November 2014

Body: 

Building on Praise                                                                                                                                                                                       

“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stay awake in vain. In vain you rise early and go late to your rest, eating the bread of anxious toil. For the Lord provides for His beloved as they sleep.”     Psalm 127:1-2  

I am trying to learn to build on praise and thanksgiving rather than on long hours and anxious prayers. At UUC we are building something to please the Lord and to serve the people. The vision we have is from God, and the calling we have is from God. Whatever challenges we face, we are grateful for the calling, grateful to be considered worthy to work in behalf of the kingdom of God. It is a privilege to be co-workers with the Lord in his vineyard.

I believe this is true wherever our students are at work for the Lord; wherever Christian brothers and sisters seek to serve the Lord all over the world. Christians are grateful to be called by God to serve the Lord. Yet we face obstacles and challenges that can make us anxious if we let them.

Psalm 127 has guided me through 45 years of ministry. I have both known in my heart and learned in the experience of ministry that for anything lasting to be established, God must do it. In his great grace, God uses our efforts to accomplish his works. But if the Lord is not in our efforts, if we have pursued instead our own ideas and initiatives, no matter how worthy they might be, they do not last. Instead they wither and come to nothing. The Lord must build it, or it will not be build. The Lord must guard it, or it will not stand.

I have known this truth for years and years. And yet it seems I have to learn it over and over again.

I like to work hard, but sometimes I work too hard. Sometimes I put in too many hours, as though my extra effort is what will accomplish the task and achieve the goal. Then Psalm 127 reminds me again that hours and effort mean nothing unless the Lord is in them. In fact the psalm says that the Lord will provide for us while we are asleep. The Lord will build, the Lord will accomplish, the Lord will guard while we are recuperating from the efforts of the day. While we sleep, it pleases the Lord to establish what we cannot establish no matter how hard we try. 

So then why be anxious when the way is hard and our efforts are frustrated? We are anxious because we forget. It is the Lord’s work, and we are privileged to be co-workers with so great a Savior. We forget that it is the Lord’s house and he will build it. Our anxiety only means we have taken too much responsibility upon ourselves again. When we realize that we have become anxious again, then we need to give back to the Lord what is rightfully his—the success or seeming failure of what we are attempting to accomplish.

Recently I came upon this verse from the prophet Jeremiah: “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; Save me and I will be saved; for you are my praise” Jeremiah 17:14. The verse reminds me that I cannot heal myself and I cannot save myself. Only the Lord can do those things. Just as only the Lord can build the house and keep the city safe. Just as only the Lord can accomplish and establish the ministry he has given to each one of us. This is our consistent experience with God in every part of our relationship with Him. Ultimately everything is accomplished by his grace.

So let us exchange exhaustion for rest; let us exchange anxiety for praise. Let Jeremiah’s verse be true in our lives. The Lord is our praise. Trust and gratitude and praise will make our life following the Lord an experience of joy.

God bless each one in our community around the world, as you work and build and trust the Lord. May the Lord be your joy and praise in every circumstance. 

Dale Sewall