Context Matters

Gwen Smith Christian Living, Faith, Peace, Perspective, Prayer, Rest, Worship 21 Comments

“I got a call back!”

This statement can mean different things to different people depending on the context. To an actor or actress, this is a declaration of excitement that stirs up dreams, desires, aspirations and goals. To a woman who just had a mammogram, this is an expression of concern that stirs up fears, unknowns and anxiety.

Context matters.

It shapes the narrative of the story being told.

Psalm 98 helps me to see the matters of my heart, the matters of my now, the matters of my heavy, in the context of eternity.

These verses establish a narrative where the context of life is eternal, not temporal.

They establish a narrative where the bigness of my circumstances shrink when placed before the backdrop of a ginormous, loving, faithful God who is celebrated by oceans and rivers and mountains (vv7-8). And these call-to-worship verses lift the veil of my unknowns so I can see beyond my now to the God who was and is and is to come.

Sing a new song to the Lord,
for he has performed wonders;
his right hand and holy arm
have won him victory.
2 The Lord has made his victory known;
he has revealed his righteousness
in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his love
and faithfulness to the house of Israel;
all the ends of the earth
have seen our God’s victory.

4 Let the whole earth shout to the Lord;
be jubilant, shout for joy, and sing.
5 Sing to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and melodious song.
6 With trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn
shout triumphantly
in the presence of the Lord, our King.

7 Let the sea and all that fills it,
the world and those who live in it, resound.
8 Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the mountains shout together for joy
9 before the Lord,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world righteously
and the peoples fairly.
(Psalm 98:1-9, CSB)

As I consider the context of Psalm 98, a few truths rise.

Because the Lord has done marvelous things in the past (v1), I can trust Him completely to do marvelous things again today and tomorrow. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Because the Lord has made His salvation and righteousness known to all the nations in Christ (v2), I can be confident of my salvation and trust that when I confessed my sins, God forgave me and cleansed me from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). I can trust that when I confessed with my mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believed in my heart that God raised Him from the dead, I was saved. (Romans 10:9) “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:10)

It’s common for us to feel confused or unsure of salvation. To know why we exist or where we fit in with God. Does He really care?

We weigh our bad and good on scales of performance instead of grace.

We question God’s interest in us. And we think at times He seems distant, scary and harsh.

We anguish over the brokenness He allows. Get frustrated when He doesn’t do what we ask of Him.

The heaviness of it all can press us low.

Yet where heaviness presses, Hope lifts.

Because the Lord will judge the world, all people, in righteousness and equity (v9), I’m spurred on to give thanks and praise for the forgiveness of my sins and for the eternal hope I have in Jesus. And I’m inspired fresh to set the matters of my now before the righteous, everlasting God who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly beyond what I could ever ask for or imagine.

Psalm 98 calls us beyond questions to a place of calm. Beyond disinterest to a place of worship. Beyond I-can-take-it-or-leave-it wishy-washy singing to a place of sold out, fired up jubilance.

When I allow these truths to shape the narrative of my worship and acquiesce to the sovereignty of God, my heart shifts responsively to sing Him a new song (v1) and shout for joy to my worthy King (v4-6).

What context is shaping the narrative being told in your heart today?

Righteous Lord,
Thank You for giving me the truth of Your Word to inform my soul of Your love and faithfulness. By grace You’ve invited me into a story of hope filled with power and promise. I praise You, God, for the marvelous things You’ve done and will continue to do today. Help me to live today with the eternal backdrop of Your sovereignty in mind.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Where does this message find you today? What’s shaping the narrative of your worship? Let’s share and pray it out on the wall of my blog today – or send me a direct message on Instagram and give me scoop.

So much love and blessing to you, friend.



PS. What if what you don’t know about yourself can actually hurt you? The Enneagram can help you understand core motivations and lead you toward healthy responses and relationships. Enneagram Coach Beth McCord joins me on the latest Graceologie Podcast to discuss how understanding the way you’re wired can help you grow in wisdom, love, faith and relationships.

PSS. There are times we just don’t know what to say to God. Times when our emotions are lit and we might not even want to talk to Him. Sara Hagerty joins me for a rich conversation about a simple practice of adoration that will help you experience God in the thick of life’s demands.

Also, Jeremy Camp joined me on a new GRACEOLOGIE episode, along with his beautiful wife Adie, for a fascinating and rich conversation you won’t want to miss!

PSSS. Coronavirus still has us all quarantined. How can we continue to process our new reality and make the most of our time inside? Kathi Lipp joins me on the GRACEOLOGIE podcast for a conversation about ways to sift through, organize and strengthen our minds, hearts and homes in a season of quarantine, loss and confusion. Listen here.

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Comments 21

  1. This was awesome.

    Yknow I’m disappointed to say the narrative of my heart hasn’t always been the best.

    Recently deserted by the man I called “husband,” I feel lost often. God is restoring evidently but I often feel so sad with the journey.

    Its like- although things are so good, my heart aches about the pain I’ve endured.

  2. Loved this devotional. Life is pressing on me yet Hope lifts. Hope is God my Savior, Redeemer and Friend. I don’t know what to say to Him today other than thank you, I love you and I am going through a Valley. I know He has a plan and I trust him.

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      Thanks, Jennifer! That’s simply grace at work, friend. So grateful you joined the conversation!!



  3. Thanks for sharing. This message goes so well with what is going on all over the world today. God is still in charge.

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      Hi Judy!

      It’s my honor. Totally agree! God is sovereign and can be trusted… even in hard, trying times!


  4. I’m no more special than everyone else…….it’s about how all have been forgiven, not just me…. I had nothing to do with that, nothing, but neither has anyone else… jubilant over me being forgiven??????

