Hands Held High

  • Hands Held High
  • Matthew 2:2; Psalm 63:1-4
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • July 9, 2017
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7-9-17 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

Good morning Church! Today we are starting a new two part series entitled “The Heart of Worship.” As we do, I want to ask you to hit the rewind button on the remote control of your mind and go all the way back to December and the story of Christmas. That might seem like an odd thing to do in early July, but I promise it will be helpful to us this morning.


In Matthew 2:2 we find the Wise Men and their encounter with King Herod. Scripture says that they asked him, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews?  We saw His star as it rose, and we have come to worship Him.”  Now that is the same reason we claim to be here in this place today.


What I love about this is that the wise men didn’t come to get something from God, but they came to offer worship to Him.  Tragically, for far too many people today, Christianity really has been reduced to some kind of a formula, so often, where people actually believe that God exists for us, that if we just do the right thing – if we pray the right prayer, if we act the right way – then God’s got to do whatever we want Him to do.


This makes God out to be as if He’s a genie.  We rub on Him just right – poof! – He’s going to pop out and say, “You get three wishes for today, and I’m here to serve you.  What is your wish?  Your wish is My command.”


Reality is, that is not why God exists.  He does not exist for us, but we exist for Him.  We are created to glorify Him, to worship Him, to make Him known, and to bring Him honor.  I’ll be real honest with you, as a church, I believe that God wants more of us to form our hearts toward Him in worship.


In fact, just as your pastor, I would say there are a lot of things that we’re doing really well, as the body of Christ.  But quite honestly, I believe one of the greatest areas that we can improve is learning not just on the weekends, but seven days a week, to be worshipers – to see our lives as an act of worship.


Worship isn’t something we do.  A worshiper is who we are.  We’re created to worship God from the depths of our hearts.  This morning and next week what I want to do is really ask that God would build within us a desire to know Him more intimately, and worship Him more passionately.


Today, I want to start with something we see over and over again in Scripture – lifting up our hands before a holy God, in a heart of worship.


Now, some of you, if you didn’t grow up around the Church, and you walked in and saw people doing this …  It looks a bit different, right?  It does.  You look on, and it almost feels awkward, because –  It’s like watching somebody make out.  You know it’s real, but you don’t feel like you should be watching.  I want to explain why the Scripture teaches us to lift our hands to God, and what exactly does it accomplish?


Again, for those of you that maybe aren’t used to seeing someone lift their hands in worship it can be kind of funny to see.  I’m going to rely on comedian Tim Hawkins to help me make my point. (Video of Tim Hawkins)


On a more serious note, what I want to do today is look at Scripture so that we can understand more about why we do something with our hands as part of worship. Let’s take a look at Psalm 63:1-4. King David is in the wilderness and finds himself at a very low point in his life as he cries out to God.


1 You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you; in a dry and parched land where there is no water.


I wonder, right now, how many of you are in a place in your life where this reflects your current situation?  It feels dry right now; you feel like you’re in a desolate place.  Sometimes you feel alone and rejected.  Oftentimes you feel afraid.  I didn’t think life was going to turn out like this; I didn’t think I’d be at this place in my life right now. I thought I would be happy, but it’s not that happy for me right now.


2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.

3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.

4 I will praise you as long as I live…


Now, remember, he’s in a bad place.  He’s not saying, “I’m thanking You because things are good.”  He’s simply saying, “I’m thanking You because You are still good, even though my circumstances are not.”  He says, “I will praise You as long as You live.”


Then David says, “…and in your name I will lift up my hands.”


You cannot experience the grace of God without showing gratitude, in some form or fashion.  When you truly understand who God is, and what He’s done for you, you want to express your heart in worship for Him. That’s what David was doing here.


In fact, I want to read to you a verse from the New Testament.  Paul was actually giving Timothy instructions to help Christians worship.  In 1 Timothy 2:8 Paul told young Timothy, “8 In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.”


If you were here with us last week, you know that we had one service here in the sanctuary at 10:30 a.m. In this service, our children actually started the worship service for us by asking us to join them in singing a song called, “Hosanna.”


The most amazing thing took place. When the children were up here singing and helping lead us in worship, all of the sudden, adults all over the place were doing all of the motions right along with the kids. When it said to clap your hands, grown men and women clapped their hands. When it said to wave your arms, grown men and women waved their arms and the same thing occurred when the song said to play the drums and rock the guitar.


Then the children went back to their seats and our sanctuary and LakeRidge Praise worship teams took back over. When we started singing more songs, the strangest thing took place.  Some of your clappers must have been broken because your hands went right back down to your side.


After taking that whole scene in, here’s my thought for you, church. Don’t you ever let your children and grandchildren out worship you. We set the tone.  We seek God. We seek after God’s own heart.


Now, why would God ask us to do this?  Why is it that God wants us to lift our hands to Him?  Again, I can’t prove this, but I believe, with all my heart, that our God, our Heavenly Father, absolutely loves when His children lift hands to worship Him.  I believe God loves this.


I think back to when my daughters were babies and they first began to lift their arms up toward me, as their father, in a desire for me to pick them up and how it would melt my heart. When your child reaches out toward you, it is instinctive to respond.


I can just imagine the love of our Heavenly Father.  There is no loving father on earth who would reject the outstretched hands of a child, and our Heavenly Father loves when we lift our hands toward Him.  When our hands move toward God, I believe His heart moves toward us.  He loves when we lift up our hands to worship Him.


