The problem with most of us is that by nature we tend to remember the bad things and not the good things. Youíve heard the statement, ďHe/she has got the memory of an elephant.Ē But the problem is, it is always wrong, it is always bad and negative things that this statement assures us are being remembered. The fact is, nature, the problem is that most of us have a problem remembering the good things, the blessings in life. By nature we have no problem remembering the negative experiences, the wrong turns in our lives, the hurtful things spoken to us by someone else, the mistakes or wrongs of others toward us, the angry demeanor of others, the feelings of rejection that we felt, the past failures and dark secrets. We have no problem remembering all these kinds of things. The very things that we are not supposed to remember; haunt us again and again. And by the same token, the very things that we are supposed to remember, we donít remember.
The past blessings of God, the past graciousness of God, the past deliverance of God, the past perfection of God, the past hand of God that worked in our life, the past forgiveness of sins by God, the past provision of God given to us, the long way we have come, the undeserved mercy and love that God has shown toward us, the unconditional love shown to us by the Lord again and again in the past. We tend to not remember all those things, but instead remember all the negative things, all the terrible things that have taken place in our lives. In fact, we not only have a tendency to forget the past graciousness of God, but we also have the tendency to forget the past graciousness of other people, the kind words they have spoken to us, the loving gestures that they have expressed towards us. We tend to forget these things so easily. By nature we can conveniently develop amnesia towards Godís mercies and remember the negative things, especially when we are under pressure. Especially when we are going through tough times, especially when we allow our current circumstances to overwhelm our memory banks, even in remembering Godís past blessings and remembering Godís past mercies, in remembering Godís past graciousness, in remembering Godís past generosity and remembering Godís past deliverance; even when we do remember those things, there are wrong ways of remembering and there are right ways of remembering.
I want to focus on that. There is a right way to remember Godís past mercy and there is a wrong way to remember Godís past mercy. Probably most of us did not know until now that there is a wrong way to remember the good things and blessings of God. Most think that if you remember Godís mercy and blessing in the past, by nature it will live you up. But the truth is, not necessarily for there is a wrong way of remembering Godís past blessing and we will talk about that today. If the Lord has a word for us today, it will be this. Know the difference between the right way to remember Godís past mercy, grace and blessing and the wrong way of remembering Godís past mercy, grace and blessing. The difference is enormous as I will show you from scripture. To know the right way to remember from the wrong way to remember will bless you a lot.
Psalm 77 will spell out the wrong way to remember Godís past blessing and the right way to remember Godís past blessing. If fact, he gives us an example of how to remember God the wrong way and then he goes on to show us how to remember God the right way. He may not have intended to do that, but in just going through his experience he did and as we look at his experience we learn the difference.
Asaph begins the Psalm by going about remembering God the wrong way and then half way through the Psalm he makes a general kind of u-turn and then begins to remember the past mercies of God the right way. In the first half of the Psalm, he remembers Godís goodness in the past and then he reflects upon his own situation of what he was going through right then, the tough times he is facing, the difficulties he is facing and circumstances he is going through. Instead of being encouraged, he becomes morbid and becomes discouraged. You would think that when you reflect on Godís past mercies, when you reflect on Godís past blessing, when you reflect on Godí hand in the past that has delivered you, then you should be encouraged. But instead, he got discouraged in the beginning. Why? Iím going to tell you.
It was because he begins erroneously to conclude that God must have rejected him now, in the present, where he was in his life and in his current circumstance. He erroneously begins to conclude that God is not looking upon him with favor like He once did. He begins to erroneously conclude that there is something wrong with him. When he compares his life in the present with the blessings of the past, he gets down on himself and says those past blessings will never happen again.
His memory began to drag him down and not lift him up. His memory begins to depress him, not encourage him. His memory causes him to drown in despair instead of causing him to soar with wings of eagles. His memory began to drag him into a dark tunnel instead of take him to the mountain top. It is not until verse 11 that he realizes that he was going about remembering Godís past mercies the wrong way.
Psalm 77:1-10 ďA Psalm of Asaph. I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search. Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah. And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.Ē
Did you catch the problem? Do you see what Asaph was doing wrong? So many of us go about remembering Godís past blessings and mercies the wrong way, just as he began. You say, ďWhat was wrong with that, I donít see a problem and is there really a right way to remember Godís past hand of blessing and a wrong way?Ē Yes, we will see it here in Psalm 77. The first 10 verses we see the kind of memory that led him to discouragement and depression. Then in verses 10-20 you see the kind of memory that pulls him up, that lifts him up and encourages him, that takes him out of his depression and discouragement and out of his dark tunnel.
