Know My Thoughts
We are in the middle of our sermon series titled, Transform Me, looking at Psalm 139 where King David prays, “Search me, O God.”
Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV) 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
We taught about the state of heart that is needed to pray “Search me, O God” in week 1. Last week, we invited God to “know our hearts” and surrender them to the Lord.
This week, we are going to look at the next phrase in David’s prayer, “Test me, and know my anxious thoughts.”
Let’s do a quick poll by show of hands. Ready? Who here likes to take tests? A few poor tortured souls in the room today.
In general, people hate taking tests.
I took a foreign language class where we had a test every Friday.
I didn’t look forward to test day. There were usually three sections: vocabulary, grammar, and translation.
I realized that my test anxiety was directly linked to how well I knew the material that I was being tested on. What is a 3rd person plural pluperfect periphrastic anyway?
I actually took 3 different languages: Latin, Greek, and Spanish.
Some of those classes I cared more or less about the tests not just because of my knowledge of the material but also because of who was doing the grading.
Some of my teachers were ample with grace, and others loved their red pen. Depending on who was grading me, the more anxiety I may or may not have as I entered the test.
Back to King David.
“Search my heart, O God. Know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts.”
How bold do you have to be to pray to God and ask Him to put you to the test?
I don’t have anything else on the agenda God, put me through the wringer!
Anyone here just looking for an opportunity to be tested by God?
Why on earth would he pray this? Hasn’t he been tested enough?
David has already stood up to Goliath and defeated him in the name of the Lord.
David has already been tormented and chased out of the country by King Saul, yet he maintained his integrity.
David has already had the opportunity to kill King Saul and instead honored the Lord’s anointing and allowed him to live.
David has already accepted the crown and led the people in praising God and following God’s decrees.
David has indeed been tested, and come through each moment of testing with a faith that has clung to the faithfulness of His God.
That is exactly why he can pray this prayer. “Test me, O God, because I know what it is like to be tested by you.”
God isn’t the kind of God that breaks out the red pen just for the fun of it and bleeds ink all over the page.
God’s testing is always about drawing us closer to Him.
God’s testing refines us and purifies us.
God’s testing transforms us into the best versions of ourselves – a version that reflects the light of God’s character into the darkness of a broken world.
God’s testing is never with the intent of failing us, it is always for our good and for His glory!
David wrote in Psalm 26:2–3 (NIV) “Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.”
See, he knew who it was that he was asking to put him to the test. It was the God of unfailing love and faithfulness.
He could trust God to test him in ways that would help him bring God glory, not destroy his passion or joy for life.
Test me, O God. Refine me. Use my life to bring you glory.
He had walked with God long enough to realize that God knows the deepest places of our hearts already, and God is always with us.
No matter what God finds when He searches us, He will never forsake us.
Which is where this Psalm starts. David spends 18 verses in awe of God, praising him for his unlimited knowledge, unlimited power, and unlimited presence.
He goes on this incredibly beautiful journey, where you kind of imagine his feet aren’t even on the ground. Listen to a few verses:
“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.” – Psalm 138:7-10 (NIV)
Do you get the feel for this passage? This is frolicking through fields of wildflowers kind of poetry. David is loving life!
But there is a problem.
David has spent his life following God and in turn, it has been fraught with chaos and trouble.
Now he is having his fields of wildflowers moment with God and thoughts of the trouble makers he has encountered start to flood the back of his mind.
Can I share a spiritual truth with you?
Satan will use anything he can to distract you from the character of God.
Have you ever been in church singing a praise song, you have your eyes closed and your hands raised, you are in your own world with just you and Jesus.
And then right in the middle of that happy little place, you remember something mean someone did to you. Or you remember the people you have been arguing with all week who believe differently than you, or maybe even family who struggles to believe and live out their faith and so make life difficult for you.
You can be having your own fields of wildflowers moment like David, and run smack dab into a nest full of bees intent on sucking the joy out of those flowers.
David spends 18 verses amazed at God and praising His goodness.
- Where could I hide from you, darkness is light to you.
- If I rise on the wings of the dawn and settle on the far side of the sea there you will guide me.
- O Lord, how precious are your very thoughts, they outnumber the sand on the seashore and they are attentive to me.
- Every time I wake up, I am reminded that you are still with me.
