This week we are basing ourselves in the chapter ‘Spiritual Freshness’ from Vaughan Roberts book Battles Christians Face. The big idea of the chapter is the battles we as Christians face to remain fresh or vibrant in our faith. It seems like a strange one, especially in light of the last few weeks where you have been looking at battles such as Image, Doubt and Guilt. All of those are real continuous struggles in the faith. They may not be surface issues but we all struggle with them. When we hear “Spiritual Tiredness” our mind probably asks ‘Is that really something that I have to battle?’.
I am going, to be honest and tell you that I have realised in the past two years that this has been the biggest challenge of my faith and life. Ironically, I am training for the ministry. In this season of life I have a lot of spiritual things; Bible readings, sermons, prayer and even small groups. However, what I have come to realise is that having those things and doing those things does not necessitate spiritual freshness. First and foremost, Spiritual Freshness is a heart issue and then a desire issue. We become tired: When we try to earn grace rather than rest in it.
For me personally, in my own life and study the battle was primarily a question of desire and then choice. It was the difference between had and Want. There are things and college I had to do, that did not mean I wanted to do them. As we will see in the Psalm we are looking at I was not first desiring God and then delighting in him, I was simply performing as I thought I had to. Over time, God spoke and challenged me to desire to be in his Presence and to delight in who he was regardless of circumstance or feeling – to be able to know that his love is better than life. We see in the actions and heart of the women who washes the feet of Jesus her freshness comes not just from knowing Jesus but loving him like no other. Vaughan Suggests six disciplines that will help maintain spiritual freshness and love Christ more than life itself:
- Keep an Open Bible
- Be Ruthless with Sin
- Think Much of Jesus
- Pray Often
- Make the Most of Other Christians
- Make Quiet Time Often:
Psalm 63: Desiring and Delighting in God
Psalm 63 stands out among the other 149 as one of absolute devotion and adoration: It is the ultimate picture of Spiritual Freshness because as we look at the setting and context we see that the devotion and sense of God’s presence is not dependant on circumstance. We see the correlation between confidence in who God is and intimacy with God: Three times David uses the phrase ‘My Soul’ (1,5,8). Furthermore, we see that for David and those whom had faith in Yahweh the highest privilege they could enjoy would be as welcome members of the worshipping community at God’s Temple, Yet David knew God was not bound to his sanctuary: The devotion in this psalm is assured anticipation in God and his authority. That God will have his way, and those who would oppose it will be silenced in judgment (9-11) and those who seek God’s will shall be vindicated and know pure Joy. In this Psalm we see both a picture of Spiritual Freshness and some of the means to remain as such, So Let’s look at the context:
Understanding the Context of this Psalm
David is not writing from the balcony of the palace as he marvels at the wonder of who God is. He is not delighting in God’s Love when life is easy. The title of the Psalm infers David was writing at a time when he was on the run – a refugee. It is not immediately clear whether it was when he was fleeing from Saul or Absalom. The secondary time seems the most likely when you consider that David refers to himself as king. Furthermore, as one Scholar points out the faith and confidence seen in this Psalm is also present in the scripture that describes the Absalom incident:
Then the king said to Zadok, “Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favour in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again.
This is a Psalm of true Intimacy with God – Spiritual Freshness – written when things are not easy. It is a Psalm that Teaches us the Intimacy with God is not dependant on circumstance, nor defined by it. Rather, our relationship with God defines every circumstance. It is with the confidence that comes from the Cross of Christ, that allows us to speak with confidence that God’s love is better than life regardless of the circumstance we find ourselves in.
At times, God will withdraw his presence from us to remind us of our dependency. Thus, in spiritually dry our desire for God should match the desires for the substances of life. Remember the setting: David is a Refugee and does not know the abundance of the palace he lacks the basic necessities of water and food. Yet. he desires God more than he desires anything else and knows that remaining in Intimacy with God will be richer and better for him that the best of food.
God as the Desire of our Lives (1-4)
The Longing within these verses is not that of someone who is strange from God seeking him, nor, this is not the cry of a non-believer seeking the presence of God for the first-time. This is the cry of someone who has known intimacy and presence and is close to God even though He feels far away. This is the eagerness experience in deep friendship; think of David and Jonathon. Sometimes we feel that if our faith is real it has to move beyond simple language and expression. To impress God or our brothers and sisters in Christ that the theological constructs of our prayers should be greater and our the imagery in our language Grander. Rubbish, we are not called to pray in KJV English, we are simply called to pray with sincerity, see the simplicity and confidence of David’s faith in the first few verses:
Verses One & Two
The cry of verse one is simple and beautiful, it captures David’s faith and heart. The KJV better captures the intimacy of the cry with the tender and close “Thou Art my God!” What a beautiful picture that in a period of desolation. David gets the basic’s right and then everything else flows from it. This declaration is the cornerstone for the whole Psalm; Not only that, it is the cornerstone of all faith in God. From the first time cry of the sinner who stand at the foot of the cross; to the believer who knows no other prayer in weeping; to those of us today who feel spiritually tired – battle wearing – this must be the focus of our mind and the cry of our hearts:
“Oh, God You are My God.”
