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Jul 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 21, 2019


Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herbs.
Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light.
and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evil doers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land
Psalm 37:1-9

Intro: Imagine this . . .

While you’re at work, out shopping, or on vacation
– a family parks a moving in front of your home
• they break into, and unload used, worthless furnishings inside
• then they redecorate your home with their junk
◦ and to make matters worse, they glue or nail everything in place
– ridiculous, right?
• but all of us have allowed others to do that with our brains
• by words, actions, and attitudes, others have dumped their junk on us
◦ tainting our sense of self and outlook on life

Psalm 37 tells us not to allow what others do get inside us

The poet provides a primer on the ABCs of self-regulation

Remember the books we read to teach us the alphabet? “A is for apple…”
– this psalm was written that way
• the English Standard Version has tried to mimic that structure
◦ by formatting the printing of the poem in couplets
• every two verses feature the letters of the Hebrew alphabet consecutively
– the message of the psalm is Don’t let the bad things people do get to you
• it begins by teaching how to dial down our frustration (1-9)
• the rest of poem relates a variety of scenarios to reinforce the lesson
◦ bad people may plot against the good, and for awhile succeed,
◦ but in the end, God brings down the bad and promotes the good

First, the general instruction, Fret not

The recent earthquakes reminded me of the uniqueness of that experience
– life is unpredictable – there are lots of ups and downs,
• but I take for granted that the ground beneath me is stable
• when it moves, I lose my reliable frame of reference
◦ an earthquake instantly robs me of my illusion of control
– we cannot control everything that comes at us
• neither can I control my reaction to what comes at me–if
◦ it is instant, unconscious, spontaneous, and automatic
• but if I could bring that unconscious process into awareness,
◦ it would reveal something new
◦ namely, that I have a freedom–freedom to choose my response

Robert Alter says “fret” comes from a root word “that means to ‘heat up’”
– to be emotionally charged–for instance, with anger, frustration, indignation
• Barb and I have been receiving phone calls telling us,
“Your Social Security number will be suspended if you don’t act now”
◦ someone is trying to swindle me – and I want justice
◦ no, I want revenge!
• it’s easy to get fixated on these aggravations
– Fret not yourself – fretting is something I do to myself!
• evil doers are out there–and they’re doing their evil
◦ but whatever my reaction to their evil, it is all mine
• what they do is their business, and God will deal with them
◦ how I react is my business–and can harm me more than they can
◦ their action may last a minute, a day, months
▫ but I could carry it for the rest of my life

This week I read a similar verse in Book of Proverbs

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,
lest the LORD see it and be displeased
and turn away his anger from him.
Fret not yourself because of evildoers,
and be not envious of the wicked,
for the evil man has no future;
the lamp of the wicked will be put out
(Pr. 24:17-20)

– does the word “enemy” bring to mind a specific person?
• someone may have hurt or insulted you, but not an enemy
◦ but you don’t consider them an enemy, but merely an annoyance
◦ there have been others, more aggressive, spiteful and abusive
• is it possible for you to move that person out of the enemy category?
◦ if not, can you think of them as the enemy Jesus told us to love?
(not that you have to be best friends or trust them)
– another thought, if any enemy of yours “stumbled,”
• suffered loss or humiliation, would it improve your life?
◦ would their fall add anything good to your circumstances?
• if one of them prospered, won the Lottery,
◦ would that in any way diminish your life with Jesus?
◦ if not, then don’t fret yourself over them
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil (v. 8)

Soul meds – to relieve fretting: the first one, Trust in the LORD

The poet adds, and do good – that is one way to activate trust
– don’t give into the temptation to “get even” (or even think about it)
• turn yourself in a different direction
– sometimes it’s irritating when God tells me, “Don’t think that thought”
• that is when I realize I’ve been relishing my revenge fantasy
◦ I call it a thumb-sucking activity
◦ if it consoles me, it also keeps me fixated on the offense
• trust means I have to let it go – I cannot dwell on it
◦ but I don’t just “let it go into the air” — I hand it over to God

The second soul med, Delight yourself in the LORD

There are two kinds of delight (different words are used in v. 4 and 23)
– one word means “to be pampered,” spoil yourself, enjoy yourself
• the other means to “to take pleasure in”
– what gets in the way of change? Fear
• of not being safe, or in control, or fear of an unpredictable future
◦ fear that I won’t be able to meet my needs, fulfill my desires
◦ or that I won’t be able to see the change through to the end
• if we can eliminate fear,
◦ it helps change to proceed smoothly and at a comfortable pace
– what promotes change? Passion (or, in scripture, zeal)
• what do I delight in? At what do I get outraged?
◦ what am I passionate about?
◦ use this energy to motivate change when the process gets difficult

Choice is a human freedom that we need
Change is a human possibility we must want

The third soul med, Commit your way to the LORD

Jon Kabat-Zinn says, here you are, in this unpleasant situation, so now “The important question is, how are you going to handle it?” His recommendation is that we “pause in our experience . . . to hold it in awareness and thereby come to know and understand it better.”
– apart from taking this time-out
• I am most likely to be driven by autopilot
◦ the habit written in my brain’s old owner’s manual
• my response will affect my mood, attitude, and perspective
◦ not only for the time being, but also for whatever comes next
– knowing there are options is God’s gift to us in each present moment

The fourth and fifth soul meds, Be still before the LORD… and wait

Holding the body still is relatively easy
– holding the mind still is the tricky part
• the rational brain wants to analyze, ask questions, interrupt
– also, if we try too hard to make something, we sabotage the moment
• we will be activating the wrong neural circuits
• that’s why the first thing we do in prayer is relax the body
◦ to wait is a spiritual exercise!
◦ learn to experience waiting as a pleasant experience
◦ explore the present moment

If I can take a moment in the doorway and re-collect myself,
– be aware that I’m standing in this spot for this moment,
• then a choice will come to me
◦ and that choice can determine the quality of my life
◦ the quality of my life in that day and in the days to come
• whether I live a long life is not up to me
◦ whether I live a full live is on me
◦ if I’m not conscious of these choices,
I may be losing some of my life’s richness

Conclusion: I’m old enough to say, “In my day . . .”

So, “In my day the taught typing classes in high school”
– our practice assignments were repetitive and boring
• but do you know what?
◦ my fingers now find the keys on their own
• I can type without thinking about typing

I receive God with my breath
because my mind is too small a portal
to receive all that he is
With my breath,
I don’t have to understand
how he enters me
or what he does in me;
I am able to simply trust that he is
and that is all I need

Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
(Psalm 46:10)

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