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a cup of coffee and the bible open to psalms

Rethinking how God's Word is "relevant" to our lives and ministries

By Kent Muhling

I sometimes pray Psalm 143:8 at the beginning of my morning devotions. It reads, 

“Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, 
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go, 
for to you I lift up my soul.” 

It’s a great one-verse prayer, seeking God’s presence and guidance at the beginning of the day. 

One morning I decided to read the entire psalm before going on to the assigned chapters in my Bible reading plan. And it struck me how much less relevant other parts of the psalm seemed to be at first—sentiments such as these: 

Give ear to my pleas for mercy!
Enter not into judgment with your servant.
For the enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground.
My soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD!
For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life! 

I’ve never faced the kind of opposition that King David (the author of this psalm) did. I’ve never been in physical, mortal danger from human enemies like David often was, so in one sense it would be natural not to identify with his words as much as someone who has been in the same circumstances. Reading psalms such as this one, it would be easy to sort of dismiss them, thinking, “Well, they’re just not relevant to my life. I’m not in those kind of circumstances.” 

But then again, what kind of circumstances are we talking about? There are other kinds of opposition besides physical. A verbal attack is still an attack. A spiritual attack is still an attack. 

And the New Testament warns us that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). The attacks will come. 

Jesus assumes that we will be persecuted: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matt 5:11). Verbal attack. 

Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:11 and verses following that we have a real enemy, the devil, and that believers are engaged in a battle “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Spiritual attack. 

And in Acts 14:22 we are reminded again that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” In whatever form, living the Christian life will entail opposition. 

So why would I sense that David’s pleas are “not relevant to me”? 

Then the thought came to me: 

Is God’s Word not relevant to me, or is my life not relevant to God? 

By “not relevant to God,” I am not suggesting that God does not care about me or does not love me. I am asking, “Is my life not relevant in the sense of not being aligned with his purposes for my life? Is there no opposition because I am not living a Christian life worthy of being opposed? Is there no opposition because the flow of my life is simply following the current of the world? Am I just ‘going with the flow,’ so to speak?” 

Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Go against the flow. 

  • We are called to follow Jesus as his disciples (Matt 4:19 and many others).
  • We are sent into the world as his witnesses (Acts 1:8).
  • We have been given the ministry of reconciliation as Christ’s ambassadors (2 Cor 5:18–20).
  • We are called to walk in a manner worthy of the calling we have received (Eph 4:1).
  • We are called to be holy in all our conduct (1 Pet 1:15). 

Whether I enter full-time vocational Christian service or not—whether I head to a far-away land as a cross-cultural missionary or not—every one of the above statements is true for every one of us who claims to be disciples of Christ. 

All of this puts us out of step with the world and in the way of opposition. And that is good news in a way, because it is when under attack that we become most aware of our need for God. Like David was. 

Which brings us back to Psalm 143:8. Backing up one verse, David writes, 

Answer me quickly, O LORD!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul. 

David wasn’t simply hoping for some warm, inspiring touch of God’s presence to send him into his day, serene and happy. He was desperate for God to show up and save him. In the face of severe opposition, he was desperate for God’s presence and guidance. 

Sort of puts that “morning devotion prayer verse” in a different light, doesn’t it? 

No matter where we live — on the foreign mission field or in our home country — may we live in such a way that David’s pleas are relevant to us, too.

Kent Muhling


Kent Muhling Kent and Yuko Muhling have served with A2 in Japan for over 15 years. As a family of five they moved to the disaster area in 2012 to help start Grace Center Church Sendai, a city-center church plant. God has blessed the work with a vibrant international community. They continue the work of being Good News in their city.

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