Absolutely nothing else has shaped my relationship with God the way worship has. I am not only referring to the songs we sing in our church services, although those are deeply significant to me. I am talking about the presence of God and the amazing dynamic that occurs when we adore Him and focus on all His goodness.
The popularity of worship music and the modern worship movement has led to all manner of discussions on what worship is and is not. There are literally thousands upon thousands of articles, blogs, books, and podcasts expounding on the subject, many of them disagreeing or contradicting each other. And while it is always healthy and important to examine what Scripture says about a topic or to know why we engage in a particular practice, sometimes I think we get so carried away by all the semantics and opinions and debates that we miss the point.
Worship is about loving God. It is about being in His presence—being with Him. And as an extension of the reality that you can’t really love someone you don’t know, it is also about knowing Him more fully and deeply. All the other things that can take place through worship—prophecy, warfare, prayer, even evangelism, just to name a few—are the overflow of hearts that know His heart intimately.
The way this exchange begins to work is mind-boggling. Most of us start at the point of reverence—being drawn to Him, being awed by Him, but still a bit uncertain of what else we’re getting into. We begin to declare the good things we know about Him so far, and He leans close and whispers, “Let Me show you more.”
And because His ways are not our ways, because there is so much more to Him than our human minds can fully comprehend, this exchange goes on and on, deeper and deeper—He reveals more, we love more.
With this intimate, unfolding knowledge of His heart, we come to a more literal understanding of the truth that there really is nowhere we can go beyond the reach of His presence. What changes is our awareness of Him and our openness to Him, not His nearness and definitely not His love for us. We can’t rely on our feelings, but we can be absolutely confident in truth:
I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. - Psalm 139:7-12a (NLT)
The realization of His constant presence keeps our hearts grounded—this is how worship becomes a lifestyle. As we go about our day, we look for His character and ways in the situations we face. Rather than being moved by circumstances, we are moved by who He is and the love He has for us. And when this becomes hard, when our hearts begin to feel overwhelmed by the present realities trying to demand our attention, we return to the refuge of His presence and get our focus re-aligned.
We regularly need the reminder—one of the amazing things Jesus accomplished through His death on the cross was giving us unrestricted access to His presence. In the Old Testament, only select priests could stand in the holy place and only after completing complex rituals to purify themselves.
But when Jesus died, the veil in the Temple was torn in two, and now we can boldly stand before Him. As the writer of Hebrews urges, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:10).
This is one of the greatest gifts we have been given—the constant refuge of His presence. And worship paves the way for us to remember that He is near. In His presence, we find life, healing, hope, forgiveness, rest, safety, redemption, and so much more. The wonder of it all is that these things are available to us every moment of every day if we will just turn our gaze and hearts to Him.