David the Patient

I don’t even dare to think of all the sermons, lessons, and words that have been spoken and written about David. David the shepherd. David the king. David, the giant slayer. David, the man after God’s own heart. David the underdog. There’s so much we can say about David because we know so much about him. As readers of the Bible, we have the privilege of seeing David at his best and worst and knowing that God loved him just as much at his lowest as He did at his highest. David’s life was filled with many mountains and valleys, and his relationship with God was remarkable.

David was merely a shepherd. He was a son of Jesse and had brothers who looked far more kingly than he did, but David was the one God told Samuel to anoint as future king. This did not inherently upset the reigning king, Saul. Saul loved David like a son until David defeated Goliath when Saul would not, and the people of the kingdom loved David and hated Saul. When we join them in 1 Samuel 24, we see that Saul wants David dead. He’s hunting him. Well, Saul and 3,000 of his men.

But David has men of his own, and when they’re surrounding the cave that Saul is in at that very moment using the bathroom, they tell David to go for it. God has promised David that He would deliver his enemy into his hands for him to do to his enemy as he sees fit.

David has Saul in the most vulnerable waking position, and no guard is in there to protect him. Now, I don’t know about you, but I never get this sort of golden opportunity, so had I been among David’s men, I would’ve told him the exact same thing.

So what does David do? He cuts a piece off of Saul’s robe instead of killing him. And get this: David feels bad about doing even that much.

This speaks not only to the patience of David – being willing to wait for the right time to become king and be avenged – but also to how wise David was – knowing the way in which God would fulfill His promise and how to handle it. When most people would’ve killed Saul for vengeance alone and then even moreso with an impending kingship with the support of the people, David showed Saul mercy.

David explains himself to his men and asks them not to attack Saul. Saul leaves the cave, and David yells after him. He bows before Saul, says that he doesn’t want to hurt him, despite what people say, because Saul is anointed by God. He shows Saul the bit of robe he cut off to show that he could’ve killed him but didn’t. David tells him that God will judge between the two of them and will avenge David, but it won’t be by David’s hand. All the while, David refers to him as “lord” and “father.”

And when David is finished, Saul calls him “son.” In 1 Samuel 24:17-20 (KJV), Saul says, “Thou art more righteous than I; for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil. And thou hast shown this day that thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when the Lord had delivered me into thine hand, thou killedst me not. For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? wherefore the Lord reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day. And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand.” Then Saul asks that David not cut off his lineage, which David obliges, and they go their separate ways.

David could’ve killed Saul and rushed God’s promise that he would be king, but he knew it was better to wait on God’s timing for David’s reign. He knew it was better to wait for Saul’s death to occur as it would have than for him to end his life. This patience proved David’s trust in God and his love for Saul. And it made Saul realize how foolish he’d been and how incredible of a king David would be.

David was quite an underdog. He was on the run from a jealous king who couldn’t face his own faults and wanted David dead. And when the door was open to take matters into his own hands, he decided to wait on God. When he was telling Saul how he’d spared his life, David didn’t smirk and turn the bit of Saul’s robe over in his fingers, saying, “You really should thank me for not killing you.” He bowed and spoke humbly, only wanting Saul to know that he didn’t kill him because that wasn’t in any way his desire.

It’s hard not to take matters into our own hands, especially if you’re an underdog who feels like you’ve just been thrown a bone. But know that if God has promised, He’ll come through because He is faithful. Don’t give up. Don’t mess it up by taking it into your own hands. Be like David, and let God work.

By Carrie Prevette

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Closed Doors

We all have our share of failed plans. Grand plans that just didn’t work out. Plans to study abroad or have kids or make it big in that band right out of high school or get on the fast track to promotion at work. Plans that – no matter how ridiculous they sounded or how encouraged they were – would have certainly changed our lives.

