Last week we began discussing tools for worship. The first tool was the heart, and we explored what it was to love the Lord according to Mark 12:30. This week we will explore more on the heart, how to walk out that love in our lives through developing a secret place and discovering what it means to give up our rights and lose ourselves in Him.
“A secret silence means to shut the door deliberately on emotions and remember God. God is in secret, and He sees us from the secret place; He does not see us as other people see us, or as we see ourselves. When we live in the secret place it becomes impossible for us to doubt God, we become more sure of Him than anything else. Your Father, Jesus says, is in secret and nowhere else. Enter the secret place, and right in the center of the common round you find God there all the time”. -Oswald Chambers (see Matthew 6:6).
I love Oswald Chambers and I have made “My Utmost for His Highest” my primary devotional book for the last several years in a row. I couldn’t even begin to tell you the number of truths the Holy Spirit has pointed out to me through that book!
My husband knows that I love Oswald Chambers too, and so once purchased a book for me that was a biography of him written by David McCassland, one of the writers for Our Daily Bread. As I eagerly began to read through and learn about his life, I was amazed to learn he had spent an entire night outside once in prayer. My thought at the time was, “oh wow, I can’t even consistently spend five minutes without distraction, let alone an entire night. What could I possibly pray about that long?”. I was a little discouraged by the comparison.
I am learning, however, that as I move forward in my faith journey, I am reinforcing the lesson learned that nothing in life worth gaining is rarely gained apart from discipline and the will to do.
Oswald Chambers himself talks about our will like this:
“Your will agrees with God, but in your flesh there is a disposition which renders you powerless to do what you know you ought to do… [but] The profound thing in man is his will, not sin. Sin is a perverse disposition… the source of the will is almighty. ‘For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do His good pleasure’… God is the source of your will, therefore you are able to work out His will… Obstinance is an unintelligent ‘wadge’ that refuses to be enlightened; the only thing is for it to be blown up with dynamite, and the dynamite is obedience to the Holy Spirit.”
Finding a secret place simply means a willful daily pulling apart – momentarily separating yourself – from your family, routine, or whatever else you may have going on in your life, to a secluded place of worship and dialog with God. It is an opportunity to push aside the many things that can pull and distract, take your eyes off your current circumstances, and focus on Him. This is where you will learn to walk on water! This is what enables you to further explore that ocean!
I love this verse from the Song of Solomon because it highlights what waits for us in this secret place:
- “O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, In the secret place of the steep pathway. Let me see your form, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your form is lovely.” Song of Solomon 2:14 (emphasis mine)
Jesus Himself knew how critical it was for Him to pull apart into a private place and commune with His Father:
- “Now when Jesus heard this he went away from there privately in a boat to an isolated place…” Matthew 14:13 (&14:23, as well as John 6:15)
Also we learn that as a disciple (or “disciplined one”), Jesus wants to spend time with us as well
- “… Jesus, wanting to be alone with the Twelve, quietly slipped away with them” Luke 9:10
We learn too, from Psalms, that shelter and security are among the important benefits of being hidden in the secret place (our secret place becomes our refuge):
- “You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.” Psalms 31:20
- “In his shelter in the day of trouble, that’s where you’ll find me, for he hides me there in his holiness. He has smuggled me into his secret place, where I’m kept safe and secure— out of reach from all my enemies. Triumphant now, I’ll bring him my offerings of praise, singing and shouting with ecstatic joy! Yes, listen and you can hear the fanfare of my shouts of praise to the Lord!” Psalms 27:5
Q: In both of these Psalms verses, what did you notice about the secret place (did anything stand out)?
You may have noticed or picked up on more than one thing. What stood out to me is that it is HIS secret place! When we purpose to find our secret place of meeting with God, He brings us into His secret place. This kind of intimacy with God is not something that can be gained solely through group services or meetings. It is only within this secret place of daily yielding and the discipline of seeking Him continually that we find our lives being transformed by the Holy Spirit into the image of Christ and become better equipped and able to face anything that comes in the day ahead. In the secret place we cultivate the oil of intimacy and our minds are renewed, our spirits washed, our maturity takes root, and our fervency grows.
Remember, too, not to despise the day of small beginnings! Not many have what it takes initially to stay up all night in prayer. Even if you only pray for a few moments or read a few lines of scripture at a time, start with what you have and build from there!
Q: Do you have a “secret place” in mind that you can dedicate to God each day? A place and time where you can spend in worship? Describe what that looks like to you, where it is, what time of day it is, how you may purpose to keep the appointment.
