Our series began with my own story of several years ago, where I had become so discouraged and so disheartened at some of the horrific events in my life that I had lost the joy of my salvation. I tried to remedy it by praying more, going to more Bible studies and giving more things over to the Lord. But still, I remained shut down and joyless. The second week that I was in this horrible state of mind, I picked up an article that was really intended for Chuck’s desk, but had mistakenly come across mine. I casually began reading it. One word in the first paragraph absolutely leaped out at me. It was the word worship .
For the purpose of new readers just joining us this month, the article was entitled Tired of a Tired Pastor , by Francis Frangipane. This is a summary of what I read:
"In the early 1970s, during the beginning of my ministry, the Lord called me to consecrate to Him the time from dawn until noon. I spent these hours in prayer, worship and the study of His Word. I would often worship God for hours, writing songs of Him that came from this wonderful sanctuary of love...However, as my life began to bear the fruit of Christ’s influence...I found myself cutting off forty-five minutes from the end of my devotional time. On occasion, ministry to people would extend into the night, and I stopped rising as early as I had.
"Church growth problems began to eat at the quality of my remaining time; ministerial expansion, training younger ministries and more counseling crowded the already limited time I had left...In time I found myself in a growing ministry but with a shrinking anointing to sustain it.
"One day an intercessor called who prayed regularly for me. He told me that during the night the Lord had spoken to him in a dream concerning me...I asked him to tell me the dream.
"He simply said, the Lord told me to tell you that "He misses you.'"
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The author went on to say that he was absolutely stunned. But it was true. He had become so tired and so dry from doing the Lord’s work that he had forgotten the precious intimacy he once had with the Lord through worship. What he said he needed to do was to get back to reading the Word more, praying more and worshiping the Lord more .
The phrase "worshiping the Lord more" again leaped off the page at me. And I thought to myself, "Do I really worship the Lord? I know I pray, I know I praise and I know I read the Word, but do I really worship Him?" My mind continued to race, "How is worshiping God any different from praising Him or from blessing Him? In fact, what does it really mean to worship?"
The rest of the evening, I continued this line of personal questioning: Is worship something we do just in church on Sundays, something we do all day long (at the office, in the car, etc.), or are we to personally worship the Lord in some special way daily at home? And, if that’s the case, how exactly do we do that? These questions plagued my mind all night long.
The next day, I was in the office with the head of our prayer ministry and, unexpectedly, she showed me a letter from a woman who was concerned about her daughter losing "the joy of her salvation." As I read the letter, the Lord totally convicted me, because that letter perfectly described my life at that moment !
Many things had happened in this young woman’s life (just as they had in mine) that had left her almost "shell-shocked." The mother wrote that her daughter "is there in body only, but with absolutely no emotions and no joy." And, of course, that was exactly how I felt! She said it was tearing her family up because none of them was able to minister to her. Then she closed her letter by saying, "Please, can you help us..."
I left the prayer office in total shock, because I knew exactly what that young woman was experiencing. How, Lord, I thought, does one restore his joy? (No matter how hard we try, I know it’s impossible to change our own feelings. There’s no way we can manufacture them, hype them up or counterfeit them.) So, what is the answer, Lord? I walked away from my friend’s office feeling totally helpless and even more confused than ever, with all these unanswered questions racing in my mind.
That afternoon in my daily reading of the Word, I came to Psalm 65:4, "What joy awaits us inside Your Holy Temple." (New Living Translation) The word joy caught my attention and I found it fascinating that it was somehow connected to God’s Holy Temple. "Lord," I cried, "What are You trying to show me through all of this?"
The event that finally put everything into perspective, and sparked a whole new level in my spiritual walk, happened later that night. After dinner, I sat down to finish my Bible reading and I happened to be in Luke 4, which talks about the three temptations of Christ. As you may recall, Christ’s rebuttal to Satan in the third temptation is that we should worship and serve the Lord only: "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." Wow! There’s that word worship again, I thought—which automatically propelled the same line of questioning:
Lord, do I worship You? I know I praise You; I know I pray to You; and, I know I read Your Word; but do I really worship You?
God’s answer to me was almost audible, "You don’t even know what worship means, and that’s why you have no joy!"
My mind raced: What are You saying, Lord? Worship and joy are linked? How?
God began to lovingly unfold His wisdom to me. He first showed me that, yes, I had been praising Him; and, yes, I had been confessing and repenting my sins; and, yes, I had been reading His Word. But, after I did these things I would get up and go about my business, without so much as a thought about worshiping Him . Oh yes, every once in a while, I would raise my hands in church or fall on my face to pray for something specific or cry if I heard a moving tape, but He showed me that I had never really entered into worshiping Him and adoring Him on a daily or personal basis. The truth was I didn’t really know how!
As a result of all of this, I had lost the joy of my salvation and my spiritual strength had evaporated.