But doors close, right? There are certain things that I want to do that I shouldn’t do, regardless of whether or not I know why. And my understanding of that doesn’t necessarily change how upset I get about those paths being closed off. It does mean, though, that if I trust God enough to ask Him to guide me, I should trust Him enough to actually let Him do it. If I claim to believe He knows better than me, I should at least try to let Him lead me to “better.”

Paul, evidently, was pretty good at that. Or at least he was at the time of Acts 16. Paul and his people originally wanted to go to Asia, but were redirected by the Holy Spirit to Phrygia and Galatia. Then they wanted to go to the province of Bithynia but were redirected to Troas. That’s where Paul had a vision from God to go to Macedonia, and he did. Specifically, Paul’s group went to Philippi in the district of Macedonia (Acts 16:6-12).

“Why?” is probably the most human of questions. We always want to know the reason for something. And as much of an uber human as Paul was, I also find Paul pretty relatable at times. Luke, the author of Acts, doesn’t say that Paul questioned God here, but it would’ve been understandable if he had.

So Paul and his crew are in Philippi, speaking to people, even doing a little baptizing. One day they’re on their way to the place where they pray when they encounter a demon-possessed fortune-teller. She was good, but she got on Paul’s nerves. He eventually cast the demon out of her. The guys she worked for were mad and took Paul and Silas to the authorities. Everyone was all worked up to the point that a mob formed. So Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten badly, and put not only in prison, but into the inner dungeon of the prison and into stocks (Acts 16:13-24).

This is why I’m God’s problem child: at this point in the story, I would be mad. In every way, Paul is not where he wants to be. He’s in the most secure part of a prison in Macedonia, not preaching to people in Asia. God gave Paul a vision after He closed two doors, and Paul followed, and now he’s seemingly stuck in a bad situation. I would be scared and grumpy and ready to just get through it and go.

Paul and Silas’ situation seems very hopeless. But hopeless is where God shines brightest.

Paul, unlike me, didn’t dwell on his bad circumstances and failed plans. Unlike me, he didn’t question or doubt. No, Paul prayed and sang. Everyone listened to them, and around midnight, there was an earthquake. The foundations shook, doors opened, chains fell off. The guard thought everyone had left and was going to kill himself. But Paul stopped him. And the guard asked what he had to do to be saved. Paul told him to believe in Jesus. After his conversion, the guard washed their wounds and took them to his house where they baptized him and all of his family. And the next day, the authorities let Paul and Silas go (Acts 16: 25-36).

Thinking of what we wanted to happen but never did rarely puts us in a great mood. Thinking of opportunities missed and roads not taken cause us to look behind and not forward.

In December, I’ll have been on this Earth for a quarter of a century. And despite the fleeting feelings of awe and aging I have towards that fact from time to time, I think most of us, if not all of us, can agree that’s not very long. Yet I find myself owning up to the fact that I haven’t done some things I would’ve liked to by now, items on the bucket list that I thought would be crossed off already, like having a book published or traveling to certain places. It’s not to say that I’m running out of time so much as I sometimes worry that the timeline doesn’t look good someone like myself who gets comfortable and stuck in ruts a lot. So at almost 25, I already look back too much.

What good does that do me? What can I do to change anything that’s already happened even if I wanted to. And would I really want to considering all of my experiences from both successful and failed plans have made me who I am?

Plus, how does that make God feel? I say I trust Him and want Him in control, but the second our plans for my life differ, I huff and pout and try to compromise. Surely it must hurt Him to know I’m not trusting Him, to know that something like that could affect how I see Him or how I feel about Him. And to know that I look back at failed plans that I made for myself like they could’ve been better than His? How does He still love me like He does?

Because He’s God.

Paul must have known this because he doesn’t dwell on what he wanted. He was focused on what was right in front of him. But Paul saw just as much value and potential in Macedonia as Asia. He was open to God and had faith in Him.

Paul’s faith even carried him though the dungeon. Dark, dank, secluded, and guarded. Had God not shook the foundations, Paul would have stayed there, but Paul’s faith in God’s faithfulness was bigger than Paul’s opinion of his circumstances.

