Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wonder About Worship: Part 4

Before I share with you my next installment on worship I want to share a poem that I wrote some years ago. Maybe you feel this way some times.


I wear this mask so I can be
The person others want to see
I wear this mask to play the game
The best position I can claim.

I am afraid to take it off
I fear the voices that would scoff
For others to see me plain and clear
That is what fills my heart with fear.

I wear this mask to hide my face
To shield my heart from some disgrace.
I wear this mask ‘cause I’m afraid
To be the person God has made.

Oh Lord remove this mask from me
That I can live life truly free.
And give me courage to open up
And with your grace Lord fill my cup.

Now some more thoughts on worship. 

Closely related to worshipping God with our creativity is worshipping God with our work. This is one of the most frequently overlooked acts of worship. Most of us see work as a necessary evil. Although everyone has dreams of work that will be fulfilling and exciting, too often the reality is that work is drudgery. We do what we have to do to get a pay check. More times than not, when we speak of work, it is in the form of complaints. Work is to be endured. Rarely do we view our work as an act of worship.

Contrary to popular thinking, work is not a curse, it is a gift. When God created humanity he assigned them the task of caring for His creation. Genesis 1:26 illustrates God’s design. “Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." Then in Genesis 2: 15 we see again that God intended to give to humanity the gift of work. “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Both God’s intent and God’s instructions to the man came before “The Fall”. God gave to man the gift of purposeful labor. After “The Fall” work became hard and demanding, but it retained its positive quality of giving purpose to a person’s existence.  

When we disconnect work from God and His original intent it becomes just toil. The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that without God work is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. This is the sad reality for so many people, including many believers.

There is a better way to approach work, as an act of worship. Paul instructed the workers of his day to offer their work as a sacrifice to God. “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:22-24 (NIV)

Let us get very practical at this point. If our work is going to be a genuine act of worship we need to carefully evaluate two critical areas: our attitude and our effort.  Let’s first look at our attitude.

Our attitude shapes our environment. If we have a negative attitude then we will have a negative work environment. It is so common is our society today for people to complain about work. It has become the norm in most places. Work is seen as drudgery. Those in authority are viewed as the enemy. A spirit of antagonism prevails. The Bible clearly tells believers to put off those attitudes, which lead to strife and not peace.

On the other hand, if we have a positive attitude we will have a positive work environment. I recently listened to a talk from an employee of Google. He talked about Google as being a compassionate company that fostered a sense of well-being in their employees. People who have a positive attitude toward their work take more ownership. They enjoy tackling the challenges or accomplishing the task. Instead of seeing work as drudgery they see it as an adventure.

For the believer is Christ we need to take this one step farther. Instead of settling for just having a positive attitude we need to develop a worshipful attitude. Not all work is fun or fulfilling. But all work can be done to the glory of God. Brother Lawrence in his little book “The Practice of the Presence of God” talked about worshipping God in and through the mundane tasks of life. Brother Lawrence was a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery in Paris in the late 1600s. His main job was working in the kitchen. He stated that he never felt closer to God than when he was among his pots and pans. This clearly reflects the teaching of Paul from Colossians quoted above.

It is not enough to think good thoughts we need to couple that with good actions. The mindset of many today is to give the minimum effort necessary to get by. That is not the mindset of the follower of Christ. We are called to give our maximum effort in all that we do. We are called to be the best we can be in whatever task we are given. It is by giving our best, without regard for earthly rewards, that we turn work into worship.

Matthew’s gospel records Jesus’ parable about the faithful and unfaithful servants. We know it as the parable of the talents. In the parable the master entrusted different amounts of money to his servants according to their abilities. Their task was to make the best use of those resources as they could. Two of the servants did just that and earned the favor of the master. The third servant did the bare minimum. He returned to the master exactly what the master had given him; no more, no less. For his lack of effort he earned the master’s anger.

God has entrusted to each of us a set of talents, which he intends for us to use for his glory. When we use those talents to their fullest we bring glory to God. When we fail to use those talents we displease Him. For the vast majority of us we use those talents in our work. This does not mean that our talents are limited to our work, but work is the avenue through which we exercise and develop our talents normally. Therefore if God has given to you the ability to fix cars, then fix cars to the best of your ability. If God has entrusted to you the task of running a farm, then be the very best farmer you can be. If God has given you the privilege of working in the church, then be the best pastor, Sunday School teacher, worship team member you can be. When we intentionally give our best for His glory we are worshiping.  

It has become assumed in the Church that certain activities are worshipful and others are not. We identify singing praise songs as an act of worship but you don’t see tending a vegetable garden as an act of worship. We see teaching Sunday School as service for God, but we don’t see teaching 3rd grade in the same way. God does not make a distinction between secular work and sacred work. It is all the same to Him. I can worship God through any wholesome activity as long as I do it with an attitude of praise. I don’t have to be sitting in a church to worship, for the whole world is God’s sanctuary. 

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