this psalm. But there are more reasons than just obedience.

      When we verbalize our feelings and concerns to God, it is like entering into a conversation with an intimate friend. It is, in fact, a healthy way for us to open up and reveal what is inside, to bring up from the depths of our heart those things we may have stuffed down inside. Fortunately, God is not shocked or surprised by anything, so there is nothing we cannot tell him. It is an insult to the One who tells us to cast all our cares upon Him not to do so (1 Peter 5:7). Why would He tell us to verbalize our problems to Him if He did not mean for us to? Even psychologists tell us that verbalizing our problems, whether in writing or out loud, is a good way to bring clarity and definition to what are often very confusing feelings. Suddenly, as we put our feelings into words, we begin actually to see things more clearly ourselves. And all because God is willing to listen.

He Visualized His Problems Before God (142:2)

      When David says he pours out his complaints before God, it is like taking a scroll and unrolling it before God, or taking a bucket full of the issues of his life and pouring it out before God. It helps to visualize God’s willingness to let us come into His presence and pour out our problems before Him.

      But it’s not enough just to come and pour out our problems before God. We must come to Him in an attitude of praise and worship. We are not there to rehearse our own misery, but to praise God that He is the one able to sort out and help us with the problems we have poured out before Him. If we don’t praise God in our pouring out, we’re likely to feel worse than when we began.

He Recognized His Presence Before God (142:3)

      A friend of mine likes to tell about the time his granddaughter told him what she learned in Sunday school: That God never says “Oops!” There is profound theological truth in that little girl’s remembrance of her lesson. God didn’t look down from heaven and find David in a cave in a fit of discouragement—and David knows it. He says to God, “When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path.” God knew right where David was the whole time—all the time David was discouraged, deserted, depressed, and defeated, God was there the whole way.

      For some reason, we are greatly tempted to think that because no one else is around, God isn’t either; because no one else knows how we feel, God doesn’t either; because no one else is willing to listen, God isn’t either. God is always there, and to recognize that is the first step toward meeting with Him to find solutions to our dilemma.

He Realized His Provision in God (142:5b)

      In verse 5, David says, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” As David reviewed his situation, he verbalized in the psalm (his journal, if you will) all that was in his heart—he has revealed it to God in prayer. He has remembered that God is the Almighty One, and so begins to rejoice in the provision that God has made for him.

      David would have agreed with Charles Haddon Spurgeon who said in The Treasury of David, “There is no living in the land of the living like living upon the living God.” That preacher was right. The land of the living is not a reference to eternity or heaven. It is a reference to living right now. The Bible is written for people who are living in the land of the living, not for people who dream of “pie in the sky by and by.” The land of the living is where you and I live every day. We rise and face the challenges that the living face, and God is our portion in that land. He does not remove us from the land where we live in order to help us. Rather, he joins us where we are—our private world, our family, our job, our church—to meet our needs. The God of David is our God, and He is still our refuge and our portion.

He Resumed His Praise to God (142:7)

      Compare the conclusion of David’s psalm with its beginning. In verse 1, he says, “I cry out to the LORD with my voice” and at the end he says, “You shall deal bountifully with me.” He has completed the cycle of prayer under pressure. He began under pressure, and ended under praise, ready once again to resume God’s calling on his life.

      For another look at what David was experiencing in the cave, we can look at Psalm 57. There we find a song with two verses, each of which is followed by a beautiful chorus: “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be above all the earth” (verses 5, 11). In my sanctified imagination, I like to think of David singing this to himself, his voice growing louder as his heart regained its confidence in God. Soon, the hundreds of malcontents who had gathered themselves to him are singing with him and praising God in spite of their circumstances as well!

      We don’t know if it happened that way or not. But why don’t you make it happen that way the next time you are discouraged? Purpose to infect others with the power of praise.


1.  Read 2 Chronicles 20:1-12.

  1.   Verses 1-4 set the scene for us. What is happening in Judah?

  3.   What actions did Jehoshaphat take in light of this tense situation? (verse 3)

  5.   How did Judah respond to his example? (verse 4)

  7.   What aspects of God’s character does Jehoshaphat focus on in his opening appeal to God? (verses 6-7)

  9.   Compare verses 6-7 with Job 38:1-7. Highlight both the similarities and differences between these two passages.

  11.   List the four disasters that Jehoshaphat references in verse 9.

  13.   Is the attitude and faith expressed in verse 9 similar to that of David in Psalm 142? Explain why or why not.

  15.   What is Jehoshaphat’s argument in verses 10-11?

  17.   How does he aptly conclude his prayer? (verse 12)

  19.   What is so striking about verse 13? Why do you think it was included in this passage?

  21.   Jehoshaphat’s prayer reads somewhat like a lawyer’s argument. Why is it okay to pray to God in this way?

  23.   Cite two other biblical examples of men who prayed in this fashion.

2.  Read Psalm 56:1-4.

  1.   What is David’s immediate appeal to God? (verse 1)

  3.   What is he facing in his current situation? (verses 1-2)

  5.   David then declares what his response will be in times of great pressure. Fill in the blanks: (verses 3-4)
  6.     I will

        I will

        I will


  7.   Why is David able to boldly say these things? (verse 4)

  9.   What is keeping you from adopting the same attitude when times are tough?

  11.   What do you think it means when David says “I will praise His word?” Why is this the key to David’s trust in God?

  13.   How can you better praise His Word this upcoming week?

3.  Think back to a time when you were under great pressure and you cried out to God for help. What happened? Did God prove Himself faithful?

Did You Know?

