Delight Yourself in the Lord
About the Guest
"Everything done outside God's will is wasted." Dr. Duane Litfin continues his exposition on Pslam 127, reminding us to invest our lives in God's work. Hear him explain the transition in verse three that mystifies some scholars.
Duane LitfinDr. Duane Litfin served for seventeen years (1993-2010) as the seventh president of Wheaton College. He holds an undergraduate degree in biblical studies and a master's degree in theology. His two doctorates are from Purdue University (Ph.D., Rhetorical Theory and Communication) and Oxford University (D.Phil., New Testament). He came to Wheaton from Memphis, TN where he served the First Evangelical Church as Senior Pastor. Prior to that he spent a decade as an Associate Professor at Dallas Th...more
Dr. Duane Litfin reminds us to invest our lives in God’s work.
Delight Yourself in the Lord
Bob: Neil Postman has said, “Our children are a message we send to a time we will never see.” Our children really are significant. Here’s Dr. Duane Litfin.
Duane: What is the picture of children being like arrows in the hands of a warrior? Well, a warrior has a quiver full of arrows and uses that arrow to send it off to make an impact far beyond anything the person himself can reach. That’s what we do with our children. They’re like arrows that we send out into the world. Everything that we invest in shaping them for Christ is not only not wasted—it is invested, with dividends, even while we sleep.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today forFriday, November 29th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Would you say you are investing your life in things that really matter? And by the way, some of the things that really matter are your children. We’re going to talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. You stop and think: “Four weeks from today, Christmas will be over.” It’s a short season from the end of Thanksgiving to—
Dennis: You’re kind of sad about that; huh?
Bob: Well, it just—
Dennis: I thought you were going to say, “In four weeks, we’re going to have Christmas.” You’re—
Bob: It will be gone.
Dennis: You’re grieving.
Bob: Well, I’ll tell you who’s grieving. It’s the retailers. They’re hoping that, today, you are busy at the mall, spending your money, because they have fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.
Dennis: Instead of really focusing, though, on the material aspects of Christmas, Bob—what we’re doing here on the broadcast today is—we’re going to put our arms around the shoulders of the listener.
We’re going to say: “You know what? There is an invitation to you that we’re going to make today for you to make a difference in the lives of other people.”
The problems our nation is facing cannot be tackled head-on by any organization—even the Church, Bob, with the number of churches across the country. The challenges that we’re facing today demand that—men and women, young men and young women, boys and girls—all do the work of God—what God has for them to do—and make sure they’re about what God is up to in our country right now.
We’re going to hear a message by Dr. Duane Litfin today on just that—from Psalm 127. It’s about doing what God wants you to do and being involved in what He’s up to in our country.
Bob: This is one of your favorite Psalms. You’ve quoted this many times.
Dennis: “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”
Bob: Yes. The truth is: “Unless God is building families—unless God is strengthening marriages—we’re just twiddling our thumbs;” aren’t we?
Dennis: Yes. In fact, Bob, I want to stop there for a moment and just say, “If you want to know where the work of God begins—if you’re married, it begins in your marriage of building into your spouse.” I’ll never forget Dr. Bill Bright, who was the founder and President of Campus Crusade for Christ, now known as Cru. Dr. Bright used to say, “My wife,”—Vonette is her name—“is my number one disciple.” I thought: “That’s a good thought. My wife should be the person I pour my life into, as a husband.”
And I think wives should build into the lives of their husbands, as well; and then, beyond that, our kids. We need to be discipling them, introducing them to Christ, building a strong spiritual foundation—a moral foundation. That’s where the work of God begins—at home—but beyond that, I think we’re to reach out—into our neighborhoods, our communities, and beyond—with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Bob: We have already heard, this week, the first part of a message from Duane Litfin, taken from Psalm 127. You and Dr. Litfin go back quite a ways; don’t you?
Dennis: We do. He taught me, back at Dallas Theological Seminary. He went on to be a pastor, over in Memphis, and the president, later on, of Wheaton College.
Bob: And you guys serve together, today, on the Board of Dallas Seminary; right?