No, without thought and revelation it is not outwardly or immediately obvious. It is not something that the casual reader would immediately pick up on or see or realize. But that is true of most spiritual things in Godís Word. Spiritual things, even though there in front of us and obvious if you see with eyes of the spirit, but not to the natural mind. Now lets read the next ten verses.
Psalm 77:11-20 ďI will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings. Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God? Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people. Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled. The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad. The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook. Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known. Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.Ē
What is the key to understanding the difference in those sections of Psalm 77. Until verse 9, he remembers Godís past blessings. Well, so far, so good. But then he looks at the circumstances, he looks at his current problems and he looks at the difficulties that he is currently facing and then he concludes that God will never bless me again like He once did. God will never remember me again with favor as He once did. God does not care about me as He once did. ďHath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?Ē Godís silence must mean that itís all over for me with God, Heís finished blessing me and using me; He has left me and now I am on my own.
Listen, preachers and teachers today are discouraged and think that God has given up on them. I know from experience, I have been there and know what this is about and what Asaph is going through. But the reality is that God hasnít turned aside and forgotten His people and His servants and He really wants to use them again. Look at the last ten verses. He remembers Godís past intervention in his life and realizes that he is going about it the wrong way. I am going about this remembering the wrong way. I am going about remembering Godís past deliverance of my life the wrong way. Iím not doing this right. So in the middle he makes a u-turn and realizes that the God who did all these things in the past, will do it again, that the God who blessed him before will bless him again, that the God who promised not to forsake him in the past will not forsake him in the future, the God who works things perfectly, the God who is working behind the scenes that I cannot see what he is doing, is still working again for my good and His glory.
Now, what was the mistake that he made so that we donít have to make it again? Let us look at this mistake because I have also made it myself. You need to see it so whether you are there now or you will be in the future, we need to make a note of this so that it can be a source of encouragement in our lives.
Whenever we face times of discouragement we need to go back to Plams77, whenever we face times of God being silent, if we go back to Psalm 77 we will see why Asaph made this terrible mistake. He erroneously concluded and supposes that Godís silence means that it was over and that God will not bless him again. The secret of the mistake is in the first 6 verses. If you closely look into your own life as I have mine, you will realize that you as I have; have made the same mistake that Asaph did some 3000 years ago. Nothing has changed. This is the key, the foundation of this message.
In the first 6 verses of Psalm 77 you find 18 occurrences of the first person singular pronoun. You see the word I, me, my, 18 times in the first 6 verses. I, me, myÖ looking at himself. In the first 6 verses God is mentioned 6 times. That is 18 times to 6 times, three to one. No wonder he was in the dumps. When you get 18 I, me and my, that is the problem. Six times God and who he is and 18 times me, myself and I, will get you discouraged every time. Whenever me and I and my and mine overwhelm God, three to one you memory is going in the wrong direction. Whenever it is my loss, my pain, my hurt, my feelings, my name, my career, my future, my life, my pride, my memory, my reputation, my money verses Godís ways and Godís mercy and Godís forgiveness, and Godís intervention and Godís redemption and Godís past blessings, it will do it to you every time. When the odds are three to one, take it from me, the tunnel will be darker and bleaker every day. When you see your problems and circumstances more than Godís power, deliverance and faithfulness you will always get discouraged. When you see your situation and hardships more than His solution and the price He paid for your redemption, then you will be discouraged. At the center of discouragement is I, me, my, or self. It is because we are looking inward at self and ourselves and our problems and circumstances instead of upward and outward and seeing the hand, mercy, blessing, power, provision and faithfulness of God as greater.
Whenever your focus is on your problem and not on the power of God, three to one, the discouragement will get you down every time. I have found myself following this very trap. It has nothing to do will needs, or my family, so my motives are not the problem so it has something to do with the glory of God. So I have found myself sitting there thinking this cannot happen. Then the Lord showed me that I was going about remembering His past deliverance and His past power the wrong way. I am working on a u-turn just like the Psalmist did in verses 7 to 10 when he mentions self 3 times and God 7 times.
Let us compare the first six verses with the last ten verses. Letís count again. Itís like this. There are 23 times that he mentions God and only three times that he mentions ďIĒ in the last half of the Psalm. You can see the transition and the u-turn as he makes it. Now think about it. In review, in the first 6 verses, it is 18 times me and only 6 times that he mentions God, in the next four verses where he is turning it is 3 times me and 7 times God and then in the last ten verses it is only 3 times me and 23 times God.
You can remember Godís past blessing, mercy and grace the wrong way and you can remember Godís past blessing, mercy and grace the right way. One is going to lead you into depression and the other will lift you up and encourage you. One is going to take you into the dark alleys of pain but the other will lift you up into the sunshine of God. One will take you into the land of ineffectiveness and uselessness for the kingdom of God and the other can take you to blessing and success.
