Living Life From the Heart – Part 4
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. Michael Easley; ©2007|
|From Psalm 101 we see: a commitment to serve the King; a commitment to a clean character; and a commitment to a core community.|
This message was recorded at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina. Through the ministry of The Cove we’re training people in God’s word to win others to Christ. It’s our goal to develop Christians who experience God through knowing Him better, knowing His Word, building godly relationships and helping others know Him. We trust that this message wills strengthen your walk with God and help you experience Him right where you are.
Dr. Michael Easley: I had only been in the northern Virginia, Washington, DC, area about a year and the first friend I had made died. He died to a very bizarre disease. His wife had died in a white-water rafting accident a couple of years before I had met him. And he was barely 53 and he died of this strange onset of what was called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. For 20 years he’d been an army pilot. He was an extraordinary athlete. He was a great friend. Had one of the best laughs of any person I’ve ever known. His laugh would make anyone smile. And he was a talented guy. He loved people. And he was a wicked guy on the racquetball court; we played racquetball two or three times a week. And he became a confidant and a friend. And I loved Jim Dooley.
So I served Jim Dooley’s funeral, and it was at the Arlington National Cemetery. Now I had done lots of funerals before, and I’d buried friends and I’d buried people I loved. But I’d never done a funeral at the Arlington Cemetery at the Myer Chapel. Have any of you been to the Arlington Cemetery? It’s a little Myer chapel off to the side. It’s controlled by the military. You have 24 minutes to do a service, and they have guns on their sides. They look mean and they say you have 24 minutes, preacher. And this was a fairly dignified service. It was run with precise military protocol. And it was my first experience in this world in this way.
Now, my father taught me to shine my shoes as a boy. The first job I ever had was a shoe shine boy at a barber shop about three blocks away. I still shine my shoes. It’s a thing I have. It’s probably guilt, but it’s a thing I have and I do it. So I have shined shoes and I have nice suit on and I preach this little fine 24 minute, 22 minute thing. And the chaplain comes out and says to me, “Would you like to ride in the car or walk with the caisson?” Now, I didn’t know what a caisson was or were. But it was a beautiful day. It was about 58 degrees. The sun was shining. It was in December and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. And I said, “I’ll walk.”
Now even though I had shiny shoes and a suit on the only topcoat I had was my uncle’s and it looked like Colombo. It was wrinkled, gray, oversized thing with a swaggering belt on it. And so this chaplain says, “Come with me.” I have this giant Ryrie size Study Bible, three times the size of this, and this big like day timer/planner thing, and this giant coat. And we start walking down the way. Little did I know this was going to be about a 15 minute walk up and down the hills of the Arlington Cemetery. He, of course, was in his perfectly starched wools and hat and he was marching and I was walking. And as we came around the corner behind us I noticed the color guard behind us that is marching in perfect array. Behind the color guard is the horse-drawn caisson which is polished in gleaming black, not a smudge, not a mark on this thing, and behind it is an entire group marching in precision military cadence. And here’s Colombo walking in front of them. We get to the funeral site. We have the graveside, it’s the end of the thing. I felt like a hippie, and that was the end of it.
About a year later a friend of mine who was a chaplain at the Pentagon said, “Michael, I want to introduce you to the new Chief of Chaplains. He’s a 2-star chaplain. His name is Admiral Gunhus. He is the highest ranking chaplain in military history. They’ve never had a 2-star before as a chaplain. And he’s over all chaplains of all military operations. I want you to meet him because he goes to your church.” Okay, let’s go meet him. So we go up to the Pentagon and we do the Pentagon tour, which is a remarkable tour, for a couple of hours. And then he says, “Let’s go see the Chief of Chaplains.” We go into the Chief of Chaplain’s office. And it’s like much of military protocol. You go through chambers and doors and secretaries and assistants and you finally get into the holy of holies.
And I’m standing there and Chaplain Gunhus comes out. He shakes my hand and he looks at my friend, Chaplain Tatum, and he says to him, “When are you going to teach this boy to march?” It was a year earlier that he had been the duty chaplain at the Ft. Myer Chapel who had asked me “Do you want to walk or ride in the car?” I said to him, “Next time I’ll ride.”
