Occasionally I will read a passage and it resonates with me so deeply I rehearse the words over and over again for days. This past week, Psalm 33 has been that passage for me. The psalm is a patchwork of praise and prompting, reminding us of God’s great power and the grace He gives to those who trust Him. The following verses have especially captured my thinking:
The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. – Psalm 33:16-19
During this week of celebration of American independence, I am struck by the paradox these verses present to the American Christian. American’s are known for their stubborn tenacity. We are pioneers. We are taught from a young age to persevere in the midst of difficulty to achieve our goals and dreams. Unfortunately, American Christians tend to bring that same determination into their faith. Instead of a deep dependence on God, we tend to only turn to God when all else fails. Instead of a fluid relationship, we substitute a false religion. We look at our abilities and in comparison trust and reliance seem counter-intuitive. I often wonder if we don’t appear to God as toddling children declaring, “I do it myself.”
What seems so natural to us is the exact opposite of what God desires for His children. The Psalmist reminds us of the futility of relying on our own strength and resources instead of on God’s unlimited supply of both by using battle imagery. In today’s world we might substitute armies for teams, warriors for players, and horses for pigskins. In fact, the underdog stories are the ones we enjoy hearing the most aren’t they? Why is that? Our hearts resonate with the underdog because they have overcome impossible odds to reach victory. They give us hope and excite our imaginations. We all have had our moments of feeling like David facing Goliath and we are encouraged that the mighty warrior can indeed be defeated.
The Psalmist understood that the Christian’s strength comes from a source outside of ourselves. Instead of building a bigger army, trying harder, and trusting in our strengths, our victory is centered in the fear of God. Our humility and hope in God’s love, strength, and help is what will deliver us in our dark hours. Our dependence on God is also what will draw others to Him as we navigate through this life as salt and light to our generation. It’s time to lose our religion and enter into real relationship with Jesus.
My pastor, Brian Norris, has touched on this theme the past two weeks in his sermon series “Losing Your Religion.” I encourage you to take some time to listen as you go about your day and be encouraged in the intimate, personal God that desires real relationship with His children.
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