Are you unhappy with the church? Are you disappointed in the worship? Have you gotten to the point where you just attend once in a while? When you try to motivate yourself to come, does the whole process feel like sheer drudgery? And when you are here, do the lessons seem kind of boring? Has the Lord’s Supper lost some of its flavour? Do brethren appear to ignore you? And have you started wondering how many things you could buy with the money you put in the contribution?
Cheer up! You’re not the only one who has ever felt this way. One of the most spiritual men of all time, “man after His [God’s] own heart” (1 Sam 13:14), also once lost the enthusiasm that he had formerly possessed in his love and service of God. In Psalm 51:12, he prayed to God, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.”
David did that? Yes, David, conqueror of giants and author of the most devotional literature in the Old Testament, reached a point in his life where he could no longer feel close to the God he loved. What could have happened to such a devout man, to have caused him to depart from his Creator?
The same thing that hindered him is working on you, if you fall into this category—sin! David wrote Psalm 51 after Nathan rebuked him for his sin with Bathsheba. “Now wait just a minute,” you say, “I certainly haven’t done anything like David did. I may have my faults—but nothing that serious.” Good. But it’s not the specific sin of adultery—or the follow-up sin of murder—that is under discussion. The point is that when a person can not be happy or content in his relationship to God (or the church over which Jesus is head), then something is wrong, and that something involves sin. Salvation in Christ is the greatest source for elation that exists in this world. Misery cannot
accompany a person walking in the light (1 John 1:7), nor can it dominate the Christian who maintains his faith in God. Even persecution cannot make us sorrowful. Those in Thessalonica “received the word in much affliction” -yet “with joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess 1:6).
Only sin in some form can rob of us of the joy that is ours. David was keenly conscious of the effects that sin had upon him. “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me” (Psa 51:3). He had chosen to sin, knowing that what he was doing was wrong. Any time we choose to sin, we know it is going to affect our relationship with God.
“BUT SIN IS NOT MY PROBLEM”
“Well, sure,” you say, “My problem is not sin; it’s just that I feel listless and lackluster about attending worship. Perhaps if the sermons were shorter, the singing was more inspiring, and we had a few plays…” Sorry, but the problem is still sin. Anyone who is bored, listless, and lackluster ought to begin to think, “Maybe the problem is me” – instead of fixing the blame on everyone else. Perhaps the problem is not being conscious of sins that are not-so obvious and well-recognized as adultery, stealing, etc. Sins like PROSPERITY. Are you absorbed with THINGS? No? Of course, we would all deny it. But really think about it. Compare yourself to what people in other countries have. Are we not just slightly slanted in the direction of materialism? It is still true that a person’s “life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15).
The church and its worship may not seem exciting to us when most of our life is spent among the tangibles. Spiritual truths have never seemed to inflame God’s people, but they should; they are of greater substance and duration than those things of a physical nature. And the physical never satisfies; that’s why we’re always on the lookout for a bigger and more exciting “toy.” Forgiveness of sins, peace of mind, and eternal life do not seem to compare favourably with the short-term enjoyment of physical things.
Returning to Psalm 51, we find several suggestions to improve one’s spiritual condition. The first is to acknowledge
transgressions (V3). Unless we see the sin in our life and take responsibility for it, we cannot overcome it. David acknowledged his transgressions (V1), his iniquity (V2), his sin (V2), and the evil he had done (V4). He also expressed a strong desire to be right with God, but he knew that only God could help him out of the ungodly position he was in:
– “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity” (V2):
– “Cleanse me from my sin” (V2);
– “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean” (V7);
– “Was me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (V7);
– “Created in me a clean heart, O God” (V10);
– “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God” (V14)
David was aware that he could not undo what he had done; he knew there was no way to atone for his sins. This he cries out, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies” (V1) David knew that the only thing that prevails with God is genuine repentance. “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (V17). Since this relationship is between the individual and God, it cannot be faked—except by self-delusion.
If you need the joy of your salvation restored, ask yourself, “Have I been praying as I once did? Have I been reading and studying the Word of God as I did formerly: What has been the emphasis in my life?” If your love and zeal for God have cooled, take responsibility for your actions. Call upon God as David did; call upon God to renew you. Then you will not only be right with God– but useful once again (V13).