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Recently, several respected leaders have stated that a time of very difficult trial is imminent. They have also stated that whether, and how successfully, individual churches, cities and states will survive this time of trial depends upon the degree to which the believers in them learn to truly worship God. This is a true word. But many of us do not understand what true worship is.
True worship is not the forms — the songs, the prayers, the traditional observances — which we use at church. Ideally, all of these are a call to worship, but they are not true worship. Jesus made this very clear when he told the Samaritan woman at the well that neither the temple in Jerusalem (God's own city!) nor the high place in Samaria were the proper place to go to worship the Father. Instead, He said, "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." John 4:24. Worship is not found in the place or in the form of an observance, but in our spirits recognizing the truth.
There are hundreds of examples of true worship commended by God in Scripture. These range from Abel bringing a blood sacrifice as he was commanded, to David dancing before the Lord totally unashamed, to the Psalms (a whole book of examples of how to worship), the worship of the Centurion who believed Jesus could just speak the word and his servant would be healed and the worship of the angels and the elders in heaven in Revelation. The one thing these all have in common is that the worshiper is declaring openly, by word or by action, who God is. Often, as in the Psalms, the worshiper is meditating out loud on some aspect of God's character or is using thanksgiving for something God has done as an occasion to declare who He is. But in every case the true worshiper has God on his mind and is declaring who God is. This is true worship.
Though this should not need to be said, worship doesn't stop at the door of the church. It doesn't occur mainly in church meetings. Instead, it must continue throughout life.
Do I remind myself every morning that God is love? Do I tell him that I recognize His love for me, and that I know this means He wants what is right for me and for His other children around me? Do I remember that He will never do anything to hurt me? Do I say, even to others when I am in the midst of a trial, that His love for me never changes, that He is for me and not against me? This is true worship.
Do I remind myself when victory seems far off that God is eternal? Do I keep my confidence that He has made from the beginning of time preparations to insure my success? Do I understand that He is already seated at the end of time with my victory in His hand? Do I tell others in my times of apparent hopelessness that He is my hope, because He is already where I am going and He is on my side? This is true worship.
Do I remind myself when I am in physical need that God is the Creator? Do I trust Him to provide for me out of His abundance, which can never run out? Do I tell others that I trust in Him to provide my needs? And once I have said I trust God to provide, do I let Him provide rather than scheming to find provision by worldly means? This is true worship.
Do I remind myself when others treat me unfairly, or when I see unjust suffering in the world, that God is light? There is no darkness in God, not even the shadow of His turning from His good and loving course. He is not causing the suffering I see. It is a result of sin, of the whole human race from Adam on following a course which He warned us not to follow, a course which leads away from Him into darkness. God is only light, and it is His purpose to bring His children completely back into His light. God will see this purpose fulfilled in us, and I must remind myself of this and live in His light — even when this means that those in the darkness will treat me unfairly. This is true worship.
Do I remind myself when I am accused that God is gracious — so gracious that He sent His Son to die in order to take my guilt and reconcile me to God? Do I tell others that I am now God's child and friend because of what Jesus did? This is true worship.
Do I remind myself daily that God has made me a member of the Body of Christ? When I want to go accomplish something my own way, do I remember that I'm only a member, not the Head? At the same time, do I recognize my true importance as a member? Do I consider that a finger by itself can do nothing, but that it can work miracles when it is attached to the hand of the Master? He has made me a member of His body, his hands and feet on earth and His ambassador to the world. Do I remember this when I'm tempted to gossip, or lie, or do something which would injure another member? And do I remember this when He makes me aware of someone else in need? This, too, is true worship.
Much more could be said. The character of God is limitless, and these are only a few examples of the kinds of thoughts, statements and actions which can be true worship. But the point should be clear — true worship touches everything in life. As we learn to worship more and more, literally everything will change. This is the worship God seeks. In the coming time of trial, those who learn this worship will see miracles happen, precisely because God will be working through them continually. Those who resist true worship, whether to cling to religious form or to their own worldly interests, will suffer.
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© 2000, 2001 Ian Johnson
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by Ian Johnson