Psalm 36 contrasts two ways of living: Living God's way and finding fulfillment or living the world's way and flirting with failure, Dr. Kevin Ezell told OBU students during a weekly chapel service Wednesday, Oct. 24. Whatever life brings, Ezell urged students to live life based in the victory God already has secured.
Ezell serves as president of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. His message followed OBU's chapel theme, "The Psalms."
The first four verses of Psalm 36 express an attitude of independence, one focused solely on the individual and his or her desires and pleasures. But the psalm quickly transitions to exhibit the inexhaustible resources of God, Ezell said.
"As we go through life, challenges and difficulties … come our way," Ezell said. "But (what matters) is how we respond to those challenges and difficulties. What you believe does determine how you behave and the decisions that you make."
The psalm ends with a plea that God will spread his faithful love over those who know him and protect them from the schemes of arrogant and wicked people.
"The beautiful thing about a believer - when you really have a relationship with Christ - is your perspective totally changes," Ezell said. "Every day, it's not about trying to obtain victory, we already have it. We're not trying to achieve it and strive for it, we're living from it."
Ezell noted that God has won the victory over life and death through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He likened Christians living a victorious life to his own practice of videotaping ballgames of his favorite team and only watching the games he knows the team has won. While watching the games, if the team is behind or the commentators are critical, his stress level remains low because he knows the outcome - the team wins in the end. Such is life for a believer, he said.
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"That's exactly where we're living from today," he said, referring to Christian believers. "We're not fighting for victory, it's a victory God has already fought for and won. He has conquered death, conquered sin."
"That's not to say we're not supposed to be ambitious and strive to do the very best we can, but it does say we can do that with a sense of peace," he said. "Instead of trying to manipulate circumstances or consequences to come up with a desired outcome, we can live every day with a sense of peace just knowing that God is in control."
Ezell described the evangelical churches in Cuba who have been told by the communist government of their country that they cannot expand their churches physically or in the number of members. As the government tightens its restrictions on the number of people who can belong to one Cuban church, the churches - including house churches - have multiplied into a church-planting movement covering the island. Cuban pastors told Ezell they rejoice in the growth which came at the cost of their personal freedom. The vision of the Cuban Christians is driven by a desire to reach the entire world with the Gospel message from Cuba.
Ezell said the restrictions the communist government meant for evil were turned for good by God. He said the situation reflects what the psalmist said in Psalm 36, that some people will insist on doing things their own way.
"But in contrast to that, understand that we have a God who has inexhaustible resources: his righteousness, his mercy, his goodness, his love knows no depths, knows no end," Ezell said. "And as the psalmist said, he will denounce those who choose evil, and he will lift up those who choose him."