Everyone experiences ‘mountaintop moments’ in their spiritual lives. These are times when we feel close to God; we expect Him to move. Our faith is engaged. When we are in the midst of a mountaintop moment, we FEEL God’s presence surrounding us. Moses experienced a literal mountaintop moment when he received the law from God on behalf of the Israelites (Exodus 24:12-18).
Sitting on a mountain in prayer for forty days and forty nights is something you can only accomplish in the Faith Zone! Moses was literally surrounded by God’s presence, like a cloud. Undeniable.
When we are in the midst of a mountaintop moment, God’s presence, His existence, is undeniable. He is near; we are undeniably WITH the Almighty and He with us. For me, typically, these moments have happened for me on the cusp of big changes in my life. When I have felt lost or unsure, God has guided me.
The reality is that God’s presence has never left me since I invited Him into my life, so why is it in times of trial or confusion that His presence is most obvious to me? Because, when we have big choices to make, or face situations that we can’t handle, is when we seek God most desperately.
Psalm 63 was written at a time when David was desperately seeking God. As opposed to a mountain-top moment, David was alone in a desert wilderness. He was the King, but he was fleeing his son Absolom, who wanted to kill him over a whole other family drama.
The psalms are songs of worship. Although David was surrounded by desert, he didn’t praise like a man in the desert. He praised as if he was climbing a mountain, to encounter the very presence of God. His circumstances pulled him towards despair, but his heart went the opposite way: to hope, to God.
You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
David’s worship prayer doesn’t ignore the fact that he’s in a desert, “a dry and parched land where there is no water”, he just doesn’t allow his situation to be the defining factor on whether or not he encounters God. David knew something that we all need to remember: God is the source of all life. Without God sustaining him, the desert would get the better of him. As long as God is with us, there is hope.
Although he FELT far from God, David still praised Him.
“Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.”
Psalm 63: 3
Alone in a desert, under threat of death from his own family, David prayed “your love is better than life”! Why was David able to understand God’s goodness in the midst of a trial?
Because He had experienced it: I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and glory. Psalm 63:2
An experience is so much more powerful than a story. David wasn’t clinging to the stories in an ancient book. He wasn’t worshiping a concept. He wasn’t following a set of rules. He had experienced God – his power and his glory. His love, better than life!To sustain our faith between mountain-top moments we need to experience God. How though?
Firstly, by seeking Him. I remember, as a child losing a precious possession (usually a puppy from a puppy surprise toy) and going to my mother to see if she could magically make it appear. She always said “where did you last see it?” and sent me retracing my steps. Infuriating, but reading this psalm, I see the value.
When you lose something, you go back to where you last had it. Now, David had not lost God (God is very hard to lose, one does not simply misplace the creator of the universe). What David had lost was the feeling of closeness with God.
Feelings don’t always reflect truth. Our feelings are affected by so many things that God is unaffected by: our health, other people, the weather, finances, videos of cute animals on the internet, the news.I could go on all day about things that I’ve cried about in the last week that do not change the goodness of God one little bit. But I won’t.
“Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
“He remembered us in our weakness.
His faithful love endures forever.
He saved us from our enemies.
His faithful love endures forever.
He gives food to every living thing.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His faithful love endures forever.”
You haven’t lost God because you FEEL distant from Him. You may have just lost the feeling of closeness, so like my mother, probably your mother and every other mother said: go back to where you last had it. Go back to a passage of scripture that deeply impacted you. Re-read your old journals. Listen to a song that led you to the presence of God before. Go to the altar, let someone prophesy over you. Sit in your favourite place and just LISTEN for His voice
Go back to where you experienced Him in the past. For David, it’s the sanctuary.
You will ALWAYS find life in scripture. When you seek God in His Word, you will ALWAYS find a fresh, God-breathed word for today.
I love all who love me. Those who search will surely find me. Proverbs 8:17
To experience God in the desert, we must SEEK HIM.
On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.
Secondly, David committed to remembering God, even in his darkest hour. Times of darkness will come. We cannot live on the mountaintop. Our commission is to go into the darkness to bring the light. Dark times are part of this abundant life that Jesus promised us. He didn’t say, I have come that they might experience comfort and happiness at all times. He said “I have come that they might have life and have it in all its fullness”. (John 10:10)
It’s the habits that we build in the light that sustain us through the darkness. We need a reservoir of revelation.
My best friend and I live in different states now. We both have small children and are involved in our churches. Plus she is literally the most disorganised person I know. Sometimes, I don’t hear from her for months at a time.
