The Downward Spiral

Bad associations in our lives
Worldly Influence, Peer Pressure
We must have unbelievers in our lives to be a witness to them
But we cannot allow them to negatively impact us

Our lives can spin out of control and towards a downward spiral for many reasons.  And one serious reason is the bad associations we have.  Now, it’s one thing to have unbelievers in our lives so that we can influence them, but it’s quite another to be so close that we are negatively impacted by them.

Psalm 1:1 says, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.”

This psalm celebrates the life of a blessed man. “Blessed” in the original Hebrew means happy or fulfilled, but notice how this happy life is immediately described by a string of negatives as what he does NOT do. The emphasis is that #1 he does NOT walk in the counsel of the wicked, that #2 he does NOT stand in the way of sinners, and that #3 he does NOT sit in the seat of mockers; all three are ways of saying the same thing.

Now, if all three lines are basically saying the same thing, they why say it three times? Well, the song writer could have said it with one line, but songwriters are not like that. They don’t just present concepts, they want to be poetic and emotional and powerful. And so, they often say the same thing over and over again for emphasis, emotion, and beauty.

We as readers of this song, should stop and consider the power and emotion that are embedded in the three parallel lines. To do that, let’s take a look at the three verbs in the three lines. Read verse 1 again.  Note that they are action verbs: walk, stand, sit. Notice anything else? Walk, stand, sit. Notice the progression. The man is walking, but then he stops and stands as if to consider more deeply what the unbeliever is saying, and the he finally sits down with them as if he has now made a commitment to join them.  Do you see how the progression goes from simply walking next to them to sitting down and fully engaging them as if to buy into their worldview.

Now, this psalm is NOT saying that believers should not associate with unbelievers; we should always have contact with unbelievers. Jesus Himself went out of His way to connect with them. But this psalm is emphasizing something else. It poetically speaks of a deeper and more dangerous association that involves their “counsel,” their “way,” and their “seat.” In fact, this song speaks powerfully and poetically about a degenerative process that happens in our lives, if we are not careful. 

With this danger in mind, we should reflect on the possible negative progressions in our lives. Counselors call this progression a “downward spiral.” In fact, people speak about their lives as spiraling out of control. The idea is that one bad thing leads to another. If we begin with something small, before we know it, our lives are spiraling downward. One situation becomes inter-tangled with another, so much so that we can’t even see the beginning from the end. This situation is expressed in counseling when the person starts by saying, “Pastor, I don’t even know where to begin to explain my situation.” Our lives can get that complicated when one sin leads to another, or when one bad association leads to another one.

And this message goes out to everyone, not just teens.  Anyone in any chapter of live can spin towards a downward spiral.

Consider the progressions in your life and consider the blessed man in Psalm 1:1 who is happy for a reason because he “does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.”

For deeper insight into a life spiraling downward, click > Depression, part 1

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