From the series, “Restoring the Joy”

By Semi-Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

Do not fret because of evildoers,nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.

For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,and wither as the green herb.”

Psalm 37:1-2

A kindly country parson who had just married a young couple had a parting word for the groom: “Son – God bless you! You are now at the end of all your troubles.”

A year later the groom returned. “What a year I’ve gone through! And you’re the man who told me I was at the end of all my troubles.”

“So I did son,” the parson smiled. “I just didn’t tell you which end.”

The world wants you to be torn down to its level. The world wants you to look at the circumstances of life and realize that faith is just a myth, a fairy tale, a nice story to tell kids during a bad storm.

The Bible says the early church turned their world upside down for Christ – the same world which is trying to tear us down. What do we need?

The joy of our salvation restored!

Our theme verse for this series is Psalm 51:12:

“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.”

To assist us in this, we are going to become familiar with Psalm 37, particularly the first eleven verses, and use these as starting blocks in that restoration process.

Please note verse 25: “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread”. This psalm was apparently written in David’s “old age” – and the scriptures tell us he died at the age of seventy (2 Sam. 5:4). Yet throughout those years he saw the Lord’s faithfulness. With this psalm the modern day sojourner gets the privilege of looking into the heart of one who sojourned with the Lord even into his “old age” – whatever age that might be for the one who is walking with Jesus today!

First, Psalm 37 is loaded with commands to the emotions. The emotions are fragile. In order for them to be controlled, they need to be tamed. That reminds me of one of our first dogs, a tan-colored cocker spaniel named “Buttons”. Buttons was a wonderful dog, would do anything you asked, would follow you everywhere…until…there was lightning! Initially, he would try to run through, around, or under her wire fence in order to escape the “ravages” – in her mind – of the storm. Such a process could have been hazardous to her. As she matured, she learned to hide under the porch until someone brought her indoors. She knew what was acceptable and beneficial.

The Psalmist first instruction is “do not fret” (verse 1). What does it mean to “fret”? The Hebrew language tells us that “fret” means “to be warm; literally, to get into a heat; to fume”. How does one begin to “fret”:

* Because of evildoers (verse 1)

* Because of him who prospers because of sin (verse 7)

* Because of your own self (verse 8)

He also mentions fretting in connection with the command to “cease from anger…forsake wrath…do not fret” (verse 8). To “cease” means “to be slack, hang down”. It’s as if it is put on a string and dangles, rather than being close to one’s heart, life, and tongue. Verse 8 also says to “forsake wrath”. This means “to leave in a destitute condition,” best illustrated by the picture of dropping it off a cliff – never to be picked up!

His second instruction is “nor be envious” (verse 1). To “envy” means “to be burned, glowing, fiery red – to be inflamed.” Applied to the mind it means to be “burning with a rage”. In verse 1one’s rage/envy is against workers of iniquity.

These emotions – fretting and envy – can control the sojourner. Why? They take our minds off the Lord and put them on people and circumstances.

It is safe to direct the emotions of “fretting and envy” – NOT on people and circumstances – but on the Lord! Remember the old standby Proverbs 3:5-6:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

The FIRST step to restoring the joy is to note the commands to the emotions.

The SECOND step to restoring the joy is the consideration of “the end”.

Ever take a journey – a long trip? We often travel to Florida, a one way trip of well over 1000 miles. You know, the trip down does not seem so long. There is the excitement of places to go and of special people to see. There comes a time when we must turn around and head home. Then? Then the journey home seems LONG!

The psalmist in verse 2 tells us about the fruit of the wicked. They may seem victorious against all we are trying to accomplish. But the psalmist encourages us by giving us THEIR destination: “they shall soon be cut down” (verse 2). To “cut” means “to prune; to uproot; to destroy”. The wicked – they and those that cause the circumstances which rob us of our joy and of our faith – have an end! They will be “cut”.

Think on THEIR goal, which is repeatedly emphasized in this psalm:

* pruned like the grass (verse 7)

* uprooted (verse 9 and verse 22)

* they are cut off while the saints are not forsaken (verse 28)

* their destruction will be evident by those who wait on the Lord (verse 34)

* their future is destruction (verse 38)

For the Christian, consider the end! Don’t allow sin and circumstances to take your focus off of the One Who is really important!

The THIRD step to restoring the joy is the call to LOOK UP, not LOOK DOWN!

Digest these amazing verses:

“No man having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

(in the last days) “…men’s hearts failing them for her, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.” (Luke 21:26)

Looking for that blessed hope” (Titus 2:13)

“Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (Jude 21)

As we close, listen to the challenge of John 1:36:

“And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

In order to restore the joy, there are two things which must take place. The first? Look to the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. Have you come to the cross? Have YOU trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord? Only He is worthy of your trust. He said, “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. Learn of Me” (Matthew 11:28-29a)

And the second? Once YOU have trusted Jesus as Savior, POINT OTHERSto the Lamb of God! That’s the challenge of John 1:36. Look at Jesus, and invite all who God has purposely put in your pathway, “BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD”!