28th Jan


Tough worship

Tough worship

Have you ever had to do something that’s the opposite of what seems sensible to do in the circumstances?  Something that seems counter-intuitive?  From time to time we have bad winters here in the northeast of Scotland.  There’s often snow on the ground for weeks and many days I find myself driving on snow-covered roads.  Sometimes I feel I am approaching a bend or going down a hill too fast. The natural impulse is to leap on the brakes.  But I’ve got to do what seems unnatural, counter-intuitive, in the circumstances.  I’ve got to keep my foot on the accelerator and slam down a couple of gears to let the engine brake the car for me.  If I don’t, I’m going to go over the edge and into a field.

Sometimes worship is counter-intuitive.  It seems the inappropriate thing to do in the circumstances we’re facing.  When our lives are collapsing around us, the natural thing to do is to put the brakes on worship and have a pity party instead.  To worship in the middle of the wreckage of our hopes and dreams just doesn’t seem the sensible thing to do.

Enter Job. In an age when heroes are in short supply, Job is a superhero, right up there with Batman.  The difference is that Job was a real man who faced real challenges to his faith, like us, not a comic-book-turned-big-screen hero.  Job was a good man, a family man, a wealthy man.  Yet in a short space of time he lost his wealth, his family and his health.  He was left reeling as he contemplated the implosion of his world numbed by witnessing the meltdown of his hopes, dreams and plans.  We would understand if Job had done the natural thing – grown bitter, angry and resentful. But when he heard the terrible news, he “fell to the ground to worship.  He said, ‘… the LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away.  Praise the name of the LORD!’” (Job 1:20-21, NLT).  What Job did in worshipping among the wreckage of his life was completely counter-intuitive, yet it was the pipeline that connected him to the limitless reservoir of God’s sovereign purpose.  Choosing to worship was the thing that helped Job keep his sanity, win out over his pain and doubt, and emerge at the end of it all a better man with a deeper knowledge and experience of God.

And what was Job’s worship like?  For one thing, it was God focused and self-effacing.  He kept his sight firmly on the Lord, not on himself or his circumstances. What a lesson this is.  How much of what we think is worship is just the self-indulgent enjoyment of a style of worship that we like?  Job’s worship was also appropriate.  As he worshipped, Job concentrated on the person and character of God.  There is never a time when God is not worthy of our worship.  He is “infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth” as one little old book of theology puts it.  He is always worthy of worship.  But sometimes worship is tough. It certainly was in Job’s case.  I think this is probably what is meant by the phrase a “sacrifice of praise to God” (Hebrews 13:15, NLT).  Sometimes praise, or worship, is a sacrifice.  It really costs us because it seems counter-intuitive when we’re facing difficult circumstances.  Yet God is always worthy of our worship no matter how we feel.  Changing gear from bitterness, coldness and hardness to worship can be the thing that gives us spiritual traction and keeps us from going over the edge when a winter of hard circumstances closes in upon us.