What Is Worship?

I preached my first sermon last week. Crazy, right? Having been a pastor’s kid for my entire life, I suppose I should’ve seen it coming someday, but given my general disdain for public speaking, I’ve always been perfectly content to sit and listen to my dad preach and only be on stage if it involves music-making. But the youth pastor somehow got me to agree to speak to the youth group about worship (since I am a co-leader of the youth band), and then my dad heard about it and decided it would go perfectly with the church’s upcoming “Night of Worship”…and, well, the rest is history.

So for today’s blog post, I’m sharing my sermon. Here goes…

What Is Worship?

Hey guys! Well, most of you know I’m not all that comfortable with this microphone in front of my face if it doesn’t involve music (and even that’s a little iffy sometimes), so we’re going to start out with a little crowd participation. I’m going to put a question up here on the screens, and I want you to just shout out the first thing you think of.

When you think of worship, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

So I think one of the first things most of us picture when we think of worship is singing. And singing is definitely worship! Music is a wonderful way to worship God, and one of my personal favorites, but it’s not all there is. Worship is not an event; it’s a lifestyle. We don’t just give God our “church time” or “devotional time” and live the rest of our lives for ourselves, but we give our whole lives to God. Check out this verse from Romans, written by the apostle Paul:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. (Romans 12:1, MSG)

So ANYTHING can be worship as long as you do it for God and in a way that pleases God. If you take out the trash without complaining when your parents ask you to, that’s worship. If you decide to work toward a dream or develop a talent God has given you, that’s worship. If you are determined to maintain integrity at work even though everyone around you engages in dishonest practices, that’s worship. Let’s take a look at Colossians 3, and notice the practical ways it tells us we can live in constant worship of God:

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:16-17, NLT)

So here we see that several different ways to worship: teaching, singing, thanking God, and reflecting Him to everyone around you no matter what you do. Which pretty much covers everything!

If I could give you a singular, all-encompassing definition of worship, I think it would be that worship is day-to-day faithfulness to God.

If you’ve been coming to this church for any length of time, you’ve probably heard my dad say that the two things God prizes most are FAITHFULNESS and OBEDIENCE. And it’s true. We can sing to Him, give money to the church, and help others, but He’s not interested in any of that unless He has our hearts.

I love this quote from Oswald Chambers in his book, My Utmost For His Highest, that talks about this:

“If we will only obey, and do the task that He has placed closest to us, we will see Him. One of the most amazing revelations of God comes to us when we learn that it is in the everyday things of life that we realize the magnificent deity of Jesus Christ.”

~ Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

So worshiping God can be as simple as living our day-to-day lives with the awareness of His presence and the desire to please Him. But there’s another important aspect of worship that often comes into play when things aren’t going so well for us. Worship is also remembering and being thankful for what God has done for you.

It’s easy to be excited about worshiping God when your life is going great. You got an “A” on your math test, that guy or girl you like smiled at you in the hallway at school, you finally got that promotion at work. It’s so much harder to praise God when things are falling apart. Yet I would venture to say that that is when our worship is the most meaningful to Him.

The book of Psalms is looked to as the great example of worship in the Bible; after all, it’s just a collection of a bunch of songs! But too often I think we romanticize them into being this happy, joyful, “I’m praising God with all my heart because He fixed every problem I ever had!” kind of thing. And a lot of them are that way. But so many of them are the psalmist crying out to God in despair, pleading for deliverance, even asking God whether His unfailing love has failed. And we don’t think of that as worship, but it is.

God wants you to be honest with Him. You don’t have to pretend like everything is all roses all the time because you have God in your life. He knows that we live in a sinful world, and our lives are going to have trouble. Jesus even told his disciples that when He was on the earth!

So tell God what’s wrong. Wrestle with your doubts. (And by the way, it’s NOT a sin to have doubts!) But in the midst of all of this, remember who God is and what He has done for you.

I want to read you a psalm that will hopefully show you what I’m talking about. Some of it may even shock you. You might think, “GASP! Can he even say that to God?!?” But I want you to pay attention to where the psalmist’s doubts ultimately take him. So here we go, Psalm 77:

I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me! When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted. I think of God, and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help. You don’t let me sleep. I am too distressed even to pray! I think of the good old days, long since ended, when my nights were filled with joyful songs. I search my soul and ponder the difference now. Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will He never again be kind to me? Is His unfailing love gone forever? Have His promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He slammed the door on His compassion? And I said, “This is my fate; the Most High has turned His hand against me.” (Psalm 77:1-10, NLT)

So this dude is down in the depths of despair. He can’t possibly get any lower, and he’s accusing God of some pretty serious things. But watch where he goes from here. These next two words are really important.

BUT THEN I recall all You have done, O Lord; I remember Your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about Your mighty works. O God, Your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as You? You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate Your awesome power among the nations. By Your strong arm, You redeemed Your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. When the Red Sea saw You, O God, its waters looked and trembled! The sea quaked to its very depths. The clouds poured down rain; the thunder rumbled in the sky. Your arrows of lightning flashed. Your thunder roared from the whirlwind; the lightning lit up the world! The earth trembled and shook. Your road lead through the sea, Your pathway through the mighty waters – a pathway no one knew was there! You led Your people along that road like a flock of sheep, with Moses and Aaron as their shepherds. (Psalm 77:11-20, NLT)

The end of this psalm references Moses leading the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt. If you’re familiar with this story at all, you know that God does some INCREDIBLE miracles to free His people, and then it goes downhill real fast once they have to navigate the desert to claim their Promised Land. I mean, God split the Red Sea and they walked through it on dry ground, and then not months, not years, but DAYS later, they complain to Moses that they’re hungry and thirsty and God must have just brought them out in the desert to kill them. Because obviously, a God that parts giant bodies of water is unable to provide them with what they need on a day-to-day basis! What?!?

So when the psalmist references God’s mighty acts to free the Israelites, it would’ve been so ironic to his original audience, because he, in his own pain, is choosing to remember what God has done, while the people of Israel, who actually SAW what God did with their own two eyes, forgot all about it when they ran into trouble!

And yeah, we like to pick on the Israelites in hindsight, but really it’s SO easy to get caught up in the pain of the moment that we can’t or won’t remember what God has done for us. I know I’m guilty of this far too often!

So I guess I just want to encourage you, as Paul encouraged his readers, to give your everyday lives to God in worship. Remember God in every detail of your life, and choose to do what pleases Him. Make yourself remember what God has done for you when you’re going through hard times. Make yourself THANK Him through the hard times! (And ALL the time!) He is so worthy of everything we have to give Him! So let’s worship as we sing together, and continue to worship as we leave this place and live our everyday lives for Him.

[September 8, 2013]

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