Cultivating a Lifestyle of Worship
What do you think of when you hear the word worship? Do you think about the singing, the praying, or the sermon that takes place during a church service? Do you think about corporate worship - which is when people gather together - whether it’s in a building or on the internet? Do you think about individual worship - what you experience personally during a worship service? Let’s take it a step further. Do you think about worshiping not just on Sunday, but during the week, during each and every day?
One commentator stated that there are very few references to the word “worship” in the Gospels and that “many references to worship occur almost in passing. ...While the references to worship are almost incidental, however, worship itself is by no means peripheral. It is there in the Gospels in much the same way as the air that Jesus and the disciples breathed. It is so omnipresent [everywhere] that it is more assumed than mentioned.”
I like that phrase, “it is there...in much the same way as the air that Jesus and the disciples breathed.” For me, I want worship to be as essential in my life as the air I breathe. Which is why I set out to explore what a lifestyle of worship could look like.
Jesus himself addressed the issue of worship towards the end of his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem… But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:21-24 (NLT)
The note in my study Bible makes these observations. First of all, Jesus points out that the location of worship is not nearly as important as the attitude of the worshipers. Secondly, he states that God is Spirit and that he is not limited to one place. He is everywhere, and he can be worshiped anywhere, at any time. It is not where we worship that is important, but how we worship.
You may understand what "worship" is, but the big questions are “How do we apply this? How do we live a life of worship? What are some steps we can take to help us cultivate a lifestyle of worship?” Or maybe you’re on this side - “I think I’m doing pretty well in the area of worship - what can I do to make it better?”
Living a life of worship takes practice - practicing Worship means creating new habits. As any musician or athlete will tell you, practice leads to muscle memory - the more you do it, the more comfortable you are with the music or the movement or execution of a play, that it becomes second nature. You still have to think about it, but it is so ingrained in you, that it becomes you.
The experts say it takes three weeks to make a habit. I found this interesting...have you heard about the 21/90 rule? “The 21/90 rule states that it takes 21 days to make a habit and 90 days to make it a permanent lifestyle change. ... Commit to your goal for 21 days and it will become a habit. Commit to your goal for 90 days and it will become a part of your lifestyle.”
You know how some people, instead of making New Year’s resolutions, pick a word or thought or action to focus on for the year? I normally don’t do either one. Well, my word came halfway through the year - Intentional. I decided that just going with the flow wasn’t going to cut it and I needed to really think about, be intentional, about what I was doing as well as how and why I was doing it. I also decided that I need to be more intentional about worshiping God in my day-to-day life.
Romans 12:1 states in the NIV: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your spiritual act of worship.” The New Living Translation adds this about worship; “This is truly the way to worship him.” I really appreciate how Petersen’s paraphrase in The Message puts it: “Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him… Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”
I heard this in an online devotional video on the John 4 passage: “To Worship God in Spirit and in Truth” can be understood this way. “We offer worship as the outward action (or actions) which reflects our inward devotion to God and what we offer as response is in agreement with the Word of God [truth]. It’s not just singing praises to God, all day long, but it’s in the choices we make.”
It sounds easy, doesn’t it? Choosing to worship God with our lives, giving or sacrificing ourselves to Him and His service? Worshiping God doesn’t mean we have to go around singing or reciting poetry or praying every minute of every day. There are things that will distract us, things that will keep our focus away from God. This is where intentionality comes in. This is where practice, practice, practice is important.
How do we worship God in the midst of mundane chores and daily activities? I have a list of some suggestions. I borrowed some of these and added others to the list; they’re not in any particular order, but I think I would put numbers 3 and 4 at the top of the list.
Give your best in whatever you’re doing. Working as unto the Lord (Col. 3:23-24)
Take care of yourself - this points to Romans 12:1-2, which we already looked at.
Put Him first in your mind. Having proper I-focus and paying attention to our thoughts (2 Cor. 10:5). We can redirect our thoughts in and through worship.
Stay in the moment. How often are we doing something but our thoughts are a million miles away? I love the new song that Jeremy Camp came out with - Keep Me in the Moment. Dr. David Jeremiah says that “living every moment in the wonder of worship will change the way you live every day.”
Serve someone else - look for opportunities to serve as God’s hands and feet.
Say it or Don’t Say it. The next time a nice thought about someone enters your mind, don’t keep it to yourself - share it. Call them, check up on them. (Hebrews 3:13) Conversely, we need to filter out unkind or unproductive words before others hear them. (James 1:10)
Give generously; using our time, money, and talents honors God.
Be thankful, even when things are difficult. (I Thess. 5:16-18)
Think of worship as an experience, not an event. Have a sense of awe and wonder of God - experience Him. Adam and Eve experienced God in the garden, but when they were banished because of sin, worship became an event.
Be regular at appointed times of corporate worship (Hebrews 10:24-25) There is something special about worshiping together alongside other believers, whether in person or online. Sometimes it’s the boost we need to help us worship throughout the rest of the week.
Be regular at appointed times of personal worship. Some of us plan time with God while doing other things; I like to pray while I’m walking or even driving to work. However, it is hard to stay completely focused, as I have to be mindful of where I’m walking or be aware of other vehicles in traffic. We need to set aside priority time to be alone with God. And if you’re not doing that - don’t feel guilty - give yourself grace over guilt. But I would challenge you to start with 5-10 mins a day.
Be open to the practice of unscheduled worship. Take those discretionary minutes, otherwise known as wasted time, and get in the practice of redeeming the time to focus on the Lord. (Ps. 16:7, 63:6, 119:48)
“What are you practicing? What habits are you cultivating?" Are you doing some of the things listed? Are there other things that you do, or think you could do, to help you worship God in your daily life? Remember that whatever we practice gets stronger. Whatever we pursue, whatever we pay attention to, turns out to be our focus.
Living the Life – a lifestyle of worship - am I there yet? No, but I want to be. What about you?
I want to circle back to John 4:23-24; in The Message: “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before Him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship Him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
The ultimate goal of worship is that we come to know God. When we’re changed from the inside out through our worship of God, we can be a testimony of what worshiping God with our lives looks like.
(This blog post was adapted from a sermon I preached at my home church, Ashland Brethren in Christ, on August 9. To read the full transcript or to listen to the message, click HERE.)