Discouragement. It's a difficult battle. It's a battle that you persevere through, not knowing when the victory is going to come sometimes. It is a battle that you can fight and it is a battle that you can win.
It is your right as a Christian to win that battle. Thanks for being with us on the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Hi, I'm Bill Wright, and today Don wraps up a message titled, Coming Out of Depression. He's drawing upon Psalm 77 for biblical insight. Last time we looked at how the psalmist took a bitter look at past days. Today we'll take a better look at God's ways.
So have your Bible open and ready as we join Don Green now in the Truth Pulpit. We started with, in the first section, the first nine verses, a bitter look at past days. Here in the second half of the psalm, we're going to take a better look at God's ways.
A better look at God's ways. Now, this next verse, we left it off at the end of verse 9, this next verse, verse 10, is rather difficult to translate and interpret. And if you read across different Bible versions, you will see that they handle it in much different ways. Let's look at it here in verse 10 with the New American Standard text that we're using. He said in verse 10, then I said, it is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed. Now, when you read that from a particular perspective, it could sound like that he is concluding, based on everything that he said in the first nine verses, that God had actually changed in his dealings with him. And the Nasby translation leaves it that way, but I think that other translations clarify the sense that it is better intended here, because this psalm would not be affirming the fact that God had actually changed. And a translation that makes you think that may not be the best way to understand the verse.
For example, the New King James Version reads this way, and I said, this is my anguish, but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. In similar manner, the English Standard Version says at verse 10, then I said, I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High. The idea here in verse 10 is this. It's not that God has changed, and that he's coming to a conclusion based on what he said in the first nine verses. One of the things that helps us know that that's not what he intends to say is the selah at the end of verse 9.
That is a break in the text. It is at the end of one thought, and a new thought is being introduced in verse 10. So what is this thought that is being introduced then in verse 10?
In essence, you could summarize it like this. He looks back at the last nine verses, and he says, I've stated, I've just stated my problem, but now I'm going to pivot. Now I'm going to turn, and I'm going to remember aspects of the nature and the acts of God. And what you see coming and what helps us get a sense that this is what he means in verse 10 is that that is the direction that he goes in the remainder of the Psalm. Verse 10 is a pivot to new thinking, different thinking in the second half of the Psalm rather than a summary of the prior nine verses. We see that in what follows.
You can see this by remembering what I said earlier. In those first six verses, 21 references to I, me, and my. Well, here in the second half of the Psalm, those first person pronouns recede and fade into the background. They just kind of disappear like a mist in the wind, and his references to God and the acts of God correspondingly increase by contrast.
Look at verse 11. He says, I shall remember the deeds of the Lord. Surely I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work and muse on your deeds.
Something really crucial has just happened. He says, I am breaking from my introspection. He is breaking away from, he is pivoting away from that self-absorbed introspection and is consciously applying himself to a new realm of thought, a different realm of thought. And so he is going to focus not on today's problems and today's feelings about today's problems, but rather he's going to use his memory to engage a discussion in his mind about God's past provision for his people. He said, look at it there with me again in verse 11. I remember the deeds. I'll remember your wonders. I'll meditate on your work.
I'll muse on your deeds. And so in verse 13, he goes on and you see the lofty way that he is thinking as his thoughts elevate toward heaven rather than sinking in the quicksand of self. And he says in verse 13, your way, O God, is holy. What God is great like our God? He states it as a question, but that is an emphatic declaration of faith.
I've been thinking in this way in the first half of this psalm, but let me make a declaration that changes the whole perspective on everything. What God is great like our God? And then he immediately begins to recite in his mind historical incidents that God has done on behalf of his people to reinforce that central thought. What God is great like our God? What God is holy like him? Let me tell you what he's done.
In other words, he doesn't give room for the prior introspection to seep back in like a poorly sealed basement polluting what was there. He remembers God's acts in history that prove the way he cares for his people. Look at verse 14. He says, You're the God who works wonders. You have made known your strength among the peoples. You have by your power redeemed your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph, Selah. He identifies himself and he remembers what God has done for his covenant people in the past.
The sons of Jacob, the sons of Joseph. He remembers that he is a part of a spiritual lineage. He belongs to a people of God and those people have a shared common history of how God had acted in history to deliver them from greater dilemmas than what he was experiencing right now. And as he continues on in the Psalm, he focuses particularly on when God rescued Israel from Egypt at the Red Sea, when the sea was parted and the children of Israel walked through on dry land. And in verse 16, he personifies the waters as though the waters were thinking beings, if you could put it that way. And in verse 16, he personifies the waters as though they were responding to their creator's command.