This cry is both a declaration of who God is and a desire for more of him: There is a seeking of God in the second half of the first verse. Interestingly the verse could be translated as an early seeking of God: That God was the first thing on David’s mind when he awoke. The strength of the desire is aided even more by the context. The Picture: His body is longing for the very elements it needs to live, yet, his desire for the presence of God is greater than any desire of the flesh. His desire for spiritual freshness is greater than any desire of the flesh.
The Imagery and longing is further extended in v2 where we are presented with happy memory of worship in God’s Temple. There he beheld the glory and power of God yet he knows with confidence that he can worship and experience in the same way alone in the wilderness. Thus, God will reveal himself and is no prisoner building. What David seems to miss is not simply God’s presence but his Glory as revealed in the gathered community of believer who worship. He misses the public-worship of God with the gathered people in the Temple. It was important to David to make the most of other believers and his longs for the Glory and Presence of God as revealed in the Community of God. The question and challenge for us then are we seeking God In the quiet times? Do we value and long for Christian community in the same way as David?
If v1&2 are the desire, then verse 3 is the why and verse 4 is the result. In v3 David declares that God’s love is better than anything this life can offer. Thus, the present expectation of verse one that was given content in the past-longings in verse two find confident expectation in the actions in verses three and four. Lips that will sing blessing and praise for as long as they are able. Furthermore, he will give his body a share in the expression of Worship: The act of raising Hands was either an act of Worship and Supplication (prayer) which is why the New Living Translation would translate this verse with a sense of prayer. The inward reality of the love of God finds outward expression through both singing and physical action that would symbolise Prayer. The question and challenge for us then is can we speak the same truth around the love of God in our own lives? Do we know God’s love and the joy that comes with it or what things of this world are we trying to find satisfaction in? Then, Do our faith know the same joy and expression?
Within these four verses we see some of the principles that the book as important to act upon in the seeking of remaining or finding spiritual freshness. David thinks much of who God is and what he has done for him, in the same way we are to think Much of Christ. Secondly, there is longing for Public worship in the sanctuary and in the same way we are challenged to make the most of being with other believers. Thirdly there is the act of pray, of the lifting of hands towards Heaven to call upon the name of the Lord (NRSV) because God’s love is better than life itself. There is also the use of Quiet time, as David would seek God first thing in the morning, before any distractions of this world.
Dependant on God as the Delight of our Lives ( 5-8)
To remain spiritual fresh, we must delight in God: We must build our identity in him. Life in Christ is not a chore it is the supreme purpose of human existence and we must continuingly seek the satisfaction that with comes with being a child of God: This new stanza sees the faith, persistence and desire of verses 1-4 meet in fulfilment. The cry of a thirsty soul has now changed to the singing of a satisfied. The next three verse are the outworking of that.
We see this in verse 5, where David declares that his soul is satisfied as if he had been feasting on the finest of foods. The praise is now exuberant in its outworking. Such is the satisfaction of God that the imagery of singing lips is repeated. David will praise God because he is satisfied in him, not forgetting God because he is content but remembering him more because contentment is found in God.
As this section progresses in verse 6 we see a different type of satisfaction: The phrase ‘Watches of the Night’ to the Jewish reader, instils a sense of the slowest passing of the hours. It is one of those nights where you cannot sleep. What does David do when he longs to sleep? He overpowers the longings with the only thing that can satify more – God. He is able to mediate on God, because he knows him and his word. We are implored to have an open bible and know scripture. The question: Is our Bible open? When our mid wonders can we recall scripture that helps? Are we satisfied in God alone?
