The Experience of Rest
The Word: Psalm 37:1-11
Today’s lesson is about trusting in the Lord when we are tempted to fret and worry. To get started, let’s go through the following mental exercise:
Imagine you’re standing in line at a fast food restaurant. You’re in a hurry and have stopped there to get food fast. You order a regular cheeseburger, fries, and a drink. Eight minutes later your food still isn’t ready. To make matters worse, the person in line behind you, who ordered five full meals, got his food two minutes ago. Just then, you get a text message from your spouse, asking if you can pick him/her up something to eat as well.
Describe how you would feel in this moment.
Can you remember a time when you experienced “fret” (anxiety or worry)?
This example begins to scratch the surface of what it means to fret about something. Today’s lesson helps us discover the meaning of godly rest when our fretting goes into overdrive.
Fretting is the most natural response to this world, not just for the anxious person, but also for everyone. Even in our modern culture with its protections and safety nets, which seem to be crumbling right now, life is scary: What’s in the food we eat, how climate change affects us, our vulnerability to hackers and scammers, why is that person not wearing a mask, how susceptible the economy is to the unscrupulous, not to mention what might happen if you don’t have that cough looked at, did I get the virus?—thinking about these things will make you fret!
A. Do Not Fret (Read Psalm 37:1-2) The psalm begins with some more advice telling us what not to do. In this case, we are directed not to fret and be envious of those who do wrong.
How would you define the word “envy”? (The dictionary defines envy as a “painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with the desire to possess the same advantage.”)
In what ways are we tempted to be envious of others whose ways are not godly?
Why does it appear that certain ungodly people seem to prosper? (Remember it could be because the world’s ways of doing things aren’t godly. Those systems are set up so that ungodly ways tend to succeed.)
The “prosperity” of the ungodly is only temporary. The kingdom of God lasts forever.
Why does the world focus on the temporal rather than the eternal?
Why is it important for us to understand that the short-lived material “prosperity” everyone seems to be chasing after isn’t that important compared to the kingdom?
B. Trust in the Lord (Read Psalm 37:3-4) Instead of fretting and stewing over the wrong ways of the ungodly, we are called to trust, take delight in, and commit our way to the Lord.
Faith is the focus of these two verses. Based on one’s trust in God, what should we do? We should continue to do good. We should also dwell in the land. By dwelling in the land we go to do what? (enjoy safe pasture). That is to continue living as God’s covenant partner, experiencing the central blessing of the covenant.
What does it mean to trust? (One example might be to point out how we trust the integrity of the chair we’re sitting in to be able to hold us up. We put all our weight on this piece of furniture and rely on it not to fail. We can take the same posture before the Lord with all our lives.)
How will taking delight in the Lord perhaps change the desires of our heart? What does it mean for God to fulfill those desires?
C. Commit Your Way (Read Psalm 37:5-6) The theme of faith continues into verse 5. There are some imperatives listed in verses 3-5. (trust in God, vv. 3, 5; dwell, v. 3; delight in God, v. 4; commit your way to God, v. 5) What do God’s people receive as a result of these commitments? (v.6 (VOICE) “He will spread out righteousness for you as a sunrise spreads radiance over the land; He will deliver justice for you into the light of the high sun.”)
The wording of verse 6 illustrates the poetic device known as “intensification.” Note how we move from the sunrise spreads to the light of the high sun, implying not merely momentary vindication, but evidence for the firm conviction that God’s way is best.
Take some time to restate or rephrase verse 6 in your own words. Write it out.
D. Wait Quietly for the Lord (Read verse 7) Verse 7 restates the theme of verse 1. God’s people need not fret if the way of the wicked seems to succeed. Instead, the people of God are called to be still and wait.
Let’s practice being still and waiting. Just close your eyes and sit in complete silence for a little bit.
How long did you sit quietly? Was it difficult? Why do most people not like waiting?
We won’t immediately see the result of our obedience, nor will it always make immediate sense, but we still need to be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.
E. Do Not Fret (Read Psalm 37:8-9) A life lived outside of God’s peace opens the door for anger and wrath. Such a way does not lead to life, but only to destruction. Such a life does not last. It can be violent, chaotic, and short.
How can we refrain from anger when it is a normal human emotion?
In contrast, those who hope in the Lord, “the meek,” will inherit the land. In the Old Testament, God’s people are promised descendants and land if they will keep the covenant God made with them.
What might it mean for us to “inherit the land?” (Those who put—and keep—their hope in the Lord will inherit the land. Inheriting the land is shorthand for experiencing all the blessings of being God’s covenant partners.)
Yes, we will have the blessings of heaven after we die. But we also have the promise of living in the place where God has us in peace, experiencing the purpose and fulfillment in life that only a godly life can bring.
F. Just Wait (Read Psalm 37:10-11) Here we have no commands, only four lines of results. Apparently, while there are “verse 7” moments when we need to wait on God’s blessing, there are also “verses 10 and 11” moments when God blesses us beyond our wildest imaginings. These blessings actually continue through verse 26.
We might have to wait a little while to see the promised results. This time reference is not something to set your watch by; it is something to set your heart by.
Psalm 37:23-24 (Amplified Bible) “The steps of a [good and righteous] man are directed and established by the Lord, And He delights in his way [and blesses his path]. 24 When he falls, he will not be hurled down, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand and sustains him.”
Connect to My Life and the World The late Earl and Hazel Lee, in their book The Cycle of Victorious Living: Commit, Trust, Delight, and Rest in Jesus Christ (Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2011) write about “Hands Down Prayer.” Pray, imagining holding your biggest problem, need, concern, or burden in your upturned hands. After describing the problem to God in prayer, we acknowledge our inability to solve or carry the problem on our own. The problem is then symbolically released by turning the palms downward, letting it fall into the capable and loving hands of our heavenly Father. The prayer closes with words of thanksgiving for the peace and assurance that God will deal with the problem according to His perfect will.
Following the steps above, take time surrendering your biggest problems or concerns to God—resting in Him. Psalm 46:10a “Be still, and know that I am God!”