Sunday, June 7, 2009
Talk To Yourself (pt.1)
Talk To Yourself! (Pt 1)
Psalm 42 is our assignment this morning. Listen carefully as we are addressed by God through this Psalm.
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me continually,
"Where is your God?"
These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
"Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?"
As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually,
"Where is your God?"
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
Author Paul Tripp has devoted much of his life to studying biblical counseling
He has written the finest book, in my opinion, on the topic of biblical counseling: Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands.
Paul is a true Christian, a most effective "physician of the soul." Recently I came across the following insight in Paul's writing.
Listen carefully as Mr. Tripp describes the most influential voice in your life.
I find myself saying it all the time. When people hear it they laugh, but actually I'm being quite serious when I say it. Here it is. No one is more influential in your life than you are because no one talks to you more than you do. You're in an unending conversation with yourself. You're talking to yourself all the time, interpreting, organizing, and analyzing what's going on inside you and around you.
You may be talking to yourself about why you feel so tired. Or maybe you woke up this morning with a sense of dread and you're not sure why....Perhaps you're reliving a conversation that didn't go too well. Or maybe [you're] preparing yourself for a conversation that may be difficult by conjuring up as many renditions as you can imagine, so you can cover all the contingencies…
Maybe your mind has traveled back to your distant past and, for reasons you don't understand, you're recalling events from your early childhood. The point is that you are constantly involved in an internal conversation that greatly influences the things you decide, say, and do....
What do you regularly tell yourself about yourself, God, and your circumstances?
- Do your words to you encourage faith, hope, and courage?
- Or do they stimulate doubt, discouragement, and fear?
- Do you remind yourself that God is near, or do you reason within yourself, given your circumstances, that he must be distant?
- Do you encourage yourself to run to God even when you don't understand what he's doing?
- Or do you give yourself permission to back away from him when you are confused by the seeming distance between what he's promised and what you're experiencing?
- ....When others talk to you, is your internal conversation so loud that it's hard to concentrate on what they're saying?
Here's the question: How wholesome, faith-driven, and Christ-centered is the conversation that you have-with you-every day?
No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do.
You are in an unending conversation with yourself.
This conversation never ceases.
It began when you woke up this morning and it will continue until you fall asleep this evening.
It is actually taking place within you right now, even as we speak.
And this morning we will consider and examine this unending conversation taking place within yourself each and every day.
Even though this conversation is constantly taking place within us, we hardly ever examine it or evaluate the content of this conversation.
We rarely consider the influence of this conversation upon our lives.
And most of us don't consider this unending conversation as truly significant, or serious, or ultimately influential. (Agreed???)
But we are mistaken, because this internal conversation really has the most influence on your soul each and every day.
You are more influenced by this internal conversation than you are by
- your parents,
- your pastors,
- your friends,
- your teachers,
- and (at times) even more than God and his Word.
Apart from God's activity in our lives each day, this conversation, and the content of this conversation, is the difference-maker in your soul each and every day.
And there is a direct relationship between the content of this unending internal conversation and the state of your soul each and every day.
So examining and evaluating the content of this internal conversation in light of holy Scripture, and informing this conversation with the content of holy Scripture and the gospel, can—and by God's grace, will—make all the difference in your soul and in your life.
And in Psalm 42, we have the unique opportunity of listening in on the internal conversation of the psalmist.
We have the unique opportunity to overhear the psalmist, as he examines and evaluates the unending conversation taking place in his soul.
The psalmist records this internal conversation, and he humbly shares this with us.
He shares with us his internal conversation so that we might examine and evaluate the content of our internal conversation and the influence of that conversation upon our lives.
2 Main Examples We’ll point out today:
1. THE TROUBLED SOUL
As we overhear the internal conversation present in this psalm, it is immediately obvious to all of us that all is NOT well within the soul of the author.
The mood of this psalm is obvious throughout the reading.
