Yesterday’s message …
- Had a moment of crisis at the 8:30 service when I brought the WRONG BIBLE into the Worship Center. By “wrong bible” I mean the one without the Scripture printed in TWENTY-TWO point font and taped into it so I can read it easily while sermonating;
- Waited on the bottom line until almost the very end;
- Used some of the logic from a 2013 sermon called “Storm Chasers”;
- Landed at this bottom line: God would rather you KNOW him than NEED him.
If I’m a little keyed up today, it’s because we get to look at some words in the bible that make up what is at the same time THE BEAUTIFUL and THE LEAST FOLLOWED verse in the entire bible? Isn’t that great? And I am convinced that after we look at what is simultaneously beautiful and rejected you’ll never look at life, relationships, and your own motivations quite the same. So … you ready? You ready to hear what it is?
Here it is:
Be still and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10. Ahhh. So pretty, so serene, so Hallmark card-y. In fact, I bet a lot of you have given or received just that verse on a card and a few of you super religious types even have it on your license plate. I mean, who doesn’t want that? To be still & have an awareness that he is God? Who wouldn’t choose to obey that kind of command in this kind of world?
Because the reason I say it is the most disobeyed verse in Scripture is that while it says BE STILL & KNOW THAT I AM GOD, most of us choose instead to BE BUSY & THINK WE ARE. And I say that because I observe every day of my life and because in the run up to 46:10 and its promise most of us decide to live 46:1-9 and its problems. Because CIE applies even to something as serene as Psalm 46:10 and the context in this case applies not only to the words on the page but to the lives we live.
Look at how it starts in 46:1-2a:
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear,
OK, that’s good. Marvelous affirmation of the truth of how strong and reliable our God really is. Like a thick-walled, impossible to breach fortress; in our day, we might say as difficult to invade or break down as Fort Knox. It ain’t happening, that’s how strong God is. But again, what Psalm 46 says and especially where it lands is one thing; how we respond to it – KNOWINGLY OR NOT! – is something else altogether. Because look next at 46:2b-3:
though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
OMG. In the way that ancients looked at the world, when mountains fall that meant the earth was collapsing upon itself. The mountains were the pillars holding up the whole thing and if they fall, that means earth ends. And the oceans roaring? That means they are exceeding their boundaries. Every boundary, all order that God brought to creation is reversed. Because creation in Genesis 1 orders the chaos; Psalm 46 chaoses the order. It is the act of uncreation. Whether the Psalm writer pictures an invading army or the end of the world as we know it, we’re not sure. We just know it’s bad.
Well, then there is an interlude at 46:4-5, where God is still in control in spite of the worst that the world can throw at him or at us.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
But it changes again in 46:6:
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
Whew! The vividness of that language: UPROAR, FALL, MELT – these are forces that are so destructive. Devastating. And the WHIPLASH of going back and forth in these verses from calm to chaos, from peace to destruction. And then, after another thick-walled, hard-to-breach interlude at 4:7 –
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
– there more devastation in 46:8-9:
Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields[d] with fire.
My gosh! God is authoring and/or allowing all this conflict, upheaval, drama, and uncreation. Totally out of control, turbulent, a perfect though scary summary of Psalm 46:1-9. And all that surging water, quaking earth, and melted armies is a prelude to the prettiest yet most disobeyed; beautiful yet rejected words of Psalm 46:10.
And you may be wondering WHY I describe Psalm 46:10 the way I do. Know why? Because in spite of the COMMAND & the PROMISE of 46:10, most of us choose to live in the storm of 46:1-9. “Still” is the promise and yet “chaos” is our choice. And I’m sort of taken aback when I ponder the WHY of all that. Why, when we COULD be 46:10 people are most of us in the middle of 46:1-9 lives in terms of our relationships, our health, our anxiety? Why, when the Lord commands 46:10 do we instead chase down 46:1-9 and live it as our own?
Then it hit me: We want to. We like it better. We chase conflict, pursue drama, claim our own unhappiness because all in all we find that state more comfortable than the alternative. I mean, I see it all around. Had a friend a number of years ago who I helped realize had an uncanny way of finding IT. If there was drama in the family, conflict in the neighborhood, or controversy on social media, THERE she was. She was the common denominator in all of it. What will you do about it?” Oh, the answer was one thing with her mouth and another with her actions – she kept finding it even through to a move to another part of the world. My only conclusion? She loves it. She doesn’t know it, but she does. It’s the only way she can live. 46:10 is HERE and yet 46:1-9 is THERE and it is delicious.
