A.N. Martin

B. Childress
Sep 10 2010 08:00 A.M.

Our text not only displays the roots of a life of principled obedience, it also describes the climate in which such a life is
lived.  And what is the climate, the spiritual atmosphere, of a life of principled obedience?  According to our text, there
are two elements to such a climate: (1)  dependence upon God expressed in real prayer - 'I entreated thy favor with my
whole heart'; (2)  faith in God's promised provision - 'Be merciful unto me according to thy word.'

The psalmist first speaks of a
climate of dependence upon God expressed in real prayer.  Faced with the duty of
obeying God's Word, he sensed his weakness and proneness to failure and did the only rational thing that he could do
under the circumstances - he prayed.  With all of his heart he entreated the favor of God.  He pleaded that the King
would turn his face toward him and give him grace and strength to do his Master's will.

Do you see what the psalmist was conscious of?  He knew that it wasn't enough that he had the root of the matter in
him.  The Lord was his portion and he had sworn himself to obey God's Word.  Yet he knew that even the resolution of a
renewed heart was not sufficient without  present supplies of grace.  And so the climate in which his life of principled
obedience was expressed was one of prayerful dependence upon God.  Only the Lord could give him the power to obey.

The psalmist also speaks of
faith in God's promised provision as an element of the climate of a life of principled
obedience.  He prays, 'Be merciful unto me.'  But what is the measure of his expectation of mercy?  It is the precise size
and shape of God's promises: 'Be merciful unto me according unto thy word [i.e. according as you have promised in
your Word].'

This is the climate of a life of principled obedience.  It is a climate in which there is a recognition that in us (that is, in our
flesh) dwells no good thing.  The Christian who lives in such a climate acknowledges the truthfulness of Jesus' words,
'Apart from me you can do nothing' (
John 15:5).  This conviction in turn drives us to entreat the favor of God with our
whole heart.  Our great encouragement to pray is that God has promised in his Word to provide for us everything we
need to do his will.  As Peter affirmed, 'His divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and
godliness' (
II Peter 1:3).  God has said, 'My grace is sufficient for you' (II Corinthians 12:9) and 'sin shall not have
dominion over you (
Romans 6:14).  According to God's promise, the expectation of the Christian is, 'I can do all things in
him [i.e. in Christ] who strengthens me' (
Philippians 4:13).  Such precious promises become to the believer the very raw
materials that he pleads in prayer.  He doesn't come and whine before God: 'Oh Lord, I have messed up again;
somehow or another, help me to do better.'  No.  He prays for mercy to be granted according to the very promises of

Dear Christian reader, you must learn to cultivate a climate that is conducive to a life of principled obedience, a climate
of conscious weakness and total dependence that drives you to pray with your whole heart.  Some believers have much
work to do in order to cultivate such a climate, especially much work at the throne of grace; but you would never know it
by observing the patterns of their prayer life.  You can moan and groan about the paltry progress that you are making in
grace; but if you will not pray, the tattered garments of a shoddy life will be the token of God's curse upon your
prayerlessness.  'You have not,' James says, 'because you ask not.'

God has appointed prayer as the great means of exchanging your weakness for his strength.  And if you despise this
means, he will not prosper you in your Christian walk.  You can run from one elder to another and have a hundred
counseling sessions a week; but without prayer, you will make no progress in Christian growth or in victory over
remaining sin.  Some of you are struggling with besetting sins; yet you don't come daily (even many times a day) asking
God to wither the roots of those sins, pleading with him to pour into your heart and mind and spirit the sin-killing virtue of
the death of Christ.  You don't cry to God with your whole heart; and yet you wonder why you fall so easily before
temptation.  You make a half-hearted effort to repent and you resolve to do better; and you know that tomorrow you'll be
right back where you are today; yet you do not cry out to God with all your heart.  In reality you are playing games with
God and with sin.

The climate of a life of principled obedience must be marked by dependence upon God expressed in real prayer and by
faith in God's promises.  Dear Christian, you must learn how to take God's promises and turn them into fuel for prayer.  
You must learn how to wrestle in secret with God and how to plead his Word.  Without this, you will not know a life of
principled obedience.

You may be thinking: 'Pastor, I expected some kind of exotic formula for the Christian life and you have taken me right
back to prayer and Bible reading.  I heard that when I was just a new baby Christian.'  Do you know why you are no
further along the road than you are?  Because you didn't listen to what you heard.  I have taken you back to prayer and
Bible reading because that is exactly where our text takes us.  The means which God has ordained for growing in grace
are simple, not exotic; and if we bypass these simple means - always on the prowl for some magical formula - we are
doomed to go limping all of our days.


A LIFE OF PRINCIPLED OBEDIENCE, by A.N. Martin, Copyright 1992, The Banner of Truth Trust.