I hinted at this earlier when I mentioned giving up our ideas. We also need to give up our preset agendas.
When my husband and I were first married, being very independent, I was not accustomed to certain things and I certainly wasn’t used to having to share! It was my kitchen to cook in, my house to decorate, my car to drive, my bathroom space, my blanket, and so on! I was not used to a husband who wanted to go grocery shopping with me, or cook with me in the kitchen, or decorate and arrange furniture his way, or take up all the counter space in the bathroom or hog all the blankets in the night! It took a lot for us both to learn how to give up our rights to ourselves and allow for a blending and a balance to take place so that the “two of us could become one”.
“Our Lord never puts personal holiness to the fore when He calls a disciple; He puts absolute annihilation of my right to myself and identification with Himself – a relationship with Himself in which there is no other relationship.” – Oswald Chambers
Q: Think about how you approach God. Do you have a preset idea of who He is, or agenda of how you want things to happen, or thoughts on what you expect Him to do for you?
I have known people who walk into church each Sunday with an attitude of “BLESS ME”! They come perhaps expecting to be entertained. They want to have their ears tickled, their weekly “spiritual showers”, or to be distracted by the many conferences and programs being offered, often placing more value on a principle or a cause than on God Himself. Many do not have any intention of changing their ways, and as a result can become confused or even derailed when things do not go their way.
On a more practical faith level than that even, I think of Peter, and can only imagine the kind of devotion he must have had after walking with Jesus for nearly three years. Watching the many miracles take place at His hand, getting to eat with Him daily, asking questions and getting answers no one else was given, knowing he was blessed to be caught up in the middle of THE MESSIAH come to earth– the one they believed would overthrow the Romans and imminently establish a physical Kingdom!
It was no small wonder then that when Peter heard Jesus tell them He had to suffer and be killed, Peter instantly reacted out of his emotions, emotions he confused with love and devotion, asking instead for God to forbid it, insisting it should never be! He could not imagine or understand how the crushing of One so perfect could ever be part of God’s plan or used for His glory! Where is the possibility of beauty or fragrance in that?
Jesus reply was direct. He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Matthew 16:23
I can only imagine how such a rebuke must have made Peter feel in the moment. But even then, Peter was being prepared for his next level of faith on his journey and would learn soon that it was crucial for Christ to suffer and die on the cross. It is in times like these when we have to remember that His thoughts are above ours, and His ways are higher than ours. We may not always understand in the moment or even while we are here, but because of who He is, we can trust.
My pastor hit upon this idea recently when he noted there is a difference between living your dream and living God’s dream. What you dream for your life and how you see God fitting into that may not match up. But rest assured, Is55:8 (My thoughts, My ways) and Eph3:20 (above and beyond all we ask or think) tells us that we will absolutely love His plan for us!
When I was a little girl I used to love playing in the water. Mom always said it had to be 85 degrees or hotter before I could play with the water hose, so I would dial the “time and temperature” number over and over again until the magic degree finally arrived, then hurriedly run and announce it was now 85 degrees! We didn’t have a pool, but I remember having a slip and slide. As a little girl, I had no concept or frame of reference for anything more grand than a slip and slide, and playing with that slip and slide on a hot day was my ultimate idea of fun… Until one vacation when my mom and dad took my brother and I to this river that flowed down a natural incline over all these smooth stones, and it was the grandest “slip and slide” I had ever seen! Who would have imagined God could create a slip and slide so grand as that?
In summary, it’s not about us, it’s about HIM. Let that sink in for a moment. When we walk through the doors of the sanctuary or enter our secret place with the Lord, how much more could be gained in our spirits if we are willing to drop our own personal agendas, preset notions, or ideas?
Notice too that there is a difference between an agenda and a petition. I’m not suggesting that we should not make petitions or requests. What I am suggesting is that before we do, we should lay aside all our presuppositions, preset expectations and the idea that things need to be a certain way with God, with His people (the Church) or with the “program”. Preset agendas and ideas can also actually keep us from petitioning God at times as well, because we don’t want to be embarrassed if the outcome of our request is different than our expectation. A good example of this is when we pray for healing, or in the case of worship, when we want to raise our hands or say a loud amen!
Q: Has the Holy Spirit been speaking to you about any agendas, ideas, and preset expectations you might be viewing Him through? If yes, name them here and take the time to pray over each one. Ask the Lord to replace them with a clear vision of who He is and enable you to be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (Colossians 1:9).
Q: How can you take what you’ve learned so far and apply it to your worship and love for God?