by Shannon Caughey
Do you ever find yourself thinking, “If I can just survive this day…” Or maybe it’s about surviving the week or making it to the end of the season. There are times when it is tempting to adopt the same “survive and advance” mentality you have as a coach during a tournament. You just try to survive the present game/match so that you can advance to a better game/match. Applying this to life, the present becomes something to merely survive with the hope that things will be better once you advance to the future.
In this series of devotions, we’re considering various perspectives on time we have and how these perspectives impact our effectiveness in coaching and living for Christ. What about the “just survive” perspective in the present? While understandable, this mentality has the potential to be harmful. Why? It can cause us to miss the full experience of what God is doing right now because we’re more focused on biding our time until a “better” future arrives.
Psalm 16 opens with the psalmist praying, “Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.” He’s obviously facing a challenging situation. But rather than adopting a “survive and advance” approach, listen to the psalmist’s point of view in vv. 7-8: “I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”
Here’s what the psalmist does: he focuses on God’s presence in the present. He worships God in the present, listens to God in the present, looks for God in the present, trusts God in the present, and rests in God in the present. The psalmist may be looking forward to better circumstances in the future, but he’s also determined to embrace what God is doing right now. He knows God is present and at work in the present.
Psalm 16 points to a two-part game plan for moving away from a “survive and advance” mentality so that we don’t miss what God is doing right now:
1. Praise God for his presence in the present. As hard as your current situation may be, you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is with you – at your right hand, as the psalmist puts it. Praise God that he is present, he cares for you personally, and he is faithful. Praise God for his Word through which you can hear his voice, receive his counsel, and benefit from his instruction. Praise God that you are secure in him when you place your faith in his Son Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. When in a challenging season, be intentional about praising and worshiping God day by day.
2. Pay attention to God’s work in the present. No matter how difficult a particular day or week or season may be, God is still very much at work. In fact, challenging times gives us a unique opportunity to experience God’s presence and activity – if we’re paying attention right now rather than only focusing on the future. When the psalmist talks about “setting the Lord always before me,” he’s saying, “I’m keeping my eyes fixed on God moment by moment. I’m keeping my ears open to what he’s saying.” The Lord is speaking, guiding, and teaching you in the present. Pay attention to him by spending time with him and looking for his work today.
We all experience times when it’s tempting to adopt the “survive and advance” mentality – and for good reason. In these times, however, don’t miss the full experience of what God is doing right now. Be present to God’s presence in the present. Focus on praising him and paying attention to his activity here and now. You will be grateful in the future if you make the most of the unique opportunity in the present to grow closer to the Lord.
For reflection: Take some time to praise God for who he is and his presence with you. Ask him to help you recognize and respond to his work in the present.