Last week we began a new study, a study of the 119th Psalm that I am calling “The Survival Guide for Believers in a Wayward World.” There are many “survival guides” available for us at the local bookstore. You can find books with advice concerning “Surviving Financially,” “Surviving The Teenage Years,” and the Boy Scouts “Wilderness Survival Handbook.” All of these “how to” books offer wonderful tips on how we can better deal with specific situations in life, but none of them comes close to equipping us to survive and thrive in every situation of life like Psalm 119.

As a matter of fact, some of the survival guides that are available to us, to equip us to survive various situations in life, are espousing values, practices, and attitudes that are diametrically opposed to the wisdom God offers for us.

Robert Greene has spent two years writing a new book recently released that offers help to those who are hungry for survival tips in the area of power. If possessing power is your passion, then Robert Greene believes that he has the book for you – The 48 Laws of Power.

There was a story in the September 29th edition of USA Today about Mr. Greene’s new book. The author of the article, Craig Wilson, says, “Robert Greene seems like a nice enough guy. He’s funny and bright and at times can be downright charming. But beware. There’s a game being played here, and he’s very good at it. Wrote the book on it, in fact. It’s called Power.” Mr. Wilson goes on to say, “This is not a book for those in search of Christian charity.”

Let me share with you some of the advice offered by Robert Greene in his survival guide for life.
Law 2: Never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use enemies.
Law 11: Learn to keep people dependent on you.
Law 14: Pose as a friend, work as a spy.
Law 17: Keep others in suspended terror; cultivate an air of unpredictability.
Law 19: Know who you’re dealing with – do not offend the wrong person.
Law 28: Enter action with boldness. The blurb under Law 28 explains Green’s advice.
Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity. Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid.”
Law 29: Plan all the way to the end.
Law 33: Discover each man’s thumbscrew.
That little place you can put your finger in and just turn, Greene says. Everyone has a weakness. It can be revealed in the littlest of things. You can see it at lunch. If someone is a big tipper, it probably means they’re insecure. Secure, powerful people don’t tip well.
Law 39: Stir up waters to catch fish. You get the picture, and it’s not pretty.
Law 40: Despise the free lunch – won out.
What is offered for free is dangerous – it usually involves either a trick or a hidden obligation, he writes. What has worth is worth paying for.

Mr. Greene comments on his own advice by saying, “It is sort of evil, I guess, but everyone is capable of these things, because we all have a need for control.”

I wouldn’t place Mr. Greene’s book on my recommended reading list. I would much prefer that you and I spend our time reading Psalm 119 where we can find godly advice on how to survive and thrive in this wayward, power hungry world without compromising our character, integrity, and desire to live as God desires for us to live.

We must recognize though that Mr. Greene’s book is getting much more press than David’s insightful wisdom from the heart of God. The reason Mr. Greene, and others like him are getting so much recognition when it comes to offering advice to people on how to survive in this competitive world is because our values have become skewed and twisted. I received an e-mail from a lady in Alaska recently that sadly illustrates how misshapen and twisted our values have become. She writes,

We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints; we spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less. We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too seldom, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom and lie too often. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, not life to years.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We’ve conquered outer space, but not inner space; we’ve done larger things, but not better things; we’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul; we’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice; we write more, but learn less; plan more, but accomplish less.

We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait; we have higher incomes; but lower morals; more food but less appeasement; more acquaintances, but fewer friends; more effort but less success.

We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication; we’ve become long on quantity, but short on quality.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; tall men, and short character; steep profits, and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure and less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition. These are days of two incomes, but more divorce; of fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill.

It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stockroom.

If you are looking for more in life, more out of life, then you need to look in to the abundant life that God desires for every single one of us. In Psalm 119, we find King David sharing wisdom from the heart of God. Wisdom that encompasses all of life, that will enable us to rise above the everyday situations that will either defeat us or deepen our reliance and dependence upon Almighty God.
Let’s take the next step in our study by looking at two more situations of life that every one of us have, and will face from time to time. Before we look at each one individually, let me ask you a question. Has someone in authority ever mocked you, maligned your character, and assassinated your self-esteem simply to boost their stock? Has an employer ever put you down and caused you to feel alienated from the others you work with because of the scorn and unmerited criticism you received? Have you ever left a job or church or any organization because your self-confidence suffered so badly from ridicule and rejection that you couldn’t overcome it? You can rise above the crashing waves of criticism and overcome the puny powerbrokers of the planet by adhering to godly counsel.
Secondly, has sorrow ever held you so tight in its grip that you couldn’t breath? Have you ever felt that your life was over because of the darkness of sorrow had shrouded any hopes of a brighter day? You need to know that “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30)

These are the areas of life that we will be looking at this morning. Let’s first turn to our survival tip for rising above rejection and ridicule. Look at Psalm 119:17-24. Read along with me.

