The Rewarding Pursuit
Ceci loves to garden. While living in Colorado, her painstaking efforts were challenged, at best. Long winters, the ground never really warming up while living at 7500 feet, and summer nights always being in the 50-60’s - even during the months of July and August - made gardening nearly impossible. Therefore, tomato plants and potted herbs lined our back deck. It was a bit frustrating to a Mississippi farm girl not to be able to have her own garden with fresh-grown vegetables.
She tells me there’s something about having your hands in the dirt, smelling it, feeling it flow through your fingers, and knowing it can bring life that feeds her soul. I don’t get it. I grew up playing sports, not living on a farm, as she did. Publix seems to work for me.
Upon moving to the South, Ceci quickly scouted out the best “plot” for her small vegetable and herb garden. I would see her there early in the mornings, on hands and knees pulling weeds, staking tomato plants, and hoeing maverick grass that was trying to encroach upon her beloved garden. After a while, she would return to the house with dirty gloves (yes, she protects those nails), sweaty clothes, a bit sunburned, with dirt on her face. Except for the fight with rabbits who wanted to nibble the tomatoes, her gardening efforts were successful.
“In the book First Things First, A. Roger Merrill tells of a business consultant who was moving into a new home. He decided to hire a friend of his to landscape the grounds. She had a doctorate in horticulture and was extremely bright and knowledgeable. . . Because [the business consultant] was very busy and traveled a lot, he kept emphasizing to her the need to create his garden in a way that would require little or no maintenance on his part. He pointed out the absolute necessity of automatic sprinklers and other labor-saving devices. . .
“Finally, she stopped and said, ‘There’s one thing you need to deal with before we go any further. If there’s no gardener, there’s no garden!’”(1)
As I continue to think about David and his desire to move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (as mentioned in yesterday’s post), I thought about the tiring process of carrying the Ark. Then I realized, if there are no tired shoulders, there will be no Ark. Some things, however, are worth long hours, sweat, substantial effort. . . and even splinters.
Our world has become obsessed with convenience. Whether it be our food, travel, communication, or gardens, we’re determined to live “new cart” lifestyles. The trend has finally made it into the Church. We offer many convenient times, styles, locations, and even the choice to watch from home in your pajamas. Because our lives are so busy, we even offer condensed and abbreviated versions. Some congregations are now so efficiently convenient, they can serve you your weekly God-connection in forty-five minutes, less time than it takes to watch your favorite television show: fifteen minutes of worship, fifteen minutes of announcements and fellowship, and a fifteen-minute message. “And by the way, we promise not to mention anything that might convict or sadden you. There’ll be no sin talked about, no grieving over the lost, and no mention of social and moral injustices such as abortion, human trafficking, or the state of our nation. We strive to make it quick, easy, and pleasant.”
I don’t believe our new-cart version of Christianity is God-honoring or biblical. The pleasure of His company is readily available, but it’s not cheap or convenient. It will cost you time and effort. God wants intimacy with us, but He isn’t an easy score. He expects marriage and covenant, not one-night stands. But I assure you, He is more than worth the price.
David and his leaders decided to give it another try - the inconvenient way. “Let’s carry Him ourselves, on our shoulders and next to our hearts. It will be hard work and will take all day, but having His presence and glory nearby will be worth it.”
“Now it was told King David, saying, ‘The Lord has blessed the house of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, on account of the ark of God.’ David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness. And so it was that when the bearers of the Ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the Ark of the Lord with shouting and the sound of the trumpet.”
(2 Samuel 6:12-15)
In the book of Chronicles’ account of this, we’re told that “God was helping the Levites who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 15:26). Isn’t that encouraging and so typical of God’s heart? When we honor Him by seeking His presence in the appropriate manner, He makes it easier to find Him. Our Father wants our company. He desires to spend time with us.
For David, it had finally happened. The presence junkie would have unfettered access to Yahweh and His glory. He placed the Ark in a tent, called simply the “tent [or tabernacle] of David,” and filled it with 24/7 worship. (Mind you, there were no non-stop digital players; this was 24/7 worship done by individuals.) History tells us David himself spent hours at a time lingering inside. The inconvenience of the process had been rewarded with the enjoyment of His presence. Persistence, pursuit, and presence had won.
This can be your story, as well. On this side of the Cross, our hearts are the tent. Wow! As unfathomable as it may seem, we are now the Holy of Holies. His presence is always with us and in us. You be the cart - that’s what He really wants. Carry Him everywhere you go.
Reach for Him; He’ll reach back. Make Christ your magnificent obsession, Yahweh your papa, and Holy Spirit your daily companion. Never again settle for the substandard existence of life lived without the pleasure of His company.
“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay
jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” (2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT)
Pray with me:
Father, You are worthy of the highest praise and adoration, and the furthest possible reaches of our love. Jesus, there is nothing we could ever give or do or say that would be equivalent to Your great sacrifice. You’ve paid the price in full that we might have salvation, and yet, to freely bask in Your glory, there is still a price that must be paid.
How can we bring You an offering that costs us nothing? Father, we repent for doing this very thing - trying to access the most exquisite of blessings while limiting You by wanting it to be easy and convenient. We confess that at times, we have been casual seekers of convenience instead of constant lovers of Your presence.
Today we purpose in our hearts to give our time and effort toward fueling an intentional, passionate pursuit. May we become an Ark of Your glory and Your presence. You are worth it all.
As we have been reminded today, we now refuse to live without experiencing the great pleasure of Your company, the depths of Your compassion, and the power of Your resurrection. We ask the same for our great nation. Come and visit our land. Jesus, be our magnificent obsession.
In Christ’s name...amen.
I pledge to live underneath the shadow of His presence and to be a passionate pursuer of His will.
Portions of today’s post were taken from my book The Pleasure of His Company, published by Baker Books.
Click on the link below to watch the full video.
Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, Rebecca R. Merrill, First Things First (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995), p 77.