Only "in Thy presence, is fulness of joy...", Psalm 16:11 tells us.
Course of Action
God has called me to be a teacher, and I absolutely love the "treasure hunts" that He puts me on. After the above encounter with Him, I got out every book, every commentary, every Bible translation, every Bible dictionary and every concordance that I could find about worship and about joy. The first night, I literally stayed up all night, lost in my quest for understanding. I was determined to find out what He meant when He says, "Worship Me." How are we supposed to worship Him? And finally, how is joy tied to worship?
I was aware of the above Psalm 16:11, but I never realized that worship is really the only "key" that opens the door to His presence. In other words, being before Him in worship leads to His presence and, thus, to fulness of joy. I never put these together. This realization also brings Nehemiah 8:10 into better perspective: "...the joy of the Lord is our strength." What this means is: without worship (without being in His presence), we will have no joy; and without joy, we will have no strength. Our life’s blood will dry up, and we’ll wither and die spiritually. This is so true. Look at the body of believers today. As a whole, we are joyless, powerless and loveless. Why? Because we are not worshipers! We don’t worship the Father in spirit and in truth. In reality, most of us worship other things (other people, careers, sports, fame, wealth, etc.). We put these things first in our lives, not the Lord. This is why Tozer intimated that learning to worship the Lord is the most important thing a Christian can do. It’s the key to His presence and, thus, to our happiness .
After my encounter with the Lord, I was hooked. I was determined, at all costs, to find out what authentic worship really is; how we are supposed to worship; and when we are supposed to worship.
This new series on worship will attempt to explore some of the incredible things that the Lord is showing me and how they are changing my life...
What Is Worship?
Worship simply means a divine encounter with God .
Worship comes from love. Where love is deep, worship will overflow. In other words, we really can’t worship the Lord unless we love Him. This is why worship is often called "the language of love." It’s the means by which love flows from a believer back to the Lord. It’s bringing the Agape Love that Christ originally put in our hearts when we were first born again, full circle back to Him in adoration and exaltation.
The Greek word for worship is proskuneo, which means to bow down, stoop down, fall down, adore, show absolute reverence, homage or submission. It means to kiss, to prostrate oneself or touch one’s nose to the ground. Throughout Scripture you will see how the saints always "fell on their faces," bowed down or prostrated themselves before the Lord when they worshiped.
In the Old Testament, 2 Chronicles 7:3 tells us "...when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshiped, and praised the LORD..." In the New Testament, Revelation 4:10 exclaims, "The four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne." (See also Revelation 5:8, 14; 19:10; 1 Corinthians 14:25.)
Worshiping means extolling, magnifying, glorifying, exalting, honoring and celebrating the Lord. Proskuneo is something that is done on the "inside"—in our spirit—defined by Jesus in John 4:23-24: "...the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth." Worshiping in the spirit is prostrating and bowing down our inner man before the Lord. It’s asking nothing of Him, but losing ourselves in adoration, reverence and homage.
The definition of worship that I really like is that worship means to catch fire. I can almost visualize catching fire with the Love of God! When something catches on fire, it is literally consumed by it. This is exactly what happens in worship. We become consumed in our love for the Lord and one in spirit with Him. It’s a uniting or a becoming one of two separate spirits. It’s a binding of ourselves or a joining of ourselves to the object of our love. God is a Spirit and only that which is spirit can abide in His presence. Thus, worshiping the Lord "in the spirit" means adoring, praising and loving Him in the same nature as He is —in the Spirit.
This kind of worship can happen even in our darkest hour. It can happen even when life seems hopeless, even when all we can do is affirm our love and His Lordship.
Worship, then, is simply an act of our heart—it’s being so overwhelmed by the revelation of God’s Love, that we respond in unabashed loving gratitude. Our external act of prostration simply denotes our "inward" spiritual attitude of love, meekness and reverence.
King David is a perfect example of one who truly worshiped the Lord. Listen to Psalm 63:1-4 as an expression of His love: "O God, thou art my God; early will I seek Thee: my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see Thy power and Thy glory, so as I have seen Thee in the sanctuary. Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life , my lips shall praise Thee. Thus will I bless Thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in Thy name."
David had a passionate love for God and desired, more than anything else, to know His presence in His life. Because David was so confident that God loved him, he was able to continually surrender and yield his own life.
Do we worship the Lord like this? Do we daily, like David, surrender our lives and prostrate ourselves before Him?
George Barna, the famous author and statistician says, "Virtually every church in the nation provides opportunities for worship, yet, we rarely really worship God. Most Christians admit they seldom feel like they have connected with Him ."
Most believers know that they have a responsibility to worship, but when asked to define what true worship means or how to do it, they are unable to offer any answers.
How about you? Do you truly worship your Lord?
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To be continued next month: "What Makes Worship so Important?" This article has been excerpted, in part, from Nan’s new book Private Worship: The Key to Joy .