Do good to your servant, and I will live; I will obey your word. {18} Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. {19} I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. {20} My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. {21} You rebuke the arrogant, who are cursed and who stray from your commands. {22} Remove from me scorn and contempt, for I keep your statutes. {23} Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees. {24} Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors. (Psa 119:17-24 NIV)

Before we can really understand the power of these eight verses we need to set the stage. The Psalmist is under attack. He is being mocked by those in command, those with authority in the land. Those who are looked up to by others are looking down on the Psalmist. If you’ve ever been in a situation similar to this then you know how agonizing it can be.

For no known reason a supervisor at work begins to take shots at you. He’s not the boss, he is what is classified as middle management, but someone forgot to tell him that he doesn’t have the corner office with the view of the city. Underneath the suit is a shell of a man, or woman, who is insecure and uncomfortable with who they are. He was going to get his MBA, run his own company, appear on the cover of Fortune magazine, but his plans did not materialize and so he finds himself a “middle” manager. Not a CEO, not the VP of Marketing, but a middle manager. “Middle” was never in his plans and every day he bristles at the thought that he heading towards forty and Fortune has not called.

If he can’t be the boss, the man with the gold nameplate and eight-foot tall solid mahogany doors that grace the entrance to his office, then he’ll try and convince everyone that he is more than his title contains. He struts around the office fantasizing that others will bow down at his presence. As the years have rolled on his fantasies have never come to fruition, but his frustration has risen to an all-time high.

He doesn’t like the way you dress, your accent, your smile – it really doesn’t matter what you change about yourself, he will find something else to use to make you the object of everyone’s entertainment in the office. You are too fat, too thin, your clothes are out-of-date, your desk is not clean enough, you are too friendly to get anything done. The fact of the matter is that your supervisor is too wrapped up in his own world to ever recognize that he is the real joke and every one else is trying to get along so that they can keep their job. As a result, you are left out in the cold. Alienated, alone, feeling like everyone is always looking at you, looking to feather their own nest by going along with their supervisors cynical, snide, and self-serving ways.

It is not just the corporate world where people are crushed under the weight of arrogance and misguided power. Jim was new at the church. He was eager and anxious. He felt God at work and he wanted to be a part of what God was doing at his new church. He joined the choir, attended a class, and even signed up for committee work. When he went to the first committee meeting the others were deep in a discussion of what they wanted to do in the upcoming year. They needed to attract new members and those on the committee, who had been members of the church for twenty years or more, were offering their suggestions. Their suggestions gave them away as church members, those who were not shopping for a new church, but those who had been in the church for some time. Jim, on the other hand, had been out of the church for some time before he joined 1st church. He knew what he had been looking for and their ideas were different than his own. Jim thought, “I’m new to this committee so I’d better not say too much.” Finally, when the committee failed to mention any of the ideas that were heavy on Jim’s mind, he jumped in. Jim was not prepared for what happened next. Miss Ida, a saintly woman in her 70’s who had been the heart and soul of the women’s group for years, and who was a tremendous blessing to the church in that capacity said, “Jim, you’re new here and I think before you speak you ought to listen. ” Jim shared with the group that he felt that since he was new and had been looking for a new church that he might have some ideas that had value. The rest of the committee, following Miss Ida’s lead, put Jim in his place. Needless to say Jim never attended another committee meeting and as a result the committee continued holding “Visitor Bean Dinners” and “New Hat Sundays” with little result.

How do you deal with those in authority who use their position to squash and squelch those around them? How do you, as a person who is trying to cope with one of these kind of people, keep your focus without turning in your resignation? Great question. Let’s look at what the Psalmist did to overcome.

