David: Ending Well by—Living Purposefully

Psalm 71

Part 2 continued from July 20th

 

 

 

 

How does God deliver us from fear? God wants to deliver us by a greater fear—the Fear of God. And what is the fear of the Lord? Below is a description of what the fear of the Lord means, distilled from references to the fear of the Lord that appear throughout Psalms.

 

1.      Having reverence and respect for God as the all-powerful Leader of all else.

2.      Having certainty of inescapable accountability for behavior to God.

3.      Practicing the personal awareness of the presence of a Holy God.

4.      Humbly following His leadership by obeying His Word. [1]

 

When insecurity increases what should we do? David declares his unwavering choice, his godly habit.

 

  • David had learned to resist fear by running into God’s Refuge – thus trusting God's Word more than his fears.  Psalm 71:3 Be my strong refuge, To which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, For You are my rock and my fortress.
  • David had learned to ask for God’s help before he became bitter. Psalm 71:4 Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, Out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.
  • David had learned to keep remembering the faithfulness of God. Psalm 71:5 For You are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth.
  • David had learned to remember to praise God that He had a plan for his life.  Psalm 71:6 By You I have been upheld from birth; You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb. My praise shall be continually of You.
  • David had learned to let his life be a testimony for the Lord. Psalm 71:7 I have become as a wonder to many, But You are my strong refuge.
  • David had learned to praise God so much -- no time was left for complaints.  Psalm 71:8 Let my mouth be filled with Your praise And with Your glory all the day.

 

Thirdly, David also notes in Psalm 71:9 that weakness increases as we grow older. How true this is. Finances decrease and deplete as does physical strength, emotional strength, mental strength. Our senses dim, our minds dull, and our hopes diminish. Everything in our physical world weakens from bones to teeth, from to circulation to stamina, and sight to hearing. There is nothing in our physical world that escapes the slow or rapid decline.

 

John Wesley (1703-1791) a giant among the 18th century’s servants of the Lord, wrote this on his 86th birthday in a diary he kept for most of his adult life:

 

June 28. This day I enter on my eighty-sixth year. I now find I grow old:

 

  1. My sight is decayed, so that I cannot read a small print, unless in a strong light.
  2. My strength is decayed, so that I walk much slower than I did some years since.
  3. My memory of names, whether of persons, or places, is decayed, till I stop a little to recollect them.

 

What I should be afraid of, is, if I took thought for the morrow, that my body should weigh down my mind, and create either stubbornness, by the decrease of my understanding, or peevishness, by the increase of bodily infirmities; But thou shalt answer for me, O Lord my God. John Wesley.

 

Another realm David mentions in Psalm 71:10 is that he sees that trouble increases. David notes that his enemies were as much present at the end of his life as they were at the start and throughout. So we also discover the older we get. From troubles with mobility to troubles with relationships, life just fills with troubles. It becomes hard to get up, hard to get around, hard to sleep, hard to hear, hard to remember and hard to trust.

 

Anxiety seems easily accessed, bitterness seems near at hand, and fears seem to multiply. Enemies imagined and enemies experienced all run together.

 

There are emotional troubles (some struggle with life long depression), financial troubles (some have constant financial needs and hardships), family troubles (some have hurtful children or burdensome and ungrateful parents for many years)—all of these troubles are heavier to bear the weaker we get.

 

When weakness and trouble increases what should we do? David declares his unwavering choice, his godly habit.

 

  • David had learned he could trust God to the end of life. Psalm 71:9 Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails.

 

  • David had learned to take his fears to God in prayer (“do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer. In His arms He’ll tend and shield thee – thou shalt find a solace there!) Psalm 71:10 For my enemies speak against me; And those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together, 11 Saying, “God has forsaken him; Pursue and take him, for there is none to deliver him.” 12 O God, do not be far from me; O my God, make haste to help me!” In a modern sense David trusted God as much as in 911!

 

Finally David notes in Psalm 71:11-13 that aloneness increases. In younger years there seems to be endless avenues to pursue. Time flies, friends flow around us and plans are laid out far into the future for this and that. Life is filled with classrooms, bus and car rides, work meetings, gatherings as parents, as members and participants and we just can’t keep up with it all.

 

But slowly the calendar clears, the friends decrease, the travel abates and we find ourselves increasingly alone. Being alone is a lifelong condition, but it seems to sting more when coupled with troubles increased, insecurities increased, weaknesses increased, and confusion increased.

 

Some people as they age choose to look back on their past life and only remember what they had and lost or never had and wanted. That is such a debilitating choice. Some aged people look on their present life as a basis to complain and bewail their aches, pains, and problems. That is also such a debilitating choice. And others in their elderly years choose to not look at their future because they fear death and are afraid of dying. That is such a debilitating choice.

 

In Psalm 71, David looks back at the past and sees God’s Hand of faithfulness and power; he looks around in the present and sees God’s Plans for him and starts anew and afresh declaring that is what he will do; and then he looks ahead to the future and sees all that God wants him to do until he goes home to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. That is the way to end well by living purposefully!

 

When aloneness increases what should we do? David declares his unwavering choice, his godly habit.

 

  • David had learned to never give up – even when alone, neglected, sick, ignored, rejected, maligned, and forgotten by everyone in the world ----- EXCEPT GOD!  Psalm 71:13 Let them be confounded and consumed Who are adversaries of my life; Let them be covered with reproach and dishonor Who seek my hurt. 14 But I will hope continually, And will praise You yet more and more.

