What Is Your Fortress of Choice?
Psalms 31:19 How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you.
The life of a faithful follower of Jesus will be hard. We will not be understood because our values are of a different origin than the world’s values. We will not be liked, because our mission is contrary to the world’s direction. We will not be tolerated because our lifestyles based on God’s moral truth contradicts the self-fulfilling lifestyles of our culture. We will be persecuted, both in word and in action, because we stand for Christ whom they also persecuted. Jesus offends those who live according to the desires of the flesh, so we must expect that we who represent Jesus will also offend them.
So many of David’s Psalms are about the attacks of his enemies based on his life of faith in God. One of the questions that penetrates my soul is this – why am I not experiencing such attacks. We may think that it has to do with our culture which has traditionally accepted Christian values. But David’s country was founded on God’s principles too, and yet its citizens were the ones pursuing David. Even members of his own family sought to destroy him and overthrow the kingdom. As a result, David certainly knew what it was to seek refuge in God. David had experienced the safety of the Rock. David knew from experience that God was his fortress. And until we begin to experience the same kind of persecution, I’m not sure we really know what kind of fortress God can be.
The reason I say that is because we have become very adept in our culture of avoiding the persecution that would certainly come upon us if we truly lived out our faith in every part of our lives. Jesus said that would be the reality of living a life of faith. We have done so by discovering and choosing alternative fortresses.
- We have invested in the fortress of finances, and we feel secure as long as we are making and hoarding money, taking pride in our possessions and calling ourselves a success.
- We have entered the fortress of family, and even if some of them don’t believe the truth we overlook it because we value family peace more than God’s truth. Then we justify it by hoping others will notice how loving and functional our family is.
- We have strengthened the fortress of friends, believing that so long as we are tolerant of their beliefs they will be tolerant of ours so that we can find acceptance and live at peace with our neighbors.
Then, when we feel safe in our fortresses, we take the credit for the goodness we are experiencing. We may even hypocritically give the credit to God for bestowing His goodness on us when we know in our hearts it is all of our own doing.
You may be thinking right now, “Wow! PJ is being a little harsh this morning.” Yes, I am being harsh – with me, because I realize how guilty I am of fabricating my own fortresses so I can experience goodness. If this doesn’t fit you, then move on – but it might fit you more than you are willing to admit.
Let’s compare our situation to David’s in Psalm 31. In the midst of all of his confessions to God about the trouble he was experiencing, David wants to be sure that any goodness he experiences is directly from God and not of his own making. David admits to God that he is in need of deliverance from his enemies. He wants God alone to be his rock and his fortress. He has totally surrendered the preservation and the outcome of his life to the Lord. Jesus Christ himself quotes this Psalm at the moment of His death on the cross when He says, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”
David admits that he has stood strong in his trust for God in the face of false worship. He confesses to the anguish of his soul, his distress, his physical weakness, his sorrow and his grief. He states that his life is consumed by the anguish that has lasted for years. He declares to God that he is the utter contempt of his neighbors and that his friends dread him. People who meet him in public turn and run from him. It’s as if the world considers him dead, and those who know he is still alive are plotting to kill him. We can all relate to portions of that. We all are experiencing some degree of what David was.
At this point we might all agree that David is not experiencing any goodness. David also is not proclaiming his ability to come up with a solution and fix it so that goodness returns. David confesses that there is no fortress of human fabrication to run to – there is no earthly rock to hind behind. David realizes there is only one option and proclaims, But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. And after having said that, David declares this incredible truth –
How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you.
Do you see? When our refuge is in God alone, He will bestow goodness on us in the sight of all men, including our enemies. When we solve our own sufferings, then in the sight of all men we are credited with self-produced goodness. When we do nothing to solve our sufferings and we accept the persecutions that come upon the faithful, then the very people who declared us weak and whipped will see the goodness and glory of God revealed in our lives.
Please think about that carefully. You might consider answering this question – “Is the goodness I am currently experiencing of my own making or is it fully the gift of God upon my life because He is my rock and my fortress?”
Answer humbly and honestly. You want to be able to end your life the way David ends this Psalm – not as a proud person but as a faithful one. He says…
Love the LORD, all his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.
Choose God as your only fortress.