I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands. (Psalm 143:5)
Human beings have a remarkable propensity for finding the dark cloud, even in the silver lining. Put us in trouble or difficulty, and our minds will most marvellously discover all the things that could go wrong and all the things that did go wrong up to this point. Put two people in disagreement, and we’ll remember the wrongs the other did more readily than we remember the ‘rights.’ The world calls this ‘negativity,’ but God simply sees it as foolishness or spiritual blindness. Today’s verse presents a wonderful challenge to us – where is is our focus? Do we fix our eyes on beauty and the things of God, or do we fix it on things that deny and diminish the true nature of God and His absolute sovereignty?
The power to overcome depends entirely on where we focus our attention.
The context of today’s verse is important. In this psalm, David seems to display a very human vacillation between surrender to God and a humble acknowledgement of his need for mercy on one hand, and a need for vindication on the other. In other words, He illustrates very clearly a situation in which every believer will find themselves, and likely fairly often. It’s a place of confrontation between self, worldly things, and godly things. It’s a place where we know what we should think, feel, or do, but something in us reacts to the difficulty, the unfairness, the apparent injustice of our situation, and we have a hard time holding fast to the ‘positive.’
The world is really very good at taking the precepts of God and tweaking them to fit worldly philosophies and new age spirituality. These sound good and true because they contain a kernel of God’s truth at their core. What they lack, however, is the power of God. All these esoterical spiritual teachings promulgate the power of self which, ultimately, must disappoint. Psalm 143 is a perfect illustration that we cannot ever rely on our minds or intellect to be the power to overcome in our lives.
Our minds are fickle, and they are born into sin. From the very beginning, they gravitate to the ‘dark side.’ Constantly dredging up the negative feeds our need for validation and vindication – this isn’t my fault, I can’t help it, it’s unfair…these are all the result of negative focus. They provide a reasoned, logical intellectual cop out, a ready excuse. They also create conflict, however, because a part of us wants to look for the good. We are instinctually drawn to the light, and we hunger for it. This is why our minds can never ever be the source of victory in our lives. Positive one moment, negative the other, and when neither they find a no-man’s land of apathy or avoidance. The overall result is that the power to overcome seems eternally elusive.
Our verse today highlights an incredibly simple and powerful truth. It’s telling us, essentially, to develop tunnel vision – something the world shouts very loudly against. While everything around us demands that we open our minds, enlarge our thinking, broaden our perspective, and adjust our perceptions, God’s Word says shut everything out except Him. Direct every bit of focus we have on Him. It’s entirely opposite to everything we hear or are taught in the world, but it’s the only way to access the only real power available – God’s power.
The psalmist raises three very practical points. Firstly, we should ‘remember the days of old.’ This includes our own individual memories and experiences, but it also includes the entire Bible. God’s Word is a living Word, and that enables the extraordinary blessing that every single truth and experience contained in the Bible is also ours. The Bible is not simply the history of the Jews, of individuals unrelated to us, or of the first church. Through salvation, the Bible is our history. We are God’s people and we are God’s children. It become our family history, our personal heritage of truth and biblical example and experience.
When we remember the Exodus, we do so with the eternity of God in mind. What happened then is personally relevant to me today. All the truths, promises, exortations, and encouragments that were relevant to any biblical character are relevant to me. So too the warnings, teachings, and instructions. My life exists spiritually within the context of my spiritual family history. God provides the power to overcome. He has proved it over and over again. We need only read His Word to see it.
In remembering the days of old, we remember the things that God did for His people, for His children, for His church from the perspective that we are part of it. It’s no longer ‘if He did it for them He can or will do it for me.’ It becomes ‘what He did once for us, His children, He can and will do again.’ It’s a powerful, immediate, uplifting shift in perspective. Our focus isn’t vague. It’s absolutely fixed on truth and personal relevance.
Secondly, we should meditate on all His works. This is one step deeper. It’s a focus on the practical outworking of God’s nature and power in our lives. It’s identifying our miracles, little or large. And it’s also the place where we so often get distracted. It becomes all to easy to start in the direction of ‘He did it before, so why won’t He do it now?’ The mind will always try to turn the silver lining ‘out side in’ to reveal the dark cloud. It’s so incredibly easy to come to the place where the ‘down list’ seems way longer than the ‘up list.’
This is the place of spiritual discipline. It’s the fulcrum of choice. We can decide what we’re going to see and believe. But the reality is that living God’s way means having our regenerated spirit take control of our minds. Before salvation, our minds ruled like a petty, indecisive tyrant driven by self-gratification and inconsistency. After salvation, we are expected, in Christ, to inititate a coup. We are to take back control of our minds and enforce spiritual law. This is the place where we ‘take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.’ It is the very crucial choice that will determine how effectively we exercise the power to overcome God has already provided.