Let’s try something crazy. Let’s trust God. Let’s have faith in Him. Let’s be bold enough to see what “better” looks like. Take God up on His promises and plans. Be open and obedient to Him.

By Carrie Prevette

Life to Die For

For the past few weeks, God’s been leading me back to a certain point, and I’m not entirely sure why, but I know it’s for a reason. Maybe it’s for me or maybe it’s for one of you and I’m just the messenger. Regardless, after thinking about it during Alan’s sermons, during Focus on Sunday nights, and when I write the blog every week, I do believe now is the right time to talk about it. I’m not going to promise that this post will be a huge revelation, but it’s just been on my heart lately.

Jesus says in Luke 9:23-24 (NRSV), “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”

Jesus also says in John 10:10 (NRSV), “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Two fairly common scriptures, right? But at a glance, there’s a contradiction here. One says we need to lose our life for Jesus while the other says that Jesus came to give us abundant life. To the world, that would seem problematic. And maybe to some believers that would seem problematic.

We’re so used to it being all about us. We hear it all the time, but when you stop and think about it, to some extent, it makes sense that we would think that. It’s my life, my decisions, my actions, my preferences, my perception. It’s not illogical for someone to think their life is all about them.

That’s not to say that it’s okay for people to take outside situations and other people’s problems and make it all about them. That’s a different issue altogether. The point I’m trying to make is that it’s understandable for someone, to some extent, to think it’s all about them.

But as much as we may be used to it and as understandable as it is, we’re wrong. It’s not all about us. It’s about God.

We say that all the time, and I would have no trouble whatsoever believing that someone is tired of hearing it. That being said, there’s a big difference between saying it and hearing it and actually living it.

I taught at Focus about a month ago, and I asked the teenagers what it meant to die to ourselves daily, and I got some great answers such as “being selfless” and “going beyond ourselves.” Those are very good answers, especially from such young believers, but it’s more than that. It’s giving up what we want. It’s realizing that while we are free to make our own decisions, we should consult God first and follow His advice, even if it’s not what we want to do. It’s stopping our mouths from running off at someone to think about how much God loves that person or to pray for them. It’s trading where we want to be in life for where God wants to take us. It’s giving up our life for the life He wants for us.

That sounds terrible, but once we go a little deeper, it’s not. We think it’s a compromise of who we are and that we’ll end up miserable. God made you who you are for a reason. He created you to like and dislike certain things, to feel certain ways, to view the world the way you do. And He didn’t make you that way just to turn around and change all of it. In giving your life to God – really, truly, entirely – you aren’t compromising who you are or what you want. You’re handing your seat at the control panel over to God, who loves you, knows you, and knows what life you’ll enjoy the most.

I’m glad I’ve given God control of my life because I can assure you that if my life had gone the course I’d planned, I’d be absolutely miserable right now. I wouldn’t have the friends I have, I wouldn’t have the security I have, and I’d be way more in debt than I am. Mostly, I wouldn’t be as close to God as I am. Yes, I’ve “suffered” by giving up certain things or not getting what I want, but I am so much better for it.

I’ve lost my life for God, but I have more life now than I could ever imagine.

When we lose our life for God, we broaden our horizons. Our eyes open up to opportunities, our hearts open up to people, and doors open up for us. We’re still the same people we were, but we’re so different. And all of that leads to abundant life.

Romans 6:6-11 (NRSV) says, “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

It seems weird to say that we gain freedom by pledging our lives to something, but it’s what happens when we give our lives to God. The abundance that He gives us goes beyond our mortal lives here and spills over into eternity with Him. But before we gain the abundance, we must lose our lives. Leave the sin and follow the Savior. Losing our lives to God is the last transition from our old selves to our new ones.

On Sunday, Alan said, “It should be impossible for us to go back knowing how great God is,” and that’s so remarkably true. We’re quick to remember the old, fleeting feelings of our sin and quick to forget that our walk with God has both mountains and valleys and never plateaus. The truth is that our worst days with God are far better than our best days without Him. And if you’ve yet to experience that, if you find yourself doubting that, I suggest you start by losing your life to God today. You’ll be surprised how alive you’ll start to feel.

