Psalm 91 is considered by a number of scholars to be a psalm describing spiritual warfare. (Why not read it now?) The references to ‘the fowler’s snare’, ‘deadly pestilence’ and ‘the terror of night’ for instance, are probably references to demons and gods of the nations at the time. In other words, this psalm is talking about how we find safety in the battle that we enter as Christians.
So how do we find safety? The answer in this psalm comes in the very first verse:
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1)
When it comes to opposition and spiritual warfare we are called to dwell in God. There is huge similarity to the call to perseverance we find in Nehemiah. Again it is John Wimber who helped me see this incredible truth that, no matter what the enemy may throw at us, nothing can harm us when we dwell in God.
Wimber describes how, during the second world war, numerous bomb shelters were being built near his home in America. One day there was an accident by one of these shelters and a house was blown up. Wimber remembers hearing a man say, “What a shame the house wasn’t in the shelter rather than near it!”
God is our shelter, the one in whom we are safe. It is not enough to live near God – to have right doctrine or remember a particular experience from time ago – we need to live in Him today and every day.
Dwelling in God is a journey. It is a journey of intimacy. And it is this intimacy that links perseverance and faithfulness together.
Jesus said “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them” (John 14:21).
Dwelling in God is to remain in love with Him. As we love Jesus we are loved by the Father – this is the place of safety – the place where no opposition can harm us.
Yet this love and dwelling comes from obeying God’s commands. Does this mean that God does want us to achieve for him, to fulfill his tasks before he will love us? Only if we misunderstand the commands of Jesus. The greatest command is to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbour. The command Jesus wants us to obey is the command to love Him, to live with Him, to be His children – the command to be faithful.
Let me conclude like this: the three words of these three posts are different angles on the same theme. Faithfulness. Perseverance. Dwelling. There is a mission for the church, callings for every Christian, a purpose for which we are made. These are important and worthy of all that we have. But these are not the essence of the Christian life, they are not tasks God expects us to fulfill or goals we are meant to achieve. We could do nothing to save ourselves before Jesus saved us and we can do nothing by ourselves to achieve the purpose Jesus saved us for. We were saved when God brought us into relationship with Him and now the focus of our lives is to keep in that relationship.
Faithfulness means walking with God; perseverance means not getting distracted; dwelling in God means trusting we are safe when we simply stay with Him. The Christian life is about faithfully persevering in dwelling with God.