OAKRIDGE BIBLE CHAPEL

A Prayer for When Life Feels Like War (Psalm 3:1–8)

Bad things happen to good people, even to God’s people. Belonging to Jesus Christ does not inoculate us from sadness, loneliness, and stress. Following the Lord does not ward off financial insecurity, relational hostility, emotional misery, and physical injury. The gift of eternal life in the ever after does not guarantee a long life in the here and now. Many of us know biblically—and all of us know experientially—that trials and tribulations arise regularly.

We live in a sin-cursed world full of sin-stained people and, because of that, bad things happen to good people, even to God’s people. The question becomes, is there a way to endure those terrible hardships, lamenting their existence but, at the same time, trusting in God’s deliverance? What can God’s people do when life feels like war? Psalm 3 provides an answer to that question and model to follow.

SERMON MANUSCRIPT 

As most of us know, bad things happen to good people. In fact, bad things happen to God’s people. 

Following Jesus Christ does not inoculate us from sadness, loneliness, and stress. Belonging to the Lord doesn’t make us immune to financial insecurity, relational hostility, emotional misery, or physical injury. The promise of one day being free from the presence of sin does not now free us from the power of sin. The gift of eternal life in the ever after doesn’t guarantee a long life in the here and now. Bad things happen to good people, even to God’s people. 

Everyone here today has endured, is enduring, or will endure hardship in life. And, as one author observed, “It doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on” (Lewis, A Grief Observed, 29). The question is not if we will face trials but how we will face them. As God’s people we must ask, is there a way to survive hardship, lamenting in it but trusting God through it?

Psalm 3 is going to help us answer that question. If you have a Bible, please turn to Psalm 3, a prayer of David when he was running from his murderous and usurping son, Absalom. (Talk about bad things happening to God’s people!) In desperation, David calls to God for help and strength. All of us need to hear this prayer.

MOURNING PRESENT DANGER

It’s sometimes implied that if you’re a Christian life should be smooth. It’s almost like to admit that things aren’t perfect would be to admit that God is impotent. To grieve would prove God’s absence or our faithlessness. 

Instead, we’re to smile through the pain. “I know the abuse is bad, I know you lost everything in the fire, I know your dream has been crushed, I know the death of a loved one hurts but, remember, ‘all things work together for good.’ Chin up. You’ve ‘got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in your heart! Where? Down in your heart!’”

David seems to have missed that lesson. His life is in danger, his family is in shambles, and his calling is in question. He doesn’t baptize the brutality or put on a mask of hollow optimism. Instead, we find him mourning his present danger. 

It’s clear from his words that David’s life felt like a war-zone. He speaks of “many” “enemies” “rising up” against him.

Verse 1 opens with “Lord” and closes with “me.” It’s like God’s on one side, David’s on the other, and, in the middle, “adversaries” keeping them apart (3:1a) and mocking the psalmist’s faith: “There is no deliverance for him in God” (3:2b). They know they’ve won. Armies have been mobilized, their arrogant ranks thickening as they storm the gates of David’s life, creating a wedge between him and his God. 

You know what that feels like, don’t you? There are times that life feels like war, a time God’s presence and comfort is most needed but also a time he seems most distant, his light eclipsed by the very trial we’re facing. That’s what David is wrestling with here.

He admits he needs “deliverance” (3:7b, 8a) and, in verse 3, he turns his desperate gaze from his present danger to his Deliverer. He describes God as a “shield about him” (3:3a) that while enemies come against him Yahweh surrounds him and “lifts [his] head.” We might say, “Hold your head high! Don’t be ashamed!” Well, David knows that if he’s going to get out of this mess, it’ll be by God’s hand, not his. God will have to hold his head high and deliver him from shame.

How many of us, when delivered, empowered, and preserved by God, strut about as though we endured ourselves? David, looking at the war-zone of his life, knows that’s not an option. One author says, “No wonder God is called ‘my glory’ (3:3b): the glory of God’s people lies not in [our genetics], status, accomplishments, portfolios, or resumes, but in God the deliverer and sustainer, the King of ‘glory’ (3:3b).”