 

This evening we will see that in Psalm 71:14-24 David shifts his focus from his troubles of life and turns the spotlight on that other track of life. In the first 13 verses David uses the present tense 23 times, but in those final verses David uses the future tense 12 times in 11 verses! He declares his intentions in a “from now on I will” form saying—I will trust, I will rest, I will believe in the God who has promised to care for me. God is faithful in the past, for the future and most of all in this present moment.

 

But what does it mean to end well? Is it being healthy to the last breath? No. Does it mean being surrounded by comforts to the last moments? No. Does it mean getting everything done that we wanted to do? No.

 

Ending well is defined by David as being able to keep that focus on the other rail that we travel through life upon—God’s plans for us that are good, God’s promises that are sure, and God’s Presence that is real.

 

May I remind you of a fellow believer who ended well? David Livingstone (1813-1873) had come to the end of his life. He was deep in the swamps of Africa, alone with a few native carriers. His feet were covered with bleeding ulcers, his body was completely exhausted, he was bleeding internally and as a doctor he knew his end was near. In his journal his last entry was simply: “Knocked up quite”. But he was not alone and he knew it. A lifetime of godly habits led him to still end his day in prayer no matter how ill he felt.

 

As the darkness fell over that swamp that night, the shadow of a sixty-year-old man was silhouetted against the canvas of his tent. The flickering candle cast a golden aura inside as he knelt beside a small wood and canvas cot. Rhythmic tropical rain lightly pelted the tent as he prayed beside his bed. The prayer was one he had written out in his journal the many years before. If you were able to hear that night what God heard it would have sounded much like this:

O Lord since Thou hast died, To give Thyself for me,
No sacrifice would seem to great, For me to make for Thee.

I only have one life, and that will soon be past;
I want my life to count for Christ, What's done for Him will last.

I follow Thee my Lord, And glory in Thy Cross;
I gladly leave the world behind, And count all gain as loss.

Lord send me anywhere, Only go with me;
Lay any burden on me, Only sustain me.
Sever any tie, Save the tie that binds me to Thy heart.
Lord Jesus my King, I consecrate my life Lord to Thee!

 

Outside the native porters, guides and cooks who had followed this man for nearly 20 years through the jungle heard the low sound of his voice communing with God as he always had done before bed. Then the candle flickered out and they also retired to sleep through the rainy night.

The next morning the cold and stiff body of David Livingstone was still kneeling beside the cot when his beloved native brothers found him. He was so thin from the countless bouts with malaria, his skin darkened by the years of Equatorial African sun was loosely draped over the bones of his earthly tent now vacant. His spirit had soared immortal, making its flight from the darkness of a disease ridden, weak and failing body to the realm of light and life in the presence of Jesus his King to whom he had consecrated his life.

That is ending well.

 

It has nothing to do with comfort, health or security. It has everything to do with godly habits empowered by the Holy Spirit. Had God let David Livingstone down by allowing him to die alone, sick, and in such desperate conditions? No, a thousand times no! Into that tiny tent as Livingstone weakly knelt by his tiny cot the Good Shepherd had come to take His faithful servant home. As David Livingstone prayed those gentle everlasting arms had wrapped around him, and into his ears were whispered I will never leave you or forsake you. And then David Livingstone heard Him say, it is time for you to come home. I’ll carry you there, we’ll go through that valley of darkness, but don’t fear any evil because I am with you. You are coming to dwell in my house forever. Well done My good and faithful servant!

 

David Livingstone looked at life through the lens of Scripture. He believed God, trusted His Word and found both to be true every time he tested them. Livingstone looked at all his pains and struggles as part of God’s plan. That’s why after his faithful friends, the native porters, carried his body 1,500 miles to the coast and sent it by steamer back to England. That is why one of them stood at his funeral in Westminster Abbey. And that is why these words were engraved upon Livingstone’s tomb stone:

 

"For thirty years his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelize the native races, to explore the undiscovered secrets, to abolish the desolating slave trade of Central Africa."[2]

 

So we conclude that Psalm 71 is David’s prayer and testimony of how to be a godly servant of the Lord to the end of life.

 

We don’t know how long before our Master returns. Jesus said we must do His work until He comes. The best way to do that is to start living right now the way we want to have Him find us at the end when He comes (rapture) or calls (death). I call this some specific Plans for Growing Old in Godliness. These can all be found in Psalm 71. Let’s conclude there.

 

Ending well by living purposefully means that I make some choices, and in the power of God’s Spirit, form some holy habits like these. Here are the nine resolves found in the first half of Psalm 71. Think of them as saying—“I will…”

 

1.               Flee to God for hope as my troubles threaten to drown me.

2.               Cry out to God for help before I give in to temptations.

3.               Trust God's Word over my fears before I get paralyzed by them.

4.               Seek the Lord about my hurts before I get bitter.

5.               Keep reminding myself of God's faithfulness for all of my life to this moment.

6.               Seek God’s plan for my life each day.

7.               Use my mouth so often for praise, no room will be left to complain.

8.               Trust in the Lord’s ability to rescue me more than EMS, the doctors, or calling 911.

9.               Never give up even when all alone, forgotten by most and out of circulation for the rest of my days.

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Jan David Hettinga, Follow Me: Experience The Loving Leadership of Jesus, (Colorado Springs, Co: NavPress, 1996, Pages 193-194 and 218-219.

 

[2] Douglas, J. D., Comfort, Philip W. & Mitchell, Donald, Editors, Who's Who in Christian History, (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1992, electronic edition, in loc.

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