In fact, James 4:8 says this. “8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you.”   As we draw near to our Heavenly Father, as we lift our hands, saying, “God, I can’t reach You, but this is the best I can do.  I’m lifting up my hands in an act of worship” – as we draw near to Him, He draws near to us.


Why do we do this?  I believe God loves it.  It also can be a literal offering of praise. Similar to how you might give money in an offering, lifting up your hands can be an offering to God.


In fact, this is what Psalm 141:1-2 says, David, again, in a very low point in his life, said, “1 O Lord, I am calling [on] You.  Please hurry!  Listen when I cry to You for help!  2 Accept my prayer as incense offered to You, and my upraised hands as an evening offering.”  I love this – “I’m praying, and accept that as an offering.  I love You.  I need You.  Accept my upraised hands as an evening offering to You.”


Some of you today, this will be the first time you’ve ever given an offering of lifted hands to God.  It may feel a bit awkward, at first.  It may feel like you’re kind of pushing yourself out of your spiritual comfort zone.  But you just lift them up and say, “God, I’m offering my heart to You.  I’m offering my praise to You.”  You may not even feel like praising right now.  “I’m offering praise to You anyway, not because of what I see, but because of who You are.”  And God will be pleased.


We lift our hands because God loves it.  We lift our hands to Him because it’s an offering of praise to our God.  We lift our hands because we’re reaching out to Him, and as we draw near to Him, God draws near to us.


Another reason that we may lift our hands to God is that we’re declaring battle, and we need God’s help.  Some of you right now, you may be in a place where you’re in a real battle, I mean a real battle, a really dark place.  If things don’t change, you don’t know what you’re going to do right now.  You’re going to lift up hands and say, “I’m declaring battle, and I need the help of my all-powerful God to do battle with me and for me.  I’m declaring battle with uplifted hands.”


In fact, I want to give you the best example of this in all of Scripture.  In the Old Testament, in Exodus 17, the Amalekites were attacking the Israelites.  Moses said to Joshua, “Hey, Joshua, choose some men.  We’re going to battle.  They’ve declared war against us, and we are pushing back.”  Moses said, “Tomorrow I’ll stand on the top of the mountain, and I will lift my hands to God, and I will pray to Him.”


Now here’s what Scripture said, in v.10 -11: “10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, [and] Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill.  11 As long as Moses held up his hands the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands the Amalekites were winning.”


So, check this out.  What do we have?  Winning … losing …  Winning … losing … tying …  We’re losing.  It’s kind of like hot … colder … colder … warmer … now winning.  When the arms were lifted up, acknowledging the sovereign power of God, God’s people were winning.  But when the arms were no longer up, acknowledging the power of God, God’s people started losing.


Here’s the reality: Some of you right now are in a battle, and it feels as if you might be losing.  It might be time for you to lift up your hands and say, “God, I trust You, no matter what,” to lift up your hands and say, “On my own, I don’t have the ability to get this done, but I seek You.  I lift up my hands, and I praise you.  In spite of what I see, in spite of what I feel, in spite of what’s going on, I continue to praise You.  I lift up my hands, declaring the battle is Yours, God, and I trust in You.  I lift up my hands, God, and I declare that, by faith, I believe You are fighting for me, and You are with me.  And greater is the One who is in me than the one who is in the world, that no weapon formed against me will prosper, but God is for me, and has plans to bless me.  I lift my hands.”


Then, what’s interesting is V.12, whenever Moses’ hands grew tired – because guess what?  You can’t leave your hands up like this … for hours on end.  They get tired.  They wear down. “12 Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. 13 As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.”


You hear this story and you have to ask yourself, who do I have in my life that helps hold up my arms? Because the truth is that after a while, it becomes impossible to hold your arms up all of the time.


One of the blessings of coming here to LakeRidge to be your pastor is that I’m blessed with people here who help hold up my arms. Each week there is a group of people who receive prayer requests from me and pray for my family and for my work as your lead pastor. Then once a month, or more often if I need them, there is another group that meets with me to pray over me. Then on Sunday mornings there is a group that meets at 8:45 a.m. in the John Burk prayer room to pray for me before our worship services start.


All three of these groups have been so important to me this past year. When I start to lose faith, what do they do?  They hold up my hands.  When I get tired, they pray for me.  When I’m discouraged, they’re there for me and help me hold up my arms and continue to seek God …  I believe that there are people here who would be happy to do the same for you as well.


Not only will you hold up your arms, but that’s why we worship together.  That’s why coming to church matters.  Because we don’t just worship God by ourselves, we worship Him as the body of Christ.  We corporately stand together, leaning on one another, lifting each other’s arms, and saying, “Together, we’re going to seek God.  Together we’re going to press into Him.  When you can’t hold up your hands, I want to be there to help hold them up.  I want to be an Aaron;  I want to be a Hur, and I need you to be that for me, as well.”


I’ve talked a great deal today about holding up our hands in worship and now I want to challenge you to not only talk about or hear about it, but to give it a try. It may feel as if it is way beyond your comfort zone, but I want to ask you to consider doing a little experiment with me. Please don’t feel any pressure to do so because that is not what we are about here. But if you feel God compelling you to step out of your comfort zone, then I hope you will do exactly that today.


I’m going to pray for us in just a second and then we are going to take some time to sing God’s praises. Sing out to God. You don’t have to be good. Just sing.


Worship God, as a declaration of praise, as you reach out to God, and watch Him reach out to you, as an offering and a battle cry.  Would you join me as we worship God?  At the right time, maybe for the first time in your life, lift up holy hands, in an act of worship to our good God.