Psalm 119:17-20

The Survival Manual For The Christian Life

All sermons preached by the webmaster may be freely copied, printed and distributed. We ask only that the site name and homepage URL be included in all copies distributed. Thankyou. This sermon was preached on Sunday 04/03/01 Am, by Kevin Matthews. It was the fourth sermon in a continuing series on Psalm 119.



We are told in the Bible that ‘Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (Jn 16:33b).’ Few of us really need to be reminded of that grim reality, for many of us have already passed through untold difficulties in our lives, though ‘Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin (Heb 12:4).’

The persecutions that we have heard of throughout the history of the Christian Church have not yet overtaken us in our walk, and we seem strangely removed from those persecutions which even now are being carried out against the church the world over. When will they come here, and how will we cope when they do? These are questions that we often ask ourselves.

Still, we do face difficulties, even though they are nothing like those that other Christians in the world face - for there are the daily confrontations with a world that is arrayed against the church with all the manner of weapons that it can muster. There are the perpetual mockings of unsaved family members, who pour contempt on our faith, right through to the vicious assaults of the hardened sinner against the voice of a lone Christian witness in the workplace.

It is not so much the single instance of non-Christian harassment that makes our life so difficult, but the combined wave of assaults that we endure each day that does so. We are in a battle that knows no current end, and our battlements we dare not take down in the face of such constant assaults upon our faith. We are in a struggle to the death, and so we must always be on our guard, with a sword in one hand and the tools of our daily affairs in the other, lest the enemy of our souls falls upon us unawares.

How Can a Christian continue on? How can we face each new day with the knowledge that we are in the midst of a battlefield? My friends, we need to hear what the Scriptures say this morning, we need to hear the words of David as he relays to us the realities of his own experience on the battlefield of life. For here in this Psalm you will find precious words of comfort and encouragement, and indeed you will be directed to ‘The Survival Manual For The Christian Life.’

Here this morning in this third stanza of Psalm 119, we find David’s cry for help as he finds himself in the midst of his daily battlefield. The Psalm resounds with the sound of David’s life and death struggle with sin, the world, and the Devil.

Do you find yourself pressed down in the battle, and unsure of how to press on? Then consider this word carefully. Are you greatly distressed, ready to lay down your weapons and sue for peace with the enemy? Then look here, for the strength to continue on in the fight, is to be found in this stanza.

So let’s consider this passage together;


1. Divine Enablement (V 17)

‘Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word (119:17).’

Though the most powerful man in the Kingdom of Israel, David still recognizes that when everything is boiled down, he remains still, a servant of Almighty God. And as a servant He is to obey what his Master commands. There are no exclusions given, but full obedience expected at all times. If He is to make any headway in keeping these commands in this fallen world, as the King of King’s man in Israel, then He needs his God to enable him to do so. There was no mucking about with David, no kidding himself, he needed God, and he knew it.

This stanza of Psalm 119 then, is the prayer of a man who feels his own inability to make any progress whatsoever without Divine enablement. He wants this total obedience, and he wants God’s power working on his side that he might fully obey, and that he might endure the onslaughts of this world in a godly way. Therefore he pleads with God to ‘deal bountifully with your servant.’ ‘Lord, don’t hold back, I need as much as you will give me that I might live and keep Your Word.’ ‘There are such pressures round about, so much pressing in upon me, that if I do have Divine enablement, I will fail to keep Your Word.’

We do not know what David’s situation was when he penned this Psalm, but we do know that if any man is to actually live in the manner that God requires him to in this world, no matter what the circumstances are, then he needs Divine enablement. Whether it is being pursued by King Saul in the wilderness, or sitting on the throne being tempted by this world’s delights, to endure we need God.

‘For to me, to live is Christ (Philip 1:21a),’ says the apostle Paul. Yet a thousand things will rise up against us to prevent us ‘spiritually living,’ that is, exercising our life in Christ for God in this world, seeking to pull us back down to the world’s standards, that we might wallow in the mud of sin with them.

Even when things appear to be going fine, there are immense forces at work to keep us from being those who seek first the Kingdom of God. Great hordes with evil intent are moving up to the front line, and making ready to engage us in battle. If we do not have Divine enablement, we will fail to live as we ought, and our behaviour will quickly begin to rival those who have no spiritual life. If we would live then, we need God, and we need to plead for His enablement, and not to cease till we have it.

‘Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy law is my delight (119:77).’ ‘open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it (Ps 81:10b).’

You need to be praying brethren. It’s hard to live as a Christian at work; it’s a real struggle, with constant battles to be fought. You need the Lord to enable you to be what He wants you to be at work, so that you don’t soon yield to temptation and become just another of those bad-mouthed people with all their ungodly talk. Pray for Divine enablement brethren.

What about in your families? You need the Lord to enable you to continue on in the face of all the pressure that those family members exert, who constantly ridicule you for your faith, wanting you to abandon your profession of faith, that you might enjoy the passing pleasures of sin for a little while. Pray to the Almighty, you need Him!

What about those social times with friends? You need the Lord to enable you to discipline yourself, so that you do not take part in that ungodly practice that your friends seek to pressure you into taking part in, that coarse conversation about a friend. Plead for grace, or you will soon fall in with them.

You need Divine enablement, ‘But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philip 4:19),’ ‘For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philip 2:13).’ You can resist, and you can continue to fight.

And if you do fall into sin, then cry out to the Lord also, and repent; ‘Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way (119:37).’ Don’t continue in sin, but seek the Lord’s forgiveness and restoration, and you will be able to move on and not to look back, being able to bear your arms with confidence.

The desire of the Christian is to live for God always, even in the very midst of difficulty and persecution, no matter how intense it is - to give in is not an option. And if we are to do this, then our survival manual tells us that we need God, so seek Him out always.

