The following sermon was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz. Click here: Psalm 37:5-6, to download or stream the audio sermon, or click here: Psalm 37:5-6. for the video version. Alternatively, you can read the notes below, or follow along as you watch or listen.

Psalm 37:5-6, How to Setup for Success:

  • I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, ‘New Year, New Me…’? Personally, I think that’s where one already fails at their proposed goals and life changes. Cause that’s what you want to talk about, right? New Years’ resolutions?
  • New Years’ resolutions were first practiced by the ancient Babylonians about 3000 to 4000 years ago. They were also the first to hold recorded celebrations in honour of the New Year. Their year began mid-March, when the crops were planted. Followed by a massive 12-day religious festival known as Akitu, where the Babylonians crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the reigning king.
  • Now, here’s where we get to the resolutions. They also made promises to their gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. The belief was, if the Babylonians kept to their word, their pagan gods would bestow favour on them for the coming year. If not, they would fall out of the gods’ favour.
  • Now it was Julius Caesar who established January 1 as the beginning of the New Year roughly 46 B.C. Named for Janus, the two-faced god whose spirit inhabited doorways and arches. Believing that Janus symbolically looked backwards into the previous year and ahead into the future, the Romans offered sacrifices to the deity and made promises of good conduct for the coming year.
  • So far, the practice of New Years’ resolutions sounds daunting. But for early Christians, the first day of the New Year became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future. Yet, it was in 1740, when the English clergyman John Wesley, created the Covenant Renewal Service, most commonly held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Also known as known as watch night services, they included readings from Scriptures and hymn singing, and served as a spiritual alternative to the raucous celebrations normally held to celebrate the coming of the New Year.
  • Despite the tradition’s religious roots, New Year’s resolutions today are a mostly secular practice. Instead of making promises to the gods, most people make resolutions only to themselves, and focus purely on self-improvement.
  • This is because New Year’s resolutions are usually commitments to quit smoking, to stop drinking, to manage money more wisely, and to spend more time with family. But the most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, in conjunction with exercising more and eating more healthily.
  • The vast majority of New Year’s resolutions, even among Christians, are in relation to physical things. This should not be the focus. Many Christians make New Year’s resolutions to pray more, to read the Bible every day, and to attend church more regularly. These are fantastic goals.
  • However, these New Year’s resolutions fail just as often as the non-spiritual resolutions, because there is no power in a New Year’s resolution. Resolving to start or stop doing a certain activity has no value unless you have the proper motivation for stopping or starting that activity. For example, why do you want to read the Bible every day? Is it to honour God and grow spiritually, or is it because you have just heard that it is a good thing to do?
  • If God is the centre of your New Year’s resolution, it has chance for success, depending on your commitment to it. If it is God’s will for something to be fulfilled, He will enable you to fulfil it. If a resolution is not God-honouring and/or is not in agreement with God’s Word, we will not receive God’s help in fulfilling the resolution.
  • Therefore we come to Psalm 37:5-6 to learn more about how we can setup for success when choosing goals or pursuing desires. Our passage presents us with two ways:

