Psalms 37: 3-7

Psalms 37:3-7

a talk I gave in Sacrament Meeting, 3/8/09, Longfellow Park 2nd ward in Cambridge, MA

True or false?

-If you study hard and apply yourself, you’ll do well in school.

-If you follow the map precisely, you’ll get to your destination.

-If you eat right and exercise, you’ll lose weight.

Point is, if you do “a”, then “b” will happen, right?

These are “formulas” we find in daily life. IF “a” THEN “b”

Well, what if you studied really hard for an exam and then still failed? Or what about that episode of The Office when Michael Scott  followed the instructions of the GPS so precisely, but instead of reaching his destination, he turned right and drove straight into a lake. Oops!

“If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. The good you do today, will often be forgotten.” I love Mother Teresa’s response to this. She said, “Be kind anyway. Be honest and sincere anyway. Do good anyway. You see in the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

I believe therein lies the difference between God’s formulas and life’s formulas, which don’t seem to be that predictable. What about God’s formulas? What I love about His teachings is that with every commandment or word of counsel, there is a promised blessing attached.

A few examples from the scriptures are:

Ask, and ye shall receive

If ye keep the commandments, ye shall prosper

In Psalms 37:3-7 (which is btw, the topic we were given today), it reads:

3 Trust in the Lord, and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

4 Delight thyself also in the Lord. and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

5 Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him. and he shall bring it to pass,

6 And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.

7 Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.

The question inevitably arises, If everything in life is so unpredictable, then how do we know God will keep His end of the bargain? The great thing about God’s “formulas” is that God is on the other end. It’s a two-way relationship. Going back to the example of Michael Scott from The Office, he put his complete trust in a machine and almost got himself, and Dwight, killed. So, what does that teach us? To not trust machines?  No, actually, unlike Michael, we should use common sense first of all, use what we’ve learned from our own or others’ past experiences , and then trust in God’s will.

You see, it is between you and God. Our faith and trust in God will help us strengthen our relationship with Him and also help us understand why we need to follow His counsel and wait patiently (as it says in verse 7) for the blessings. God is almighty and has the power to keep His promises. And He will. In Moses 4:30 it says, “For as I, the Lord God, liveth, even so my words cannot return void, for as they go forth out of my mouth they must be fulfilled.” That’s a powerful statement.

Maybe it’s just me, but have you noticed that when you obey the commandments you may not be immediately blessed, and in fact yet another trial gets thrown your way? Or have you noticed that some who don’t obey God actually seem to be doing quite well? “fret not thyself,” it says, continuing in verse 7, “because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.” This is a warning to us. A fretful, discontented spirit is more prone to fall into temptation. Why even envy the prosperity of the wicked when we know it is superficial and of short duration? Let us put our confidence in God, and be happy. You have to admit, life is simply unpredictable. But I believe in the end, God will judge the wicked according to their deeds and will handsomely reward the faithful and obedient in His own time.

Along the way, sometimes we set goals to receive particular blessings. I know I have often thought, “My goal is to get this blessing, and once I do, I’ll be happy. Or, life will be great once the Lord allows me to accomplish that.” Our goals should instead be to Trust in the Lord, to delight in Him, to commit our ways to Him, and to rest in Him, as David counsels in Psalm 37. If those are our goals, we won’t be worried about whether or not the blessings come. ..those will just be added bonuses and will come when we least expect them! My point is, If we make God our “a”, we won’t even need a “b” to make us happy.

The prophet Brigham Young has said,

Where is happiness, real happiness? Nowhere but in God. By possessing the spirit of our holy religion, we are happy in the morning, we are happy at noon, we are happy in the evening; for the spirit of love and union is with us, and we rejoice in the spirit because it is of God, and we rejoice in God, for he is the giver of every good thing.  We may be in pain, in error, in poverty, or in prison, if necessity demands, still, we are joyful. “Truly happy is that man or woman, or that people, who enjoys the privileges of the Gospel of the Son of God, and who know how to appreciate his blessings when they do come.”

When we make it our goal to draw closer to God, we can find happiness even when the circumstances of life are not exactly what we would hope. We can find joy in the journey and peace amidst the adversity.  In Psalms 37:3-7 David teaches us 4 ways to draw closer to God.

First, Trust in the Lord and do good.

Why should we trust in Him? Because He is perfect, loving and everything that is good. Because He knows each of us individually and wants us to be happy, successful and to return to His presence.