     When men and women of God are under great pressure—like David was in the cave of Adullam—they always seem to turn to prayer. We can see this as Jonah contritely offered a prayer to God from the belly of the great fish (Jonah 2). In Ephesians 1:15-23 we find Paul offering up a prayer for the Church —from a prison cell. And in the Garden of Gethsemane we find Jesus praying in agony to His Father for God’s holy will to be done, even when He knows it will cost Him His very life (Luke 22:39-46).

Lesson 9: When You Are at Your Wit's End

Psalm 107

In this lesson we discover that the end of our resources is the beginning of God’s.


     Because we never know where any day’s journey will lead, we don’t know where we will end up. Often the end of our road is that undesirable abode known as “Wits’ End”—a place of frustration and confusion. Fortunately, we discover God has arrived ahead of us.

  1. I. The Place of the Storm
  2. The Producer of the Storm
  3. The Peril of the Storm
  4. The Prayer in the Storm
  5. The Peace in the Storm
  6. The Purpose of the Storm
  7. The Praise After the Storm


     I once read of a construction worker who fell 110 feet into a pile of dirt—and suffered only a bruised lung and sore back. His first words to the paramedics as they carried him on a stretcher to the ambulance were, “Don’t drop me!” He survived a 110-foot fall and was worried about a height of three feet!

      If we could ever get the perspective in the spiritual life that God can protect us from the giant falls, we would have much more confidence in trusting Him with the relatively small challenges that occur every day. And Psalm 107 is a psalm that will give us that confidence, and the resulting encouragement to trust God with the “falls” we experience in life. Sometimes this psalm is referred to as the “Pilgrim’s Psalm” because it seems to focus on life challenges similar to those of our pilgrim forefathers. Reading through the psalm from start to finish, we encounter four pictures of things that happen to God’s people as they make their own pilgrim journey through this world to their heavenly destination. There is one common thread running through all four pictures—that we often have a sense of helplessness in the face of these circumstances.

      Think of Psalm 107 as an art gallery, and the four pictures as illustrations of four significant challenges that we face in life. We’ll comment briefly on the first three, and then dig deeply into the fourth to discover the principles for facing life’s challenges—especially those times when you are at your wits’ end.

       Four pictures of life are described in Psalm 107. Verses 4-9 describe the experience of being lost in the desert and remind us that life can be that way at times. Life can seem desolate and barren and our souls can be starving for the emotional and spiritual nourishment we need to stay alive. The desert travelers represent many today who are lost in a wilderness existence and cannot find their way out. Some are lost in a desert of loneliness; others are wandering in routine futility; some are lost in a desert of affluence which is yielding up far less than they had anticipated. Wandering around without hope and without help, they cannot find their way out.

      Prisons of all varieties keep many “bound in affliction and irons” (verse 10). Many have exercised their freedom of choice in the wrong way so many times that they have become enslaved to what they chose. Drugs, alcohol, sex, food, fear, gambling, peer approval, emotional dependence—the making of men’s prisons is endless. Some are locked in prisons they didn’t choose, prisons of abuse or persecution. However they arrived there, many sit in the darkness of prisons, daily in the shadow of spiritual or physical death.

      Many today, by their own choices or not, see themselves in the Intensive Care Units of life, hanging on to their own life by a thread. They need the word of healing that only God can send (verse 20), healing which will deliver them out of their distress and destruction.

      This final picture is the one we will focus on for the rest of this lesson, the picture of the storms of life. It is perhaps the most dramatic and dangerous sounding of all the four pictures. We know if God can save us from the storms of life, we can trust Him to save us from the high winds and dark clouds that threaten us on a daily basis.

The Place of the Storm (107:23-24)

      Where the storm takes place is significant—it introduces us to the elements of risk in life where we are forced to depend upon God.

      The psalm pictures the storm taking place in “great waters” (verse 23). Those who go out upon great waters are not wading next to the shore or fishing off the dock. They are the ones who have moved out where the returns are greatest, but also where the dangers are greatest. I take comfort from this picture because of the times I have taken steps of faith in my own life where I knew there was risk involved. This picture reminds me also of when Jesus told Peter to “launch out into the deep” and fish (Luke 5:4).

      Scripture teaches that the great works of faith are done in the deep waters, not in the shallow waters near the shore. Oftentimes churches fail to grow beyond a certain point because they are afraid to launch into the deep and attempt something that would reach more people—but which will also produce more risk and probably encounter more storms. Businessmen understand this all too well. If they will not invest in something risky (after doing their due diligence, of course), and then work hard to make it pay off, they will likely never grow. Likewise, it is in the deep waters of life, the risky places of life, where God’s greatest work is done. But that is also where the greatest storms are encountered as well.

The Producer of the Storm (107:25)

      There is something unusual about this storm: God caused it. Verse 25 says, “He commands and raises the stormy wind.” Many Christians are not very comfortable with the idea that God causes storms in the lives of His people; we much prefer to think of them as the devil’s work.

      Now it is not always true that the storms of our lives are caused by God. Sometimes we are in storms of our own choosing and of our own making, and God lets us proceed so that we can learn that He forgives and rescues us even when we are in trouble by our own choice. But the bottom line in Scripture is this: Whether we create the storm by our sinful choices, whether the devil attacks us and creates a storm, or whether God designs a storm just to strengthen our roots in Him and teach us some aspect of His trust . . . all storms are of God. That is, they come by His permission and with His approval. The storms of our lives are not outside of His control. Job discovered that (Job 23:10) as did the author of Psalm 66 (verses 11-12). Jonah definitely discovered that God can bring literal storms to get our attention (Jonah 1:4).

