â€œWorship is an act of obedience of the heart. It is a response that requires the very core of who you are, to love the Lord for who He is, not just for what He does. Worship is more than singing beautiful songs in church on a Sunday. It is more than just instruments and music. As a true worshipper, your heart will long to worship Him at all times, in all ways, and with all your life.â€ â€“Darlene Chszech
I lead youth worship at my church, and for the past two years I have been horribly frustrated each time I begin singing every Wednesday night and Sunday morning. Something isn’t right. I’m distracted by the sound system not working quite right, the piano too quiet, my guitar out of tune, someone singing off key, the beat is way off, the words don’t come up on the screen, and although I see listeners in the audience, the worshippers seem to have not shown up.
I blamed the distractions for this frustration. I blamed others for the problems. I think we all do that in our lives at some time or another, blaming others for some of the problems we have, when in reality the problem is not with them. It’s with you and me. That’s the point where I finally came to. I realized that my view of worship was distorted. My focus was completely off. I sang the words, but didn’t truly mean them. I was going through the motions every time I hit the stage. I didn’t stand up and share about the songs, yet I called each night a bad one because it felt empty. I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing on stage, yet the reality was that I didnâ€™t move forward and try to understand and plan things out or take a lead. I just let things flow out of control, not caring what happened because my heart was all wrong.
In the end, it looked like I resembled everyone else. I was apathetic about worship.
Worship is an astounding thing — we, the minuscule men and women God has created, can actually enter into the presence of God with thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 100:4). We can have access to God through Jesus Christ, because of the gospel (Romans 5:2)! That truth is what we forget when we enter worship. So many times we go in “expecting something” for ourselves. It’s all about us, and not about the Lord. We may say we don’t want it to be all about us, but what we mean is that we don’t want others to say “what a great singer he is!” Itâ€™s false humility. As a leader in worship, I should be praying that I fade out of the picture so that everyone is led into the presence of God and is able to give God their all, and receive nothing, because only God deserves the entire honor and all the glory. We go to worship to give to God, not to be blessed by Him. Yet we understand that when we draw close to God, He draws close to us (James 4:8). His grace never ceases to amaze me.
I finally realized what was wrong as I drove home last night after worship. I wasn’t working to lead others into worship because my understanding of worship was distorted. I thought that I understood it, but it was clear that I was mistaken. My prayer that night was full of repentance — for so many years, I have been worshipping with myself in mind, and not God alone. Itâ€™s called idolatry. I’m telling God that He’s not as important to me. I’m the one who is important in this relationship, not Him. I want to receive. I donâ€™t truly want to give Him anything.
But this is so terribly wrong! Only by His grace will my view of worship shift from myself to giving my all to the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings.
This was a major step I was missing. I was not delighting in God and giving my all back to Him. I only wanted what I could get out of worship. Now, of course, we do receive edification from worship, especially when we are taught the Scriptures through our songs, but that was all I wanted. And I wasn’t even opening my Bible during the time we sang! I was missing the deepness of worship, the rich nature of worship, the beauty; because I was focusing on myself and the emotion I wanted to receive. But that cannot and must not be my ultimate goal. I want to enter into the beauty of God because He has saved me from my iniquity. I deserve nothing, but God deserves everything. He saved me from impending judgment and from my depravity and black sin.
“If we are truly to draw near to God in worship,” says Wayne Grudem, “there must be a striving for personal holiness of life.” He tells us of the verse in Hebrews that reminds us to strive for “holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). And that is where I have finally moved to in the realm of worship. It is about God, not about me. All the side benefits are wonderful, but I just want to give all I have to God. The frustration must end as I enter into the very presence of God, laying all of me at His feet.