Elder Richard G. Scott once said: “Trust in God … no matter how challenging the circumstance. … Your peace of mind, your assurance of answers to vexing problems, your ultimate joy depend upon your trust in Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Ok, wonderful, but how do we put our trust in Him? We can start by “doing good.” After all, that is our Christian duty. The Savior expects our actions to reflect our testimony of Him. In a revelation given through Joseph Smith, God said in  (Doctrine and Covenants section 11:12): “Verily I say unto thee, Put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good-yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; In Section 19: 23,38) he said  “Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me. … Pray always, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you” By doing these things, we demonstrate our trust in Him.

Second, Delight thyself in the Lord

What does it mean to delight yourself in someone? To me, it means to experience great joy and pleasure in someone’s company. Usually this happens when we know that person quite well. So to delight in the Lord, we should get to know Him better. We can do this by patterning our lives after His, keeping His commandments willingly and following His example.

We can also delight in the things of the Lord. In 2 Nephi 4:15-16 in the Book of Mormon, the prophet Nephi says, “For my soul delighteth in the scriptures and my heart pondereth them, and behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord, and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.” Like Nephi, I love and cherish the doctrines and principles of the Gospel. Through personal experience, I know that by living them one can find peace and joy.

Third, Commit thy way unto the Lord

Some of you may know that I spent many summers as a child in Guatemala, where my mother is from. I lived in a small town called Momostenango, where most of the population is indigenous. Many of them don’t even speak Spanish. Instead they speak several different Mayan dialects. I remember on Sundays seeing many of these Saints walk into the chapel, often a little late, with huge smiles on their faces and sometimes covered from head to toe in mud. My 8 year old little self used to think, “how disrespectful of them to come to church late and so dirty.” You can just imagine, there I was sitting pretty in a bright pink dress my mom made me with a big white bow on the top of my head, having walked only a couple of blocks down the hill from my grandparent’s house to the church.

I remember one Sunday after Stake Conference, I asked my grandfather, who was then the patriarch of the stake, why the Indians came to church when they couldn’t understand a word that was being said. He started off by explaining to me that many of the members of the ward had to leave their homes at 4:00 in the morning, often in the rain, and walk about 4 hours down the mountain trails to get to the church. (that explained the mud) For the Saturday session of Stake Conference, they had to then climb into the back of a small pickup truck and travel another two hours, standing up, to the stake center. They would go back home the same way. On Sunday they had to do the same thing all over again. Can you imagine walking a total of 20 hours in two days to attend stake conference? He then explained that these faithful members do this because they made a commitment to God to obey the commandments and because it is important for them to take the sacrament each Sunday and gather with other Saints to worship. They go to church to feel the Spirit of the Lord, which surpasses any language barrier. Wow, To be humbled at such a young age! What a great example they are to us of commitment and dedication to the Lord. In Alma 37:36, it reads, “Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea let all thy thoughts be directed unto the lord; yea, let the affections of they heart be placed upon the Lord forever.” Ask yourself, What can I do to become more committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ?

And Finally, Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said,“Sometimes the hardest thing we can do is wait. The Lord has His own timetable, and although it may frustrate us, His timing is always perfect. When we rest in the Lord, we allow Him to work His will for us in His own time and in His own way.”

We should be willing to wait patiently for Him to work out what is best for us. That’s the hardest part. For me, at least. Sometimes I wonder how much I have to endure before it “all works out.” But then I remember what a good friend once told me, “Oh, It all works out in the end. If things aren’t working out, it’s not the end yet.” That’s comforting, I guess. But, I find more comfort in the scripture Hebrews 6:15. The apostle Paul spoke of Abraham saying, “And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.”

I guess the take home message would be, Trust God, do good, and don’t worry! If we patiently continue to do the things that God has commanded us to do—focusing on our own character, rather than judging others— the Lord, in His time, will bring about all our righteous desires…sometimes in ways we predict, sometimes in ways we could never have foreseen.

I’d like to close with one of my favorite passages in the Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 4:34-35., the last 2 verses of what we call, appropriately enough, the Psalm of Nephi.

O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh. For I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm. Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.”
I testify to the world that the scriptures are true, that the words of the apostles and prophets are from God. That living the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the way to return to our Father in Heaven. And that our Savior lives.

The Church Is True.

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