We may have already used this particular post, but it bears repeating. From our own, Lee Pierce…take a look. -anita
“There will be an outward form to our worship, but it must not be dead formalism.” I read those words this morning in an essay on worship, and it made me take pause to reflect on them. I had to seriously ask myself: “How often do I just worship my God but do so on ‘autopilot’?” Autopilot, as you may know, is a feature of airplane flight where a pilot can set the plane into autopilot and have it keep the plane on a prescribed course, altitude, and such. When autopilot is engaged, the pilot can relax a bit (while still overseeing what the autopilot computer is doing), which is a boon on long, transoceanic flights, for instance. But, if I’m on autopilot during worship, is that okay?
Now admittedly, there are times when I go to church and am distracted, maybe tired from the night before, or caught up in worrying about some person or event in my life that is consuming my thoughts and emotions. But I consider it important to gather with (assemble with) the body of believers because the Bible tells us to do so. So, I almost always go, even when I’m not focused. But is that okay?
John 4:24 says, “… [we] who worship [God] must worship in spirit and truth.” The truth portion of that passage I can easily understand. God’s word is truth—because He is truth—and in His word He tells us how to worship Him. But what about the “spirit” part of that passage? What does that mean?
Dr. R.C. Sproul is my spiritual mentor (he doesn’t know that, in fact he’s never met me nor I him), and I value his opinions and interpretations on holy Scripture a great deal. So what does he say about this topic? According to Sproul, “To worship God in spirit is to worship Him with the right spirit… and not worship that merely goes through the motions.” Sproul’s last thought on the matter is this: “To worship in spirit is to set our hearts and minds on the Lord when we praise Him.” And there’s the rub for me.
If I’m in church and it’s praise time, or the pastor is speaking on a passage of Scripture, and I’m worrying about someone in my family who is sick, for example, clearly my heart and mind isn’t set on Him. It’s set on the one who is sick. Wait a minute, though. God tells us to love, care, and provide for our families doesn’t He. So shouldn’t I focus (and pray for) that sick one He and I both love? Well, yes and no. Yes, I should pray for that one but, no, the time isn’t right. To live a total, godly life I believe means that you talk to Him all the time anyway. You bathe your family and friends in prayer to Him every single day. More than that, you include Him in everything that’s going on in life which concerns you. That sick family member: I should have already prayed multiple times for him or her the minute I discovered the sickness.
What I’m saying here is that God typically gives us plenty of time and opportunity to deal with the concerns of our life. But, when it’s time to worship Him formally, we need to focus all of our being totally on Him. I strongly believe that the concept of worship encompasses all the acts of love we perform because we know Him. The giving, the volunteering, the outreach, even the prayers we lovingly and faithfully pray every day, I believe all are done with God in mind and are part of our worship of Him. But I believe there comes a time when we formally and intentionally set out to worship our God. At that time, I think it’s important to clear the deck, focus our thoughts on Him, exclude all other thoughts, people, and events around us, and point our being singularly toward Him. I think in Mt 6:25-34, this is, in part, what Jesus was teaching us when He said to not be anxious about our life but that God will take of the needs and troubles in our life. Rather, focus on Him and His kingdom.
Now, most of us are intentional worriers and highly practiced at the fine art of worry. So what I’m suggesting here doesn’t come easily to us. But think about it. Jesus said in that passage noted above: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” And, we might add, heal that sick family member, or pay that bill that we don’t have the money for at the moment, or on and on….
The point being, then, is that God really is the only One who can make a complete difference in our life and in our problems. So, when it’s time to truly worship Him—the God we love and on whom we rely for everything—we need to give Him every bit of ourselves. Nothing else matters, nothing else intrudes, nothing else is allowed to invade our thoughts, no autopilot. Nothing but the Lord. I, for one, don’t do that nearly often enough. Do you?