By Pastor Paul Davis:
What is worship? How would you fill in the blank: Worship is ______________. I think it’s an important question because worship is something that we Christians say that we do. We go to a worship service on Sunday morning. We listen to worship music. Our bands put out worship albums. Somewhere along the way, we may have even heard that all of life is supposed to be worship. But what is it? Isn’t it funny that we don’t really have a firm definition of something that seems to be so integrated into our Christian lives?
Some of us might fill in that blank with “singing praise songs.” Whenever we lift our voices to God, declaring his goodness and his mercy through songs of praise, that is worship. Or maybe some of us would fill in the blank with “reading the Bible,” or “praying,” or “obeying Jesus,” or a whole bunch of other stuff, and I don’t think we would be wrong. Singing praise songs, and reading the bible and praying, and obeying Jesus can all be part of worship, but none of these things capture what worship really is. These are ways that we worship, but they aren’t really definitions for worship.
So, let me tell you how I would fill in the blank. I think that when we boil it all down worship is focus and response. When we worship, we focus on whatever it is we are worshiping and then we respond to it accordingly. How we focus and how we respond can be different, but the idea of focus and response remains the same.
Now, what does all of this mean for us as Christians? Part of what it means is that we must make a real effort to focus on God. We can do this through singing songs about how awesome, and gracious, and loving, and just God is. As we sing these songs we are moving our minds to think about and dwell on who God is and what he has done. We can also do it through Bible studies, seeing all of the things that God has done throughout history to show his glory to humanity and bring about salvation for the whole world. Praying is another way to focus on God, talking with him about our days or our struggles or our concerns. Focus is the intentional effort of meditating on some aspect of who God is or what he has done.
But remember: worship is focus and response. It’s not enough just to focus on these things. We need to respond appropriately. So, what is an appropriate response to God’s grace, the fact that he would pour out his blessings on us even though we don’t deserve it? I’m thinking that thankfulness might be a good response to God’s grace. What about God’s mercy, the fact that he doesn’t pour out his wrath and fury on us even though we totally deserve. Well, I think that repentance might be a good response, turning away from our sin so that we don’t go on offending this merciful, loving God. What about God’s power? How do I respond to a God who can part a sea with the wind (Exodus 14), or who can stop the sun in its tracks (Joshua 10), or who can reverse death (Luke 24)? Praise seems like an appropriate response, telling God and others how amazing he is because he is so powerful.
Do you see how this works? Focus on who God is or what he has done, and then think about what the right response should be and do it. And we need both. If we’re trying to worship without focusing on God, we’re blind. We don’t even know what we’re worshiping. If we think we are worshiping without responding, our worship is dead. We must try to worship God well with both focus and response. So, let us focus on God, in all of his grace, and mercy, and power, and then let us respond with thankfulness, repentance, and praise.