I lift up my eyes to you,
to you who sit enthroned in heaven.
As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he shows us his mercy.
Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us,
for we have endured no end of contempt.
We have endured no end
of ridicule from the arrogant,
of contempt from the proud.
- Psalm 123
“What we must beware of is not damage to our belief in God but damage to our Christian disposition or state of mind. ‘Take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously’ (Malachi 2:16). Our state of mind is powerful in its effects. It can be the enemy that penetrates right into our soul and distracts our mind from God. There are certain attitudes we should never dare to indulge. If we do, we will find they have distracted us from faith in God. Until we get back into a quiet mood before Him, our faith is of no value, and our confidence in the flesh and in human ingenuity is what rules our lives.
“Beware of ‘the cares of this world…’ (Mark 4:19). They are the very things that produce the wrong attitudes in our soul. It is incredible what enormous power there is in simple things to distract our attention away from God. Refuse to be swamped by ‘the cares of this world.’
“Another thing that distracts us is our passion for vindication. St. Augustine prayed, ‘O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.’ Such a need for constant vindication destroys our soul’s faith in God. Don’t say, ‘I must explain myself,’ or, ‘I must get people to understand.’ Our Lord never explained anything— He left the misunderstandings or misconceptions of others to correct themselves.
“When we discern that other people are not growing spiritually and allow that discernment to turn to criticism, we block our fellowship with God. God never gives us discernment so that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
Have you ever come home from Sunday school or church and thought ill of someone else who was there? You know. Maybe you were appalled by what they were wearing. Maybe you were angry over something that they said. And maybe worst of all, they strutted around pridefully, like they owned the place.
You felt they should not act that way. The reason why the last one was the worst, is that you in your moment of self-righteousness, so proud of your own humility, saw that the other person was doing what you were proud of thinking that you were. But they were doing it better.
Okay, enough of the scoffing way of looking at it. My wife and I have had those moments. We leave for church in the morning and we feel full of the Spirit. We get to church and we smile and greet each person that we meet. And then the first of twenty wet blankets comes along – no smile, no kind words, in a monotone without feeling they say, “Jesus, is in my heart and I am full of joy.” Notice that I did not capitalize Joy, for if they had any Joy, they could not say those words with that little feeling. You could program a robot to deliver the line better than that. But that was only the first of twenty such people – and for most Sundays, I am underestimating the number.
By the time we left the church, our Joy was joy.
But why? Joy does not depend upon positive vibes from other people and pleasant feedback. Joy comes from the Lord. We lost our Joy, because we were showing contempt for all those who never ever showed Joy. Maybe they had Joy by the bucket full, barrel full, railroad tank car full, but their Joy showing muscles were broken!!! That means that our lack of Joy by the end of the worship service is all on us.
After careful prayer, my wife is usually the first to say, “We need to quit doing that.”
Why should contempt be as bad as the psalmist said? It is simple. We all need forgiveness.
There is no room for contempt when we know beyond any uncertainty that we need Grace just to take the next step of faith. If the other person has a problem expressing their Joy, that is between them and God, but it is ridiculous to think that they can take our Joy away by being crabby.
Remember where the fruits of the Spirit come from and how you got them. It had nothing to do with you or any other person around you, only Jesus in your heart and the Holy Spirit working in you.
“’Mercy, God, mercy!’: the prayer is not an attempt to get God to do what he is unwilling to do, but a reaching out to what we know that he does do, an expressed longing to receive what God is doing in and for us in Jesus Christ.”
- Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
Michael English sings the song so beautifully. Maybe that is because of his checkered career. He screwed up and he, better than the sanctimonious people showing contempt, knows the need for Mercy.
And in our quiet moment with God, do we not all feel that way. And we grow in faith based on our need for more of God, reaching out to Him, and receiving from what we know that He does.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.