Worship is not about us

What does worship mean to you? Recently I read this statement about worship. It reminded me that worship is not about us.

“Sometimes worship is difficult. We don’t want to praise God or hear God’s voice. Sometimes worship grabs us by the nape of the neck and shakes us up as we come face to face with an ineffable God. Sometimes worship is comforting as we bow down before a God who loves us and gave up everything for us. Sometimes worship is joyous as we praise God who does great things for our world. And sometimes worship is all those things at once. Worship should never be a passive experience, and it is never about us.” Postmodern Children’s Ministry – Ministry to children in the 21st Century, Ivy Beckwith, Page 151.

Let’s consider this phrase again …Worship should never be a passive experience, and it is never about us.

What did Jesus say?

When Jesus was being tested in the wilderness by the enemy Jesus reminded us of Who we are to focus our worship on.

Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”

And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” Luke 4:5-8 NKJV

Jesus’ words are very clear …

‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.’

The Message Bible says it this way,

Jesus refused, again backing his refusal with Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God and only the Lord your God. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.” Luke 4:8 The Message

What is worship?

We can think about worship in many different ways. One of the ways we are probably most familiar with is the ‘singing time’ in church, which at the moment, due to COVID-19, has greatly dimished in the wake of social distancing rules.

I’m so grateful that our church has been able to meet again, in smaller numbers, and have a time of worship, albeit quite differently to what we are used to, but still a beautiful time of worshipping Jesus.

With the absence of the familiar corporate worship time during COVID, we have had to purposefully seek out and embrace alternatives to continue fellowshiping and drawing closer to God. So as with many aspects of our faith during this time of COVID, the small group gathering and our individual devotion time with Jesus has taken on a more central role.

Worship in the small group

For me, my early experiences of home-group / life-group involved a time of worship. While there was some singing during the worship, mostly it was a time of sitting in the presence of God, focusing on the words that declared truth about our Saviour. For example, Lord of All, Hillsong Worship

‘Lord I long to see you glorified
In everything I do
All my heartfelt dreams I put aside
To see your Spirit move with power in my life.

Jesus, Lord of all eternity
Your children rise in faith
All the earth displays your glory
And each word you speak brings life to all who hear.’

I’m grateful for those experiences and what I learned. They were one aspect of the equipping that enabled me to start a life-group in 2019, where we normally include a time of worship, sitting in the presence of God, with our heart and mind focused on Jesus, Lord of All.

God prepares the way

How perfect is that for today’s scenario of COVID-19 when singing has so many restrictions around it. I love how God goes before us, preparing us for what we need, before we know we need it.

And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 NKJV

Despite the social distancing restrictions, we can still listen to some anointed worship songs, lay down our concerns from the day and turn our hearts and minds towards God.

Here are a few of worship songs we play:

Find me at the feet of Jesus– Christy Nockels

What A Beautiful Name – Hillsong Worship

Breathe/Rest (Spontaneous Worship) – Cory Ashbury

Goodness of God – Bethel Music and Jenn Johnson

You are for me – Kari Jobe

Worshipping in Spirit and in Truth

In these times though, when our experience of ‘church’ is a little different, I think it is important to pause and consider the wider definition of worship, and how we are living that out in our lives.

CompellingTruth.org has an interesting article, How can I worship the Lord in Spirit and Truth, refering to our response to John 4:23-24.

But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24 NLT

And here is the same scripture in The Passion Translation …

From here on, worshiping the Father will not be a matter of the right place but with the right heart. For God is a Spirit*, and he longs to have sincere worshipers who worship and adore him in the realm of the Spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24 TPT

A side note, or perhaps the key note when it comes to worshipping Jesus, … the footnote in The Passion Translation says,

*Or “God is breath,” or “God is wind.” Jesus refers to “Spirit” more than one hundred times in the four Gospels.

The transforming power of the Holy Spirit

The power of the Holy Spirit transforms us, over time, into more sincere worshippers of Jesus. His power transforms our lives so we become a reflection of God’s love – ie the fruit of the Spirit grows in us …

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV

Here is a more contemporary translation from The Message:

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Galatians 5:22-23 The Message

Worship is not about us

So we have meandered from that original statement by Ivy Beckwith ….

