Happy are those who don’t listen to the wicked, who don’t go where sinners go, who don’t do what evil people do. They love the Lord’s teachings, and they think about those teachings day and night. They are strong, like a tree planted by a river. The tree produces fruit in season, and its leaves don’t die. Everything they do will succeed. But wicked people are not like that. They are like chaff that the wind blows away. So the wicked will not escape God’s punishment. Sinners will not worship with God’s people. This is because the Lord takes care of his people, but the wicked will be destroyed. Psalm 1
Strength and resilience takes time to develop. Consider the plants alongside a river bank. The small shoots are quickly washed away when the water rises and rushes along the banks. Only the strong or protected survive. Waters recede and roots grow deeper. Seedlings eventually – through trials, nourishment, and time – develop into towering trees. By appearance, they might seem to be precariously perched on the waters’ edge, ready to fall with a swift breeze, but the roots have dug deep. The tree survives because the roots have dug into unseen places of security. The roots provide the stability for the tree. Much of the tree is still exposed to the harsh elements of sun, wind, and water – elements that are also essential for nourishment, growth, and reproduction. What’s exposed and what’s hidden work together, providing for each other. One cannot flourish without the other.
Consider your life. Is it beautiful by the world’s standards but with little foundation underneath, precariously perched, awaiting disaster at the slightest trial?
Is it firmly rooted but battered from the world’s harsh treatment?
Is its growth stunted, desperately wanting growth but not able to get a firm hold in order to weather the elements and dig deep to find a firm hold of something solid? Is it longing for relief from too much sun, too much wind, or too much water – it’s just too much?
Life sometimes seems “too much.” The trials and situations are exhausting. We get soaked and exhausted by the rushing water. We are parched by the scorching heat. It is in those “too much” moments that the roots we’ve established are our only means of survival. When our roots have dug deeply, they provide stability. When our roots have dug deep, they provide a means for nourishment.
Psalm 1 refers to the difference between God’s people and wicked people. To clarify, it’s not what we do that determines that we’re godly or wicked. It’s our roots. God’s people will make bad decisions. God’s people aren’t perfect. God’s people are not always good. However, God’s people have roots in God’s presence. They look to God’s Word for guidance. They trust God for provision even in the bleakest situations. They realize they aren’t stable without the stability of God. They’re only courageous because God is courageous. They’re strong because God is strong. Their identity is firmly founded in God as Creator. Wicked people are also created by God. They’re not inherently in a worse situation. They weren’t simply given a bad life, full of insurmountable problems. The thing that categorizes them as wicked people is something that can be easily changed. It’s up to them. Wicked people do not look to God for purpose and sustenance. They either choose to ignore him or choose to disobey him. Either way, there is a choice, just as godly people make a choose to acknowledge and obey God.
Who are you choosing: God or yourself?
If you’re not choosing God, no matter what alternative you think you’re choosing, you’re choosing yourself. To choose God is to deny self. To choose anything other than God is to promote self.
Perhaps you gave the obvious “Sunday school answer” to the above question: Of course, you choose God. After all, if you’re a Christian, to admit anything else is simply wrong. Take a deep breath and let God challenge you. Perhaps you’ve chosen God for your life in general, but let’s get specific. Each of us has opportunities to grow every day.
In what areas do you most struggle with allowing God to have complete control?
Admitting your areas of weakness isn’t weak. It’s humble. Humility takes strength: God’s strength. Until you admit you have a tight grip on something in your life and pause to pry open your fingers long enough, God will not mercifully lift it from your hand. We often hold onto things in the dark that he wants to draw into his light so we can see his perspective and grow us through the realities of the situation.
God intends for us to be the salt and light of this world.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its salty taste, it cannot be made salty again. It is good for nothing, except to be thrown out and walked on. You are the light that gives light to the world. A city that is built on a hill cannot be hidden. And people don’t hide a light under a bowl. They put it on a lampstand so the light shines for all the people in the house. In the same way, you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and will praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)
Psalm 1 says God’s people “don’t listen to the wicked, don’t go where sinners go, don’t do what evil people do.” How is that possible? How can we be in the world but not of it?
When have you struggled with being the salt and light of the world yet not negatively influenced by it?
The key is discernment. God wants you to rely on him. He wants your attention and obedience. Where he will lead one person to be his salt and light, he will not lead another. He knows exactly what is needed for each person in each situation. It doesn’t mean you will never struggle. It doesn’t mean you will not be negatively impacted when you know you are supposed to be the salt and light in an ugly situation and you end up being pulled into the wickedness of it. We don’t have one simple choice as we stand at the crossroads that then determines everything else in our lives. We have a series of crossroads. We have immeasurable choices. We can be certain of a decision at one crossroads, then let our discernment muscles atrophy so that the next decision leads us straight into wickedness. We can then easily rationalize that “God led me here” looking back at the previous crossroads. God doesn’t insure smooth sailing after a single act of obedience. He requires continued obedience. In fact, growing in faith – developing discernment muscles – usually means more difficult decisions are ahead. Trusting God doesn’t make life easy. Trusting God highlights purpose in life, purpose beyond our understanding but within our grasp of joy. Trusting God means you can face things that are out of control without behaving in out of control ways.