Fight, Flight, or Faith
Psalm 55, great text of scripture. The reason we’re diving into the Psalms, we’ve been doing this the last few weeks, is the Psalms provide a beautiful place for us to see how the faith in which we believe in leads us in the way that we behave, right? Because sometimes when you learn about the identity and nature of God, you’ve got this, this now place in your life where you rest with how does the nature of who God is and who I am in the light of him matter in how I live my life here today. And the Book of Psalms is a beautiful book of man’s response to God in light of the world that we live in.
And we’re looking at a Psalm today that’s 3000 years old and yet still very relatable to where we are in our day to day life and living before the Lord. And that is because the Book of Psalms is a worship book. And when you think in terms of worship, worship is more than what you do on Sunday, worship has everything to do with how you leave from this place and what you choose to honor with your life. Your worship being, whether you acknowledge it or not, you will choose to find your identity in something and you will affirm that thing and honor that thing, as to finding your acceptance and worth and value in whatever it is.
And so, when you leave here, worship is beyond what you do on Sunday, worship is what you do every day, it’s a matter of what you’re choosing to honor with in your life. And the book of Psalms is a book that shows us, in the day to day struggle of what life is, or in the rejoicing of what we find in life, how we connect the truth of who God is to what we experience in our world. It takes the idea of what you believe and how you behave, and it joins them together.
And so what we’ve looked at in the first couple of weeks is the idea of joy, how we find true joy, and that identity in God. In the last week we talked about abandonment, and the struggles we experiences in abandonment. We looked at a song of lament, and today we’re going to discuss fear, and how fear can often times become a tool for the enemy to dictate how we live our lives, contrary, often, to the Lord. We give in to fear, sometimes we are contrary to God.
Now I want to say, it would be a mistake to suggest that if you get spiritual enough, you look in the Psalm and you get spiritual enough that you’re going to become a person that’s completely without fear and anxiety free. I think that’s a ridiculous notion. I think as people, we struggle, and we just need to learn to surrender things to Christ, and on top of that, not all fear is bad fear. Not all, a concern, or maybe a level of anxiety has to be a bad thing.
The Bible says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. So there’s a certain way of understanding fear as it relates to reverence before God. There’s different words that the Hebrews would use for fear. The yirah is this idea of this reverence before God, and so it’s often translated as fear, but it’s what you put in position above you, and how you choose to find your worth, value and meaning in life, what you honor. But then there’s this fear that also causes us to paralyze or respond contrary to God, but not all fear is bad fear.
For instance, hell knows no fury in coming between a mother and her children, right? There’s this strength that comes into momma power, if you get between her and her kids, in those moments, those are necessary. It’s interesting how the body’s even designed that when fear, that idea of fear comes into us, your brain actually takes blood and it diverts it from your stomach and it puts it into your muscles, in case you need extra strength. Adrenaline kicks in, in case you need to run. Your eyes actually dilate, so your peripheral gets much bigger. Everything that you saw Kramer do on Seinfeld, right? That’s what happens to you when fear comes into your life.
And it’s that fight or flight mode that kicks into you, and so sometimes necessary. If your life is in danger, you need the extra strength and the ability to run, right? And so God’s given you a wonderful mechanism in order to respond in the midst of a circumstance that may be beneficial. So we’re not talking about all fear being a bad thing, but we do want to recognize that there is a certain fear that leads us to stray from God. And what you find in Psalm 55 is David leaning into that. He talks about this struggle. And we think in terms of fear, as we relate to that, I looked at some Gallup polls as to what Americans have feared, and I did it just by some dates. I looked around early 2000, what Americans were afraid of. Interesting reading that.
They had a couple of Gallup polls came out in 99, 2001. American’s top 10 fears, listen to this. Snakes, public speaking, heights, being closed in small spaces, spiders, insects, getting shots, mice, flying on a plane, dogs, thunder and lightening and crowds. After 2001, it’s interesting that some of those fears changed, and now included on those list, you’d see things like being a victim of a mass shooting, terrorism, cyber crimes and pollution.