Look at verse 16 with me. The waters saw you, O God. The waters saw you.
They were in anguish. The deeps also trembled. The clouds poured out water. The skies gave forth a sound. Your arrows flashed here and there, indicating the lightning that occurred at the time. Rain and thunder. Verse 18, the sound of your thunder was in the whirlwind. The lightnings lit up the world. The earth trembled and shook. Your way, verse 19, your way was in the sea and your paths in the mighty waters and your footprints may not be known.
All of that brief summary description of the events that we read about in the book of Exodus. What's he saying? He's making a really simple point. Simple yet profound. Simple in the sense that it's not difficult to understand.
Simple in that it's one primary point that he's making. All of the signs that accompanied the passing of Israel through the Red Sea, the fact that the waters split when Israel was in great danger and in need of immediate deliverance and market, there was no sign of human deliverance. There was no means of human deliverance available to them. An army behind them and water in front of them, either way, humanly speaking, death was right on their heels.
And what did God do for them at that time? He powerfully delivered them. He did what no man could do. He acted upon nature in a supernatural way that displayed his power in their time of distress. But you know what else that display of power was? It wasn't a display of power just for power's sake.
He wasn't simply showing off, flexing his muscles to be observed and adored. His power was being displayed because he was faithfully delivering his people. In love, he was providing what they needed in a time of great crisis. His power, in other words, was being used by his love to care for his people. And the psalmist remembers that. All of those signs showing his power, his power showing his love, his love being a manifestation of his faithfulness to his people.
And what was the result? Verse 20, what was the result? He says, the psalmist says, you led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. A flock, the shepherd, Psalm 23, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for you are with me. That was their experience, even in the days of Aaron and Moses, God was a shepherd leading them like a flock. Five hundred years, four hundred years later, David would summarize it in Psalm 23.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. And through the threat of Egypt, through the tumultuous circumstances, God had led them like a shepherd. He had used Aaron and Moses to bring them to safety. And the point that he's making is this, beloved, don't miss this or you'll miss the whole point of the psalm. God was protecting them even through the frightful circumstances. Even through the discouragement and the fear that those circumstances brought.
They were perfectly within the hollow of the hand of God and nothing would ever pluck them from it. And beloved, that is precisely the position that you enjoy with this same God in Christ. Oh, the psalmist here in Psalm 77, he doesn't circle back and say, oh, and I trust you too. He doesn't go back and say, I trust that you'll do this for me as well. Why doesn't he do that?
Why not make it explicit? Well, beloved, here's the reason why. The very psalm is the expression of his trust. The psalm itself, by declaring it in this form, is his declaration, I now trust this God even though I went through a period of doubt and discouragement before I got there. Before his memory taunted him and undermined his faith, saying look back at the past happy times.
It's not like that now and you know what, it never will be like that again. Those days of contentment and trust and deliverance are in your past and his memory tricks him, lies to him, and tells him it'll never be the same again. But he takes his memory and uses it to serve his faith, to strengthen his faith, to remember what God had done in the past, and he comes out in a place of strength in the end. How does that work for a Christian today?
This is really important. I'll say this, depression as we're using the term here, discouragement, a sense of despair, it's a difficult battle for a Christian to fight. It's not easy and it's not a one-time slaying of Goliath with a stone and a slingshot. It's a battle that you persevere through, not knowing when the victory is going to come sometimes, but beloved, beloved, it is a battle that you can fight and it is a battle that you can win. I would go so far as to say it is a battle you must fight and you must win. It is your responsibility as a Christian, but even better, it is your prerogative as a Christian. It is your right as a Christian to win that battle. And there's just a couple of things that I would say as we come near the end of this.
First of all, addressing this to myself in times past, I would say to my old self, my early Christian, the early Christian Don said, Don, you need to admit something. You've become preoccupied with yourself. You've become preoccupied, Don, with your problem. You've lost sight of greater spiritual realities. That's what I would have said.
That's what I needed to hear. We recognize perhaps we've become embittered against God for it. The confusion has led to exasperation, fatigue in the midst of it, and perhaps understandably, but not to be accepted, we lose heart. We're embittered even against God for the situation that we find ourselves in. What do we do then?
Is there any way forward out of that? Well, let me encourage you by saying this, as I see it, as I understand these things, as I perceive these things, the call to a Christian in that circumstance is not a harsh, stern, severe call, repent. There's an element of repentance that's needed, but there's something that provides a context for that to happen, and to not simply rely on our willpower to break us out of the mold.