This man's soul is troubled & the conversation within his soul is troubling.
His soul, in verse 5, is downcast.
His soul is cast down.
His soul is in turmoil.
And there is a repetition in verses 5 and 11.
His soul is downcast.
His soul is in turmoil.
And perhaps you’re familiar with this experience yourself.
Perhaps, moments ago, as we read through this psalm, the content or mood of this psalm resonated in your soul.
Well, to differing degrees I think we are all familiar with the experience of the soul in torment.
No one who is present is exempt from this experience.
But if you’re not prepared for this experience, you will be vulnerable to failure when you have this experience…
You will be prone to struggle.
The psalmist, in effect, prepares us for this experience.
The psalmist identifies with us in this experience, and he teaches us how to respond to this experience.
If you are familiar with an aching soul, this psalm informs you that your struggle is not unique and you are not alone.
David Powlison has said, "The Psalms have always been favorites of God's people because they express honest human experience and emotion in the context of faith. In the Psalms you meet God where you are."
Yes, they have always been favorites because they express honest human experience and emotion.
In this psalm, we obviously have honest human experience and emotion in the context of faith.
So prepare this morning, to be freshly introduced to God right where you are today.
Now, it would appear that the author's soul has been troubled by three different experiences, experiences that we are all familiar with.
A. Troubled by the Absence of God (vv. 1–4)
The author of this psalm is a godly man.
He is numbered among the sons of Korah.
He is numbered among the Levites who were involved in leading temple worship.
Notice that the psalm doesn’t begin with a reference to his troubled soul.
Instead, at the outset of this psalm we encounter a thirsty soul.
(-) "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?" (vv. 1–2)
Initially the psalmist portrays himself as thirsty for God, not cast down or troubled in his soul.
The author is passionate about God
The author of this psalm is passionately pursuing God,
- not indifferent to God,
- not maintaining a distance from God,
- not openly or secretly pursuing sin against God.
No, there is a pronounced thirst for God in his soul.
And this passion for God is so pronounced that he compares it to a deer desperate for water in a time of drought or when pursued by hunters.
The opening lines seem to reveal an increasing intensity.
He begins with a reference to God, and then he references the living God, and then finally he cries out, "When shall I come and appear before God?" (v. 2)
The psalmist has an intense, impressive, compelling appetite for God.
He is thirsty for God, yet his soul is downcast and in turmoil.
How can that be present simultaneously in this man's soul?
Why is he downcast?
Why is his soul in turmoil?
Well, his soul is downcast and in turmoil because, even though he longs for God, he feels distant from God.
Though he is thirsty for God, he feels alienated from God.
He longs for God, yet he feels forgotten by God.
He is passionate for God, yet he feels abandoned by God.
Meet a man who desires God's presence, but feels God's absence.
Meet the psalmist.
Have you ever been there???
His sense of estrangement from God is only heightened by his geographic separation from the temple and its worship.
He writes in verse 6 from Palestine, and he remembers the joy of former days:
(-)"…how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival" (v. 4).
He passionately desires a renewed experience of that very special communion with God that he experienced in public worship during the festival season.
He is thirsty for this, but it ain't happening!
Have you ever been away from God’s people for quite a while?
(Vince testimony: Left Seminary… Backslid… went back to church…choir practice…God’s presence…overwhelming)
It is quite possible to be thirsty for God—to seek God and to serve God—and yet at times not sense the nearness of God and instead feel the absence of God.
Would you be surprised today to learn that the people we rightly respect and revere in and throughout church history are familiar with this experience?
Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892)
Charles Spurgeon wrote the following:
Why, I tell you, young Christians, that the most experienced believers, the men who have great doctrinal knowledge and much experimental wisdom, the men who have lived very near to God and have had the most rapt and intimate fellowship with their Lord and Savior, are the very men who have their ebbs, and their winters.