You can remember Godís past answer to prayer and that you are grateful and thankful as He answered you before and then move. Or you can remember Godís past deliverance form danger, Godís past blessings, Godís past goodness to you when you did not deserve it. And then you can allow that past remembrance to overwhelm you with the thought, ďoh yes, but that will not happen again.Ē You can overwhelm this remembrance three to one by looking at what the Psalmist said.
In fact, he is asking the question and you have to understand the Hebrew grammar, but in his mind the answer is yes. Hereís the question. Verse 7 ďWill the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?Ē He was thinking in his mind, yes, that is the case. Verse 8, ďIs his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore?Ē The answer that is in his head is yes. He believes the answer to these questions is yes. Verse 9 ďHath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.Ē Again, he is taking yes in his mind and that is what he believes.
I want to make sure you donít misunderstand me. If you are where you are right now because of a sin in your life or because of a transgression in your life or a failure in your life or because of disobedience in your life or because of selfish ambitions in your life, whatever it is, if you are there and you know it in your heart, the only thing that you can do is to ask for Godís forgiveness, first, but you have to ask for the forgiveness of those whom you have sinned against and hurt and maligned. That is the first step. Then, once you have definitively and demonstrable done that, once you have made restitution if you need to make restitution, once you have cleaned that slate, then you have no right to allow past memories to haunt you. Once you have done that you have not right to allow those past memories to pull you down. You have no right to allow the past memories to cause you to doubt Godís love and forgiveness and grace and mercy. You have no right to allow those past memories to overwhelm Godís grace three to one. You have no right to do that - if youíre a child of God. It is a sin to doubt Godís mercy, it is a sin doubt Godís love when all we have to do to see the proof of His love is to look at Calvary, it is a sin to doubt Godís faithfulness to His Word and it is a sin to doubt that God has your best interest at heart and wants what is best for you because He has told us so in His Word and it is impossible for God to lie. When we think like Asaph was in the first part of this Psalm, we are in reality calling God a liar and saying, you will not keep your Word and your promises to me. They may be good for others, they may apply to others, but they donít apply to me. That is what you are saying.
But rather what Asaph did in the last section of Psalm 77 is what you and I need to do. Verse 14, ďThou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.Ē A key here is that he doesnít say youíre the God who worked wonders in the past but he finally comes into the present tense and speaks of God as the ďI AMĒ of his life and circumstances, as the ever present God who works in the now, the present, not just in the past. Youíre the God who works wonders, now. You are the God who manifests strength among your people now, not who did manifest strength in the past.
In other words, whatever you do, you must say to yourself, if you have to do it morning, noon or night, if you have to put it on a tape recorder and listen to it, it doesnít matter how you go about it, but here is what you need to do. You need to say this, if God did this and this and that in the past for me, then He will do it again. He is still the same Lord and Savior and His love has not changed and His Word and His faithfulness has not changed. The Lord who delivered me in the past will deliver me again. The God who blessed me in the past will bless me again. The God who poured His grace into my past will pour out his grace in my life again in my present and in my future. The God who exhibited tremendous favor toward me in the past will do it again. The God who has been gracious to me in the past will be gracious to me again. The God who forgave me in the past will forgive me again. The God who did not hold a grudge against me in the past when I confessed my sin, He will do it again. The God, who loved me on the cross of Calvary, still loves me today. The God who did not spare His only begotten Son but gave Him to die on the cross for me will give me all things that I have need of today. That God who loved me will always love me. That God who knows every single care on my life and every hair on my head will not let me down.
In the last 8 verses of Psalm 77, the focus of I, me and my are all gone and all you see is God, God, God. His might, His character, His goodness, His grace, His mercy. There is a right way to remember Godís past blessings and yes, there is a wrong way. Choose the right way of remembering God in your past.
There is a church is California that has a tradition. Before they baptize a new believer, they ask them to take a paper and write down every sin they ever committed as much as they can remember. Then before they are baptized they build a small altar and burn those papers to remind them and show them graphically that God remembers their past sins and holds them against them, no more, once they have been repented of. I donít care how you do it, whatever works is fine. The method is not important but the principle is. Whatever it takes for you to remind yourself on a daily basis, even moment by moment, that you will remember Godís past blessing the right way and not the wrong day. We need to decide to remember Godís past blessings, Godís past intervention, Godís past favor the right way and not the wrong way. Whatever it takes, do it. Say, I refuse to make that mistake any loner, I will no longer remember Godís blessing in my past the wrong way. As we place God at the center of our remembrance, God can bless us again.
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