There's something far, far better. There's something that answers the longing of every true Christian heart. There is an answer that gives us a sense of perspective that we have the benefit of today that the psalmist in Psalm 77 didn't have. But look at 1 John with me. When you're in that vortex of introspection and the circumstances cannot change, where do you find your way out?
What is the exit ramp that gets you out of that awful perspective? 1 John 4, 9 and 10. 1 John 4, 9 and 10. The psalmist remembered the acts of God at the Red Sea. We, as Christians, remember the acts of God in the red blood of Calvary.
That's what we do. Verse 9, by this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, that shatters an unhealthy introspection, looking at the past, looking within, I'm so discouraged, I'm so heartbroken, whatever the case may be. Beloved, God help us all to grasp what I'm about to say. The cure for your depression, the cure for your discouragement and despair is not further introspection, further contemplation of the sorrow, further contemplation of the wrongs that have been done to you by others in the past.
That is a fast road to nowhere. The cure for depression is not remembering your past happiness and remembering it by contrast to your present difficulty. The cure for depression is to forsake the introspection and go back to the cross. When you are tempted to question the love of God, to question whether God still cares, to question whether God is ever going to do anything, beloved, make a beeline for Calvary. Because when you go back to Calvary, you'll find red blood shed for your sins. You'll find a love that split not waters, but split your soul from the domination of sin and Satan. You will find the Son of God, the propitiation for your sins.
You'll find one who actually loved you to the point of his own death to bear the weight of your sin on his shoulders to recognize that there is this cosmic divine love that has been set upon you, a cosmic divine eternal power set upon for the deliverance of your soul, for your eternal well-being, for your eternal bliss, to look back to the wooden beams where you were delivered decisively once for all from your spiritual slavery to sin, to death, to Satan, to judgment, to hell. Go back to Calvary, beloved. Go back to Calvary and remember, remember the better ways that God has dealt with you. Beloved, go back to Calvary and say to yourself, literally stand in front of a mirror, if it will help, and address yourself and preach to yourself and say, in light of Calvary, my soul, remember that is how God acted for you. God became a man to go to the cross to save you from sin. Remember the suffering servant on the cross and reflect and meditate that that is the measure of the love of God for your soul.
And you know what? You haven't changed. Your circumstances have come and gone, I get that. Loved ones have come and gone. Health has come and gone.
Finances have come and gone. But don't you see that the bright red highway of blood from Calvary is as smooth and permanent as it's ever been? That that guarantees the well-being of your soul? That that testifies infallibly to the perfect love of God for your soul? That that testifies to you what the outcome of all of your trials will ever be? Full reconciliation with God in his presence in heaven forever and ever where sin and sorrow and trials will never molest you again. And you step back and you remember Christ.
You remember him in that context. The voluntary self-sacrifice that led him to do that and you realize something really crucial. You realize that the one who died for you, the one who rose again on your behalf, he would never abandon you to death. He would never abandon you to isolation.
He would never abandon you to desolation. This is only for a season to accomplish a spiritual purpose in your life with a better outcome intended and preordained from the beginning. Certain to occur, it comes out well for you as a believer in Christ. Let that be what brings you out of depression. Let that be the whistle that calls you coming out of depression. Beloved, I encourage you, I beg you, I ask you, I call you. Let time in the hands of this gracious self-sacrifice in Christ. Let time in the hands of your gracious God be your friend. Coming out of depression is the title of the message you've just heard here on The Truth Pulpit.
Pastor Don Green launches another series on our next broadcast, so plan now to be with us. But before we leave you today, Don's here with a pastoral message of encouragement for those of you battling depression. Well, you know, my friend, I understand that it can seem like this dark veil that's over your life is never going to lift.
I can understand it because I've been there myself and it was a long process for me. But God was faithful to me, and he'll be faithful to you as well in Christ. God does not abandon his children forever, but sometimes he lets us go through a winter of discouragement, a winter of despair, but it's always for the sake of bringing a spring of encouragement, a spring of blessing, a springtime of hope that follows on the other side of that dark time of discouragement that you're going through right now. Look to Christ afresh, my friend. He is faithful, and he is there with you. Even if you cannot feel him, his presence is a reality that no man can take away. And if you don't know Christ, put your faith in him and cry out to him. He said, come to me, all who weary and are heavy laden, and I will give rest to your soul. Look to Christ. He will bring you out in the end. Thank you, Don. And friend, remember to visit us at thetruthpulpit.com to learn more about our ministry and great study resources. I'm Bill Wright, and we'll see you next time on The Truth Pulpit with Don Green.
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