September 6, 2021
We live in a world that’s becoming increasing evil. That sad thing is that’s really not news to most of us. It’s like our world is going crazy. The latest thing that confirmed this for me was hearing that beginning in October the Human Rights Commission of San Francisco will begin paying criminals $300 a month not to shoot people. Now that’s crazy! But then think about what’s been happening in Portland, Oregon. Just about every weekend you can count on Antifa or some other group to protest or fight or destroy property. They are ruining that city. In fact, right now Portland has a crime rate index of 2. A safe crime rate index is 100. That means as of today, Portland is safer than only 2% of the cities in our country. But they are now the poster-child for the escalating evil in our world.
But there’s another element of evil that’s on the rise today and that’s this: cancel culture. Here’s one definition of cancel culture: Cancel culture is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Cancel culture is a new form of boycotting or public shaming that can ruin a career, destroy a reputation, or force you to accept things you never thought you’d accept. And Americans are feeling the effects of this public shaming in all kinds of realms: from free speech being canceled on college campuses, to public shaming over masks or no masks, vaccines or no vaccines, and with whole states being forced to allow transgender males compete against girls in athletic competitions. And this public shaming is stirring up hatred, division and even violence. We live in a world that’s becoming increasingly evil.
So what’s our place in all this? What would God have us do when evil seems to be winning the day? How are we to live in the face of evil? Are we just to run away and hide? Are we to stand and fight? What does God’s Word have to say about: Living by Faith in the Face of Evil Well, that’s what I want to help us discover today from God’s Word. So if you have your Bible with you today, let me encourage you to turn to Psalm 37. Our passage today is Psalm 37:1-9, where God used David’s encounter with and evil man, to gain perspective on how we can live by faith in the face of evil.
David’s encounter with this evil man is recorded in 1 Samuel 25. David and his men were living in the wilderness of Paran protecting shepherds from the wild tribes who would try to steal their flocks and plunder their villages. One of the flocks David was protecting were the flocks of a man named Nabal. Nabal was wealthy. So when shearing time came, David sent some of his men to collect a little compensation for their help. But Nabal was evil. So, when David’s men came to Nabal, he treated them with contempt and refused to give them anything. Once word got back to David this is how he responded: “It has been useless – all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him.” 1 Samuel 25:21-22 David was ticked. And rightly so. He was ready to annihilate Nabal for his greed. But then something happened to change David’s mind. God intervened by sending Nabal’s wife, Abigail to appease David. She had just come from giving David’s men all they needed and now she came to David to intercede for her husband. And God used her to turn away David’s anger. And then, ten days later, God took matters into His own hands and struck Nabal dead and Abigail then became David’s wife. From this encounter David wrote these words recorded for us in Psalm 37
Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. Psalm 37:1-9
From this passage God gives us at least 6 things we can do in the face of evil. Six ways we can live by faith in the face of evil. The first thing God would have us do is this:
TRUST “Trust in the Lord and do good” Psalm 37:3a The idea here is that rather than get all worked up about the evil you can’t control, you are to trust in the One who is in control, The Lord – Yahweh. He exists for the good of those who trust in Him.
So, this command to trust in the Lord and do good, calls us to keep our eyes on the Lord who has promised good to us. Trust that He is in control, and don’t let the evil in this world control you. In other words, a fretful person doesn’t trust in God’s goodness. He doesn’t believe God exists for his good. A fretful person doesn’t let go of life’s burdens. She carries them all herself and always takes difficulties into her own hands. A fretful person doesn’t take time to rest before God. He is too busy. She’s too preoccupied. He’s too consumed with trying to fix things, so much so, that he acts as if God doesn’t exist. As a result, a fretful person becomes so controlled by his anger, fears or worries, that he refuses to trust God with whatever evil he’s facing.
So, the first way we are to live by faith in the face of evil is to exercise faith. Hold on to your knowledge that God is good. Do you remember how we looked at the goodness of God two weeks ago? God is abundant in goodness. The Lord, the Lord God is merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth. Exodus 34:6 His goodness is found in His mercy to rebellious sinners. His goodness is found in His grace to the undeserving. His goodness is seen in His incredible slowness to anger towards those who do evil. And His goodness is experienced in His abundance of blessing to all mankind. Our God is an endless, abundant fountain of goodness that cannot be contained. And He pursues you with His goodness.
So, if you are fretting right now, if you’re worried about the growing evil in our world, God’s Word gives you something to do about it: stop fretting, start trusting in the Lord who is always good to you, and start doing good in your world. This isn’t the only Scripture that commands this. In the book of Romans this is what we are commanded to do in the face of evil: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 So then, we are to give mercy to those who deserve judgment. You are to forgive those who wrong you. We are not to seek revenge, rather look for ways to bless the people who have wronged you. After all, that’s what God did for you. He could have condemned you, instead He forgave you and adopted you as His own, and gave you every blessing in Christ. In a world of evil, our calling is to do good, to turn the tide of evil with mercy, grace, kindness and love. But it starts with trusting in the Lord, who is always good to you, and then letting His goodness flow through you.
