Though we are often inspired, formed, encouraged, and instructed in worship, God is the primary audience for our worship… Psalm 117 calls “all you nations” to “praise the LORD” and “extol him.” Worship is not just for Christians. It’s not just for Jews. All people are invited to join in. Our worship should never feel like some closed club. Rather, it should be something we make available to our neighbors as we welcome them into our worshiping communities.
Living intentionally in God’s presence isn’t just something we do during religious observances and in our private lives. Yes, we walk before God when we gather with others for worship, when we work for justice, when we spend times with our families and close friends. But, like the writer of Psalm 116, we have been saved by God so that we might live consciously in his presence and for his purposes every moment of every day.
Sometimes, if I’m going to be honest, there are times when I am eager for a bit of glory, times when I want to be recognized for my good work, times when I want someone to say to me, “Good job, Mark!” I don’t think this is altogether wrong. The problem is that I can easily fall into the trap of seeking my glory above all else. When this happens, my motivations are out of alignment, the longings of my heart are out of place. So, what helps to correct my course? What helps me to yearn for God’s glory most of all?
Too many leaders who are struggling in plain sight have never taken the time to assess their personal status. Some of our most powerful leaders delay this very important evaluation because they feel they don’t have the time, or that the movement or ministry will suffer. So they don their leadership hats, dig deeper, and neglect their personal health and wellness. Some even live in an Elijah-style time loop where they dwell in the depressed proverbial cave as they carry out great feats of miracles, signs, and wonders.
Do you ever feel spiritually dry? Does your soul ever seem to be hard as a rock? Do you ever worry about whether you will ever again be tender and open toward the Lord? … Most Christians do experience times in which our souls are so dry that they seem hard as a rock. We know we should spend devotional time with God, but the fact is we don’t want to… We still believe all the things we used to believe about God. But our desire for him has disappeared, and we’re left with stony souls.
As God is prone to do, God was teaching me something in the midst of an ordinary, human moment… When we grieve the news of war and famine, of families being torn apart, of people losing their lives, of injustice, poverty, sickness, and death, God grieves with us. God enters into the weight of darkness with us. God does not shy away, or point a finger, or scold, or blame. God comes near to us, presses in with us, bears the weight of sadness with us. Thanks be to God.
God’s gracious condescension is celebrated in Psalm 113. The Lord who is enthroned on high nevertheless stoops to look down upon us. Yet he is not, as the pop song proclaims, just “watching us from a distance.” Rather God “stoops down” to be near us (113:6). He “raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap” (113:7). What an amazing picture of God’s condescension!
The truth is that there are just as many strong servants of Jesus Christ who struggle with feelings of turmoil, bondage, and isolation that characterize depression… Consider Elijah showing courage and conviction, working powerful miracles one day, and then barely holding on to his sanity and will to live the day after. I know this place all too well. There was a time when I was a leader hurting in plain sight. I allowed depression to control my life for years until not too long ago.
Psalm 112 is not meant to be the last and only word on the earthly rewards for those who fear the Lord. It is one word among many in the Psalms. And it is a word we do need to hear. This psalm reminds us that earthly rewards often follow from right living. When we seek to do God’s will, when we live according to his commands, we will experience goodness in this life, even as we look forward to the life of the future. Yes, we will also know sorrow. But the joys and rewards of seeking the Lord and his ways will sustain us.
“GOD’s works are so great, worth a lifetime of study—endless enjoyment!” God’s works are indeed worth a lifetime of study. This endeavor will certainly enrich our understanding of God and add to our joy. But it will also help us know how we can work better, how we can work with more meaning. If you want good work, why not study the work of the greatest Worker of all? You don’t even have to apply for admission to God’s school. His work is before you each day.