You may think this morning, and I’m going to show you why you’re not going to agree with this in the end, but you’re not a person that gets afraid, you’re too strong for that, right? But it’s interesting as you look at this Psalm and reflect on your own life, just how much we face the temptation of giving in to fear. I think David, in terms of Psalm 55, and we say to David “What are you afraid of?”, none of the things I just mentioned would be on David’s list. But David wrestled with fear, and he works through that in this Psalm. And you see him go between this state of mind of which he’s experiencing in this fear, and then relating it back to what’s causing his fear. And these first few versus, the Psalm, Psalm 55 versus one to five, what you find David discussing here is about every Hebrew word for fear.
He brings up in this Psalm, he says “Give ear to my prayer, O God, and do not “hide yourself from my supplication. “Give heed to me and answer me. “I am restless in my complaint and am surely distracted, “because of the voice of the enemy, “because of the pressure of the wicked, “for they bring down trouble upon me “and the anger, they bear a grudge against me.” You’ve probably been somewhere like this in your life where something’s happened that’s got you so concerned, and all night long you’re tossing and turning, and you would describe yourself as just restless. What do you do, right? Worried, anxiety, fear. You’re not going to get any sleep. You’re not going to be any good tomorrow. And David describes himself in that place.
In verse four he say “My heart is in anguish within me, “and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. “Fear and trembling come upon me, “and the horror has overwhelmed me.” You see as you read versus four and five that David is going through all of the what ifs, right? His circumstance, he just feels this terror of life, and you can just imagine maybe in your own life when you’ve been in that place, that you think worst case scenario, and the ground beneath you is just gone. And you start imagining all the bad scenarios, if this were to play out and continue down this trajectory, what it might lead to. And this idea of fear leads us as people to what we’ve called last week this idea of fight or flight, right?
You go through all these what ifs, and you try to look for your way of escape, through your own strength, and you start to consider all the possibilities of what you could do, and not necessarily and idea of God, but rather it becomes Satan’s distraction tool from where God calls you to be. And David is working through this right now in his own life, I think, as he begins to process where he might meet God in this struggle. And he gets to verse six, his first temptation, he starts to share with us. He said “I said ‘Oh that I had wings like a dove, “then I could just fly away, be at rest.’ “Behold I would wander far away, I would lodge “in the wilderness, Selah.”
This idea of Selah means, it’s a place that you pause in the Psalms. It’s like David, in this moment, is going to his happy place. I’m just going to picture myself on a beach in Florida, right? When the snow falls, I am not here. And in verse eight, “I would hasten to my place “of refuge from the stormy wind and tempest.” And so David’s just saying, the clever movie thought, Lord just make me a bird so I can fly far, far away, right? But there’s a problem with that, because David wasn’t called by God to be a bird. David was called by God to be the king, and if he were to run, he would run from the place that God had put him in.
And so David’s walking with this idea of trying not to care, trying to escape, trying to go into defense mode and not be a part of this circumstance. He just doesn’t want to be around. If retirement was a thing in David’s day, he would have retired, right? Let’s just pass this on to someone else. But God didn’t call him to that. God called him to something else. You think about our lives, where we might get defensive, like this final place of escape.
What does that look like in our world? There’s all kinds of scenarios I could share, but one of the things I thought about where we live today, we live in the youngest state in the nation, and so trying to think how does this relate to our typical culture. I think many a times, this is seen in the way that we parent. Sometimes as parents, you get so worried about your children that rather than shoot for a target with your kids, we just play defense mode. We make parenting about all the things we want them to avoid, or we’re so worried about them not getting certain experiences in life, that we want to take them and do everything with them, and we run ourselves into the ground just so that we make sure our kids aren’t left behind in comparison to other kids. And so we play our entire lives of raising children all on the defense mode. It’s never about what God calls them to be, it’s about all the things we want them to avoid. Parenting out of fear, right? We do that and other things in our lives, but that’s not what God says to do. When you think about living for him, that God, when he calls us, it’s not about what you’re avoiding.
The Christian life is not about what you’re avoiding, the Christian life is about who you are becoming. So in terms of being a parent raising a child. It tells us, and Ephesians chapter six, provoke not your child but train them in discipline and instruction. God’s not so much concerned about what your kids are doing, or not doing, as much as he is concerned about who your kids are becoming. See encouragement is the nurturing of the heart. What God is interested in is in the heart, and so God’s got a target for you as a parent.
