Summary: There's nothing quite like the anticipation of an upcoming college football season - unless of course it's the anticipation you feel as you prepare for worship each Sunday! Oh - it's not quite same. Why not?
“Soul Talk: What Good Is Worship”
There’s just nothing quite like it. Soon college football fans everywhere will be filled with excitement. The college teams will begin practice, which will prompt prognosticators to start their analysis and empower fans to dream that this might just be THE year! It’s going to be MSU! It’s going to be U of M! It’s going to be Notre Dame! The analysis and dreams build right up to kickoff of the opening game. There is nothing quite like this yearly anticipation of unparalleled excitement.
Unless, of course, it’s the anticipation you feel as Sunday morning worship approaches! Oh – it’s not quite the same. Why not? I wonder if it’s because we have forgotten what good worship is. The Psalmist, in Psalm 63, testifies to seven good things worship does. To begin with, IT FRAMES OUR FOCUS ON GOD. The Psalm was possibly written when David was in the desert, fleeing from his son Absalom who was getting ready to attack David and take over as king. David was in a dry and parched land, not only physically but also spiritually. But rather than fret, or take time away from God, he remembered a declaration from his times of worship: “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” As Derrick Kidner described it, “The longing of these verses is not the groping of a stranger, feeling his way towards God, but the eagerness of a friend, almost of a lover, to be in touch with the one he holds dear.” (1)
The verb ‘seek’ is related to the Hebrew noun for dawn, and it can be translated two ways; either as “to seek early” or “to seek earnestly.” Both are meaningful and led the Israelites to think of Psalm 63 as a morning psalm, to be sung at the beginning of each day.(2) So what good is worship? David, by affirming his faith in God through a psalm of worship, transformed his desert experience. And therein lies a lesson for us. Some days, even some Sundays, we don’t feel like worshiping. Yes – even I have those Sundays! But WE ARE TO WORSHIP - NO MATTER WHAT; even in a desert place in life – especially when we’re in a desert place in life – we should worship because it frames our focus on God. No matter how we feel, no matter how bad our week or day, no matter our mood, we worship. Worship reminds us to live not at the mercy of our moods but in the mercy of our God.
Secondly, David said that WORSHIP RECONNECTS US WITH OUR GOD. Verse 2: “I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.” David had a history of God meeting with him in worship. And how did those experiences impact David? Verse 3: “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.” David was reminded about God’s great covenant love – that God offers us not just kindness but loving-kindness and not just mercy, but tender mercy. (3) It’s revealing that a study by Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that "belief in a concerned God can improve response to medical treatment" in patients diagnosed with clinical depression. The operative word here is "caring," the researchers said. "The study found that those with strong beliefs in a personal and concerned God were more likely to experience improvement."(4) David knew worship was an avenue of reconnecting with God.
Author Frederica Mathewes-Green wrote: “Picture yourself walking around a shopping mall, looking at people and the window displays. Suddenly, you get a whiff of cinnamon. You weren't even hungry, but now you really crave a cinnamon roll. This craving isn't something you made up. There you were, minding your own business, when some drifting molecules of sugar, butter, and spice collided with a susceptible patch inside your nose. You had a real encounter with cinnamon—not a mental delusion, not an emotional projection, but the real thing. And what was the effect? You want more, now.” (5) Like David, having whiffed God’s loving-kindness and tender mercy, we long for more. We want a stronger connection.
So, David said (vs. 4), “I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” In Psalm 141:2 David wrote, “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” Whether in the act of formal worship, or private devotions, or the routine of daily living, LIFTING UP HANDS DIRECTS OUR PRAYER AND PRAISE TOWARD GOD AND HELPS US RECONNECT WITH GOD. It puts our minds and hearts on things above. So often we see an athlete, after scoring or making a great play, point upwards. It’s a way they remind themselves of God and reconnecting with Him to so as not to be filled with undue pride. What good is worship? It reconnects us with God.