If you are a Christian, you desire to obey God’s commands. If there is no longing to live according to God’s revealed Word, if there is no pursuit after God’s holiness, then there is no true Christian discipleship. It is sad to see that many in our churches are wearing the “Christian” nametag but are living a kind of life indistinguishable from those who blatantly reject Christ.
The author of Psalm 119 does not just want to be identified as a religious man. He wants to live a life “keeping your (God’s) statutes” (v. 5). That is, his pursuit is after obedience and holiness. He wants to be in conformity to God’s righteous character. He desires and longs for this kind of life.
However, he also knows that he is weak and fragile. He is aware of the many temptations around him luring him away from the right path of obedience to turn to the right or to the left. He can also hear the Devil deceitfully enticing him to embrace the promises of short-term and empty pleasures in sin. There are times that what he wants to do, he cannot and will not do. And when for some time he walks according to God’s holy law, he is afraid that he might stop and turn back when the going gets tough.
So what must he do? Pray! “Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes” (v. 5)! Spurgeon draws from this verse the absolute necessity of divine help, “We cannot of ourselves keep God’s statutes as he would have them kept, and yet we long to do so: what resort have we but prayer? We must ask the Lord to work our works in us, or we shall never work out his commandments.”
God has given his law not for us to know that we can do it. It is God’s instrument to make us aware that we can’t on our own strength and resolve. And once we are aware of that fact, he wants us to come to him in earnest prayer and humble faith, “Lord, I want to obey your Word, but I am weak and helpless. Please help me. Empower me to obey your will.” This is similar to Augustine prayer in his Confessions, “Command what you will and will what you command.”
Like Augustine and the psalmist, we must be aware that there is no chance that a sinful and self-centered creature like us can obey wholeheartedly even the simplest of God’s command. We cannot on our own love him with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves.
When we pray according to God’s will, he will answer us. A prayer to be persevering in obedience is no doubt in line with his purposes. So we can have assurance that he will send help from the Spirit to enable us to walk straight in the path of holiness. Yes, we have the assurance of an answered prayer. But it doesn’t mean that we wait passively. We have a responsibility to do all means necessary to keep fighting in the fight of faith. Read the Word. Listen to God’s voice. Heed the promptings of the Spirit. Walk according to his instructions, warnings and promises.
We fervently seek the Lord in prayerfully meditating on His Word. We wait with eager anticipation. We persevere in obedience by his grace. No detours. No turning back. Even if it costs us our life. This is the Christian life.