Going From Complaining to God to Confidence in God (Psalm 77)
Topic: Complaining to Confidence Passage: Psalm 77
Summer in the Psalms
Grace Community Church
August 8, 2021
Going From Complaining to God to Confidence in God (Psalm 77)
For our guests we are in a series called Summer in the Psalms so if you have your Bibles, turn with me to Psalm 77. We’ll also have it on the screen for you to follow along. This is a psalm of Asaph who was a prominent leader and musician in David’s court and it’s broken into two sections, the first being a complaint to God, the second expressing the psalmist’s confidence in God. Let’s begin by reading the first section, vv. 1-9.
77 I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. 2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. 3 When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah
4 You hold my eyelids open;I am so troubled that I cannot speak. 5 I consider the days of old, the years long ago. 6 I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search: 7 “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? 8 Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? 9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah(Pray)
Confidence is one of those intangible things that packs a big punch. The difference between having confidence and lacking confidence can be the difference between success and failure, the difference between doors opening and doors closing. Confidence injects courage into us, lack of confidence sucks courage out of us. I’ve felt firsthand the difference the physical difference between when I’ve felt confident and when I’ve lacked confidence, and you probably have too.
Psalm 77 is a psalm about confidence. Not self-confidence (which, in healthy dosages, is a good thing), but confidence in God. And I believe it brings a timely word to us today.
The first nine verses of psalm 77 are a lament, or a complaint. Asaph lays it right out there – he doesn’t hold back, he’s honest with God. I lie awake at night, God, it’s as if you’re holding my eyelids open. My heart is so burdened I can barely speak. If you have ever felt so overwhelmed by something that it feels like all the strength went out from you, leaving you feeling very weak; if you have had so much burning in your brain that you didn’t know how to put it in words, much less a prayer; if you’ve ever lied awake at night with your mind racing, then you know something of what Asaph is talking about in this psalm.
The trials Asaph and his people are facing are so extreme it brings him to ask questions like: has God rejected us? Has His love ceased? Are His promises no longer true? Has His
grace run out, has His anger snuffed out His compassion? Asaph is struggling with a crisis of confidence in God.
We can go through a crisis of confidence in God and still believe all the right things about God. We believe generally, but struggle to believe personally: I know that God is faithful, but will He be faithful to me? I know that God is compassionate, but does He feel compassion towards me? I know God’s promises are true, but do they apply to me?
I think there are a lot of Christians and a lot of churches that are in a slump when it comes to confidence in God. I know I have struggles with it. I don’t struggle with confidence in the big truths of the Bible, I sometimes struggle with whether God will meet me in my need. I struggle with what I see going on around me and believing God is going to do something about it.
- People who once had a strong profession of faith walk away from their faith
- A culture that increasingly looks at the church and Jesus as irrelevant in their lives
- Big name Christian leaders publicly falling into scandal and disrepute, casting a shadow on all the things that they taught and preached
- A head on collision between biblical teachings about morality and sin and our culture. Years ago these were things that might have seemed out of step, but we agreed to disagree. More and more, those who hold certain biblically based convictions – no matter how lovingly and non-judgmentally they hold them – are looked at as hateful and intolerant.
- It can feel like there’s a lack of power in the church: lack of power in evangelism, lack of power to see lives transformed, lack of power in prayer.
Lack of confidence in God while holding onto our beliefs can have us doing the same things, but not in the same way. We still pray, but not with a strong confidence that God will hear our prayers and do awesome things. We still talk about Jesus, but don’t expect lives to be changed and people to get saved. We still sing songs of worship, but we aren’t moved the way we once were. We still go to church but we don’t expect to meet God the way that we once did. Uncomfortable struggles that raise uncomfortable questions. But God wants us to be honest about the struggle and the questions.
God included this complaint with questions that come close to impugning God’s character and promises in His word because God isn’t afraid of our complaints or heartfelt questions. Lament is a language God understands and so should the church. If people aren’t allowed to share their pain, questions, even their struggle with loss of confidence in God when they’re going through a difficult time then the church will become a place where people stuff all that inside and put on a phony front. That’s not what God wants.
God wants us to be honest about these inner struggles – it’s ok to go there but we don’t want to stay there. We don’t want to live in the twilight of little confidence in God. We might stray there, we don’t want to stay there. Asaph doesn’t.
Asaph is openly, honestly, struggling with a lack of confidence in God but he takes that struggle to God starting in verse 1: I cry aloud to God, aloud to God and He will hear me. Sometimes the first step to confidence is speaking confidently when we don’t feel it. He will hear me! He will hear me! He will hear me!
And in verse 10, that spark of confidence becomes a roaring flame!