      When we are being thrashed about and tossed and turned, and we can’t see any particular cause or reason for the storm we are in, we can trust that God knows. He has caused or allowed the storm in order to do some work in us. He has a purpose that goes to the root of the storm’s existence (more on that below).

The Peril of the Storm (107:26-27)

      There are no more descriptive words in all of the Bible than the words of verses 26 and 27. They describe exactly what it feels like to be in a hurricane-sized storm in life. And nobody has rendered those words better than Eugene Peterson in The Message: “You shot high in the sky, then the bottom dropped out; your hearts were stuck in your throats. You were spun like a top, you reeled like a drunk, you didn’t know which end was up.”

      Notice there are five descriptive expressions in the New King James Version: They go down to the depths, their soul melts, they reel to and fro, they stagger like a drunken man, and they are at their wits’ end. When people use the expression, “I’m at my wits’ end,” to express their frustration, they don’t realize they’re using a biblical phrase that originally referred to the storms of life. (It originated back in the early 1600s in the King James Version of the Bible, but has been retained by most popular modern translations.)

       If you’ve been at your wits’ end, then you know what the psalm is talking about. Storms put us in a place where we just don’t know what to do. The storm is in control, and we are being tossed about like a chip of bark on the high seas. There is no better time to pray than in a storm.

The Prayer in the Storm (107:28)

      Storms are where we refine the art of concise prayers: “Help, Lord!” I remember praying that way when Donna and I backed out of a driveway onto a busy highway. She was driving, and I was in the passenger’s seat, and she didn’t notice a car bearing down on us quickly. I saw it and cried out something like, “Help, Lord!” We were hit, but neither of us was injured. When you see a car-shaped storm (or any other kind) headed for you, you don’t have time for “thees” and “thous” and all the perfunctory prayer language we learn as Christians. You cry out as best you are able while grasping for something to hang onto.

      Prayer in storms is like prayer in the other three pictures we looked at. The wanderers in the desert “cried out to the Lord” (verse 6); the captive in the prison “cried to the Lord” (verse 13); and the patient in the hospital “cried to the Lord” (verse 19). No matter what the problem is, what kind of situation you are in, including storms, the way up is the only way out. I secretly expect to find out when I get to heaven that God has engineered the storms of our lives to drive us to our knees to remind us that our self-sufficiency is inadequate for the challenges we face. Because prayer seems to be the way out of every difficult thing we face, it would be wise for us to develop an intense prayer life in the peaceful times so that we will be equipped for the hard times.

The Peace in the Storm (107:29-30a)

      Not surprisingly, it is after those in the storm pray that the peace comes. Prayer results in glad hearts and guidance through the storm to a haven of peace. If God is the One who caused or allowed the storm in the first place, then He certainly is the One who has the power to cause it to cease or guide us through it to the other side.

      Remember the story in the Gospels about Jesus and the disciples in a boat on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 8:23-27)? A fierce storm arose, and the disciples were certain they were about to perish. The disciples learned a great lesson that day, one that could only be taught in a storm—not in a classroom. Jesus had gone to the back of the boat to take a nap, and a huge storm blew up. Their fear is most evident in Luke’s account: “Master, Master, we are perishing!” (Luke 8:24) It would appear that they didn’t make the connection immediately that riding in the boat with them was the One who created the wind and the waves. Perhaps it did click with them, and that’s why they woke Jesus up, who chastised them for their “little faith.” But we can understand how they felt, because it’s how we feel when the storms of our lives come up. We forget that we know the very One who allowed the storm in the first place and that He can cause it to stop or see us through it.

      God led those in each of the three other pictures in this psalm to peace as well (see verses 7, 14, and 20). And He will lead you. He hears your cry in the midst of your storm.

The Purpose of the Storm (107:30b)

      God’s purposes in the storms you encounter are always to guide you to a haven. Think about it: We don’t just go out on the sea to sit there; we go for a purpose. If a storm interrupts that purpose, God will direct you through it, or . . . He may change the purpose of your trip altogether. I have learned this about storms: The place you thought you wanted to go going into the storm is not always the place you think you want to go coming out of the storm. Sometimes storms can change your mind about things that you thought you wanted. The secret to experiencing those changes is starting the journey with a receptive heart. If you head into a storm saying, “Thy will be done,” then your will and God’s will will become one.

      Jonah’s will was changed, wasn’t it? He was headed in one direction, away from the will of God, when a literal storm resulted in his spending a few days in the belly of a great fish. But he became a little more “flexible” during that time, and when he was deposited back on dry land he hit the ground running to accomplish God’s will. A God-designed storm in life can serve the purpose of bringing our will in line with His.

The Praise After the Storm (107:31-32)

      In the four pictures we have looked at in this psalm, in all four instances praise is the result of God’s deliverance. When people are led out of the wilderness, they praise God (verses 8-9). When they are released from prison, they praise God (verse 15-16). When they are healed of illness and released from the hospital, they praise God (verses 21-22). It is wonderful to hear the praises of those whom God has rescued from all different sorts of troubles in life. And the same should be true when we are delivered from the storms of life. Verses 31-32 speak of the goodness and wonderful works of God, and how we should give thanks to Him “in the assembly of the people, and praise him in the company of the elders.”

      I hope it is your regular practice to give public praise for the goodness of God. As you testify to His deliverance through the giant storms of life, your faith in Him will take the smaller ones in stride.


1.  Read Job 23:8-17.

  1.   What is Job trying to establish in verses 8-9?

  3.   In spite of how he feels in those verses, what does Job say God knows? (verse 10a)

  5.   What is God’s purpose in testing His children? (verse 10b)

  7.   Paraphrase what Job is professing in verses 11-12.

  9.   Will Job’s statements in verses 11-12 do anything to alleviate his suffering? Why or why not?

  11.   List the characteristics of God that Job comes to grip with in verses 13-14.

  13.   What is Job’s response to the reality of who God is? (verses 15-16) Is this appropriate? Explain.

  15.   What does God allow Job to experience? (verse 17)

  17.   What is your personal response to this difficult passage on God’s sovereignty? How can these truths help you grow in your walk?