David’s life was in shambles and he doesn’t pretend it wasn’t. Instead, he mourns. He acknowledges that he’s outnumbered, outgunned, outsmarted, and outflanked. If help doesn’t arrive, he will lose.

Perhaps you can relate as we start 2024. Your home life feels like a minefield, your work life is tense, your personal life is a bit chaotic, and your spiritual life is defenceless. The armies are increasing and rising against you, blocking your view of the God you desperately need, mocking your neediness. “There’s no deliverance for you.”

Don’t pretend that everything’s okay. Mourn the mess. Acknowledge the world’s brokenness, life’s fragility, and your powerlessness.

REMEMBERING PAST DELIVERANCE

That’s what David did. But he doesn’t wallow in self pity. Instead, he looks backward, remembering past deliverances.

[3:4] Note the past tense. David recalls a time before this one when he had called to God from a place of danger, and God had answered him from “his holy mountain.” Psalm 2 already mentioned this idea when God said, [2:6]. Also, later on in the psalter, [48:1–2].

Looking back, David remembers that God answered his calls for deliverance, not from the heavens, some far away, invisible locale, but from the earth and somewhere close to his people.

David remembers that God was near and came to his aid. And, because of that, David slept like a baby. [3:5] In Hebrew, this verse opens and closes with connected emphatic statements: “I, I lay down” and “Yahweh, he sustains me.” The first is made possible by the second. In other words, when God is sustaining, there’s nothing for David to do but sleep. God does it all.

Even though he was mourning his present danger, God’s presence put David out like a light—no nightmares, no insomnia, no worries. [3:6] God had come through in the past, so what’s there to worry about in the present? Time to take a nap.

Are you in the practice of looking back and celebrating God’s provision, his nearness, his answered prayer? Have there been times when, in spite of hardship, you were given a peace that went beyond comprehension? A stillness in your soul amidst the chaos of your life? Brothers and sisters, we need to relish those times God rescued us, celebrate them and brag about them because there will come times when they’re needed again.

On October 14th my wife and I took the kids outside to see the solar eclipse, the world bathed in that odd grey light as the moon covers the centre of the sun for a few moments. As we watched, though, none of us thought it would last forever. None of us wondered, “what if the sun never comes back?” Why? Because, first, the sun never left and, second, this isn’t the first eclipse that’s ever happened. The sun always comes back. 

David’s present dangers, his adversaries, are blocking God. But he knows that God is still there and, by remembering past deliverance, he’s comforted by the trust that God will shine again soon.

ANTICIPATING FUTURE PROTECTION

But, as we come to the end of the psalm we find that David doesn’t stay looking in the rearview mirror. Instead, he uses what God did in the past to fuel his anticipation of future protection. Kind of a “he’s done it before so why wouldn’t he do it again” type of mindset.

Verse 7 opens with two imperative requests: “Arise, O Lord; Save me, O my God!” Enemies were “arising” against him, so he asks God to “arise” for him. Adversaries had taunted “there is no deliverance for him,” so he asks God to prove them wrong and do just that.

You can sense David’s holy swagger returning. He’s in trouble but he has a restored confidence. God will show up like he has before. In fact, David’s so sure that he writes God’s response before it happens. [3:7b]

Consistent with the language used throughout this psalm, David pictures God as a warrior jumping into the fray swinging a club. While God lifts his head (3:3b), God will strike his enemies on the head. “They who had insulted the psalmist and his God, casting aspersions on the faith of the former and the faithfulness of the latter … are now rendered speechless. With smashed mandibles and crushed teeth … it was going to be a bit difficult for them to give an encore.” 

Being hit on the cheek adds public disgrace. [Job 16:10; Lam 3:30; Mic 5:1] Shattered teeth can be associated with stopping terrible evil. [Job 29:17; Ps 58:6] So, perfect vindication is predicted.

