What Is Worship?
This past Sunday, Blake pointed out something in his sermon that has really resonated with me and got me thinking quite a bit. He described the situation the Israelites were experiencing in Exodus 14 and their joyful response to God’s deliverance in Exodus 15. They worshiped in response to what God did. This brings up a very important distinction regarding worship:
Worship is not a means to experience God. Worship is a response to who God is and what God has already done.
Think about that statement for a minute. Does that statement align with what you think worship is? Does it align with our typical thoughts regarding worship?
Remember to Worship
In our culture, Christians and churches commonly use terms like a “worship service” or “worship experience” to describe the primary Sunday gathering. At Providence Road, we have been guilty of using that language too. However, based on what we see in Scripture, the people of God did not worship Him to “experience” Him, but instead they worshiped Him because of what they had already experienced! They remembered and then they worshiped!
Everyone was created to worship and as Blake mentioned on Sunday, because of the fall, we are prone to worship created things instead of the Creator. We all have a worship disorder! A big part of reorienting our worship is to remember what God has done for us. May the glorious good news of Christ’s rescuing of sinners never become old! May we always remember the good He has done for us!
At Providence Road, we attempt to address each of these truths in every Sunday gathering:
- Who God is – His majesty, holiness, and might.
- Who we are, apart from Christ – alienated from God by our sin.
- That God has made a way for us to be reconciled to Himself through Jesus Christ.
- That redemption is promised, secured, and realized through the finished work of Christ.
Our hope is that every week – through the songs that we sing and the message that is preached – men and women would encounter the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, either for the first time or the thousandth time, and worship God for the rest of the week in response to what was declared.
Hope in Suffering
When we consider God through the lenses of pain and suffering, we can easily drift into two theological categories. First, we can wrongly assume that God is distant and is passively allowing our pain because he is disinterested in us altogether. On the other hand, we might choose to believe that God is angry and is actively punishing us through this specific season of pain.
Learning From Paul
The Apostle Paul was no stranger to suffering. He was repeatedly beaten, shipwrecked and slandered throughout his ministry, so when he considers the idea of suffering – it’s not merely an academic exercise for him. His physical and emotional wounds lead him to offer a third category – one that rejects the premise of both a distant God and an angry God.
Paul begins chapter 5 of Romans by declaring that we now have peace with God (5:1) – there is no more wrath towards us because it has already been directed at Jesus.
Jesus has shielded us from God’s wrath by absorbing it on the cross.
But Paul moves beyond this cosmic, theological truth and begins to unpack the concrete realities of our lives over the next 11 verses. In light of this peace, Paul concludes that suffering produces endurance, which produces character, which produces hope (5:3-5). Paul views suffering – not as a byproduct of a neglectful God (a neglectful God could not actively produce anything, let alone something constructive), and not as a punishment from a vengeful God (His wrath has already been dealt with through Jesus) – but as the necessary process of taking Christians from wishful amateurs to veteran believers.
Our Pain Has Purpose
And while this text offers no explanation of the “whys” or “hows” behind our painful circumstances, it does provide the comfort of knowing that our pain is not random or unchecked. Our pain is not meaningless. As much as it hurts and as confusing as it is, we have the knowledge that it is producing something good, it is manufacturing something that simply could not have occurred otherwise.
When Paul wrote Romans, he never intended the Gospel to be an academic idea studied in a lab.
The good news that God is redeeming all things through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is only good news if it is helpful in a real, material world. This means our suffering here actually authenticates our hope – it holds meaning for here and now, not just a hypothetical future.
In a world where suffering comes to us all, hope is an invaluable commodity that the Church should be known for. Because of all people, we are the ones who do not believe in a figurative deity with conceptual attributes and theoretical characteristics. We believe in a God who took on flesh and dwelt among us, we believe in a God who rolled up his sleeves and got his hands dirty. He literally lived, died, and rose again. We are not a people immune to suffering – our Savior certainly wasn’t. And because of that we can rest, knowing that our suffering is not meaningless and our hope is not fabricated.