Contend for me, my God and Lord!

This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from an unidentified Open Doors writer, and King David, there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:

Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation.

My whole being will exclaim, "Who is like you, O Lord?  You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them."

Ruthless witnesses come forward; they question me on things I know nothing about.

They repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn.

But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; attackers gathered against me when I was unaware.  They slandered me without ceasing.

O Lord, you have seen this; be not silent.  Do not be far from me, O Lord.

Awake, and rise to my defense!  Contend for me, my God and Lord.   (Psalm 35:9-12, 15, 22-23)

Christians suffering for their faith in Christ, are encouraged and strengthened by this psalm of David.  He speaks about what he himself had experienced:  struggle, suffering, loneliness and questions.  But also:  victory, healing, encouragement, and answered prayer.

"Awake, and rise to my defense!  Contend for me, my God and Lord" (Psalm 35:23).

A moment of introspection:  In these darkening days, how many of us could use a word of encouragement?  Most, I would suspect, who understand the perils facing Christians in all lands.  Open Doors staff have been working hard over the years providing God’s love through aid, training and encouragement to suffering Christians worldwide, and have seen the devastation that persecution for one's faith can bring upon the lives of the devout.  Let's look into God's perfect Word to discover that which He would wish us to know about suffering and encouragement. 

In the gospel according to John, Jesus has said "Remember the word that I said to you, 'Servants are not greater than their master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also." (John 15:20) Yet He also assured each of us that "I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!" (John 16:33, my emphasis).  God would have us keeping busy doing the work He has laid out for us.  We do this work as a body of believers, and our heavenly Father would encourage us to keep going.  The author of the book of Hebrews remarks "And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25, my emphasis)  God assures us "I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5)  "So we can say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can anyone do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6, my emphasis)  In our work for the Kingdom, God helps us and tells us the lesson we know so well:  "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28, my emphasis)

So then, we will not fear what man might do to us, for God has said He will not forsake us in times of trouble or persecution. (1 Chronicles 28:20) 

"Awake, and rise to my defense!  Contend for me, my God and Lord" (Psalm 35:23). 

During such suffering, He hears the desire of the afflicted and strengthens their heart; He inclines His ear "to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more." (Psalm 10:17-18- ESV) 

"Awake, and rise to my defense!  Contend for me, my God and Lord" (Psalm 35:23). 

We trust God during suffering (cf:  Psalm 56), and so do accept our own share of such troubles; as the apostle Paul instructed his co-worker, Timothy, "God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.  Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God," (2 Timothy 1:7-8 – NRSV, my emphasis) as we continue to do good in the name of Jesus the Christ.  We cry out to God as the Psalmist does in Psalm 35, and God hears our prayers; "Every morning, Lord, I lay my gifts before you and look to you for help. And every morning you hear my prayers." (Psalm 5:3 - Easy-to-Read Version, Revised Edition) 

"Awake, and rise to my defense!  Contend for me, my God and Lord" (Psalm 35:23).

We serve a great God.  He is no "absentee landlord" but is at work with us and within us to do His good pleasure.  If it is our part to suffer for our faith in Him, so be it.  Take guidance from St. Peter:  "And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. "And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled."  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:13-17 – NKJV, my emphasis). 

"Awake, and rise to my defense!  Contend for me, my God and Lord" (Psalm 35:23).

In Psalm 35:23, we acknowledge our dependence on God, and we stake our claim on God’s care for His own.  The Psalmist pleads on our behalf, "Awake, and rise to my defense".  Put another way, we say with him, "Make haste to deliver me, O God; O Lord, make haste to help me." (Psalm 70:1).  May He richly bless you as you labor on in His love and care.  With the Psalmist, I affirm, "I love you, Lord, because you have heard my voice, and my pleas for mercy."  Psalm 116:1

"Awake, and rise to my defense!  Contend for me, my God and Lord" (Psalm 35:23).

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