2.  Read Psalm 66:10-12.

  1.   Testing is likened to what in verse 10?

  3.   Verses 11-12b tell us that God does more than “allow” things to happen, but He causes what things to happen?


  4.   But out of all these experiences, what is the end result? (verse 12c)

  6.   Describe a time where God painfully refined you, but you came out in the end more in the likeness of His Son. What did you learn?

3.  Read Psalm 107.

  1.   There is a wonderful refrain found four times in this psalm. Copy it here below:

  3.   This refrain is always followed by a different statement. Write those four statements here: (verses 9, 16, 22, 32)
  4.     1.





  5.   Based upon the core statements you have written, what point is the psalmist trying to convey?

  7.   The final verse of this psalm contains both a piece of advice and a promise that will come if due action is taken. What are they?

Did You Know?

     While most people know that God sent a great fish to swallow Jonah, they often neglect the fact that God intervened in his life again—after the people of Nineveh had repented. Jonah chapter 4 records that the prophet was furious that Nineveh was not destroyed for its wickedness, so God created a plant for Jonah to rest under. God then made the plant wither and brought a strong wind and sun to bear down on Jonah. God did this to show Jonah that he had more pity on a plant than he did a city full of people. Never underestimate the creativity of God to admonish and edify His children!

Lesson 10: Triumph Over Trouble

Psalm 46

In this lesson we learn King David’s prescription for triumphing in the midst of trouble.


     Whoever said that “God plus anyone equals a majority” had their math right. You can be completely alone and find yourself totally surrounded by circumstances and still find protection in the refuge that is God. Retreating into God means victory, not surrender.

  1. When Trouble Comes, Retreat to Your Refuge
    1.   This Is an Awesome Refuge
    2.   This Is an Accessible Refuge
    3.   This Is an Ageless Refuge
  2. When Trouble Comes, Rediscover Your Strength
    1.   You Have a Secret Power Within
    2.   You Have a Secret Person Within
  3. When Trouble Comes, Redirect Your Thoughts
    1.   Review the Works of the Lord
    2.   Reclaim the Words of the Lord



     Just reading the psalms one after another can be very meaningful and motivational for the spiritual life. But I have found it is even more exciting to go behind the psalms, those where we have the information, and discover the historical context out of which the psalm arose. It’s like reading the stories behind our modern hymns —you never sing the hymn the same way after reading the story that tells why the hymn was written. The same is true for Psalm 46—written to celebrate a marvelous victory in Israel.

      It was the year 701 B.C. and Sennacherib was the king of Assyria. He led his armies through Mesopotamia and down into the nation of Israel, conquering everything in his path. Sennacherib and Assyria were mighty in the eyes of the world; the idea that the tiny, two-tribe kingdom of Judah could defend themselves against Assyria was preposterous. But the king of Judah was a godly man named Hezekiah who came to the throne as a young man. He brought religious reform to the nation by destroying idols and reinstituting Israel’s worship. The Bible says Hezekiah did what was right in the sight of the Lord.

      The northern kingdom of Israel fell to Sennacherib in 722 B.C., and the Israelites were carried away into captivity to Assyria. Judah was next on Sennacherib’s itinerary. The Assyrians surrounded Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, and began to taunt the Israelites inside the walls. To demoralize them, they said Hezekiah was deceiving them by saying that God would deliver them and that Judah would not fall to Assyria (2 Kings 18:29-31). These are lies, the Assyrians yelled. God will never be able to deliver you out of our hand.

      While this propaganda campaign was underway, Hezekiah got a message from the prophet Isaiah. The word was that Hezekiah should not be afraid of Sennacherib, that God would cause him to die by the sword in his own land (2 Kings 19:6-7). This undoubtedly boosted Hezekiah’s spirits, until a few days later when he got a letter from Sennacherib describing all the things they were going to do to destroy Judah. So what did Hezekiah do? He took the letter up to the temple, spread it out before the Lord, and said, “Lord, here’s the letter. I don’t know what to do. We need your help” (2 Kings 19:14). He asked God to deliver them from Sennacherib “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD God, You alone”(2 Kings 19:19).

      On the night the armies of Assyria were set to attack, the Bible says, the angel of the Lord went into their camp and killed 185,000 soldiers—“all dead” (2 Kings 19:35). With absolutely no hope, Hezekiah went before the Lord and asked for help, and help came in a dramatic way. The victory was so great that Psalm 46 was written to celebrate the victory.

      What we will study in this lesson is a mighty testament, tens of centuries old, to the fact that God is not intimidated by the armies of the Assyrians or the taunts that we hear in our spiritual ears from our enemies. We are reminded that God is not walled in or restricted by that which walls us in, that He is able to get outside the box of our limitations and bring a mighty victory in a desperate hour.

      This psalm has three stanzas, each of which tells us something important to remember about God when we are in trouble.

When Trouble Comes, Retreat to Your Refuge (46:1-3)

      Walled cities may have been the standard refuge in biblical days, but Hezekiah discovered they were not as safe as he needed them to be. He discovered God is the strongest refuge we have.

This Is an Awesome Refuge (46:1a)

      God is our refuge and our strength. The word for refuge means a quiet place to go for protection—which is exactly where Hezekiah went when he went into the temple to meet with God. In the cool, dark, inner recesses of the temple, the taunts of the Assyrians were inaudible. The granite and cedar beams of the temple echoed the only sound in the temple that day—the voice of Hezekiah telling God that He was Israel’s only hope.