By Carrie Prevette

Coming Into Focus

My brother and I like to joke around with my sister, Sunnie, about how she’s not spontaneous at all. She’s a woman who likes a plan, and while I respect that, it’s not always very much fun. Derek and I will go to the movies or to play putt putt on a whim. But when we invite Sunnie to go with us, it throws her off. It’s not how she had planned on spending her afternoon (a valid point and reason not to join), so she usually won’t do it with us. If she does go with us, she kind of takes a minute to just freak out.

One time, the three of us went to Mount Airy on a Saturday. I can’t remember if we went to see a movie or to shop in the local stores, but when we were done, I said to Derek, “We should go to Virginia.” (For those of you reading this who may not know, we weren’t far from the state line.) Derek thought it was a great idea. Sunnie, however, who was sitting in the backseat, was not so excited about it. Talk of how that wasn’t the plan commenced. Derek and I realized that it was causing her some anxiety, so we ditched the idea pretty quickly after that.

That was the day I learned just how much my sister doesn’t like deviating from a plan. She says that she’s working on it. Her first move, from what she’s told me, towards being more spontaneous was purchasing Linkin Park tickets three or four months in advance. (Don’t ask me how that’s spontaneous because I don’t really understand it, but it makes sense to her, and I suppose that’s all that matters. Plus, she’s very excited about it, and I love seeing other people get excited about things they love or look forward to.)

To clarify, while I enjoy the freedom of not always having a plan, I have no problems with making plans. Sometimes making plans is not only smarter, but really important as well. Making a plan for what I’m doing when I get off work tomorrow isn’t that big of a deal to me. Making a plan for where I want to be in the next five years of my life is a big deal to me, and it’s important if I don’t want to end up exactly where I am right now.

Maybe you have some big plans for the New Year, and I think that’s great. Your plan could be to eat healthier or travel more or work harder at achieving your dreams. Whatever it is, I’m sure you’re focused and you have a strategy.

But sometimes our plans don’t work out. I’m not saying that to discourage you. I’m saying it because it’s true, and to let you know that while it is true, life goes on.

I won’t bore you with the details (if you’re really interested, comment or contact me and we’ll chat), but suffice it to say that I’ve made plans, some significantly more important than others, that didn’t work out. Not only did I survive and am alive to tell you about it, but I can tell you that I’m actually better off because they didn’t work out.

I could go on and on about how my experiences have made me who I am and how I love who I am, which would be very true. I mostly say I’m better off because I’ve gained a lot of things from what actually happened that would never have happened if my original plans had played out. I wouldn’t have met a lot of the people I’ve met, I wouldn’t have grown as a person the way that I have, and I wouldn’t have learned some of the things I consider pieces of wisdom that God has shown me.

The reason it’s all worked out is because when my original plans crumbled, I’ve somehow managed (with immeasurable help of God, of course) to find another strategy while maintaining my focus. There have also been times when I’ve had to refocus because my heart and mind weren’t where they should’ve been.

2 Samuel 7 tells of a situation where King David’s plans didn’t work out, but everything turned out for the best. If you don’t have the time or energy to turn there, I understand. It’s a lot of reading, so I’ll summarize it here.

David was talking to Nathan, and he said how it didn’t seem right that he was living in this nice, cedar house while the Ark of the Covenant stayed in a tent. (Imagine sleeping in a five-star hotel while God’s down the road a bit in a sketchy motel whose biggest draw is that they have colored TV.) Nathan tells him to do whatever it was he had in mind and that God was with him. But that night, God tells Nathan to tell David that He hadn’t lived in a house since He brought His people out of Egypt, and He never complained about it. He tells Nathan to remind David of where God brought him from, how He’s always been with David, and how He’s handled David’s enemies. He says He’ll appoint a place for the Israelites to live. And He says that He’ll give David a family and establish David’s son’s kingdom. David’s son, not David, will build God a house, and he will be a son of God, and God will be a father to him.