That’s how God would have us live by faith in the face of evil. Trust in the Lord and do good. How else then are we to live by faith in the face of evil? We are to
DWELL “Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” Psalm 37:3b This command calls us to live securely right where God has planted us. Don’t run away. Stay put and enjoy safe pasture. This is shepherd language. This could be translated, “tend faithfulness” or “feed on faithfulness.” To grasp this a little clearer, we just need to think of the 23rd Psalm. The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:1-4
The thought here is to live with the knowledge that our God is a shepherd. He is faithful. He will provide all your needs. He will give you rest. He will restore your soul. He will always be with you to protect you and care for you. Let’s take just one image of His care for you, “He leads me besides quiet waters.”
The quiet waters are springs where the sheep can drink without being rushed. The Hebrew word David uses here is the word “menuha” translated as quiet or rest. To the Hebrew ear “quiet waters” pictures a life without strife, fighting, fear and distrust. It is a picture of peace and harmony. To the Hebrew mind, the essence of the good life is menuha. This is how we are to dwell. This is how we are to live in the face of evil. We are to feed on God’s faithfulness in caring for us. We live in a world that’s growing more evil – with strife, fighting, fear and distrust. But we don’t have to live there. If we dwell securely with our God, we will stay close to the Shepherd. We’ll enjoy safe pasture. We’ll remain secure in world of strife.
Sometimes we forget that we can enjoy the peace of God in the presence of evil. He’s there to care for you. Trust that He will never leave you nor forsake you and will always be there to protect you. That’s the second way God would have us live by faith in the face of evil. Live in the security of His faithful presence. Now, let’s look at a third way we can live by faith in the face of evil?
DELIGHT “Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 This command urges us to find our great delight in life by delighting in the God of life. Now, to some of you this might seem to be a strange command. But if you start to think about it, taking delight in God may be the most natural thing for us to do. Think about the things we delight in: We take delight in our children, our grandchildren. We delight in being with our spouses. I remember how I knew Becky was the one. I just wanted to be with her. It didn’t matter what we did, play softball together, walk on the beach, watch a movie together. We took delight in holding hands and just being together. We live for delight. Taking delight is at the core of what it means to be human. Some of you take delight in creating things like pottery or photography or woodworking. Some of you take delight in traveling or reading or laughing with friends. We delight in taking delight. It’s what makes life rich and full. So, if God made us to experience delight and God gave us so much to delight in, then maybe the source of delight might be worth taking delight in!
Listen to how John Piper explains this: “Once we had no delight in God, and Christ was just a vague historical figure. What we enjoyed was food and friendships and productivity and investments and vacations and hobbies and games and reading and shopping and sex and sports and art and TV and travel… but not God. He was an idea – even a good one and a topic for discussion; but He was not a treasure of delight. Then something miraculous happened. It was like the eyes of the blind opened during the golden dawn. First the stunned silence before the unspeakable beauty of holiness. Then a shock and terror that we had actually loved the darkness. Then the settling stillness of joy that this is the soul’s end. The quest is over. We would give anything if we might be granted to live in the presence of this glory forever and ever.
This world leaves us empty and wanting. It fails to fully satisfy. Only God can satisfy the longings of your heart… So a big question for each of you this morning is this: Do you believe this? Do you believe that God is the source of all that is good, all pleasure, all joy, all happiness and complete satisfaction? We waste far too much energy and life obsessing on evil, complaining, arguing, and fretting. Yes, our world is broken. Yes, there is much injustice and suffering in our world. But God doesn’t want evil to steal your joy. So, maybe it’s time to make God our delight. Learn to enjoy Him, praise Him and love Him. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Let Him satisfy your heart. After all your heart was made for Him. So, take delight in the Lord. That’s one thing you can do that evil cannot take away. That’s how you can live by faith in the face of evil.
Ok, so far we’ve looked at three things we can do in the face of evil:
We can trust in the Lord and do good
We can dwell in the land and enjoy His faithful love
We can take delight in the Lord. So what’s next? We can…
COMMIT “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:5-6 This command to “commit” your way to the Lord is really a very tangible way to work out your trust in the Lord. For this word “commit” actually means “to roll one’s way onto God.”
Here’s the image this conveys: You take whatever burden that’s weighing you down and remove it from your shoulders and lay it on God’s shoulders. He is more than able to carry your burdens. This is virtually the same command Paul gives us 1 Peter saying, Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
In other words, God expects us as His children to be children and to put ourselves completely under His Fatherly care. And if we can do this, then we’re free. God knows your concerns. God knows your fears. God knows your frustrations. And God knows the injustices of this world that concern you today. But He doesn’t want you to carry what He’s equipped to carry. Commit your way to the Lord.
