I usually read one book a year that has to do with time management…goal setting… life management stuff. I’m always looking for ways to be productive, but balanced. Many of those books—especially those dealing with goal setting—suggest you develop a sort of 5-year plan and work backwards from there.
So, they advise, ask yourself this question:
Where do you see yourself…what do you see yourself doing 5 years from now?
In retrospect, not a single person who did that exercise in 2015 got the answer right!
When it comes to looking back, it may be frustrating regarding your goal-setting procedure, but it can be quite valuable for your spiritual life. In fact,
Reflection can serve as a stimulant!
A brief survey of Psalm 31 reveals that a good bit of it is spent in reflection—reflection stimulating 3 different responses. We know from v. 2 that David is in some kind of distress, because he prays, “Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily.” And it’s in that context of distress that he spends a good bit of time reflecting on the past. That in itself is a lesson to us, isn’t it?
In our times of distress, what’s our inclination?
- Look all around us…at the current condition…at the threats…at the discomfort…everything that makes us fearful & fretful
- Look out in front of us…at the imagined negative impact of the current distress…
But we often see a much different and more profitable approach in the psalms. In times of distress, reflect.
So on this occasion, David reflects on:
1) The Lord leading him & guiding him
…for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me. (v. 3)
By the way, what’s the difference between those two things? A general distinction might look like this:
– Leading: The “leader” is out in front, and you follow.
– Guiding: The guide is walking alongside, pointing out the way to go.
2) …the Lord releasing him from some kind of trap
You take me out of the net they have hidden form me. (v. 4)
For David, this happened more than once when Saul tried to trap him & kill him. Remember when Sent soldiers to his house to capture him unawares, but his wife Michal warned him & he got away?
3) …the Lord redeeming him – v. 5
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
Again, many times David experienced deliverance from attempts on his life by a spiteful, vengeful enemy. How about you? Can you reflect on the time when the Lord delivered you from your soul’s chief enemy? How many times since has He delivered you from some calamity?
4) …speaking of deliverance, he says in vv. 7-8:
You have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy.
5) Then he follows up on that, reflecting on how the Lord put him in a place of safety and relative peace:
You have set my feet in a broad place. – v. 8b
I’m sure you’ve done the “I coulda been born…!” exercise, right? Coulda been born in India…Sudan…Sri Lanka…China…. But God in His providential grace set your feet in a “broad place!”
6) Near the end of his song, he reflects on how the Lord has heard his pleas for help:
…when I was in a besieged city. I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight!’ But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help!
Now, all of this reflection isn’t just a nice exercise in nostalgic reverie! Not at all! It actually serves as a spiritually robust mug of high-octane espresso & stimulates three important actions. I’ll just mention one of them this week.
Reflection Stimulates Praise
• For you are my rock and my fortress… (v. 3)
• Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues. (vv. 19-20)
• Blessed be the Lord, for He has wondrously showed his steadfast love to me… (v. 21)
So, let’s just conclude by asking ourselves:
How much praising am I doing these days?
Is it woefully lacking because I’m not doing much reflecting?
Let’s ask God to remind us of things that will stimulate praise!