I looked over to see my mom trying to hold back her laughter. I’m sure we’ve all experienced it at some point—that extremely difficult task of not laughing when everything in us wants to. It usually happens at the most inappropriate times and in the most inappropriate places. This was the case for my mom. We were in church and the worship band was on stage leading the congregation in song, while my mom stood next to me trying not to burst out laughing. I looked at her, trying to figure out what I had missed that was causing her such amusement. She gathered herself and we kept singing. After church I asked my mom what had made her laugh in the middle of worship.
She said, “You.”
I answered in surprise, “Me? What did I do?”
“Daniel,” she said, beginning to laugh again, “I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone miss every note in a song before.”
My lack of musical talent was no surprise to me, and so we both had a good laugh about it. (I should mention that my mom and I have a great relationship, one in which we can tease each other and not be offended, knowing we both have nothing but love and support for each other).
Thankfully (for my sake at least), God’s acceptance of our worship is not based on how well we sing. Worship is much more than song. Jesus stated, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Over the years I’ve found that in order for me to worship in truth, the Lord has had to remove some major misconceptions I held regarding worship. It’s been a gradual process, mostly involving prayer and time spent in God’s Word. I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject of worship, but I hope what I share about my own journey will help you if you’ve struggled with similar issues as well.
Misconception #1: Worship Is Only for Religious People
I used to think that the only people who participated in worship were religious people, or people of faith. I viewed worship as solely a religious or spiritual act. But I now believe everyone worships, whether they realize it or not. We all worship something or someone; we were created to (Psalm 86:9-10).
We worship whatever we value most in life. For some, this might be a job, a loved one, an object of some sort, or oneself. Worshipping such things may have nothing to do with religion or faith, but it remains worship. When we place more value on these things than on God, we are worshipping them.
Sadly, I’ve worshipped many things in my life. I’ve worshipped myself, my passions, my time, my relationships—any number of things that are not bad in themselves, except when we give them higher value than we give God. Instead of worshipping the blessings that God has given me, I should be worshipping the God who gave them.
When I find that I’ve usurped Christ’s rightful place in my life by valuing something or someone else, I ask Him with repentant humility to retake the throne of my heart. He graciously accepts repentance and invites me into deeper relationship with Him.
Misconception #2: Only Religious Activities Are Worship
Worship isn’t simply singing in church, prayer, or thanksgiving. These are all forms of worship, but they are not the only ones. One of my biggest misconceptions about worship was that I only participated in worship when I was involved in some religious activity.
But the truth is, our whole lives are an act of worship (Romans 12:1, 1 Corinthians 10:31).
In the Old Testament, King Saul made the mistake of thinking religious activities meant worship. But God responded by pointing out that religious activities are no measurement of a person’s worship, because true worship starts in the heart and reveals itself in our daily lives: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).
This points me to a greater awareness of the importance of being in fellowship with Christ. I’ve realized that true worship is a relationship with God, rather than feigned obedience to a set of rules. Whether we are eating, working, studying, on vacation, doing laundry, we are worshipping whether we realize it or not. We either live life with Jesus reigning in our hearts, or we live life with something or someone else holding that place. I am learning to ask myself, do I love God in my work, my study, my daily life?
Misconception #3: Worship Is for God’s Benefit
Perhaps the biggest misconception I had about worship was that it was somehow for God’s benefit, as if He somehow needed our worship. The truth is quite the opposite: worship benefits us, not God.
David declares, “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in You” (Psalm 31:19). God is pleased with our worship, but He doesn’t need it. He is all-sufficient, self-existent, eternal, not created. He is not in need of anything, but He is the source of all life and all joy (Psalm 16:11).
God created us in order that we might know Him and experience His life and joy, and worship is the doorway into that life and joy. The Psalmist says, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere . . . For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” (Psalm 84:10-11). God is eager to bless us and give us peace; when we worship we open the doors to His peace and blessing. This isn’t to say that we will never see trouble in this life because we worship God, but He does promise He will be a stronghold in the day of trouble to those who trust in Him (Nahum 1:7).
God cherishes our worship. He understands it can be difficult for humans to worship what we cannot see, and perhaps that’s why our worship moves Him so deeply. I know there is still much I need to learn regarding worship, but I’m thankful the Lord has righted these misconceptions I once held. I now have a greater understanding and a deeper relationship with God than before. And maybe someday, perhaps when I’m in Heaven, when I’m singing in heartfelt worship, I’ll even be able to sing the right notes. But until then, I’m grateful to know that I can worship God with my every act, and that God loves my worship regardless of my singing abilities.