- God, you are so good…..
18 verses of this stuff.
Then he nose dives off the deep end on this rant about all the people who are ruining his happy place and messing up this great thing he is experiencing with God.
“If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.” – Psalm 139:19-22 (NIV)
Where did that come from?
Now I know some of us have attention deficit disorder, but ADD aside, we all suffer from a common condition.
Our heart can be content before God and enjoying this engaging, fulfilling, relational experience, but our mind can still be wandering.
Maybe you are there this morning. You enjoyed an engaging, fulfilling, relational experience with God during the praise song, but now that we are dealing with some stuff, your mind is tempted to wander.
We can be in the middle of a significant, heartfelt moment, and our thoughts can wander and take us off on a tangent.
David is in the middle of a beautiful moment of prayerful worship, singing God’s praises, and his mind starts to wander to a place that is probably far too familiar for most of us.
It wanders to the place of his anxieties and insecurities. And anxiety tries to do what it always does.
Anxiety focuses our mind on what might be and robs the joy from what already is.
When I was a kid, I loved Transformers. It was the mid-eighties and they were the cool new cartoon with all the cool toys to go with it.
I was fascinated by a truck that could turn into a robot. Or a dog that could turn into a cassette tape. It was so neat to see how something could be one thing this moment and something completely different in the next.
David just had his Transformers moment. A perfectly sane King turning into a tantrum-throwing toddler in the blink of an eye.
It’s almost Facebook worthy.
God, you are so good. Life is so good. You know everything. You see everything. I can trust you.
Except with those irritating people who keep messing everything up for everyone else around them. You know, those wicked people who don’t serve you and are leading other people astray. They drive me nuts! They are so frustrating. I hate them, God! Why won’t you just wipe them out!
*Long Deep Exhale*
Sorry, God, I’m back.
Search my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. Deal with this stuff that just seems to bubble up the surface. Search me and test me to find its root and cleanse me from it.
David comes back to God in real honesty, opening himself up to God’s purifying process.
Anxiety is real, isn’t it?
And anxious thoughts can creep up on us when we least expect it. They can invade our most intimate moments and jade our spirit in how we value other people.
They can suck away the energy and attention that we want to give to others or to important tasks.
We can learn a lot about how to deal with anxiety from David’s response.
There are four common ways we deal with anxiety:
- Bottle it up
- Vent it out
- Control it
- Medicate it
1, Bottling up anxiety tends to work for a little while, until it becomes overwhelming. When it finally boils over it might look a little like King David’s interruption near the end of this Psalm.
In the end, bottling up anxiety doesn’t help you deal with it. It often lets it build until it is uncontrollable.
Anxious thoughts feed into an anxious mindset. It shapes your mind to constantly look for the next bad thing to happen.
It is feeding the monster under your bed until it is big enough to eat you.
2. Venting is becoming increasingly popular as a way to deal with anxiety, especially through social media platforms.
Venting isn’t bad if it’s done right, but you need to be careful how you do it.
Venting can just stir up a firestorm depending on who it is you vent to.
You know that person in your life. You vent your frustrations and troubles and they just egg you on and get you all wound up. They just enjoy watching the explosion at the end.
Other people are great listeners, so we vent all of our problems and baggage and dump it off on their doorstep. Then we walk away feeling better leaving that poor unsuspecting soul to clean up the carnage.
Be thoughtful in who you vent to.
Can they handle it?
Will they gossip about it?
Will they use it against me later?
Do they have my best interests at heart?
Thankfully, David gets that part right. David vents to the Lord.
God isn’t going to spread gossip.
God isn’t going to bring it up the next 35 arguments you get in.
God isn’t going to read it at your next work evaluation.
Vent to the Lord. Have the courage to trust God with your anxieties.
Remember, this gets easier the better you know God.
Spend time in God’s Word.
Spend time in prayer.
Spend time getting to know God’s heart through fasting and serving.
The more you know God’s character the easier it is to trust him with your anxieties and entrust yourself to His refining process.
Can I offer some more free advice? Vent to God before you vent to Facebook.
Some things can’t be unsaid. You might be able to delete a post, but you can’t delete the hurt you caused someone else.
Vent to God in prayer, and I am willing to bet you won’t feel the need to post it for the world afterward.
