This is the sixth message in our Long-Form series called “Learn to Study.” It asks us to consider how the study of scripture can help when we’re facing difficulty.
The entire manuscript of this 40-minute lesson can be found below. Learn more about this podcast here.
How does study help in difficulty?
- Today I want to talk about going to the scriptures in times of trial and difficulty
- If we know Christ as Savior, we understand that He wants us to lean on Him in trouble
- To trust Him fully
- To follow His instructions
- To live by His example
- And the scriptures are where we find testimony of Him
- He reminded us in John 5:39 to “Search the scriptures;” and He said “for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”
- As I thought about this, I wondered if there were any extended passage that could give us some direction on study in trial
- And I found a verse to sum up some of my own personal experiences
- When I did, I read on, and found the next several verses provided a training course of sorts
- That summary verse is Psalm 119:143 “Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me: yet thy commandments are my delights.”
- I want to define some of the terms in this summary before we get started
- What is trouble and anguish?
- The word for trouble literally means narrow or tight
- It means distress
- That due to an adversary or foe, we find ourselves in a tight space
- The word for anguish is very similar
- It can also mean distress or stress
- It’s very similar to our English word anguish
- They are both often used in relationship to combat with enemies
- In fact, the first word is often just translated “enemies” or “adversaries”
- It’s translated that way just four verses earlier in Psalms 119:139 “My zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy words.”
- Distress of various kinds can take a hold on us
- But what does that mean?
- Well, the word for “taken hold” is most commonly translated find or found
- Over 359 times, in fact
- Like in Genesis 6:8 “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.”
- And this trouble and anguish finds us
- It has found all of us at some point
- But, God’s commands are our delights
- What does that mean?
- His words are the object of our delight and enjoyment
- No matter who (or what) distresses us
- This is a profound thought
- One which is surrounded by companions as Psalm 119 goes on
- The next verse may hold one of the key reasons…
144 The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live.
- Whatever trouble we face is temporary
- Even if it’s quite a profound trouble
- But the rightness and justice of his testimonies last forever
- When we seek His word, we are not attempting to meet a temporal trial with temporal words and temporal solutions
- This is where eternal meets temporal
- It’s the everlasting meeting that which will shortly be passed
- And if we could understand this, we could do as the passage says, sustain and prosper in life
- We may do something else at this time…
145 KOPH. I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O LORD: I will keep thy statutes.
- We often find a connection between calling out to God and our commitment to obey His word
- If we call out, He will always call back in perfect accord with scripture
- And if there are instructions in His response, they will be Biblical instructions
- If we have no commitment to comply, then our calling out is wasted
- When we know the Savior, we are His
- He hears and faithfully answers, expecting obedience from servants
- The next verse is very similar…
146 I cried unto thee; save me, and I shall keep thy testimonies.
- We will often be in need of rescue
- This is a request to be liberated or delivered or yo be given victory
- It can be salvation from moral troubles
- Again, instructions may come back
- They will be from scripture
- And we will need to be ready to obey
- Our daily habits may be changed in trouble…
147 I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in thy word.
- This means to rise up before dawn and cry for help
- We do this because we have hope in His word
- This is where we find the concept that He is there, and He cares, and He can help, and He can answer, and He loves us, and He is faithful
- Other habits may change in difficulty…
148 Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.
- We may be awake through the watches of the night
- When trials do this to us, we should use the time to meditate on His promises
- Throughout various stages of life there will be times of sleeplessness
- With concern for a big decision
- Or concern for a family member
- Our own health
- The health of our children
- Whatever it is, these interruptions of sleep should be invitations to study
149 Hear my voice according unto thy lovingkindness: O LORD, quicken me according to thy judgment.
- This is a call for God to act according to His character
- It’s a confidence in His character
- In that He will respond based on what He has already said
- And revive or quicken us
- The word quicken could even mean to restore us to health
- All that we know of Him and His ability to do this is found in His word
- The wicked, on the other hand…
150 They draw nigh that follow after mischief: they are far from thy law.
- The verse is phrased this way in the ESV “They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose; they are far from your law.”
- When in trouble with enemies or persecutors, we know that they behave this way because they are far from Him
- Far from all of His instruction
- While our life is continually shaped by it, theirs suffers without its influence
- Another key insight comes in verse 151…
151 Thou art near, O LORD; and all thy commandments are truth.
- Whatever we are facing, we know for certain that He is near
- And that all He says and commands is true
- The world offers nothing comparable
- It is a lonely place
- And rarely delivers reliable information, usually the opposite
- But there is nothing better for a person facing hard things than truth
- No matter how hard it is to hear
- There is something else about the nature of scripture…
152 Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever.
- If you are here tonight, it is likely that you have known for a while that His words are our foundation
- It is a foundation that has stood for thousands of years before us and that will stand for eternity
- What He says has been tested
- It has been called upon by countless saints in the midst of desperate trial
- And it is a solid place to stand
- A true and eternal and instructive and comforting and reassuring testimony
- That comes directly from the One True God
- One who considers us…
153 RESH. Consider mine affliction, and deliver me: for I do not forget thy law.
- This is another direct reference to affliction and a need for deliverance
- And it is again connected to a pre-existing commitment to scripture
- To remember scripture
- One of the things that is obviously remembered is His faithfulness
- That is why we call and ask Him to consider deliverance
- It is His word that tells us who He is
- And therefore how He may respond to us
- There is more…
154 Plead my cause, and deliver me: quicken me according to thy word.
- The Bible makes promises about who God is
- And how He acts on behalf of His people
- We must read it to remind us this is the case
- This is not something the lost can do…
155 Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statutes.
- The word of God is a mystery to the wicked
- They neither know it, nor care to know it
- And they face trials on their own
- With whatever resources they can muster on their own
- That is why deliverance is far from them
- Because they have neither the information nor the enlightenment of God’s word
- They should be told…
156 Great are thy tender mercies, O LORD: quicken me according to thy judgments.
- Men can experience the mercy of the Lord in any trial
- They can be revived by Him through the text He has given us
- Even when…
157 Many are my persecutors and mine enemies; yet do I not decline from thy testimonies.
- In the face of desparate trial
- Enemies on every hand
- His testimonies must be ever before us
- There are a few prime takeaways I want to remind you about
- His word is eternal, our trials are temporary
- Calling out to Him should be accompanied by His word (His response)
- The Bible is a proven foundation on which we can stand
- Scripture is truth when we are unsure or find only misinformation in the world
- His book reveals His character, and He is the person we need in times of trial