      I hope that you see God as the cool, quiet place of refuge to which you can retreat when trouble looms on the horizon of your life. We are such people of activity that we think the answer is always in action. Sometimes it is, but any action that is worth doing always begins in a quiet place, a refuge which is our God. But we usually do that last. We’ll call a friend for help, or go see a counselor, or call our pastor. God can certainly use those sources to help us, but we ought always to begin by retreating to the ever-present refuge we have in God. He is always our first resort, not our last resort.

This Is an Accessible Refuge (46:1b)

      These next words are some of the most well-known and heartfelt among Bible readers: “God is . . . a very present help in trouble.” God is not just present, he is very present! We could translate this, as the New International Version does, as “ever-present.” It’s like  telling a good friend you are available to help them if they need you. “Oh, I hate to bother you,” they reply. “No,” you counter, “I am very much available for you. Just let me know when.” You are saying, “I am ever-available.” And that’s how God is for us. He is the most accessible help we could imagine having.

      The word for trouble could be rendered as a “tight place.” God is ever-present to help us in the tight places we get into in life, when we are between a rock and a hard place. If someone is ever-present, it means they are easy to be found. We don’t have to go looking for them. In fact, we can’t. We’re stuck in a tight place! The reason God is always with us, even in our tight places, is because of what He told Moses in Exodus 33:14: “My presence will go with you.” So when we are stuck and can’t move, God is there because He is always with us.

This Is an Ageless Refuge (46:2-3)

      This refuge which is God is not only accessible, but is also ageless. We, as humans, are tied to time and space—they are all we know. We do not have a sense of the eternal. This earthly planet where we make our home is our point of reference in the universe. If it is stable, we feel secure. If it trembles and quakes, then we do as well. But God our refuge is not tied to this earth. In fact, He is not tied to anything. The entire earth could be removed, and the mountains could be carried into the midst of the sea; the waters could roar and be troubled, and the mountains could swell and shake—and God, our God, would still be a refuge. The earth is a created object, and therefore tied to time and space. But God, the Creator of the earth, is eternal. He is not tied to time.

      The comfort for us in this is that nothing that can happen to us in the time-and-space existence we live in can impact God. He is, and will also be, a refuge for us. When things change around us, God doesn’t change. When things are in an uproar around us, He is not. When things of the earth are in a calamitous state, He is at peace. Therefore He is always a timeless refuge where we can seek shelter and safety.

      Besides retreating to God as our refuge in times of trouble, we need to rediscover our own strength.

When Trouble Comes, Rediscover Your Strength (46:4-7)

      There are two thoughts here in this stanza: The power we have within and the Person we have within.

You Have a Secret Power Within (46:4)

      The greatest danger to any ancient city during a time of siege was not the enemy without; it was the lack of resources within. More often than not, when an army like the Assyrians attacked a walled city like Jerusalem, they would simply surround the city and wait for it to run out of food and water. Then, when the people were weak and desperate, the city could be taken almost without a fight. But Hezekiah made sure that would not happen to Jerusalem. When he learned that the Assyrians had defeated Israel to the north and would be coming next against Jerusalem, he rerouted a spring of water outside the city walls so it flowed inside the walls of the city. Known today as Hezekiah’s Tunnel, it is a waterway 1,777 feet long which Hezekiah’s workers carved through solid rock to bring water from the Gihon Spring outside the city to the residents inside. It was a brilliant strategic move and a remarkable engineering feat.

      Interestingly, Jesus referred often to the Holy Spirit as the living water given by God to the believer which constitutes a secret, powerful resource in times of trouble (John 4:13-14; 7:37-38). When you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you, you possess a resource that can give you abundant life through the longest siege of the enemy. The enemy can camp at your doorstep for an indefinite period of time and it won’t matter to you. The Holy Spirit is your indwelling source of life.

You Have a Secret Person Within (46:5-7)

      These verses reflect what God did for Israel in response to Hezekiah’s prayer. The angel of the Lord went out among the Assyrians “just at the break of dawn” and put to death 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. The Lord was Israel’s secret person, walking in the midst of the city. A resource that made the difference between victory and defeat. Remember when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were in the fiery furnace, and they looked in and saw a fourth person walking in the midst of the fire with them? Or when the disciples were frozen with fear on the Sea of Galilee because of the storm that was blowing—but there was One in the boat with them who made all the difference? It was the same person who was with Hezekiah—the Lord God Himself who went out on Israel’s behalf “just at the break of dawn” and destroyed her enemy.

      As I pointed out in an earlier lesson, I have written in my Bible that I would rather be in the storm with Jesus than on the shore without Him. God Himself is the secret Person who has promised to be with us regardless of the trouble we face. And He—one divine Person—makes us a majority in any battle. A few thousand Israelites plus God was more than a match for 185,000 Assyrians. And that is the way it will be with you. With God as the Person on your side, there is no battle in which you can be defeated.

When Trouble Comes, Redirect Your Thoughts (46:8-11)

      The words of the final stanza of this psalm could be labeled psychological, but they are 100 percent theological. “Redirecting one’s thoughts” is meant by some to include thinking positive thoughts instead of negative ones—a bit of mind over matter. But that is not what the psalmist means. He means for the one in trouble, himself, to call to mind the works and words of the Lord—to bring back to remembrance what God has done in the past as a foundation for what He can be expected to do in the future.