Nathan tells David, and God’s words humble him. He recalls what all God has done for him and praises God. David proclaims God’s power and God’s love for His people, and he takes heart in God’s promises.

Nowhere in the story do we see that David is upset that he isn’t the one who is to build God a house. We know that he wanted to and probably had his heart set on it after Nathan gave him the green light to do so. But instead of being crushed that God doesn’t want him to do it, David praises God for what He’s already done for David and what He’s going to do through David and his son.

David’s plan changed, but his focus never did. His focus was on God and His will, and that’s exactly why it didn’t bother him in the least when God told him not to build Him a house.

It’s not our plans that matter as much as our focus.

When I think of my failed plans, I realize that maybe they were a little selfish. I didn’t exactly consult God before making them. Had I done so, I would’ve saved myself a good bit of heartache. I wanted what I wanted, and I didn’t consider God’s input until after my heart was already set on it.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t make plans that we actually want. We should. We should just consult God as well.

If your plans change, don’t worry about it. Even if it’s not part of your plan, it’s certainly part of God’s plan, and He’s not going to lead you anywhere He won’t go or that won’t benefit you. Sure, it may not be what you imagined. In fact, it probably won’t; it’ll more than likely be better. Take it from someone who’s learned that the hard way.

By Carrie Prevette

Who Am I? Where Am I? And What’s Going To Happen?

I remember the day I bought my favorite Bible. I was browsing the Bible selection at Barnes & Noble. I saw one that was a translation that not only wasn’t KJV (I was looking for literally any other translation), but it was also one I hadn’t heard of before. It was the New Revised Standard Version (the version I usually use for the blogs, if you haven’t noticed). I picked it up. It was a lovely gray with a beautiful cross and Psalm 46:10 on the front in black. I turned to some of my favorite verses, and I just loved the way they were worded. It’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. That Bible has been a lot of places, and it’s been through a lot, including getting caught in the rain with me and being shuttled back and forth from Jonesville to Cullowhee.

There are many great qualities about this Bible. For instance, the NRSV translation is the most historically accurate. My Bible doesn’t really have a concordance in the back of it. There are some recommended verses for when you’re feeling a particular way, but you can’t really look up verses based on their diction. It has some prayers in the back of it, including one of the greatest prayers I’ve ever heard or read. It’s written amongst prayers by saints and prayers from the Bible, but you won’t find its words on a stained-glass window or across plaques. It’s by a man named Thomas Merton.

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

I could go on and on about the great qualities of this prayer, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll just hit on a few of them: the concepts of who we are, what we’re doing, and the unknown.

I’m a huge fan of Shakespeare. I’m not even kidding. I have his complete works, which I acquired after buying several of his plays individually as well and a book of his sonnets. I intend to read everything he’s written before I die. I have a book titled A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare that I also aim to read eventually. And my dog’s name is Othello (although it was my dad’s idea to call him that, not mine). This is a picture of him.

othello58

 

Anyway, one of my favorite Shakespeare plays is Hamlet. Of the Shakespeare plays I’ve read, it’s the one I quote the most. For those of you who haven’t read it, I’ll sum it up as quickly and simply as I can. Hamlet is a prince in Denmark. His father has recently died, and his mother has remarried (to the deceased’s brother, if I’m not mistaken). The ghost of Hamlet’s father comes to Hamlet and tells him that he was murdered by Hamlet’s stepfather. He wants Hamlet to avenge him. Hamlet then begins his journey to seek revenge. Hamlet begins acting crazy, but as the play goes on, even the reader (or watcher, I suppose) is unsure of whether or not it’s just an act. There is a well-known line from the play that, although it is not addressed to Hamlet, is significant and ironic. “To thine own self be true.”

Well, I’m sure Hamlet would do that if he knew who he was.

I’m sure everyone would if they knew who they were.