I did not walk worthy that day. I did not know how to walk worthy that day. I wasn’t in my element. I’d never gone to boot camp, never been an NCO, never been through officer’s training, never had some drill sergeant barking at me. Didn’t know how to do it. I was inappropriate that day. Didn’t walk to honor the military, my friend in a caisson. You and I serve a King. We serve the King and we’re to walk worthy. We’re to walk in a manner worthy of our calling, Paul tells us.
Psalm 101 is the last psalm I’d like to look at with you for a few minutes today. It is another royal motif psalm. This psalm is probably an inaugural psalm. I suspect David wrote it on the occasion of his own inauguration, which seems a little strange. But then, if we know the character of David, we know that he was a wonderful musician. He was a man’s man in that he killed a lion and a bear; not an easy accomplishment in any day. He killed a giant. He was a mighty warrior and he was the King. So he’s an unusual combination of the military grit, of the strength of a man in the field dealing with animals, and yet, knowing how to lead God’s people; and he happened to be an extraordinary musician and writer as well. So in some ways it makes sense that he would write his own inaugural tune.
If you read the book Neal Poston wrote back in the mid 80’s called Amusing Ourselves to Death, he writes, “I believe I’m not mistaken when I say that Christianity is a demanding and serious religion. When it is delivered as easy and amusing it is another kind of religion altogether.” We serve the universal King, the sovereign God and His Son Jesus Christ through His Spirit, and we need, I believe, a different look at what it means to follow Christ.
Now this, of course, is another one of the Hebrew hymnbooks. David, not unlike Psalm 110, has this double message. He’s talking about himself, but he’s also talking about Messiah, the ultimate King. Now the king of Israel had to do two things. He had to be subject to the laws of God and he had to be an example of the law of God. He had to be submissive to God’s laws; He had to comply with it, to follow it, to obey it. But he also had to be an example of the law to the people who were going to be in his kingdom. And that is, in germ form, what this psalm teaches. I am subject to the law of God, but I must be an example of the law of God to all the people around me in my cabinet. Again, Derek Kidner, “It should hardly need saying, that the resolve here is to have no truck with evil men, does not spring from pride, but from the king’s concern for a clean administration, honest from the top down.”
You know, Cindy and I are somewhat political junkies. We love politics. We love to watch all the debates and all the pundits and we have our own running commentary as we’re watching these people. I want to clean the administration from the top down. I don’t care if you’re a mayor, a councilman, an alderman, a president, I want a clean administration from the top down. Doesn’t everybody? If Richard Millhouse Nixon would have said, “Yes, I had a hand in the Watergate affair,” they’d have slapped him on the wrist. He’d have been a heroic president and built his library and we’d all love him. The same is true with every president. They make mistakes. We’ll give them lots of grace, won’t we? We’ll give them lots of slack. But if it’s not clean the nose knows.
This psalm unfolds into three very simply points. Number 1: a commitment to serve the king. Psalm 101 beginning at verse 1: “I will sing of the lovingkindness and justice, to You, O Lord, I will sing praises.” And the two vertical aspects that we’ve talked about, lovingkindness, and now the word “justice.” Lovingkindness, of course, that covenantal love. God loves to be loyal to His chosen people and His covenant promises. It is His hessid character. It is who He is. It is the ethical love of God that when He says something you can count on it. His character, His promises are good. His word is good. That’s who He is. That’s who we pin our hopes on.
Here the psalmist says, “I’m going to sing of this lovingkindness.” And think of the songs we sing: hymns, contemporary versus traditional, versus classical music. Whatever your particular preference may be, does the lyric worship Yahweh, Jesus Christ, well? Is there a vertical nature to the worship? One of the great litmus tests of the songs we sing: are we singing about Him or are we singing about us? You can do both, but I hope we sing a little more often about Him—doxology, the glorification of God, “Praise God from who all blessings flow.” We’re praising God, not talking about our miserable state, which I like to do too. But worship sings of the lovingkindness and justice.
