Many Christians think that worship of God is something we have to “make happen.” Whether it is corporate worship or personal worship time, it’s so easy to believe that we or someone (like the Pastor or Worship Leader) has to “get the ball rolling.” And while it’s true that worship requires effort on our part, it’s dangerous to think that we are the ones who initiate it.
First, it’s unbiblical. True worship is always a response to the greatness of God. Worship is the second act. The revelation of God (who He is and what He does) is always the first act.
Romans 12:1, Paul’s definition of worship says:
“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercies, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to the Lord. This is your spiritual act of worship.”
Notice that Paul does not begin with our action (of offering our bodies as a living sacrifice). Rather, the act of worship is in response of what we see God doing: “in view of God’s mercies.” When we see God’s mercies, we then respond. So when the Lord does something good for us, we respond with thanksgiving and gratitude. When the Lord reveals His beauty, majesty and goodness, we respond with praise. When the Lord demonstrates the extent of his sacrifice upon the cross to save us from sin and death, we respond with offering of our lives to His service.
Second, if we think worship was something we initiate, we could easily have expectations that God should respond to us. That’s how the prophets of Baal acted in 1 Kings 18. They thought that if they initiated passionate worship (by dancing, screaming, even cutting themselves), Baal would just have to respond to them. Or course, Baal didn’t respond – mainly because he is not God. But, in my opinion, it is wrong to use worship as a way of getting God to do something for us. That’s manipulation and any God worthy enough to be worshiped would see through that.
And yet it is so easy to fall into that trap! How many times have we used our acts of devotion and worship because we think we can appease Him to do something good for us? If He could only see how spiritual we are, how devoted we are, maybe He will be merciful and gracious to us…
Baloney! He’s already merciful and gracious to us. And He will forever be merciful and gracious to us! Alleluia! Amen!
And that’s the point: Often, the problem with our worship is that we don’t view God’s mercies; we don’t see all the ways He is gracious and merciful to us. God is gracious, but we are unaware. That’s why our worship seems forced or contrived at times. We try to praise Him or thank Him or give our lives to Him, but there’s nothing happening in our souls or minds. It’s not because we don’t believe God is praiseworthy or worthy of worship; of course, we know that. But we have difficulty in centering our hearts and minds on why He is praiseworthy. We have difficulty in specifically seeing and understanding and naming the mercies of God. It escapes us. It eludes us. And, as a result, our worship of God suffers in authenticity and passion.
In the next few blogs I want to explore how we can become more aware of “the mercies of God.” For if we are unaware of the extent of God’s greatness in His character, in His love, and in His deeds, how can we worship Him? And if we cannot worship Him, how can we authentically offer Him our lives and be transformed? Viewing the mercies of God is the cornerstone of Whole Life Worship.
Let me end this with a prayer:
Lord, have mercy on me. I know You are great, loving, powerful, and wise. I know that You have done wonderful things for me, both in the past and in the present. But I have a hard time realizing this in my heart and mind. My heart is hard and my mind is dull. Please reveal Your great mercies to me in a way that I can grasp, revel in, and worship You wholeheartedly in response. I ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
2 thoughts on “Worship is a Response, Not an Action”
I just discoveref this site last night while researching a topic I have to speak on. I’m am so excited and blessed by what I have read so far. I look forward to the daily blog posts. I plan to share this with the conference attendees. This is wonderful. May God continue to richly bless you and this ministry.
Hi Candace and welcome to our Whole Life Worship blog community! Thank you for your encouragement and I pray for God’s guidance and empowerment as you speak to your conference attendees. I look forward to hearing more of your reflections on this topic as well as what you are learning through your research. Blessings!