Review the Works of the Lord (46:8-9)

      Whenever you go through a difficult place in life, when trouble comes your way, one of the greatest things you can do is look back over your shoulder and review what God has done for you. Remember that the God of today is the God of yesterday, and the God who has sustained you to where you are right now, who has brought you victoriously through every trouble you have ever experienced, that God is the God who stands with you in the midst of your present trial.

      Who among the nation of Israel would ever forget peering over the wall of the city as the morning mist cleared and seeing 185,000 corpses lying motionless on Jerusalem’s hills? Dead bodies, as far as the eye could see, would be a memory that would never vanish from the minds of Jerusalem’s most fearful residents. One of the ways I am learning to keep a record of what God has done for me in the past is very simple: I write it down. I have come to value more and more the discipline of keeping a journal as a memorial to the acts of God in my life and the life of my family and church. Since 1994 I have been faithfully keeping written accounts of the works of the Lord, and recommend it to you as a way to preserve the past for the benefit of the future.

Reclaim the Words of the Lord (46:10-11)

      Finally, the very words of the Lord are sufficient for any time of trouble: The Lord of Hosts is the Lord of all the angels of heaven. It’s nice to have one guardian angel watching over you; it’s even better to have the Lord of all the angels watching over you. And the Lord of hosts “is with us.” That is the word “Emmanuel” in Hebrew. He is with us. The Lord who directs all the legions of angels in heaven is with you in your time of trouble.

      Is God enough for you? God was all Hezekiah had in the face of the Assyrian hordes, and He turned out to be more than enough. He will likewise be all you need to triumph over whatever trouble you may face.


1.  Read Psalm 102:25-28.

  1.   What fact does verse 25 establish? Why is this an important and comforting thing for a believer to know—especially in troubled times?

  3.   What does the “they” in verse 26 refer to?

  5.   What will happen to the heavens and the earth? What will happen to God? (verse 26)

  7.   Find and write down another verse in Scripture whose words and theme are similar to that found in verse 27.

  9.   Does the talk of children and descendents being established before God in verse 28 fit in with the previous three verses? Why or why not?

  11.   Note that Psalm 102 is a prayer of the afflicted. What is the purpose of verse 28 in the larger context of this passage? Why is this a hopeful note to go out on?

2.  Read John 14:15-18.

  1.   What action can we take to show Christ our love for Him? (verse 15)

  3.   Why is it so easy for believers to neglect this simple truth?

  5.   What does Jesus do on behalf of His followers? (verse 16) Why is this such an amazing act?

  7.   Who will God send to help us? How long will we receive this help? (verse 16)

  9.   What is another name given for the Helper? (verse 17)

  11.   Why can’t the world receive the Holy Spirit? (verse 17)

  13.   What incredible promise does Jesus leave with us in verse 18?

  15.   What have you learned from this remarkable passage that features the Trinity? How will this help you when troubles arise in your life?

3.  Read James 1:2-8.

  1.   What should be our response when we fall into trials? (verse 2)

  3.   What is the result of testing? (verse 3)

  5.   What are the fruits of patience in a believer’s life? (verse 4)

  7.   If we ask God for wisdom, what will He do? How will He do it? (verse 5)

  9.   What is the prerequisite required of us when we ask for wisdom? (verse 6)

  11.   List all the negatives that are associated with doubt in verses 6-8.

  13.   Why do you think there is such a great emphasis placed on not doubting in a passage about trials and joy? What is the relation?

Did You Know?

     It is interesting to note that although Hezekiah was a king who followed God’s law and feared the name of the Lord, his son did quite the opposite. In fact, Manasseh reversed many of the acts that his father enacted and reinstituted the worship of Baal (2 Kings 21:1-9). We saw this also in the life of David, where his son Absalom did not follow in his father’s fear and admonition of the Lord. These serve as potent examples to remind us that faith is not inherited; it is an act and work of God in the life of individuals.

Lesson 11: The Best is Yet to Come

Psalm 16

In this lesson we are reminded that God’s blessings are deeper than our difficulties.


      Difficult situations in life cause immediate and emotional responses, to which we often react impulsively without thinking. If we would but remember who God is and rehearse what He has done for us in the past, we would find ourselves rejoicing in spite of trials.

  1. Remembering Who God Is
    1.   Seeing God in His Personal Presence
    2.   Seeing God in His People
    3.   Seeing God in His Principles
  2. Rehearsing What God Is Doing
    1.   The Lord Is Our Completeness
    2.   The Lord Is Our Certainty
    3.   The Lord Is Our Contentment
    4.   The Lord Is Our Counsel
    5.   The Lord Is Our Confidence
  3. Rejoicing in What God Will Do
    1.   Rejoicing in the Resurrection
    2.   Rejoicing in the Rapture



      Before David assumed the kingship of Israel, for which he had been anointed, he was hunted mercilessly by the jealous King Saul. Twice during that lengthy period of eight to nine years, David was given a respite by Saul. Both times came when Saul realized that David could easily have killed him but didn’t. His conscience was so bothered by his own behavior that he stopped pursuing David for brief periods. The first of those periods of rest came after their encounter in the cave in En Gedi. I believe the psalm we will study in this lesson was written after the second of David’s and Saul’s close encounters, when once again the anointed king spared the addled king’s life.

      Saul and 3,000 of his soldiers, in pursuit of David, were camped for the night in the Wilderness of Ziph. David and one of his soldiers crept into the camp and stole Saul’s spear and water bottle next to where the king was sleeping! Though David’s soldier, Abishai, urged him to kill the king while they were so close, David refused (1 Samuel 26:11). Again, David spared the life of the one who was persecuting him.