Justice is the ruler’s prime duty. We expect a king to execute justice. Now the Hebrew concept of justice is a little different than perhaps our American view of justice. The American view of justice says if something goes wrong, fix it, do the right thing. But the Hebrew concept of justice was a two-edged sword. You corrected those who did wrong, but you rewarded those who did well. It’s not just the one side. Some of these communities, they tried these experiments. Instead of giving traffic tickets they give $10 gift certificates to people who come to a complete stop. You’ve heard about these communities.
The motorcycle cop comes up and you go, “Oh, no! What did I do?” If you’ve ever had that light and siren in your rear window and been happy. There’s not many things in life that get me going like the sound of a police car and rear lights in my rearview mirror or an ambulance. What did I do? Am I holding the wheel right? Do I have my seatbelt on? Am I driving the speed limit? Did I come to a complete stop at the stop sign? And so justice from the American feel is “what did I do wrong?” But the Hebrew concept of justice is, that’s just half of it. You reward those who do well.
So look at the beginning of this psalm. The King is saying, “I will,” two declarative statements, “I will sing of God’s hessid, of His lovingkindness,” and “I will sing of His justice.” The King’s resolve as he begins his inaugural address is I’m going to talk about the hessid of God, that He is a loving kind God and I as the King, will sing of justice. I will do right and I will reward those who do right. That’s my job as a King. That’d be a pretty good mantra for any presidential candidate. “I will do the right thing the right way. I will correct those who don’t and I will reward those who do.” That’s the chief concern of the King, a commitment to serve a greater King. We might call them the vertical and horizontal commitments, lovingkindness and justice. Spurgeon called them the bitters and the sweets.
When I read this part of the psalm one of the questions my mind runs to is do I recount God’s lovingkindness and justice in my own life? We sing the little hymn, “Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings; see what God has done.” It’s an old ditty of a hymn, but it’s pretty good theology. When’s the last time you took pen to paper and you counted the blessings that God has put in your life? It’s a humbling thing to do. Is the glass half empty or half full? It’s always half empty for me. I’m the pessimist. It’s always what, I’m Eeyore. It’s only my birthday. Nobody cares about me. All I’ve got’s this dumb balloon, you know. And I like being depressed. I mean it’s,… Snap out of it, Cindy would tell me. I did marry the perfect woman and you should hear her talk sometime.
But I have to count my blessings. I have to write them down sometime. God saved me from a licentious, drug-filled life. God gave me great Christian friends when I was in high school and college. God gave me three great Christian roommates in college that helped me tremendously. God put me in a little tiny Bible church in Nacogdoches, Texas, Grace Bible Church, taught by a man named John Aldridge. You might know the name Joel Aldridge; John was his big brother and he was a Dallas Seminary graduate. I got to sit under some of the finest Bible teachers in the world. I got to sit under Howard Hendricks for four years, and went back for two more.
I go down all the blessings: Bob Tolson who taught the Bible so faithfully. I listened to cassettes from some guy named John MacArthur and some guy named Chuck Swindoll, back before they were even on radio. I heard tapes from this guy called “The Shepherd’s Voice” out of Fullerton, California, and got two cassettes every week in the mail and listened to these tapes. Listened to some guy named Pentecost and Stanley Toussaint, and who knew who these other people were. And I learned the Bible; and I learned doctrine; and I learned to study the Scripture. Then I got to go to Seminary. Then I married a wife along the way who loves me more than anyone should. On I could go.
How about you? Have you counted your blessings? Have you chosen to sing of God’s lovingkindness and justice? And if I fixate on the problems and pains that I have I become a depraved Eeyore. If I take the choice; it’s a declarative decision, “I will sing of lovingkindness and justice.” I will, and you’ll see the declaratives as the psalm unfolds. When was the last time you went through that exercise? I am far better off than I ever deserve and probably you are too.
Number 1: a commitment to serve the King; number 2: a commitment to clean character. Verses 2-5. “I will give heed to the blameless way. When will You come to me? I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart. I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not fasten its grip on me. A perverse heart will depart from me; I will know no evil. Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; no one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.” Number 1: a commitment to serve the King. Number 2: a commitment to clean character.
