When was the last time you were in awe of anything? Maybe it was your first time at a place you hold dear? The first time you held your child? The first time you saw your spouse? Recently, my wife and I took our children to Disney World. This was the first time for our youngest daughter Maggie and it showed. Throughout the trip, I saw in her face a sense of wonder and awe. The castle, the fireworks, and the rides made her expressive in ways we don’t always see around the house in our daily routine. I cherish the moments (as I have with my older children) when she was finally introduced to things that “blew her mind.”
As I was putting together my preaching plan for 2019, I kept coming back to one idea that seemed so necessary. As a point of reference, I try my best to preach to the needs of the congregation each year. I try to keep the message relevant, yet consistent with the eternal truth of God’s Word. I try to find a careful balance between “what we know” and “where we need to be.” This year, as I studied, prayed, and thought about our congregation and the state of Christianity as a whole, I kept thinking, we’ve lost our awe of God.
I don’t want you to think I believe every Christian considers God to be common, but I do believe many have confined Him to ordinary status. He’s nothing more than another appointment or another bill or another responsibility. He slides in nicely alongside PTA meetings, basketball practice, and our Friday night tradition of pizza and a movie. I truly believe that we have cheapened the wonder of God in an effort to make our relationship with Him more palatable and convenient.
Rest assured, I take my responsibility for that problem. I often find myself failing to appreciate all God has done in my prayer life and in my work with the Church. Unfortunately, many of us fall into a rut that puts our faith alongside common tasks. When that happens and our faith becomes a job, instead of a fundamental part of who we are, then the awesomeness of God can easily be replaced with the resentment of a boss or even a bill collector. I know must do better, but I truly believe I’m not alone in that sentiment.
One Christian author I greatly respect is Paul David Tripp. In his book, Awe, he wrote something that really caught my attention. Much like my shameful admissions earlier, he said:
I wrote this book for me because I am aware that I need to spend more time gazing upon the beauty of the Lord. I need to put my heart in a place where it can once again be in awe of the grandeur of God that reaches far beyond the bounds of the most expressive words in the human vocabulary. I need awe of Him to recapture, refocus, and redirect my heart again and again. And I need to remember that the war for the awe of my heart still wages inside me.¹
“Amen,” a thousand times over and again!
If we’re honest with ourselves, the one thing God is fundamentally worthy of, it’s our awe and wonder. He is worthy of it before our devotion or even our gratitude. Psalm 33:8,9 says:
Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.
When He made our world, when He sent His Son to die on the cross, and as He sustains and blesses us every day, God is worthy of our awe. We should literally stand in wonder of Him with every breath and every thought. I was recently listening to a sermon on this subject and heard the preacher say, “wonder requires a sensitivity of what God is doing around us.”² That lack of awareness is undermining the very faith we hold in the One we serve. It’s cheapening our knowledge, love, and respect of who He genuinely is!
I believe the greatest scene in all of Scripture to explain what that awareness should look like is Exodus 3:4-5. The story there is one most people know. Moses, at the burning bush, comes in contact with God in a way unlike any before or since. Notice in the passage below:
God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”And he said, “Here I am.” Then the Lord said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”
When Moses heard the Word of God and saw the power of God, he took off his shoes as a sign of respect. In the presence of God, Moses was in awe. While none of us see God in that way today, we still need to recognize a fundamental idea that’s still true – we live on holy ground because we’re in God’s presence every single moment of our life. To fix the problem we have in making God common, we need to “take our shoes off,” and bow in honor. For anyone wondering why that might be necessary, I’d simply point you to Psalm 139:7-12:
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.
I want each of us to live in awe of God and wonder at His works, commands, and benevolence. I truly believe when that happens, we’ll be ready for His appearance. I want to live in awe and I want to let go of this world to embrace the world to come. I want to stop praising the common and bow in honor and awe at the only being that is uncommon. I want the members of my congregation and all I get to teach to see God’s splendor and react accordingly. That’s why I plan to interweave throughout my lessons the message of 1 Chronicles 16:11-12 this year. There, in a psalm of praise following the Ark of the Covenant’s delivery to Jerusalem, David penned the following words:
Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face evermore! Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth.
May we be renewed this year by the wonders of God and may we all stand in awe of who He is and what He’s done. There’s nothing common, mundane, or ordinary about it.
¹ Paul David Tripp, Awe, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 12.
All Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.