“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, Who forgives all your iniquity, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, Who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:1-5 ESV).
Sure signs of truly experiencing God are a heightened appreciation of the holy, a deeper delight in worship, a graver regard for the burdens and sufferings of others, and a diminished sense of our own self-importance. In fact, as the awareness of the beautiful presence of God washes over us, our sensibilities are shaken and challenged: those things that we have esteemed in the past are measured anew against the Person of Jesus Christ. If our worldly loves have disproportionately absorbed or commandeered the expressions of our devotion (e.g., our time, our resources, or even our attitudes), we must pause to reconsider our priorities. On the one hand, we may choose to either continue on in life as we always have, His holiness and mercy ricocheting off us like bullets from Superman’s chest. If so, then we become calloused to further blessings from God and a little deader in our hearts than before.
But perhaps we choose instead to realign our attitudes, ambitions, actions, and activities with the truth that He has shown us through His Word and in so doing, open the way for God to disclose Himself to us in new ways and pour out upon us new opportunities to bring glory to His name.
“Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! You have multiplied, O LORD my God, Your wondrous deeds and Your thoughts toward us; none can compare with You! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told…. I desire to do Your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart. I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as You know, O LORD. I have not hidden Your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness from the great congregation” (Psalm 40:4-5, 8-10 ESV).
The supreme barometer for whether or not Christ is truly Lord and Savior of our hearts is our inclination to yield to His authority (direct or implied) in our life choices. Thus, the greatest measuring tool for discerning the depth of your spirituality is obedience to Jesus’ will and Word. When God’s Word says something in regard to the “rightness” or “wrongness” of something in your life, how you choose to respond to it will reveal to you whether or not He is your king and whether or not you are truly experiencing Him in your life.
“Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the LORD for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things” (Psalm 107:2-9 ESV).
Has God ever given you nourishment and strength, physically or spiritually? Has He ever refreshed your life with zeal, excitement, and a renewed sense of purpose and worth? If so, are you living life that expresses gratitude to God? Does your commitment to serve Him and to bear fruit in His kingdom cry out thankfulness and passion to please Him?
“Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. So He bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. Let them thank the LORD for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of men! For He shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron” (Psalm 107:10-16 ESV).
Have you ever faced a darkness of discouragement and despair in life, only to finally see the light of His love and majesty? Have you ever been blinded by the fogs of doubt and disillusionment, only to have the fresh air of His love blow them away into the nothingness that they really are? If He has, why then would you withhold from Him an offering of praise and adoration? If you have truly been set free from the power and penalty of sin, how does your character and countenance portray your heart’s desire to please and honor God?
“Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He sent out His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Let them thank the LORD for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of men! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His deeds in songs of joy!” (Psalm 107:17-22 ESV).
Does it take calamity or loss to soften our hearts to embrace His loving lordship? Too often it does. For example, how often do we, the moment we get heavy burdens lifted from our shoulders through answered prayer, go back to our old ways of life or former patterns of thinking and choosing? Do we sometimes go to church meetings on Sundays to get a spiritually charged “good feeling”, but then on Mondays, resume our old ways of doing things and assume again our former roles in our circles of influence and acquaintance? If so, then the unimaginable brilliance of God’s holiness seems to not have broken through the cloud cover of our busy, busy minds. We’re still what we once were.
But if we recognize the fact of His presence, embrace His love, and fall down on our knees yielding our will and ways to His kingly authority, we rise up and set our hands and minds to tasks that matter to Him, and forgo the glory and comfort we once sought for ourselves. We really are new creations. We really are servants of the Living God.
“He raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks. The upright see it and are glad, and all wickedness shuts its mouth. Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD” (Psalm 107:41-43 ESV).
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 23 years. He is the author of “The Fairy Tale Parables,” “Crimson Harvest,” and “A Heart at Home with God.” He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at [email protected]).