What’s the big deal about worship?
Worship is a tricky subject. When we hear “worship”, our first thought is normally church music. If you grew up in a traditional church, worship means something wildly different than it does if you’re from a modern church, or a charismatic, “shout as loud as you can” church. Everyone has a style preference and opinion.
In His word, God makes a big deal about worship. There are tons of verses instructing us to praise God, to make a big deal about Him, to give Him the glory, just like this passage from 1 Chronicles 16:23-29:
23Sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Tell of his salvation from day to day.
24Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
25For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and he is to be feared above all gods.
26For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
27Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy are in his place.
28Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
29Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come before him!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
When we read that, it seems pretty clear that we’re instructed to worship God! But what’s so special and powerful about worship?
It’s vital to understand the real meaning of the word worship. Equating “worship” with a short, emotion-heavy time in a church service that happens once a week is a powerless, inadequate understanding of what “worship” means. If we want to understand why worship is so important to God, we have to understand 3 foundational things about worship:
1. Worship is a lifestyle.
At the risk sounding too much like an English professor (sorry, English professors), the word “worship” comes from an Old English compound word “woerthship,” which means the state of having worthiness, or value.
Worship is more than a song. Worship is acknowledging God’s worth and value back to Him. It’s not about music, it’s not limited to Sunday mornings, and it isn’t bound to someone’s preferences. Authentic worship to God is about living a life that communicates value and worthiness back to God, and that serves as an example to others. The Apostle Paul gave us this reminder in Romans 12:1-2:
1I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
In that passage from 1 Chronicles 16, David talks repeatedly about ascribing the value and worthiness of God back to Him as we offer sacrifices. Paul takes it one step further, and urges us that we are the sacrifices, that every part of our lives is an offering to God that communicates worship.
In 1 Samuel 15, we see that God delights in our obedience to Him more than just empty songs or offerings:
22 But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
Our entire lives are going to communicate worthiness and value to something, just by how we live. Every time we use resources that are given to us by God, even the breath in our lungs, we are ascribing value to the things that we choose to prioritize. The question we all face is what’s actually worthy of that value? Worship is a lifestyle.
2. Worship is a response.
When we realize the significance of who God is, and we acknowledge our broken and sinful nature, it’s life altering. Think back to the moment when you realized your need for a savior, that it was your sin that Jesus took to the cross. That realization beckoned a response in your heart. When we come to grips with the fact that God is set apart, holy, and worthy of our worship, it begins to stir something in our soul that leads to a desire to respond.
This response shows up in a lot of ways. We sing songs, we study His word, we connect to a community of people who are trying to grow in their walk with Jesus, and we desire to obey and follow the things that He shows us through His word. We begin to outwardly express the things that God is doing in our heart by responding with our whole lives.
When we go back to our passage from 1 Chronicles 16, we start to see a trend. David continues the passage by giving us reason why we should respond to God. Worship is about responding to a worthy God, not just with songs, but with our whole lives, in obedience to what He has commanded us. Worship is a response.
3. Worship is a perspective-changer.
Bluntly put, it’s difficult to be petty, negative, and divisive when you have a right-view of who God is, and you do everything in your heart to respond appropriately with your whole life. The small stuff doesn’t seem to carry as much magnitude. Things that can easily sway our attention and affections away from God don’t seem quite as appealing. This isn’t to say that it’s not a real challenge to live out a lifestyle of responding to God in worship, but when we’re intentional about living a life in response to who God is, the way we view the trials that come our way is forever shifted.
In Acts 16, we read about Paul and Silas, who were in jail for proclaiming the message of Jesus. Yet, in the middle of their situation, the Bible says they were praying and singing hymns to God. Talk about an out-of-the-ordinary response! If you read the rest of that passage, you see that their worship not only changed their perspective, but that God was moved by their worship, and used it to also change their situation, and the situation of those around them! Worship is a perspective-changer.
This is all easier to say in a podcast or blog than it is to live out, daily. In the middle of a hectic week, without being intentional about reading His word, having a prayer time, or outwardly expressing worship with other followers of Jesus, we can disconnect from God’s design for us to experience and live God’s best for our lives. Be encouraged today: stay intentional about these things! Authentic worship goes far beyond music and church services. It’s our daily response to a worthy God, and it can radically change our perspective!