The Psalmist is deep in the grip of alienation when he says, {19} I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. {20} My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. {21} You rebuke the arrogant, who are cursed and who stray from your commands. (Psa 119:19-21) “I am a stranger on earth.” You can just feel the emotion dripping from those words. They are words we can identify with because there have been times when, in a world of 6 billion people, we have felt all alone. Times when we couldn’t escape the thought of the one who belittled us at every turn. Times when we saw the person across the room and our stomach started to church and we felt all alone. Times when the rest the of the world was fast asleep, but we couldn’t find rest in the middle of the night because of our alienation, isolation, and utter sense of being all alone in this world. There have times in our lives when a few relentless folks turned on us to mock us, murder our character, taint our testimony, and rob us of the peace God desires for us.

I have good news for those of you who are feeling alone even now. Possibly our time together this morning has caused buried memories to resurface or fresh experiences to come flooding back in and now you don’t know what to do with them. Hold on my friend and let me share with you the good news.
For the Psalmist, there is only one emotion that is stronger than the alienation he feels, and that is the passionate, consuming desire for God’s Word. How do you maintain your sanity and rise above the arrogance of those in authority over you who seek to dismantle you bit by bit? God’s Word is our rope of safety to elevate us above the crushing waves of criticism. The Psalmist is being mocked by those in positions of authority, but instead of scheming to get back at them he clings tighter and tighter to God’s Word. Now, I know that many in our society that would simply label that as avoiding the issue. “Why don’t you stop avoiding what is going on and take action?” What society fails to understand is that he is taking action – he is taking his cares to the Father who most definitely will act on his behalf. Let me share with you another Psalm that beautifully illustrates what we are talking about. Turn to Psalm 73 and follow with me.

A psalm of Asaph. Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. {2} But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. {3} For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked… {8} They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression. {9} Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. {10} Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. {11} They say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?” {12} This is what the wicked are like– always carefree, they increase in wealth. {13} Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence… {16} When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me {17} till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny… {22} I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. {23} Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. {24} You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. {25} Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. {26} My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. {27} Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. {28} But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. (Psa 73 NIV)

You and I have faced the thick walls of isolation because others have run roughshod over us, but we are not alone. The Psalmist has also faced such lonely days, but he made it through. He says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” The world may counsel us to come up with a plan to counter the attack, to turn in our resignation and run, or to go and talk with the person who is causing all of the pain. The Psalmist counsels us to receive counsel from God’s Word. He writes, {24} Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.

When we face ridicule and rejection from those trying to get to us and get at us we need to sink our feet deep into God’s Word so that the Lord can comfort us, counsel us as to what we should do, and remind us that we are His, the apple of His eye, His delight. It doesn’t matter what others say about me because I know what He thinks of me and that is what I cling to each day. God’s Word will see us through my friend.

Secondly, we can gain strength to rise above the sorrow that we have faced, and will face, in life. The Psalmist says, “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” (Psa 119:28 NIV) The English really does not do justice to the depth of sorrow that is communicated in the Hebrew language that the Psalmist used to write this verse. The NRSV and the KJV translations of the Bible come much closer, but they still don’t grasp the deep wailing emotion that drips from the soul of the Psalmist. The NRSV says, “My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” (Psa 119:28 NRSV)

Sorrow comes to us from many different directions and with many various causes. We can feel the deep heaviness and grief brought about because of sorrow when we find out that we didn’t get the promotion that we had worked so hard to obtain. We can feel life drain out of us when we open the letter and learn that we didn’t accepted to the college that we’ve always hoped to attend. We find ourselves in the throes of sorrow when a loved one goes home to be with the Lord. Sorrow can consume us when we receive the divorce papers that we prayed would never come. Heaviness can immobilize us when we find out our son or daughter has disowned us and never wants to see us again. I could fill reams of paper with the possible scenarios that give birth to sorrow in our hearts, but we don’t need scenarios – we know the feeling all too well.

