What Do You Want From God?
Does this seem like a strange question to you--'What do you want from God'? Have you ever considered this question?
As a minister, I think this is an important question to ask. I think it is an important question to ask because Christians are prone to ask for things of God that are not essential.
This, by itself, is not a bad thing. It is not a sin to pray for non-essentials. The apostle Paul tells the Philippians, "in everything . . . let your requests be made known to God"(Phil. 4:6). What is sin, however, is when we fail to pray for that which is essential.
Turning our attention to Psalm 27, we see two distinct halves to this psalm--verses 1 to 6 and verses 7 through 14. And, at first glance, these two halves do not seem to fit together. The praise and confidence of the first 6 verses does not fit neatly with the desperate nature of David's prayer in the verses that follow.
What is David doing here? What I see David doing in the first 6 verses is he is qualifying his prayer--a prayer that is recorded in verses 7 through 12.
David is going to ask for some things in verses 7 through 12, but he wants to make clear what his primary concern is. David is going to ask for various things from God, but he wants to preface this prayer by declaring what is his greatest desire. And it is David's greatest desire that we will take some time with in a few minutes.
But first, as you can see in verses 1 and 2, before David prays, David praises. He writes, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell".
Before David engages God with his requests, he thanks God for answered prayer. (Your pew Bibles has verse 2 in the future tense, but this is incorrect. The Hebrew is in the past tense, indicating that David is recalling instances where he received deliverance from God.)
So many of us, I fear, have weak prayers--and they are weak because we fail to recall God's track record for answering prayer. We fail to remember and thank God for all the times He delivered us from trouble.
In verse 3, David begins to set up his prayer requests as he moves to the future tense, "Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear".
Here we must ask, 'What is the basis of David's fearlessness?'. Read only the first 2 verses and you may answer that the basis of David's fearlessness is that God always delivered him. But we must keep in mind that David was seldom unscathed by these battles.
Though David was ultimately delivered, deliverance came at a great price. The price was the death of his best friend, Jonathan. The price was the break up of his family, which eventually led to David's servants killing his estranged son, Absalom. How can David say he will not fear?
As I examined this question closely, I recognized that the basis of David's fearlessness was not God's deliverance, but God's presence. Let me say that again, the basis of David's fearlessness was not God's deliverance, but God's presence.
God's past deliverances were the basis of David's confidence in future deliverances, but they were not the basis of his fearlessness. How do I know that? Let's examine verse 3 once more, "Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear". This should sound familiar to you.
. . . Let me help you out. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil"(Ps. 23:4). Why is that David? "(Because) Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me".
David does not fear because he knows that God is with him. David has no fear because he is persuaded by the sufficiency of God's presence.
What is it then, that David wants from God? David gives his answer in verse 4, "One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to meditate in His temple". The thing David desires most from God is God.
Notice that David did not ask for literally "one thing", as the text reads, but a few things. David asks that he might "dwell in the house of the Lord"(v.4). He asks the Lord to be "gracious" to him(v.7). David asks to be taught the "way" of the Lord(v.11). And finally, he asks that he not be delivered "over to the desire of (his) adversaries"(v.12).
Since David is clearly asking for many things, how is it true for him to say, "One thing I have asked from the Lord"? When David uses the word "one" he is not talking about quantity, but about priority. David is saying that the best thing God could give him is God. David is praying for a great many things, but the "one thing" he must have is the presence of God.
If we believe this to be true, if David is correct, the implications for our life are staggering. If verse 4 is true, we can be joyful even if we are denied every earthly comfort. If our reputation suffers, if our material resources dwindle, if our health deteriorates, if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we can still exclaim that we fear no evil because God is with us. And, at the end of the day, God is all we need.
Thinking back again to how we pray, our greatest problem is not that we pray for non-essentials. Our greatest problem is that we often fail to pray for our One essential need--communion with God.
Notice that this is not a prayer for heaven. Unlike the prayer for heaven at the conclusion of Psalm 23, David says in Psalm 27 that he desires to "dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life"(v.4). David wants to "behold the beauty of the Lord" today and tomorrow and everyday of his life.
The fact that David desires God above everything, and that he desires God in this sense everyday is very significant. The power of David's statement, "one thing I seek" would be diffused if David only wanted this some of the time.
The implications for us are clear. Our desire for communion with God must not simply be a Sunday desire. Our desire for communion with God must not simply manifest itself at a Bible study or a prayer meeting. And our desire for communion with God must not be limited to when things are going well. We, too, should desire to "dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of (our) life".
Do this describe you? Is communion with God the primary thing that you want from God? Perhaps you're not sure. And how will you know if you are properly desiring God?
Based on what I see in Psalm 27, 3 things will be evident if you are seeking the presence of God above all else. If fellowship with God, through Christ, is indeed your primary desire these 3 things will be evident: 1) praise, 2) prayer, and 3) patience.
The order of these evidences are dictated by the text. The first evidence, praise, is clearly seen in, not only the first 3 verses, but also in verse 6, "I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy, I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord." Those who desire God above all else will have an irresistible urge to sing His praises.
I read an interesting quote on the Internet recently. The quote comes from a pastor(Art Ferry) who writes, 'when you look at the average Christian congregation, they look like an audience of bulldogs baptized in lemon juice.' Unfortunately, this has the potential to be true in congregations where communion with God is not the primary passion of the people. Christians who desire God first will be marked by their constant praise.
The second evidence of a person who desires God above all else is prayer. This comes to us in the text in verses 7 through 12. This evidence should not surprise us--if fellowship with God is our top priority, it logically follows that we will spend a great deal of time conversing with Him. Who would believe me if I said Allie was the most important person in my life if I never spoke to her or spent time with her? You see then, the time we invest in prayer indicates just how serious our commitment to God is.
The third evidence of the primacy of God in our lives is patience. We see this in verse 13, but even more explicitly in verse 14, "Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord."
Admittedly, the connection here may be less obvious than the other two evidences. It is easy to see that, if God is first in our lives, our lives will be marked by praise and prayer. But patience? What does "waiting for the Lord" have to do with having single-minded devotion to Him?
The connection is that we cannot be single-minded if we our life is characterized by busyness. I think we all know, first hand, that God cannot be first in our life when we are running around busily trying to get 101 things done. What a rebuke this is to me. Perhaps God is rebuking you in your heart.
Presbyterian pastor and author, Eugene Peterson, writes, "The word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection."
Busyness, whether busyness in ministry or otherwise, is the way humans flee God.
Put an end to your busyness. Stop fleeing God. Give Him praise. Pray to Him. Patiently wait for Him. True happiness can only be found in Him.
Ask for what you will from God, but expect nothing better than when He gives us Himself. Amen.