Here we see that God is both our helper and protector. It is from that place of security that no matter what David may be facing he is able to sing the praises of God because he knows that God is for him. This is a picture of intimacy and trust in what God will do. It is a vibrancy of faith that is not dependant on circumstance. The praise and assurance are a result of knowing God – of Spiritual Freshness. In v7 we saint a picture of spirit-empowered perseverance using the word cling. It is a word that paint a picture of martial devotion and is used in Deuteronomy as loyalty to Yahweh. Thus, David is saying:” “Like a wife clings to a husband so to shall I cling to God.” The KJV and older translations capture this poetry better and add to the sense of what is going on here. This is not a climber clinging to a ledge on a cliff it is an active and passionate clinging in the sense continuous desire for God: David pursued God and his presence, in the same way that if we desire Spiritual Freshness then we desire more of God. It is also a picture of Grace, because it is God who makes this possible. It is the right hand – the stronger one – which holds us fast as Christians in his presence and enables us to pursue more of him. What then in our lives are we clinging to more than God, what do we find ourselves in rather than in Yahweh?
God as the Ultimate Defence in our Lives (9-11)
Enemies and evil are present in most of David’s Psalms and here to yet they have remained until the end. It is as if David has been so lost in the presence and wonder of God that he has forgotten his circumstance and the very reason why he is on the run. However, what we learn is that the Love of God is not abstract from circumstance: It is real and present. The shadow cast by those who pursue him shows us the depth of the Kings faith and its firm foundation. We see a different attribute of God’s love: Justice. God’s love for David will make all things right because David is seeking the lord. Whereas those who oppose the Lord will descend to hell and will be torn apart by jackals. A picture that give us the image that those who oppose God plans are the lowest of the low and have been rejected by all beasts but the lowest – wild dogs.
David’s confidence here then is double-edged, he is confidence in the truth that God will prevail against those who would oppose him (and God he is the Anointed King) moreover, he is confident that those who remain faithful to God’s will exult because God’s always has his way. The Liars who speak falsely of God and his plans will be silenced. The truth for us today is that we follow an heir of the house of David in King Jesus and at times it must feel like we are on a losing side. But the result will be the same! Do we know God as Defender and Trust that he is sovereign no matter what?
Conclusion and Application
What a beautiful Psalm this is. We see something of who God is and what he offers us by his own choice. It is a passage that speaks to the heart of what we have been thinking about this evening in terms of the battle for ‘spiritual freshness.’ As we reflect on what this Psalm teaches us we can see that we must pursue and remain in God’s presence and rest know God enables us so to do. We see several of the very things that Vaughan would suggest we do to keep spiritual fresh. The challenge then for us today is to through the work of the Holy Spirit, learn from this Psalm and put into practices the attitude and actions of David so that we to find ourselves delighting in a love of God regardless of circumstance.
What is your faith like at the minute? Are you aware of the presence of God in your life and the Holy Spirit who is working in you to make you more like Christ. Our desire must act as our litmus test. Are we seeking God first and do we have quiet time (in the morning v1) or at those moments that we are struggling to sleep or focus (mediating on God in the watches of the night) Are we keeping an open bible? Do we know that it is his word that speaks to us? Are we ruthless with Sin? In confession, we find Grace. Do we think much of God/Christ and reminding ourselves of the reality of the cross? Are we satisfied in God so that he can and will be Glorified in us. Finally, what is our heart towards community and Prayer? Are we passionate about being with God’s people whether its July or December, or would we rather head up to the caravan?
Lord Jesus When You Meet the women at the well, you told her what she was looking for in male affection could be found only in you and the eternal life you gave. Let us realise that our longings for professional success, social acceptance and even family affection are function in the same way. Renew in us that Love which is better than life itself. Furthermore, We Praise you as the God who satiates. Teach us all how to praise you with such joy and wonder and love as King David did. That when we are finished we feel full and satisfied in you. We ask that you teach us how to cling to you in prayer with such tenacity that when we are finished we feel utterly safe. Finally, Lord We Praise you not just as our king but as our Father. We as Children of a royal sovereign are also Royal! All the language of your rule and reign and us as part of it may stagger us and confuse us but help us to grasp in enough that we are dependant and confidence in you and not requiring the approval of others. In Jesus name, Amen.
 (Luke 7: 36-50)
 1 Samuel 23:14-15, 24:1
 2 Samuel 15:23, 28
 Psalms by A. F. Kirkpatrick (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, CUP), 1891–1901.
 2 Samuel 15:25
 Psalms 63:1
 Psalm 63:5-6
 Christian understanding, someone who has come to faith and the Holy Spirit Dwells in them.
 Similarto the thinking and Imagery in Psalm 130:6 or
 Genesis 2:24: Where the man shall leave his mother and cling fast to his wife. This is derived from the same base.
 Deut 10:20 -you shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear.
 To show and feel jubilation and triumph
 God is most Glrofieid in us when we re most satifsed in him
 Prayer based on prayers from: Timothy Keller & Kathy Keller, My Rock My Refuge: A Year of Daily Devotionals in the Psalms. (Hodder & Stoughton: London, 2015) 134-136.