Psalm 119:137-44, “Righteous are you, O Lord,
and right are your rules. You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness
and in all faithfulness.
139 My zeal consumes me,
because my foes forget your words.
140 Your promise is well tried,
and your servant loves it.
141 I am small and despised,
yet I do not forget your precepts.
142 Your righteousness is righteous forever,
and your law is true.
143 Trouble and anguish have found me out,
but your commandments are my delight.
144 Your testimonies are righteous forever;
give me understanding that I may live.”
It is easy to do what is right when everyone applauds it. When there is no opposition, and popular opinion is in our favor, we are emboldened in keeping the Lord’s commandments and find few obstacles (outside of our own hearts) on the path of godliness. But what happens when no one supports us? Our faithfulness to Christ even when it seems like no one else stands with us reveals the real state of our hearts and whether we are people of integrity.
As we read through Psalm 119 and its exposition of the glory of God’s law, we find that the psalmist who wrote this hymn did not always stand with the crowd in his love for the statutes of our Creator. In fact, it is clear that he often faced opposition. His foes smeared his character with lies (vv. 69, 78). Other wicked men persecuted him and sought his death (vv. 86, 95). But in the midst of such pain, the author did not abandon the Lord’s precepts. Though he was “small and despised” in comparison to others, he did not forget the commandments of God (v. 141), as we see in today’s passage.
Trials and tribulations prove the authenticity of our faith. As we endure them and remain true to Christ, we demonstrate the authenticity of our trust in the Savior by which we lay hold of the “crown of life.” In fact, the Apostle James tells us to rejoice in our trials because they produce steadfastness in us and through them, we are strengthened to persevere (James 1:2-4, 12). The sincerity of faith is proven when we continue to serve the Lord even when it is difficult. When we are hated for our profession of Jesus and forget God’s law because doing so will make life easier for us, we have reason to question the genuineness of our faith. But if we, like the psalmist, are not only “small and despised” but also remember and follow the Lord’s precepts, we can be confident that we truly belong to the Savior. John Calvin comments, “The persons then who serve God … sincerely, are such as continue steadfast in his fear, although their condition in this world may be mean and despised.”
Anyone can be faithful when life is going well. True persevering faith exhibits itself when we stand fast under trial. If we truly love the Word of God, then, like the author of Psalm 119, we will not abandon the Lord’s revelation when it is unpopular to keep His law. And, of course, we do not have the power to remain faithful in and of ourselves. Instead, we must rely wholly on His Spirit to persevere under trial.
In many places around the world, Christians have long had to deal with being a part of the “small and despised” minority. In the West, we find that although many people still profess some form of Christianity, it is increasingly difficult to remain faithful to Christ without suffering some form of scorn or derision. As we are faithful in such circumstances, however, we are assured of our faith, and God strengthens our resolve to serve Him.