The Power of One Pursuit
A Defining Moment Meets a Divided Heart
Have you ever noticed that defining moments in life can come at the least expected times? Even more, sometimes these defining moments come in the midst of great discomfort and uncertainty. Almost 11 years ago to this month, one of these unexpected defining moments broke into my life within a season of great personal difficulty and pain.
It was a brutally hot and humid July afternoon, I was driving in my red rust bucket of a car (well, more like sitting since I was at a dead stop in rush hour traffic), and to top it off my gas tank was on “E.” In this state my car’s air conditioning wasn’t working since its version of A.C. was driving with all four windows down while going over 40mph. I was trying to get to a physical therapy appointment to treat a herniated disc in my lower back, and as I was impatiently waiting to exit the irritating, jam-packed highway for the nearest gas station, I had burning shots of pain pulsating down my left leg. Desperate to find something to help pass the time, I came across a CD in my glove compartment with the hand-written words “ONE THING” on it. It was a copy of a Bible message a close friend had handed to me recently from some guy I had never heard of before. So I shoved it in my CD player hoping to find some sense of comfort. I never expected what would happen next.
It was a message on Psalm 27, which was somewhat familiar to me at that point in my Christian journey. As I listened, I remember being immediately critical. I thought the speaker’s voice was annoying; he was shouting, very passionate, but simply annoying to me. While I was enduring listening to this message, something began to happen to me. Something began to awaken in me that I hadn’t ever felt before. I’ve heard the saying that “passion isn’t taught, it’s caught,” and I realized I was beginning to “catch something.” This “something” was actually ONE THING. I was being awakened to the pursuit of ONE THING: GOD ALONE.
David’s One Pursuit
The context of Psalm 27 is a time where David had been profiled as a threat to Saul’s reign, which had gone awry due to his idolatrous heart. At this point in David’s life he also had recently been anointed to be the next King of Israel, which enflamed Saul’s jealous and selfish anger. The content of the Psalm further reveals that David was being pursued by enemies (vv. 2-3); he was shut out of the house of the Lord (v. 4); he was parting from his mother and father (v. 10), and was subject to slander, gossip, and false witness (v. 12). David’s very life and future was being threatened, and this was a period of great difficulty and darkness. Yet it was out of this dire situation that the cry for ONE THING emerges from the heart of David. We find this cry at the apex of the Psalm in verse 4, which powerfully and succinctly declares:
“One thing have I asked of the LORD
that will I seek after;
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4, ESV)
Before you read any further, stop and slowly re-read this verse two more times. Soak in every word.
The first two words of this verse are very significant. Of all the things David could ask the LORD for, he asks here for ONE THING. On one hand his life is being pursued by enemies and he has been rejected by his own family. On the other hand he holds the promise of future wealth, influence, power, and status as the next King of Israel. Yet the cry of his heart is not for comfort, the destruction of his enemies, or for his path to kingship to be quickened. All of David’s affections and desires are bound up in this ONE THING. Now notice here that David says there is “ONE THING” he is asking and that he is seeking after. Here we find desire and action working together towards a singular pursuit. David is asking God for the desire of HIM ALONE so that he would pursue GOD ALONE. This is significant because in order to be a person of one pursuit, it will take both desire and action. Not only does David have a desire for God alone, he says he is going to put intentional time and energy into it. He says he is willing to sacrifice and forsake all other things for the pursuit of this ONE THING.
As we move on in this verse we can see that there are three facets of this ONE THING. There is ONE THING David is asking for and pursuing, but there are three ways we can see from this verse that David does this. This three-stranded cord could be outlined in the following way:
FACET # 1 “…that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life..”
The Point: KNOW GOD’S PRESENCE
FACET # 2 “…to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD…”
The Point: KNOW GOD’S CHARACTER
FACET # 3 “…and to inquire in his temple.”
The Point: KNOW GOD’S WISDOM
While these three facets could certainly be expounded upon, I encourage you to read and pray through Psalm 27 this week and investigate for yourself how David’s one pursuit to know God’s presence, character, and wisdom is reflected in this Psalm and how it can also emerge from your own heart in a fresh way.
God’s Pursuit of a Distracted Heart
Let me honestly confess that I often find my pursuit of God not matching my desire for God. I say God is the most important and best thing in my life, yet if I take a realistic look at my life, how I spend my time, money, energy, and resources, my life wouldn’t speak as strongly as my heart would about my desire and pursuit of God. For it takes both desire and action working together. All desire and no action leads to an unrealistic, apathetic, and lukewarm life. But all action and no desire (or having the right heart) leads to arrogance, hypocrisy, and dead religion. Now this isn’t meant to produce guilt as a motivator to pursue God, but rather a conviction to surrender to God. We must depend on God for our pursuit of him alone.
Genuine desire will lead to authentic action. For genuine desire is humble, which depends on God as you pursue Him. “David’s holy desire led him to resolute action.” In his seminal commentary on the Psalms, Charles Spurgeon wrote that, “Divided aims tend to distraction, weakness, disappointment…the man of one pursuit is successful.”
Little did I know that over a decade ago the Lord would reset my life-trajectory by the truth in Psalm 27:4. My grouchy attitude was invaded by His grace, and my irritable self-focus was transformed into an intimate God-focus. My circumstances didn’t change for a long time after that moment, but since that moment my character has changed.
Let me conclude by offering a quote by one of my favorite authors, A.W. Tozer, in which he says “that before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man…We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit.” You see, the essence of our lives can be summed up in two words: “ONE THING.” For our lives always consist in the pursuit of one thing. That “one thing” can be expressed in two directions, yet only one can be chosen at a given time. The two directions are “GOD” or “self.” By God’s grace, the choice is ours. So may we pursue Christ above all else!
Copyright © 2016 Justin Jeppesen. All rights reserved.
Serving in pastoral ministry for the past nine years, Justin has been privileged to be at the same church in two different positions. He spent his first six years as a Youth Pastor, where he first developed a deep conviction for prayer leadership and renewal. Since 2013, he has occupied the role of Assistant Pastor, where he helps lead a multi-generational church in further becoming a house of prayer for the nations. Through mobilizing men and equipping the next generation of church leaders, Justin passionately strives in God’s grace to see revival happen in and through God’s people of all ages. He currently lives in a suburb of St. Paul, MN with his awesome wife Madeline and two pets.
 Spurgeon, C.H. The Treasury of David: Classic reflections on the wisdom of the Psalms. Volume I, Part 2, Hendrickson, Peabody, MA. 2008. p. 2.
 Tozer, A.W. The Pursuit of God. WingSpread. Camp Hill, PA. 2006. p. 11.