The question “Who am I?” is one that has been around as long as humans have, and I’m just about certain that every human has asked this question before. Some people spend their entire lives trying to find the answer to this question, and sadly, some never obtain it. There are people who think they know who they are but aren’t entirely sure. Then there are people who feel they know exactly who they are, and a portion of those are even comfortable with the answer they find.

I’m not trying to get into a large discussion here. Knowing who you are doesn’t make you a better person or a better child of God. It’s just something to discover for yourself. The point I want to make here is that regardless of whether or not we know ourselves – accept our personalities, habits, tastes, and purposes and decide whether or not we want to change who that person is – we find our truest selves in God.

Knowing the One who created us and who knows us better and in more ways than we could ever know ourselves allows us to discover who we are. We have a longing to be or become the person we were created to be. It’s a relationship that both reinforces the qualities we should keep and shows the qualities we need to work on.

The next issue the prayer addresses is knowing what we’re doing. Of course, we know what we’re literally doing, right here and now. But what about the path we’re taking in life? Is it the one that God wants us on for the next few miles or does He want us to take the next exit and get off as quickly as we can? Are we pleasing God with the way we’re going?

The path God wants you to take may not be the one you want to take. At least that’s what you think now. I assure you, God’s not going to make you take a road you don’t want to be on. He won’t force you to stay in a place forever if it’s not bringing you happiness or serving a purpose of some sort.

I believe that anyone who truly and actively seeks the will of God will find it. When we search for God’s interests and plans in our lives, we will ultimately find them, even if it’s not in the place we thought it’d be or within the time frame we were hoping for.

This is in close relation to the third quality of the prayer that I want to discuss: the unknown. I’m sure I don’t have to list the reasons the unknown is scary. And people have a right to be afraid of the unknown.

But there is always more comfort when you’re walking with God. For one, while we don’t know what’s coming up, God does. Secondly, God only has our best interests in heart. God isn’t going to lead us somewhere sketchy or harmful and leave us there. No, God will be with us every single step, every single minute.

As you guys may have picked up by now, I tend to see things a little differently than most people. (I get told by my brother at least once a week that I’m weird. I wear it as a badge of honor). My favorite translation of Matthew 28:20, the very last verse of that Gospel, that I’ve come across so far is the King James Version. It’s Jesus talking, and it reads, “…I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

Most people read that as Jesus will be with us until the world that we are in ceases to exist. And I read it that way as well, but I also take it a different way. I take it to mean that Jesus will be with us through legitimately everything, through everything in the world, and that he’ll be with us even when our worlds start to fall apart.

We need not be afraid of the unknown because while we don’t know what is to come or what will happen, we know God is right there with us through it all.

By Carrie Prevette

Bigger Plans and True Worship

Being a huge fan of The Walking Dead, you can imagine how happy I was when AMC had a three-day marathon of the show over the 4th of July weekend. I had forgotten about it until running across the second or third episode from the first season early that Friday morning. I grinned as I settled into my chair and prepared to watch as much of it as I could. Not too much later, a character said something that really struck me.

For those of you that don’t watch the show, I’ll summarize as concisely as I can for the purpose of this blog. A guy named Rick is in the hospital when the zombie apocalypse started. He wakes up, gets out, and finds that his wife and son have already left. Rick sets out to find them. He goes to Atlanta, and while there, he meets a group of people. They save him; he helps save them. They go back to the group’s camp, and it’s there that Rick is reunited with his family.

Later that night, Rick describes to the group what he felt when he woke up in the hospital. I don’t recall what word he says comes closest to describing it, but I do remember him saying how there’s not really a word that accurately and entirely fits the feeling. Then Dale, a member of the group listening to Rick, says that words are “paltry things.”

For whatever reason, that really struck me. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a writer, if it’s because it was so wonderfully phrased, or if it’s because it’s so true. But one thing’s for sure, Dale isn’t wrong. Sometimes words fail. Sometimes they’re just worthless.

When I showed up to church on Sunday morning and found out that there was just going to be worship and no sermon, I began to think about how plans can also be “paltry things.”

