In The Ring: Maneuvering (Psalm 25)

MOTIVATE

There’s a story of battleships training at sea maneuvers.[1] One dark night visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all the ship’s activities.

Late at night, a lookout reported, “Light! It’s bearing on the starboard bow.” The captain called out, “Is it steady or swaying?”

The lookout replied, “Steady, Captain.” If a ship at sea noticed another ship’s steady light, it meant they were on a collision course with that ship. So, the Captain instructed the lookout to signal the other ship.

The lookout communicated over the air channels, “Our ships are aligned, and we advise you to change course twenty degrees.”

A communication signal was returned with, “Sorry, we advise you to change course twenty degrees.” This communication was repeated two additional times.

The captain took hold of communications and said, “I am the captain. With whom am I speaking that is not following my orders?”

The response was “This is seaman second-class. I still advise you to change course.”

At this time, the captain is furious and with raised voice shouts, “I am Captain of our Navy’s fiercest battleship. Change course or face the consequences.”

A flashing light was returned with the under ranked seaman stating, “Captain, I am a lighthouse. We cannot change course. Please advise.”

You can imagine the increased propeller speed and sizeable waves that resulted in the battleship’s maneuvering its new direction.

  • Our series is In The Ring. So far: Discovering. Anchoring. Nurturing. Today is Maneuvering.
    • Everyone is on a journey that requires spiritual maneuvering. You will face winding paths, hills to climb, slippery slopes, tripping hazards, roadblocks, and holes to fall in. You will even face divergent paths where you must choose.
    • The question will not be how many times you were fooled and had to turn around, or how many times did you fall, or even how fast you go.
    • The key to our journey is to keep moving and maneuvering to reach the destination.
      • Php 3:13 “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press onward to the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”   
    • Every person has pressures and problems.
    • Every family face trials and troubles.
    • But faith in God makes all the difference.

Let’s review our text to discern 3 traits to help us maneuver and move forward in our journey. 

EXAMINE               Psalm 25

of David
1  To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
2  O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.
3  Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
4  Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
5  Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
6  Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.
7  Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!
8  Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9  He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
10  All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11  For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12  Who is the man who fears the LORD? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13  His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14  The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.
15  My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
16  Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
17  The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.
18  Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.
19  Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me.
20  Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
21  May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.
22  Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.

Maneuvering the journey of faith requires a teachable spirit.

First, we note this was a Psalm of David when he was in trouble. It could be any number of multiple moments when David faced challenges or conflict and needed the Lord’s strength and guidance. David did not breeze through life without feeling weak knees, sweaty palms, or a pounding heart of fear.

Likewise, nor have you or me. The normal Christian life has moments of complication, difficulty, and suffering. The question is not when we will face hardship but how we handle it.  

For David, he prayed to not be shamed by trusting the Lord: 1  To you,
O LORD, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. He relied on God’s faithfulness to answer prayer and work good in his life. Ultimately, David remained teachable.

David’s teachability was reflected by this psalm in two ways:

  1. Psalm 25 is an acrostic. The purpose is poetic and implying something like a student practicing lessons from the teacher. David wants to know and follow the Lord.
  2. David’s prayers in vv. 4-10 reflect his request for guidance.
    1. 4  Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
      5  Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
      8  Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
      9  He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
      10  All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

David’s teachability stands in frequent contrast to the way many people pray to God today. Many people want to teach God and tell the Lord how He should organize our circumstances and operate our comfort. But God does not follow us, He calls us to follow Him.

  • Job 21:22 “Can anyone teach knowledge to God, since He judges on high?”

