Activated Faith or Slothful Solutions – Psalm 34:11-22

Popular Sloths

A quick search of sloths online will point you to an avalanche of all things associated with the world’s slowest-moving mammal. T-shirts, movies, books, and photos document our love affair with these furry creatures. There must be something that draws us to them. Is it the slow pace of their lifestyle? Is it their relaxed attitude? Is it their apparent chill vibe?

Sinful Sloth

Ironically, sloth, the word so closely associated with these beloved creatures, is listed as the last of the seven capital sins. Tsh Oxenreider explains, “It might seem like a strange bedfellow with the likes of pride, wrath, or greed; could it be that God considers laziness to be as bad as those vices?” (p. 115 Bitter and Sweet: A Journey into Easter)

Tsh explains that sloth, according to Thomas Aquinas, means “sorrow for spiritual good.” Growth and vigor in our spiritual life require regular exercise and effort. Autopilot in the area of discipleship doesn’t work. Spiritual apathy can overtake us far too quickly. We must actively and regularly seek the Lord to avoid slothful outcomes.

An Active Role

The psalmist in the second half of Psalm 34 reminds us of the action needed.

11 Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
(Psalm 34:11-14 ESV)

Seek Teaching

Fear and respect for the Lord do not come to us naturally. Active and regular time scheduled daily provides learning time. Years ago, the pastor I served with said the decision about whether to attend church each week doesn’t occur on Sunday. Church attendance results from a series of choices that must be made days earlier and planned accordingly. Choosing to rest on Friday and Saturday sets you up to be ready and energized for church on Sunday. A decision to go to bed early on Saturday night provides enough sleep to get up and go the following day.

Weekly time spent in a faith community with God builds up believers and provides companionship on the faith journey. Jesus modeled this by traveling with his disciples. Lone ranger Christians struggle in isolation.

Seek and See Good

Humans love to see good (vs.12). We are drawn to the beauty in a baby’s smile or a piece of art.  The Lord knows that we need to see what is good and beautiful.

Human flourishing is energized by active and regular exposure to beauty.

Meanwhile, evil in this world has the opposite effect. Being in the presence of evil leads to spiritual corrosion. Hence the commands in verses 13 & 14, “keep your tongue from evil” and “turn away from evil.”

An area of real challenge for every follower of Jesus is to turn away from the evil the entertainment industry serves up.  There is some excellent content right next to some dismal choices. An active and regular effort is required to curate what is taken in for entertainment. It is far too easy to allow fatigue to lower resistance and reduce discernment. Auto-play features on streaming services take me to places I don’t need to go. I can’t afford to be slothful with my media habits.

Turning from Evil

Simply turning away from evil is not enough. One has to take an active and regular pursuit of peace. Strife multiplies in our modern world, and offense is taken like a daily vitamin. Peace eludes those unwilling to seek the Lord.

Ultimately the Lord calls me to turn away from evil because He refuses to be in evil’s presence. If I am keeping close company with Him, I will lack any desire to seek out evil.

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
(Psalm 34:15-22 ESV)

Hearing Him

Verses 15, 16, and 17 remind me that as I am tuned into the frequency of the Lord’s wavelength, He is also tuned into my wavelength. I actively and regularly listen to hear His voice, and He hears mine.

Finally, the last section of this psalm, verses 18-22, speaks to the Lord’s promises to practice the ministry of presence in my life.

The Lord can look into each of us and see our hearts. He is not confused or distracted by our outside appearances. While other human beings can never really understand our sufferings, the Lord can.

The Lord is willing to be near the brokenhearted and keep company with us in times of suffering. Our friends and family can become overwhelmed by our brokenness, but He never does.

Affliction Unavoidable

If I am right with God, can I avoid all afflictions? No

Verse 19 says righteous people may experience many afflictions, yet the Lord delivers His people. The outcome is always in the Lord’s hands.

The Lord “keeps all his bones,” and not one is broken, refers to how His Father held Jesus together. No bones were broken is a prophecy fulfilled. While we don’t have the guarantee of no broken bones, we do know that our Heavenly Father pays close attention to every aspect of our suffering. Nothing escapes His notice. He is actively and regularly checking in on me.


