Summary: When God seems distant, can we still worship? A six point battle plan for how to deal with seasons in the wilderness.
Worship in the Wilderness
(or, How to Deal With the Desert)
Good morning. If you have your Bibles, please turn to Psalm 63. You know, we have had some awesome worship experiences over the last few weeks as we’ve worked through some of these Psalms. The week we talked about Psalm 100 was just an amazing time of worship. Last week, when we prayed through Psalm 103 and meditated on the character of God, I had a number of you tell me what a meaningful time that was for you as we simply prayed God’s Word back to Him. One person said it was almost as if they could feel God’s hand on their shoulder.
But if we are being honest, we have to admit that there are times when we don’t feel like rocking the rafters in worship. There’s times that God seems distant. When we don’t hear the brush of angel’s wings and see glory on each face. There’s times when faith is hard and doubt is easy. When frustration flows but God’s power doesn’t. When doubts grow and confidence shrinks.
And let’s be honest: if every week we come into this room and all we get is rah rah, pep rally, faith is the victory marching band, then we can walk out wondering if there is a place for us. Not just at Glynwood. In Christianity.
This month there have been two high profile defections from Christianity. A young pastor named Joshua Harris who made waves back in the late nineties with a book called “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” now says he is no longer a believer.
This was followed up this week by a social media announcement from Marty Sampson, one of the principal songwriters and worship leaders for Hillsong Worship (“What a Beautiful Name It Is;” “O Praise the Name”). Sampson posted that while he wasn’t renouncing his faith, he admitted that it was on very shaky ground. He writes,
How many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it. Christians can be the most judgmental people on the planet—they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people. But it’s not for me.
I am not in any more. I want genuine truth. Not the “I just believe it” kind of truth. Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion. Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God. Got so much more to say, but for me, I keeping it real. Unfollow if you want, I’ve never been about living my life for others.
All I know is what’s true to me right now, and Christianity just seems to me like another religion at this point..
And before you think that that’s just a problem “out there,” realize that I had been here for a week when a man from the church came into my office and told me he was no longer a believer. I’d preached one sermon. My first thought was, “My gosh—was it that bad?” And this man wasn’t leaving because he was caught up in some sin. His marriage wasn’t falling apart. He wasn’t (and still isn’t) a bad person. He just got to the point where he realized he no longer believed the words that were coming out of his mouth.
What do you do?
More recently, I’ve had conversations with parents whose kids are frustrated with how hateful and bigoted Christians seem to be. They have LGBT friends and they wonder why the church says the way they were born is sinful. And they wonder if our church—or any church—could really be a safe place to ask those questions.
What do you do?
What do you do when you don’t feel like praising God? Maybe you’re not at the point of renouncing your faith, but you’re kind of wishing God would give you a break. Maybe you’re like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof: I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?
Maybe you are in a season of doubt. You might even be here this morning and you’re about ready to give up on Christianity yourself. If that’s you, I am so glad you are here, and I am so glad that there are chapters in the Bible like Psalm 63.
I want you to turn to Psalm 63, and before we read it, I want you to notice the title. Psalm 63-A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. Now, you probably have some idea of who David is, but you may not know much about the wilderness of Judah. We here wilderness and we think trees and mountain streams and deer stands, and we think, man, that sounds great. But that’s not what David meant when he talked about the wilderness.