Grace For The Journey
‘What’s in it for me?’ is a question we often hear. What can I gain if I enter this business arrangement? What advantage is it for me to embark on this journey. Very likely, you ask yourself every Sunday when you go to worship, ‘What am I to gain from attending worship today? If I go to the trouble of cleaning myself up, if I drive to the church, and if I subject myself to a room that is full of people but devoid of air-conditioning – if I do all of this – can I expect to actually gain something?
If we are honest when inspecting our motives for decision-making we will find we are asking this very question, ‘What’s in it for me?’.
I recall reading one preaching manual that instructs preachers to make use of this principle. The author explains, ‘Nobody sleeps while he expects to hear something to his advantage . . . Never have I heard of a person going to sleep while a will was being read in which he expected a legacy, neither have I heard of a prisoner going to sleep while the judge was announcing his verdict. Self-interest quickens attention. Preach (therefore) . . . on pressing, present, personal matters, and you will secure an earnest hearing’
In Psalm 27 there is instruction that is pressing for us to hear, and there is application that is immediate for us to apply. My aim is to convince you of this. The text appears to you as a plain looking suitcase and my job is to open the suitcase, and to unpack for you the beautiful garments folded inside.
Unfortunately, this is where many have come to believe that the Bible is boring and irrelevant. Parishioners come to worship looking to be clothed with a garment designed by the Almighty only to have a locked suitcase thrown at them from the pulpit. Admittedly, the failure of the average parishioner to experience gains from Sunday worship has often been the result of poor preaching.
Commenting on this, Spurgeon wrote, “I heard one say that a certain preacher had no more gifts for the ministry than an oyster. And, in my own judgment, this was a slander on the oyster; for (the oyster) shows great discretion in his openings, and knows when to close.”
I readily confess that substandard preaching is often the cause of parishioners leaving worship devoid of the spiritual nourishment. What should also be confessed, however, is that . . .’’
Some parishioners attend worship
Seeking the wrong thing.
Or, at the very least,
Some parishioners come to worship
Seeking something less than
What God intends to provide.
Surely, our reasons for coming to worship are many, and varied. And some of these reasons are more noble than others. Many enjoy the music; many appreciate the children’s and youth ministries, and many get something out of the sermons and that is a good thing.
In Psalm 27 . . .
King David raises the bar for us.
David’s example challenges us to seek more from Sunday morning. In Psalm 27 . . .
David lays before us
What should be
The primary objective
For our Sunday worship.
In verse 4, David declares, “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to meditate in His temple.” We should notice that David did not literally ask for “one thing”, as the text reads, but quite a few things.
- David asks that he might “dwell in the house of the Lord” – Verse 4.
- He asks the Lord to be “gracious” to him – Verse 7.
- David asks to be taught the “way” of the Lord – Verse 11.
- And finally, he asks that he not be delivered “over to the desire of (his) adversaries” – verses 12.
Since David is clearly asking for many things, why does he say, “One thing I have asked from the Lord“?
When David uses the word “one“
He is not talking
About quantity, but priority.
David is praying
For a great many things,
But the “one thing”
He must have is
The presence of God,
And so this is what
David seeks most earnestly
May I ask you, is fellowship with the Triune God your deepest desire? It is then we can be joyful even if we are denied every earthly comfort. If our reputation suffers, if our material resources dwindle, if our health deteriorates, if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we can still exclaim that we fear no evil because God promises to be with us.
Notice also that this is not a prayer for heaven. Unlike the prayer for heaven we see at the conclusion of Psalm 23, David says in Psalm 27 that he desires to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life” (verse 4). David wants to “behold the beauty of the Lord” today, tomorrow, and every day of his life.
The fact that David desires God above everything, and that he desires God every day is significant.
The power of David’s statement, “one thing I seek” would be diffused if David only wanted fellowship with God some of the time.
The implications for us are clear.
- Our desire for fellowship with God must not simply be a Sunday desire.
- Our desire for communion with God must not simply manifest itself at a Bible study or a prayer meeting.
- Our desire for communion with God must not be limited to when things are going well.
We, too, should desire to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of (our) life.”
Does this describe you? Is fellowship with Christ the primary thing that you want from God? Perhaps you’re not sure.
Based on what I see in Psalm 27, three things will be evident if you are earnestly seeking the presence of God. The order of these evidences is dictated by the text.
The first evidence, praise, is clearly seen in, not only the first 3 verses, but also in verse 6, “I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy, I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.”
Those who desire God above all else will have an irresistible urge to sing His praises. You will sing His praises in the car; you will sing His praises in the shower just as readily as you sing them in a church pew.
If constant praise is evidence of one who is earnestly seeking God, what is the counter-evidence of this desire? I once heard a minister observe that “when you look at the average Christian congregation, they look like an audience of bulldogs baptized in lemon juice.” I can tell you from experience that this minister is not being unduly harsh. As a student minister I got to visit many churches and I’m afraid I have come across more Christians then I would like to admit who resemble bulldogs baptized in lemon juice. By contrast, Christians who desire fellowship with God above all else will be marked by joyful praise.
The second evidence of a person who desires God above all else is prayer. This comes to us in verses 7 through 12. This evidence should not surprise us – if fellowship with God is our top priority, it logically follows that we will spend a great deal of time conversing with Him. Who would believe me if I said Kay, my wife was the most important person in my life if I never spoke to her or spent time with her? You see then, the time we invest in prayer is an indication of just how serious our commitment to God is.
The third evidence of the primacy of God in our lives is patience. We see this in verse 13, but even more explicitly in verse 14, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.”
Admittedly, the connection here may be less obvious than the other two evidences. It is easy to see that, if God is the priority in our lives, our lives will be marked by praise and prayer – but also by patience? What does “waiting for the Lord” have to do with having single-minded devotion to Him?
Beloved, is it not true that our ability, or inability, to wait for something reveals the extent of our competing loyalties? The fact that we are impatient at the checkout that we would rather be at home with our family or somewhere else entirely. The fact that we are impatient in the bank lineup reveals that we have something left to do of greater importance. We lead busy lives, and, in our busy lives, we find it difficult to be patient when encumbered by less important activities.
What then does it say about the level of our Christian commitment if we are unable to wait for the Lord? The commandment to “Wait for the Lord” tests our single-minded devotion to Him. Do we treat worship as something to get through as quickly as possible so we can get on to more important things? Or, when we are worshipping the Lord, do we act as if this is what we were made for?
More simply put, are you too busy for fellowship with the Lord? I think back to when I was an older child and my dad would take me and my brother to the minor league baseball game and I in our town. My habit was to run ahead, as I was eager to get to my seat, but I could only go so far because my dad was the keeper of the tickets. I would then drop back to ask for my ticket and, upon his refusal, I would run ahead once more. But there I was again, unable to get to my seat . . . so back to my dad I went. My priority was to watch a baseball game. My dad’s priority, however, was to spend time with me.
Is this not an accurate description of our relationship with our Heavenly Father? We want to run ahead and enjoy the things God has made available to us. But our Heavenly Father means to give Himself along with His gifts.
God’s great desire is to have communion with us. Our focus, however, is often misplaced. Instead of loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we find ourselves desiring the things the Lord has made available to us.
We run ahead to get the things, but David calls us back, “Wait for the Lord,” he says. There is something better to be gained than things.
God’s greatest provision
For His creation is Himself.
Obtaining lasting joy depends on our union with God; genuine happiness depends on having an ongoing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is what we were made for. We were made – not for things – we were made to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”