God specializes in reclaiming what others might have written off. He redeems the lives of those who actively and regularly seek the refuge of salvation made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In spiritual warfare, believers are encouraged to don our spiritual armor. One key piece is the “helmet of salvation.” This piece plays an essential role in reminding us whose we are. The helmet of salvation covers our minds with the knowledge of our salvation and our new identity. Take time to regularly and actively thank the Lord for our new identity. This truth should never become worn out, and we should walk as a child of the light. (Ephesians 6:10-20 ESV)


Lord, help me not to become weary of seeking You and doing what is right. Please help me to actively and regularly seek you first and avoid slothful solutions. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

What’s Good? Psalm 21

As I write this in October of 2022, Union Jack flags flutter in the breeze all over Britain. Many were first displayed in June to honor Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee and continue to testify of the queen’s longstanding popularity. After 75 years of faithful service, Queen Elizabeth died in September. I arrived in Manchester just a few days after the official mourning activities had been completed. As the plane touched down, I realized I had never been in the United Kingdom without having her on the throne.

Queen Elizabeth spoke fluently of her faith and often thanked those who prayed for her.  In fact, during her first Christmas address in 1952, a speech she carefully wrote herself each year, she boldly made this request,

“Pray for me … that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life.”

A Faithful Legacy

Queen Elizabeth dedicated her entire life to serving God and her country. She did so with grace and determination until her death. King David, the author of Psalm 21, served God and his country for much of his life. Both of these leaders continually recognized God as the one who set a crown upon their heads, and they both made a regular habit of honoring Him.

David wrote Psalm 21 as a celebration psalm following a time of war.

The King Rejoices in the Lord’s Strength

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1 O Lord, in your strength the king rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly he exults!

2 You have given him his heart's desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah
(Psalm 21: 1-2 ESV)

What’s good?

Following the example in verse 1, how can I exult the Lord? Do I regularly celebrate what God is doing in my life? Do I share it with others?

Recently I heard a worship leader named Caleb Miller suggest that asking a new question of friends and family might cultivate a new attitude in our hearts. What if we asked everyone we saw what’s good?

Rather than the usual question, how are you? Asking about what good things you have witnessed lately could create a contagious attitude of gratitude.

David directs all the credit and honor to the Lord as the one who gives him strength and gives him his heart’s desires. If we could ask King David about what is good in his life, he would be ready to remember as he did in many of the Psalms.

Rich Blessings

3 For you meet him with rich blessings; you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.

4 He asked life of you; you gave it to him, length of days forever and ever.

5 His glory is great through your salvation; splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
(Psalm 21:3-5 ESV)

David explains that God continues to meet him with rich blessings. The phrase, “you meet him with rich blessings,” brings a special occasion meal to mind. The table is set with fine china, crystal water goblets, and ornate silverware. A fantastic dinner featuring favorite foods is served. Music plays, and candlelight fills the table with a warm and welcoming glow.

God’s richest blessings for me are handcrafted and uniquely designed to nourish my unique needs. They are perfectly timed, even though I am unaware of the schedule. They are perfectly abundant, and they never stop coming my way. God’s richest blessings spring out of His abundance, not because I deserve them.


Lord, help me to look for and thank you for every rich blessing you send. These daily gifts provide for me in ways I may not even realize. Open my spiritual eyes to see them all so I can cultivate a grateful heart. Help me point out abundance, not lack.

God sets the crown upon each head.

Despite how things may appear, no one sits on a throne in this world who was not invited by God. The good, the bad, and the “not so wonderful” included. God places the crown upon the head of every leader. He uses them all for His purposes in ways we may never know or understand. No one is beyond the reach of God.

In a world where politicians and leaders act like toddlers, God’s ability to intercede brings peace and comfort. God operates in the eternal. His timing is not ours. So, we may witness terrible leaders in our lifetime. However, God will bring about redemption in ways we can’t imagine.

My Heart’s Anchor

6 For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad about the joy of your presence.
7 For the king trusts in the Lord, and through the steadfast love of the Most High, he shall not be moved.
(Psalm 21:6-7 ESV)

What activity causes people to experience gladness? Parties, fame, luxury, power?

Spending time in God’s presence provides resilient joy not based on current circumstances. Carving out time each day requires planning.

What activity causes people to experience stability and not be moved? Money, power, or success?

Trusting in the Lord. My “trusting-God-muscles” must be exercised regularly, or I default quickly to self-reliance. Trust anchors my heart and keeps me from being carried off by the blustering winds of the world. I shall not be moved because God holds me tight.