Now you notice the declarative “I will’s” again. And the first one in this strophe is the choice of integrity. Integrity is a little word in the Hebrew, tom and it simply means blamelessness. A person of integrity is a person you can’t pin any blame on. We might say they’re squeaky clean. Early on, my first daughter, I would;… you ever do the thing where you take glasses and make them sing? And I would do this with my first two daughters. And we would get hot soapy water and clean the glass and my hands, and run your finger around the rim and they’d “sing.” And you put different amounts of water and make them sing. And then I would intentionally let them, with their unsqueaky-clean hands, try to make them sing, and they couldn’t do it. I said you have to wash your hands in really warm soapy water to get all the oil off your finger or it will never sing. You had to be squeaky clean. Nothing can be on the rim that prevents it from making that sound. And that’s a sense of the word “integrity,” a blamelessness.
And his choice is, “I will give heed to the way of integrity.” I will submit myself to it. Leo Durocher said, “I’ve never questioned the integrity of an umpire; his eyesight, yes.” The demonstration of integrity is okay, I’m going to sing about it. I’m going to give heed to the blameless way. How are you going to prove it, King David? How are you going to show us the blameless way? Look at the rest of the verse. There’s an interlocution here we have to talk about, “When will You come to me?” But then look at the next strophe: “I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart. I will set no worthless things before my eyes. I hate the work of those who fall away.”
Let’s unpack these a little bit at a time. It’s one thing to look like a person of integrity; it’s another thing to live like a person of integrity. A friend of mine said he could never pastor. “I could never be a pastor of a church.” I said, “Why?” He says, “Well, you counsel these guys who are the worst husbands and fathers in the world, and on Sunday morning they put on a suit and tie and they sit in a pew and they smile at you. So I could never be a pastor.” I said, “Oh, it’s easy. Just take them behind the woodshed and work on them for a while.” He couldn’t handle the disconnect from what a person says, versus what a person does. It’s a lack of integrity. If what we say we do, we do it when no one is around to see if we do it. You are a man or woman of integrity when you do what you do alone. That’s when you know if you have integrity. What you do when no one is looking.
I would take it a step further. It’s what you think about in the privacy of your mind. No one can dial into our thought-life except the Holy Spirit. And what we think about when our wife is saying something, what we think about when our husband is not saying something, what we think about when a young woman walks by, what we think about when a strapping fine specimen of a man walks by, what we think about when we look at someone with contempt, how we judge or are critical of other people; I believe that’s where integrity begins.
You know, where was David’s demise physically? On the roof of his house. He saw a woman bathing. Well, what’s he doing on the roof looking at a woman bathing? And what’s she doing bathing in such a fashion that he can see her? There’s no integrity. And the text gives us no indication, but I suspect it wasn’t the first time. It’s in his house. When he wrote these words little did he know he was making a choice before God, before people, and I think he meant every word of it. “I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.” He knew he had to do it. But he’s human and he culpable just as are we. It’s a very powerful warning for those who would be leaders, whether they lead a family, lead an organization, lead a ministry, you lead a company, you lead a practice, you lead a classroom. Anything that you lead, when a leader falls he or she falls far; it affects a lot of little people.
One of the churches that Cindy and I served, the prior pastor had gotten in trouble. He’d left and moved in with his secretary and later divorced his wife and married his secretary. To follow that was an interesting experience. I met people for years afterwards that would say to me, “I used to go to that church before so and so fell. I used to go to that church before so and so fell.” I heard that again and again and again. And I thought, in God’s sovereign plan He’s going to work through those things, experiences. But, I thought, when that man made a choice to do those sins, did he have any indication of what it would do to the average person in the pew who just came to church on Sunday to listen to his or her pastor talk about God?
The imperceptibility of leadership is something we never talk about. Just because you are who you are, where you are, consistently has an impact. Just because Cindy and I have stayed married faithfully for 28 years and counting makes an impact, is imperceptible. There’s somebody somewhere that says, I’d like to kill my husband today, but because Michael and Cindy love each other I will not. You’ll never hear that story, but it’s true. And it’s true about you too, because you have stayed faithful even when others have not. It’s imperceptible. David’s choice was to have a clean integrity.
