Oh that I Would…
You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.
Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!
You may have begun this journey of practicing life-giving encouragement with joy and anticipation of great blessings, but today you are starting to wonder if you are really cut out for this task. You see the encouragement command, and you want to be a life-giver, not a life-taker, but at the end of the day, you often recognize how short you fall in obedience.
The writer of Psalm 119 loves God’s Word. Take 20 minutes to read this passage and note how many times and ways he describes the beauty of God’s Word and how obeying it results in peace, joy, freedom. Certainly someone with that perspective easily obeys and doesn’t lay his head down at night covered with guilt for disobedience. Right? Perhaps not. In this passage, the Psalmist laments that he is not steadfast in obeying God’s Word. His words, “Oh, that I would . . . ” imply regret and longing. I can relate. We are flawed and as much as we might start our day determined to walk in obedience, our flesh wars against the desires of our hearts, or at least mine does. I want to patiently respond with compassion to the elderly woman who constantly complains that no one cares enough to visit, or the grandchild who doesn’t respond to my attempts to connect or the woman who never seems to see anything but the glass half empty. It is like, deep inside us, there is a poisoned spring, and instead of kindness, sarcasm sometimes flows out, and we watch as our comments cause the life to fade from needy eyes.
Oh, that I would be a life-giver, obedient to His beautiful, life-giving words.
Biblical encouragement requires dying to self:
Therefore, I urge you, sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.
Don’t miss this: dying to self is actually worship. Remember that whenever the writer of Scripture says, “Therefore…” we need to find out what it is “therefore.” Paul has just tried to describe God’s love for His children. I say “tried” because it seems Paul cannot find enough words to capture his appreciation for God’s love.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Because of this indescribable love, Paul calls us to “die to self” as a means of worshipping this God whose love cannot be described with human words. When I feel resentment, anger, frustration, or impatience rising up in my heart toward a needy friend, this passage reminds me that I have the privilege of passing on this love to others. I am learning that spending time in the Scriptures reminds me that this perfect love equips me to practice life-giving encouragement, rather than turning away from a difficult relationship.
As I observe friends practicing this life-giving encouragement that requires repeatedly dying to self I see them creating a climate for new life to emerge. They are in it for the long haul. Their obedience is contagious and makes me want to experience that kind of worship that results in new life.
Lord, change my heart. Make my heart more like Yours. Every time I’m tempted to spew out life-taking words and facial expressions, stop me, remind me of how patient You are with me, that when I am needy and intentionally ignore Your Word and presence, You don’t abandon me. You love me and patiently make a way for me to repent and be transformed by Your forgiveness and love.