These words were penned by a man many Christians consider to be their favorite character… second to Jesus of course. A man that God himself said was a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22). I think that for some reason many of us can relate to David easier than we can relate to Jesus. David gives hope to anyone: even though he was a murderer, adulterer, married to many wives, etc. He was still call a man after God’s own heart. He understood what it meant to give it all, to truly worship God. Not with lip service as the Israelites eventually fell in to (Isaiah 29:13) but with his heart. He knew how to command his heart and soul in to a place of truly worshiping God. I think this is something that has been lost upon many in our generation… including myself.
But yet, there is a place in my heart that is yearning to go there, to discover what it really means to worship God.
I think that a part of it happens as we begin to discover that the wonderful emotions we had at the beginning of our experience with God have started wearing off. But we see other people praising God the same as before and think that we must appear less spiritual if we aren’t doing the same things as we were before… so what was once for God, slipped tragically in to people-pleasing idolatry. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s not meant to be. Believe me – I’ve been there. Recently in fact. I’m just trying to call it what it is. The idea of “Fake it ‘til you make it” is a lie from the pit of hell. That’s what breeds hypocrisy – the very thing that the world despises… and guess what? God agrees with the world on this point!
So what then? Do I stop trying to worship God because I don’t feel it? Absolutely not! Although it may appear to others that way. But if your thoughts are consumed more with what others are thinking of you during the worship time, than of the God you say you’re worshiping, then who are you truly worshiping? You can tell what you’re really worshiping by what your thoughts and life revolve around. Whether it’s God, entertainment, yourself, your family, your job, your finances, etc. Whatever you obsess about the most is what you’re worshiping. So therefore – no matter what your outward appearances may be, if you’re obsessing what others think, or even what you think of your “worship” you’re not worshiping.
Lately I’ve taken to a new position during worship. My theme in worship has been “Re-discovering What Worship Is”. Many times I sit, pondering the things of God, and what He is in my life. Trying to learn how to lift Him up in my thought life. Often, when standing, I hardly lift my hands. I stand there with my hand over my heart praying for it. Praying that it would align with God’s heart, and truly worship him. Many times I’m commanding my emotions to straighten up. However, this last Sunday I was still struggling after worship and Cami, my wife, started pointing out a few scriptures to me:
- The first scripture was Psalm 94:16-19, “Who will protect me from the wicked? Who will stand up for me against evildoers? Unless the Lord had helped me, I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave. I cried out, “I am slipping!”, but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.”
- The thing that strikes me about this scripture is that he was slipping, and his mind was filled with doubts. Many of us come to that place and realize that we are there, but we don’t recognize when God is trying to lift us up out of that place. Many times we long so much for the emotions that we once felt, the flame of passion, and the sense of excitement. We feel like if we don’t get that back, that God is either letting us down, or we just can’t find him anymore. The truth of the matter is that God is sending people to us all the time to be a representative of His love and comfort. Just because we don’t feel it on our innermost being yet, we need to trust in His unfailing love for us. Because eventually He will give us renewed hope and cheer. But be willing to be pulled out of the mire of doubt. Be willing to let others help you to stop slipping. And together with someone else, walk out of that place – don’t get stuck there.
- The next scripture she gave me was Psalm 5 which says, “O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly…. Because of your unfailing love, I can enter your house; I will worship at your Temple with deepest awe. Lead me in the right path, O Lord, or my enemies will conquer me. Make your way plain for me to follow. My enemies cannot speak a truthful word. Their deepest desire is to destroy others. Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with flattery. O God, declare them guilty. Let them be caught in their own traps. Drive them away because of their many sins, for they have rebelled against you. But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy. For you bless the godly, O Lord; you surround them with your shield of love.” (Emphasis added)
- What I get out of Psalm 5 is this: David was in the midst of problems when he wrote this. And has you read about his life, God obviously got him through this. He didn’t die right after writing this because God was unfaithful to him. Remember that things will sometimes be hard, but God has unfailing love. I think it’s really cool how David says, “I pray to no one but you.” How many times do I go complaining to my family and friends before I ever turn to God about stuff? I do that all the time. I need to go directly to the One who can take care of the problems, instead of turning to others who can only lend a sympathetic ear, if they even do that. The other thing David did was wait expectantly. He didn’t walk out of his room after praying, see all the problems there again, and say, “Oh God! Why aren’t these things fixed yet?! Doesn’t God love me?!” He waited expectantly. You go throughout your day with a peace in your mind and heart because you are waiting, expecting, and knowing that God has unfailing love that will never let you down. He will work all things to the good of those that love Him. That doesn’t mean that everything gets fixed before it goes wrong, but that even though things are wrong, He makes them work for our benefit somehow. Lastly, I think it’s cool how God’s love is a shield: “For you bless the godly, O Lord; you surround them with your shield of love.”
- The final scripture I want to share with you is my favorite one to share with you today. Psalm 142 says, “I cry out to the Lord; I plead for the Lord’s mercy. I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles. When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn. Wherever I go, my enemies have set traps for me. I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me. Then I pray to you, O Lord. I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life. Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me. Bring me out of prison so I can thank you. The godly will crowd around me, for you are good to me.”
- Once again we see that David is in the midst of troubles when he is writing this. He puts his trust in God even though he doesn’t see the outcome that he’s looking for yet. One thing that you should know about this scripture is this: David was going through the “Cave Experience” when he wrote this. That’s what you’re Bible probably says above this scripture. That’s significant because all the time that David spent in caves was not his fault!!! He merely lived exactly how God wanted him to live, yet for at least a decade he was hunted like an outlaw – number one of the government’s Most Wanted List! 10 YEARS HE LIVED THIS WAY! And yet I have the audacity to get mad at God and say He’s let me down when I’ve been struggling for a few days, weeks, or even months. David was a man, and may have lost sight of God’s promise at times, but at the end of each day he came back to trusting God, much the same way he does this in all of his psalms. When I look at this, I realize how quickly I give up on my God, even though He refuses to give up on me. I love the wording of this psalm because I can relate to it; complaining, pleading for God to fix it, pouring out complaints (notice it doesn’t say prayers), asking for God to bring him out of prison. How often do we feel trapped by all our circumstances, emotions, addictions, habits, or character flaws? Pretty much all the time. But remember this: God has unfailing love.
David knew what worship was all about, praising and lifting God up, and putting his trust in God’s unfailing love – no matter what his mind or emotions said. Rather, he commanded his thoughts and emotions to line up with the truth of who God is, not the truth of the circumstances that surrounded him. That is what it takes to offer up true worship to God, not lip-service to those around us.
I just want to conclude with this: “When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.”
Here are a couple of encouraging songs by Jake Hamilton on his “Marked By Heaven” album.
This track is titled “Embrace”.
This track is titled “Convinced”.