But how little do you do so - ‘Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet 5:8).’ Then ‘Pray without ceasing, (1 Thess 5:17)’ brethren if you would truly live, if you would maintain your lines against the forces of the wicked, for you will find thatGod is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps 46:1).’


2. Divine Illumination (V 18)

Not only do we need Divine enablement in order to live as we ought in this present evil world, but we also need Divine illumination in order to understand how God expects us to live in this present evil world.

David has cried out to the Lord in the midst of difficulty for Divine enablement to live as he ought, and here in verse 18 he cries out, ‘Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law (119:18).’ He has given us a survival manual to use, even His Word, but you need His illumination to get the real sense of it, and aid from it.

We have the survival manual for the Christian life, all we need is in it, and I trust you are using in it. If you are not using it then you are being foolish - take heed to yourself brethren lest you fall. What David wants here is understanding of this manual, a grasping of what God has revealed in His written Word so that he can live in the manner that God wants him to. He knows that all that God requires of Him is in this Word, for ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2 Tim 3:16,17).’

‘I must get this understanding of how to live from the Bible, nowhere else but there.’ Here is the survival manual for living in this world, use it! There are ‘wondrous things’ in this book, truths that are incomprehensible to the ordinary man, things beyond mere human understanding which the Christian man or woman needs to get at. Truths that are normally far beyond our ability to grasp, to even get near, but here they are written in this book for our profit.

There is here the way of salvation in Christ, there is the hope of the future glory to come, there are the promises of the Spirit as a guarantee, as a down payment of what is yet to become ours in the Christian life and glory to come, and untold resources and power to direct, and enable us to live here in this life. ‘If I can just get at them, then I will have what I need.’

‘Yes,’ you say, ‘I read my Bible, but I still don’t get it?’ When a person looks at a microscopic object to study it, and to understand it, the human eye is not enough. A microscope is needed. The Holy Spirit is the microscope you need when reading God’s Word. Our human mind is not enough. ‘Please Lord, take away the veil that clouds my understanding to Your Word for when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.’

Do you struggle to understand how the Lord wants you to live in this world? Do you find it difficult to understand this survival manual for the Christian life? Are you not sure what it means for your life when you read it? Hear then what Paul prays for the Ephesian church;

‘That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power (Eph 1:17-19).’

It doesn’t matter how much brains you might think you have, or indeed do have, for they are not enough to understand God’s Word. It comes from one who is far above us. But there is a way ahead, a way to understand this book, a way to make progress. ‘Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Pr 3:5,6).’

You need Divine illumination, ask for it from Him. He will give you direction and understanding. ‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (Jam 1:5),’ 'yet ye have not, because ye ask not (Jam 4:2c).’

‘Open my eyes, that I may see.’ If I am to understand the spiritual truths of this book, then clearly I need the Spirit of God to enlighten my understanding, after all He is the Author of the book, ‘For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Pet 1:21),’ for ‘Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth (Jn 16:13a).


3. Divine Direction (Vv 19,20)

So we know where to find enablement to carry out the Lord’s will, and where to find illumination to understand the Lord’s will, but what’s the point of it all? With things being so difficult here on earth as a Christian, wouldn’t it be better to just call it quits?

Oh professor of Christ, think about your destiny and take heart, for this will give you Divine direction for your life. All is not vain. Indeed, ‘If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept (1 Cor 15:19,20).’

What a motivation this is, ‘For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come (Heb 13:14),’ ‘For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Heb 11:10).’

And this David himself recognized, so that though he suffered much while living his life here on earth, he knew that this world is not the be all and end all of existence. There is much more to come for the people of God, a future to focus on, and which gives present Divine direction to our lives. There is a point to living for the Lord in this life.

‘I am a stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments from me (119:19).’

Yes, I know brother, I know sister, that you feel as a stranger in the earth, even among your own families. The reason for this is because this is not your home. We are pilgrims here, we are simply passing through on our way home to the City of God, ‘For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philip 3:20)' 'so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved (Philip 4:1c).’

Do not despair, do not throw in the towel, for just a little while longer will you feel as a stranger, and then you will be forever in the presence of the Lord. Yet while we are here we must press on to our heavenly destination, as a citizen of that place, and so David in the Psalm cries out, hide not thy commandments from me (119:19b).’

David knew that though his home was ‘a better country, that is, an heavenly (Heb 11:16b),’ he needed direction for the way home, a spiritual map if you like. For David, and for every citizen of the heavenly kingdom, that spiritual map is the commandments of God, for ‘When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee (Pr 6:22).’

Again, it is the Word of God that gives us direction in this world, that shows us the way home, for the one who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven is the one ‘that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven (Mt 7:21c).’ ‘O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles (Ps 43:3).’ Obedience to the Lord’s will is the way home for the believer.

David did not want to loose track of the Lord’s direction at any time, even when in the very midst of difficulty, for he says, ‘My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times (119:20).’ ‘I want to follow you so much that I am being torn apart by this inner longing to be obedient to Your will every second of every day. Every time I fall and stumble it crushes me - Oh, that I could be delivered from this body of death. Oh, that I could always be obedient, and stay on that narrow way that leads to life. Then I would be happy, for my bearings would be right, and my pathway home clear.’

This then is the survival manual for the Christian life, even the Word of God. It is the survival manual for the Christian life for in it we find not only directions for our journey home, but also direction on how to understand the manual, and how to actually practice what the manual says. Through our entire journey we need the enabling power, and the illuminating Spirit of God at work within us, that we might maintain our Divine direction and not loose our way. Amen.



UPDATED: 19 April 2014


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