      From across the valley, David called to Abner, Saul’s bodyguard, chastising him for allowing an enemy to get so close to the king. Saul heard David’s voice, and realized that David had once again spared his life. Saul then confessed to David, “I have sinned. Return, my son David. For I will harm you no more, because my life was precious in your eyes this day. Indeed I have played the fool and erred exceedingly” (1 Samuel 26:21). From that day on, David entered into a period in which Saul relented from trying to take his life, and Psalm 16 seems to have been written during that period.

      This psalm reminds us that, in spite of our circumstances, we can still pause for a moment and reflect upon the goodness of God. There is always reason to count our blessings and see the things God has done. Instead of going into the counselor’s office and listing all the negative or painful things that have happened in our life, we ought to take a different approach: Recount all the ways God has blessed us and done good things for us. Often, we get even more depressed by rehearsing all the things that are wrong in our lives. Yet, in the midst of the difficult and trying circumstances of life, there are always positives if we will but look for them and choose to focus on them. Over and over in Scripture we are told to remember what God has done for us (Psalm 77:11-12; 103:2).

      And that is what David does in Psalm 16. Though a hunted man, God gives him the opportunity to pause for a period of time and reflect on his many blessings.

Remembering Who God Is (16:1-4)

      The foundation for what God has done in the past, is doing in the present, and will do in the future is God Himself. It is His personal presence, His life among His people, and the steadfastness of His principles that result in what He does for us.

Seeing God in His Personal Presence (16:1-2)

      In verses 1 and 2, there are three different names for God: Elohim, Jehovah, and Adonai. The overarching God of creation, the personal, covenant-keeping God, and the strong Lord are all complementary facets of the character of God. Looking at the totality of who God is, David concludes that there is no goodness in him apart from God. Most people, even some Christians, do not like to hear that there is no goodness in them apart from God, but it is true. Even the good, kind, or charitable things that a non-Christian does have their roots in the image of God. When we give, it is only because we are made in the image of a giving God. And the same is true for any other positive characteristic in our lives. We may pat ourselves on the back for our hard work and industriousness, but even the very raw materials and resources we use to construct our lives have their origin in God. Everything we do and have comes from Him.

Seeing God in His People (16:3)

      Besides God Himself, as the greatest blessing David has, God has given him fellow saints in whom David delights. We don’t do this often enough—stop and reflect on the good friends and close relations we have among the people of God. Perhaps David was thinking here of Jonathan, with whom he made a covenant of love. Or perhaps he was thinking of Abishai who had risked his own life to go into Saul’s camp with him. These men were friends who were literally closer than a brother. They shared the intensity of spiritual experience with David—and there is no experience more intense than life in the Spirit shared among fellow pilgrims.

      Scripture makes it plain that one of the tests of our spiritual authenticity is the love we have for others in the Body of Christ. First John indicates that our relationship with people, our love for the brethren, is a mirror of our love for God. If we do not recognize and serve God as He is present among His people, then we are not really loving Him at all (John 13:35; 1 John 3:14; 4:7-8, 11; 4:20-21). A measure of our gratitude for the blessings of God is how thankful we are for the saints of God.

Seeing God in His Principles (16:4)

      The opposite side of the coin of relationships is those that God has preserved us from. David thinks about those in the nations around him who worship the idols of Moab and Philistia. Not only would he not participate in their idolatry, he would not even mention their names and their deeds with his own lips, so offensive were their practices to him. This was not petty judging on David’s part; it was a matter of principle. God is a holy God, and David would not mingle idolatry and holiness in his life. He was thankful that God had kept him from becoming an idolater.

      How thankful are we for how God has revealed His principles to us? You can look around in the world and see many examples of life that you can be thankful God has saved you from. This is not a way to say we are better than someone else. Rather, it is a way to say that God has put His principles in our hearts and given us a desire to follow them. For that we should be thankful.

Rehearsing What God Is Doing (16:5-8)

      There are five ways in which David sees God’s hand at work in his life daily. They are background blessings, things we take for granted unless we stop and enumerate and remember them.

The Lord Is Our Completeness (16:5)

      David uses words here reminiscent of the dividing of the land of Canaan after Israel conquered it. Each tribe was given an inheritance, but David here says the Lord is the portion of his inheritance. The Lord is also his cup, his provision. David knows that God is the answer to the prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” God is our inheritance and our provision. We are doubly blessed in all that He has provided for us. We should thank Him for giving us not only Himself but our daily bread.

The Lord Is Our Certainty (16:5)

      When David says that God maintains his “lot,” he is not referring to real estate! Rather, he is using the word in the same way we do when we refer to our “lot in life,” meaning our circumstances in life. Think of David thanking God for maintaining his circumstances in life—he who has been hunted like a partridge in the field for the last several years of his life. David had lost everything—he was a man on the run. He had no home, he couldn’t worship with his family and the people of God, and at this point he had only the promise of God to cling to that he would one day inherit the throne of Israel. But he believed God would maintain (keep) his circumstances under control and bring them to their appointed conclusion. Do you believe God is maintaining your lot in life in spite of the circumstances going on around you at this moment? If you have the thankful heart of one such as David, you do.

The Lord Is Our Contentment (16:6)

      The “lines” David is referring to are the boundary lines between the portions of land given to each of the tribes in Israel. But David received no special or individual inheritance from the Lord, geographically speaking. So what is he talking about? He is referring to the boundaries of the life God has given to him as an inheritance. As he writes this psalm, he looks at what God has given to him, the way God has portioned out his life, and he concludes that he has a “good inheritance.”