Now, the little interlocution, “When will You come to me?” makes Bible scholars far smarter than me scratch their heads. And I think it’s just this interlocution that he’s saying, “I’m doing this, God. I’m trying to live faithfully. Where are You? Where are You?” I think it’s an incredibly intimate insight into the King David who’s saying, “I’m really trying to do my best,” in our terms, “Jesus, but I don’t feel You. I don’t see You. I don’t know where You are. You’re not a real tangible God. I can’t hug You. I can’t feel You. I can’t worship some;… I can’t burn something in front of an idol that looks like You. We’ve got this temple complex with an altar and that’s it. How do I know where You are?” And the intangibility of His sovereign was no different than ours. And I think it’s a personal glimpse into the heart of David.
Well, verses 3-4, he unpacks further this demonstration of integrity. He’s made a declaration of integrity. I will give heed to the way of integrity. I will walk a certain way, and then he explains what that means. “I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.” In other words, where people aren’t watching me I’m going to have the same character I do when I’m in public. The New American Standard says, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes.” And of course it is eyes who see the young woman Bathsheba. What worthless thing have you put before your eyes? It’s a powerful thing, this computer. It’s a powerful thing, Internet pornography. It’s a powerful thing, the imagery of reading a romance novel. It’s a powerful thing looking at television these days.
A friend spent most of his life in Indonesia, in Jakarta, working with a language to translate into the New Testament. He would come to the States for their obligatory furlough and we would house them from time to time. And the commercials that we would sort of tune out mentally and visually, he was aghast on our television. He never said anything to me, but I could see the look on his face when some hygiene product would come on. God help him if he saw all the dysfunctional medications on television today. “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes,” because the eye is the gateway to the soul. The eye brings the information in and we compare. And when we don’t think about this stuff it never occurs to me. I just thought I was getting older. I didn’t realize there was a pill I could take to fix my “hullaballoo-tions.” I didn’t realize there were all these things out there I should be taken by and with.
He’s affirming values in these passages. “I will put nothing worthless before my eyes. I hate the work of those who fall away.” This is a wordplay on the idea of lovingkindness and disloyalty. The word “fall away” we might say is the antithesis of hessid. In other words, I love those who are loyal to God and loyal to God’s Word. I hate, which means he’s renouncing, I hate those who are disloyal to God and disloyal to His Word, who are disloyal to their word. So in comparison to the hessid of God—the character of God’s lovingkindness, His justice, His always being truthful, always being one you can count on— I hate those. He doesn’t hate them emotionally. He’s saying I disavow. I won’t deal with those who are disloyal, who are not consistent with what they believe. “I hate the work of those who fall away,” affirming values.
Now notice what he says in the next phrase. “It shall not fasten its grip on me,” talking about the work of those he hates. “A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil.” Where’s the origin of his perversity? His heart. He’s recognizing the corruptibility even as the king who makes these declarations, “I will sing of His,… I will sing of this, to Thee I will, I will, I will.” He says, “This is where it starts in my heart.” I said the other day, it’s not the sins I act out on that are the biggest problems. It’s the ones between my temples that cause me the most angst. It’s the ones I think about. It’s the ones that overtake my heart. He says, “I won’t let these things fasten their grip.” It’s a very visual picture of, you know, evil men pulling us down into the mire. I won’t do it, he says. He’s affirming values.
Verse 5, “No one who has a haughty look.” If you’ve raised kids your kids have given you haughty looks, haven’t they? One of my children, if you had the dictionary, the old illustration, if you looked up the word “haughty” you would see their picture in the margin of the dictionary. This is what a haughty look looks like. From time to time I would say to that particular child, “I do not like you rolling your eyes at me.” “I didn’t roll my eyes at you.” And then I’m about to kill them, you know, I’m about to eat my young. “You will not be disrespectful to your mother and me. You will be out of my sight. You will not be that way to us.” And I send that child away often. I won’t do it always the best way, but a lot of times I do, and I say, “This is unacceptable for you to be disrespectful, period.” Because if you don’t learn to respect the human agencies in your life, how will ever respect Yahweh? How will you ever respect your God and King Jesus Christ? You must learn to respect those in authority over you. I will not endure a haughty look. It’s a great lesson.