And Spurgeon himself was very familiar with those ebbs and the winter season of the soul. John Piper, in giving a biographical address about Mr. Spurgeon, noted his recurrent battles with depression. John Piper writes,
It is not easy to imagine the omni-competent, eloquent, brilliant, full-of-energy Spurgeon weeping like a baby for no reason that he could think of. In 1858, at age 24 it happened for the first time. He said, "My spirits were sunken so low that I could weep by the hour like a child, and yet I knew not what I wept for."....
He saw his depression as his "worst feature." "Despondency," he said, "is not a virtue; I believe it is a vice. I am heartily ashamed of myself for falling into it, but I am sure there is no remedy for it like a holy faith in God."
Spurgeon would once write, "This depression comes over me whenever the Lord is preparing a larger blessing for my ministry." Charles Spurgeon was very familiar with a downcast, troubled soul.
Martin Luther (1483–1546)
And so was Martin Luther.
On one particular occasion when he was greatly discouraged—which was not unusual for Luther—he was forcefully reminded of this by his wife, Katharine…
Seeing him unresponsive to any word of encouragement, one morning she appeared dressed in black mourning clothes.
No word of explanation was forthcoming, and so Luther, who had heard nothing of a bereavement, asked her, "Katharine, why are you dressed in mourning black?"
"Someone has died," she replied.
"Died?" said Luther. "I have not heard of anyone dying. Whoever can have died?"
"It seems," his wife replied, (Tilt head sarcastically) "that God must have died."
Luther got the point. (lol)
These men were familiar with the experience of the psalmist.
And if this is your experience as you sit here today, or when this is your experience in the future, these stories should give you hope.
And most importantly, we should derive hope from the divinely inspired author of this particular psalm.
His soul is downcast.
He is thirsty for God.
He is passionately seeking God.
He longs to experience communion with God.
And yet his soul is downcast, in turmoil, and troubled because it seems God has forgotten him.
He is more aware of God's absence than he is of God's presence, and the result is a troubled and downcast soul.
B. Troubled by the Presence of Trials (vv. 6–7)
Secondly, his soul seems to be affected by the presence of trials.
Rather than the joyful sounds of temple worship that he identifies in verse 4, all the psalmist seems to hear is vividly described in verse 7:
(-) "Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me."
These waters symbolize trials and suffering.
These waterfalls, waves, and breakers are continuous, relentless, and overwhelming.
And the sound of this waterfall and these breakers is deafening.
He is not only aware of the seeming absence of God, he is very aware of the presence of trials in his life.
"All your breakers and your waves have gone over me."
Perhaps today you in some way can relate to the psalmist.
Perhaps you are lonely.
Perhaps you came to this gathering alone.
It doesn't appear you have friends.
It appears to you that everyone else has friends.
You, in the midst of this congregation, feel alone.
You are intimate friends with loneliness on a daily basis.
Or perhaps you thought you would be married by now.
Yet lately you have begun to think, "Will I ever get married?"
Or perhaps, this morning, you are familiar with chronic debilitating sickness in some form, that’s uncommon for someone your age.
Maybe life has thrown you some curveballs.
Crippling circumstances & setbacks.
Your soul is downcast.
It is troubled.
You are in turmoil.
Trials like waves, like breakers, ceaselessly and endlessly overwhelm you.
The psalmist, though thirsty for God, is downcast because of the seeming absence of God and the presence of trials.
C. Troubled by the Opposition of Man (vv. 3, 9, 10)
Finally, it appears he was affected by the opposition of man.
He is familiar with opposition.
"While they say to me continually, 'Where is your God?'" (v. 3)
"Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?" (v. 9)
"As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually, 'Where is your God?'" (v. 10)
His soul is downcast and troubled because of the opposition of man.
And for us, that opposition can come in a spiritual or supernatural form.
It can come in the form of the demonic.
It can come in the form of fiery darts from the evil one taunting us on a daily basis, arguing with us that not only is God invisible, he appears to be quite inactive in your life.
