I am so thankful for the husband God has given me! I remember a time in college when we were dating, and he started to do a little "heart examining". Being that we were both in a Christian school studying music, the Lord had directed him to study God's Word to find out what was required of us in how we worshipped Him. Although this journey started with a study on Christian music, it began to grow deeper over the months and years. We both had some similar ideas about how to live the Christian life, but we had been told these things by pastors, Sunday school teachers, and other church leaders. He really pushed me to dig for myself, directly at the source, to see what the Bible had to say about being a follower of Jesus. It was during those days that I made a few key decisions for my life. I knew that my purpose on this earth was to glorify God, but what exactly did that mean?
What is worship to a holy God?
If you ask a room full of people that same question, you will get a multitude of answers. Worship is defined in Webster's dictionary as "the act of showing respect and love to a god." I think the most important thing to remember about worship is that it is not controlled by how we feel. What about when you have that bad day where everything goes wrong? What if a loved one passes away suddenly? What if you didn't get the dream job you applied for? These difficult days in our lives come and go, but God is always faithful! Worship does not wait for an emotion or a feeling; worship is an action we choose to do in obedience to our Creator. Hebrews 12:28-29 states, "Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe." The Greek word for worship, Proskuneo, means "to kiss, as a token of reverence". Worship can be in the spirit of praise for the greatness of God, in thankfulness for what He has accomplished in your life, or in reverence for His holiness. We should approach the throne of God daily in a state of wonder at who God is and what He has done for us.
A man named Bruce Olson left everything he knew and headed to Columbia, South America in the 1960s because he felt the call to reach the Motilone tribe for Christ. After a few failed attempts to make contact with the hostile people, he was finally able to live amongst them in their camp. He began building relationships with the people and through that, God was able to capture the peoples' hearts. When they began to learn about worship, Olson decided to let them, with guidance, choose how to worship instead of teaching them his own ways. These tribe members didn't build a church or attend weekly services, although they met together regularly. They wrote new songs in praise to God and adapted them to the chants they had sung for so many years. While I know many of us would have been a little uncomfortable with their way of worshipping the Lord, I have no doubt in my mind that God was pleased. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they had found a way to stand in awe of a holy God.
One of my favorite examples in the Bible of true worship is the imprisoned Paul and Silas. They had been taken away, beaten, and locked in stocks in a dark, damp jail. What a strange occurrence it must have been for the other inmates to hear them "praying and singing hymns to God" at midnight (Acts 16:25)! How in the world could they have found the energy to choose worship in the midst of such hardship? They each made a cognitive decision to ignore their circumstances and worship their heavenly Father in spirit and in song, just as they were commanded by God!
Worship is also something we do with our whole self. We should daily "present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1). Now this kind of worship is not easy! It's not simply dressing up one day a week and following a worship leader through a few songs. It's not even devoting a couple Saturdays a year to help out people in need (carefully planned out of course, so it doesn't conflict with your football watching schedule or your vacation time that has been planned out months in advance). God requires worship from ALL of us, ALL the time. The preacher, A.W. Tozer, preached a sermon in 1962 where he said this: "...We like to have just everybody, anything, anyway worship. It can't be. You must prepare yourself to worship God. That preparation is not always a pleasant thing. There must be some revolutionary changes in your life. There must be some things destroyed in your life." You see, the Holy Spirit guides us into worship (John 4:23-24). As a believer, He lives in us and is always with us. That means worship should be acted upon through our words, our daily routine, how we treat others, and how often we seek God. 1 Peter 2:9 says you are a "holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." Worship is why we are here: why we are created!
Our worship is daily and can be reflected in so many areas of a life wholly consumed with God. A great checklist for worship would be to ask yourself these 3 questions:
- Is it bringing glory to God?
- Is it pointing others to do the same?
- Is it unselfish and unafraid?
I love to read the psalms of David. There seems to be a passage for almost anything I am going through! There is joy; there is sorrow; there is fear and thankfulness. Read through Psalm 150 as I paraphrase. These verses are dealing specifically with praise to our God but notice how many different ways to worship are found in just this one passage: Worship "in His sanctuary...in His mighty heavens!" We are called to praise Him in thankfulness for what He has accomplished. Worship His greatness and power. Use different instruments; use your own voice. That passage just stirs such a fire in my soul when I read it! I love that while God gives specific instructions for our spirit of worship, He allows such a variety in the way we can worship. Psalm 100 talks about shouting and singing while Psalm 95:6 shows us a more reverential approach in bowing before our Lord and remembering who He is.
While studying God's Word, I see two main steps for worshipping the Father with our heart: Listening and obeying. There is worship in being still and seeking God's face. That may be through prayer or through your devotions, but the more you are listening, the more He reveals Himself to you. Matt Redman said, "God longs to bring us to the place where we ache so much with His heart that to do nothing is simply no longer an option". Listen to His voice and follow His leading. The obedience part is hard. You know when you tell your child to go pick up their room? The easy part is hearing you! You expect them afterward to carry it out‚Äîout of respect to you as their parent. The prophet Samuel states in 1 Samuel 15:22, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams". One of the mandatory ways of worship in the Old Testament was sacrifices. It was a routine that their fathers and grandfathers had done before them. God is pleased, however, when our routine transforms into something deeper. When we listen to His voice and obey His words, it is a sweet fragrance of holy worship to Him.
Worship--listening and obeying God daily with your whole self out of respect and awe of who He is-- can be so difficult and yet, it is required of us as Christ-followers. It all comes down to this: What do we value most in our lives? The more we are in pursuit of our Savior, the things of this world fade in importance. Out of the shadows emerges a life so consumed and dedicated to the things of God, you cannot contain your praise, your wonder, your thankfulness for who He is and what He has done for you!