No room for gossip, no room for slander, no room for people that wink when they tell stories. Any of you International Rotarians? No Rotarians? The Rotary Club, of course, is all over the world. I have been invited to speak to Rotary Clubs. Of course it’s just a guise to get you to join really is all it is, but I love going to those functions. And a number times I’ve been to one that has a big placard. It’s a 4×8 sheet of plywood that’s cut and hinged and it’s on like an easel. And it has four questions. You know what the four Rotarian questions are? Before you speak you’re supposed to ask yourself four questions: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it confidential? Is it necessary to share? Rotarians will browbeat you into asking those questions before you speak. Is it kind? It is true? Is it confidential? Is it necessary to share?
Now as I’ve thought about those questions; they’re good to memorize by the way. If I applied those to my every speech my conversations would be terribly short. My phone calls would be “How are you doing?” “Fine.” “I have an appointment next week.” “See you then. Goodbye.” That would be the end of the conversation. Is it kind? Is it true? Is it confidential?
I’ve learned a lot about confidentiality the last 25 years of ministry. Most people cannot keep a confidence. The moment you say the word “confidence” it’s public information. Well, what do we do? We tell our bestest friend who would never breath a word, but because we have information that’s power and we’ve got to tell somebody this little caveat of truth, and so we say, “Now, don’t tell anybody. I’ve been sworn to confidentiality.” “Well why are you telling me, you knucklehead?” “Because you’re my bestest friend and I trust you completely.” And then you give them the pearl and then it’s like sand, it’s like a burr under the saddle. They’ve got to do something with it too. And they, “Well, I can tell my bestest friend because they won’t tell anybody. I trust them explicitly. They won’t breathe a word of it.” And we say, “I’ve got to tell you something, but you can’t tell anyone a word.” “I, no, totally, I won’t tell a word,” then they tell their bestest friend, and on it goes. And each one of those friends were intentionally going to keep that confidentiality. Sorry, I’m a little jaded.
For a leader character is everything. We had a little rouse a few years ago about, oh, you can be a great leader and your character doesn’t matter. The Hebrew word for that is “bologna.” From David’s life we learn that character was everything. And when David followed this well, the kingdom prospered. When David inquired of the Lord and went up he succeeded every time. And when he had a failure or a misstep and he went back to God and prayed to Him and inquired of God, God answered him every single time. If you go back and look through the Chronicles and 1 Samuel he inquired, he inquired, he inquired, he inquired, he inquired of the Lord. He inquired of the Lord and his success is like a chart for a financial dream, up, up, up, up, up. Everything he did he prospered.
And then we read the most terrible inquiry of all, David inquired of the woman. And the careful reader of the Bible’s stomach goes into a knot. No, no, no! Don’t ask about a woman. And his faithful captain’s in the field killing for the name of the King and Yahweh. You better come out here and join us lest they give the banner and the scepter to the wrong man. You’re the King for goodness sake. Play the man, play the part. Be the King. Come out and show yourself a man of integrity again. And to send a note, put Uriah at the front of the line where the battle’s the fiercest. He’s gone! It’s over. Why do so many successful people fail so miserably?
Commit to serve the King, number 1; a commitment to a clean character; and thirdly and last, a commitment to a core community, verses 6 and following. “My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in a blameless way.” It’s the same word from verse 2: “He who walks in a blameless way is the one who will minister to me. He who practices deceit,” in contrast, “will not dwell within my house; he who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me. Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land, so as to cut off from the city of the Lord all those who do iniquity.” There’s a vertical commitment to serve the King; there is an internal commitment to His own character; and now there’s a horizontal and downward commitment to those over who he is King. So a commitment to serve the King, a commitment to a community of character building and a commitment to his community of ministry we might say.
Now David expands the way of integrity that he announced in verse 2. He’s going to talk about the people who are going to serve with him. The word “surround” is that same word in a circle we talked about. He’s going to surround himself with faithful people, verse 6. Instead of running with the wrong crowd, he’s going to run with the right crowd. Only those who are blameless-minded will serve with him. I have an extraordinary privilege of working with elders at churches as well as the trustees at the Moody Bible Institute, and the President’s Cabinet and to work with men of integrity. I have some close friends with whom I would trust my wife and my checkbook. I trust them completely. I trust them explicitly because they are men of a blameless way.