    There’s nothing to be jubilant over, it’s got nothing to do with me being forgiven… it’s about all of those in our midst knowing they are as well… equal to us who already know.

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      Hi Kathie,

      Thanks for your comments and for sharing your perspective. I honestly disagree with you. I AM jubilant about being forgiven of my sins, and the psalmist commands us to sing and celebrate over our salvation. While all mankind is equal in that we’re made by God, and in His image, we are forgiven of our sins and become children of God only when we confess JESUS as Lord and ask Him, by faith through grace, to forgive us. So grace is a gift I will celebrate for all times.

      I wish you well and pray His grace over you today!

  5. Hello Gwen,
    I work in a store are there a lot of young adults and teenagers. They have no clue of who God is nor do they want to know. Some even, Call me the religious lady. please help me to reach these people and know what to say to them. We all work very hard to serve the community and we are all depleted emotionally over this coronavirus. I see so many negative reactions to people. And I know it’s all because we wore out. But without Jesus, there is no hope and no joy. And I see that in them. Please give me some ways to witness to this generation. I feel like oil and water. Thanks again in Christ my sister.

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  6. I can’t sing. I can not carry a tune. God gave me a small piece of his world to take care of. A blessing to me. His birds, all kinds and colors, fill my feeders and their songs fill the air. Wild animals pass through from bears to skunks. I plant seeds in his garden and they grow into flowers or food to feed my family. And my heart sings with love and joy to my God. It may not be as grand as a river clapping or a mountain shouting, but to me it is my way of praising my God, Jesus and Holy Spirit. Thank you for reminding me that praise can come be offered in different ways. Thank you for your posts.

    1. I also love that he sings over YOU with delight (Zephaniah 3:17)
      Imagine how beautiful his voice is if he is the one who gives the birds their song…

  7. Good morning Gwen!
    As an educator, wife, and mother of 11, this pandemic has created a lot of financial stress and uncertainty. I suffered a mild stroke almost a year ago, and I worry every day that it may happen again. Practicing self care is not something I do very well. God has always taken care of my family, but I have to say in this context of uncertain time, I struggle with trusting him fully and completely sometimes. I am ashamed to say that, but I battle with my flesh side every day. Please pray that God provides comfort and peace in my heart and allows me to be the role model that my kids, husband, and family needs at this time.

    1. God bless you for your honesty. I too struggle with my thoughts of unbelief. I wake up almost every day with some degree of anxiety. I pray for you right now that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will impress on both our hearts and minds that He/God “has allotted to each a measure of faith”, also He is “the author and finisher of our faith” as well as “by grace are you saved through Faith, and that are not of ourselves it is a GIFT of God”, so (both grace and FAITH are the gifts) Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail, and he has prayed this prayer for us. The man with the epileptic boy cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). This is a good prayer. It acknowledges that without God we cannot believe as we ought to believe. Similarly the apostles pray to Jesus, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5). They pray this way because Jesus is the one who can do that. I got some of these excerpts from a John Piper message.

      Again I pray right now that our Lord will increase our faith in HIM and that we may truly know Him and his love for us.

      God Bless you!

  8. This was awesome. Thank you for being a blessing to women of God everywhere, especially me! I pray God’s blessing over you, your family and your ministry. I pray that you will always be sensitive to the leading of the spirit and as he pours into you, you will pour out to those around you. In Jesus’ name.

  9. I need prayer for my relationship with my son. He is a recovering alcoholic we have had a very strained relationship ever since my husband passed 7 years ago. I try to talk to him with live but he just sets me off sometimes he had only been clean for almost 60 days so I know I have to try and speak words of love and I start out good but if I don’t choose my words correctly the conversation turns bad. Please pray that God will touch his heart because he is not walking with the Lord he’s trying to do this alone. Thank you for your prayers

  10. Context Matters. The message and Psalm helps me to realize that God cares about us. He has done amazing things. Some people do not ever see the things He does. I feel lucky that I was saved and have the chance to know God. I appreciate the chance to be sober and healthy. I get to see the days I have with simplicity and value like I have never before seen it. I get to sing a new song and praise God. But like you said, sometimes I do not think God is with me or cares too much about me as I work out in the fields continuously and see ugliness in other people. Or I see that justice in the world does not seem to exist in many forms. So maybe I question that God is there? I don’t want to ever question it. And its not about me. But we all want to be loved and cared for and when we feel alone or work a lot maybe we do not feel it? When we don’t get to go to church or be with a group then we feel alone? It’s hard. Life here is hard. Heaviness weighs on the heart. But hope lifts us up. My hope is that we all can be close to BIG PAPA – God and know that He is with us and cares.

    1. CS Lewis has a quote “I believe in Christ like I believe in the sun; I can’t touch it but I always know its there”

      Something like that 🙂

      I love that because in the quiet moments, I can listen to the whispers of his voice as we enjoy his word. As I read his word, I see so lovely that it’s like fresh water to my soul. It’s like it clarifies my feelings that are always changing because his word is unchanging & his character steadfast

  11. Good morning Gwen thank you so much for your encouragement this morning.

    In a busy world we are often impatient for God to reply to our prayers, and thoughts for more in depth studying.

    Sometimes the messages come like waiting for a bus. In my life time on public transport believe me I have waited for alot of buses 😂. Your encouragement this morning reveals to me that God’s timetable ensures that with patience and endurance the answers will come. And like waiting for the bus sometimes the answers may require to wait a while or 3 answers come at the same time.

    I feel that the timing of your encouragement is awesome when our prayer journey is very much seeking answers and responses!
    May your ministry grow and provide much needed support in challenging times. ❤ thank you Gwen. Love to you and yours from my family.

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