Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"One Thing I Ask"

One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple (Psalm 27: 4).

You will fill me with joy in your presence (Psalm 16: 11).

If you were to ask one thing of God, what would it be?

Take your time. You’ve got one shot. We’ve all played some version of the three wishes game, but the stakes are much higher here. With God we don’t make wishes, we make petitions. And following the example of the Psalmist, we’re tying to determine the one thing we’re seeking most from God.

“One thing I ask . . . this is what I seek.”

Are you aching for answers to things you simply can’t understand? Would faith come easier if you could just get some kind of explanation for the tragedy that took someone you loved . . . a short list of reasons why some people are starving while others are glutted on affluence . . . some sliver of insight into God’s will and purposes and why the life you have looks nothing like the one you used to dream of?

We’ve observed this week that the Psalms are full of questions. Hard questions. Sometimes a few answers would be nice. But is that really what we seek above all else?

Maybe you don’t want to ask about something, you want to ask God for something. Not something silly like a new car – but something that could profoundly change your life. Maybe you would ask God for a mate. You might ask God to stop the pain in your body that persists day after day and keeps you awake most nights. In these days, it might be a job – not for the money, but for the sense of waking up and having something to do that makes a difference in the world.

All of these could easily be the “one thing” we ask of the Lord. But none of those things are what we hear in Psalm 27:4. The Psalmist isn’t looking for answers and explanations and insights. The Psalmist isn’t asking for some thing that life is lacking.

The one thing that places at the top of the list, above anything and everything else, is more of God: Dwelling in God’s presence, beholding God’s beauty. The Psalmist’s greatest desire is nothing less than God’s presence.

Psalm 16:11 helps us understand that request. In God’s presence is fullness of joy and eternal pleasures. In other words, when you have God, you’ve got it all.

To seek God more than anything else doesn’t do away with our hard questions. But in our struggles to understand how life works we will be satisfied in the holy presence.

To seek God above all else doesn’t mean we no longer think about having meaningful work or getting married or being free of illness – but we know that those things can never really satisfy our souls like God can. There’s no substitute for God.

Now back to where we started. Back to the most important question we’ve considered all week long. What one thing are you asking of God today?

The Psalmist prayed, “Whom have I in heaven but you, and earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25). I struggle to pray those words, O Lord. My desires are pulled in so many directions and I am too often dissatisfied when I get what I think I want. Heal the desires of my heart so that my one great desire is to know you better and live fully in your presence. Amen.

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