Larry Crabb defined a friend as someone who knows your secrets and still loves you. That’s pretty good. I know their secrets. They know mine. They don’t blab about them. I can trust them completely with anything I have and I hope they would trust me in kind. He’s going to surround himself with people like this.
So the question is very simple for you and for me: do you have people with whom you trust yourself explicitly and they you? If you do not have someone who will tell you the truth in love for your benefit and the benefit of your family and your marriage and your friendships and your work, you don’t have a friend. There are only a few in life like this, and I have discovered you have to pursue them and cultivate them.
It’s a little bit like dating. You don’t, the first date, tell the person as I did, “I love you and I want to marry you.” You typically court them. And after you’ve had some fun, you say, “I really enjoy being with you,” and then you wait with baited breath for them to say, “I enjoy being with you too.” And then you date a little more, and a little more. And then you say, “I really love being with you,” and they say, “I love being with you.” And little by little you make first downs, right. And then finally you say, “I think I love you.” And then you wait. The whole world stops while you wait for her to say back, I’m not sure I love you, you know. No, “I love you too.” And then it all goes in slow motion. The camera goes around, then the orchestra plays in the background and you’re in love.
But you court and you say; it’s the same with a friendship. You don’t tell them your life story the first time you have coffee. You see if they can handle a little bit. You see what they tell you. And then, if you’re a smart friend, if you’re a smart student of people, if you tell them something and you hear it later, you know where the leak came. And then you just don’t bring anything up with that person anymore. You go on to the next one. I found to pursue those type of friendships takes extraordinary energy, but the benefits are other worldly.
I have a great friend; he’s a pastor down in Houston, Dave. Dave knows all my secrets and I his. And we can talk on the phone for an hour sometimes. Cindy likes to be in the room when I’m on the phone. She goes, “I learn a lot about you when you talk to Dave. I like hearing you talk to Dave,” because I tell Dave everything and Dave tells me everything. And sometimes Dave will say, “Michael, you’re believing a lie. Don’t believe a lie.” Other times Dave will say, “I wish I could reach through the phone and give you a dope slap right now, because you need someone to slap some sense into you, Mike. You’re being stupid right now.” Have you got a friend like that? That’s the type of friendship in a very practical way.
I will surround myself with those who are faithful, who are loyal, who have the blameless way of integrity. Those are the ones I want to serve with. Think about this from a Presidential Cabinet. If the next President in the United States put men and women on his cabinet that were completely men and women of truth and integrity it would change the world. It would literally change the world. It’s that simple and that true. It’s hard. You need people who will tell you the truth.
Gerhard Neumann wrote a book, Herman the German, about General Electric’s aircraft engine power during World War II, the Flying Tigers. The Flying Tigers, a huge part in winning the war. And they were having a series of mechanical problems with them, that they couldn’t get fixed. And these problems would show up at 20,000 feet, not when they were on the ground with a squadron mechanics. Herman the German, Gerhard Neumann came up with the idea, he would take the crew chief, a mechanic with him in the single seat plane to show him what problems the plane was having. There’s no room for a parachute in this plane when you put another person in it. And the crew chief would sit on the pilot’s lap. That’s how small the cockpits were.
Gerhard Neumann writes, “It found great approval with the pilots. The squadron mechanics would work way into the night, lest in the morning I might ask them to test flight with me the next day on whose plane they had affected repairs. The workmanship improved dramatically. Late at night we would see what looked to be glowworms under the hoods of the planes, the mechanics with their flashlights checking one more time the repair they had made, lest in the morning I might ask them to fly with me.” It’s a little different when you’re in a plane with no parachute. Do you trust them? Accountability’s a term we greatly overuse, but it’s what is terribly lacking. You’re only accountable to someone who can hold your trust, who can hold truth. Good judgment comes from good character.
