How much do we really trust God?
Perhaps one of the best ways to gauge that question is in our worship.
Does our worship today reflect our relationship with God or is it far more influenced by the culture from which we live?
In the 19th century, preachers and evangelists routinely gave messages that lasted anywhere between 45 minutes to two hours. And the people listened. They stood. They sat on hard, uncomfortable benches. They wore uncomfortable clothing. They endured cold temperatures during the winter and baked during the summer. They arrived on horseback, walked for miles, or hitched up a team of horses to their wagon.
Going to church and hearing God’s Word was a sacrifice.
Sacrifice. That is not a word that we usually associate with worship.
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Hebrews 13:15)
We are encouraged in Scripture to “offer up to God a sacrifice of praise.” What does that mean? Does worship require a sacrifice?
The focus of our worship is not necessarily on ourselves — and what we commit to do for God or what we do to remember him — but on what we receive (i.e. the forgiveness of sin, the assurance and comfort of faith, the power and strength of His Word). And we respond in worship by crying out to God, “You are worthy!”
To arrive at that point of praise requires a sacrifice. It requires the sacrifice of leaving your home and coming to church — even when you don’t feel like it. It requires a sacrifice of paying attention and not being distracted by our thoughts. It requires a trust that despite the problems, worries, or unanswered prayer that dominates our daily life, we place our life and our thoughts into His hands. When we arrive at that point in worship we are truly calling out to God outside of our self by proclaiming, “You are worthy!”
A sacrifice of praise requires a sacrifice of self.
This concept of sacrifice was not lost to the Israelite readers.
Throughout Old Testament times, sacrifice was a focal point. Animals of varying sizes and cost, were offered up to God to atone for their sins. These sacrificial acts were reminders of God’s covenant promises to His people. They were a shadow of what was to come. They trusted in God’s promise of a Messiah who was to come to be that sacrifice for the people. They took God at His Word.
But, there was something more in their worship. Note the following:
* They took the whole day off on the Sabbath to worship and to reflect.
* Once a year, they took the whole week off to worship and celebrate how the Lord provided for them.
* After six years, they were to cancel any debt and let slaves go free.
* Every fifty years, an Israelite took the whole year off.
These sacrificial acts of trust were carried out to remind them that God is the one who provides. He has the power to bless and to take away. It’s not about us.
God loves sacrifice, but only when its prompted by love and faith in him. Sacrifice is not just an exercise of faith, but simply reveals it.
While living in a culture of abundance, comfort, and convenience, the sacrifice of praise perhaps has a much different connotation than in previous generations.
Our response may reflect on how much we really trust God.