David was a terribly flawed man who got the most important thing right. He learned to truly rely on the Lord. And that made him special. Who would have known that the one true God valued dependency above all else? It certainly wasn’t David’s behavior alone that pleased the Lord. It wasn’t personal accomplishment or exceptional morality that made him dear to God. It was, in fact, his God-reliance itself, his willingness to cry out to his Lord during times of trouble. Just as Abraham’s belief in God’s promise was “counted to him as righteousness,” 1 David’s assurance in the Lord’s salvation is what ultimately made him redeemable.
David so expected God’s rescuing intervention that he always chose to call out to God before he would act on his own behalf. When his family and the families of his entire army were abducted, he took the time to seek God before pursuing the captors. 2 Hopelessly outmatched by an imposing, battle-hardened warrior, David unflinchingly trusted in God’s strength—so much so that he faced the Philistine champion without armor or traditional weapons. 3 The Psalms are strewn with David’s specific cries for God’s deliverance in times of true distress. He believed in an “on time God.”
Now remember, David was a skilled warrior in his own right, gifted in the art of combat, but his confidence was in God as the true source of his strength. Despite all of this talent and ability, David never bought into the lie that he could deliver himself from trouble. That was the key.
When I turned my back on the intuitive, emotional side of Christianity, I lost the heart of worship. I lost that thing that David had. I still knew in my mind that God was good. I knew conceptually that He was worthy of praise, but at the same time, I refused to act on that knowledge by relying on Him. When it came down to it, I trusted myself. I trusted my theology. I put my money on my own will and perseverance when it counted most.
Somehow I missed it: true worship is the expression of affection that the saved reserve for their deliverer.
If you don’t really expect God’s salvation in times of distress, it makes no sense to worship Him if the situation changes. Maybe that’s the problem with our praise. We never bet on God to begin with, so even when salvation or healing happens, we don’t attribute it Him. We don’t honor Him for the outcome. How can we remember to acknowledge the times that God has come to our aid if we never credited Him for His involvement in our difficulties to start with?
Our praise is elevated when it comes from a place of personal gratitude. Yes, we should praise God because of His glorious attributes, but it won’t be the same if we fail to recognize how those same characteristics impact us. Yes, we should praise God for purchasing the salvation of our souls, but we should remember that God’s redemption keeps happening. He doesn’t step back and leave us on our own after we make our initial commitment to Him! Praise naturally flows from thanksgiving, and we should be thanking God for the goodness that He is constantly pouring out on us.
It’s no wonder that we find ourselves disengaged, thumbing across our phones and sipping coffee during corporate worship times. We have ceased to praise God for His daily intervention. That’s what has happened in the hearts of so many western believers. In many churches, it is “ok” to worship God for His attributes and for His soul-saving work, but the expectation and celebration of His situation-specific deliverance is inadvertently (or even purposefully) discouraged.
It is through the exercising of faith, through the repeated experience of placing one’s total hope in God during various challenges that a heart of worship like David’s is cultivated. Even the highest degree of understanding and intellectual calisthenics can’t achieve that—only time in the trenches with God as the only viable option can accomplish it. The application of scripture in the form of active, working hope is what brings our praise to life.
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