(Based on Psalm 40: 1–3)
The world moves at the fingertips of people today. It is fast. This quick-paced life has brought benefits. But it has also affected the spiritual life of Christians. One important change that has come in the life of believers as a result of being influenced by the fast-paced life is the disappointment caused by false expectations. By false expectations it is meant unrealistic expectations and not wrong expectations. And it is best reflected in their relationship with God.
A relationship with God is in most ways comparable to a relationship with another human being. It takes time to make a relationship work and become fruitful for both concerned. There are no shortcuts. But the fast-paced life has set unrealistic expectations. People tend to get disappointed when God does not act at once. In other words, believers run out of patience very quickly. They are not ready to wait for God.
The Psalmist, on the other hand, waited patiently for God. During this waiting period he might have endured discouragement because of the delay in getting his prayer answered. He might have doubted whether it was worthwhile waiting for God’s answer. He may also have attempted to solve his problems by himself. In spite of all this he waited.
Then it is said that God turned to him and heard his cry. Now, the question, “What was God doing all this time?” can be asked. Though we cannot exactly know the reasons for the delay, a few of them might be easily guessed. During times of delay, God allows the Christian to learn that there are no easy answers to struggles of faith. The battles are real. A Christian definitely needs to learn that Christian life is no fairy-tale-ending. Another reason is that God wants the Christian to know that by himself he cannot fight and win the battle against sin and sinful nature. This understanding caused the Psalmist to describe his position as being in a slimy pit full of mud and mire. Any attempt to get out of that pit was useless. The moment one thought that he was out of it, he would find himself slipping down further.
But the Christian can learn all this during patient waiting only. During this time he attempts to get out of the pit many times. He makes new resolutions after each failure, gathers strength and tries again and again. But he fails. Then there comes a time when he realizes that if ever he will get out of the slimy pit, it has to be entirely God’s doing. It is then that God acts.
God now sees the fruit of patience developing in His child. He steps in and lifts him out of the slimy pit and out of the mud and mire. Sometimes years would have passed by before the Christian would have developed the fruit of patience in his life. And the time that God choses to step in is the time when a Christian would have learned to appreciate a world free from mud and mire. The fact is that many Christians just love to be in the slimy pit. That to them is comfortable. And God usually does not step in to deliver a Christian; until he badly longs to get out of the slimy pit.
Again, God moves a step further. The Christian might have just desired to get out of the slimy pit. He might have not thought of anything beyond that. But God wants His children to be in places of strength and security. He sets the feet of the Psalmist on a rock. The Psalmist says that God gave him a firm place to stand.
What is the significance of this move by God? It is a question worth asking. The essence of this act of God is that, God is not satisfied with just deliverance. He wants His children to be strong in Him. It is for this that He places them on a rock. Imagine the difference between a person in a slimy pit and a person standing on a rock. A person in a slimy pit struggles to maintain his balance. But a person standing on a rock is steady. He can make progress from that firm place. Whereas the person in the slimy pit always remains in a position of struggling. His energies are thus used unproductively. But the person on a rock is free to move forward.
It is therefore not surprising that a Christian who finds this new-found freedom sings. Again, he sings not old songs, but a new song. This new song is also given to him by God. See, God celebrates victories. And one of the best ways He does it is by putting a new song in your mouth. He not only delivers you but also enables you to praise Him in song.
And it is when you sing God’s praises, celebrating the deliverance that God gave you, that others will note the difference it has made in your life. They would suddenly note that such a deliverance was impossible by your own strength or effort. Immediately they will acknowledge God’s hand in that deliverance. They will then fear the Lord your God and put their trust in Him.
This is the blessed fruit of patience. And this is the story of God lifting you up out of the slimy pit and placing you on a rock!