It’s not about trying to avoid everything in the world. You can avoid everything in the world, and never help your kid become what God’s called them to be. And so it’s about looking towards the target. And fear becomes the tactic, we look at everything else around us, but the place where God has called us, because we’re trying to avoid the things that we’re so frightened about. And this is exactly where David is in Psalm 55. God has called him to be a king and where is his heart wrestling in these moments? To be anything but the king. His eyes are on every other target that he wants to run from. Not where God’s called him. And you see how in this scenario, it continues to build.
In verse nine he says this, “Confuse, O Lord, divide their tongues, “for I have seen violence and strife in the city.” We’ll come back to verse nine in just a minute. “Day and night, they go around her upon her walls, “and iniquity and mischief are in her midst, “destruction in her midst. “Oppression and deceit do not depart from her streets.” What you see in these verses is really David’s starting in his fear to build up this level of paranoia. He starts to be so concerned about this that his is the only thing that he thinks about. And when he describes it, he’s saying look, it’s happening all day, all night. These people don’t even sleep. I’m trying to sleep, these people don’t sleep.
They’re up all night just talking about this, and they don’t even stop talking about this. This paranoia, the fear that he’s so focused on in his life. And then in verse 12, we find a little bit more as to why David feels this way. It says “For it is not an enemy who approaches me “that I could bear, nor is it one who hates me, “who has exalted himself against me, “then I could hide myself from him. “But it is you, a man my equal, “my companion and my familiar friend.” So what brings David to this point? It’s not just any kind of wound. David says look, I expect this from enemies. What David is saying is no, this is more. This is a friendship wound.
Charles Spurgeon, he was considered the prince if preachers in the 1800s in England, and he had such a large church in London that the newspapers would show up to their church to figure out what they were going to write about the next day. Highly criticizing everything that he did, and his opponents or enemies that didn’t like him were very vocal in how they publicized that, especially in the newspapers. And Spurgeon, his whole life, he wrestled with depression, but he said this once. He said “None are such real enemies as false friends”, and so you see David’s woundedness here, and he goes a little bit further in verse 14. It’s not just a friend, he says “We who had sweet fellowship together, “walked in the house of God in the throng.” This is one of David’s companions in his kingdom.
This is someone of power and authority, of prestige. And not only did David walk with him, it says even in the intimate places of worship, David was arm in arm with this person. And so when you think in terms of friendship, not only is this a friend that’s wounded him, but this is a friend that has power in Israel that can do harm. Some people have speculated as to what this could be referring to in this Psalm. No one is certain as to the detail, as to what David might be referring here to. Some people think it was a leader in the rebellion, under Absalom, when David was kicked out of his kingdom. They think it was someone that helped Absalom, and it was someone of importance, of power and authority, and they could bring destruction to David. That’s just speculative, but nonetheless, you can see from this Psalm that David is experiencing pain because of that, and it’s got him paranoid.
It’s got him walking in fear, distracted from what God’s called him to, wanting to escape, and in verse 15, you sort of hit the low point of the Psalm. So verse 15 sort of becomes, if you think about this Psalm in terms of a V, 15 becomes low point before verse 16 starts building up, and how to now find his identity and truth, as it relates to God. But this is what he says in verse 15, he says “Let death come deceitfully upon them. “Let them go down alive to Sheol, “for evil is in their dwelling and in their midst.” Maybe what David’s say is them’s fighting words, right? He’s getting to a place where he’s seen this friend, and he’s getting frustrated, and now he just wants to put an end to it. You know last week we talked about this idea of abandonment, when it comes to fight or flight mode, but there’s a close relative to those two terms.
When you feel sort of in this negative place, you want to go fight or flight, right? But something that’s closely related to that is this idea of legalism or liberalism. Now when I say liberalism, don’t think in political terms, I just mean more freely. So let me just explain to you like this. Liberalism is you try not to care, right? Whatever’s good for you, just let it be good for you over there, I just want to escape, I don’t want anything to do with it, and there’s a problem with that, especially in David’s position is that David was put in a position by God, and someone’s trying to take that from him, and that’s his rightful position before the Lord, right? So you can’t just avoid it, but we do that sometimes as people.
