Disciplines of a Needy Heart (Psalm 63)
Topic: Psalms Passage: Psalm 63:1–63:11
Disciplines of a Needy Heart
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
August 21st, 2016
I. What is a Healthy Church?
Did you know there are books and seminars and podcasts out there focused on helping churches become 'healthy' churches. Not all, but many of these focus on things like systems and training and marketing and retention. But I believe what we've seen from God's word over the past two weeks should lead us to believe that being a healthy church means being a needy church.
But aren't needy churches those poor and persecuted churches in the Third World? Yes and no. Those churches may have very distinct and acute needs, but every church is desperately needy, whether they recognize it or not.
As we return one last time to this study on neediness, let me remind you of the premise we've been working from over the last couple weeks. This is how I expressed it:
God's word teaches us that being needy is not a disgrace, but a reality to be embraced.
As individuals, and as a church, we want to not only embrace our neediness, but as we saw last week, we want to “gladly boast” of our neediness. Why? Well according to Paul in
II Corinthians 12:9, “so that the power of Christ may rest upon [us]”. Doesn't that sound like a healthy place to be? But what does it look like to live each day with the mindset? Let's try to answer that by turning over to the book of Psalms. Look with me at Psalm 63.
II. The Passage: “My Soul Clings to You ” (63:1-11)
So sit back and listen, or follow along as I read all eleven verses of Psalm 63. And as I do, listen carefully for that theme of neediness and think about how the psalm instructs us in light of that theme. Psalm 63:1...
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.  Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.  So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.  My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,  when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;  for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.  My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.  But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth;  they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals.  But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.
So as we think about how this psalm is put together, I'd like to suggest that we can divide this passage into two parts: verse 1, then verses 2-11. As you may have noticed from the outline, verse 1 sets the tone, or we could say, it establishes the context for this short psalm by revealing “the heart of the needy” psalmist. Once we understand that, we find in the remaining verses, in verses 2-11, that the way or path of the needy writer is described. Let's look at those two parts more closely.
A. The Heart of the Needy (v. 1)
So look again at verse 1...O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Now, being two weeks deep into this study on being needy, we should see David's words for exactly what they are: a raw, gushing, unabashed, craving, reaching, straight-forward, unrestrained expression of neediness. And of critical importance, a neediness that knows it can only find satisfaction in God...right?
And notice the imagery David uses to express this need. He is like a man struggling through the heat and harshness of a dry and desolate desert. This imagery is not surprising when we consider the superscription, the simple note that begins this psalm: “A psalm of David, when is was in the wilderness [that is, the desert] of Judah”.
David knew the barren nature of the desert. And he finds a similar condition inside himself. He is like a man who is thirsty and weary, but cannot find refreshment. He is desperate. This is how he feels spiritually; this is how he feels about his neediness and the God who alone can meet his needs. He is seeking God, earnestly searching, knowing his life depends on it.
Is that you? Is this me? Do we see ourselves here? Am I painfully aware of my neediness, and the neediness that only God can address? AND, am I, in response to that awareness, am I earnestly, diligently, with every ounce of sincerity and seriousness in my body, am I seeking God to actually meet my needs?
But if this is where David was spiritually, if this how his heart cried out to God, then what did it mean practically for him to seek God as a desperately needy man? Well, we get a glimpse of that very thing in the next ten verses.
B. The Way of the Needy (vs. 2-11)
As we move into verses 2-11, I think this passage tells us at least three things about how the needy man or woman can seek after God. Are you ready? First of all, I think we see repeatedly that...
1. The Needy Worship (vs. 3-5, 7, 11)
Just look at all of the ways this short psalm talks about worship, seven times in all:
...my lips will praise you (v. 3), I will bless you as long as I live (v. 4), ...in your name I will lift up my hands (v. 4), my mouth will praise you with joyful lips (v. 5), I will sing for joy (v. 7), the king shall rejoice in God (v. 11), all who swear by him [by God] shall exult (v. 11).
David wants to direct the eyes of our heart back to God, doesn't he? Yes, this song is expressing his experience with God. But David put these truths in a song. Why? To encourage God's people. And as we see here, he wants to use his experience to encourage us to worship God as well. To give thanks. To honor him. To sing to him. To find joy in Him and to express that joy.
But that spirit of worship is directly connected to our next point. We also see here that...
2. The Needy Meditate (vs. 2, 6, 7)
Look again at what David writes in verse 2: I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory (v. 2). Before experiencing the circumstances that prompted him to compose this psalm, David had often worshiped at the tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, the portable temple where God's glorious presence dwelt in a special way with the Israelites.
And maybe what David experienced there, maybe what he learned there, is part of what he focused on in verse 6. Look again, starting in v. 5: my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,  when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night...
The night is a time of a unique dangers and vulnerability. It is a time of uncertainty. But the certainty of God's power and glory were for David a light in the darkness. To be clear, this meditation is not a New Age or Eastern spirituality kind of thing. This meditation is careful, clear, and constant concentration on the truth about God, and we ultimately find that truth in God's word, don't we?
For example, we find one of those truths in verse 3. David proclaims this about God, that His steadfast love is better than life. And how does David know this? Well, certainly he had heard that truth since he was a child. And he had read of God's love in the things that were written down. But he also knows that truth from personal experience. Verse 7: for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
In his most difficult times, David had known the protection and provision of God. And look at how this knowledge affects David's present circumstances. We also find here that...
3. The Needy Cling (vs. 8-11)
In verse 8, the word “clings” is in the present tense. But what does it mean that David “clings” to God? Well, at the very least, it is informed by verses 9-11. Look again, starting with v.8:
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth;  they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals.  But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.
