The theme for our AC Chapel Services this year has been “Made for this”. Providing a suitably broad scope, Chapel speakers have adapted it to their own expertise and revelation. Having pastored a church for the last two years, I have addressed numerous topics of life and faith, so I was tempted to forgo my label as the “worship guy” and preach on something different. However, as I began to think about being made for worship, two ideas came to mind which I felt our staff and students (and hopefully you) would benefit from. I’ll dive into those shortly, but first, as Christians can we agree that we are made for worship? I’m not suggesting that we are all made to be musicians, but believers are worshipers. Moreover, that worship is expressed, not just experienced or contemplated. God gave everyone a voice, and whether that voice sounds like an angel or something slightly less angelic, no one is exempt from vocalising their worship. Consider Psalm 96:
1 Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
There is no condition mentioned here about the quality of one’s voice. The admonition is for “all the earth” to sing not only to the Lord, but also to “declare his glory among the nations”. Of course, I would hope that no Christian would gauge their worship by the quality of their voice, but rather by the quality of their heart, and the consistency with which their words and actions are congruous with their heart. So, worship is to be expressed, vocally, bodily, with our whole beings, and while corporately we often do that through musical mediums, we worship in myriad ways.
In fact, it’s not only believers who are worshipers. Humans are worshipers. They give their devotion, their thanks, their allegiance, their time to someone or something, even if that’s to themselves! We can tend to get locked into thinking about worship in its ceremonial forms, for example, a church service, but we can identify what people worship by where they put their trust when things go wrong, and by where they give their thanks when things go well. It is in these two extreme scenarios of life – the most difficult times of grief and pain, and the most wonderful times of joy and celebration – that I would like to suggest we’re particularly made for worship.
Made for worship in grief and pain
People often find God in the midst of crisis. When we experience great pain or loss, we come to the end of ourselves, feeling helpless, perhaps out of control, or overwhelmed. The illusion of control that we like to entertain quickly crumbles under the weight of our reality. When we come to the end of ourselves, we start looking beyond ourselves for answers. That process sometimes leads us to God, which I believe is the way God designed us. In fact, your testimony might be something like that; in the midst of crisis, calamity, pain, you discovered Jesus, our healer, deliverer, and redeemer. We love those testimonies of the person who thought they had it all together, until their world fell apart, and at the lowest possible moment, someone introduced them to Jesus, and their life was turned around! It’s not my testimony, but it’s certainly some people’s, and praise God that He does enter into our mess and lifts us up, restoring and renewing .
However, for those of us who already know God, sometimes pain, loss, and crisis can have the opposite effect. In the midst of our darkest moments, we can’t hear God, feel Him, or understand what He might be up to. While we might know at some level that God is in control, and surely He knows what He’s doing, and that we simply don’t yet see the big picture, it doesn’t seem to help. We inevitably ask those questions of why our omnipotent God would allow such pain and suffering when that pain and suffering affects us personally. We find it hard to reconcile our loving, good, sovereign Father with the deep and extreme suffering we’re experiencing. In the midst of that, sometimes people lose God, whether through outright rejection or simply because they can’t locate Him. We have these wonderful promises of health, life, hope, joy, peace, and blessing pinned up on our fridges or behind our toilet door or appearing on our Bible app. However, in our worst moments those promises can seem empty and unfulfilled, and we lose God in the darkness.
The picture that came to my mind was one that I’m sure you’ll be able to relate to. I sleep easily (OK, maybe you can’t relate to that part). My head hits the pillow, and I wake up when my alarm goes off. My wife on the other hand is quite a light sleeper. She needs all the blinds down to help induce whatever sleep he body will let her get. So, in the middle of the night if I do wake up and want a drink, there’s no way I can see the bottle of water on my bedside table, but I know it’s there… somewhere. So, my hand stretches out over my side table, searching for this wattle bottle. Inevitably, I hit something else and knock things over, and can’t help thinking that a bit of light would make this exercise much easier, and quieter! Eventually, I find it, or realise that I didn’t put it on my side table, but on the floor next to my bed, and I am able to have a drink.