In verse 8 he has an interesting phrase that sort of disturbs us a little bit. This part about “Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land.” The king, of course, had a job to protect the confines of Israel. The king, of course, had a job to take the land that God had given them that was going to be their land. The king, of course, would destroy the enemies of Yahweh, the enemies of Israel, the enemies of God’s chosen people. When God told him to do this he would do it. And what he’s saying in here is, “I won’t be dilatory. If God says to go take this people and go fight this battle we’re going to go do it. We’re not going to live in fear and worry about it. We’re going to go obey the word of the Lord.”
Now if you know the story of David well, when Absalom’s revolt begins you may remember Absalom positions himself at the gates of the city and he listens to all the people’s problems and he says, basically, “Oh, if I were your king I’d do something about this. If I were your king I would do something. I would fix this problem.” He’s saying, “I wouldn’t be dilatory like your king is being right now.” Because after David’s failures, he quit being dilatory. It’s all scripted in the first song he wrote. “Every morning I will deal with the wicked in the land as God has put them in front of me.” One commentary says, “The test of all ministry comes in the last day, the day of fiery trial and inquisition. This and not the world’s opinion is the real approval.” And unfortunately this, the psalm, is haunting because we know about David’s end.
We know about his finish, but we don’t have to do it that way. Obviously we don’t have the pressures of being the King of a nation, but we have the pressures of being faithful servants where we are. We serve Yahweh, not ourselves. We serve Jesus Christ, not our self-interests and these three things apply. We need a commitment to Christ. We need a commitment to our character that our character is refined by the Word of God and by His Spirit. And we need a commitment to people who will be truthful, who will be faithful, who will walk the way of integrity with us. If you have those three things you will do well in this Christian life.
A commitment to Christ; I will sing of lovingkindness and justice, to Thee I will worship and sing praises. I will be committed to a core of integrity. I will be a truthful person. I’ll be a person who when I sin I will keep short account. I will own my sin. I will ask for forgiveness. I will confess when, not if I fail. And I will have men around me who will surround me to help me and they will walk with me and I will trust them and they will trust me. And then I will not be dilatory in the way I’m supposed to serve Christ. It’s a pretty good vision for life.
If you were to go back to Arlington Cemetery today you would stand by what is now called the Tomb of the Unknowns, no longer called the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It’s the Tomb of the Unknowns. And there is a group of what are called Tomb Guard Sentinels, the Tomb Guard Sentinels. We think of the man marching at Arlington in perfect cadence in his uniform and his gun and his rifle and his hat. And if you’ve never been you need to go there. It’s easier than going to Israel, so you should go there sometime and watch the Tomb Guard Sentinels. It is the oldest active duty guard in the United States Armed Forces. To be an honor guard is to be elected to one of the most prestigious ceremonial places of all service.
Now these young men and women are picked out of a huge application process. It’s almost like one of the highest levels for these young men and women. They are chosen within a certain limit of height and weight in each of their groups. The precision with which they iron their uniforms, they practice and polish their weapon, the way their shoes are built, the soles that they have on their shoes. I believe it’s 30 paces they take, no more and no less on the runner, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Far from the view of audiences that are hobbled around taking pictures trying to distract them, they guard those remains. When hurricane Floyd came through the northern Virginia area a few years ago was the first time since the Tomb Guard Sentinels have been established that they were given an executive order to stand down because of the weather. They wouldn’t do it. They marched in the fury of the winds and the rains and the hail that came through that hurricane and they guarded the tomb.
They have a trust, and this is what it reads: “My dedication of the sacred duty is total and wholehearted. In the responsibility bestowed on me never will I falter. With dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection. Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability. It is he who commands the respect I protect, his bravery that made me so proud. Surrounded by well-meaning crowds by day, alone in the thoughtful peace of night this soldier will in honored glory rests under my eternal vigilance.” They’re guarding a box of bones. We serve a King, a risen Savior who’s in the world today. I wonder, do I serve a King as well as those men and women serve a box of bones?
Prayer: Father in heaven, help us to walk worthy. Help us to walk in such a manner of integrity, of humility, of character and commitment that the world covers their mouth in awe, not because we’re good, but because You’re God. Thank You for the privilege of serving the risen Savior. Thank You for the privilege of knowing the King. Help us to be a little more worthy in our walk by the power of Your Spirit. In Christ’s name we pray, amen.