10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this,to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”[b]
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.13 Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? 14 You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. 15 You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
He remembers what God has done, he remembers God’s wonders of old, God’s powerful work, His redemptive arm, and His mighty deeds in history, not as a walk down memory lane, but because he knows that all of history is God’s history and God doesn’t change. The God of then is the God of now! We are as much a part of God’s redemptive history as Asaph was, as David was, as Joseph was, as Peter, James, and John were. All history is God’s history and God hasn’t changed. He hasn’t shrunk or moved or given up. Look at verse 14: you are the God who works wonders. Not you were the God, you are the God! Asaph’s confidence in God is rising!
Then he recounts in dramatic fashion the great miracle of the parting of the Red Sea.
16 When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid;indeed, the deep trembled. 17 The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side.18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook.19 Your way was through the sea,your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. 20 You led your people like a flockby the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Bang! He’s done. The psalm ends abruptly. Nothing else needs be said – Asaph has his confidence in God back! The Red Sea looked like a dead end for Moses and the Israelites. Literally. Armies of Egypt behind them, an ocean of water in front of them, they had no where to go and nothing to do except die. That’s what it looked like to them, but God didn’t bring them there to kill them. He brought them there to make a way where there was no way!
God always makes a way for His people. He brings us to hard places and deep trials because it’s there He shows Himself strong on our behalf. It takes a test to make a testimony. It takes a heavy weight to show God’s power to lift it! It takes us getting to a place where there’s no human way forward to believe God to make a way where there is no way!
Jesus is our greatest example of God making a way where there was no way. Sin and Satan behind us, God’s righteous judgment in front of us – and nowhere to go! But the cross parted the Red Sea of God’s judgment so we can approach God, not timidly, but boldly – with confidence! Confidence that God loves us! Confidence that God hears us! Confidence that God has done great things and He will do them again!
You may notice I’m using the word confidence when the word faith would fit here too. I think the word confidence helps give us a handle on what faith is. Faith is confidence in God: God will part the Red Sea. God will make a way! When the woman pushed through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus, she had confidence that one touch would do what all the physicians couldn’t do, and she would be healed. When the father brought his demon possessed son to Jesus, he had confidence that Jesus could deliver his son from the grip of Satan.
Confidence: Because of what Jesus has done for us Heb 4:16 says, 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Don’t go timidly, “maybe God will hear me, maybe God will receive me, maybe God will give me timely grace to meet my need.” Throw open the doors and say, Father, I’m here and I need mercy and grace! Confidently! It pleases our Father’s heart!
Heb 10:35 makes this promise: 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
Growing our confidence in God isn’t done in a moment – it’s usually a gradual process. I want to share a couple thoughts about growing our confidence as we close.
- Pray confidently – even if you don’t feel it, your emotions aren’t the final word, God is. He says come confidently to His throne of grace, and that’s prayer. Come confidently, pray confidently.
- Do more talking to yourself, less listening to yourself. Asaph’s turn from shaky confidence to strong confidence starts with him talking to himself: Then I said “I will appeal to…the most High…” Who’s he talking to? Himself! Our inner voice may say, “God’s not going to answer. This situation is too big. There’s no way forward. I need too much. I’ve prayed before and God didn’t answer.” It’s time to stop listening to ourselves and start talking to ourselves: I will appeal…I will remember…I will meditate…I will ponder God’s awesome works and mighty power! Don’t listen passively to your thoughts, speak actively to your thoughts!
- Recount God’s awesome deeds! Biblical miracles are a great place to start. Then think about the ways God has answered prayer in your life, the ways He has met you, the ways He has shown His care. I have seen God answer so many prayers over the years. I’ve seen Him do awesome things! I’ve also seen Him bless me in ways I didn’t ask for. I’ve seen Him put a leash on bad circumstances, where He said a bad circumstance could go so far and no further. And then I’ve seen Him work that bad circumstance together for good. You have similar examples of God’s awesome love on your behalf – recount them!
- Let’s recount them together! Let’s encourage each other with testimonies of how God met us, answered prayer, healed us, opened a door of blessing, gave us timely grace in our time of need. Right here on Sunday mornings, let’s share more testimonies. You can help strengthen someone else’s confidence by sharing – let’s not keep it to ourselves.
- Let’s pray together, let’s pray big, let’s pray confidently. Thank you for praying for Mike and Terry – God answered those prayers! Let’s keep it up!
- Let’s encourage one another to be confident in our great God and powerful Savior Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews is encouraging God’s people when he says, “let’s approach the throne of grace with confidence”. Let’s do this!
God is still great and powerful! He is still doing great things! We can believe that with confidence and pray that with confidence.