If you haven’t read my previous blog posts about my journey in discipline this year, I would recommend starting by reading my introductory blog here, as well as my other update blogs which you can find listed here.
What is worship?
I’m sure we all have different definitions for worship, but one thing is certain: it is more than simply singing a song in your personal time alone with God or in church on Sunday morning. As Foster states in Celebration of Discipline, “singing, praying, praising all may lead to worship, but worship is more than any of them” (p.159). Though we do need these forms of worship to give us avenues in which to experience true worship, these activities themselves are not truly worship unless there is a heart connection. Worship is our experience of God through our responses to his character, his works, and his love for us.
Furthermore, Foster also points out that worship can look different for everybody. “We are free in Christ to use whatever forms will enhance our worship, and if any form hinders us from experiencing the living Christ – too bad for the form” (p.159). He supports this statement by reminding the reader that the New Testament never gave instructions for the proper way to worship. Sometimes I feel the way I worship doesn’t quite fit in the traditional box of worship according to others, but it’s refreshing to be reminded that as long as my spirit is meeting with the Spirit of God, that’s all that matters. Worship doesn’t have to look any certain way to be authentic.
How do we worship?
While worship doesn’t have to fit into any certain type of box to be true worship, Foster did give some helpful tips for entering into worship in this chapter of Celebration of Discipline (the full list of the steps to worship can be found on pages 170-173).
One recommendation he gives that stuck out to me is to learn to practice the presence of God daily. This means not only to spend time engaging with him through meditating on his Word, praying, and worshiping him before you start your day, but also being intentional to turn your attention to praising and thanking God throughout your day. This simple act of refocusing your attention as you go about your normal tasks can be transformational.
A few years ago I spent some time intentionally practicing the presence of God in this way using insights I read in Celebration of Discipline as well as The Practice of the Presence of God, and I remember feeling so filled with joy and peace while I washed glass after glass at my job, simply because I turned my attention from myself to worshiping and praising God.
Another recommendation that he shared that stood out to me was to learn to offer a sacrifice of worship, meaning to choose to worship God even when you don’t feel like it. This reminds me of something one of my pastors said a few years ago: that he would often dance and lift his hands in worship even when he wasn’t feeling any of the joy or thankfulness that he was expressing. For a while I wrestled with that idea, never wanting my worship to be inauthentic or for my own edification. Something I’ve realized, however, is that as long as my heart is geared towards giving praise to God, my worship will be true.
On page 161, Foster shares something that is incredibly freeing for me: “The primary function of the Levitical priests was to ‘come near to me to minister to me’ (Ezek. 44:15). For the Old Testament priesthood, ministry to God was to precede all other work. And that is no less true of the universal priesthood of the New Testament.”
This is freeing mainly because I often find myself desiring to worship but feeling like there are other “more important” things that need to be done, even within my relationship with God. I feel like I have to balance my time practicing all of these different disciplines that I’ve written about in the past year in equal measure. But the fact is that relationship with God isn’t about checking off any boxes, it’s about cultivating a life that is wholly surrendered to God. That time spent in worship, ministering to the Lord, will never be wasted time, and even more than that, it’s one of my primary functions as a follower of Jesus.
And as we spend time praising God for who he is and thanking him for all he’s done, and even what he will do, we are moved into a deeper place of obedience (p.173). This obedience isn’t out of obligation, but instead is from a place of love and adoration for our King. This is the type of obedience and surrender that I long to walk in, so I will do my best to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog. Whether you’ve been participating in this challenge yourself or not, I’d love to hear how you’ve practiced the discipline of worship in the comment section below. Have a wonderful November!