A Consolation Prize Isn’t for Victory, But May Just be the Very Best Prize of All

Back in 1967 I swam in the 4th of July swim meet at the San Antonio Country Club. There were four swimmers in my heat, and I won a ribbon for being 4th. I was briefly proud of earning a ribbon, and then realized (I think my Dad pointed it out) that it was actually a LAST PLACE award, somewhat like a consolation prize…

Have you ever really wanted something and been disappointed? Didn’t even GET a consolation prize? David knew about being disappointed. Yeah, he beat Goliath and was a hero, but there was a pretty rough patch after that. What with Saul trying to kill him, and having to live in caves to survive, things didn’t always go his way. He had been anointed king, but he spent years as a fugitive hiding from Saul. He knew what it was like to be alone and downcast:

A Cry for Help

“When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” (Psalm 94:18-19 NIV)

Do you ever need consolation? There are times when circumstances knock us off our stride, when our foothold of faith is knocked off the path and we find ourselves twisting a bit in the wind… Sometimes our foot slips on our own accord, because we are not paying attention, or are out climbing where we should not have been. I think that’s why repentance is such a consistent theme in the Bible, because so much of our slipping is self-activated…

But then there are also events or seasons that seem to come out of nowhere to surprise or batter us with doubt and anxiety. Perhaps you’ve been discouraged lately by an untimely loss or some bad news, and your foot is slipping or your foundation seems less than secure. When bad stuff happens, it can be devastating, and we sometimes assume that God isn’t there, or has forgotten about us. This Psalm reminds us that consolation is possible in the midst of sorrow.

Have you ever been climbing and someone says, “Don’t look down!”?

consolation

Are Things Looking Up?

It is when we quit looking up we are most vulnerable. Take a moment and look to your Father. Remember that He is as good as his Word. His love is unfailing, and God is there to support you. He offers a foundation beneath your feet. He extends love to you in ways you may not have noticed, and from unexpected places… you may not see them if you are looking down in defeat, so look up in hope!

The Lord also offers consolation in the midst of anxiety, and joy in Him apart from circumstances. Peter reminded us to “cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.” Remember that He was able to transform the worst of circumstances into the best of results! “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” (Hebrews 12:3 KJV) If He could turn the cross into victory, perhaps you can consider trusting Him with whatever life has thrown at you, and opening yourself to not just His consolation, but also to his joy!

Consolation Prize

When your footing seems to slip, and you just need to right the ship, 
Don't let discouragement prevail! Turn to the One Who'll never fail. 
When anxiety attacks, you know Someone who has your back: 
It's no great revelation; when you suffer indignation, 
You should have this expectation: Ask the Lord for consolation! 
Tribulation causes fears, but when the cliff below is sheer,  
Instead of reeling, feeling shock just place your feet upon the rock: 
All the things which he endured, insured our hope could be secured! 
The path is hard, the road will dip; but if our feet are prone to slip, 
Until we have that celebration, we can find his consolation.
Faced with an overwhelming task, all we have to do is ask:
Of all the means that we employ, Replace my fear, Oh Lord, with Joy! 
Seek this recalibration: focus on His elevation!
Don't stay in isolation, find yourself a new sensation in God's loving consolation!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

When Your Goliath Attacks YOU, Here’s What to Do

Goliath was one of a race of Giants who afflicted Israel. For years the Philistines had embarrassed Israel on the battlefield, and Goliath was certainly cut from that type of mold. Day after day he would patrol the front lines, taunting the Hebrew soldiers to come out and fight him. From out of nowhere, and without armor or military prowess, the young shepherd David killed Goliath in the name of the Lord of Hosts, and changed Israel’s history.

What giants are you afflicted with? They can be anything bigger than you are, and they can even be of your own devising… David found later that he was tested not by bigger giants on the battlefield, but by a level of selfishness and sin that almost destroyed him.

Everybody’s Giants

After failing greatly, and after being broken and utterly humbled, he prayed:
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Ps 51:1-2). If you ever want to pray scripture, this is a pretty good verse to pick. For me, this plea from David is at the heart of the Psalms, and it is also at the heart of our entire world.

goliath

David triumphed over Goliath, but Goliath wasn’t the giant who ultimately brought David down. Like many of us, David’s greatest giants attacked him from within. His prayer in this verse goes to the heart of how David had to deal with the other giants in his life.

David wasn’t a great example because he was righteous or close to perfect. He was great because he understood his need to be forgiven. David couldn’t function as king without God’s grace. He couldn’t function as a man without forgiveness. God–the Righteous Judge–is also the only source of forgiveness in our world. David knew that mercy comes from unfailing love, and that love only comes from God.

The Need for Mercy

God’s forgiveness manifests itself in grace, a transaction where someone gets forgiven, even when they don’t deserve it. As Paul said in Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved, and that not of yourselves…” It is grace that facilitates mercy, and it is mercy that we need. Think for a moment about how important forgiveness has been in your life, about how many times what seemed lost has been restored, and how many relationships, seemingly broken, were repaired by forgiveness.

