Journal Ps 120-121 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation are mine)
Scripture: “Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace but when I speak, they are for war! (Ps 120:6-7)
I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord (who made heaven and earth).” (Ps 121:1-2)
Observation: One Psalm laments over what is being experienced; the other Psalm is the psalmist exhorting himself to (broadly speaking) get his head on straight…
Analysis: Again, the psalmist is a wonderful example of expression.
Do I get down? Yes. Does the psalmist talk about being down? Yes. Do I see turmoil around me? Yes. Does the psalmist? Yes.
Now I am at the point where the rubber meets the road: Does the psalmist identify where his heart should be? Yes. Do I? Not always.
Why is my answer “not always?” I think…no, I know, that I can get caught up with the situation and emotion involved with a situation. I forget to shake myself coherent and remember the Gospel.
I remember this: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him…” (Ps 43:5)
Engaging in God, engaging in hope, refusing/resisting the emotion of turmoil is an effort. That effort is supported and empowered by the Holy Spirit (re. Ro 8:5-6, v13), but it is an effort that I am expected to engage in; it is not an effortless exercise.
I think that is where a lot of folks go astray; they are not told/taught, or they neglect to put effort in their walk in Christ—that intentional walk that leads to life. Perhaps it is a misunderstanding of the doctrine of Grace like in Eph 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (not a result of works) so that no one may boast…” Maybe not: I don’t presume to understand someone else’s heart—this just seems to be a likely, scriptural reason, i.e., “If I have to work at it, then it is not relying on grace” —a falsehood and misunderstanding of the Gospel.
There was an exercise I engaged in way back when. That exercise was to circle or underline every verb/adverb I came across in the Scripture that indicated an action I was to engage in. There are a lot of “I will” and “I shall” in Psalms.
Being intentional in my personal walk in Jesus is important. And, to be clear, it is not optional.
Prayer: Lord, you know I struggle with keeping on with fervor. I guess it is better to stoke the fire slowly and consistently rather than just toss lighter fluid on it occasionally. The lighter fluid method gets a great big flame suddenly but once the fluid burns off there is still the issue of keeping the coals hot.
Help me stoke the coals of my heart, O God.
Cause revival. AMEN.