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40 Days of Purpose

At God's Pleasure


Woodworkers’ Journal is one of those magazines that comes every month, full of elaborate plans for such things as furniture making and toys. It’s fun to read, even though it’s very unlikely I’ll ever craft a Shaker hutch. One of my favorites is a feature which gives us a picture and short description of an antique tool. The readers are asked if they can solve the mystery: “just what was this tool made for?” Intrinsic in this is the concept that if you want to know what a thing is, you need to know for what purpose it was designed.

The flat fact of the matter is this: we were designed with a purpose, too. We were designed to give pleasure to God

Please, get out of your mind the idea that worship is simply the ceremony around the preacher’s sermon. It’s not that at all. Properly understood, worship is that which pleases God. Sometimes we do it in a formal manner, but mostly we do it in the way we live.[1] We hear people describe someone as a “worshipful man.” Such a person is the one who has discovered the secret: worship on Sunday and service throughout the week are twins.

Twins? We often use one word to describe twin things. For example, the noun “marriage” can mean either the wedding ceremony or the life which follows it. It is proper to speak of worship as being service; indeed, in the New Testament, the same Greek word is translated into both.

The Sunday worship is in fact a symbolic portrayal of what we do in service to God during the week. Let’s take it point by point:

  • Praise. We praise God in song on Sunday; shouldn’t we praise him to others during the week?
  • Scripture reading. The Scripture is read aloud on Sunday; should we not also read it during the week?
  • Fellowship. We meet our fellow Christians on Sunday; should we not also do the same during the week?
  • Offering. We put our money into God’s kingdom on Sunday; should we not use the rest during the week for his glory?
  • Preaching. We might think this the exclusive task of the preacher; but have you ever had to give the reason for your faith?
  • Communion. In Communion we proclaim the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, along with his soon return. Should we not tell others of this during the week?

Integrity: worship and service are the same thing. The man of integrity will see to it that they are the same in his life.

If your worship is to be pleasing to God, you must bear in mind the teaching of the Lord: God desires those who will worship in spirit and in truth. The style of the formal worship matters little; what you do with it matters much. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Then your worship will be honest, authentic – and practical too, for you are a practical person.

Practical? Indeed. Another word for offering is sacrifice, and as you worship him you will find that sacrifice comes quickly to those who love God.

The God-Pleasing Lifestyle

So then, just what does one do to please God? You’ll find a number of themes on this throughout the Bible; here are a few:

  • God is pleased when you trust him completely.
  • God is pleased when you obey him wholeheartedly.
  • God is pleased when you thank him and praise him.
  • God is pleased when you use your abilities as working for him.

That last deserves some elaboration. “Whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” No matter the task before you, work at it as if God were expecting it from you. It is a tremendous witness to others – and a blessing to yourself.

The difficulty for most of us in doing this is that we feel we can’t be consistent about it. Sinners all, we look at these requirements and react with, “Might work for some monk in a monastery – but not for me.” The reason you feel this way is simple: you have not surrendered completely to God. We are to be a living sacrifice to God.

Remember the rich young ruler? He was good; he was righteous in his time – but he could not surrender all to Jesus. Surrender would have meant admitting his limitations; instead, he trusted in his own abilities.

Surrender; let God take over. I have a T-shirt with the following logo – “If God is your copilot, SWITCH SEATS.” Live for the glory and pleasure of God. Like an example? Here’s one from a monk that might interest you: it is his prayer in time of sickness.

Oh Lord, if it brings glory to your name to heal me quickly, heal me quickly.

If it brings yet more glory to your name to heal me slowly, heal me slowly.

Should it bring even more glory to your name that I should die quickly, let me die quickly.

Should it bring even greater glory to your name that I should die slowly, let me die slowly.

Surrender is such a blessing, the best way to live. After all, the person now in charge has so much more experience than we do.

The Friends of God

If you will work at this, you will find that God becomes your best friend.[2] So how do you work at this?

  • Through constant conversational prayer. Prayer is not just for your bedtime. Make God your silent partner in silent prayer.
  • Through times of meditation. We’re not talking about sitting around emptying your head and chanting “om”. It is a time on intense thought with God. Think with him; he will share his secrets with you.
  • By being honest with God. You can’t fool him, and it’s foolish to try.
  • By choosing to obey Him – in faith. No praise song of today could say it any better than the old hymn – Trust and Obey.
  • Value what God values. Today we know the price of everything – and the value of nothing. Take pleasure in the joys of his creation.

Above all else, there is this: passionately desire to be the friend of God. Abraham trusted him, obeyed him (to the point of sacrificing his only son) – and he was known therefore as the friend of God.

When God seems distant

You should not walk away from this lesson with the idea that things will always be rosy. For his own purposes, God may be silent with you. Here’s how Oswald Chambers put it:[3]

Has God trusted you with a silence – a silence that is big with meaning? God’s silences are his answers. Think of those days of absolute silence in the home at Bethany! Is there anything analogous to those days in your life? Can God trust you like that, or are you still asking for a visible answer? God will give you the blessings you ask if you will not go any further without them; but His silence is the sign that He is bringing you into a marvelous understanding of Himself. Are you mourning before God because you have not had an audible response? You will find that God has trusted you in the most intimate way possible, with an absolute silence, not of despair, but of pleasure, because He saw that you could stand a bigger revelation. If God has given you a silence, praise Him, He is bringing you into the great run of his purposes. The manifestation of the answer in time is a matter of God’s sovereignty. Time is nothing to God. For a while you said – “I asked God to give me bread, and He gave me a stone.” He did not, and today you will find He gave you the bread of life.

A wonderful thing about God’s silence is that the contagion of His stillness gets into you and you become perfectly confident – “I know God has heard me.” His silence is the proof He has. As long as you have the idea that God will bless you in answer to prayer, He will do it, but He will never give you the grace of silence. If Jesus Christ is bringing you into the understanding that prayer is for the glorifying of His Father, He will give you the first sign of His intimacy – silence.

The first time you get the silent treatment, you may start thinking, “I was doing so well! What was God angry about?” Remember that if your heart condemns you, God is still stronger than your heart. So accept his silence; he is forging a greater Christian – you.

What to do in the meantime, while waiting?

  • Tell God how you feel. Yes, he knows – but it’s good to acknowledge the fact that his silence disturbs you.
  • Trust Him. He said he will never fail you or forsake you – claim that promise as your own.
  • Remember His works. Think of the things he has done in history; think of the things he has done in your life. He has not changed; he is eternal.

Do you remember learning how to ride a bicycle? Tricycle to training wheels, there came a time when dad stopped holding up the bicycle – and by his absence you knew that you had learned to ride. Is it strange that God, your Heavenly Father, does the same for you?

[1] Which is why I am so mightily puzzled that Rick Warren tells us that “worship is not for our benefit. It’s for his benefit.” A corrective to this view may be found in Athanasius’ Letter to Marcellinus. He points out that when one is chanting the Psalms (or singing, as we would do it today) we are closest to heaven – for only then are we worshiping God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. The worship service is my window into heaven, and from that I benefit every week.

[2] There is a small but magnificent book for this: Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God.

[3] From his classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, October 11.

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