One of Elvis Presley’s many number 1 hit records has the lyrics:
‘When no-one else can understand me,
When everything I do is wrong,
You give me hope and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on.
And you’re always there to lend a hand,
In everything I do.
That’s the wonder, the wonder of you’.
Although Elvis sang many gospel songs, this is not one of them. It is purely a love song between a man and woman. But the words quoted could be turned into the prayer of a Christian; indeed, into a cry from the heart to God.
Now, it may seem strange mentioning Elvis Presley in Evangelical Times, considering his life and its sad and tragic end. But, as one who used to idolise him many years ago, I am familiar with so many of his songs.
Thankfully and mercifully, since then God revealed himself to me in Christ. Now I can sing:
‘The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee’.
To worship God alone is a liberating blessing. To understand that he alone is worthy of our praise and adoration is so soul-satisfying.
I have recently been reading The gospel-shaped life, by Ian Hamilton (Banner of Truth). A gem of a book!
In one of the chapters entitled, ‘The sweetness of God’, Hamilton explains how he was struck when reading the opening chapters of The confessions of St Augustine: ‘Again and again as he speaks to God, Augustine refers to him as his “sweetness” (or “delight”). I began to note every time this word is used, and other similar affectional terms. While he also speaks of God’s majesty and sovereignty and power, it was the use of his word “sweetness” that captured and captivated my attention’.
It struck me, as I read this chapter, how often do we Christians think of our God in this way? Do we express our affection towards him in this manner? Are we those who are stuck in a rut? Do we worship God merely out of routine?
Are we like those whom Isaiah describes as a ‘people [who] draw near with their mouths, and honour [the Lord] with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from me’ (Isaiah 29:13)? What an ugly picture this is! It is a picture of a Pharisee or a backslidden Christian. It is a picture of a church that has lost sight of the wonder and glory of God.
Surely, as Christians, it should be said of us, ‘To you who believe, [Jesus] is precious’ (1 Peter 2:7). Is the Lord precious to you my fellow-Christian? How precious is he to me? Has the preciousness of our God and Saviour been temporarily lost?
By turning the lyrics of that Elvis song into four biblical truths, may this preciousness be restored to us once again.
God is the only one who truly understands us. He alone knows exactly how we feel and what we are going through. He who walked this earth can truly draw alongside us and sympathise with us. Even a beloved spouse cannot fully understand us compared to our omniscient God.
When the world around us frowns upon us, out of bewilderment at our difference from our peers, God’s smile rests upon us. Our Saviour knows exactly our experiences. He always understands us, without fail. ‘He is despised and rejected by men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from him; he was despised, and we did not esteem him’ (Isaiah 53:3).
The psalmist wrote, ‘For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust’ (Psalm 103:14) Yes, God never forgets our weakness and frailty. No wonder, for ‘the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy’ (Psalm 103:8).
‘How good is the God we adore!
Our faithful, unchangeable friend:
His love is as great as his power
And knows neither measure nor end’.
This is the God whom we worship and adore. Yes, God is to be adored. Gaze upon him and never stop gazing. How adorable is our God! How can we ever get enough of him?
Samuel Rutherford, that eminent divine, quaintly writes: ‘But the less our weight be upon our own feeble legs, and the more on Christ, the strong Rock, the better for us. It is good for us that ever Christ took the cumber [burden] of us; it is our heaven to lay many weights and burdens upon Christ, and to make him all we have, root and top, beginning and ending of our salvation. Lord, hold us here’.
‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God’ (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
God is the only one who gives us true hope and consolation. As much as we love our family, we are not guaranteed of their love and comfort all our earthly days. But God is always there for us, day and night, 24/7. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. As night follows day, so constant and continuous is God’s love toward us. ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ (Romans 8:35).
God is the one in whose lap our soul can rest content. The presence of God is what we should crave at every waking moment. ‘By night on my bed I sought the one I love; I sought him, but I did not find him.
‘I will rise now, I said, and go about the city. In the streets and in the squares, I will seek him, but I did not find him. The watchmen who go about the city found me. I said, have you seen the one I love? Scarcely had I passed by them, when I found the one I love. I held him and would not let him go’ (Song of Solomon 3:1-4). Do not let him go fellow-Christian! Delight yourself in him all your days.
God is the one who strengthens us and enables us to serve him in the kingdom work that he has called us to. He will endow us with all the necessary gifts that will equip us in our appointed tasks. ‘For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them’ (Ephesians 2:10).
When God appoints us a task, then go in his strength. Never forget, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13).
This is the wonder of our God. How can we not gladly serve him all our days? How can we not revel in his company? How can we ever take him for granted? Thank him that he understands and remembers us. Thank him that he comforts and strengthens us. And may that thankfulness lead to never-ending worship.
Like Samuel Rutherford, let us pour out our heart: ‘O let the Bridegroom come! And, O day, O fair day, O everlasting summer day, dawn and shine out, break out from under the black sky, and shine!’
Barry Loeber is a member of Gateway Baptist Church, Burgess Hill