Dennis: Dr. Litfin and I sit together, in a corner; and I’m not saying that corner causes trouble for the Board of Directors of Dallas Seminary—
Bob: That’s exactly what you guys do—
Bob: —you’re troublemakers.
Dennis: —but Duane and I are for the seminary. We believe it’s the best seminary in the country. We want to see it have the greatest impact it can have. So, we’re constantly kind of pressing and pushing into it; but we have a great time together. He’s a good friend, and I just appreciate him. He gave this message you’re about to hear, first, to our staff.
Dennis: I’ll tell you what—they sat there mesmerized because he is masterful in his knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew languages, which are the original languages of the Scriptures. He just does a great job on Psalm 127.
Bob: And Psalm 127 is unique in that it is a Psalm of Solomon—not a Psalm of David. So, keep that in mind as you hear Part Two of Dr. Litfin’s message on Psalm 127.
Duane: One of my favorite references is way back in Deuteronomy 33. This is talking about the various tribes: “And of the tribe of Benjamin he said, ‘Let the beloved of the LORD,’” —the yadid of the LORD—Benjamin—“’Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves,’”—the yadid—“rests between His shoulders.’” Do you love that reference?
The beloved of the Lord is one who rides piggy-back on the Lord! It’s a wonderful picture. You can almost picture a father and a little boy along on a hike. The little guy gets tired. So, the father takes him up on his back. He’s carrying piggyback, and the little boy falls asleep. Lo and behold, later, he wakes up; and they’re way down the path. Why?—because he’s riding piggyback on the Lord—the beloved of the Lord, who rides between His shoulders. Well, the Lord gives to His beloved, even in his sleep.
You see, this is the other side of the poetic contrast. If everything that we invest in—things God doesn’t care about—is wasted, down the drain for nothing—by contrast, when we invest in things that God cares about—they’re His projects—we’re riding piggyback on Him. We’re riding between His shoulders on His journey. Then, everything we spend—all of our time and energy—is not only not wasted—it’s invested with dividends, even while we sleep.
This is that wonderful passage, over there in the Gospel of Mark, where the Lord Jesus is talking in a parable—“This is how the kingdom is.” “The kingdom is like this—like a farmer who sows the seed. He goes to bed at night; and he wakes up in the morning—and look—he’s getting a crop, even while he was sleeping. That’s the way the kingdom is.” Everything you invest—all of your time, all of your strength—when you invest in things God is doing, you’re about His business—you’re on His journey—riding piggyback on Him. You’re not only not wasting your time and strength—you’re investing them, with dividends, even while you sleep. That’s the way the kingdom works. You have blessings far beyond anything you imagined. What a wonderful message that is. Let’s just capture this quickly—a couple of concrete images.
Do you know the name Sisyphus? What an ugly name that is. Have you ever met anybody named Sisyphus? This is from ancient Greek mythology, of course. Sisyphus was the one who had to roll the boulder up the mountain—dirty, sweaty, dusty work—only to get it to—this was his condemnation for his sins. This was his eternal—he had to do this all through eternity—roll it up. He’d get it to the top, and it’d roll back down. Then he’d have to roll it back up, and then it would roll back down. Then he’d—over and over—meaningless, toilsome, empty, profitless work—called a Sisyphean task.
That’s the one side of this contrast—just all the time and energy spent on things that don’t matter—just like poor old Sisyphus. How many people that you deal with through your ministry—their lives are like that? They’re spending their time and energy—the most precious things they have—are things that matter not one whit in the light of eternity.
It’s toilsome. It’s wearisome, and it’s occupying all of their efforts; and for what?—zero.
By contrast, here’s a very different image. When we were living in Memphis, we came out of our home, one day. We looked up, and there was this huge hot air balloon going over. It was really low. You could almost have called out to these people. There were four people in the gondola—beautiful, huge thing. It went across pretty fast, across the sky, above our home.
I’ve never been in a hot air balloon, but those who have will tell you that it’s very peaceful up there. They may be moving pretty fast, but it’s very peaceful. Why?—because they’re not going against the wind. They’re riding on the wind. They’re riding on the wind; and it’s just completely peaceful in that balloon, even though they’re making tremendous progress.
