Something to Ponder

The book of Psalms tends to become a favourite for people who have faced some challenges in life. Perhaps you have experienced grief over the loss of a loved one, discouragement during a dark season of life, or any other challenges that set the Psalms into vivid colour in our hearts. Once we know of the soul food kept in that storehouse, we tend to find ourselves returning again and again.

Sometimes the Psalm writer has found words for the ache in my heart. Other times the psalmist points my heart to where it needs to be looking. The book of Psalms is a real treasure – a refreshing spring for the weary times we all have to endure.

The book of Psalms sits at the centre of our Bibles for the times we are just reading through. Maybe there is no experienced crisis that leads us to this vast collection of Hebrew poetry. Sometimes, we will find ourselves reading it simply because it comes next in our Bible reading. It can be a great experience to read it through with fresh eyes and notice the uniqueness of each Psalm and the recurring themes.

Let’s look at the first Psalm of book five – Psalm 107. This Psalm sets the tone for the section that will follow. It begins as you might expect, with a call to thank our good God for his enduring, steadfast love. This call goes out to all who have been redeemed and rescued by God (v1-3).

Then we find ourselves walking through four examples of challenging circumstances from which God rescues his people:

First, we read of the weary wilderness wanderers failing to find a place of sanctuary (v4-9). They cried to the LORD, and he delivered them. (Those words will come up again.) So, with stomachs full and souls satisfied, the psalmist encourages them to thank the LORD for his steadfast love. 

Second, we read of the helpless prisoners, tired and broken by hard labour (v10-16). They cried to the LORD, and he delivered them. With their bonds broken and bodies set free, they are called to thank the LORD for his steadfast love.

Third, we read of the afflicted starving to death, suffering for their sin and facing their demise (v17-22). They cried to the LORD, and he delivered them. With healed bodies and joyful hearts, they are invited to thank the LORD for his steadfast love.

Fourth, we read of the fear-filled seafarers, tossed to and fro by the raging seas, despairing and at their wit’s end (v23-32). This example gives more vivid detail, but again, they cried to the LORD, and he delivered them (see v 6, 13, 19 and 28). With the storm stilled and safely brought back to the fellowship of humans on shore, they are encouraged to thank the LORD for his steadfast love (see v8, 15, 21, 31)

The final section of the Psalm underlines some of the points made throughout. God is in charge. Just as he can bring about change in nature (v33-38), he can reverse his people’s fortunes (v39-42). And so, the final verse ensures we have not missed the point. If we are wise, we will ponder what this Psalm says. Indeed, if we are wise, we will ponder, contemplate, consider and meditate on the steadfast love of the LORD (v43).

The Psalm begins and ends with the spotlight on the steadfast love of God. The Psalm invites us to consider four examples of people in dire straits who called out to God and discovered why they should thank God for that steadfast love.

Perhaps Psalm 107 is the food for thought that we need. It could be that we feel like we are close to death or tossed in every direction and despairing of life itself. Or it could be that we are calmly moving through the second half of 2022, thankful for God’s blessing and a season of tranquillity and peace. Whatever may be going on around us, Psalm 107 suggests what should be happening inside us. We should be considering the steadfast love of God. Honestly, it is hard to think of a wiser thing to do.

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Faint Not: The Discouraged Preacher

Charles Spurgeon wrote about the minister’s “fainting fits” in his first series of lectures to his students.  He wrote, “Good men are promised tribulation in this world, and ministers may expect a larger share than others, that they may learn sympathy with the Lord’s suffering people, and so may be fitting shepherds for an ailing flock.”

The ministry of preaching seems to be fertile ground for discouragement.  It is so easy to feel deterred, disheartened or hindered in some way.  Sometimes it is only a feeling, but this doesn’t change its influence on us.

The New Testament has a lot to say about not fainting, growing weary or losing heart.  Paul writes of the perishing state of our outward man, while at the same time the inward man is being renewed.  But what about times when that doesn’t feel like the reality we are living in?

Tomorrow I’d like to ponder several factors that may be leading to discouragement.  Then by the end of the week we’ll ponder some pathways forward.

According to John Stott, “Discouragement is the occupational hazard of Christian ministry.”  

Let’s throw in a bit of Luther too, who apparently stated, “If I should write of the heavy burden of a godly preacher, which he must carry and endure, as I know from my own experience, I would scare every man from the office of preaching.”

Our experience agrees that these great preachers knew what they were talking about.  Let’s ponder together what the contributing factors may be, and what might be done about it.

And let’s pray for others too.  Perhaps you know a preacher who is facing discouragement in some form.  Maybe one who is unwell, or who’s context is particularly challenging.  Why not pray for their hearts to be encouraged this week? Maybe link to this post and tell them you prayed for them?  The battle we are in is too much for any of us to go on alone.