Thank you that you invite me into your presence. Your presence is never too crowded or closed for repairs. I can always come to you and rest at your feet. Soul tending restoration occurs every time I go and stay.

Thank you, God, for holding onto me amid change and chaos. If I let go of You, You never let go of me. Strengthen my trusting muscles, so I may more and more deeply rely on You.

God’s enemies

8 Your hand will find out all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you.

9 You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear. The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them.

10 You will destroy their descendants from the earth, and their offspring from among the children of man.

11 Though they plan evil against you, though they devise mischief, they will not succeed.

12 For you will put them to flight; you will aim at their faces with your bows.
(Psalm 21:8-12 ESV)

Ultimately, God will bring complete justice to all of His enemies. He will destroy them and their descendants with fire. He will once and for all balance the scales of justice in His favor. Once and for all, evil will be vanquished, and suffering will be over for God’s people. Our limited minds and hearts can hardly begin to conceive this kind of final justice and peace.

Spontaneous Rejoicing

13 Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power.
(Psalm 21:13 ESV)

After the Lord has completed the restoration work, singing and praising will break out amongst His people. Spontaneous rejoicing will roll out over the new Heaven and new Earth. The praising God party will never end.

In the meantime, I believe God gives us glimpses of making things all new when we gather together and worship Him. The Holy Spirit reveals glimmers of the now and not yet kingdom to sustain us on our journey.  

Lord, open my eyes and heart to see glimpses of restoration around me. Thank you for being the one worthy of our praise.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

To read more about Queen Elizabeth’s faith – see the article:

Befriending Fear or Faith? Psalm 37:1-5

A circa 1970 pic of my sister and I with atrocious bangs. (I’m the one on the left.)

Was she asleep?

My four-year-old brain struggled to process what had occurred. We were sitting outside the Tutbury* Police station when my mother slumped backward at an awkward angle while her sunflower yellow dress threatened to capsize over her head. I tried smoothing it down and calling to her as people rushed past us.

Earlier that day, she had lost her gold watch. A potent blend of fear of my father’s rage and regret over the loss overwhelmed her, causing the fainting spell. Eventually, a policeman came to our aid with smelling salts.
Fear and fretfulness were part of my daily life growing up.

What do I do when I feel fearful?

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
Psalm 37:1-5 ESV

As an adult, I have a tendency to fret. If there was a fretters’ anonymous group, I might be a member. But, instead, fretting is anxiously anticipating my own inabilities.

  • What if I make a mistake?
  • What if I don’t have enough time?
  • What if I forget?
  • What if I fail in some way that cannot be redeemed?

Fretting is to worry, and it can also mean to wear away at something by rubbing or gnawing. Obsessively fretting can certainly wear a groove in my mind that is all too easy to find and get back to over and over.

Reviewing a past event on repeat leads to a cycle of unending questions.

  • Did I say the right thing? What if I offended her?
  • Did he misunderstand me?
  • Do I need to go back and explain?
  • Often fretting is self-focused, but sometimes it lends itself to comparison.

Fretting about other people’s actions that I simply can’t control is a sign of a lack of boundaries on my part. How often have I worried about other people’s feelings that I could do nothing to fix? (Can you tell I’m reading the bestseller Boundaries?)

In Psalm 37, the psalmist offers an antidote for fretting.

Dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

Psalm 37:3 ESV


This word means to remain, stay, linger, and be still. When fear takes the upper hand in my life and triggers a cycle of fretfulness, dwelling in God’s presence brings a needed pause.

Befriending faithfulness

How do I make friends with faithfulness? Spending time focused on my faith and, in so doing, building it up like a muscle. For me, that might mean making a list of blessings. It is all too easy for me to see the glass of my life as half full when it is, in fact, overflowing in ways that I might overlook right away. Reading and reviewing God’s word and seeking his promises can also change my perspective. The next few verses of Psalm 37 are rich with promises of how God will champion me as I choose to focus on faith and let go of fretfulness.

4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
Psalm 37: 4-5 ESV


Lord, will you help me to delight in you and commit to your ways of doing life? Give me the ability to trust more and be fretless. Rewire my default setting. May I be found to be befriending faithfulness at every opportunity you kindly lay before me? Amen.

How about you, how do you friend faithfulness in the face of fear?