One day a member of the British Parliament, Neil Marten, was taking some visitors on a tour through the government buildings. Their path happened to cross that of Lord Hailsham who was serving as Lord Chancellor (outranking even the Prime Minister). Dressed in the full regalia of his office, the Lord Chancellor was surprised to see his old friend in the crowded room. Lord Hailsham cried out, “Neil!” Hearing the command from the eminent Lord Chancellor, all the visitors promptly fell to one knee (www.sermonillustrations.com). Isn’t it interesting how easily people can be impressed with those they perceive ought to be worthy of honor: a famous actor, a revered sports figure, a beloved political leader, a decorated war hero; and yet feel no compulsion to honor the all-powerful and loving God? May such never be the case among the followers of Jesus.
One of the highest honors and privileges in life is to worship God. But the value of such worship extends far beyond the praise offered to God. Worship has real and meaningful benefits for worshipers. They benefit by being strengthened in the process. To understand these blessings, it is important to first consider Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well and specifically His definition of true worship.
Finding Himself alone with the Samaritan woman, the discussion veers away from the uncomfortable topic of the woman’s adulterous relationship to the subject of worship (John 4:17-18). She eagerly points out the opposing views between the Samaritans who worshiped on Mount Gerizim and the Jews who worshiped in Jerusalem (4:20). In answering her question Jesus made this important statement: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (4:24). A careful analysis of this definition of worship will help us to clearly see how our worship will make us stronger.
True worship will make us stronger in the internal struggle of the spiritual over the physical. Look at Jesus’ words again: “God is spirit” (John 4:24). Being created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27), every member of humanity has an eternal, spiritual nature. In worship we can deliberately and intentionally lay aside the physical and worldly concerns and focus on the nature we share with God (“worship in spirit”). One can never fully realize this benefit if their only interaction with God is confined to a specific hour on one specific day each week. The “public worshiper only” will be the one objecting, “I just can’t get anything out of worship.” Yet let them develop the habit of daily, private communion with God and they will find those private daily habits will prepare them to glean the most from their regular, public worship.
True worship will make us stronger in the desire to serve and honor God. A careful study of God’s word reveals the specific ways God wants to be worshiped: vocal music, prayers, the Lord’s Supper, giving, and teaching. We have a long tradition of complying with God’s instructions and, while it is not our purpose in this article to defend these expressions of worship, we must certainly not be interested in any way altering the inspired traditions. That said, knowing that our worship conforms to the biblical model has a way of strengthening our confidence that we can be and are pleasing to God and that our worship is acceptable to Him. What a blessing it is to carry this kind of confidence with us as we go back into the world and strive to live faithful lives that honors God even while living in a world which doesn’t.
True worship will make us stronger by fostering a deeper, more personal relationship with God. Just as important as HOW we are to worship based on John 4:24, Jesus reveals to the woman at the well (and to us) WHY we are to worship: “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (John 4:23). Did you catch those last words, “…the Father is seeking such to worship Him”? God doesn’t need our worship, but He deeply desires it. His desire for true spiritual worship that conforms to His revealed will is so strong that He sent His Son into the world to take the burden and penalty of our sins so that we could be qualified in Jesus to offer worship that He eagerly accepts. That knowledge ought to help us to eagerly desire and develop a personal relationship with God. Armed with this understanding, worship will never again seem mundane.
True worship will make us stronger by the interaction and encouragement of fellow believers. While it is true that one can worship in private (that is, be involved in some of the same avenues of worship while alone that the church as one united body publicly practice when they are together), those private acts can never truly take the place of public, corporate worship. Singing is the perfect example. No one can fully discharge the commands to sing in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 by themselves. Those commands require, even demand, the presence of others to whom we “speak,” “teach” and “admonish.” One of the benefits we will derive from public worship is the reassurance and support gained from fellow worshipers as we “consider how to stir up love and good works” through the worship in which we participate as we regularly meet together (Heb. 10:24-25).
It is truly amazing how we so easily bestow honor on those we deem worthy. Just as those British visitors knelt before the Lord Chancellor, worship is a public recognition of the honor God truly deserves. Yet worship does have real benefits for us as well. Your soul needs faithful, regular, biblical worship.
David is a former member of the board of directors of the Carolina Messenger.