This article was written by Ryan Churchill and published by Team Jesus Magazine
Growing up in a Christian family, being the son of a minister, attending services at various churches and different denominations, and moving to several different towns and cities, I’ve had numerous opportunities to see how people praise the Lord as a community of believers. I’ve been a regular attendee at churches that average about 55 people on Sunday morning as well as churches that average 200, 500, 800, and even 2600 in their attendance.
Some of those churches had choirs with 7 people being led by the organist. Some of those churches had a choir director, organist, and a very large choir. Other churches had a praise and worship band complete with guitarists with full pedalboards, bassists, synthesizers, drums, mic’d vocalists, and the occasional violin. I haven’t even touched the orchestra churches. You name it, I’ve probably seen it.
What I find interesting is that, regardless of the church, my attitude toward, and struggles with worship never seemed to change. Worship time was wildly inconsistent to me. I found myself completely immersed in my focus toward my Creator, ready to sing praises and celebrate victory in Christ one week. Then, the next week, I just couldn’t get into it. I was distracted by those around me, the people moving on stage, the singers who couldn’t find a note if it slapped them in the face, the construction of the music (I’m a musician), and simply life itself.
Like a lot of Christians, I allowed the quality of the music to dictate the potency of the worship time, and it was often how I perceived the presence or absence of the Holy Spirit. As I grew older and grew in my spiritual walk, I began to see the error of this understanding, BUT that didn’t change the simple fact that I still struggled.
Starting several years ago, God set me on a path where He began to reveal and redefine my understanding of worship. He started with His Word, the Bible.
Worship and the Word
As I was reading and studying the Bible, I found myself in moments of deep worship. The world was gone, it was just me and my Savior. As God revealed Himself and His truth, my heart was humbled and I rejoiced with a magnificent sense of satisfaction in Who He Is. I could feel His presence consume me.
It became easier to go worship and sing. It was easy to be drawn into worship and praise. Worship time was more consistent
And then, it wasn’t.
The same inconsistencies came back. Not only that, the inconsistency crept into my Bible reading time. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit was speaking loud and clear; other times He was silent.
My frustration mounted and one night I was working with my discipler and teacher, Adam. Adam was talking about how we separate things that were never meant to be separated, like husband and wife. He was making the point that the things we separate are not to be separated, they should not be treated as equal, instead – they are one. Furthermore, he asserted those parts of one whole are never satisfying in, and of, themselves.
It was then that I knew I needed to ask, “What is it that we separate from worship?” Before I give you an answer, let’s get into some Scripture.
The Heart of Worship in Psalms?
Today, we’re going to jump into the book of Psalms. As we explore worship, there is probably no greater place to go. Let’s zero in on Chapters 10 – 13. I encourage you to read these full Chapters on your own, but I’m going to pull out some excerpts which reveal the Psalmist, David, to be struggling a bit with his understanding of what it is that God is doing.
- Verse 1: Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?
- Verse 12: Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up Your hand. Do not forget the afflicted.
- Verse 1: Help, LORD, for the godly man ceases to be, for the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.
- Verses 1-2: How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Let’s face it, this just doesn’t sound like worship. I thought the Psalms were all about worship. Hmmm? Well, they are. Before I go on, I want you to know that it’s OK and it is worshipful to bring your struggles before God. It’s OK to let God know your attitude. You should do so in reverence, but there isn’t any sense putting on a face before Him. He knows your heart.
Despite God’s silence, David goes on in faith:
- Verses 16-17: The LORD is King forever and ever; nations have perished from His land. O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear…
- Verse 4: The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD’S throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.
- Verses 5-6: But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.
Only 1 time in these 4 chapters do we read the spoken Word of God.
- Verse 5: “Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, now I will arise,” says the LORD; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs.”
The Totality of Worship
“What do we separate from worship?”, I asked.
“Life,” my teacher, Adam, responded. Then, he directed me to the book of Romans.
Romans 12:1 tells us, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
Worship is a life of holy sacrifice. It is a life of gratitude. It is a life of recognition of God’s sovereignty even when He is silent. It is a life of testifying of His goodness, recognizing that He has dealt with us bountifully. It is the life that knows God hears our prayers even when nothing seems to be moving or changing.
Worship isn’t simply something we do each week when the praise band plays. Our worship isn’t simply something we do when we read Scripture. Worship isn’t simply something we do when we spend time in creation.
Worship is what we do with our own lives, and while praise is part of that life, a life of worship also includes expressions of gratitude, testimony, and faithfulness even when God is silent.