1. Commit to the Lord:

  • Text – verse 5
  • Explanation – When we trust God, we remain confident that following Him will lead to God’s satisfaction and our own. This is highlighted when David delivers examples of living securely and being blessed with our heart’s desires in verses 3-4.
  • When we trust God, we also believe His promises before seeing them fulfilled. This makes sense considering that God’s promises are not always immediate. Sometimes what comes more quickly is satisfying the flesh as the evildoers David mentions.
  • Application – This is why David purposefully says not to imitate evildoers. Waiting on the Lord can at times be difficult (Psalm 37:7). Following the evildoers may lead to monetary success, and even high social standing, but this is temporary.
  • Therefore Spurgeon put it this way, “Give it over into God’s hands, and then confide in him as completely as a little child confides in its mother. Give it up to him to rule it, and to guide thee and lead thee in every step. Put the rudder of your ship into the hand of the Almighty Pilot.
  • Leave the guidance of your pilgrimage to him who has led many caravans across the desert aforetime, and who has never suffered any to perish. What an easy way this is; and yet how hard do we find it to carry it out! It is to unload ourselves, and put our burden on our God. Oh, that we had the sanctified common-sense to make us fulfil this duty!” (Spurgeon)
  • It is true, if only we were willing to give our will and desires over to the will and desires of God. Listen, if we are outside of His will, then we are not committing to Him. Proverbs 16:9 puts it this way, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
  • Conclusion – So maybe to help us be established in the Lord, we could refer to these 3 steps to commit ourselves:
  • 1. Pray without Ceasing – Paul commands us pray constantly giving thanks in everything; as this is God’s will in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). It tells us that a daily relationship with God involves communing with Him. Prayer should be an everyday occurrence.
  • 2. Study the Bible – Psalm 119:11 says, “I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.” Again, God’s Word tells us to be immersed if we are to be ready in our commitment to Him. See when we are familiar with God’s word, we are able to apply His truths to our lives and those around us.
  • Understanding what God desires of us is the only way to live a life that is His pleasing to His will. And the more we read the more we learn, which draws us to a place where we are inclined to sin less because our relationship with God is growing!
  • 3. Be in Fellowship – Proverbs 27:17 puts it, “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.” The more we know of God for ourselves, the better we will be able to help others know God. Sharpening other people involves reminding them of God’s word, encouraging them, and showing love. Which is also the case when you are being sharpened.
  • Bridge – So if you want to be successful in your plans and resolutions, and, and, and… you must commit your way to Him. He is your first love, therefore, He should receive most of your time, and attention. All that you do is meant to glorify God. Meaning your plans outside of His will won’t be successful.
  • When we can start shaping our lives around the truth that everything we do brings God glory, then committing to the Lord will become more natural and purposeful. Now there is a second way to being successful, if I can put it that way… it is,

2. Trusting in the Lord:

  • Text – verse 5-6
  • Explanation – We need to trust God to work His perfect will in and through our lives. We don’t trust Him by trying to live a good life, or by trusting in own abilities.
  • We do this by taking God at His word and really believing all that His Word tells us. If Christians really did commit ALL their ways to the Lord and really did trust in God in ALL things and believe ALL that He has told us in His Word as FACT – then we would discover that our will for our life would line up with God’s will for our life.
  • If only believers would stop fretting about all the difficulties and evils in life and truly delight themselves in the Lord, by trusting His Word, resting in His promises and committing everything into His hands – He could carry out His perfect will in each of our lives.
  • Application – The trusting believer places his burdens onto the Lord (Matthew 11:28). He trusts the Lord to take care of situations he cannot handle. If we trust the Lord to handle our burdens for us, we will not be anxious about wicked people (Psalm 37:1). David assures us: if we entrust our burdens to God, the Lord will act. He will ultimately deal with those who malign and threaten us (Romans 12:19).
  • Paul offered the same prescription for personal peace. He wrote in Philippians 4:6–7 to be anxious about nothing, but to make our requests known to God in prayer. As a result, the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
  • Conclusion – Listen, our delight should not be in our circumstances, it should be in the Lord. We should take pleasure in Him, and when our desire is for Him—He provides that our desires are met (Psalm 37:4). And the closer we get to Him, the more our desires begin to change from our own selfish wants to wanting what He wants for us. But this commitment and trust does not come without reward, as God is faithful, “and He will do it!”
  • But what is it that He will do? When we commit our way to the Lord and trust in Him, God is faithful to “bring forth [our] righteousness” (Psalm 37:6). When our way is committed to Him, He shapes us and grows us in His righteousness.
  • Paul explained that a person who is walking in the Spirit of God will see the fruit of the Holy Spirit in his life (Galatians 5:22–23). So God will accomplish His work in our lives—He will transform us by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1–2) if we will simply be committed to Him doing that.
  • Therefore in Colossians 3:1-4, Paul reminds us to set our minds on the things above. When we are doing that, we are filled with His Spirit or are walking in His Spirit, and He is faithful to bear His fruit in us. So when we commit our way to the Lord and trust in Him (Psalm 37:5), He will make sure that our way is fruitful.
  • Bridge – So we’ve addressed the elephant in the room and it leads me to ask, what sort of New Year’s resolution should a Christian make? Regardless of what we want to pursue and change, if God is not at the centre, we won’t succeed.
  • So may I suggest pursuing the following?
  • (1) start by praying for wisdom (James 1:5) regarding what resolutions, if any, He would have you make! (2) pray for wisdom as to how to fulfil the goals God gives you. (3) rely on God’s strength to help you bring about change.
  • (4) find an accountability partner who will help you and encourage you to change. (5) don’t become discouraged with occasional failures; instead, allow them to motivate you. (6) don’t become proud or vain, but give God the glory in all things as He governs your steps! That’s how we setup for success.