I could go on and on about the plans in my life that have failed or changed dramatically. I’m sure we all could. If you can’t relate, I’m very interested in talking to you because you’re probably the first person I’ve ever encountered whose life has gone perfectly according to what you have planned.

That’s just it, isn’t it? Our plans have the capacity to change and fail and ultimately lack meaning. God’s plans never do.

Adjusting to God’s dreams for my life instead of my own has been one of the most difficult parts in my relationship with Him. I get this vision of how I want things to go, and I build them up so much in my mind. I think it’s going to be excellent. Then God steps in and says, “Carrie, that’s actually not what’s best for you. It’s not happening.”

“What do you mean, God? Of course it’s the best thing for me. It’s the best thing period! Don’t You see it?”

The thing is, God does see it. The only difference is, He sees it from an objective point of view and a much broader point of view. He knows the other possibilities and the consequences. And He loves us enough to give us what’s really the best for us, no matter how much it might break our hearts at first.

You may recall that Abstract just recently started a sermon series called Idols. Last Sunday would have been the second of a four-part series. But it’s hard for a pastor to preach when he can barely talk. Hearing a sermon was part of our plans, but God had a better idea. Instead of hearing the sermon that God and our pastor have prepared, we spent the morning in worship.

If no one else needed a service full of worship, I certainly did. I needed it, and I didn’t even know it.

The significance of worship cannot be overstated. It’s how we show God that He is the most important thing in our lives.

Worship is a product of loving something a lot. I’m not talking about I-really-enjoy-this love or even holy-smokes-Batman, this-is-amazing love. It’s more along the lines of where-has-this-been-all-my-life, I-would-rather-die-than-live-without-this love. (Words really can be paltry, huh?)

Worship is great in theory, but it’s even better in practice. I’ve been in services where the preacher or worship leader said, “Okay. Let’s praise God and worship Him,” and I listen and praise God and enjoy myself. The experiences were good, but they didn’t exactly change my life. (That’s just me, though. By no means am I saying that those services weren’t moving and deeply meaningful for other people.)

I’ve also been in services, some with that exact same little intro, where I’ve felt the presence of God so strongly and I’ve been so moved by what I heard. Those experiences have stuck with me. Some of them took place years ago, and to this day, I could take you to the exact place where I stood with my hands held high to God and my heart completely captured by Him.

There is no better feeling than being completely lost in worship to God.

When I think of worship, the first thing I think of is a Bible verse that doesn’t even use the word “worship.” Psalm 42:1 (NRSV) says, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.”

Isn’t that how we feel when we truly enter into worship? We aren’t satisfied with where we are with God. We want to grow closer to Him and feel more of His love. We know we need to be refreshed and refilled by Him. Not only is God a source of happiness and relief, but He’s also our source of life. It’s a moment when we realize just how much we need God.

And by worshipping, we express not only that we realize all of this, but we take a moment to thank God for being all of that for us.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I do something for someone, and they thank me for it, it feels fantastic, especially if it’s something that I worked hard on. It’s nice to hear that someone’s actually grateful for something I’ve done.

Imagine how happy it must make God for us to worship Him for everything that He’s done for us, especially in a world where people blame Him more than thank Him.

Maybe God’s done something really big for you lately. Maybe you’ve recently gotten a job or you’re car has been repaired or you’ve made a friend and you don’t feel lonely anymore. Don’t forget to take the time to really thank God for that blessing.

You don’t just have to thank Him for the big blessings either. Maybe you’re just happy that today wasn’t as bad as yesterday or you read or heard an encouraging word somewhere that you desperately needed. Then again, maybe you’re just having a really good hair day. If it’s a big enough of a deal to make you think about it or smile about, it’s big enough to thank God for.

Worship starts with love and ends in gratitude. Things may not be going the way you planned, but that doesn’t mean it’ll all end badly. God has better things in store for you. And that is certainly something to praise and worship Him for.

By Carrie Prevette

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