One of my best friends recently remarked that “we seem to think of obedience and disobedience as merely works, not worship.” This stopped me in my tracks.
I tend to see obedience as an action or a task to complete, something to check off the list as an accomplishment. With that mindset, I overlook that doing what God says is part of loving Him and worshipping Him. I make obedience about me, not about Him.
When I’m doing things God says I should, I’ve found it helpful to pause and ask, “am I worshipping God in this?” That redirects me from habit or performance to the One we’re to live lives worthy of (Ephesians 4:1).
We get this sort of thing backward easily, obeying God for our own sake, instead of out of love for God. Here are some times when it’s especially helpful to ask ourselves about our attitude and motivation as we obey.
Am I Worshipping When I Sacrifice?
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” –Romans 12:1
Sacrifice is a big concept, often tied to giving up something significant for the sake of someone else. But sacrifice is also saying yes when we’d like to say no to something petty. It’s deferring our preferences, withholding complaints, and keeping a commitment when we’re already tired.
Offering what will cost us time, finances, emotions, etc., can look like worship but actually be us seeking to gain something for ourselves. Maybe we donate because it makes us look good, for example. With worship, those things aren’t the goal.
Romans 12:1 gives us a hint as to what makes sacrifice worship. “In view of God’s mercy,” is the key. We worship Him through our sacrifice when our giving is motivated by and dedicated to the God who has so mercifully already given to us.
Am I Worshipping When I Pray?
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” –1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
If we connect “worship” to “prayer,” we tend to call it “praise” or “thanksgiving.” We might hold back our thoughts or feelings, or even confessions, in an effort to pray “holier” prayers. Perhaps we’ll recite words that sound worshipful but ring empty or hollow.
Regular old “help me” or “God, this just happened,” prayer can be worship when it’s authentic. We can pray in response to who God is, honoring Him by actually acting as if what He says is true. That might mean believing that He wants to hear from us continually as He says, or praying messy, unrehearsed prayers humbly because God knows anyway, and we just want to be in conversation with Him.
If our prayers, no matter what they concern, acknowledge God as God, we’re not just doing a good thing, we’re ascribing to God His value – and that’s the definition of worship.
Am I Worshipping God as I’m Loving Others?
“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food.” –Romans 14:19-20
Phrases like “be the bigger person” are meant to help us treat others lovingly when our feelings don’t line up. But that sort of philosophy is about us, not about the God who does love the person driving us crazy. We can treat others lovingly and not be genuine. We can also love others in terrible ways, like by idolizing them.
Acting lovingly toward others doesn’t automatically equate to worshipping God. Actually loving them as God defines love does. That’s only possible when our love for others comes from God and brings us to God! Then we can worship Him in spirit and truth, truly loving as He loves (1 John 5).
For this, we need Him. To pray continually and sincerely, we need Him. To sacrifice in view of His mercy, we need Him.
Perhaps the question to ask after “am I worshipping God as I do this thing he says to do?” is “am I depending on Him?”
This list is by no means exhaustive! In what sorts of things could you be helped by asking, “Am I worshipping God in this?” How does depending on God lead you to worship and vice versa?