Maybe He doesn’t exist…
If He does, maybe He doesn’t care about you!
You appear to be abandoned by God.
You appear to be forgotten by God.
Just like the Psalmist, WE are familiar with those tormenting thoughts,
- Those secret fears that we are suspicious at times might be true,
- Because, when we look around at our circumstances & trials and begin to assess things, our trials seem more tangible than our God in those moments.
- The Opposition comes…
- It comes to all of us…
And the opposition comes in the form of individuals as well.
And if you are a college student—and the majority present are college students—you will know opposition.
If you identify yourself as a Christian,
If you identify yourself with the gospel of Jesus Christ,
If you identify yourself with the authoritative content of holy Scripture,
You WILL experience opposition, because part of this culture is hostile to God and his Word.
And regardless of how humbly you hold your biblical position, you will experience, to some degree, opposition from this culture.
The Inevitability of Hostility
Opposition is inevitable.
We live in a culture hostile to all we believe and proclaim;
Hostile to the notion that absolute truth may in fact exist in this world
Hostile to masculinity and femininity as defined in Scripture;
Hostile to the prescribed commands of God for sexual purity outside of marriage
Hostile, most of all and most importantly, to the exclusivity of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross as the way to be reconciled with God.
Regardless of how humbly you hold those positions—
(And I pray you do hold them humbly…and not self-righteously)
You will know opposition.
You will know opposition from relatives, friends, teachers, employers, and coworkers.
You will know opposition, and that opposition can affect your soul.
It was affecting the soul of the psalmist.
Aware of those taunts, aware of the opposition, he was downcast.
And he was troubled in his soul.
As he conversed with himself in his soul about the seeming absence of God and the presence of trials and the ridicule from those around him, his soul was troubled and in turmoil as a result.
These themes in his life formed a ceaseless conversation within him.
But by God's grace, these situations did cease!
It is particularly noteworthy and instructive for us to study how the psalmist responds to this unending conversation within his soul.
It is particularly noteworthy and instructive for us, as we overhear his internal conversation, to look carefully at how he responds to his troubled soul, because what is remarkable about this psalm—and critical for us to recognize and ultimately emulate—is how the psalmist addresses his troubled soul and ultimately, the God of his soul.
And that brings us to point 2.
2. THE HOPEFUL SOUL
When your soul is troubled and in turmoil…
When you are longing for God but do not sense the nearness of God…
When you are overwhelmed by trial and opposed by others…
What is the appropriate response?
Well, the psalmist models the appropriate response.
And if the psalmist were present, he would tell you personally that when your soul is troubled, when your soul is in turmoil, the appropriate response is (A) talk to yourself, and (B) talk to God.
A. Talk to Yourself (vv. 5, 11)
First, talk to yourself.
(I know that sounds crazy)
But we’re not talking about wandering through the streets of SD carrying on a conversation with yourself in public!
(Example: Yesterday… “Washington Mutual” / Also Tacoma… Kenny (If you talk to them they come out of it & go right back…LOL)
That’s true with us too!
We’re talking about a conversation that’s going on in your innermost being already… and instead of just being a hearer, actually engaging in that conversation with Biblical truth…
If you let your heart dictate everything you do, you will be mislead…
“The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it!”
Without God, we make a pretty bad mess of things…Agreed?
We studied this earlier this year in our Billboard series on Romans
We are self-seeking, by nature…
We are easily angered and allow emotions (fear, anger…) to control us
Without God, the Bible says we are wicked and depraved
Our hearts still wrestle with addictions to sin and are not fully subject to the things of God
If we allow our hearts to guide us, where will it lead?
The same place it has our whole life… failure and frustration
The definition of insanity is trying to do the same thing repeatedly expecting a different result…
We have to stop letting our heart lead us
We must learn to begin to inject the word of God into our hearts
We must let God’s unchanging word direct our steps
We must learn not to be blinded by our circumstances and feelings, but to keep our eyes open, in faith, to the God who seems distant at times, but is never further than the mention of His name…
We must learn to walk by faith, not our feelings
The psalmist does not wallow in his sorrowful circumstances…
He does not repeatedly and endlessly review and rehearse and describe the state of his troubled soul.
