When the worship pastor at our church spoke on Sunday about worshiping God as a family it felt like the culmination of what I feel like God has been walking me through over the last couple of weeks: worship, worship, worship.
I am one of those people who loves to sing along with music in the car. (The people in the car with me may not love it quite as much.) I long ago gave up on trying to pretend that I was just chatting on my bluetooth while I was driving, and have just given myself fully over to people giggling at me from nearby vehicles while I sing along to blasting praise music on my way to work. But recently I started really trying to focus on the words of the songs and what they were saying about God while I was singing them – instead of just making sounds with my mouth and making neighboring drivers snicker. I wanted to really worship God and not just sing along.
What I found was that my drive to work became this incredibly sweet, intimate time with God that put everything that has been going on in my life in right relation to a beautiful, holy, perfect, omnipotent, loving God. I began to look forward to that time (which soon expanded to the drive home as well), and missed it when I did not have it for whatever reason. I loved the feeling of being so close to God.
Given the limited time in a day and the long list of things to do, however, the trip to and from work is one of the best times to return phone calls and catch up with friends. (Once I get home, I run the risk of attempting to have a conversation while my eleven year old wails “Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! You’re allllllllllllllllllllllllllllllways on the phoooooooooooooooooooooooone!” Which – I want to say in my defense – isn’t true since I avoid being on the phone at home so that I can spend time with the aforementioned eleven year old! Hmmph! But I digress…). One morning when I was driving to work, I was thinking about calling a dear friend who I had been playing phone tag with for a week or so. But I was torn: I didn’t want to miss out on that experience of worship I had been having singing along to the praise music – but I really did want to talk to my friend, and thought it was unlikely we would catch each other at any other time.
So I called her. She told me all that had been going on in her life recently – incredible challenges and incredible blessings. She was so excited to see how God was working in her life and the life of her family, to see His loving hand in every difficult circumstance. It was wonderful and encouraging and uplifting, and as I hung up it dawned on me: it was worship.
At the end of the same week, I was driving home from work and was about to reach for my mp3 player when I remembered another phone call I needed to make. It was a phone call that I knew would be tough to do on a Friday when I was emotionally spent – one of those phone calls where I knew I probably wouldn’t hang up feeling encouraged or uplifted. But as I started to play some music instead of making that call, I thought of how often I have been on the other end of a prayer where I was pleading with God for the same kind of reassurance I needed to give in this situation – and He has always come through! So I called. And as I put down the mp3 player and picked up the phone, it hit me again: this is worship.
Pastor John Piper defines worship this way: “Worship is an inward feeling and outward action that reflects the worth of God”. What’s easy to miss is that the outward action does not necessarily involve music or singing – we actually have about a thousand opportunities a day to worship God in a variety of different ways. It can include (as I realized) worshiping God by celebrating His work in a conversation with a friend, worshiping God through serving as He served, and worshiping God through sacrificing and loving as He sacrificed for and loved us. (And a bunch of other stuff!)
James (the brother of Jesus) writes this: “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17, NIV). He is talking about action as the natural outgrowth of faith, and how a belief without action is dead. You could easily replace “action” with “worship” – at least in the way we are talking about worship here: the outward action coming from the inward feeling that reflects the worth of God. If our hearts are truly transformed by the love of Christ, our actions should reflect that – it’s how we acknowledge and show the awesomeness of God to the world. If our hearts are not truly awed by and grateful for the extravagant gift of grace and reconciliation that God has bestowed upon us, our actions will be a forced attempt to mimic the actions of someone who is truly awed by those things. God doesn’t just want our right actions, He wants our hearts – our sincere love of Him that flows out into worship of Him, and that naturally results in actions that glorify and worship Him. As Paul says in his letter to the Roman church: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1, NASB, my emphasis).
So I’m not quite so rigid in how I spend my time to and from work anymore. There is an infinite array of possibilities in how my time and my life can rejoice in the incredible God who would so change my heart that I would want to worship Him at all.