What if there were NO grace? How would life be if we just removed all grace from the world? What if nobody forgave anybody? How would you then feel about those who had wronged you or slighted you? Take away grace and how would you treat them? What giants would be unleashed in every human endeavor? How would you feel about yourself, if all of your transgressions remained on your conscience like an open wound? Who would you be?

The human world would literally tear itself apart without the grace and mercy that are required to interact every day. Of all the animals, man alone needs and exercises forgiveness, in both the very personal way of dealing with our own iniquity, and in the public way we need to forgive others and need to be forgiven by them. David knew all about that, and the way he threw himself humbly on God’s mercy is more of an example to us than how he handled Goliath. We all have giants to slay. We all need God to slay them.

David Found Grace

David fought Goliath in the name of the Lord of Hosts;
He did not fear the bluster in the giant’s prideful boasts.
He fought Goliath as he fought the lion and the bear,
With faith that God would shield him as an answer to his prayer.
Of all the battles that he fought, the hardest one to face
Was when he sinned, and had to call upon the Lord for grace.
His battles weren’t the worst of all the danger he was in:
The greatest danger David faced attacked him from within.
He begged the Lord for mercy, and the Lord forgave his sin.

But what if grace did not exist, and mercy never came?
Do you believe our broken world would ever be the same?
If grace had never happened, could you ever heal your heart?
What bitterness and jealousy would tear our world apart?
How much would ugliness prevail? What knives would evil twist
To cause malignant hate to spread– if grace did not exist?
Remember David’s anguished, heartfelt plea to God above:
“Have mercy on me, Lord, and give me your unfailing love.”
Remember this, regardless of the giants you must face;
What makes this lifetime altogether bearable is Grace.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Change Your Prayer Life from Perfunctory to Passionate.

A Place to Start

Have you thought about your prayer time lately? How would you rate your communication with the Almighty? Do you recite prayers you’ve known for years, or do you perhaps merely out of habit, say, at mealtimes? Would you say your prayer life is lacking power and passion? Maybe it’s time to escape from Perfunctory Prayer… David’s expression of love for his Creator might be a good place to start:

“In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.” (Psalms 5:3 NASB) David didn’t just pray, he seemed to have a deep, abiding love for his Creator that he could not contain. He wrote poetry to God. He sang love songs to the Lord. David begged for help and asked for protection. He expressed his longing and hunger for his Creator. If you would like a deeper prayer life, there are some clues about how to accomplish that in this short verse.

Clues We Can Use

First of all, David prayed a LOT. He prayed at night, during the day, and here he prayed in the morning to start each day. Perhaps that offers us a template. It doesn’t say he prayed long, exhausting prayers; it doesn’t say that he prayed ornate, flowery prayers; but he did pray OFTEN. Do you spend some time talking with God every day? Does it come first? Do you wake up with a need to worship and adore the Lord and talk to Him about your day? David did.

I heard it said that the only time we truly experience eternal life on this earth is when we are engaged in prayer. When we talk with God, we have for that time set aside the everyday world to communicate directly with Him. If you consider what is happening when we commune with our Father in prayer, it means that we are that moment transported into His presence, and we have transcended our finite limitations to be intimate with our Creator. We may not get to see heaven in this world, but as David pointed out, we can make a verbal visit anytime we want to.

nightly prayer

Is It ACTS or CATS?

Second, he ordered his prayer. If you read some of them in the Psalms, David’s prayers consistently included Confession, Adoration, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Just remember CATS if you want a quick template for diving a bit deeper into your conversations with God. (Some folks use ACTS, but I like putting confession first.) Taking even this simple approach to prayer will provide structure and focus to your prayer life without turning it into perfunctory repetition of something you learned

Remember who we are by coming to Him confessed and penitent; offer adoration for who He is and reflect upon His majesty and power; Thank Him for all He has done; and offer prayers for those people or circumstances where you desire His help. This simple outline is not magic but I have found it helps me stay focused when I’m making a verbal visit to heaven.

Expect More

Finally, after David prayed he eagerly watched. He prayed with expectation, and then like a kid at Christmas, he couldn’t wait to see what would happen. I guess he expected God was going to do something in response to his prayer. Do you pray to God with the confident expectation that He will respond? How often does your time with the Lord include the “eagerly watching” time? Mine usually doesn’t. Perhaps there’s more to prayer than just throwing it out there and moving on…

A Praying Man’s Lament

Save me, Lord, from perfunctory prayer.
Help me connect, and help me care.
Keep me from saying a nondescript grace
When I come to give thanks to you, face to Face.
Hear me, Lord as I start each day,
And give me transparency when I pray.
Order my prayer around spiritual need,
And help me, Father, to intercede.
Give me the passion that David had!
Teach me to pray with a heart that’s glad.
Take my prayer life up a notch.
I want to pray and then eagerly watch!
Help me to make you my everyday choice.
Fill my heart, and hear my voice.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread