Created to Belong: I Will Build You a House

October 23, 2016
Preaching: Brian Keepers
Text: 2 Samuel 7:1-29

Created to Belong: I Will Build You a House

Tish Harrison Warren wanted to change the world.

She grew up in a wealthy evangelical church, which was full of good people, but seemed more concerned about a comfortable Christianity that focused on going to heaven when you die rather than being a part of Jesus’ kingdom revolution that was changing the world here and now.

In college, her heart was set on fire, and along with many of her friends, she was determined to live an extraordinary life—a radical life for Jesus. She was restless to do something “big” for God, to be a “world-changer.”

So she moved to a rural village in Africa to live out a radical life of discipleship, caring for the poor, spending herself for the sake of the kingdom. She saw God work in powerful ways, and it was a transformational experience for her.

But after a while, she grew exhausted and missed home, so she returned to the States. She came back to her college town, and found herself still feeling restless to do something “big” for God. So she spent time with various “radical” Christian communities, living on the edge in the inner city, giving away clothes and feeding the poor, boldly tackling systems of injustice.

But then she got married and had kids, and her life didn’t feel so radical anymore. She was pulled into the ordinary routines of changing diapers, chasing her toddler around the house, doing laundry, navigating the joys and challenges of marriage—all the stuff that makes up the “everyday-ness” of life.

What happened to that young woman who was going to give her life away for Jesus and the kingdom—do something big for God and change the world?

In a deeply authentic and provocative blog post, Tish reflects on all of this:

Now, I’m thirty-something with two kids living a more or less ordinary life. And what I’m slowly realizing is that, for me, being in the house all day with a baby and a two-year-old is a lot more scary and harder than being in a war-torn African village. What I need courage for is the ordinary, the daily every-dayness of life. Caring for homeless kids is a lot more thrilling to me than listening well to the people in my home. Giving away clothes and seeking out edgy Christian communities requires less of me than being kind to my husband on an average Wednesday morning or calling my mother back when I don’t feel like it….[In college] we were told again and again that we’d be world-changers…we were challenged to impact and serve the world in radical ways, but we never learned how to be an average person living an ordinary life in a beautiful way.”[1]

Can you relate to Tish? Something within you longs to live a life bigger than yourself—to really make a difference in the world, to be extraordinary. But when you look at your life, it feels so… well…ordinary. Nothing special. Nothing all that exciting or remarkable.

King David seems to be someone who lived an extraordinary life. He stands out as the greatest king to rule Israel, God’s holy nation. Everything about his life seems remarkable—the way he defeated the mammoth Goliath with nothing but a sling and five stones. His skills as a warrior who led Israel into countless victories. A gifted poet and musician who wrote half of the psalms. A wise and strategic leader who won the confidence and admiration of his people. David would have made a great Texan—he embodied the mantra, “Go big or go home!” He would even sin big—that whole episode with Uriah and Bathsheba. And yet, even with his shortcomings, David was characterized as a man after God’s own heart.

In the part of David’s story we heard earlier, David has seized the city of Jerusalem and made it the capitol. Then, in an equally bold and radical move, he recovers the stolen Ark of the Covenant, which symbolized God’s presence, and he brings it to Jerusalem. David the world-changer! David, the shaker and the mover!

Once he gets settled in Jerusalem, the Ark of the Covenant now home where it belongs, David takes on his next big project for God. He decides that he’s going to build a house for God—a temple to house the Ark. David is living in the luxury of his palace—a beautiful home on the lakeshore, and thinks to himself, “How is it that I can live in such a beautiful house, while the LORD is living in a tent in my backyard?”

So he shares his idea with Nathan, his pastor and a prophet, and it seems like a no-brainer. David is God’s golden boy—everything he touches God seems to bless. So why not? Nathan says to David, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the LORD is with you.”

But before David can hire an architect and get a first draft of the renderings, God speaks to Nathan: “Tell David to hold on. Give David this message: You want to build me a house? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought my people out of Egyptian slavery, but I’ve been on the move in a tent and tabernacle. I appreciate the gesture, but listen to me: I will build you a house. This is not about what you will do for me, it is about what I am doing in and through you. I took you from the pasture, when you were nobody but a shepherd. And I have made you into a somebody—a Shepherd king to lead my people. I have been with you every step of the way and have given you victory over your enemies. And now I will make your name great. But not for your glory—for my glory. If there is any building to be done, I’m doing it. I’ve been working with you since your shepherd days, building a kingdom—a place where salvation and justice and peace shall be a reality. That’s why you are here, to give visibility and representation to what I am doing, not to call attention to what you are doing.”

God goes on to promise David that he shall establish his kingdom through David’s descendents. There would be a time for the temple to be built, but David would not be the one to do it. God had a plan for Solomon, David’s son, to build the Temple.

This is such a great story. Here David is determined to do something “big” for God; but God turns around and says that God will do something “big” in and through David and his descendents.

And how does David respond to Nathan when his pastor delivers this message? “Then King David went in and sat before the LORD…” In the midst of all David’s ambitious dreaming and strategic planning, David never stopped to actually pray and ask God if his plans to build God a house is what God wanted him to do. He just assumes—he just goes for it.

But now David stops, sits, and prays. This may be the most critical action that David takes, the most important thing he could possibly do. By sitting down, David is taking himself out of the driver’s seat, and placing himself prayerfully before the true King. He is no longer insisting that God bless his plans; rather, he is prayerfully becoming attentive to God’s plans for him. David assumes a posture of surrender, letting go of his own agenda in order to humbly submit to God’s agenda.

And he’s reminded of his humble beginnings. He’s reminded that this is ultimately not about him—his own agenda and action and determination to do something great for God; it’s about allowing his ordinary life to get caught up in the extraordinary purposes of a great God.

I had a “David moment” this past week. I got away for a few days to spend time at St. Gregory’s Abby—a Benedictine monastery in Three Rivers, Michigan. I try to go a couple times of year, and it is a place for me to learn what David had to learn—to slow down, stop, sit in the presence of God, and surrender. To trade in my plans for God’s plans. To be reminded of who I am and whose I am. And to gain perspective—to get out of the driver’s seat and allow God to work in and through my ordinary life for his extraordinary purposes.

Do you need a “David moment” like this? When’s the last time you stopped, sat, and held open your heart and hands and asked God, “What do you want? What are your plans? And how can I get in on your plans rather than insisting that you bless my plans?” Maybe today could provide you the space, the moment, for that kind of prayerful surrender.

God’s promise to David is his promise to us. He will build us a house—he is building us into a house. God has established his kingdom—is establishing his kingdom—through his Son, Jesus—the descendent of David. This kingdom is breaking in now—within us and all around us.

And as we follow Jesus, as we are untied with him, we are being built up into a spiritual house (Ephesians, 1 Peter)—a kingdom people. This is not for ourselves alone but to the glory of God and for the purposes of his mission in the world. God takes us, our ordinary lives, and he wants to transform us and build us up in order to carry out his plans in and for the world. Yes, he wants us to join his kingdom revolution.

But here’s the thing about that: you don’t have to be a stand-out or live an extraordinary life. God wants to take you, in all your ordinary-ness, and work in and through you. How did Tish say it? It’s about learning how to be an average person living an average life in a beautiful way.

I never did finish reading you her blog. Can I do that now? I love this last part:

A prominent New Monasticism community house had a sign on the wall that famously read: ‘Everyone wants a revolution. No one wants to do the dishes.’ My life is really rich in dirty dishes (and diapers) these days and really short in revolutions. I go to a church full of older people who live pretty normal, middle-class lives in nice, middle-class houses. But I have really come to appreciate this community, to see their life-time of sturdy faithfulness to Jesus, their commitment to prayer, and the tangible, beautiful generosity that they show those around them in unnoticed, unimpressive, unremarkable, unrevolutionary ways. And each week, we average sinners and boring saints gather around ordinary bread and wine and Christ himself is there with us.

Tish says that she still longs for a revolution and wants to make a difference in the world. But she’s come to think differently about what this might look like:

“But I’ve come to the point where I’m not sure anymore just what God counts as radical. And I suspect that for me, getting up and doing the dishes when I’m short on sleep and patience is far more costly and necessitates more of a revolution in my heart than some of the more outwardly risky ways I’ve lived in the past. And so this is what I need now: the courage to face an ordinary day…the bravery it takes to believe that a small life is still a meaningful life…I’m starting to learn that, whether in Mongolia or Tennessee, the kind of ‘giving my life away’ that counts starts with how I get up on a gray Tuesday morning. It never sells books. It won’t be remembered. But it’s what makes a life. And who knows? Maybe, at the end of days, a hurried prayer for an enemy, a passing kindness to a neighbor, or budget planning on a boring Thursday will be the revolution stories of God making all things new.”

This reminds me of those famous words of St. Teresa of Calcutta: “God is not calling us to do great things but to do small things with great love.” Yes, that it. Courageous faithfulness that embraces the ordinary and does small things with great love. Perhaps this is the key to being an average person, living an ordinary life, in a beautiful way.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Go to this link to read Tish’s blog in its entirety: http://thewell.intervarsity.org/blog/courage-ordinary

Renee Krueger