One last not on venting, did you know studies show that venting anger through angry actions like yelling actually makes most people MORE angry? Feeding the monster won’t make it smaller. It’s a myth.
Talk it out with God, don’t yell it out with someone else.
3. The next common way to deal with anxiety is to control it.
Or maybe we should say try to control it.
Trying to control your behaviors or your surroundings can make you feel in control of your anxiety for a while.
But it ends up adding more expectations on yourself, only result in more anxiety around fulfilling those expectations.
It may help in the short term to bring some structure, but it escalates the problem.
4. The fourth common way to deal with anxiety is to medicate it
We know that anxiety can lead to depression, so medicating it with a depressant like drugs or alcohol is mixing poison with toxins.
Either one can be dangerous and they often make a deadly combination, but it is an all too common coping mechanism.
If you are dealing with anxiety, don’t self-medicate. Reach out for help.
You might need some medication to help. There are medical causes of anxiety that can be treated. But you won’t find the medicine you need at the bottom of a bottle or at the end of a pipe.
Reach out to God in prayer like King David.
Reach out to a trusted friend or to one of the pastors here at Southside Church.
Reach out to a professional counselor like the ones at Footsteps Counseling who love God and want to help you walk in freedom.
Dealing with anxiety isn’t a journey you asked to take. But you can decide whether you’ll take it alone.
Don’t bottle it up.
If you are going to vent, start by venting to the Lord.
Don’t pretend you can control it until everything feels out of control.
And instead of self-medicating, reach out for help.
Remember how I said I loved Transformers when I was a kid?
One time for my birthday I wanted the new Optimus Prime action figure. It was over a foot tall, and it transformed from a Tractor-Trailer into the leader of the Autobots.
I was a kid. It was my birthday. And I wanted Optimus Prime, so my dad took me to Toys ‘R’ Us and we combed the shelves. We found Bumble Bee, Star Scream, Hot Rod, Soundwave, even the Constructicons.
But no Optimus Prime.
Dad could see my little heart was broken and he wasn’t content to leave until I received the Transformer that I asked him for.
He pulled out his pocket knife and started opening the stacks of inventory boxes that were waiting in the isles to be put away that night.
I was sure we were going to be in trouble, but at that moment my dad became a superhero. He was willing to do whatever it took for me to get the Transformer I asked him for.
My thoughts were fixed on my father, and he wanted to see my heart happy.
What a great picture of how God sees us. We come to Him with our brokenness and desire for transformation, praying, "search me, God, know my anxious thoughts."
And God will rest at nothing to make sure we know He loves us, He is for us, and he desires to grant us the transformation we long for.
By the way, it took a while, but dad found Optimus Prime at the bottom of one of those boxes and I went home a very happy boy, knowing full well how much my dad loved me.
When King David’s anxiety reaches its apex and he can’t bottle it up anymore, he brings it to God.
Then he takes a deep breath, gathers his senses, and prays to God…
What anxiety is bubbling up inside of you this morning?
What insecure thoughts are robbing you of the joy of the moment?
Is it Work? Family? Finances? Relationships? That thing your mom said in passing. That friend who walked by you without talking? That promotion you are working your tail off for? The questions you have about your relationship with God?
What is stirring up anxiety in your life?
The Bible says King David was a man after God’s own heart. And God clarifies that was because David would lead God’s people in doing God’s will.
Allow his example to lead you into doing God’s will today.
Bring your anxieties to the Lord. They won’t disappear. It won’t be like they never existed. But it will bring you back to the place where David started this Psalm.
“You have searched me O God. You have known me. You are with me, and you protect me. You are too wonderful for me to comprehend.”
When you surrender your anxieties to the Lord you are opening up your mind to the unlimited resources of an all-powerful God to do as He sees fit, both in your thoughts and in your circumstances.
In God’s presence, there is peace.
In God’s presence, there is security.
In God’s presence, there is assurance.
He is the Almighty, and he is the faithful One!
No matter how big our anxieties are, they are never bigger than the God we serve!
David rightly allowed his anxiety to fill 4 verses and his awe-filled praise to take up 18 verses.
We serve a big God, big enough to help you with the anxieties you face.
Would you be willing to pray this prayer with me?
Search me, O God. And know my heart. Test me, and know my anxious thoughts. I surrender them to you today.