This past Sunday our church in Florida inaugurated a brand new, beautiful ministry building and campus. The morning included a short worship service at the rented facility we were leaving, a long police-escorted car procession to our new facility, and an amazing time of worship followed by a catered luncheon. God’s presence was palpably felt, and I don’t think I’ve even heard worship singing as loud and heartfelt as I did at this service! The days leading up to the opening were both full and stressful as last minute meetings, installations, tech training, and rehearsals took place. As leader of the worship ministry, I committed to covering all our briefings, rehearsals, and services with prayer so that our hopes, plans, and even shortcomings would serve to point people to God and His glory and not to us. The morning worship was outstanding, with only a couple minor technical hiccups that are to be expected with a brand new facility. As our lead pastor pointed out, God “not only showed up, He showed off”! Tears of happiness, gratefulness, and a sense of and oneness were hallmarks of this memorable morning. All of us were praising God for this amazing time of worship.
However, at the end of the day, I felt…tired!
Don’t get me wrong: I thank God for the amazing worship that many told me was one of the top experiences of their life. I came as a worshiper of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and left as one transformed by knowing and experiencing Him. Even as I worshiped God with everything within me, I didn’t have the same mountaintop feelings that other people had and felt a little bad about that. After some prayer and reflection, however, I was reminded of a few truths about a life given over to God in worship:
- Feelings are not necessarily the best measure of authentic worship. Worship is often the most powerful when given to God in times of hard service, trouble, sorrow, and fatigue when our human feelings would point us down a different path, and we don’t see immediate evidence of God. Habakkuk, an Old Testament prophet, worshiped God in the midst of extreme hardship. Here are his words:
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer he enables me to tread on the heights.”
An often forgotten component of worship is that it is future oriented as well as past and present focused. Worship is inextricably linked to faith that looks ahead with confidence to God and his loving plan to restore all things, including us
- Those who serve in ministry also express their worship through prayerfully and excellently leading others into the presence of God. During the service this past Sunday I looked back at the tech team diligently working to assure that sound, lights, and visuals led people to God. The fingers that moved faders, entered computer keystrokes, and controlled lights were giving praise to God as much as the voices of the people singing! They might not have felt the same emotions, but their hearts and giftedness were directed to God with the same devotion and praise.
- Jesus often felt tired after key events in his earthly ministry, so we should expect the same after pouring ourselves out for Him and others in service. Jesus often retreated to a solitary place to be refreshed in His Father’s presence, and He invites us to do the same as we serve. As I serve in ministry, I am reminded that I can only give out of what God pours into me, so time alone in God’s Word and presence is essential.
- The worship experience does not end after the final prayer of any church service. It’s important we remember that not every time of worship will be a mountaintop experience. I think God made it this way so we don’t “worship the worship experience” like a drug or false idol. God simply wants us to live in His presence whether it shines like a sunny day or is hidden under the clouds of life. The ultimate, perfect mountaintop experience will take place when we experience God face to face. In the meantime, God often gives us ‘nuggets’ of His presence throughout each day. For me, it was a phone call a few hours after the inaugural church service where I heard the voice of my youngest grandson.
Whether in a mountaintop moment, through fatigue, or in the depth of the valley, a life given over to God worships Him through, over and above the feelings of life.
God bless you!