BUT, I never doubt that she loves me.I don’t doubt she is still my friend just because I haven’t heard her voice for awhile. Why? Because of the fight we had after I laughed at her for walking into the boys toilets in grade 7. Because of the legendary practical jokes we played on our teachers at the end of grade 10. Because when I used to argue with my sister and storm out of my house I would go to hers. I could go on and on and on. I don’t doubt her, because we have years, decades of shared history. A couple of months of silence will never change our history. It’s the same with God.
I may feel as though He is silent, but when I open the Bible, the truth is still there. There are still thousands of years’ worth His love. It is still life-changing. I may feel as if He is distant, but I still remember the night at a Connect group run by ill-equipped but enthusiastic 14 year old, that I decided to take a risk on Jesus. I still remember praying for a woman in the Philippines, whose heart was failing, and seeing the colour come back into her face and hear her praise God without pain for the first time in months. I still remember seeing God move in my school when I was in year 11 and 12 at a public school and seeing three people praying once a week at lunchtime turn into a group of 80 running a service at lunchtime. I remember being called into the principal’s office to be told I was doing a great job but could I please stop because too many people were getting saved.
I remember God coming through. Again and again. When I am in the darkness, I remember what I saw in the light. That’s what it means to testify. That’s why David was able to praise in the desert.
A reservoir of revelation.
A mature faith doesn’t rely on every moment to be a mountaintop, because, if there were no valleys, there would be no mountains either. That’s geography, but it’s also life in abundance.
I cling to you, your right hand upholds me.
We often hear of people who’ve been able to just hold on: hold on to hope against the odds, that sort of thing. David takes it a step further; he clings. What’s the difference between holding on to God, and CLINGING to Him?
There are two ways that I walk my dog: without her harness and with her harness. She pulls like a steam train and the harness works by putting pressure on her shoulders if she pulls too hard. When I walk her WITH the harness, I hold the lead, but when I walk her WITHOUT the harness, I CLING to the lead.
Think of a rock climber holding onto a cliff face.
He’s pretty happy. Not too far up, looks like it’s a wall he has climbed before, maybe he’s just super skilled. Whatever it is, he’s got it under control, he’s not bothered.
However, check out this guy!
He is clinging, not holding on. He’s not having such a great time. He really desperately doesn’t want to let go of that rock. So what is the difference between them? Other than the potential for a horrible death.
What’s the difference between walking my dog with or without her harness? What’s the difference between hanging on the a cliff face or clinging on for dear life? What’s the difference between letting your relationship God tick along comfortably and clinging to Him desperately, with all you have?
When Saskia and I go for a walk without the harness, there is a risk that she might pull the lead out of my hand and take herself for a walk. When a climber switches the local indoor climbing wall for a real live mountain, the risk increases exponentially.
If you haven’t experienced the reality of verse 8:
“I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.”
Could it be that you are living a life where you don’t actually need God to uphold you?
Perhaps God is calling you today to take a risk on Him!
Climbing the same indoor climbing wall over and over again with the same group of friends might be fun and it might keep you fit, but how much more exhilarating is it to explore real mountains? Attending church every week is a good thing to do, you get to be part of an amazing community, there’s food, good music, it’s all good. BUT how much more will you get out of it if you take a risk: join a team, lead a connect group, speak prophetically into someone’s life, invite people into your world.
Putting your spare change in the offering will certainly help the offering be bigger, but if you take a risk and add some faith to your giving, if you make your generosity hurt just a little from time to time, add an element of sacrifice, you will see God move and bless you.
“I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.” Psalm 63:5
Sometimes, we will feel close to God, on the mountaintop and sometimes, we will feel far away. Sometimes that’s a result of seasons and circumstances and sometimes, our own sin causes us to withdraw from God. Whatever is going on, we never lose God, only our perception of His presence. He never abandons you, He never will. He promises unfailing love.
When you lose the feeling of His nearness, resist the urge to withdraw. Don’t let the enemy reduce your faith, which the Bible says can move mountains, to something as flimsy as a feeling.
Seek – go back to where you last found His presence.
Remember – Remember His goodness when you find yourself in the dark. Testify – tell yourself the stories of what he has done in the past.
Cling – take risks. Live a life that needs His right hand to uphold you.
Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.
Matthew 7:13-14 MSG
Above all, remember. He never gives up. He never abandons you. He is always faithful and His love is better than life. He is the beginning and the end; the same, yesterday, today and forever.
– Jen Grubb