Fret Not Thyself
Psalm 37:1 Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
This message has to do with how the Bible teaches us to react to things that come our way in life, in a way that benefits us rather than hurting us.
The Christian’s Disposition
Psalm 112:1 Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.
Notice here that he’s talking about a man or a woman who loves the Lord and delights greatly in His commandments, or His word.
Psalm 112:7 He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: [or bad news] his heart is FIXED, [firm and stable,] trusting in the LORD.
Psalm 112:8 His heart is ESTABLISHED, [or settled] he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies.
Now, this passage is talking about not being afraid of evil tidings, or bad news, bad reports, things that would normally upset or trouble the average person’s heart and mind. But this individual’s heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established, or settled, he shall not be afraid.
We can see in this verse, that the Lord never promised us that evil tidings or bad news, or bad reports would never come our way. But He did promise that He would always cause us to triumph in Christ, and that we could be overcomers in every situation.
The thing to take away from this passage is that a believer in Christ should have a heart that is fixed, that trusts in the Lord, that is established and settled in every situation we face in life.
Let’s look at another kind of agitation.
Don’t be Upset
Psalm 37:1 Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
Fret not thyself. Now, that’s an expression we seldom use. What does it mean?
The Christian Standard Version: Do not be AGITATED by evildoers.
The International Standard Version: Don't be ANGRY because of those who do evil.
The New American Standard Bible: Do not get UPSET because of evildoers.
So then, don’t fret means don’t be agitated, don’t be angry, don’t be upset. Can we get upset because of evildoers? Yes. But the Bible says don’t do it. Why not?
Psalm 37:2 For they [evildoers] shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.
Then there would be no need for us to waste our time being agitated, angry and upset about it.
Why is this emphasized in the Bible? Because any kind of agitation of the heart and mind works against us as believers. It’s actually a tactic the devil uses to defeat us. So, what should we do instead?
Trust in the Lord
Psalm 37:3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
But what about all those evildoers doing all those bad things? What does the Lord say to us? He says, don’t be upset about it.
Psalm 37:4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and [what?] he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
He started off by saying, don’t be upset, and in the process of time, we have the desires of our heart, and the evildoers are gone. It’s a win-win situation. And we didn’t need to get mad about it.
Cease from Anger
Psalm 37:8 Cease from anger, [or stop being upset] and forsake wrath: [or don’t be upset] fret not thyself [or don’t be upset] in any wise to do evil. [Why not?]
Psalm 37:9 For evildoers shall be cut off: [we don’t want to be an evildoers] but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.
We’re talking about two ways of living here, being an evildoer or being one who waits patiently on the Lord.
In verse 8 he said, Don’t be upset, don’t be upset, don’t be upset. Stop being angry, put aside rage, and don’t be upset, because it leads to evil.
What leads to evil? BEING UPSET. Do you suppose it’s okay for us to be upset? No, it’s not. Then maybe we ought to stop doing it.
What’s wrong with being upset? Well, when we’re upset, is our heart fixed? No, it’s unstable. Is our heart established? No. It’s unsettled.
And one of the dictionary meanings of upset is to be defeated, like in the statement, “the home team upset the visiting team.” When we’re upset, we’re defeated.
But the really startling truth here is that when we’re upset, we’re no longer in faith, and without faith it’s impossible to do what? To please God.
This is a trick of the devil. He’ll create situations where somebody says something or does something that somebody else doesn’t like and then we get upset, and guess what, we’re defeated.
Now we have no peace, no joy, and we’re totally unaware of God’s blessing, because we’re upset. We’re under the control of a spirit that’s not the Holy Spirit. And 99% to 100% of the time, when we’re upset and angry about something, we’re in the wrong.
Like a Wave of the Sea
James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
James 1:6 But let him ask in [what?] faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
James 1:7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. [Why not?]
James 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
He won’t receive anything from the Lord, because he’s unstable. James is talking here about asking for wisdom and receiving it from God, but it would also apply to any prayer, anything we would ask of God.
He said let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. Now, what does it mean to waver? Well, he gives us an illustration. He says that he who wavers is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
Is a wave of the sea stable? No. Not at all. Is it fixed? No. It’s constantly moving. Is it established? No. It’s here for a few seconds and then it’s gone. Is it at rest? No. That’s the picture of a wavering mind.
That’s the way our heart is when we’re agitated, angry, and upset. We’re unstable. And it says, let not that person think they’ll receive anything from God. Being upset is a form of wavering, and it takes us out of faith. Faith is confident. Faith doesn’t change, faith holds steady. faith doesn’t waver. We need to see that when we are agitated, upset, and angry, we are not in our right mind.
Luke chapter 10 tells us the story of Mary and Martha.
Luke 10:38 Now it came to pass, as they went [Jesus and HIs followers], that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
Now, it’s apparent that Martha is a good woman, a hospitable woman, who owns her own house, a house that’s big enough to accommodate a fair amount of people.
Luke 10:39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.
Notice Mary’s heart. Her focus is on sitting at Jesus’ feet and hearing what He had to say. You might say that she was one who delighted herself in the Lord.
The Distracted Mind
Luke 10:40 But Martha [on the other hand] was cumbered about much serving,
This word, service, means the service of those who prepare and present food. So, it’s likely that Martha was preparing a meal.
And it says she was “cumbered about”, which means distracted by her much serving. What was she distracted from? From hearing Jesus. Distracted from what was important. The Lord was present, and He was teaching about the kingdom.
But Martha has a meal to prepare, or so she thinks. Can we see why the enemy might use this strategy against us? It’s effective. It distracts us from the important things.
