“Do I seek God only when I’m in trouble?“
Psalm 77:1 ¶ To the chief Musician, to Jeduthun, A Psalm of Asaph. I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me.
Psalm 77:2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.
Psalm 77:3 I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.
One thing that we learn about this passage is that the only time it is valid to complain is to the LORD. When we complain to other people, we are indirectly showing our discontent with the way that God has treated us, but if we have a legitimate complaint, then we ought to seek God about the matter.
The psalmist here is in distress; he’s afflicted and in trouble, and he seeks the LORD for help. That’s a really good thing. When a problem arises in your life, when there is stress and distress in your heart, you should seek the LORD. The problem is when the only time you seek the LORD is in trouble.
Terrible things happen, people die, wars are declared, property and houses are destroyed, terrorist attacks occur and all of a sudden all of these people are crying out to God – but what were they doing before all the trouble started? They weren’t seeking the LORD; they didn’t have anything to do with God and now all of a sudden it’s, “Oh God help us!” But God is not just there for your service when you want Him – He wants a relationship with you.
We should be seeking God all of the time – because we love Him, because we love His word, because we are seeking a relationship with Him.
The book of Judges is an unusual book, and it teaches many lessons. The main lesson it teaches though, is what happens when you don’t seek the LORD all the time but only in trouble. The summary of the book is found in Judges 2:12-19. I have a drawing on the title page of Judges that shows a wave going up and down, up and down – because that’s how life is without a constant relationship with the LORD.
Judges 2:10 And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. Judges 2:11 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim:
There’s a generation gap – the children did not make their father’s God their God. “Mama and Daddy served the LORD, but we think we’d rather be like everybody else around us.” As soon as they do this, they are delivered into the hand of their enemies because they served idols that could not help them. The whole book of Judges is just like that – serve idols, get oppressed by our enemies, cry unto God, get delivered, go back to serving idols.
Many people think that they do not themselves serve idols because they don’t bow down to statues of wood or of stone; but in reality, they set material things and material goods above the LORD God in value of importance, and so make the materials that they love their god. It’s very simple – anything you put ahead of the LORD Jesus Christ is an idol. The things of this world are to be used FOR the glory of God, not to BECOME the glory of “god”.
Judges 3:7 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.
Judges 3:8 ¶ Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years.
Judges 3:9 And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother.
Praise the LORD, we got delivered! God has saved us from our enemies! Much joy and rejoicing and then…
Judges 3:12 ¶ And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.
Just as soon as the LORD comes in and saves them they go right back to serving sin. “Thank you LORD for delivering us from Cushan-rishathaim, now we’re going to get back to what we were doing.”
“Do I seek God only when I’m in trouble?“
This is the pitiful condition of many a professing “Christian” – they get saved (hopefully), and they say, “Thank you LORD for saving me!” And the LORD says, “ok, now here’s the rest of the Bible, forsake all and follow me” – but the response is not as we hope!
“Well, LORD, thanks for saving me and all, and I’m glad I’m going to heaven, but I would rather just do what I want to do and serve my own gods.” That may not be stated directly in that fashion, but actions speak louder than words too often than not!
“I’d rather just do stuff that is ‘fun’, but I don’t want to do all of that ‘churchy’ stuff and ‘Bible’ stuff – I needed you for heaven, and I’m grateful, but that’s all really I wanted from you. I don’t need you anymore, I’m going to live my life.”
Then when they reap the fruit of their sin they cry unto the LORD, “Lord, why are you treating me this way? I thought I was saved!? Why is this happening?” – But they didn’t read God’s Book! You can’t do evil and get away with it!
Do you know why a believer’s life goes up and down all of the time? What were you saved from, friend? “I was saved from Hell” – well, yes that’s true, but the Bible says you’re saved from SIN (Matt 1:25), have you forsaken your sin to follow righteousness? “Well… you know how it is… Not really…” That’s why you’re having all of the problems – you say you’re a believer, but then you serve everything else. As long as you do so, your life will look just like the book of Judges.
Judges 3:15 But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab.
Israel is only going to pray to God when it’s convenient or when He’s “needed” – this is the problem with most believers.
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love“
Look at how gracious the LORD is – He goes ahead and delivers them! The LORD is good when we are not.
Life doesn’t have to be this way, it was only that way in Judges because they didn’t seek the LORD like they should have.
Judges 4:1 ¶ And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead.
Judges 4:2 And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.
Judges 4:3 And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.
The order is interesting here, because the children of Israel see what’s coming in verse 3, and then they cry unto the LORD – but the LORD does not hear them for twenty years. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Psa 111:10; Prov 9:10).
The LORD steps in once again and delivers them with Deborah and Barak, and what do the children of Israel do for all God has done for them?
Judges 6:1 ¶ And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.
If Israel would have been using their head, they would have said to themselves, “every time we serve other gods, it hurts us, and every time we seek the LORD, He helps us… maybe we should be seeking the LORD not only in trouble, but we should serve Him every day instead of these false gods.”
“Do I seek God only when I’m in trouble?“
Professing Christians all over the world have given in to this philosophy, and they never seem to learn their lesson. They should be saying, “I need to start seeking God on a consistent basis”, but they don’t. They know they should be reading their Bible and praying every day,… well why don’t you? “Well, you know how it is… I, I, I’ll get to it…” Why don’t you start right now? “I know, I know but…” Why don’t they do it? Because they serve other things and love other gods and follow things that do not profit.
Notice at this point how much time has been wasted. Twenty years serving the world here, seven years serving the Devil, and what do you have to show for it? Is it really worth wasting your whole life serving idols when you could be seeking the God who made you and saved you?
God is so gracious in His willingness to deliver the children of Israel, but this time He won’t do it without rebuke.
Judges 6:6 And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.
Judges 6:7 ¶ And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites,
Judges 6:8 That the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage;
Judges 6:9 And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land;
Judges 6:10 And I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice.
The real reason that believers can’t live a life of victory is because of their disobedience. “Ye have not obeyed my voice”. Their life doesn’t have to go up and down, tossed to and fro with all of the cares of life. They could live a life of constant victory over the enemies of sin, temptation, and spiritual oppression (discouragement, depression, etc.). God told the children of Israel that not a one of their enemies would stand before them, and now they can’t even stand before their enemies because they were only looking to the LORD when they got in trouble. They were willing to live every single day of their lives living for themselves, and then when they needed “help”, or a “blessing” (over the food) or needed “confession” they would talk to God, but then only.
What’s the solution?
Psalm 63:1 ¶ A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;
Psalm 63:3 ¶ Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.
Psalm 63:6 When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.
Isaiah 26:9 With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Let us seek the LORD, not just in times of trouble, but at all times.