David, now well-rested and confident in God’s protection, lets out his battle cry: [3:8]. While his enemies speak of “a god” they don’t know, the psalmist rests in the covenant God he knows well: Yahweh, the God who delivers and protects his people.

David’s life felt like war. He acknowledged it and recognized his helplessness. So he looked back, remembering similar times in the past that God had heard him, sustained him, and given him rest. And with those fresh in his mind he looks forward, anticipating similar protection and blessing.

REMEMBER AND REST!

Bad things happen to good people, even to God’s people. 

Now, to my knowledge, nobody in this room is currently being hunted by a family member. But there are certainly those of us who feel like life is war, landmines everywhere, gunfire overhead, constant threat of evacuation, and a perpetual unsettledness. If you’ve never felt that way in your life allow your pastor to encourage you now: you will. 

And when that inevitable war dawns, brothers and sisters, when our adversaries rise up and threaten to block our view of God, Psalm 3 is our prayer. 

It’s a prayer of lament for the brokenness of this world, the disease and death, the stress and pressure, the heartbreak and hurt, the uncertainty and shame, the loss and fear. Creation groans under the curse of sin and we who are new creatures in Christ groan with it. This world is not as it should be and, praise God, it is not as it one day will be. But, while we wait for the consummation of all things, we lament.

Psalm 3 is also a prayer of remembrance of times God has shown up in the past, times he has provided, protected, healed, loved, delivered, comforted, reassured. For Christians, we look back and remember the time he called, forgave, saved, indwelled, sealed, and purchased us. Yes, there is much to lament. But there is much to remember as well.

Finally, this psalm is a prayer of trust. I don’t know how you’re going to protect me here, Lord, and I don’t have to know. I don’t know how you’re going to use this battle, these enemies, in my life to mature me, hone me, correct me, and shape me. And I don’t have to know. I’m helpless, powerless, witless. You’re none of those things. You’ve shown that over and over again in my life. You’ve shown up before, you’ll show up again. I trust you. Arise, O Lord; deliver me, O my God! After all, salvation belongs to you.

When we pray like David prayed, we can lay down and sleep, confident that God is a shield about us, that he is near us, and that he fights for us, his people. What a blessing it can be to remember and rest! even when the battle rages on around us.

As the apostle Paul famously wrote, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor 4:7–9).

Let’s pray.

O Lord, we worship you today from the frontlines where the battle rages hot and dangerous. The world around us mocks and compels. The sin nature within us tempts and kills. The devil about us stalks and deceives. Within this family of believers, even today, there is heavy-heartedness, sickness, anxiety, doubt, loneliness, bitterness, addiction, depression, and confusion. O Lord, our adversaries have increased, and compared to them, we’re helpless and powerless. We need you to be our shield, our glory, and the one that lifts our heads.

And you’ve done it before. In each of our lives, you’ve heard the cries of our voices and answered, reminding us that, while it seemed you were so distant and imperceptible, in reality you were never far off. In the past you’ve given us rest when we didn’t deserve it, you’ve given us comfort when, from a human point of view, there should have been none. You gave us salvation when we earned damnation, forgiveness when we owed wrath, life when we deserved death.

And so we ask you, our Lord, to arise and deliver us again. Vindicate us, deal justly with our enemies who are also your enemies. Be to us the God of salvation that you are. Give us weary soldiers a hope, trust, faith, confidence, and peace that is otherworldly. Help us, we pray, to remember you and rest in you. We ask all of this in your Son’s precious name. Amen.

 



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Josiah has served the Oakridge Bible Chapel family as one of its elders and one of its pastoral staff members since September 2018, before which he ministered as an associate pastor to a local congregation in the Canadian prairies. Josiah's desire is to be used by God to help equip the church for ministry, both while gathered (edification) and while scattered (evangelization). He is married to Patricia, and together they have five children—Jonah, Henry, Nathaniel, Josephine, and Benjamin.

Josiah Boyd

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