“There is an old story about a man who dreamed that an angel escorted him to church one Sunday. There he saw the pianist playing vigorously, the chorister leading singing, the organist playing with gusto. But the man heard no sound. The congregation was singing, but the sound was utterly muted. When the minister rose to speak, his lips moved, but there was no volume. In amazement, the man turned to his escort for an explanation.
‘This is the way it sounds in heaven,’ said the angel. ‘You hear nothing because there is nothing to hear. These people are engaged in the form of worship, but their thoughts are on other things and their hearts are far away.’”
Where are your thoughts as we take up our offering, pray, sing and study God’s word? Are they on the Lord? Are you thinking about who God is and what he has done for you?
Did you come here with a heart for God this morning? Is it full of gratitude for the salvation and blessings he’s given you?
Or are your thoughts and heart focused on other things?
If this story is true, would heaven hear us this morning as we worship?
Even though this story doesn’t come directly from the Bible, it does contain some Biblical truths. In 2 Chronicles 7, King Solomon and the whole nation of Israel is dedicating the new temple which Solomon build for the LORD. During this celebration, the LORD speaks to Solomon. He says in 2 Chronicles 7:13-16 – “13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” Although this passage is directed to the nation of Israel, it shows God either gives or withholds some of his blessings based on the way his people act.
1 Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” Gentlemen, this passage teaches that God won’t answer our prayers if we’re being inconsiderate and disrespectful to our wives.
Based on what these two passages reveal, it’s very possible our worship does fall on deaf ears in heaven if our thoughts and hearts aren’t focused on God. As we wrestle with this concept, we also need to make sure we understand what the biblical meaning of worship really is.
When we hear the word “worship”, we typically associate it with the times of music, prayer and preaching that we have during our Sunday morning service or Tuesday evening Bible study.
We associate worship with being at church services from certain passages in the Bible:
In 2 Samuel 12, God takes the life of David and Bathsheba’s child because of their sin. 2 Samuel 12:20a states, “Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped.”
Luke 2:36-37 says, “36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.”
These passages make it plain that in both the Old and New Testament, worship takes place in the house of the Lord. We too should be worshipping God when we come together in the sanctuary at Snake Spring Valley Church of the Brethren.
But when we look at other passages in the Bible, we see that Worship can happen anywhere:
Exodus 4:31 – Israelite leaders worshipped God when they had no tabernacle or temple of their own but were living among the temples of the Egyptian gods.
Exodus 34:8 – Moses worshipped on a mountain.
Judges 7:15 – Gideon worshipped in an army camp right before a battle.
The Bible contains examples from Genesis through Revelation where God’s people worshipped him wherever they happened to be. They didn’t have to wait until they arrived at a designated building.
If we limit worship to the things we do during scheduled congregational services, then we’re missing the point of what biblical worship really is. Harper’s Bible Dictionary says, “The word worship in the New Testament means primarily to “bow down” but it also translates Greek terms signifying service or piety.”
Service is defined in Encarta Dictionary as “work done for somebody else” and Piety is defined as “holy living.”
This definition of “worship” isn’t only found in a Bible dictionary. It’s also found in the Bible itself. Romans 12:1 says, “in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”
Worship is much more than simply praying and singing during certain times of the week or even during certain times of the day. Worship is the way we live our lives in service to Jesus Christ and to others. Harold M. Best eloquently sums up this concept in his book, Unceasing Worship, when he states, “Worship is the continuous outpouring of all that I am, all that I do and all that I can ever become in light of a chosen or choosing god.”
Not only should we ask if heaven hears our worship this morning, we also need to ask: Does heaven hear our worship throughout the week?
Do you realize that how we worship God is shown in the way we:
-treat each other?
-talk our spouse and children?
-love our neighbors?
-spend our money?
-treat our bodies?
-go about the mundane activities of everyday life?
Please take a few moments and prayerfully answer this question: Does the way I live my life show I’m worshipping God in everything I do?
Answering this question honestly will reveal a few “no’s” in certain areas of our lives. We struggle at times to be faithful to God every moment of every day. The reason we struggle is because we simply can’t do it on our own. If we could – we would. Jesus knows and understands this. However, the Bible makes it clear that we need to make an effort to be the best “living sacrifice” we can be.
Ask Jesus and the Holy Spirit to help you live your life in such a way that you are showing worship to God in everything you do. God really does change us when we open to being changed.