"I will extol thee, O LORD; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. LORD, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled. I cried to thee, O LORD; and unto the LORD I made supplication. What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever." Psalm 30
The primary eternal act which we are called to do as Christians is worship. Missions and outreaches are important, but they are only purposed to satisfy a temporary need. In Heaven, there won't be unsaved people to convert or destitute people to provide for. Missions are temporary. Prayer is a HUGE part of life now, but in Heaven, we won't have any problems for God or sins to confess which leaves only prayer of worship as necessary. All other aspects of a relationship with Jesus are important now, but what does God's Word say we will be doing as we spend eternity with Him? In Revelation 4:14, it says that the 24 elders worshipped Him FOREVER. Gee, if worship is going to be what I'm doing for ETERNITY, shouldn't I start on that now?
Worship is only possible when we examine ourselves before and after Christ. Anyone can say, "Lord, I love to sing your praises." Do I actually mean it? Blindly saying words is dead praise. If you say, "I will give You all of my life," then you are held accountable to actually DO what you are saying. When you say, "Burn it all away, all that does not glorify You," you better be ready to give up that thing which you know you are supposed to give up. Praise without the heart is folly. We are guilty of lying to God, promising what we have no intention to do, and saying we love Him when in fact our mind is on the hang out this weekend, the history test you didn't study for, the really funny joke you came up with, the movie you are seeing tonight, etc. Don't think that I am saying this is something wrong with others but not me. If anything, I feel like I am directing this at myself, but perhaps you struggle with this too.
What are we praising God for? It has nothing to do with our present circumstances. Imagine this: a guy gets saved. The minute following his surrender of his whole life to Christ, he is put in to jail for a crime he never committed. He is young, only 12, and is sentenced to a life in prison. The next 60 years of his life, he is subject to the most cruel tortures when he is not in his solitary confinement cell. He is forced to watch each and every one of his friends and family members die a slow, cruel death in front of him. He is given a small cup of diseased lake water and a slice of moldy bread each day to live, and frequently gets sick from these things. His opressors refuse to kill him in order to prolong his suffering until 60 years later he is so diseased that there is no hope of his survival, so before his disease took him they executed him in the most painful manner possible. I could go on and on. This, by definition, would probably be the worst possible life deviseable. Does this man, of any man, have an excuse to not praise God? No, because even in the deepest depths of human torture, the state of Hell which his soul was delivered from was is worse still, and because the hope of Heaven outweighs the darkness of any experience on earth. We are not praising God for His goodness to us now, but the eternal goodness of His grace which salvaged us from the depths of destruction and lifted us up to eternal glory that could never be surpassed.
Now I know that none of you have come even remotely close to the condition of the poor man I described. Our praises should be all the greater for Christ's mercy toward us now, because such a condition would be getting off way easy compared to the tourment of what Christ suffered. When we look at where we were, our praises our exponentialy more alive. When we look at where we now are in Christ, of our heirship to His riches and residency in His kingdom, the praises grow stronger still. That alone is enough reason to fall on my knees and praise God, but there is more still to praise Him for.
Say you got into some major debt, debt in the range that you could work a whole lifetime saving every penny and still never be able to pay. Bill Gates comes, pays it all for you, and says it was his gift. I know this is a cliche example, but it works. First of all, you probably would do whatever he says exactly how he says it. You might go above and beyond what he would ask you to do. You probably would not constantly nag him for favors, and you'd probably at very least thank him for everything when you did ask for a favor. Do we do the same thing for God? Let's look at each of the things I just said. Do we do whatever He says exactly how He says it? Do we completely follow these:
1 Peter 1:16 "Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."
John 13:34 "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, that ye also love one another." (emphasis added)
1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing."
Those are just 3. The list is endless. I'm pretty sure we are all 0/3 on that one. How about going above and beyond what we are asked. Jesus also tells us to do that:
Matthew 5:41 "And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain."
Anyone do that all the time? Didn't think so. As for my third example, though Jesus does tell us to pray, as we saw in 1 Thess. 5:17, how often do we do the next verse, "In EVERYTHING give thanks;" (emphasis added)? It looks like we don't do a very good job of thanking Jesus for the debt He payed, which was not a monetary debt with temporary consequences, but an eternal one with indescribably huge ones. So what does this all have to do with praise? If Bill Gates payed that huge debt and all we did was treat him like garbage, he would probably (a) demand his money back and (b) get revenge on us for what a jerk we were. God doesn't do that! He doesn't take away our salvation, no matter how much our life is defined by failure to live up to what He asks. In fact, He actually speaks of rewards in Heaven for us! That is so crazy! If that does not make you want to praise Him, I don't know what will.
True worship is not the singing of a song. True worship is looking at where we were, where we are, and how we got there, and thanking God for His grace and love. I hope that this refreshed you with a new vision of worship. My prayer is that everyone, including myself, would look at the Cross and find the fervent passion to love our Lord, our Savior. My purpose was not to make anyone feel guilty about what kind of person they are, but to look at what kind of God we serve, this God who rewards those who deserve everything opposite of rewards, and in Him find true worship in your heart.