“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth.”
– Jesus (John 4:23-24)
I once heard Worship leader, Kari Jobe, beautifully describe worship as simply “giving God His breath back.” I’ve also heard it said that worship is the “the mind’s attention and the heart’s affection expressed.” In the sermon series 24Ever, Pastor Michael Todd of Transformation Church, defines worship as “our love expressed to God as a response to His grace toward us.” In his book The Spirit of the Disciplines, Author and Philosopher, Dallas Willard, describes worship as “seeing God as worthy.” To be worthy is defined as “having weight or value.”
Worship is a way for us to extend back to God what He has already extended to us. It is an outward expression of what we possess within. Hope. Joy. Peace. Love. It flows out of us. Even in the worst of circumstances, the driest of wilderness seasons, and the darkest of nights we can still worship because we can still see that God is worthy. We still see that He is good. We can still feel the weight of His presence in our lives. We can still sense His power and know His value.
“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”
– Revelation 4:11
The sound of worship echoes throughout creation. Isaiah 55:12 says “…the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Psalm 91:1 says, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”
Stand on a beach and watch as the waves roll in and out. Listen as the wind blows an exultation of praise. Do you see how the trees bend under the weight of His glory? Do you see how the grass in the fields bow down with each breath of the wind. Do you feel the warmth of the sun soaking into your skin? Do you feel your heart beating in rhythm? Listen to the birds as they chirp their songs of praise. Look up to the stars on a dark night and see how they glow with the light of His presence. Watch as lighting shoots across the sky during a night storm. Feel the reverberations of His power in the thunder.
People from every age, every race, every language, every gender, every generation, and every differing gift and ability will praise the name of the Lord. Every knee will bow. Every tongue will confess. All of creation will sing with the angels a song of praise.
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing… To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
– Revelation 5:12-13
Worship is being aware of God’s presence in our lives even as we walk this sin-filled earth. Worship is how we express our appreciation of God’s extension of grace and mercy in our lives. Worship is being attentive to the work of God in every small and seemingly insignificant detail of our lives. It is singing songs of praise as you load the dishwasher and reflecting on the promises of God as you fold the laundry and put your kids to bed at night. Worship is standing in wonder and awe at the goodness of God. It is filling your mind and filling your heart with adoration of Him. It is focusing your thoughts on His abounding love – and allowing that love to overflow into an active worship.
“Practically speaking,” Dallas Willard writes, “the Christian’s worship is most profitable when it is centered upon Jesus Christ and goes through Him to God. When we worship, we fill our minds and hearts with wonder at Him – the detailed actions and words of His earthly life, His trial and death on the cross, His resurrection reality, and His work as an ascended intercessor.”
Our worship is hindered when we are not centered and focused on Jesus. Our worship is hindered when we are too preoccupied with other matters, and our mind is cluttered with other concerns. We cultivate a language of worship by hiding God’s Word in our hearts, and reflecting on the truth of His Words as we go throughout our daily lives. We cultivate a spirit of worship by dwelling in God’s presence and abiding in Him each day. We cultivate a heart of worship by establishing daily rhythms of prayer, study, fellowship, fasting, serving, and other spiritual disciplines. When our hearts and minds are firmly fixed on Jesus, our hearts and hands can’t help worship Him! As cliche as it sounds, gratitude changes our attitude. Stepping out into nature can be an entry into a heart of worship because it tunes our heart and allows us to feel the presence of things greater than ourselves. It humbles us, putting our smallness into perspective and giving us a reverence for God like nothing else can. Typically, we think of worship as being the songs we sing on Sunday mornings, but it is so much more. Often, our most powerful worship experiences happen outside the doors of a church building. Our most powerful worship experiences happen when we are aware of God’s presence, and expecting Him to show up in our daily routines. He is there, whenever and wherever we call on His Name. He is worthy of our praise in all times and in all seasons.
Think about the disciples at Pentecost. They were faithfully meeting together. They were waiting expectantly, because they believed Jesus and trusted Him to fulfill His promise. And in their faithfulness, God showed up, and His Holy Spirit descended in a way they had never experienced and could never have anticipated. He exceeded their expectations. That’s what happens when our hearts are fixed on Jesus. Worship overflows. It multiplies and draws others in. It expands the Church – both inwardly and outwardly. It humbles us and magnifies Him. It honors Him and gives Him the glory He is worthy to receive.
“Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
– Acts 2:43-47
Celebration is also a form of worship, but we don’t typically think about celebration as being a spiritual discipline. As Dallas Willard writes, “We engage in celebration when we enjoy ourselves, our life, our world, in conjunction with our faith and confidence in God’s greatness, beauty, and goodness. We concentrate on our life and world as God’s work and as God’s gift to us.” When I think about celebration, I think about Miriam singing and dancing before the Lord in celebration of God parting the waters of the Red Sea and delivering the Israelite’s safely to the other side (Exodus 15:20-21). When I think about celebration, I think about David as he “danced before the Lord with all his might” when the Ark of the Covenant was moved into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:12-22).
When I think about celebration, I think about feasts, and holidays, and major life events. I think about how we celebrate a life when it’s born, and we celebrate a life when it ends. We celebrate marriages when they begin. We celebrate graduations, and new jobs, and new homes. We celebrate with our friends and our family when we gather together to “eat, drink, and be merry” as Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 8:15. Jesus, Himself, performed His first public miracle at a wedding in Cana. He practiced celebration, because He knew the importance of celebration. Holidays are Holy Days. Throughout the Old Testament, God gave specific instructions for how the Jewish people should remember and keep certain days and times of the year Holy. Now, we celebrate the birth of our Savior at Christmas, and we celebrate His death and resurrection at Easter. We feast with our family and celebrate our blessings at Thanksgiving. We celebrate each new year. We celebrate each new season, each new week, each new day. In all his wisdom, Solomon said, “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?” (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25).
Don’t downplay the exciting times in your life. To downplay those times is to downplay the goodness of God. As Dallas Willard writes, “We dishonor God as much by fearing and avoiding pleasure as we do by dependence upon it or living for it.” He goes on to say, “Holy delight and joy is the great antidote to despair and is a wellspring of genuine gratitude.” When we celebrate our lives, we are celebrating the God who gives us life. When we celebrate the good things in our lives, we are celebrating the God who gives us every good gift. So let’s seize the moment, and embrace it for what it is. Let’s live our lives as a celebration of the goodness of God. Let’s enjoy His presence with us. Let’s walk in the joy of the Lord. Let’s give Him the praise, honor, and glory that He is so worthy to receive. Let’s worship Him. Let’s celebrate Him.