Cancel

There is a story that is told about Martyn Lloyd-Jones as he was sensing God’s call upon his life and was thinking about leaving his promising career as a Harley Street doctor in London in order to become a minister of the gospel. His wife, Bethan, asked him a question in order to help him think through this important decision. She said, “You know that you can do medicine, but how do you know that you can preach?” Lloyd-Jones responded by saying, “I know that I can preach, because I can preach to myself.”

It is with this story in mind that I write this article now. You see, I have recently been spending a good bit of time meditating on Psalm 27. I have been preaching this great psalm to myself over the last few months. And it is precisely because I have been preaching it to myself that I believe there may be something of benefit here for me to share with others.

The last number of months have been difficult for me and my wife. We have wrestled with God’s providence in a way that we haven’t for some time. And so, I have found myself gravitating to Psalm 27. I have found refuge not so much in the explicit declarations of confidence that David gives in the first six verses—although they are indeed glorious expressions of a vibrant trust in the Lord in the face of difficulty—but instead in the implicit, almost overlooked, phrase that David uses to address God in verse 9. He refers to Him as “you who have been my help.” This phrase has resonated with me in recent months.

In this one pregnant phrase, David is letting us know that, in the face of whatever adversity or opposition he is facing, he has been recounting the many ways that God has delivered him in the past. He has no doubt been reminding himself of the times when God delivered him from lions and bears, enabling him to defend his earthly father’s sheep, and from the giant Goliath, enabling him to defend his heavenly Father’s sheep (1 Sam. 17:34–36). And the point of all these reminders is that David might be encouraged in his present circumstances that the God who has been his help in the past will surely be his help in the present. The current circumstances of David’s life may well tell him something quite different than what is actually true. His circumstances may tell him that God doesn’t care or that God has forgotten about him. They may tell him that God is not working for his good. But the past deliverances of God clearly testify to David that his current difficulties will not in fact hold sway.

Our present circumstances are relatively insignificant when they are considered from an eternal perspective.

I find that I so quickly forget the ways that God has been my help in the past. I forget the answered prayer. I forget the visible deliverances. I forget the ways that He has always provided in the past. My current circumstances blind me. They drown out all remembrance of God’s past faithfulness to me. I, like David, need to be reminded of verse 9. And I am convinced that there are seasons of life for all of us when we need to be reminded of God’s past faithfulness so that we can be encouraged in the present and not lose heart. When the doctor says that we have cancer; when our marriage falls apart; when our children turn their backs on the Lord; when our lives do not seem to go the way we have planned; when a loved one dies; or when discouragement and frustration in ministry overwhelm us—these are times when we need to be reminded that the God who has been our help in the past will be our help in the present, regardless of what our current circumstances may tell us.

It is a great joy to read later on in the psalm that the time David spends in reflection upon God’s past goodness actually works. It accomplishes what David wants it to accomplish. We see that in verse 13. David’s confidence is restored, and he is convinced that he really will see the goodness of the Lord again in his lifetime. The reminder strengthens his faith and encourages him to walk by faith and not by sight. It confirms his belief that God really does know what He is doing and really will be working all things together for his good, even if David cannot see it in his current circumstances.

You and I have all the more reason to remember God’s past faithfulness and be encouraged. We have all the more reason to look back and have our faith strengthened in the face of our current difficulties. For we can remember not just the times when God delivered us from lions and bears and other worldly conflicts, but we can remember the time when He delivered us from our greatest problem of all. We can remember the cross of Christ, the place where God delivered us from our sins. Isn’t the cross the place where God has most been our help? And if God has been our help there, will He not also be our help everywhere else? That is what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” The God who has been our help in the past really will be our help in the present. We can be confident that we will see the goodness of the Lord again in this lifetime. His goodness may not be shown in the way we want or expect to see it, but we will see it here. And we will most assuredly see it when this lifetime is finished. We know this, because God has been our help in and through the cross of Christ.

Truly, our present circumstances are relatively insignificant when they are considered from an eternal perspective. God is doing something bigger than we can see right now. We need to remember that. We need to preach it to ourselves. And, after we have preached it to ourselves, we need to share it with others with whom the Lord brings us into contact. The God who has been our help in the past really will be our help in the present.

Should Christians Be Countercultural?

How Sufficient Was Jesus’ Satisfaction?