Ways to cultivate a teachable spirit

  • Allow others to speak first. Choosing to listen reflects unselfishness and values people and their views. Many say they want to learn but they don’t want to be taught bc their pride and competitive spirit doesn’t sit still to listen.
    • Prov 18:2 “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
  • Ask questions. Be willing to learn about different perspectives, even one’s you disagree. We will not be able to persuade others to faith if we do not understand a person’s objections. Jesus was a masterful question-asker.
  • Accept instruction and correction.
    • Amazing how friends ask for help or advice but when it is offered, they get offended or explain how you’re wrong.
    • Prov 9:9 “Instruct a wise person, and they will be wiser still; teach a righteous person, and they add learning.”
    • Receiving reproof is wise but rejecting it is foolish, stupid, and dangerous (Prov 1:23; 6:23; 10:17; 12:1; 13:18; 15:5, 10; 29:1, 15).
  • Align with others who are wise. There’s a saying, “Always being the smartest person in the room is dumb.” We need to seek environments to learn from others rather than staying comfortable and complacent. Instead of being envious we need to become eager to become better.
    • Prov 13:20 “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.”
  • Being unteachable is reflected by
    • isolation from others (especially during difficulty);
    • insulating with people who always agree and afraid to challenge you;
    • impatient and expecting immediate results with very little learning or work, or seldom praying before/during acting.
    • blameshifting and bitterness instead of taking responsibility and learning from mistakes.
       

Every person and family has trouble, but the key is to remain teachable. Prov 11:29-30 “Whoever troubles their own household will inherit the wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and a wise person wins friends/souls.”

We can win arguments but lose people. We win people not by foolishly sowing into the wind, but by learning when and where to plant seeds, and continue “ANCHORING” and “NURTURING” and “MANEUVERING” as necessary. 

  • Where do you need to stop sowing into the wind and maneuvering to plant in better soil?

Maneuvering the journey of faith requires a vulnerable spirit. 

David makes interesting requests about God’s memory.

  • 6  Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. 7  Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
  • 11  For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great.

David wants God to remember His steadfastness but not his sin. The words “mercy” and “love” are in the plural, and therefore could be translated “multiple acts of mercy and love”[2] David’s vulnerable confession is, “LORD, my sin is significant since my youth, but your forgiving grace is more than sufficient and everlasting.” He’d agree with the apostle Paul who said, “where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Ro 5:20-21).

For David, faith wasn’t merely a crutch to pull out for a coping mechanism during difficult moments; faith was a stretcher to carry him from start to finish of his life. David’s prayer frequently addressed (10x) the covenant name of God – LORD (25:1, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15).

God’s forgiving grace was not just for humanity’s escape of consequences as it is about God’s gracious character.
Yet, the result of forgiveness is still for sinners to be instructed and follow the right way and walk the good path of the Lord

  • 8  Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
    9  He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
    10  All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

God’s love not only forgives us when we go down the wrong path, but it fuels us to maneuver in the right direction.

God’s love not only forgives us when we go down the wrong path, but it fuels us to maneuver in the right direction. David was confident in his faith because He had a vulnerable spirit. He was humble and feared the LORD, and walked with God. 25:14 is key:

14 The friendship [secret counsel or inward friendship[3]] of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.

David had many gifts: fighting power, military strategy, kingly administration, and artistic creativity. But his greatest ability was his humility and vulnerability.

Ways to cultivate a vulnerable spirit:

  • Be available.[4] God incarnated among humanity. Jesus invested his days camping with twelve disciples. His interactions and lifestyle influenced his friends that they repeated the pattern and changed the world. Vulnerability is the currency for productivity and victory.[5]
  • Not everyone must accept an invitation to be on a churchwide panel 😊. But you should be moving toward availability in a small group. What prevents you from participating in a “family group”?
  • Affirm boundaries.[6] Vulnerability does not require spilling your guts to every person you meet. Vulnerability without limits is lethal.
  • Avoid spin. Once again, everyone is going through something, and we do not need to spin conversations as if everything is “FINE.”[7] The stereotypical strong person who has it all together isn’t reality. Acknowledging limitations should not be forced or fake, but in casual conversations we can discuss our hopes, struggles, and fears. The person who can normalize weakness will not only endear themselves to others but become more effective to surround themselves with others who can support and complement with their own strengths.  
  • Demonstrate affection. When we communicate care, we open ourselves to either reception or rejection. Affection expresses the desire to advance deeper in the relationship. We can do this personally… but we often wait until a crisis (like near death) before we engage and value relationships the way we really crave and need.[8]
    • “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”[9]
    • We can also demonstrate affection spiritually when we meaningfully pray, responsively sing, and attentively engage in worship. Practicing vulnerability is a key to spiritual maturity.[10]

Maneuvering the journey of faith requires an indomitable spirit.