We do this by simply asking a fundamental question: Does this thought line up with who God is and what He has done? If the answer is no, take the thought captive. Submit it to the authority of Christ. If the answer is yes, hold fast to it and profess it in the authority of Christ. It is an eternal truth that we can do nothing in and of ourselves. Christ is the power working within us through the Holy Spirit to enable our victory. But we have to first make the choice. We have to participate, and participation means actively taking hold of every single one of God’s works – those in our lives and in the Bible.
His works are eternal. We are His children. Everything God has ever done applies personally and completely in our lives. We simply do not have the excuse that His works in our lives are limited. If we cannot ‘see’ – because we’re blinded – the works in the here and now, we have a full, eternal catalogue of works that will take our entire lives to even partially appreciate. The works by far outweigh the bad situations. All of His works are a manifestation of the power to overcome.
Thirdly, we are to muse on the work of His hands. I always think of this as the visible evidence. No matter where we are, what we’re facing, how we’re feeling, or what we’ve ‘lost,’ we have the visible evidence of God’s creation. I vividly recall being in a place of dark and desperate despair, and ‘splurging’ on a tray of six little pansy seedlings. It was a gesture of ‘almost rebellion’ because it really was, with my crisis budget, an extravagance. I planted at the top of the garden stairs, right at the entrance to my cottage.’ At first, they nagged at my conscience, little reminders of what I thought was my foolish, reckless lack of responsibility.
But God uses the oddest things to teach us living truth. Those little pansies bloomed, and bloomed, and bloomed. Every day, I’d take their smiling faces with me as I faced a day in a debilitating environment. Every day, they’d be there to greet me as I returned, exhausted and broken. This is the significance of our third instruction of today’s verse. We can never ever ‘run out’ of creation. From the smallest microbe to the vast, sweeping magnificence of uncharted galaxies, God has provided an abundance of evidence of who He is and what He is able and willing to do.
We must never lose sight of our significance in eternity, our positioning in Christ. Creation is there to sustain us. This isn’t limited to our physical needs. It sustains us emotionally and it sustains us spiritually. In Jesus, we are adopted into God’s family. Creation is therefore part of ‘our inheritance.’ We are able to personally take hold of the wonderful, intricate, awesome, detailed phenomena that comprises creation. Every single thing is personal evidence of who our God is, what He can do, and what He has done and is doing.
Just consider for a moment what would happen if God removed His will from the world. To explain this, let me share a personal belief that the force of gravity is actually the will of God in action. The Bible tells us that He sustains all things in their courses and natural order. In other words, God holds this world together through His will. If the force of gravity was withdrawn, absolute chaos would result. I stress that this is my personal belief, but I find it entirely logical and in line with what the Bible teaches. If God withdrew His will from the world, chaos would ensue. Creation was created through His will and is sustained by His will.
This is the lesson that today’s verse is teaching us. Our focus must be on the creator and sustainer of the universe – that same God who is Christ in us. The human life is characterised by change, by complexity, and sometimes by chaos. Things happen that we cannot control. We are continually confronted by things beyond our power to correct or even understand. But God’s will remains constant in all. Creation represents God’s power to overcome, because His will manifests overcoming chaos. sustaining creation is the eternal, ongoing manifestation of this truth.
It is His will that creates and sustains. It is His will that effects and empowers the work of His hands. It is His will that is the common thread from the days of old and into our lives. God’s will is who He is. His works are manifestations of His will, and therefore of who He is. In everything, we have the absolute, perfect, unshakeable, unchangeable certainty of the great I AM. When He is our focus, His light pushes away our darkness. When we look at Him, our situations and circumstances diminish. If we concentrate on His power rather than our weakness, we see things in an eternal spiritual perspective.
His perfect grace has made it possible for us to live in the knowledge of ‘God in here’ rather than ‘God out there.’ Christ in us has closed the gap. He has bridged the distance. But we must participate. We must be willing to meet our minds head on and wrest control back to the spirit. Jesus doesn’t want to ‘fill’ our minds. He wants absolute control. He wants us to take every thought captive to His obedience. Of course, we cannot effect this ourselves, but we have to choose to do so. Once we do, once we decide to focus everything on Him, He will work in us to enable and empower the rest. Our first and most important choice is where we will focus – who and what we will glorify in everything. Only then can God work all things to our good.
We thank You, Lord, that You have provided everything we need in such abundance. Help us to be obedient and to fix our eyes, our attention, our perspective only on You. Help us to see the work of Your hands, the little and the large, and the overwhelming evidence of Your grace, power, and love, so that the things of the flesh and of the darkness may be pushed back by Your light and Your will be done in us.