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Sometimes it can be a real struggle to worship God when we come into his presence. You know how it is. Suddenly, we find many distractions around us, or our own thoughts prevent us from truly focusing on him.
Perhaps we feel distant from God. Or we have encountered bitter disappointments in life where we begin to question God’s goodness.
Maybe we’ve had a bad day, or our current life circumstances are getting us down.
During these times, praising or thanking God may be the last thing we want to do. It can seem completely contrary to our situation.
Isn’t it hypocritical to sing lyrics like “there’s no place I would rather be than here in your love” when the last place we actually want to be is here in his love?
Should we still come to God with our praise and thanksgiving when we feel like our hearts are far away? Or should we wait for a more suitable time?
Here are four reasons why worshipping God is still something we should do even when we don’t feel like it:
1. WE WORSHIP GOD NOT BECAUSE WE ARE WORTHY BUT BECAUSE GOD IS WORTHY
The word “worship” derives from an old English word “weorthscipe” that means “worth-ship.” It’s about worshipping God because he is worthy, not because we are worthy to come into his presence.
But there may be times when we feel like we’ve blown it. Perhaps we’ve been frustrated at work and have had negative thoughts about our colleagues. Or we’ve taken our anger out on our family. Or maybe our own sin or shame makes us reluctant to come to him. There’s a certain awkwardness. Could God possibly accept us as we are?
And if we offered our seemingly empty praise to him, surely that would be making a mockery of the lyrics, wouldn’t it?
We convince ourselves that we need to get our act together first or clean ourselves up before coming to bow before him.
But would that make us any worthier to come to God and to sing his praises?
The answer is no.
We are always unworthy at all times. Isaiah 64:6 tells us that our righteousness is like filthy rags. Even our best efforts are like the soiled and dishevelled clothing you might find on a homeless person.
When we worship God, it’s not about us. It’s all about Jesus. This is regardless of whether we feel we are worthy or not.
We can only come to him because of what Jesus did, not because of our own righteousness.
Therefore the feeling that we are unworthy to enter there is not actually valid. The truth is that we aren’t worthy anyway. We never are.
Hebrews 10:19-22 encourages us to come to him confidently and boldly, not because of anything we’ve done but because of what Jesus has done.
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (NIV)
This means we can freely worship God and boldly approach his throne because of what Jesus has done. We know we are coming to him as unrighteous and unworthy. But that doesn’t make any difference. It’s Jesus who has declared us righteous. We need to trust what he says about us, not what we think about ourselves or however the devil tries to accuse or condemn us.
2. WHEN WE WORSHIP, WE SHIFT THE FOCUS OFF OURSELVES AND ONTO GOD
When we are having a bad day or not feeling in the mood for worship, it’s easy to allow that to dictate our actions. The thoughts that are going on in our minds can distract us from focusing completely on God. On top of that, our enemy the devil is constantly shooting his fiery darts of accusation and condemnation, or tempting us to go astray. Anything to keep us from worshipping God.
When we worship God, it help us to look beyond our own circumstances. With our own eyes, we tend to look only at the visible world around and what is humanly possible. When we shift our eyes off ourselves, we able to see what God wants us to see with the eyes of faith. This helps us to gain a right view of God and of His power.
The old hymn,“Turn your eyes upon Jesus” by Helen H Lemel accurately summarises what happens:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
As we turn our eyes upon Jesus, the things of earth, including our problems, grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.
God wants our worship and trust in him to be because we are committed to him. It shouldn’t be that our commitment and trust in him are dependent on whether we are problem free or feel like worshipping him at that point.
Bill Johnson says in his book When Heaven Invades Earth that
“Learning how to see is not the purpose for our worship, but it is a wonderful by-product.”
3. WHEN WE WORSHIP GOD, IT GIVES US A GREATER AWARENESS OF HIM AND HIS PRESENCE
Worship songs differ from other types of music, Christian or otherwise. Michael Coleman and Ed Lindquist, the executive producers of Integrity Music explain in their book Come and Worship that:
“Praise and worship music is vertical. To oversimplify it, ‘horizontal’ music talks about God, while ‘vertical’ music talks to God… Vertical music is directed from the musician upward to God. God is the audience and the believers are singing to Him. Both horizontal and vertical music are valid ministries; both have a place in the Church.”
Using the same vocabulary as Coleman and Lindquist, we could take this slightly further. It’s possible to describe more than just a one-way vertical action ascending to heaven where we’re offering praise to him. We could say there is also a corresponding downwards vertical movement where worship is also for our benefit.
Bill Johnson writes that:
“Worship is our number one priority in ministry. Everything else we do is to be affected by our devotion to this call. He inhabits our praise. One translation puts it this way, ‘But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel. God responds with a literal invasion of heaven to earth through the worship of the believer.”
When we worship, and when God is enthroned in our praises, we could describe a downwards vertical movement from heaven to earth. Sometimes Christians express this as coming into his immediate presence or where God’s presence is manifested in a particular location or even heaven invading earth.
4. WHEN WE WORSHIP, WE AGREE WITH WHAT GOD SAYS AND SPEAK OUT WORDS IN FAITH
When we sing out the words in worship or speak words of praise and thanksgiving to God, we are actually making them into speech acts.
Speech acts are words or utterances which are not merely communicating an exchange of information but have an action or consequence. When we speak these words, we are actually doing something with them which changes a situation.
When we speak out words of thankfulness or blessing in faith, we affirm God’s truth and power and internalise the truths of scripture as well. This is one of the reasons why listening to worship music and singing psalms is an excellent creative way to memorise Bible verses.
It also has the effect of boosting our own faith as well and gives us a different perspective of the situation from God’s point of view.
Thus, even though we may initially feel that the words we speak are hollow and hypocritical and might not be a reality for us at that moment, through an act of faith we are speaking them into being.
Darlene Zschech says
“When we worship God, we align our hearts, wills, and thoughts with His heart, will, and thoughts.”
As we speak out these declarations about God and his character and other words of worship in faith, eventually our feelings will align with them as we experience a greater awareness of God’s presence and power.
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Finally, what stops you from coming to God in worship? How do you deal with it and do you find any of these suggestions useful?
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Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.