Psalm 40:1-10, Luke 17:11-19
These past few weeks we’ve been hearing about the assurance of God’s presence in our lives. Last week we heard from Psalm 27 that no matter what trial or tribulation we run into, God will stand by us. No matter what problems or challenges come into our lives, we don’t stand alone. In fact, we heard that if God is with us we have no need for fear or worry, God has it covered. We’ve heard all about the promise and hope these Psalms place in front of us because of God’s never ending presence in our lives.
This week the Psalm begins with that same kind of thought but then carries it through to a defined conclusion. We hear in the beginning of today’s Psalm in V2, “2 He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.” Whatever has happened in our lives to drag us down, it is God who draws us back up and sets us aright. It’s important to note once again, who is doing the work here. It is God that is pulling us out of the mud and the muck and making all things new.
This is good news and it elicits a response of gratitude from the psalmist in v4, “4 Happy are those who make the Lord their trust, who do not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods.” When God drags us out of the desolate pit and the miry bog it is good to give God credit and to give thanks for being saved once again. In that gratitude we experience the joy that comes from knowing and acknowledging we are claimed by God.
This becomes a pivot point in what the psalmist is saying and a pivot point in our lives. The pivot point is all wrapped up in this verse. We can trust God or we can pursue other gods. The idea is really that simple. Choose your God. The one options promises happiness, the other not so much. Following our God, THE God, promises happiness. Following false gods simply does not.
It sounds all well and good and fairly simple and straightforward. Love and follow God, give God thanks and all will be well. Chase after false gods and life becomes a train wreck in fairly short order. Simple right? Make the right choice and everything works out. In a sense it is that simple but the actual living out a life of faith usually isn’t quite that simple and straightforward. There are all kinds of things that sneak into our days that work non-stop to keep us from living the life that God calls us to.
Part of the challenge is that God has expectations of us. God expects us to live out what we say we believe. God has saved us from the miry bog, God has saved us from the power of sin, God has taken away the hold that death might have on us. All of this through God’s gracious action. What can we do to earn it? Not a thing. Not one single thing can we do. But God does desire that we act a certain way. God does desire that we follow what we’ve been taught about our faith. God desires that we respond to the gift we’ve been given.
False gods make it a whole lot easier. False gods know all the ways to push our buttons to lead us away from our true God. False gods don’t need us to follow truth they just need us to follow. Here’s one way to know you’re following a false god. With false gods there are no expectations, just a life filled with promises of ease and comfort. In our hearts we know this is a load of garbage but somehow we let our brains convince us that it will be fine. It’s easier this way, follow the path of least resistance. The path of least resistance that leads us into the side of a train as it wrecks around us. That’s the kind of thing false gods are interested in seeing. Each of us surrounded by our own personal train wreck.
Our God, on the other hand, has a different plan for us. God wants to see us do well and to be happy. Not doing well in a material way or happy with material things but more along the line of being happy as people of faith. Seeing us comfortably living out our faith is what makes God happy, so to speak.
By comfortably living out our faith I mean living in a way that is a natural extension of our appreciation for what God has done for us. Serving God and serving others in such a way that it is just who we are.
Not some painful and sacrificial show we put on to look good to God and others. Can we sacrifice ourselves into making ourselves, much less God, happy? Nope. We can’t. And God isn’t so much interested either.
God isn’t interested in our sacrifices but instead has written our faith on our hearts. It really is who we are at the very core of our being. Baptism claims us into that faith and the rest of our lives are spent responding to God’s gifts. Not because of our sacrifice but because of our gratitude. We could take the easy way out and go follow whatever false god seemingly makes us happy (but really doesn’t). Or we can follow God and take seriously our faith.
What does that look like in reality? I think it varies from person to person and changes some over time. In general I think there is wisdom in reflecting on our prayer life, first and foremost. That’s how we talk with and hear from God. I also think there is wisdom in how much time we spend with the Bible, both reading and studying God’s word. I mean really, how can we know God unless we study the Bible, that is God revealed to us. It’s our best defense against silly social media and chain letter posts that make all kinds of ridiculous promises that have nothing to do with God but likely play into a false god kind of thing. Our giving is important. It’s important in lots of ways but today I’m thinking more along the lines of making sure that our money doesn’t take on the role of a false god in our lives. Service to others is certainly a part of taking our faith seriously. Lots of opportunities coming up for that in the next few weeks.
That’s the short list anyway. You may have other ways to take your faith seriously and that’s a good thing. In this coming week, give some thought to the things you can do to follow God and avoid following false gods.