David clings to God in the face of severe opposition and danger. For him to “cling” to God must mean that he is trusting God to take care of his enemies. His faith tells him they will fall, but the king will rejoice. And not only the king, but all God's people, especially those suffering persecution, oppression, and injustice. God will vindicate his people. Therefore, David clings.
Now, let's stop for a minute and think about what we've seen. We've talked about the fact that this psalm reveals how the spiritually needy man or woman worships, meditates on, and clings to God. But I believe these are more than just spur-of-the-moment reactions. I believe these are just some of what we might call disciplines of a needy heart.
But how should we think about the relationship or interplay between these disciplines? I think it may be helpful to put the last point first. Think about what it would mean for you, what it would look like in your everyday to cling to God. What would it mean for me to practice the discipline of clinging to God. Didn't Joshua tell the people of Israel:
“Only be very careful...to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5)
Think about this: there is no strict order to these truths. We might say, in light of this psalm, that when we, for example, are faced with difficult and painful circumstances, what we know of God, what we have meditated on, should cause us to cling to God, right? And when our clinging results in God's support and deliverance, then we should be driven to worship, right? And then, do you know what should happen after that? Our experience of God's “steadfast love” should inspire further meditation and worship.
Do you cling to God? Could you explain to someone else what it means to cling to God in your daily life?
III. Feeling All Our Felt Needs
As we think about everything we've looked at over the past few weeks and attempt to thoughtfully and faithfully apply it to our lives, as we think about the discipline of clinging to God, I think it is critical we address what some might call our 'felt needs'. What are “felt needs”? They are the needs that I am conscious of, and often give priority to, even when a deeper, unacknowledged need or needs is the real issue.
An unemployed man might try to meet his needs by borrowing money from family and friends, while all the while pushing down the deeper need to face his fears about returning to the workforce and possible failure.
Did you know everyday we find ourselves in a similar situation? How? In that we often identify and attempt to meet only the needs we find on the surface of our lives. And when that happens, many of us feel less needy, because we are often able to meet those surface needs in our own power and strength.
But doesn't God's word give us new eyes to see our needs?
Doesn't the truth of the gospel of Jesus reveal and drive home your deepest need, the need above all needs: your need to be right with God?
Every single day, you and are on a mission to meet our 'felt needs'. And in general, that's perfectly normal. In general, we were designed to do just that. But when we are focused only on meeting our 'felt needs', we miss the bigger picture of our ultimate neediness.
Maybe you woke up this morning and your body, your stomach reminded you that you need something to eat. Did you meet that need by having breakfast? But after that, did your spirit remind you that you were made for a incomparable purpose? Did your heart make you aware of your need for God's unconditional love and grace? Did your mind alert you to the fact that it desperately needs renewal through the word of God? Did you meet those needs? Or better yet, did you go to the One who can meet those needs?
You see, the simple fact is, I will not cling to God, I will not practice the discipline of clinging, or practice the discipline of meditation on God's word or the discipline of worship, if I do not accept I am needy in all these ways. And so as we've talked about before, what we desperately need are the eyes to see and the heart to embrace the reality of our ultimate neediness.
Think about it this idea by first listening to the words of Jesus. Think about how Jesus takes us here beyond our 'felt needs' and confirms the reality of our ultimate neediness:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1-5)
As Jesus reveals, we need to accept we are only branches. We need to bear fruit for Him, because that's what branches do. But to do that, we need both the Father's pruning, and the Son's power. Without those things, we “can do nothing”.
So let's say you are in a terrible accident and laid up in the hospital in a full-body cast. You are, in a very literal way, painfully aware of your needs, right? And you will be looking to a whole host of people to meet those needs. You will be frustrated and sad and angry at times, but ultimately, you must accept that you are needy in these ways.
But at the same time, Jesus is telling us we have more needs than we often see at first. What fruit does God want you to bear in that situation? Why would it be so important to abide in Christ? What will abiding in faith look like in regard to your outlook, your attitude, your words? How does God want to use you in the lives of your caregivers? And what pruning might God be doing in your heart? What does He want to show you during the fully-body-cast Sabbath he's given you?
Are we just as painfully aware of our need in light of these things? And it's not either/or. It's both/and. We need God for the physical, as well as the spiritual needs. No need to separate.
Remember the question we asked at the beginning of our time this morning: “Am I painfully aware of my neediness, and the neediness that only God can address? AND, am I, in response to that awareness, am I earnestly, diligently, with every ounce of sincerity and seriousness in my body, am I seeking God to actually meet my needs?”
Isn't that the heart behind David's words in verse 1: O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Speaking of the desert, during monsoon season, it isn't unusual, typically on TV, to see someone being plucked from a car that's gotten stuck in the flash flood waters of a normally dry wash. And in certain cases, when a rescue worker at the end of a helicopter cable plucks someone from the roof of their car, that person is holding on to them, not casually or in a relaxed manner. Instead, they person being saved...clings...he or she clings to the one who is saving them. Is that you? Is that me?
Jesus declared in John 15:5, “apart from me you can do nothing”. Since that's true, I think we need to pray this prayer:
“O God, by all that Christ makes possible, help me to see just how needy I am. Help me to feel the reality of my neediness beyond my normal 'felt needs'. Help me to meditate on your glorious calling for my life and the sufficiency of your grace for answering that call. Help me to cling to you, knowing that apart from you, I can't do anything truly worth doing. And in light of needs met, and needs you will meet, help me to worship you, fully, faithfully, and fearlessly in Jesus. Amen.”
Let's thank God this morning that He loves to answer that prayers. That He loves to meet our true needs through His truth and grace. May God truly make us a needy, needy church.