That’s kind of the way it is—the other side of this contrast. When we are investing ourselves in the work that God is doing in the world, we’re on His journey.
We’re riding on the wind of God, and it can be very peaceful. I don’t mean by that—you know better than this—that you become a Christian, serving Christ; and suddenly, everything becomes peaceful. Excuse me. Oftentimes, you have more stress, more difficulty—even suffering because of the name of Christ—but at the center of it, when you know that you’re about the work of God, and what you’re doing with your life counts for eternity—you’re spending your time and energy for what matters—there is a peace that you see in the committed Christian that is a delight to behold.
This is the poetic contrast. Everything we spend on things that God doesn’t care about is wasted; but when we spend our time and energy on things God cares about—they are His projects—we’re not only not wasting them, we’re investing them, with dividends, even while we sleep. You say: “Well, that’s a wonderful contrast; but it’s all up there in the abstract. What does that look like in real life?”
Well, commentators often struggle with this transition that comes between verses 2 and 3 of this Psalm. It is so obvious. I don’t know how anybody misses it. “Lo, children are a gift from the Lord.” You want to talk about projects?—custom-designed—given to us by the Lord. Look, here’s a perfect illustration of the principle at stake. Look: “Children are a heritage from the Lord, a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the one whose quiver is full of them.”
Again, we’re dealing with a Psalm, which is all about imagery—pictures. What is the picture of children being like arrows in the hands of a warrior? Well, a warrior has a quiver full of arrows and uses that arrow to send it out to make an impact, far beyond anything the person himself can reach. That’s what we do with our children.
They are like arrows that we send out into the world. Everything we invest, in shaping them for Christ, is not only not wasted—it is invested, with dividends, even while we sleep.
I think of my own situation, sometimes, when I read this Psalm. We’re in the process of putting my father—moving him over into an assisted living. He’s 94 years old—still doing pretty well. He lost my mom a couple of years ago. My mom and dad were both children of the Depression—born—my mom—really, barefoot poverty in rural Kentucky. My dad—Detroit, during the Depression—had to quit school at 15 to support his family.
Both of them bright, intelligent readers/thinkers—never had the slightest opportunity to go to college—neither one. Going to college or university for them was like going to the moon for you and me.
And yet they raised us children. They shaped us—sent us out. Here I am—with two PhD’s, a professor, pastor, college president—out there doing far beyond what Mom and Dad could do.
And yet, you know what? What they’ve said to me, over and over, during my adult life—I have heard this a hundred times: “Duane, we have no greater delight—no greater blessing than to see what God is doing through you—what He’s doing with you in the world.” You see, far beyond anything they could reach, they sent out an arrow to make an impact. They shaped me—made me into who I am.
Allen and Rachel Litfin, 804 Signs, Royal Oak, Michigan—they shaped me into what I became. They invested in me—paying dividends for them the rest of their life and for all eternity.
And you know what? We have three kids—all of them walking with the Lord and wonderfully married—and nine grandchildren. We see our children raising their kids to love Christ and serve him. My wife and I have said, repeatedly to ourselves, “We are absolutely certain—that when we get to heaven, and look back, and are able to see and understand—we will have made more of a difference in the world for Christ by what we have invested in those three kids than anything we have done ourselves—no question.”
Everything that we invest—all of the time / all of the energy that we invest in our children like that—has the potential to pay dividends, even while we sleep.
One of the lies of our society—one of the lies of Satan—to tell particularly women that: “You know, it’s a shame to stick yourself at home with those screaming kids. You’re sharp. You could be out earning a paycheck. You could be in the corner office. You could be somebody. What a waste to be stuck at home.”
Solomon wants to say to us: “You’ve got it dead wrong. It’s just the opposite.” It’s worthwhile to be out in the workplace—I don’t want to challenge that—but there is no better investment of our time and strength, as parents, than in the God-given, custom-designed projects that He has put into our hands—our children / our families. You are about the business of, not only trying to live that out in your own lives, but trying to train, and encourage, and strengthen that in the Church and in American society.
That’s why I say I want to use this Psalm—not to challenge you—but to reinforce you—to encourage you, to give you a word, a passage of Scripture you can turn to—to be reminded why it is that you’re doing what you’re doing—why you’re spending your time, your strength, here, as part of this ministry, to make a difference for Christ—to teach this profound truth.