I learned this one years ago, and I do a little exercise in prayer that helps me to do this. Whatever I am worried about, whatever I am dreading, fearing, or anything that’s beyond my control… I’ve simple learned to open my hands in prayer and give it to Him. Sometimes that’s not easy. It means giving to Him the stuff I’m carrying, and doing it over and over and over again… until I’m no longer taking it back. What about you? Are you worried? Is there some evil that’s weighing you down? What are you holding onto? Let it go, let it roll off your shoulders onto God’s. Give your burdens to Him. That’s the fourth way God would have you live by faith in the face of evil. He’d have you live free by letting Him carry your burdens because He cares for you. God wants you free, the evil one wants you to be a slave to fear.
Now, the fifth way you can live by faith in the face of evil. You can… WAIT In verse 7, David says it this way: Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Psalm 37:7 This one may be the hardest for us to do. Most of us want to do something to change our circumstances, to right what is wrong. We don’t like waiting. We want God to fix the world now. We want God to end human trafficking. We want God to end the violence in our cities. We want God to remove tyrants and terrorists in our world. We want God to give us a cure for cancer and covid. And we want God to end the senseless slaughter of innocents in the womb. But we don’t like waiting on God to work. We want Him to work right now.
And yet, here He tells us here HOW we are to wait on Him to work: By being still before Him. We are to literally “quiet ourselves” before the Lord. The best picture that portrays this quietness is of an infant snuggled in the arms of his mother. He’s content, warm and safe and secure in her arms. He has no fears or wants. He looks with love into his mother’s eyes and smiles. And she smiles at him. This is what our waiting is to be like. When we rest in our Father’s arms, there are no worries, there is no fretting, only peace: The sheer contentment of being loved and knowing that our God has everything under control. Sometimes I think, of all the ways we are to live by faith in the face of evil, this is the one way that honors God the most. For when we are quiet before Him, there is only Him… and us. We are no longer striving, we are no longer fretting, we are safe and secure, held in the grip of His grace.
Perhaps, one of the reasons we are not seeing God work to eradicate evil is that we don’t know how to wait. Think about all those who are called heroes of the faith who waited: Abraham, waited for years for God to give Sarah a son. Moses, waited forty years in the wilderness before God called him to deliver Israel. Israel who waited 70 years in captivity before God brought them back to the land. And David, who was ready to take matters into his own hands, was convinced to wait, and then God worked. It’s hard for us to wait patiently before the Lord. But remember, this is how He wants us to live in the face of evil. He wants us to wait. This is how we are to trust in Him. This is how we are to dwell in the land and feed on faithfulness. This is how we are to take Delight in Him. We are to give our burdens to Him, and then wait on Him to work. In a “You can do it culture, waiting on God to do it, is hard for us. We are people of action. We are people who want results now. But God wants us to be still and wait on Him. This may be the one thing God wants most from us today. To wait on Him. And guess what? This takes faith. This then is how God calls us to live by faith in an age of evil. And this then leads to the final thing God would have us do in the face of evil, and that is this:
REFRAIN Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. Psalm 37:8-9
We live in a world that is becoming increasingly evil. We see it. We hear it. We feel it. And it makes us angry. But God would never have us act on anger. God would not have us add to the evil by doing evil ourselves. Anger only leads to evil.
So those who live by faith in the face of evil will have nothing to do with anger. For God has given us a different way to live – by faith, by trusting in Him to work. So my question for us today is this: Will you live by faith in the face of evil?
Will you trust God to work?
Will you trust His ways or your ways?
How you answer that reveals who you truly trust. This is a hard message. We want to do something. And yet God has shown us what He would have us do in the face of evil:
Trust in Him
Feed on His faithfulness
Take Delight in Him
Cast your cares on Him
Be still before Him
And refrain from anger
So where do we begin?
I believe God may have us begin with repentance.
What is repentance? It’s turning from doing life our way to start doing life His way.
Maybe you’ve been trusting in yourself and fretting about everything. God would have you stop fretting and start trusting so that He can do good through you.
Maybe you’ve been living with strife, fear and distrust. This world’s been getting the best of you. God would have you feed on His faithfulness and let Him give you peace. He would have you rest in His security and love.
Maybe you’ve tried to control everything, carry every burden. Maybe it’s time you roll them off your shoulders onto God’s and let Him carry them.
Maybe you’ve frustrated because you’ve tried to find satisfaction from the things of the world, and you’re afraid you won’t get the desires of your heart. Maybe it’s time to turn to the source of all our desires and take delight in Him.
Or maybe you’ve been dealing with impatience and wanting to fix everything yourself. Maybe it’s time to surrender everything to the God who holds you with His love and wait on Him to work.
I don’t know exactly what God may be calling you to do today. But I do know this. Our God has overcome the evil in this world. He did it when He gave us Jesus to die for us. So take heart, God is in control. God is the source of all peace and all peace. And there’s nothing He cannot do for you, if you trust Him. Let Him fight your battles, carry your burdens, and restore your joy today. Trust in Him, take delight in Him, rest in Him and wait on Him as His beloved child. Let’s pray.