Psalm 23 (King James Version): The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
This is one of the highly popular pieces of scripture that people quote often. It is not hard to see why- it is comforting, reassuring, and it holds a promise of good things to come for the Children of God. It speaks of plenty, and peace, and joy. That phrase in verse 1 “I shall not want” (one of the more modern phrasings of that verse is in the NIV: “… I lack nothing.”) has recently taken a new meaning for me though. Now, this Psalm does not just promise me the prosperity and plenty that comes from The Lord, but also guarantees that I shall want nothing, need nothing, lack nothing, to overcome the pull of sin.
When any of the myriad of sins assail me with temptation just the right way that lingers and that I cannot simply dismiss, the bodily effect of this might be agitation, a foul mood, possibly some stress. And it sticks around. Also, in my experience it is usually the temptations that appear to be a solution to some stressor or circumstantial problem that are the hardest to resist. For example, instead of forgiving and forgetting, I may continue to stew now and then about someone who made me feel small, thinking about the matter for longer than is healthy, or appropriate. I feel tense about it, and simply getting back at them might fix it. Foolish of me, yes?
The triggers that set off such periods of tension-temptation may be different for everyone, but I am trying to describe the way temptation gnaws, tries to chip away at the resolve piece by piece, hour by hour, or minute by minute, all while disguising as a remedy to a tension within you.
Perhaps you can relate.
Well, some practical steps I find helpful when faced with any type of sin is for one to pray as quickly as the fires flare up, or to distance oneself from whatever person, place, or setting that would make it easier to sin- which I to say, do not fight your sin, flee from it. Get out of there. If being around someone or with a group makes it more likely you will do what you know you should not, leave. Or if being alone or being bored is when the temptations come up, find company or find a way to get busy and distract yourself. But most importantly, pray. God will find you a way out of the temptation, He will give you the power to escape it somehow.
Look back at the Psalm above. Look at all the joys God promises to His children. Remember that all of this is what The Lord desires to give you. If the God who treasures righteousness and justice plans and works to give you all this, do not try to seize for yourself your own happiness or peace via sin. Any measure of happiness you or I could etch out for ourselves through our sinful plans will never be as fulfilling as the joys that God has in store for us if we just wait on Him. In fact, such ill-gotten gains might incur God’s anger.
Me trying to solve a problem by my own sinful means, rather than with the wisdom and righteousness that God supplies to us through scripture and His spirit, is an act of defiance towards Him and is the act of me trying to take control away from Him. It is how I deviate from the moral outline He intended for His universe, and assert my own authority in the situation. When I do this, I cannot expect the situation to turn out well.
Perhaps you can relate.
“But how does God expect me to be decent through THIS?”
“Oh come one, they totally deserved it!”
“It’s not like I did anything that everyone else doesn’t do!”
Well, “I shall not want” also means that I shall not want for the power to resist sin, nor shall I want for the joy that God brings His children who are just and righteous, and removes any excuse for us to attempt rationalizations like the ones right above.
We need to remember that. We need to remember that the joys of God are greater than whatever it is that we attain through greed, vengeance, lust, pride, or cowardice. We need to remember that solving the tensions and stressors of life with sinful or impulsive means rather than seeking and applying God’s wisdom is acting outside of His intended pattern for the universe, and will be the worse for consequences, while keeping Him constant in our minds will not only make our behavior more pleasing to Him, but will shine His healing love and light to the world around us.