“Under Pressure” (John MacDiarmid)

Notes on Sermon Preached at PCF on 29 April 2012

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Reference: Psalm 3

As we continue our series in the book of Psalms – “Songs in the Key of Life” – we come to Psalm 3, a Psalm written by King David under a time of severe pressure.

1. David Under pressure

In order to fully understand a song, we have first of all to understand the person who wrote it, and the circumstances under which he wrote it.

David was, by any measurement a remarkable man. From humble shepherd stock, he was anointed King of Israel by Samuel, but it took many years before he came into his full inheritance. In the meantime he was a shepherd, a musician, a soldier, the Kings son in law, a royal courtier and an outlaw. Eventually, at age 30, he became king over all Israel, a remarkable promotion by God. Given God’s dealing with him it is inconceivable that he would put it at risk, but he seduced a beautiful woman, Bathsheba, covered it up and arranged for the murder of her husband. Throughout the rest of his reign the outworkings of this disobedience rumbled on.

There is much to learn here. When someone starts there life well, there is no guarantee that they will finish well. Even as Christians we have to live with the consequences of our sin. We live our Christian life one day at a time. David was a man of God – yet he was susceptible to temptation and sin. David is just like us

In the incident in question, David is reaping the consequences of years of being an indulgent father, when his handsome and charismatic son, Absalom, had literally been allowed to get away with murder. An encouragement for us all is that, though much of our pressure comes as a consequence of our own errors, God does not abandon us. Here David’s son has made an attempt for the throne, and David is on the run for his life. Late in life this is not what David expected. But at every stage of life we have to learn new lessons about following him. Past success in following God does not guarantee future success. Some of the hardest lessons can come at the end of our life.

2. You Under pressure

Although we do not necessarily have the same situation as David, nevertheless we know what it is to life under pressure. Maybe, like David, it is pressure that comes from our own weaknesses or past sins. If that is the case, be encouraged, God did not abandon David and he will not abandon you!

Or maybe it is the pressure of being involved in the Christian life and in Christian service. Ephesians 6 vividly paints the picture of conflict. The fact is, that to be a Christian is to be under pressure.

Or maybe it is simply the pressure of life. To live in any stage of life is to experience life’s pressure, whether it is the pressure of a job, or the pressure of unemployment, of financial stress or family life. The pressure of being young and single can be intense as can the pressure of being old and vulnerable.

Whatever our situation we know what it is to live under pressure? Is there help for us. Psalm 3 says “yes”.
As it says in Romans 8 “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”. Help is available, but we have to make choices in order to access it.

3. Help Under Pressure

David’s song take us through a series of choices that he makes in order to access the grace of God in his pressure cooker.

a) Face the Facts

O LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”
We have to be honest about the difficulties we face. If we are using our faith as a means to pretend that things are fine when they are not, then it is not faith at all. If we are going to see God’s grace help us in times of difficulty then we have to be realistic about the nature of the battles we face.

b) Look at the Reality

But you are a shield around me, O LORD;
you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.
Being honest about the situation we face sets the scene for looking with realism at the solution. David looks behind the situation he faces to the one who is his 360 degree shield, protecting David from harm. And he recognises that it is God himself who lifts David’s head and enables him to see things as they really are. This is not escapism – it is seeing matters as they really are, much as when Elijah prayed that his servants eyes would be opened to see the chariots of fire all round him.

c) Shape Pressure into Prayer

David then turns his pressure into prayer.
To the LORD I cry aloud,
and he answers me from his holy hill.
We must learn to bring our complaints, with honesty, emotion and integrity to God. And, as David points out there is no prospect of the prayer being unanswered.
Arise, O LORD!
Deliver me, O my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

David’s prayer for God to deliver him has to be understood in the context of a willingness to submit to God’s plan even if the situation does not change. And his prayer for God to take vengeance on the enemy seems harsh to us – but we must remember that David did not have the revelation that we should “Love our enemies and prayer for those who persecute us “ – that came with Jesus.

Facing facts, looking at reality and shaping our pressure into prayer are all key to seeing God’s grace released into our situation.

d) Live in the good of it

When we earnestly and sincerely bring our concerns to God, he has a promise that he is obliged to fulfil. “The peace of God which passes understanding” is God’s guarantee to his children who bring their concerns to Him. It is this peace that enables David to do a remarkable thing. When being terrorised by enemy troops and fleeing for your life, the last thing you would do is to lie down and sleep. But this is exactly what David does here, because he knows that God has his life in His hand. The challenge here is for us to live in the light of what we say we believe.
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.

e) Choose not to fear

I will not fear the tens of thousands
drawn up against me on every side.
Fear comes against the best of us. But we then have a choice about what we do with it. We can choose to give into it, or we can choose to resist it. This choice is the culmination of all the choices that David talks about in this song.

And finally…

From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.

There is a triumphant conclusion as David recognizes that it is God who gives deliverance – either deliverance form the situation or grace in it, and prayers that God’s people may in, all the stresses of life, experience the same. May it be so with us.

John MacDiarmid
April 2012

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