Is it you? Is this realization hitting YOU? That you’re falling into a pattern of being stirred up and if you’re not stirred up you’re not really comfortable? If you’re not up in arms, you don’t feel alive? Or … do you focus on the turbulence of 46:1-9 as a way of avoiding things that are deeper and maybe even more unsettling in their own way? Man, when I was a kid, my parents were always stirred up by watching the president at the time on TV. They hated him. He’d come on and they’d hoot, holler, laugh in derision, get all indignant. All their emotional energy went into that image on that television. And I thought it was normal at the time; I realize that by putting all that emotion towards HIM it was a way of avoiding emotional connection with US. I suspect I have even repeated the cycle a time or two, not with energy towards politicians at the expense of my kids but maybe with a total absorption with what happens here. And that has been a higher priority than what went on in their little hearts.
Or even, even this. Some of you here sabotage your relationships, sabotage your contentment because deep down – below the level of feeling or awareness! – you don’t feel you deserve it. As if you’re not good enough for happiness, so let’s blow it. A choice between the contentment of 46:10 and the chaos of 1-9 and without knowing what we’re doing, we choose chaos because we find calm deeply, profoundly uncomfortable. When it’s calm it’s much harder to complain. And some of us simply cannot be happy unless we have something to be unhappy about. It’s why we ruin what’s good and embrace what harms. Some of us aren’t at peace until we’re in a crisis and – get this – if we’re not in one, we’ll create one! It’s why some of you married the wrong guy. Why others of you date the wrong girl. Why you drink the wrong drink. Why you confront the wrong sin. Why you create drama where none exists. Most of our disobedience to 46:10 isn’t intentional, but it is inevitable.
Some of you are even living in the middle of what’s called “emotional terrorism.” You know what that is? It’s when someone is so unhappy that they won’t be happy until everyone around them is as unhappy as they are. So deeply discontent that in a bizarre way they’ll only find contentment by spreading discontentment. And some of you just now realize, in a moment of sad clarity: that’s who raised you. Others have figured out: that’s who you married. And then a few of you had the light bulb go one: THAT’S WHAT I DO. Oh my gosh, that’s how I interact at work, at home, and even in my LifeGroup at church. It’s the ultimate choice of 46:1-9 over 46:10 – you live that chaos so much you just can help but spread it around. Gulp.
And throughout all these choices that most of you didn’t know you were choosing, you know what this does to our God connection? We NEED God. If we’re in a mess, if we need a fix, if we chased down someone else’s crisis and made it on our own, we NEED God. In fact, that’s the basis of our relationship with him. He is our rescue, our go-to, we feel most faithful when we are at our most urgent. If we make a mess of our lives, if someone else makes a mess of them, if we’re victim, villain, or even saboteur, we need God’s help. God is useful. And that’s fine. That’s good. God is OK with that. In fact, I am certain there are times when God allows that kind of situation because it makes you turn to him. It’s good.
But it’s not best. And it most decidedly is not Psalm 46:10. Because does Psalm 46:10 say BE STILL AND NEED ME YOUR GOD? Nope! It says something thoroughly different: BE STILL and KNOW. Know him not just in adversity but even more intimately when you are in prosperity. He wants us to bring the same level of desperation at KNOWING HIM when things are good as when they are not. Can you trust him desperately when the marriage is good? When the kids are healthy? When the bank account is full? When you get the promotion? Everyone gives God their layoff. I think he’s looking for people who use their PROMOTION as a reason to know him better and trust him more.
You know why all this is frightening? Because when you live in 46:1-9 you get God to work on your PROBLEMS. When you live 46:10 as both pretty AND obeyed, you get him to work on YOU. Whoa. And that’s hard. But liberating. But it leads to this thing I’ve been so eager to tell you might just be the missing piece to your missing peace: God would rather you KNOW him than NEED him. Needing him is good. Knowing him is so much better. It’s enjoying God, it’s delighting in his goodness. It’s celebrating your lostness without him and your saved-ness in him. It’s this prayer that I wrote that I later called PREACHER’S DELIGHT: READ AND AV.
I TAKE DELIGHT IN …
THE LORD’S MASSIVE TINY-NESS
PROTECTION FROM MY WORST INSTINCTS AND EVEN MY MOST DESERVED CONSEQUENCES
Let THAT, let THOSE fire my brain and fuel my thinking.
God would rather you KNOW him than NEED him.
Do that. Rest in that. Rebuke your tendency to love the chaos more than the calm. Have the self-awareness to name that and leave that. And then, and then Psalm 46:10 will be the prettiest AND the obediest, the most beautiful and the most accepted verse in Scripture. And you’ll have the missing piece to your missing peace.
Close with acoustic music and prayer team up during song, prayers for healing as part of it.