The Missional Impact of Worship
July 9, 2014 by Larry Lazarus 0 comments
I closed last Sunday’s sermon with a personal illustration of how I attempted to bring the two principles from Psalm 103 that we considered (David’s determination to worship, and the ground of his determination) to bear on my own life. Let me give another illustration, which will lead right into the third point of my sermon, which I omitted and said I would return to in this blog post.
A week ago today I woke up physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. It had been a very long, emotionally draining few days. Some things were weighing very heavily on my heart. I didn’t feel that I had strength to even get out of bed. But I did, and amidst the inner turmoil, I opened up Psalm 103 to begin my sermon preparation.
As I began to reflect on these words, jotting down notes on what I was seeing about God, His character, and His works, my heart began to warm. The angst and inner unrest began to fade away, as my thinking was turned from my circumstances to God’s character, and all the benefits He had secured for me in His steadfast love. In light of Psalm 103, my despair yielded to the peaceful encouragement that comes from being in God’s presence.
Immediately, I texted a friend of mine who I know has been also going through a hard time: “I’m beginning to study Psalm 103 for Sunday sermon. Read it, and read it, and read it again, until your heart begins to be shaped by it.” The encouragement that I had found in Psalm 103, I simply could not keep to myself. I wanted to spread it to others, for their encouragement, and for their worship of this great, benevolent God.
The Expansion of Worship
And that perfectly illustrates what I had intended to be the third point of Sunday’s sermon. After considering David’s determination (to argue with his own soul into joyfully praising God by remembering what was true about Him) and the ground of his determination (all the benefits that God in His grace had poured out for David, and all of us in Christ), we see in the closing verses of Psalm 103 the effect of David’s determination: he summons others into the experience of blessing the God who had so lavishly blessed Him:
"20Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! 21Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! 22Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion…"
Once David has taken his own soul to task and labored to “forget not all his benefits” (v.2) by recounting the extravagant blessings of God in verses 3-19, it is as though he can no longer settle for just arguing with his own soul to bless the Lord. He has remembered so much of who God is, and his heart is now so full of wonder and praise for this generous King, that he cannot rest satisfied until all of creation joins in this jubilant praise. David’s joy in blessing God reaches its climax when it beckons more and more of God’s creation to join him in blessing the Lord.
When you are truly worshiping God, you long for others to do the same. And as is the case in Psalm 103 with David, your consistent posture of blessing the Lord can be a catalyst for bringing others into the experience of blessing Him too. How many people throughout the centuries have been energized in their worship of the living God (the way I was last Wednesday) because of David’s resolute determination to bless the Lord, and his summoning all of creation to join him in that blessing?
A Surprising Missional Strategy
There is much talk today about the missional Church: the need for the Church to look beyond its own walls and embrace their calling as God’s missionary people, sent into every crack and crevice of society to bear witness to Jesus in both word and deed; the idea that we are not so much called to invite people to come to us, but that we are to go to them, being the hands and feet of Jesus in a dark and godless world. While thousands and thousands of pages have been written to equip the Church for its missionary calling, could missional living be as simple as consistently blessing the Lord, with all that is in you?
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes,
"14Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,"
Put simply, Paul says that grumblers don’t make God look great. When an unbeliever looks upon a grumbling, frustrated, self-centered, fretful Christian, they conclude that our God must not be small, irrelevant, meaningless. If our consistent response to life is basically no different than anyone else’s, why would they want to know about or worship the God we profess to believe in? But happy-hearted, contented disciples of Jesus who find reasons to bless the Lord for all His benefits when circumstances would seemingly lead to inevitable grumbling, bear witness to a hope that transcends our everyday circumstances.
Paul says that experiencing hardships without grumbling and disputing is one vital way of shining the light of Jesus in a crooked and twisted generation. When you have really come to believe that despite who you are, the sovereign God loves you with an astonishing, extraordinary love, at an astonishing, extraordinary cost to Himself, you always have reason to bless the Lord. You are always getting better than what you deserve. When you consistently live like that, people will wonder what’s up with you, and you’ll be able to proclaim Jesus as the reason for your hope (1 Peter 3:15).
So, brothers and sisters, we have a glorious, urgent calling in the world. The universe was made to bring God glory, and you and I have the privilege and responsibility of summoning a twisted and crooked generation into this experience of extolling God’s greatness and goodness. Grumble-free, complaint-free, blessers of the Lord are a big part of His strategy for shining the light of His glory to the ends of the earth.
So, with all that is within you, forget not all His benefits, and bless the Lord. And bring your joy in God’s blessing to completion by summoning others to worship with you, by resolving to bless Him at all times, rather than join in the constant cacophony of grumbling and arguing that surrounds you each and every day.
I am certainly no expert on missional living; many others have more study and experience in this area than me. But I wonder: could it be that living as a faithful missionary is really as simple as determining (“Bless the Lord, O my soul…”) to be a ceaseless worshiper of the King of kings, no matter our circumstances, and living out that life of worship among those who haven’t yet come to know Him as the fountain of all their benefits?
Perhaps we could give it a try, and see?
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