When we see injustices, sometimes we just pretend like it’s not on our doorstep, want to shove away. We go through a hard thing in a family, relationship, let’s just sweep it under the rug, not deal with that. That’s not a way to do things, right? So there’s that temptation, and the other one is not so much fight as it is just legalism, and what I mean by legalism is when someone does something you don’t like, you’re going to force them to agree with you. The problem with that is it might work temporarily, but in the long term, you lose their heart. So you might get their behavior to align with what you want, when you come in like a tyrannical ruler, but you lose their heart in the process.
And David’s in that place where he’s coming to this Psalm, and he’s thinking about the strength that he can carry. Rather than escape, okay, that’s not going to work, let’s bulldoze ourselves into this. Now I want to say, I want to talk a little bit about whether or not David is justified in what he’s making, this comment he’s making in this statement, but in terms of us, when we go through this fear mentality, we tend to respond in two ways, right? We either can run from it, or we get angry about it. And then we force it, and neither of those things, I think, are the path God wants us to walk. Surely you can get someone to do what you want at least temporarily. And so we come into this legalistic force things to happen, fight and get what we want mentality. Oh yeah. I think just like David, maybe in this Psalm, we think the same way. Let me give you an example.
September 11th, 2001. Where were you? Some of you say “I was not born yet”. But if you were alive, you know where you were, right? You remember the day. I was in college. I managed a pizza shop in a college town that had a lot of international students, and I remember one particular day, this college town, when you get a college town, college kids, they just eat pizza, so pretty much half the stuff that we did went to the college. And I remember one particular time, I had to go to the college because this was a larger event that was happening, as related to delivering pizza, and I remember leaving there, and I saw a person go up to a couple of individuals that looked a little like this, and proceeded to lecture them on what they thought about them. Just gave them a tongue lashing up on side, down the other. Said the phrases “You don’t belong here”, “You go home”, every ugly word that you can think of.
One problem, and I’m not intending this to be political or religious in any means, I just want to point out how fear drives us sometimes. One problem with the comment, actually multiple problems, but one I’ll identify, they’re not even Muslims. They weren’t even Muslims. Now it doesn’t necessarily make it right, but just so everyone here knows, Muslims don’t wear turbans. Those are Sikhs. Different religion all together. And here comes a lady with her feelings and fear, out of anger, demonstrating her hatred to people that weren’t even responsible. When fear drives us, we can do some stupid things. I think this is important for us to recognize because God has a different desire for our lives.
Fear, giving into that may temporarily provide a solution, temporarily, but long term it doesn’t provide the healing that’s needed. I think there’s really only one thing that ultimately does that, it’s the gospel. It’s our faith walking in the gospel, right? And David, when he gets to this verse 15, we go back for just a moment. Just so we’re aware, when David is saying this, I don’t really think his mentality is necessarily fight. I think is mentality’s trying to process through the truth that he understands about God, because the reason I say that is when you get to verse 20, which I quoted here at the bottom, he starts talking about this person breaking their covenant.
In the Old Testament, God gave his rule as covenant. If they broke their covenant, there was curses. If they lived in the covenant, there was blessing. And so you’ll even see the nation of Israel, as you go through the Old Testament, when they follow God, blessing. When they walk from God, there’s cursing from that. And David, verse 15, when he’s quoting the Earth’s really swallowing people up, I think he’s thinking about the time of Korah. Korah came against Moses in rebellion, in number 16, and God in judgment for breaking the covenant opened the Earth and swallowed. And I think David’s just acknowledging, as a covenant breaker, God you put me in this position to represent you in this world. I am King David, and he’s a model of what Jesus would ultimately be of king. David’s invoking this covenant promise.
In verse nine, he even talks about confusing their tongue, and I think David’s thinking about the tower of Babel. So when David’s thinking about judgment, he’s thinking in terms of old covenant judgment, and he’s doing it according to God’s word. And one other thing that I would bring up that would just acknowledge this in the life of David is that when you think about King David, remember how David got to the throne? There was another king before him, Saul, and God ripped the kingdom away from Saul and gave it to David, but before David actually got to take his position as king, even though he had been anointed, Saul was still in that position, and David had to spend many years of his life running from Saul, for his life. Saul tried to kill him.