He does not ignore his soul.
He does not excuse his soul.
No, instead, he interrupts his soul.
He interrupts this unending conversation taking place within his soul.
He questions his soul.
He interrogates his soul.
He challenges his soul.
He rebukes his soul.
And he exhorts his soul to trust in God.
And this, ultimately, makes all the difference in his soul,
And this will make all the difference in your downcast soul as well.
Too often this practice of talking to yourself and talking to your soul is neglected by those who are troubled in their soul.
You can read about this in incredible book called Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure (Eerdmans, 1965), which we highly recommend.
In it, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes,
I say that we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing 'ourselves' to talk to us! Do you realize what that means? I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man's treatment [in Psalm 42] was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. 'Why art thou cast down, O my soul?' he asked. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: 'Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you.'....
The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself.
You have to take yourself in hand,
You have to address yourself,
Preach to yourself,
You must say to your soul: 'Why are you cast down?'—
What business do you have to be disquieted?
You must turn on yourself,
And say to yourself: 'Hey you, Hope in God!'
That is exactly what we must do.
"Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?"
Let me ask you: Have you realized that?
Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to this reality, this fact, that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?
See, what we have each day is an internal conversation that never ends.
It is ceaseless.
It continues always within us.
And so each day, throughout the day, we have two simple choices:
1) We can either spend the day listening to ourselves, listening to ourselves in our constantly changing feelings and circumstantial interpretations
2) We can spend each day talking to ourselves. We can talk truth to ourselves. We can preach the gospel to ourselves, and we can address our troubled and tormented soul with Scripture and ultimately the gospel.
This takes: Effort, Practice, and Perseverance
Now most of us have spent years listening to ourselves and have rarely talked to ourselves.
Talking to yourself is a learned skill.
It is a learned skill requiring practice and it involves effort.
This will not happen effortlessly.
Talking truth to yourself requires effort that is motivated by, and dependent upon, the grace of God.
But one conversation with yourself normally won't be sufficient to alter your troubled soul.
Our troubled souls don’t immediately cooperate!
Our troubled souls are not instantly transformed.
Our troubled souls need more than a single exhortation.
Our troubled souls need continuous addressing with truth and with the truth of the gospel.
And that, actually, is illustrated in this psalm.
Please notice, in verse 5, he begins to talk to himself.
"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?" Keep reading:
"My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you" (v. 6).
And then verse 11:
"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God."
Notice the repetition of the psalm.
Talking to yourself requires perseverance.
It requires repetition.
“Repetition is the mother of learning”
Like the psalmist, you must persevere with this practice and in this practice in order to experience the transition from troubled soul to hopeful soul.
And understand that many of you here are reaping the effect in your soul and upon your soul of listening to your soul for years rather than talking to your soul.
But the good news today is this:
This Morning, this moment, you can begin to talk to your soul.
You can begin sowing truth to your soul.
And IF you begin this very moment, this will ensure that you will reap the effect of truth in your soul at some point in the future.
If you are convinced—and I assume you are convinced by the psalmist—of the importance of this practice, and if you employ this practice, by God's grace this will have a transforming effect and make a noticeable difference in your soul.
Next week we are going to get into the good stuff… we’ll be talking about
how to do it
You may be asking,
What Do I Say to My Soul?
This week, just start telling yourself truth about God and promises from His word
The next 2 Sundays we’ll really start unpacking this subject…
- Going much deeper
- Explaining the mechanics
I’m excited about this series, because if you won’t just stop at listening,
but you’ll let this truth go from your head to your heart and into your hands the Gospel is going to change you…
The Good news of God will go from informational to TRANSformational!