Worship should never be a passive experience, and it is never about us.”

… to Jesus’ words in Luke 4:8 …

‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.’ Luke 4:8 NKJV

… to Jesus’ words in John 4:24 …

For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24 NLT

… to Paul’s words about what happens in us when we allow the Holy Spirit transforms us …

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV

We need to choose to engage in worship

So yes, worship is not about us, but we need to choose to engage in worship. We need to fully engage and allow the Holy Spirit to transform us through worship. Fully engaging means we continually choose to put Jesus first in our lives, acknowledging that He is Lord of All.

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11 NKJV

Today, let’s choose to engage fully in worship, however that looks for us – singing, loving, serving, and through that worship allow the Holy Spirt to transform us to be more and more like Jesus in this place.

Looking for more encouragement?

Are you looking for more resources to help you draw closer to God, please check out my other blog posts and podcasts.

If you have struggling to trust God with something or someone in your life, my latest ebook may be of help to you, Choosing to trust God. It’s a short summary (only 18 pages!) of what God has been teaching me over the past 10 years about moving from a place of fear to faith. It is now available on Amazon for only $4.64.

Choosing to trust God By Wendy Robinson

Acknowledge God before starting the To Do List

Earlier this week I was walking in our local park, making my way to the beautiful bush walk we are blessed to live near. As I walked from the open space with the heat of the summer sun beating down on my head, into the bush with the canopy providing shade and protection, I was struck by the sudden change of circumstances. With only one step I went from the open, unprotected area into the covered, protected place. And wasn't I glad I'd taken that step!

That sudden physical change in the atmosphere made me think about God's covering and protection, and how different life is when we choose to walk under it.

But let them all be glad, those who turn aside to hide themselves in you. May they keep shouting for joy forever! Overshadow them in your presence as they sing and rejoice. Then every lover of your name will burst forth with endless joy. Lord, how wonderfully you bless the righteous. Your favour wraps around each one and covers them under your canopy of kindness and joy. Psalm 5:11-12 TPT

How reassuring the Psalms are .... Your favour wraps around each one and covers them under your canopy of kindness and joy.....

There was a time when I didn't read anything in The Bible except the Psalms. The deep pain in my heart so often resonated with the words of the Psalmist.

Please, God, show me mercy! Open your grace-fountain for me, for you are my soul's true shelter. I will hide beneath the shadow of your embrace, under the wings of your cheribum, until this terrible trouble has past. Psalm 57:1 TPT

Please, God, show us mercy! And He has.

Open your grace-fountain for me. And He did.

For you are my soul's true shelter. And He is.

I will hide beneath the shadow of your embrace. And I do.

Until this terrible trouble has past. And it has.

If the season you are in now is a difficult one for you, I really encourage you to immerse yourself in the truth of the Psalms. God is listening to the cries of your heart and He is on your side.

You've kept track of all my wandering and my weeping. You've stored my many tears in your bottle - not one will be lost. For they are all recorded in your book of remembrance. The very moment I call to you for a father's help the tide of battle turns and my enemies flee. This one thing I know: God is on my side! Psalm 56:8-9 TPT

The end of this season will come. There will be a time when you can declare this, as the Psalmist does in Psalm 57 ...

My heart, O God, is quiet and confident. Now I can sing with passion your wonderful praises! Awake, O my soul, with the music of his splendor-song! Arise, my soul, and sing his praises! My worship will awaken the dawn, greeting the daybreak with my songs of light! Wherever I go I will thank you, my God. Among all the nations they will hear my praise songs to you. Your love is so extravagant it reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness so astonishing it stretches to the sky! Lord God, be exalted as you soar throughout the heavens. May your shining glory be shown in the skies! Let it be seen high above all the earth! Psalm 57:7-11 TPT

Be encouraged, protect your heart and choose to stay under the canopy of His kindness and joy.