April 3, 2016 – manuscript

The April 3, 2016 audio is available here.

I have a friend who has a PGA tour card.  When he was younger, he managed golf courses and occasionally participated in a PGA tournament.  He now coaches high school golf and gseries graphicives private lessons.  When he was in college, his minor was turf management.  If he was going to manage golf courses, knowing how to care for turf was important.  I remember one short conservation that focused on the length of our grass.  I used to keep my grass really short, so I didn’t have to mow as often.  During that conversation, I learned about the root system of my lawn.  I learned that the length of my grass above the ground equals the length of my grass below the ground.  The longer that I kept my grass allowed for deeper roots.  Those who are turf experts understand that deeper roots find more water and other nutrients, which leads to a stronger and healthier infrastructure.

Over the next six weeks, we’re going to talk about growing deeper spiritual roots.  Here’s one of the great things about this series.  If you’re open to growing deeper, you will come out of this series with deeper roots.  It doesn’t matter what your current root system looks like.  Your root system might be a seed that gets fertilized and watered and begins to grow over the next several weeks.  The fun part of that is we get to watch the growth together.  Others may have a root system that isn’t very stable and you’re looking for a way to go deeper.  Yet, others could have a root system that appears to be have a great infrastructure.  Regardless of the health and vitality of your spiritual roots, I invite you to allow God to grow deeper roots within you.

Another great thing about this series is we are going to learn from the book of Psalms.  Psalms is a book that many people use for devotional readings but often do not dig deeply into them.  The Psalms are rich with spiritual instruction that will push us to grow deeper roots.  We will actually read through the Psalms in our daily Bible readings during this series.

Throughout the next six weeks, we will explore five questions.

  1. What is my part in growing deeper spiritual roots?
  2. How will deeper spiritual roots help me pray better?
  3. How will deeper spiritual roots help when God seems distant or something didn’t go quite like I expected?
  4. How will deeper spiritual roots help me more fully worship God?
  5. How will deeper spiritual roots help me more clearly see God’s activity in my life?

What is my part in growing deeper spiritual roots?

Today’s text begins to answer our first question, “what is my part?”  What is my job?  What responsibility do I have?  Psalm 37:1-9 gives us several attitudes and actions that fall into this category of “my job”.  As we grow deeper roots, I have my job and God has His job.  I cannot do his job and he cannot, nor will he, do my job.  We must choose these attitudes and actions on our own.

Scripture Text: Psalm 37:1-9 (ESV) – Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!  For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.  Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.  Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!  Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!  Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.  For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.  

Psalm 37 gives us seven attitudes and actions that we must choose as our part of growing deeper roots.  These are preliminary choices as well as continual choices.

Fret not yourself (v 1-2) –  We aren’t supposed to worry about the gains that are made by ungodly people.  In fact, it’s a waste of time to spend our energy on such a path.  There are a number of symptoms that indicate we don’t choose “fret not yourself”.

  1. You get angry because ungodly people appear to have more and better than you have. More and better stuff.  More and better vacations.  More and better fun.  More and better entertainment options.  You can’t even list what they have that is more and better; you just know they have it.
  2. You’re discontent all the time. You’re never happy.  You’re becoming this fake person that even you don’t like, but you don’t know how to change from this person you’re creating.
  3. You worry often ~ about things you don’t have any control over.
  4. You try to outperform other people. Your purposes in life change from being the best person that you can be to simply being better than everybody else.  Arrogance and pride become your master.
  5. Your identity morphs into something you never intended to be.

Trust in the Lord (v 3) – Trust in Adonai.  As we walk through the next few verses, there are several commands.  As followers of Jesus, these are not negotiable.  If a Christian falls into a lifestyle of distrusting Adonai that Christian is living in disobedience.  This word for trust also gives us security, dependence, reliance, rest, and confidence.  All of those words describe what we hope retirement looks like.  We hope our portfolio will deliver those words.  We tend to think people who don’t aim for such words in retirement are careless.  The same principle is true when speaking about deeper spiritual roots.  Trusting Adonai is a vital action toward deepening our roots.

Befriend faithfulness (v 3) –  The command continues.  Trust Adonai.  Do good.  Dwell in the land.  Befriend faithfulness.  Go to the place that allows you to trust Adonai.  Set up camp and stay there.  Establish residency in that place.  Befriend faithfulness.  Befriend means to graze upon and be nourished by.  The nourishment makes us better people.  Graze on faithfulness.  Be nourished by faithfulness.  Faithfulness is allegiance.  When we choose to trust Adonai and befriend faithfulness, we our nourished by the mutual allegiance of being one with Christ.

This is process that has different levels.  Just as there are steps throughout the year for maintaining a well-nourished lawn, there are steps the deepening our spiritual roots.  As we mature physically, we are nourished with different types of foods.  We’ll talk about food types next week.

Delight yourself in the Lord 9 (v 4) – Pamper yourself with God’s presence.  Take pleasure in God’s presence.  Be satisfied with God’s presence in your life.  There are Christians who treat this verse with a “name it and claim it” mentality.  Those people suggest that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, God becomes a vending machine and he will give us our deepest desires.  Here’s the problem with that pattern of thinking.  The more that we pamper ourselves with God’s presence, the more that we changed into the likeness of God.  All of the symptoms of “fretting” begin to evaporate.  The things we once focused are no longer our focus.  Our agenda changes.  We realize more and more what our identity is based on.  As we grow deeper roots, the things are heart desires are the things that God’s heart desires.  In other words, what breaks God’s heart begins to break our heart and what get God excited begins to excite us.  Choosing to take the first step toward taking pleasure in God’s presence begins to deepen our roots.

Commit your way to the Lord (v5) – This actually means to roll.  When we commit our way to the Lord, we begin to roll in his direction.  If we roll in God’s direction, we will see him act.  We can have doubts and commit.  We can be unsure of where life will take us and commit.  We can be afraid of what’s at the bottom and still commit.  The great thing about ‘commit’ is that we don’t need to have it all figured out, but we can still commit.  Commit pushes us in the direction that we need pursue, that’s why commit is so hard.

Be still before the Lord (v 7) – This is one of the hardest choices that we make.  To be still is to be motionless.  It is to keep quiet.  It’s to stand still.  It’s turning off our brains and our to-do lists.  It’s forgetting about that load of laundry for right now.  It’s ignoring the dishes on the counter.  It’s stopping to re-align what has our attention.

Several years ago, I decided for a high ministry night that we would do this.  We had a worship and communion night.  One guy led worship with his guitar.  The screen and one candle at the communion table provided the only light in the room.  My instructions were for us to soak in the presence of God and when you were ready, come to table and participate.  It was forty-five minutes before anybody, even the adult leaders, moved toward the table.  God wants our complete attention and we don’t give it to him nearly enough.

In verses 7-8, the Psalmist tells us two additional times to fret not yourself.  The Psalmist goes on to write so clearly that fretting and its symptoms only lead to evil.

In verse 9, we read those who wait on the Lord shall inherit the land.  Those who choose the attitudes and actions of Psalm 37 will deepen their roots and have the greatest in their community.  So I simply want to ask you this question, which one is God addressing in your life.  Maybe there is more than one, but certainly there is one.  Which one is it and what are you going to do about it?  Will you allow deeper roots in your life?