Psalm 129

Readings for this week June 29 – July 3
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Oppressed But Not Overcome

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 129:1-2

The people of God are hardy, brave, committed people who do not give up easily. They have to be. After all, as much of the story of God’s people throughout the Hebrew bible has shown, they haven’t always had it easy. As the opening verses of this psalm declare, “They have greatly oppressed me since my youth.” Nations have come against the people of God and oppressed them, attacked them, kidnapped and enslaved them, persecuted and tortured them – and yet none of it has worked. Even on into New Testament times God’s people have faced brutal persecution from people determined to wipe them out. And yet it hasn’t succeeded. As verse 2 carries on, “But they have not gained the victory over me.”

Christian faith is tough. It survives. It clings on. Faith survives even in the harshest environments. It outlives its oppressors. It lasts. It thrives, because over time and throughout changing circumstances, it has been tested and not found wanting. Faith does not cave in at the first blow, it does not surrender easily. It does not flourish only when conditions are good and perfect and most conducive to growth; it lives on in climates and conditions of great hardship, of both storm and drought. Faith finds a way. It is not a passing phase, not a fair-weather fancy but an all-weather aspect of life that continues to live and thrive and grow in the most hostile of environments.

Questions to Consider
What does perseverance mean to you? Why is it important? How have you become more determined and resolute in your faith?

Prayer
Lord God, grant me strength in times of weakness, resolution in times of doubt. Faith grows in tough climates; give me the courage not to run when you have work you wish to do in me. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – More Than Just Hanging On

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 129:3-4

There are definitely times in our lives when perseverance means hanging in there, staying the course, struggling on and clinging to life with our very fingernails. We all experience those times when we come to the end of ourselves and everything we think we are capable of absorbing, and yet still we cling on and keep going, fuelled more by desperation than anything else. Sometimes it takes everything we have to keep moving, every ounce of energy and every atom of will power to remain in the game. These moments, while painful and difficult, are part of what it means to persevere.

But that is not all it means, even during these times of extremity. Perseverance is not resignation, it is not endless, mindless plodding; it is not hopeless clinging on; it is not repetitious unchanging sameness. When we persevere, when we endure, even if it does not feel like it we move from strength to strength, we continue down the path that God has called us to tread, we move further and further – even if only minutely, even if staggeringly – along the path of his will for us. Even in those moments of deepest pain, when the will to continue on is at its most tenuous and we can only focus on the next step, we are still held within God’s embrace and we still walk the path with him, even if we cannot summon the strength to look up and see ahead.

Questions to Consider
How have you found God in times when you have just been hanging on? How has this helped transform your view of these difficult times?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, although it is hard sometimes, help me see the way forward in the tough times. Though you do not afflict us, you are with us in the affliction and can still bring things round to your purposes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – God Sticks With Us

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 129:5-6

God stays with us. One of the key attributes of God, stated time and time again throughout the bible, is his faithfulness to his people, no matter how wayward or sinful or just downright rebellious and antagonistic they may be at any given moment. God sticks by his people. He is merciful and he is faithful. He stays with us. And God stays with us because he is in relationship with us. He is not a distant God, who stays at a distance, or merely hovers around the edges of our lives. He is not an impersonal deity operating as some sort of unreachable, unapproachable entity. He is the Creator God who has entered into personal relationship with us, who has committed himself to us, and who stays with us, no matter what.

The fact that God stays with us, no matter what disasters and cruelties we experience, no matter the disappointments and sufferings inflicted upon us, no matter the tragedies and failings that litter our path, means that we can look back upon all these hardships and travesties, and still see God’s hand in our lives and see his plans and purposes working themselves out in our lives. God is still with us. In fact, our ability to persevere in these times isn’t because we are so resolute or so determined (however much these character traits may – and should – develop in us), but is rather due to God’s faithfulness. Learning to follow the arc of God’s faithfulness to us, rather than focusing on how well or enthusiastically we are following him, and responding to this faithfulness is the key to true discipleship.

Questions to Consider
How have you experienced God’s faithfulness lately? How have you seen God “stick with you” during tough times?

Prayer
Gracious Lord, your faithfulness to me means more than my faithfulness to you. I will stumble and fall; you will always be there with me to pick me up again, and move me forward. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Resisting the Temptation to Quit

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 129:7-8

Working in a high school I see many students who find it very hard to persevere with their learning when they find things difficult. For those who find learning difficult or boring, the temptation to give up – or perhaps not to try at all – can be very hard to resist. It is easy to think that when something is difficult then it isn’t worth doing. Perhaps life is too short to waste attempting things that are hard. Or maybe a “right first time or not at all” mentality is at play. It is the same with the discipleship journey too. It is a journey that can be difficult, that can have many moments of trial and trouble. Our faith – not to mention our character, our discipline, our strength and so on – is tested often. Some things are hard and some things we get wrong – also often. The temptation to give up can be strong.

But we don’t stop. We don’t give up. We persevere. We seek God and carry on. Perseverance doesn’t mean perfection, but it does mean we keep going when we fail or mess up or misunderstand. The road is (life)long and quitting because we just realised (for the first time or the fifty-first time) that we are still learning and growing – that we still have a lot of maturing to do – isn’t the answer. Pilgrims make mistakes; disciples get it wrong, but both persevere in God, with God, growing in the likeness of God. So many things (like the character, discipline, strength and so on mentioned before) are forged on the road, on the way, in the fires of struggle and toil. Heat melts and allows for moulding and shaping. But the fire must be endured and given time to do the work.

Questions to Consider
How have you been shaped by the journey? What helped you stay the course?

Prayer
Loving Father, strengthen me and work in me to make me more like you, to stay in the game when it gets hard and to persevere with you as you persevere with me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Jesus and Paul

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 2 Corinthians 11:23-29

Jesus was someone who experienced the need to persevere, to press on, to go through trials and tribulations and testing times that required him to be strong and push through to the far side of them. In fact, his ministry is bookended by two rather famous occasions when perseverance in the face of hardship was drawn forth from him. Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness, a harsh, desolate environment, accompanied by no one, tested by Satan. Not an easy start to any endeavour, never mind the redemption of God’s creation. And then, at the end of his ministry, in the garden at Gethsemane, came a further episode that deeply tested his resolve and determination to continue along his Father’s path.

Paul also knew a life shaped at times by deep adversity that required stubborn perseverance and patience. Look at the list of things he mentions he had to deal with: beatings, imprisonment, shipwreck, exhaustion, hunger and thirst – as well as the internal stress associated with shepherding the churches under his care. But as tough as things got, neither Paul nor Jesus thought they’d made a mistake, that they’d chosen the wrong path. With God’s help, for them perseverance became the doorway to great things, the catalyst that allowed a life empowered by God to become a doorway into transforming the lives of so many other people, and ultimately the world. Our ability to persevere is important for our discipleship journey and others’ too.

Questions to Consider
What do Jesus’ and Paul’s times of trial teach us about perseverance and patience? How are their responses at these times a model for us?

Prayer
Loving Father, help me remember that not only do I not walk the journey alone, as you are always there, but also that there are others who walk with me, who can guide me, but who may also be guided by me. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)