Knowing how we should live is important, but it is actually living out those convictions in faith and obedience that gives us victory over despair and the fullness of God’s blessings. And recalling those blessings, in turn, pleases God and fills our worship with joy.
Convictions and Daily Encouragement
It is a privilege to teach pastoral theology to students who are preparing for ministry as they study at Shepherds Theological Seminary, where I serve as president. Training church leaders to hold firmly to sola scriptura—the Scriptures alone—is thrilling to me.
But let me tell you, even in a seminary setting, it is possible to believe biblically without behaving biblically. In other words, it is possible to love to learn the Bible but not live the Bible from day to day.
Another seminary president put it this way: “I fear that we may be turning out graduates with a great number of beliefs but not enough conviction.” “Conviction” he wrote, “gives belief a backbone . . . theological truths [are not just] floating around in [your] head; they [become] concrete convictions” in life.
As we arrive at Psalm 101, the setting here is a rather turbulent time for the newly crowned King David. The nation is divided, and many people who were loyal to King Saul do not like David at all, and they are going to try to undermine his leadership.
But David knows the kind of king God has called him to be. This psalm becomes a psalm of convictions that David writes down, convictions that will put a backbone to his beliefs.
There are nine convictions stated in this psalm, and you can easily find and circle them because each one is marked by the words, “I will.” In verse 1 David says, “I will sing of [God’s] steadfast love and justice.” And in verse 2 he writes, “I will ponder the way that is blameless.”
Then David asks the question here in verse 2, “Oh when will you come to me?” He is referring to the ark of the covenant that needs to find its way to Jerusalem. It was captured back in King Saul’s day. It has since been recovered but still hasn’t been brought to Jerusalem.
As he worships God and ponders the way of the blameless, David knows he needs the Lord’s help. David’s conviction is that without the Lord’s intimate presence in the ark, his reign over Israel will fail.
At the end of verse 2, David states another conviction, or determination: “I will walk with integrity of heart within my house.” Oh, if only more believers today would behave in their homes like believers. Who you are in private is just as important as who you are in public.
Here is another conviction—verse 3: “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.” I remember my parents typing out this verse and taping it on the upper left-hand corner of our television. Every time my three brothers and I watched TV, there was that verse staring back at us: “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.” And of course, that described just about everything on TV.
What steps are you going to take today to keep from your eyes—your attention, your focus—something that is sinful and worthless as you walk with Christ?
I can’t help but think of what happens when David lets his convictions slide on that day when he sees Bathsheba bathing down below. He sets his convictions aside and pays a heavy price of consequences.
Now in Psalm 102, the anonymous author is struggling with some situation in life that is literally causing him to faint in depression and discouragement. In fact, the superscription at the top of the psalm reads, “A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord.”
Just listen to how this psalmist describes his life. Maybe you can identify with him because of something you are going through right now. Here are verses 3-4:
For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace [in other words, I just ache all over]. My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread.
He continues, “I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places; I lie awake” (verses 6-7). He can’t sleep at night. He says, “I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.”
What do you say or do to battle this kind of depression—this kind of despair? Well, the psalmist gives us a clue here, as his tone changes from despair to hope, writing in verse 12, “But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever.” He recognizes the truth that while the stormy waves might be high, God’s throne is higher.
But is God’s throne so high up there that He doesn’t bother with your troubles down here? Well, verse 17 answers that doubt: “He regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer.”
That Hebrew verb for “regards” means to turn toward. He isn’t turning His back on you; He is turning His full attention toward you when you cry out in desperation.
After expressing his confidence that God is listening to him, even if it doesn’t look like it, the psalmist then offers an important part of the solution for anyone who is overwhelmed with despair and difficulty—and this is really an amazing example for us all. He turns his attention to others in need.
Note verses 18-20:
Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created [that’s you and me!] may praise the Lord: that he looked down from his holy height . . . to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die.
One of the best things you can do when you are discouraged is reach out to somebody else who is facing difficult times as well. Praying for them, serving them, calling them up and encouraging them in their walk with God will change your perspective on your own situation.
Now as we move into Psalm 103, we are given another action step that counteracts discouragement. David writes in verse 2, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”
David is talking to himself here, saying, “Don’t forget the Lord; don’t forget what the Lord has done. The Lord hasn’t forgotten me. He remembers me, so I need to do the same and start keeping a record of His benefits.”
This is great advice. When you are discouraged, you tend to forget what God has done and what He might even be doing today.
Spiritual amnesia is one of the most dangerous illnesses facing the believer. Fight it! Make a list if you need to; don’t forget what He has done for you.
When David writes in verse 3 that one of the Lord’s benefits is that He heals all your diseases, don’t misunderstand. He is referring to diseases of the soul, not the body. Yes, God can heal your body if He wants to, but David—just like everyone else—got sick and would eventually die. I have never met anybody who died naturally of good health.
Depression and discouragement and anxiety are diseases of the soul; and God can heal them as we remember Him, as we exercise our memory bank, and as we trust Him for today—and tomorrow.
I am reminded of a song written by John Oatman Jr., who wrote several well-known hymns for the church. Back in 1897 he penned one of his most popular hymns, “Count Your Blessings.” You may know the tune:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost.
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Now we don’t know if Psalm 103 inspired Oatman’s song, but it sounds just like King David’s advice from the Lord.
Adding up your blessings has a unique way of subtracting your burdens. So, let’s start adding them up today.
 Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Exultant (Cook Communications, 2004), 41–42.