      Can you say that? It is so tempting to grouse and complain about our lives, when in reality we have been mightily blessed in so many ways. The life God has portioned out for us is so good in so many ways. Especially in America, a country founded and developed for the most part on Christian principles. We have enjoyed civil, political, and religious freedom. We have reaped the benefits of individual enterprise and capitalism. We have seen the Gospel change our families and our lives as individuals. We have material blessings beyond number. Are there exceptions? Yes, and there always will be. But taken as a whole, the inheritance we have from God deserves our deepest gratitude. Contentment and thankfulness for what we have are signs of spiritual maturity (Philippians 4:11; Hebrews 13:5).

The Lord Is Our Counsel (16:7)

      There may be no privilege greater than that of being able to approach God on a first name basis. James tells us if we lack wisdom we are to ask of God (James 1:5). We do not have to go through priests and intermediaries of one sort or the other. We just go directly to God when we need counsel, wisdom, and help. Even at night, while we are sleeping, God is able to instruct us. We forget that our minds and our spirits do not shut down while our body is in the state we call sleep. God is very much able to communicate with us “in the night seasons.” It has often been my experience to bring a matter of some concern to God in prayer at night before going to bed, only to awaken the next morning with an understanding of what I should do. In the night, God has worked in my heart to give me understanding and wisdom.

The Lord Is Our Confidence (16:8)

      David ends this section of the psalm with a strong statement of affirmation. As he reviews the blessing of the Lord in his life, he says, “I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” What a powerful, rejoicing statement.

      Do you see what David has done? He has reviewed who God is and rehearsed what God does. And now he is going to conclude the whole psalm by rejoicing (in advance) over what God is going to do in the future.

Rejoicing in What God Will Do (16:9-11)

      In these final verses we find evidence of the supernatural qualities of the Word of God. David, through the lens of his own circumstances, actually writes about things that come to fruition in the New Testament. Portions of Psalm 16:8-11 are quoted in Acts 2:25-28; 13:35-36 as having been fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Christ.

Rejoicing in the Resurrection (16:10)

      David knows that God will not allow his life to end at death. And yet his own resurrection has a prophetic element, fulfilled in Christ’s resurrection.

     1. David rejoices in his own resurrection.

      In verse 10, David is counting his blessings. He doesn’t have the resurrection to look back upon. He can only look forward to it. And he is saying, “Oh, what a blessed man I am, for God is not going to leave my soul in the grave. He has provided a way out through the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ” (paraphrase). Because He lives, we live also!

     2. David rejoices in Christ’s resurrection.

      Our English translations capitalize “Holy One” in verse 10 because it refers to the Messiah—and this is certainly the way the New Testament writers understood it. The Hebrew word was also used to refer to people in the Old Testament, and in his immediate context David could have been referring to himself or other godly saints. But God’s marvelous prophetic use of His word takes something only partially seen and understood in the Old Testament and brings it to its full and prophetic significance in the New (Acts 2:31).

Rejoicing in the Rapture (16:11)

      David knows that the path of life would lead out of the grave and ultimately to life in the presence of God forevermore. He saw his future as being filled with the blessing of God for all eternity. He didn’t have the details that we have in the New Testament, but he didn’t need them. All he needed to count himself blessed was the sure Word of God that, in spite of the difficulties life brings, the fullness of joy would be his forever at God’s right hand.

      Were David’s days of conflict and discouragement over? No, and he undoubtedly knew that his days of suffering were not over. But he didn’t mind because he knew the best was yet to come. Any believer in Christ who gets bogged down in the present can be back on his feet by remembering who God is, what He has done, and what He is yet to do in the future.


1.  Read Psalm 77:10-15.

  1.   What does the psalmist remember in his time of anguish? (verse 10)

  3.   Why is this such a good reaction for all believers to imitate?

  5.   List all the actions the psalmist purposely takes in verses 11-12.

  7.   What are the barriers that keep you from taking those same steps on your own walk?

  9.   What three things does the psalmist specifically remember that God has done? (verses 14-15)

  11.   Summarize this entire passage in one sentence and write it below.

2.  Read Philippians 4:6-13.

  1.   How are we to make our requests to God? Be specific. (verse 6)

  3.   Describe the work and behavior of the peace of God. What is its source? (verse 7)

  5.   In light of verses 6-7, does Paul’s opening statement, “Be anxious for nothing,” make more sense to you now? Explain why or why not.

  7.   List the eight things that we are to meditate on. (verse 8)

  9.   What else does Paul admonish the Church to do? (verse 9)

  11.   What is the promise upon responding and adhering to these commands? (verse 9)

  13.   Writing from prison, what incredible attitude has Paul developed? (verse 11)

  15.   We all know verse 13. But explain why it is so much more powerful when seen in context with verses 10-12.

3.  Read James 4:7-10.

  1.   What should be every believer’s response to the enticements of the world? (verse 7)

  3.   How are we to combat the devil? (verse 7) What do you think this entails?

  5.   What can you specifically do in your own life to resist the devil?

  7.   What happens when we draw near to God? (verse 8) What can we do to draw near to God?

  9.   Find and copy down the 6 action verbs that we as believers are to take in our Christian walk.

  11.   Looking at that list of verbs, record how you can enact those measures in your life.

  13.   How will those actions you just described help you in tough times? How will they help you keep an eternal and confident perspective in your everyday life?

Did You Know?

     The book of Psalms contains not only the shortest chapter in the Bible but the longest one as well. Psalm 117 is a mere 2 verses long. On the other hand, Psalm 119 is 176 verses long. Psalm 119 is also written and organized as an acrostic. This psalm contains twenty-two stanzas that each contain eight verses. The first letter of each stanza is a successive letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Some psalms are poetic not only in their diction but in their structure as well. Yet they all serve to speak to and comfort the Body of Christ in all seasons of life.

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