What is Your Chief Virtue? By: Dr. Daniel Dickard

Psalm 1:1-6

What is the most important virtue in your life?

What motivates you to action?

Is there anything in your life, that if taken-away, would move you to despair?

I’ve noticed that the chief virtue of our age is happiness. Now please hear me. Happiness is not a bad thing. I desire happiness. You do as well.  Happiness offers a sense of gratification. However, there is danger in extolling happiness as a chief virtue. Why? Life is uncertain. Feelings are fleeting. Happiness is based on happenings. The lack of constancy in life (i.e. trials, adverse circumstances, unique challenges) tends to destabilize our emotions. And when our purpose is tied to circumstance, feelings fluctuate. Truth is, we need something deeper than surface-level happiness. We need fixation. We need constancy. We need joyous stability that comes from a transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.

Deep roots keep us from a dried soul. That is why, I believe, the first chapter in the Book of Psalms paints a vivid picture. The image is of a man with joyous stability and a life overflowing with the blessings of God. Take a moment and read Psalm 1:1-6. The main idea that the psalmist communicates is this:

Happiness does not come through communion with the unrighteous ton (many sinners), but union with the Righteous One (The Messiah Christ).  

Psalm 1 provides four roads that, if followed, will lead you to the virtue of true happiness -- joy.

1. Road # 1: Keep the right company (1:1) How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

 The psalm begins with a declarative statement, “How blessed is the man who does not..." The front-loaded verb placement is intentional. The Hebrew word is best translated "truly happy" or "very fortunate." The term does not imply favor or a euphoric feeling; it means that a person has conducted himself in such a way that the result is a life of blessing. Now, modern psychology tells us to emphasize the positive. The well-known adage, “I would rather be known what I’m for rather than what I’m against” sounds commendable. But it is not biblical or practical. Truth is, we are known by two things: what we are for and what we are against. Let’s even take it one step further. People can only know what we’re for by what we’re against. A reputation is built on two distinct pillars – that which you affirm and that which you oppose. The psalmist does not begin the passage with the power of positive thinking. He starts with the negative. The blessed man is marked by things he does not do, the places he does not go, the books he does not read, the movies he does not view, the websites he does not visit, and the company he does not keep. In other words, a man is blessed by avoiding certain things. In fact, this verse reminds us of sin’s vicious cycle. There is a de-escalating progression with the verbs in verse one. The verbal position denotes successive steps in a career of evil (walk, stand, seat). The idea is that sin is a temptation that one first tries, later becomes accustomed to, and then sin becomes a habit or lifestyle. Sin’s downward spiral is one of Satan’s favorite tactics. His strategy comes from the oldest of playbooks. It may be antiquated, but it’s effective. What begins with a look, continues with a linger, and finishes with full-grown lust. The downward spiral of sin desensitizes before it destroys. Alexander Pope once said, "When we see evil, first we are repulsed; then we endure it; then we pity it; and finally we embrace it." Nothing is more destructive than the methodical cycle of sin.

2. Road # 2: Consult the right instruction (1:2). But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

Whereas verse one states the actions of the blessed man in the negative, verse two provides the actions of the blessed man in the positive. Goodness avoids the smallest conformity with sin. But, on the other hand, these positive characteristics are, in reality, the only basis for useful abstinence. Here is a principle you will want to remember: “The Bible will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Bible.” Do you read God’s word as duty – to check-off a spiritual box – or do you read it in delight? Do you read the Bible to know God more intimately?

Here are three steps you can take to know God more intimately. First, begin each day in the Bible and end there too. You will have a brighter day when it is illumined by God’s word. Set aside a time each day to meet with God. Second, memorize Scripture intently. Scripture memory is a sharp and shiny weapon against temptation. The Bible in memory is better than the Bible on a bookcase. You are more equipped to fight sin when you have memorized Scripture. Third, plant your life in a Bible teaching church. I love what Adrian Rogers used to say, “There are two reasons why I preach the Bible: 1) I am not smart enough to preach anything else; and 2) I am too smart to preach anything less.”

3. Road # 3: Carry the right image (1:3)  He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.

We all project something. Our lives are marked by certain images. Verse three provides four images of a blessed man: rooted, fruitful, alive, and prosperous.

Rooted: The idea is that a Christian is firmly planted. The life of a Christian is marked by
fixity and a strong foundation. Sadly, many professing Christians today project their life
as potted plants rather than firmly fixed trees. I’ve learned this over the years: depth in
Christ comes from dependence of Him. The deeper you walk with God the more
dependent you are of Him. God gives you more influence as deep roots are formed.
Focus on the depth of your walk with God and allow God to determine the breadth of
your influence for Him.

Fruitful: Jesus said in John 15:8, "This is my Father's glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." According to what Jesus said in this passage, our job is not to produce fruit. We are just branches upon which the vine (Jesus) can display His fruit. We don't produce fruit, we bear it. The life of a Christian is simply this: You reproduce what Jesus first produced in you.

Alive: That which is alive does not wither or decay. The deeper your walk with God, the hard it is for sin to poison your mind. The deeper your roots, the more secure you are in Christ.

Prospers: This last statement appears to be an assertion that the righteous man will hardly experience reverses in life. Quite the contrary (James 1:2-4). The idea is that whatever the righteous man does, he carries through in righteousness. Prospering in the Christian life is not predicated on personal achievement. Success in the Christian life is measured by focused faith. Faith is acting as if it is so, because Jesus said it is so, even if it doesn’t seem so in order than it can be so.

4. Road # 4: Consider the right perspective (1:4-6).The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.

The way of the righteous is the road less traveled. It is not an easy or popular choice to make. One who walks in the way of the righteous must struggle against the currents of peer pressure and group-think. To stay on the path of righteousness, it requires focusing on the right perspective. The blessed man marks his life by the eternal. Consider this: those who do the most for the present world and those who think most of the next.
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