Flesh and Spirit

Greetings! I am Pastor David Hewitt and I welcome you to our latest “Boost from the Bible,” when we gather together to delve into the depths of scripture, always finding there God’s wisdom and love in this covid time. Let us begin!

Fires on the West Coast, taking some lives and forcing people to lose their homes and most of their possessions; the ongoing covid virus crisis; economic struggles related to that virus; angst over racial justice; hurricane season in the Gulf; political uproar; the presidential election – there’s plenty to be concerned about at this time – in America.

We all would like to get beyond all of these problems, but we seem to have before us a long road to travel together first. The Apostle Paul, inspired by God, pointed out many times in his letters that we humans have within us a struggle between flesh and spirit. Our flesh is self-centered – the old sinful creature within us – always looking for a personal advantage…always approaching situations in a self-serving manner – either overtly or covertly! Our spirit, on the other hand, is a God-created invisible part of ourselves that seeks God – and our spirits are able to connect to the Spirit of God – spirit to Spirit – so that God may reveal to us His will and inspire, strengthen and comfort us!

Using that divine knowledge about flesh and spirit, we see in many of our psalms our flesh described as that flesh cries out against God. A good example of that is in our Psalm for today, Psalm 4, written by David. We see in Psalm 4 David sharing the common human exclamations of both flesh and spirit. In fact, many psalms exhibit a deep struggle between our flesh and our spirit, as this one – Psalm 4 – does. Right away David writes in verse one, “Answer me when I call, O God of my right!” That, to me, is a call of our flesh. It is a call that DEMANDS  that God answer us – even though we humans are in no position to DEMAND from God ANYthing! David then lets his spirit state a rejoinder to that fleshly charge against God – a kind of spiritual faith statement; David says that God ALWAYS hears our prayers. He writes, in verse 3, “The Lord hears when I call to Him.”

Then in verse six we see more demands on God: “There are many who say, ‘O that we might see some good! Let the light of Your face shine on us, O Lord!’” We can relate that feeling today. Deep in our hearts many human beings are saying, flesh-wise, to God, “Where are You? Why don’t You end this soon? I do not want to go through this agony, Lord; why do You force me to go through all of this?”

David brings up our doubts of God in times of trouble in psalms like Psalm 4 and then, like a good doctor who brings out the boil on the arm in order then to lance that boil, gives humanity a way to apply our faith to our difficult lives. You know there are some pithy sayings I’ve run across through the years that remind me of what David is about to tell us. Sayings like, “Faith does not get us AROUND problems; it gets us THROUGH them,” and “Faith is not knowing what the future holds but knowing WHO holds the future.”

In that spirit David shares with us verses 4 and 5 of Psalm 4, our BOOST FROM THE BIBLE today: When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices and put your trust in the Lord.” How sharp David is when it comes to understanding why we sometimes sin greatly! God had inspired him to point out that when we “act out” – when we sin a bit shamelessly – it is often when we are feeling deep turmoil inside. David warns, on behalf of God, “When you are disturbed, do not sin.” It reminds me of how God warned Cain not to let his anger at his brother, Abel, get the best of him: “Sin,” God tells Cain, “is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” But Cain ignored God and allowed his fleshly desires to lead him to murder Abel.

In a less dramatic way, we can allow anger, pain, grief, fear and worry disturb us and get the best of us. So David counsels us: “Ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.” Even as you ponder your problems at the end of the day, David advises you, do not dwell on them – but be silent. Instead, he writes, “Offer right sacrifices,” which I take to mean that we are called by God to keep doing the Lord’s will in our daily lives, honoring our many relationships, and, in so doing, we give our problems to the Lord, because, by the way we act, we are putting our ultimate trust IN the Lord, our Redeemer!

One of the best aspects of the gift of faith that God gives to you and me is how faith in God helps us in the tough times – and tough times that often are ANY kind of changing times – even times when there’s suddenly more good in our lives! We humans do not adapt to change very well, especially if the change was not our idea! One of my favorite passages of Scripture is when Paul writes to the Philippians from prison: “I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty.” Paul concludes, “In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and being in need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”… He said: “any and all circumstances….”

Well, over the last year you and I and our nation and world have gone through a lot of…“circumstances” shall we say, haven’t we? And, in the final 3 verses of this great psalm, David proclaims, in his own way, what Paul just proclaimed to us. David describes other people reacting, in a fleshly way, to tough times: “There are many who say, ‘O that we might see some good! Let the light of Your face, O Lord, shine on us!’” David encourages us with this spirited, faith-oriented response: “You [O God] have put gladness in my heart, more than when…grain and wine abound. I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for You alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.”

Isn’t that wonderful! It refreshes my spirit to see David’s spirit react to tough times in this fashion! You see David says, in verse 7, that God has put a greater gladness in his heart than ANY kind of gladness he would feel when times were good – as, for example, when “grain and wine” abounded.  It is clear that, like Paul, David was able, in faith, to “both lie down and sleep in peace” because, as he said to God, “for You alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety” – no matter the circumstances.

My friends, in these troubled times, let us let God “make us” – yes, “make us” –  “lie down in safety.” It’s time we gave our Creator full credit for the infinite knowledge and unconditional love that God possesses. It’s time we, as the Apostle Paul put it in chapter one of Philippians, realize Paul was addressing us, in this strange time, when he said, “God has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ,  but [the privilege] of SUFFERING FOR HIM AS WELL.” [Phil. 1:29] Let us not be afraid to take up the “privilege” of going through a little suffering at this time, and let us “lie down, and sleep in peace,” as well. Amen!

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