Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Work or Worship?

September has been a busy month for me. Crazy busy. Sometimes life's like that. Busy, busy, busy. And it's times like this when my Christian walk feels more like a frantic sprint. But before I assess this past month with too much disdain, I need to remind myself that Jesus did lament the desperate need in His Father's harvest for labourors -- that is, hard workers (Matthew 9:37-38). And Jesus was such a hard worker that He said His "food" was to accomplish the "work" of His Father (John 4:34) and that "My Father is working until now, and I am working" (John 5:17). In other words, God sees great need for work to be done and wants us to be working too.

But that doesn't mean God spends His time scanning the earth searching for workers. That would be like God looking down here and saying, "Ah yes, there's someone who could probably put in a good effort. He looks good and strong for all the hard work I've got to get done." Instead, Jesus specifies (in the same context in which He says His food is to do God's work) that God is looking for someone else: "the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him" (John 4:23). The latter part of that verse is typically lost in the shadow of the more famous phrase mentioned at the beginning of the verse. Yet the end of that verse is absolutely vital. The verse begins with Jesus defining true worship, but then He explicitly states who God is looking for as He scans the earth: God is searching for worshipers. God is looking down here saying, "Ah yes, there's someone who's heart is completely Mine. I will give her the strength to do great works in My name!" (see 2 Chronicles 16:9).

But with Jesus' great emphasis on working, as well as stating that the Father is searching for true worshipers, is it fair to say one is more important than the other? After all, isn't it true that our worship of God and our work for God are so closely intertwined that they're meant to appear indistinguishable? In other words, can I be a true worshiper of God if I'm unwilling to be a worker for Him? And can I even say I'm a worker for the Lord if I neglect to be a worshiper? To truly be one means I must truly be the other. Which would mean that a worker who worships is as valuable to God as a worshiper who works, right? And it is that very question that causes me to hesitate to equate these two characteristics of a follower of Christ because it fails to clarify the order in which I came to be both a worshiper and a worker -- and that is what I think Jesus was stressing when He said that the Father is seeking true worshipers.

Worshiping God must precede working for God. It must be so or we'll end up working in our own strength for the dim glow of our own glory eventually becoming a hard-hearted Pharisee who's forgotten the One we're working for! That's why God is seeking worshipers, whom He will then make into workers according to His strength working in us and through us (Colossians 1:29). He wants our hearts before we offer Him our hands. I'm sure that's why Jesus told Martha that her sister Mary had "chosen what is better" (Luke 10:42, NIV) when Mary chose to sit listening at Jesus' feet rather than to be so distracted by busyness.

So I now need to ask myself why I've been so busy. Is it because I'm busy working at all the things that the God I love and adore -- and listen so carefully to -- and receive all my strength from -- has asked me to do? Or is it because I think I need to work this hard for God in order to win His approval -- perhaps because I haven't found it easy to draw near to Him in worship amidst all my self-imposed busyness? And if God is seeking worshipers, what will He find in me when He finds me busily serving Him so hard?  Yikes. The answer will be in whatever the posture of my heart is as I serve Him with my hands: a worshiper of God who has become a worker for His God.

© 2010 by Ken Peters


Eileen said...

Good thoughts, Ken!

Aaron Wiebe said...

Hi Ken

Well said - being in His presence BEFORE we work is the key to finding strength for the journey.

Martin Luther said "I have so much to do each day that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer."

Thanks for putting your thoughts into words.