I want to share with you the depth of agony being experienced by the Psalmist and then deliver to you the antidote for sorrow. The Psalmist says that his soul, his very life, is melting within him. The Hebrew word for soul, “vp,n”< nephesh {neh'-fesh} means "soul, self, life, creature, person, appetite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion, that which breathes, the breathing substance or being, soul, the inner being of man living being, seat of emotions and passions, activity of mind " The reason the word "soul" has such a wide range of meanings is because it is the sum total of life. When we talk about our soul we are talking about everything that makes us who we are. No doctor can ever describe to you the contents of your soul from any medical journal that he or she has ever read. Your college biology professor can't place a human soul under the microscope for you and your classmates to observe and dissect. The human soul is the inner-most part of who you are as a person. The Holman Bible Dictionary says concerning the "soul;" The vital existence of a human being. The Hebrew word nephesh is a key Old Testament term (755 times) referring to human beings. In the New Testament, the term psyche retreats behind the ideas of body, flesh, spirit to characterize human existence. In the Bible, a person is a unity. Body and soul or spirit are not opposite terms, but rather terms which supplement one another to describe aspects of the inseparable whole person. When the Psalmist says that his "soul is weary, or melting with sorrow" he means that his very life is wasting away before him. The Hebrew word for "weary" or "melts" is the word, "@l;D"' dalaph {daw-laf'}. It means, "pour out, melt, drop through, to drop, drip, to leak, to weep." For those among us who have ever felt the helpless feeling of not being able to stop the tears from pouring from their eyes, no definition of sorrow is necessary. All I have to do is say, "Have you ever walked through the valley of sorrow?" Immediately the memories flood your soul, the emotion wells up in your throat. Many have tried to suppress sorrow, but it doesn't last very long. Sorrow can't be escaped by merely changing our thoughts or changing our daily routine. Others have tried to downplay sorrow, but when the crowds have left and they are all alone the sorrow wells up inside once again. The question that I want to pose for you this morning is, "Can rejoicing really come to one who has tasted the bitter tears of sorrow?" Dr. John G. Paton could attest to God's faithfulness. John G. Paton was a missionary in New Habrides. He was a pioneer. A devoted man who desired nothing more than to share the gospel with those who had never heard of the grace of Jesus our Savior. Not long after arriving in new Habrides, Dr. Paton and his wife rejoiced in the coming of a baby son to gladden their home. But the joy was short-lived. Soon death took both his wife and child, and Dr. Paton had to dig their graves and bury his loved ones with his own hands. In writing of this experience, he testified, "If it had not been for Jesus and the fellowship and grace He afforded me, I am certain I would have gone mad or died of grief beside their lonely graves." Marvelously strengthened from above, the broken, sorrow-filled servant of God found that the promises of God's Word were able to sustain him through the heartache and sorrow of his tragic loss. (Our Daily Bread) In Psalm 119:28, we read, "My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word." (Psa 119:28 NIV) When we feel like our life is slipping away from us because of the well of sorrow that surrounds us we can cry out for strength and be made strong in God's Word. The phrase for "strengthen me" comes from the Hebrew word, "~Wq" quwm {koom}. The word means, "to rise, arise, stand, rise up, stand up, become powerful, to be established, be confirmed, to stand, endure, to be raised up." All of our strength is withering and yet, God, through His promises will establish us, raise us up, empower us, and give us the strength to stand. You and I can rise above the sorrow that will surround us from time to time. I have known people who have not only been surrounded by sorrow, but sorrow became one of the defining characteristics of their life. There is nothing sadder than a sorrow-filled person who can't seem escape sorrow's snare. God has promised that he would remove our sorrow if we will but turn to Him and stay turned to Him until the time of rejoicing comes. I need to warn you, sometimes the morning is long in coming. Sometimes the tears seem to overflow and fill our life until we are convinced that we will drown. Sometimes it seems like the morning will never come. There are folks who say that they will trust in God, rely on the Lord, and wait on Him until their sorrow is turned to joy and peace replaces the pain. I have met folks who say those kind of things, but if God doesn't' show up on their time schedule then they turn angry and bitter. They denounce God, feel that they have gotten the short end of the stick, and that God has dealt them a bad hand. If I am speaking to you this morning my friend I want you to know that have not waited on God. He was on His way when you turned and walked away in anger. You walked away from Healing touch just before He went to hold you in His comforting arms. I want to encourage you to turn back, turn around, and allow the Lord to comfort you. He alone can dry your weary eyes and bring you the joy that you are longing for in life. Today we have taken another step, learned another lesson from the survival guide for believers in a wayward world. I want to ask you, have you ever heard of anything so relevant, so practical in all of your life? God's world is not a philosophy book for erudite scholars to sit around and theorize about - it is a love letter of hope to a broken and battered people. I pray that today you will confess your need to the Savior and allow Him to turn your life around this very day.

Survival Guide For Believers In A Wayward World (Part 2)