I recently read and loved Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. It is a balm, a kick, a nudge, a lesson, counsel, conversation, realistic, hopeful, and profoundly biblical and beautiful. As he walks through the Psalms of ascent the reader is drawn into worship and closer to God. Here is the second selection of the best quotes; read part 1 HERE.
27. Joy is not a requirement of Christian discipleship, it is a consequence. It is not what we have to acquire to experience life in Christ; it is what comes to us when we are walking in the way of faith and obedience.
28. The hard work of sowing seed in what looks like perfectly empty earth has, as every farmer knows, a time of harvest. All suffering, all pain, all emptiness, all disappointment is seed: sow it in God and he will, finally, bring a crop of joy from it.
29. One of the most interesting and remarkable things Christians learn is that laughter does not exclude weeping. Christian joy is not an escape from sorrow. Pain and hardship still come, but they are unable to drive out the happiness of the redeemed.
30. Joy is what God gives, not what we work up. Laughter is the delight that things are working together for good to those who love God, not the giggles that betray the nervousness of a precarious defense system.
31. Our work goes wrong when we lose touch with the God who works “his salvation in the midst of the earth.” It goes wrong both when we work anxiously and when we don’t work at all, when we become frantic and compulsive in our work (Babel) and when we become indolent and lethargic in our work (Thessalonica). The foundational truth is that work is good. If God does it, it must be all right. Work has dignity: there can be nothing degrading about work if God works. Work has purpose: there can be nothing futile about work if God works.
32. Relentless, compulsive work habits (“work your worried fingers to the bone”) which our society rewards and admires are seen by the psalmist as a sign of weak faith and assertive pride, as if God could not be trusted to accomplish his will, as if we could rearrange the universe by our own effort.
34. To guard against all such blasphemous chumminess with the Almighty, the Bible talks of the fear of the Lord—not to scare us but to bring us to awesome attention before the overwhelming grandeur of God, to shut up our whining and chattering and stop our running and fidgeting so that we can really see him as he is and listen to him as he speaks his merciful, life-changing words of forgiveness.
35. The way of the world is marked by proud, God-defying purposes, unharnessed from eternity and therefore worthless and futile.
36. For it is apathetic, sluggish neutrality that is death to perseverance, acts like a virus in the bloodstream and enervates the muscles of discipleship. The person who makes excuses for hypocrites and rationalizes the excesses of the wicked, who loses a sense of opposition to sin, who obscures the difference between faith and denial, grace and selfishness—that is the person to be wary of. For if there is not all that much difference between the way of faith and the ways of the world, there is not much use in making any effort to stick to it.
37. For perseverance is not resignation, putting up with things the way they are, staying in the same old rut year after year, or being a doormat for people to wipe their feet on. Endurance is not a desperate hanging on but a traveling from strength to strength.
38. The central reality for Christians is the personal, unalterable, persevering commitment God makes to us. Perseverance is not the result of our determination, it is the result of God’s faithfulness. We survive in the way of faith not because we have extraordinary stamina but because God is righteous, because God sticks with us.
39. [Psalm 130] immerses the suffering in God.
40. Wait and watch add up to hope.
41. Hoping does not mean doing nothing. It is not fatalistic resignation. It means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusions. It is not compelled to work away at keeping up appearances with a bogus spirituality. It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulation, of scurrying and worrying.
42. And hoping is not dreaming. It is not spinning an illusion or fantasy to protect us from our boredom and our pain. It means a confident, alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do. It is imagination put in the harness of faith. It is a willingness to let God do it his way in his time. It is the opposite of making plans that we demand that God put into effect, telling him both how and when to do it. That is not hoping in God but bullying God.
43. All cultures throw certain stumbling blocks in the way of those who pursue gospel realities.
44. When an ancient temptation or trial becomes a feature in the culture, a way of life that is expected and encouraged, Christians have a stumbling block put before them that is hard to recognize for what it is, for it has been made into a monument, gilded with bronze and bathed in decorative lights.
45. It is difficult to recognize pride as a sin when it is held up on every side as a virtue, urged as profitable, and rewarded as an achievement.
46. Our lives are lived well only when they are lived on the terms of their creation, with God loving and us being loved, with God making and us being made, with God revealing and us understanding, with God commanding and us responding.
47. A Christian with a defective memory has to start everything from scratch and spends far too much of his or her time backtracking, repairing, and starting over. A Christian with a good memory avoids repeating old sins, knows the easiest way through complex situations, and instead of starting over each day continues what was begun in Adam.
48. If we define the nature of our lives by the mistake of the moment or the defeat of the hour or the boredom of the day, we will define it wrongly. We need roots in the past to give obedience ballast and breadth; we need a vision of the future to give obedience direction and goal. And they must be connected. There must be an organic unity between them.
49. Scripture knows nothing of a solitary Christian. People of faith are always members of a community.
50. Everything we learn about God through Scripture and in Christ tells us that he knows what it is like to change a diaper for the thirteenth time in the day, to see a report over which we have worked so long and carefully gather dust on somebody’s desk for weeks and weeks, to find our teaching treated with scorn and indifference by children and youth, to discover that the integrity and excellence of our work has been overlooked and the shoddy duplicity of another’s rewarded with a promotion.
51. You can lift up your hands regardless of how you feel; It is a simple motor movement. You may not be able to command your heart, but you can command your arms. Lift your arms in blessing; just maybe your heart will get the message and be lifted up also in praise. We are psychosomatic beings; body and spirit are intricately interrelated. Go through the motion of blessing God and your spirit will pick up the cue and follow along.
52. Blessing is at the end of the road. And that which is at the end of the road influences everything that takes place along the road . . . A joyful end requires a joyful means. Bless the Lord.