Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1: 1-3)
In 2023 we experienced the driest Spring and Summer in England for many years. In fact, on some days temperatures exceeded 40 degrees, which is unprecedented in this country. As a result, grass once green and lush was now an orangey brown and many ponds and streams had dried up. When I took my grandchildren to a local park it was unrecognizable as the beautiful place it once was, with dry earth and dead grass instead of the grassy slopes which had always characterized it.
Our local ‘dew pond’, which a few months ago had been full of water with ducks swimming there, was now completely empty, with only dry, cracked earth and no ducks.
We were officially experiencing drought, and there was concern about the future, with regard to food production and water shortages. Many are living in fear of our natural resources – which we have all taken for granted – running out. Towards the end of the summer we had a day of quite heavy rain, and it was so refreshing and uplifting to see areas of grass beginning to show green again. It reminded me of how dependent we are upon God for life-giving water.
Yet Psalm 1 tells us that those who set their hearts and minds on God, and who delight in Him, are resourced by the living water which flows from the heart of God. A constant supply of blessing which never runs dry. So what are these blessings which come to the ‘righteous person’?
‘Our leaves do not wither’. The leaves remain fresh and green, even in drought conditions. When trials and pressures come, although we may still be affected, we have hope, strength, peace and God-given wisdom. We will not collapse under the strain. A close friend of mine, who is suffering from Motor Neurone Disease, is a living testimony of this. Now living in a Nursing Home, despite her weakening physical condition she is at peace in her spirit, trusting God for the strength she needs each day. Rather than becoming consumed by fear she is resting in God’s love, and moreover is sharing her faith with other residents by holding a weekly ‘Songs of Praise’ meeting.
‘Whatever he does prospers’. This, I believe, means that if we are aligned with the will of God everything we do will come from our relationship with Him and we will find joy and fulfilment in it. Our lives will be purposeful and productive. We will be able to maintain focus and clear vision even when there is confusion and fear in the world around us. Psalm 37 expresses it thus: ‘The days of the blameless are known to the Lord, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither, in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.’ (Psalm 37:18 &19 NIV)
Our needs will always be met, sometimes supernaturally, because we stay close to the Lord and listen to Him. I believe this also includes protection. Some friends of mine who travel to various places in the UK preaching, teaching and ministering, are a real example of this. They described how, on one occasion, they were due to travel to Bedfordshire to lead a Bible study but severe weather conditions meant that motorists were advised not to travel unless essential. There was a hurricane forecast. They prayed and asked the Lord to show them if they should cancel the meeting, but sensed He was telling them to travel as planned and to depend on Him for their safety. They made the journey unscathed, and shared later that debris was being blown all around their car, but not one object actually touched them. They declared that the safest place to be was in the will of God.
‘He is like a tree planted by the water which yields its fruit in season’.
We will show kindness and generosity to others, giving help and encouragement to those who need it. A true example of this was a dear friend, now passed away, who never failed to have time to listen to those with problems and needs and whose gift of hospitality meant that not a week went by without her welcoming folks into her home, whether to offer a listening ear, counsel and comfort to friends going through challenges, to welcome a newcomer into the area, looking after neighbours’ children or providing a meal for someone needing friendship and support.
We will hold fast to God’s Word and live by it, demonstrating honour and trustworthiness, truth and wisdom, in every situation acting with integrity. Our outliving of the love of God will provide a safe place to which others are drawn.
How can we achieve this? How do we ‘delight in the Lord’?
Once we have accepted Him into our lives as Saviour and Lord we need to develop our relationship with Him, nurture it and allow it to grow. The phrase ‘dwell in His presence’ is often used, or ‘being in the secret place’ with Him. This requires commitment and many of us find it difficult, but really I feel it is like knowing Him as a friend, while maintaining an awareness of His awesomeness, power and holiness. Psalm 25: 14 says ‘The Lord confides in those who fear Him; he makes His covenant known to them. (NIV)How amazing that the Creator of the universe loves us as individuals and desires our friendship!
It is about placing Him at the centre of our lives and allowing everything we do to flow from our relationship with Him. I have expressed this in varying ways through the Reflections in this book but in summary I believe the necessary disciplines include the following:
- Praising and worshipping God for who He is; acknowledging His greatness, holiness, majesty and power and maintaining an attitude of thankfulness and praise.
- Reading and meditating on His Word, the Bible, so it becomes part of us, shaping our thoughts, words and actions.
- Talking to Him in prayer and listening for His response, following through with what He tells us; bringing all our needs to Him, trusting Him in every situation as a faithful God who hears our prayers; giving thanks for His love and provision.
- Keeping short accounts with God. Being quick to seek forgiveness when we have done wrong and also forgiving those who have hurt us.
- Being ready to obey Him if we sense He is asking us to do something and trusting that He will equip us to do the task; not beating ourselves up if we fail, but coming to Him for forgiveness, renewed strength and encouragement to get up and try again. Be honest with Him about our struggles and fears.
- Keeping in mind that we are in a spiritual battle with an enemy who wants to discourage us to the point of giving up, but believing that God has given us the victory through Christ Jesus; putting on our ‘spiritual armour’ (Ephesians 6: 11-18), and standing firm on the truths we believe.
- Stay focused, always remembering that God has set a particular path unique to us, or ‘race’ as described in Hebrews 12:1. We are encouraged to run that race with patience and endurance, our goal being to complete the course and enter into the presence of Jesus to receive our heavenly reward.
If this seems like a tall order, or an impossible task, take heart! To reiterate the message in “The Good Steward” , we are not expected to do it on our own…that is impossible. But God is for, not against us. He is patient, loving and understanding. His Spirit is in us to help, guide, strengthen and encourage us. And Jesus is waiting at the finish line to welcome us.
Praise God! Let me encourage you to keep going on your journey of faith with Him.
This Reflection opened with Psalm 1. Similar thoughts are expressed in Psalm 92, with beautiful imagery, also of trees and plants:
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright, He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him’. (Psalm 92: 12-15: NIV)
I praise you for your love, your Word and your faithfulness. I want to be constantly resourced by your living water so I produce good fruit and stay fresh and green. Please help me to remain in your presence and be a living testimony to your goodness.