In the mid-1700s Jonathan Edwards was serving as the pastor of a thriving church in Northampton, Massachusetts. He had been a faithful and hardworking pastor for 22 years. Though his gifts were clearly more academic than pastoral, he loved his flock, served them, prayed for them, and preached some of the most influential sermons in history from their pulpit.
Edwards has been credited by historians as having a leading role in starting the Great Awakening in which 10s of 1,000s became genuinely and noticeably converted. His famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God was the spark that ignited the movement. And yet he remained the faithful pastor of a relatively small congregation… until 1749, when something made him leave his flock after 22 years.
What happened? Simple: they fired him.
Edwards wanted to insist that communion could only be taken by people who had evidence that they were, in fact, Christians but this was against the church’s tradition of allowing anyone, no matter how blatantly unrepentant they were, to partake in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
Edwards was dismissed but then agreed to continue on as their pastor until they found a replacement, which took a year.
Can you imagine the hurt and betrayal he must have felt? Most of us would have spiraled into depression, cynicism, or bitterness. But Edwards remained cheerful, content, serene through the whole ordeal. How did Edwards survive the humiliating, unfair, and devastating dismissal?
His happiness was out of the reach of his enemies.
This is a helpful lesson we learn from another man who was viciously attacked by enemies within his own family: King David.
David writes Psalm 3 after his beloved son, Absalom, tries to assassinate him, overthrow this government, and reign as king in his place. David flees for his life – a fugitive in his own kingdom, and pens Psalm 3.
4 Spiritual Lessons We Glean from David’s Insight So that We Can Learn to Trust God in Our Trials
1. Problems Are Unavoidable
Psalm 3:1-2 O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul there is no salvation for him in God. Selah
If there is one thing we all identify with, it’s problems. Challenges are the universal experience of mankind in this life. They are an unavoidable and inescapable part of the Genesis 3 curse.
The earth is a hostile environment and many of its inhabitants are out to get us. Sometimes even family members.
David was facing the problem of resistance: his own son was staging a coup to dethrone him. Instead of fighting his boy, David opts to run away and hide. This would buy some time. Perhaps David could reason with him, maybe David could win him back. David loved Absalom and repeatedly told his soldiers to not kill him but to deal gently with him.
And this led to the problem of ridicule: Obviously there would be people who thought this was the wrong move. Running away was not very manly, not very regal. David had built his reputation and popularity on his courageous and heroic victory over Goliath.
So why did David choose to run? David trusted in God’s sovereignty and he knew that…
2. Protection Is Available
Psalm 3:3-4 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
David moves his attention from the power of his problems to the power of his Savior. He doesn’t minimize the problems, he doesn’t ignore the difficulty; he merely puts them in perspective, next to a towering vision of God.
God’s protection is a shield: God can and does provide physical protection for his children.
God’s protection is glory: When your reputation is being smeared, God is your glory. There is a very real sense in which nothing anyone thinks of you should make you distraught if you realize that your identity is wrapped up with God, in Christ.
God’s protection is the lifter of my head: God does not leave us drooping in shame or discouragement but lifts us so we stand tall in the middle of derision and ridicule.
God’s protection is available upon request: When we cry to God – he hears us.
And the result of all of this is that…
3. Peace Is Attainable
Psalm 3:5-6 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.
Peace and serenity is a by-product of Christian faith, like Jonathan Edwards whose happiness was “beyond the reach of his enemies.” This is what Jesus wants for his followers, that we stop worrying and just trust him.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
But to get this peace we must know that…
4. Petition Is Essential
Psalm 3:7-8 Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people!
1 Peter 5:7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
David’s prayer is an urgent cry for help – he pleads for deliverance from his enemies. David does not want to take action against Absalom – but knows that God can do this. And God did. Absalom ended up getting his long hair tangled in a thorn tree and a rogue general skewered him where he hung.
Yes, problems are unavoidable, no one is denying that, but protection is available, and peace is attainable as a result, but you have to petition God, you need to pray for it.
Do you know the Savior? Are you a disciple, a follower, a lifelong student of who Jesus is, and what he is capable of doing? If so, act like it. If not, repent and know the peace of God that can only be attained through Jesus Christ and what he did for you on the cross, by the power of his death and resurrection.