One of the items I love about the psalms is their passion. They have the highs and lows but they press forward.

David closes Ps 25 with an indomitable persistence.

15  My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
16  Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
17  The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.
18  Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.
19  Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me.
20  
Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
21  May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.
22  Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.

David confesses feeling stuck (feet out of the net).

  • Like a bad paper jam in a copy machine that causes you to begin talking to the machine to convince it to release the paper and begin working again… hypothetical of course!
  • Like a monotonous job that you dream of doing anything else, but you can’t let go because of the economic risks.
  • Like a spousal relationship that seems like you’re more like stranger roommates in the house without affection, intimacy, or even much care at all.
  • Like a parent dealing with a child who is painfully stubborn and relentlessly staking ground and building walls that are tearing the heart of a family and causing endless dysfunction.

Remember, the psalmist can identify with almost every family embarrassment, bother, or burden you can imagine. In 25:16, he confesses loneliness in affliction – like no one understands – and in 25:19 that everyone around him is different, better, or out to get him. Yet, it is these emotions that the psalmist yields to a persevering faith (see vv.16-22 again). He pleads to God for rescue, being a refuge, and redeeming circumstances so what is meant for loss can be transformed to gain.

Ways to cultivate an indomitable spirit:

  • Prioritize tackling problems rather than procrastinating them. (Eat The Frog / Twain)
  • Practice remembering: answered prayers, blessings, calling… gratefulness fuels the grind.   
  • Charge up after being emptied out. There is no substitute for personal prayer and purposeful Bible study.

APPLY/THINK

Illus: The Blue Angels will soon be doing their annual show and flyover in Annapolis Naval Academy towards the end of May. People enjoy watching these jets because they fly fast up to 700 mph (125+mph faster than commercial plane), and because they maneuver in unique formations, often within 18” of each other while spinning and turning.

The Blue Angels pilots can maneuver in tight or troublesome circumstances because they have put in hundreds of hours of practice. A pilot cannot be considered to join the Blue Angels until they have flown 1,250 tactical hours, and multiple interviews and rigorous evaluations. Once they become a pilot, they fly twice a day for six days a week for majority of the year to practice, not to mention countless other hours studying and training outside the cockpit.

20  Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. 21  May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.

David’s waiting on the LORD was not wasted but spent intentionally devoted to walking with God. God was not segmented from David’s days or weeks, but included in every area of His life. Likewise, the Christian’s power comes through persevering practice of prayer. We maneuver the spiritual journey through daily spiritual rhythms.

David’s waiting on the LORD was not wasted but spent intentionally devoted to walking with God. We maneuver the spiritual journey through daily spiritual rhythms.

  • What’s hampering your maneuverability in the faith journey?
  • Is your soul lifted to the LORD or something else?

[1] Adapted from In the Eye of the Storm by Max Lucado, Word Publishing, 1991, p. 153

[2] Expositors Bible Commentary, Psalm 25:6.

[3] https://biblehub.com/hebrew/5475.htm

[4] https://renovare.org/articles/practicing-availability-and-vulnerability

[5] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/19/vulnerability-can-make-you-more-successful.html

[6] https://ideas.ted.com/how-to-be-vulnerable-at-work-without-spilling-everything-from-brene-brown/

[7] FINE: Frustrated. Insecure. Neurotic. Emotional.

[8] For more, see https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_the_power_of_vulnerability/transcript

[9] C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves.

[10] https://research.lifeway.com/2019/09/24/5-ways-to-cultivate-vulnerability-in-your-small-group/

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