Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible: just two verses, approximately thirty words. It goes like this:
‘’Praise God, everybody!
Applaud God, all people!
His love has taken over our lives; God’s faithful ways are eternal.’’
The message is powerful, especially for those who struggle with worry and anxiety. Here’s four take-away points from it:
1. God deserves enthusiastic praise
Focusing on God and His deserving praise takes the focus off us and our earthly struggles. Elsewhere the Psalmist puts it this way: glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together (Psalm 34:3).
When we focus on our problems, we exercise faith in our problems. We are admitting that our problems are bigger than we are and even bigger than God.
As we focus on who God is – on His character and faithfulness – our mind is renewed. We realise He is the I AM for our every need. In other words, we develop more faith in His power than in our worries.
2. God’s love towards us exceeds all expectations
In their popular song Jireh, Elevation church reminds us that we are already loved and already chosen, more than we could ever imagine.
And echoing Matthew 6, that if God dresses the lilies with beauty and splendour, and watches over every sparrow, how much more will He clothe and love us.
God’s love for His creation exceeds all expectations. This includes the expectations we set for ourselves about how we should be and act, our perfectionist tendencies, and our expectations about what the future holds and what we must do to control outcomes.
Next time you are tempted to think ‘’what if’’ and attaching a negative outcome to a situation that has not yet happened, remember that even if it does come to pass, His love toward you exceeds all expectations. He truly has your back.
3. God’s faithfulness is endless (and He wants to be our comforter)
The faithfulness of God has no end. Anxiety stems from a lack of faith in our heavenly Father, as unbelief gets the upper hand in our hearts. Much anxiety, Jesus says, comes from little faith.
John Piper, in his aptly titled article The Pride of Being Afraid, reminds us that fear of men really is a mark of pride. It is presumptuous. It presumes to take over a responsibility for our comfort which God has said He wants to handle.
Fear gets up on the throne and shouts, “Don’t do that; you will get egg on your face. You’ll be humiliated.” So fear takes over the role of protector and guide and comforter.
But these are roles that belong to God. God says very emphatically, “I, I am he who comforts you!” (Isaiah 51:12). So when we allow ourselves to fear the displeasure of man, we are acting arrogantly. We are presuming to set our wisdom above God’s promise.
As Piper puts it, God promises to be our comforter and protector, but we deny the credibility of God’s word and allow fear to set the limits of our obedience. Every time we let fear hinder us, we are proudly regarding our emotions as a more trustworthy portent of the future than the promises of God are.
So it makes very good sense that God should say, “I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you should be afraid of man who dies?”