And when you get to the beginning of second Samuel chapter one, interesting thing happens here. Second Samuel chapter one, King Saul dies. And David, having spend all of his years running away from Saul for his life, what kind of attitude do you think David would have? Rejoicing, celebrating, my enemy is dead, right? What does David do? He weeps. He weeps. Not only does he weep, but if you read the rest of this chapter, he writes a song about this king and tells Israel to remember it. And it’s a song with the goodness of God, in the midst of bringing this king. Listen to what it says, verse 10, then David, when he found out Saul was dead, “Took hold of his clothes and tore them, “and so also did all of the men who were with him. “They mourned and wept and fasted “until evening for Saul and his son, “Jonathan, and for the people of the Lord, “and for the house of Israel, “because they had fallen by the sword.”
David, even with his enemies, understood the importance of life. That everyone’s created in the image of God, and God is the one who truly brings the healing. And so I don’t think David’s intentions are necessarily about vengeance. I think David was one about justice, for sure. You know when I think in terms of us today, Old Testament, God physically represents himself in the people of Israel. In the New Testament, we’re called to spiritually battle for the Lord today. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, meaning we don’t fight against people, we fight for people, because what we wrestle against is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against spiritual forces of darkness the Bible tells us. But we, when we respond in fear, will walk foolishly.
Oftentimes it’s masked in anger, but it’s still driven by fear, and we do it all the time as people. Let me just give you think, Corona virus, stock market, right? Fear. I had to throw that in somewhere today. Fear. And David in verse 16 then begins his resolve. He says “As for me, I shall call upon God, “and the Lord will save me. “Evening and morning and at noon, “I will complain and murmur, and he will hear my voice. “He will redeem my soul in peace “from the battle which is against me, “for they are many who strive with me. “God will hear and answer them, “even the one who sits enthroned from of old, Selah. “With whom there is no change, and who do not fear God.” What’s David saying here? Verse 16, the Lord saves me. Verse 17, God hears my voice. Verse 18, he redeems me unharmed.
He’s saying when we’re afraid, we dwell on the possibilities of what if. We wanna run, we get paranoid, we want to fight. We find peace when we surrender what we can’t control to the Lord. And then he brings all of his thoughts to this pinnacle moment, the very end of the Psalm, just a couple of versus and he brings it to this head of what is important for us in these moments. He says on verse 20, “He has put forth his hand “against those who were at peace with him. “He has violated his covenant.” He’s talking about his enemy. “His speech was smoother than butter, “but his heart was war. “His words were softer than oil, “yet they were drawn swords.” So here in this moment, rather than just make it personal now, David’s just stepping back from the problem and he’s calling it what is, right? We talked a little bit about this last week, but sometimes when you’re in circumstances that aren’t healthy, and people are waring against you like that, God doesn’t call you to necessarily go in and be best friends with him.
I think God’s all about reconciliation, but God doesn’t call you to be best friends. Sometimes if someone’s going to be toxic, you gotta put them in a time out and say look, just sit over there, this is what it is, and when you want to work through that, we’ll work through that. But I don’t wish ill will on you, but if you’re going to be like that, I cannot be near you, right? So there’s a time to call it what is, and finally David just takes this 10,000 foot perspective, and he just calls it what it is. And then he says in verse 22, “Cast your burdens upon the Lord, and he will sustain you. “He will never allow the righteous to be shaken, “but you, O God, will bring them down “to the pit of destruction. “Men of bloodshed and deceit will not live out “half their days, but I will trust in you.”
So here’s what he’s saying, when you have fight, flight, the answer is faith, right? The answer’s faith. Sometimes we look at that and be like well that’s just another escapism of not dealing, just chalking it up to faith. No it’s not. It’s not because here’s what this verse is saying, in this verse David is finally standing the way God has called him to stand. He took the identity that the Lord had given him, not what fear was putting on him. What I love about this passage is while even though it’s a short ending, what makes me love it is I know the Apostle Peter was familiar with this passage.
Peter was a very anxious person. He was fearful, the end of Jesus’ life, he was fearful about what would happen to Jesus, then when Jesus was captured, he became fearful about what would happen to him. He was a big worrier, but as he grew older, I think he learned not to let fear control him, but let faith lead him. And some 30 years after the Apostle Peter goes to the crucifixion of Christ, encounters all that and turns his back on Jesus, he finds himself writing a letter in first Peter to the persecutor church. And I like to think in these moments as he’s writing this, at the end of the chapter, and chapter five, as he’s writing to the persecutor church, he in his own life and his own regrets has had opportunity to think back to other men of faith who have turned their back on the Lord, or struggled to follow after God, and no doubt Peter was familiar with David’s statements in Psalm 55 and even into Psalm 56.
