Encourage0gram September 19, 2018
Dear Fellow Soldiers of Christ!
Is it possible to learn from our mistakes? Can we grow even in a season of hardship or oppression by an enemy? Let’s jump into Psalm 119 to see his testimony on this subject.
I am intrigued by the word “affliction” in Psalm 119. This Hebrew word is closely related to the idea of being humbled or oppressed. It is used for the attitude of repentance on the Day of Atonement. But most often it describes harsh events which are painful and cause sorrow. What can we learn from our afflictions?
NIV Psalm 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.
Going astray is a problem! We can drift away from God slowly like a sheep or run away in a fit of rage or fear. In either case, it is not wise to go astray from the protection we know when we follow our great Shepherd. The psalmist says that his pattern of drifting away was corrected by a season of affliction! Many times, as we are humbled by affliction and come to our senses like the prodigal son in Luke 15:7. It was in the pigsty of humiliation that he was transformed first in his thinking then in his actions. Likewise, the psalmist says that his afflictions led him to a new desire to obey God’s word. God can use afflictions to call us back to Himself! The surrounding verses in Psalm 119:65-66 reflect his desire to praise God for his dealings (65) and to request more good judgment (66).
NIV Psalm 119:71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.
In Psalm 119:69-70, the writer identifies his oppression by the insolent in his life. They have smeared him with lies but he will not be distracted from obeying God’s truth. In fact, it seems that the season of affliction made him even more determined to delight in God’s law and to obey it. So, in 119:71 he confesses that the season of affliction was good. It was beautiful. It was a blessing from the Sovereign Lord who watches over his life. He learned from affliction to depend on God. In conclusion, he confesses that the Torah of God is more valuable than “thousands of gold and silver pieces.” It is amazing how God can open our eyes to the preciousness of His Word by oppression of an enemy! Often, it all depends on our attitude and our desire to look up to God and learn from Him!!
The lessons on the value of affliction bleed over into the next section of the psalm under the letter Yodh.
NIV Psalm 119:75 I know, LORD, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
In this verse the psalmist confesses that the affliction was directly sent by God into his life. That the Lord afflicted him in His faithfulness! The lesson he learned by this experience is that God’s laws are righteous. They are true and fair. This life lesson began at his “creation” (73). He willingly testifies to his faith and worship of the Lord (74). His testimony is filled with HOPE and he is certain that fellow worshipers will rejoice with him. Many times, it is the testimonies of perseverance of faith through our afflictions that speak the loudest. It is in our losses that we learn valuable lessons not just in our victories. Therefore, a season of blessing often follows one of afflictions.
A similar sentiment is express by Paul in these verses expressing the value of God’s discipline:
NIV Hebrews 12:7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?
NIV Hebrews 12:11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
When we face hardships, it may or may not be the discipling hand of our heavenly Father. It is good to inspect our hearts to see if there is sin that needs to be confessed and put to death. However, we humble ourselves before God during our hardships even if He is not discipling us. Either by discipling affliction or circumstantial affliction we are trained by it and experience a harvest of righteousness and peace!
I want to remind you about the Periscope materials that many of our LIFE groups are using this Fall. We have many open groups you could join. A 49-day devotional book is available (for $10) to everyone and I would encourage you to use it even if you cannot attend a LIFE group. You could incorporate this devotional into your own study of God’s truth or even with your family. The video lessons for Periscope are free and available at www.grace101.org. You enter the site by using the login Fcchurch and password John3:16. I hope you will prayerfully considering using these materials.
Be encouraged today even in your hardships, God is faithfully maturing your faith. Draw near to Him in faith. You may even find yourself rejoicing with the palmist for the affliction sent your way.