Seek the Kingdom
Society teaches us to just work harder and run faster than anybody else, and you’ll be successful. But that’s not the way of the kingdom. Jesus said in Luke 12:31 . . . But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things [that the Gentiles are running after] shall be added unto you.
God has a better way. The way of success in God is to seek His kingdom, and that’s what Mary was doing. Continuing with verse 40 . . .
Don’t You Care?
. . . and [Martha] came to him, [Jesus] and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?
Lord, don’t You care? Now, do you think there may have been a little animosity in that statement? What was going on with Martha?
She walked into the room where Jesus was teaching and interrupted Him to accuse Him of not caring about something that, according to her, He ought to have cared about. My sister has left me to serve all by myself.
Who’s to Blame?
Was it Jesus’ fault that Martha was agitated? No. But somehow she thought it was. Was it Mary’s fault? No, yet it was her fault in Martha’s mind.
Whose fault was it that Martha was in that irritated, agitated, and upset condition? Get ready. Brace yourself. This is going to be a shocker. It was Martha’s fault. Martha had done that to herself, not Jesus, not Mary. And look what else she said to Jesus.
. . . bid her [my sister] therefore that she help me.
The Thinking of the Upset Mind
Bid her therefore, or, that is, show me that You really do care, tell her to come and help me. Now she has resorted to ordering Jesus to do something to resolve this issue. Just tell that lazy thing to get up and come help me in the kitchen.
You see, not only is she being very condescending to Jesus, but notice the contempt, the disrespect, that she has for Mary. But most Christians would agree with Martha. Yeah, get up, and help your sister. Do the Christian thing. What’s wrong with you?
But it wasn’t Mary’s fault for Martha’s condition. And now what’s happening? The enemy is playing Martha like a fiddle. He has her mind all messed up. And that’s exactly the way it is when we’re angry and upset about something. The devil has his puppet strings hooked to us. And he’s working us.
Luke 10:41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, [He has to get her attention] thou art careful and troubled about many things: [about serving all these people.]
Was Martha trying to do a good thing? Yes. But what was the problem? She had pushed herself too hard in trying to make it happen. She had overdone it. She had pushed herself into that place of exhaustion and frustration and agitation, she was no longer in her right mind, her thinking was skewed. In her mind Jesus is to blame; and Mary is to blame, though it was Martha’s own fault.
And that’s what happens to us when we get upset about something. Strange psychological things take place in our thinking. Our perspective on reality changes.
In Martha’s mind, it was Jesus’ fault and Mary’s. And if she could just get those two straightened out, that would fix it, everything would be fine. But it wasn’t Jesus’ fault nor was it Mary’s fault.
Martha had allowed herself to decide what was important that day, and she had pushed herself to do too much in too little time, which is exactly what we often tend to do, in the name of getting things done. And again, that’s how we’ve been trained. It’s what we’re supposed to do.
But when you’re in an exhausted condition, you can’t seem to think straight, you get upset, you get into this depressed mental place, you feel sorry for yourself, and you begin to look around for somebody to blame.
Could it be Me?
Well, maybe it’s the pastor’s fault. No, that couldn’t be it. Well, maybe it’s my spouse’s fault. No, I don’t believe so. Well, who in the world is to blame for my being worn out? And then, like a flash of lightning, it may come as a revelation. It’s my own fault. We allow ourselves, just like Martha, to push ourselves to do too much in too little time. And that’s where all of us tend to miss it sometimes.
Burnt Out in the Name of the Lord
Over the years we’ve seen many well-intentioned, good, Jesus-loving people get burnt out doing good things in the name of service to the church. We don’t realize it sometimes, but there is actually a limit to what we can do. And we’ve got to be cautious about that.
People end up getting upset at the Pastor or at the Lord or at somebody else and quit the church, failing to see it was our own fault the whole time for trying to somehow please the Lord by doing more than they were realistically able to do. And It’s an extremely easy trap to fall into.
What if Martha had chosen not to prepare a meal at all and instead to just sit at Jesus’ feet and listen? Was Jesus capable of feeding people? Yes, He fed thousands of people more than once with just a few scraps of food. Was what Martha doing really that important?
Luke 10:42 [Jesus said,] But one thing is needful: [or important] and Mary hath chosen that good [or distinguished and honorable] part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Be Still and Know
Have you ever noticed that the busier we get, the less time we spend with the Lord? And what’s the important thing? Time with Him.
The Bible says to be still, and know that I am God. Well, we can’t be busy and be still at the same time. And the Bible says that the Lord speaks with a still small voice, or a whisper. Well, we’ve got to get quiet and still to hear a whisper.
What is the distinguishable and honorable part? To sit at Jesus’ feet and hear Him. And Jesus will not take that away from us. But here’s the point we need to understand. Only we can take that away from ourselves, just like Martha did.
We need to build our lives around our times with the Lord. We may need to let go of some of our busyness to make room for times with Him. That is the good part, the important part.
How much of what we do, seemingly in the name of the Lord, is actually not needful, or, that is, unnecessary? It’s a good question for us to ask ourselves. And even if we are not one who is busy in service to the Lord through ministry or serving in the church, just life itself has a way of getting us too busy and stretched too thin.
Don’t be Distracted
Why is this story even in the Bible? Because it teaches us not to be distracted from the Lord by all the things we can do for the Lord. Because the enemy will use that to get us overworked and exhausted, angry and upset, in the wrong frame of mind, and out of the will of God.
And our place of rest and refreshing is in our time with Him, sitting at His feet, detached from the busyness of life, resting in Him, seeking Him through prayer and meditation in His word.
In recalling the old hymn In the Garden by Charles Austin Miles, let us return to the garden alone with Him and allow Him to walk with us and talk with us and tell us that we’re His own. And the love we’ll share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.