And so when he’s thinking about the early church, and the persecution that they’re going through, and some of them even losing their lives, and he himself with just a matter of time is going to be martyred for his faith. How can he encourage God’s people? What can he say? And when Peter ends his letter in first Peter five, he goes back to Psalm 55. And first Peter five, six, look what he says here. He says in the opening line, he says, he wants us to know look, fear can dictate what you do, but God wants faith to lead you, therefore humble yourselves. Humbles yourselves. The secret to winning the battle over fear is to humble yourselves before the Lord and faith. This idea of humility is given to the thought of what you surrender to will lead you.
If you surrender to fear, it’ll dictate what you do. If you surrender to the Lord, he will lead you. And so Peter, he opens up this line, he says humble yourselves, and he says “Under the mighty hand of God”, he’s acknowledging to the church, look, God is stronger, that he may exalt you, that God calls you to stand. Fear wants to push you down, fear wants to beat you up, fear wants you to run, but God wants you to stand in the midst of all of that. God wants you to stand. When you choose to take faith over fear, what you’re choosing is to believe God is stronger and I am going to stand. God calls me to be who God calls me to be, and that’s what I’m going to be, regardless of what fear tells me.
And so as he’s saying this to the early church, look at this next verse, Psalm 55 verse 22. “Cast all your anxiety on him, he cares for you.” So Peter, look is what I’m saying in this passage, when Peter thought about his own life, his own failures, his own struggle. He found solace in the life of David as he went through these battles, and his mind goes all the way back to this point for the church, and he says to us, “Cast all your cares on him, because he cares for you.” This becomes a matter of faith in our lives. Do you believe what God wants for you is better than what fear forces you?
What are you afraid of? What part of fear keeps you from following where Jesus has called you? He either is what he says he is or he’s not. No reason to ride the fence. All in or don’t. Either he’s capable of it, or he isn’t. And so he’s saying look, humble yourselves, he will lift you up. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he will care for you. God does care for you. In verse eight, “Be alert and sober minded. “Your enemy the devil prowls around “like a lion, seeking him, he may devour.”
Satan wants to use this as a tool against you. He wants you afraid, because he knows the minute you’re afraid, he’ll prevent you from living the kind of life that God calls you to in him. And so as long as you walk in fear, as long as you allow him to use that tool over you, he wants to devour you. He wants you to pursue something different in your life. And he even goes on in verse 10, and he says to the church, he talks about their struggle.
Verse nine, “Resist him and stand firm in the faith, “because you know that the family of believers “throughout the world is undergoing “the same kind of suffering.” They say look, it’s not just you. Everyone, everyone experiences this. Everyone faces the temptation of what’s going to lead you. Maybe we get to the end of something like this, and we think you know, I’m not really afraid, but let me just ask you this, what do you give credence to over your life? What dictates what you do? I mean you walk out of here, what do you live for? Maybe you won’t call it fear, but it is what you revere, and the Hebrews use the same word as fear for that.
What you revere in your life will determine where you go. And what Peter is saying to the early church is look, Satan wants to even use your very life as a tool. If he can make you fear death in your life, he can dictate what happens, but God, God will win because in him, there ultimately is no death. Jesus is life forevermore. That’s where he goes from verse 10 and on, he starts to explain to us that we have that beauty in Christ. That therefore because of Jesus’ power, there is nothing that can be taken away from you. Christ has his hand in it all. When we think about how we walk in life, when you think about the things that human beings are fearful of, the examples I used, you go back and look at parenting, or the idea of September 11th.
Can I tell you, you could fight, and yeah you can run and hide, but the best thing you can do is stand, because when we take the opportunity as people to stand in faith and Christ, it’s that gospel proclaimed in the hope of Jesus and the grace of God made known that truly brings healing. That’s where hearts are transformed. That’s where enemies are made friends. That’s where the goodness of God is professed in your own life, and that’s where the glory of God is made known.