Worship is a locator in our darkest times. We know God is there, somewhere, but as we worship, it’s as though we’re stretching out our hand to find the wattle bottle. We discover, through worship, that God is actually not as far away as we thought or felt. We’re designed to worship in the midst of grief, loss, and pain. Scripture is full of people worshiping in these types of situations; Hannah (1 Sam 1), David (2 Sam 12), Jehoshaphat (2 Chron 20), Paul and Silas (Acts 16). Often, the worship in those moments resulted in great miracles; a son for Hannah, a victory for Israel, a prison opened by an earthquake. I’m not suggesting that all worship in dark times produces miracles. However, I am suggesting that we find the Miracle Worker by worshiping in those moments. Worship is a locator, and a really vital locator of God in our darkest moments.
Made for worship in the best of times
In Deuteronomy chapter 8, Moses is speaking to the people of Israel, and he says,
10 When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.
11 “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, 12 lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; 14 when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God…
Surely, after all that the people of Israel had seen God do, first hand, they wouldn’t forget Him, would they? Surely, when they’re so blessed that they can’t even house the blessings, when everything is multiplying around them, surely, at that moment they would remember how good God has been to them. Well, of course we know from Scripture that they did forget God; Moses was prophesying. He knew people, not just the people of Israel, but human beings.
As crazy as it seems, the very moments that should mark an overflow of praise from our lips, as we experience God’s goodness, faithfulness, and abundant blessings, can be the moments we completely forget that God is the source of those blessings. When we no longer need anything, we take our eyes off the Provider.
We had a bunny called “Blossy”. We treated her like one of the family. However, we had to keep it outside, as the house we were renting didn’t allow pets inside. We fed her, loved her, cared for her. We created her own garden paradise, with a fenced-in area in the back yard under a tree with amazing foliage to explore, a deluxe hutch for when she wanted to hide away from the world. Well, I’m sure you can guess where this is going. As time passed Blossy decided she would escape Stalag 13! She decided that there was a world to explore, and no fence was going to keep her from it. All the love and care we could offer obviously wasn’t enough to make her stay (cue the tears). One day, we went out to her pen, and she was gone, never to return. We speculate that she found some other handsome male bunny, and they bounced off into the sunset living happily ever after! However, I’ve also seen a lot of dead bunnies on the road near our house and some of them look conspicuously like Blossy.
How different are we? It’s not hard to forget about God when our life is going brilliantly. When we need something, we look to the One who can provide for that need, be it emotional, physical, or spiritual. Need drives us to have faith in God. If we get to the place where we need nothing… we can sometimes conclude we don’t need God.
Worship is crucial in times of blessing, because it is a locator of God in the midst of joy and celebration. Have you ever seen a ‘Where’s Wally’ book? The pictures are full of action, colour, life, and detail. In many ways, they’re a celebration of visual spectacle. However, while there might be some theme to the picture over all, the picture doesn’t really have a point unless you know that the reason the picture exists is to find Wally! Finding Wally in the picture gives the picture meaning. The book isn’t about random, detailed, fun pictures, as much as they fill out each page, it’s about finding Wally. In the midst of our times of great blessing and celebration, we need to find God, and we do that through Worship. Worship is a locator.
Your worship journey
So God has designed worship to be a locator. He never loses us, but in the midst of the extreme seasons of our lives, we can lose Him. When that happens, he has given us worship as a way to find Him and re-centre our lives on Him, knowing that He’s the one who can bring us through the darkest valley, and He’s the one that allows us to stand on the mountain top and experience the awe and wonder of His goodness.
What season are you in? I hope it’s a season of great joy and blessing, but it might be a season of intense pain, or it might be the long mundane in between! Whatever the season, remember worship is a locator, and you and I are made for worship.
About the author: Rev Dr Daniel Thornton is the Head of Music and Creative Arts at Alphacrucis College. He is a professional composer and performer, and also travels extensively ministering in churches and training worship teams around the globe.