There are many applications. Children are just a great illustration. There are many other illustrations of the poetic contrast—that we invest in those things that God cares about—and that’s what matters for life. We could talk about those, but it’s enough to talk about our kids and the family life that you are so bent upon for Christians.
It was C.S. Lewis, though, who said that everything that is not eternal is eternally out of date.
It’s a great line; but Solomon said it more beautifully still, long ago—everything we invest—all of our time and strength—in things that God cares about—they are His projects—is not only not wasted—it’s invested, with dividends, even while we sleep.
I’m not really a bumper-sticker kind of guy. I don’t have any bumper stickers. But if I were ever going to put a bumper sticker on my car, I ran across one, not long ago, that I think is the one I would choose. I pulled up behind this car. There, on this bumper sticker, it said: “You have a plan. God has a plan. Your plan doesn’t matter.” It’s a great bumper sticker and a great truth.
It’s His plan. When we’re about His plan—investing our time and our strength in His plan—our lives are able to count for eternity.
Father, we ask Your blessing on this passage of Scripture and our understanding of it. Would You use this, Father, to encourage us, strengthen us, challenge us in the work that we do—each one of us—the work of our families—but also, for these folks in the work of their day-in and day-out ministry. I pray for their sake, and for the sake of the Church, and the sake of this world. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. [Applause]
Bob: We’ve been listening to a message that Dr. Duane Litfin presented to the staff at FamilyLife recently.
Dennis: Yes, they all attended that day. There were over 250 folks, there, in the conference room. They didn’t skip—they didn’t skip that! [Laughter]
Bob: Are you suggesting that they skip, sometimes, when you are sharing?
Dennis: May it never be, Bob. May it never be, but you know what? He’s on-target on this because he’s talking about all of us, regardless of our role in life. Whether you’re a single man, single woman, husband, wife, mother, father, grandparent—you need to grab that responsibility God has given you, and not listen to the culture, and not do what they’re telling you to do—which is lean your ladder against the wall of the world.
Instead, be about what God is up to. Be about His business; especially, the moms. I love what he said there, earlier, Bob, about moms not listening to the culture. I’m really pleased that all of my daughters and daughters-in-law, who are in our family, are really all over being a mom.
Bob: They’re making motherhood a priority.
Dennis: They are. I’m really proud of them because they could do anything they wanted to do; but they are choosing, in my opinion, the most noble thing. They’re investing in the next generation, and so are our sons, and also our sons-in-law, too.
Bob: I don’t know how many of our listeners have ever taken time to investigate the MomLife Today® website that FamilyLife has—where we provide input from moms, at all seasons of being a mom—and try to provide some encouragement, some mentoring, some coaching for moms—because motherhood is a challenging assignment. To invest in the next generation is no small thing.
That’s the reason we created the MomLife Today website. Let me encourage our listeners—if you have some extra time this holiday weekend—why don’t you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link you find there to MomLife Today. That way, you can spend a little time exploring all that’s available on the MomLife Today website. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link for MomLife Today.
You should know that MomLife Today is headed up by Tracey Eyster, who wrote a book called Be the Mom. That’s a book that we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online for more information about how to get a copy of Tracey’s book for moms. Again, it’s called Be the Mom. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information; or call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
Finally, we want to make sure we say, “Thank you,” to those of you who make FamilyLife Today possible. I think, if you’re a regular listener, you know that there are costs associated with producing and syndicating this daily radio program. We don’t have commercials in the middle of the program to interrupt things. So, we depend on listeners, like you, who occasionally get in touch with us and let us know that God has used FamilyLife Today in your life in some way.
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Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “I CARE”, to make an online donation. Call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation over the phone, and be sure to ask for the Untie Your Story resource when you do. Or if you’d like to mail a check, our mailing address is P O Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223.
And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk about Christmas. We’re going to talk about how you can make this Christmas season, in your home, more memorable and meaningful—how you can decorate your home in a way that draws attention to the real meaning of Christmas. Barbara Rainey will be here with us. Hope you can be here, as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. See you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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