DISCIPLINES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
WHAT IS “DISCIPLINE”?
“Discipline” comes from the same word as “disciple” – from the Greek word “discipulos” meaning a pupil or follower. So, discipline speaks of choosing to follow Him totally and learn from Him constantly.
“Discipline” also has to do with chosen obedience. A soldier chooses to place themselves under the discipline of the army when they “take the queen’s shilling” and they are expected to submit to that discipline – meaning that they agree to follow the orders of their general – without question.
So, when we consider “spiritual disciplines” we are speaking of those aspects of the Christian life that we choose to obey, without question, in order to be better disciples of Jesus
SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: 1. WORSHIP
PART 1: WORSHIP DOES WONDERS FOR OUR WELLBEING
- WE ARE COMMANDED TO WORSHIP GOD
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name; worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness. (Psalm 29:2)
Sometimes we just have to do it – do what we are told to do by God – whether or not we really understand what He is asking us to do or why He is asking us to do it.
What IS “worship” in any case?
And what FORMS can our worship take?
[get people to write their understanding on post-it notes to put up on the screen]
- WORSHIP MEANS LOOKING UP TO GOD
- What is “worship”?
Technically, our word “worship” comes from two Old English words: weorth, which means “worth,” and scipe or ship, which means something like shape or “quality.” We can see the Old English word -ship in modern words like friendship and sportsmanship – that’s the quality of being a friend, or the quality of being a good sport.
So worth-ship is the quality of having worth or of being worthy. When we worship, we are saying that God has worth, that he is worthy. Worship means to declare worth, to attribute worth. Or to put it in biblical terms, we praise God. We speak, or sing, about how good and powerful God is.
Now let’s look at the biblical words. In both Hebrew and Greek, there are two major kinds of words for worship. The first kind means to bow down, to kneel, to put one’s face down as an act of respect and submission. Our body language is saying, I will do whatever you want me to. I am ready to listen to your instructions and I am willing to obey. The other kind of biblical word means to serve. Roughly half of the time these words are translated as worship, and the other half as serve. It carries the idea of doing something for God — making a sacrifice or carrying out his instructions.
Of course, word meanings don’t prove what worship is, but they do illustrate three kinds of worship. There is
worship that involves speaking, and
worship that involves listening, and
a worship that involves doing.
It can be said that, spiritually, there are three directions that we can be looking:
Worship = Looking UP to God
Witness = looking OUT to man
Worry = looking DOWN at our problems
If this is so, then when we are worshipping we are choosing to look at God alone, taking our eyes off the things of this world – our own needs and worries, and the demands and needs of others. It is just us and God, me and Him.
It is often said that our work, our talk, our singing, our whole lives, should be an act of worship. How, then, does this fit in with what has just been said? Well – it can: in the sense that when we are doing these things for God then we are doing them looking up to God rather than at man or ourselves
- Does the command to worship show God as a selfish God?
It does seem that way, doesn’t it? It seems as if God is saying “it’s all about me. You honour me as I deserve. I command you to adore me!”
But, I don’t think it’s that way at all. Like with so much else, worship comes naturally out of relationship. God wants me to look at Him and enjoy being with Him as He enjoys being with me. And when I look up at Him I cannot help but see His qualities of worth, how wonderful He is, how almighty He is. And then I cannot help but worship Him. But…..and here’s the BIG one…..we can’t ever out give God the reality is that WORSHIP DOES WONDERS FOR OUR WELLBEING.
Let’s study Scripture to see how this is so:
Jesus walks on the water – Matthew 14:22-33
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’
28 ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’
29 ‘Come,’ he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
- Notice that Jesus went UP on a mountainside by Himself to pray – it was just Him and Father God – this was worship and this worship involved listening and talking. So often the Bible talks of going UP to meet with God (such as Moses climbing Mount Sinai) and speaks of getting away from all the hurly-burly of daily life to be alone with Him.
- The disciples, on the other hand, were working hard – obeying Jesus’ command to go on ahead of Him to the other side – and battling against the wind and the waves. They were looking out – they had a target to aim for – the landing place on the other shore.
- Now look at Peter. Looking up from the work of the boat to Jesus, he fixed his eyes on Him and went to Him walking on the water. As long as he kept his focus on Jesus he was safe. He was worshipping Jesus and nothing else mattered.
- However, he was distracted by the wind and the waves and began to sink. He had taken his eyes off Jesus and was looking down. We stop worshipping when we start worrying. The waves, as we know, represent the worries and cares of this world. These scare us and overwhelm us and we sink into fear and depression. On the one hand I am supporting those who can only see the problems in their lives. They are big problems. But these problems have taken away their peace and their security. They cannot see beyond them and are sinking fast. On the other hand I look at others – like those in our church – who despite incredible life-threatening illnesses are smiling, and strong, and OK. The difference. The first group are looking down at the problems. The second are looking up to Jesus. I look at my own earthly experience: at the end of a hard day there is nothing more refreshing than sitting down alone with my wife – just me and her – not talking about the troubles of the day but having some quality time alone and away from the world- watching Call the Midwife. This is similar to worship- the decision to walk away from all else and just spend time with Him, not asking, just being. It does wonders for our wellbeing. Remember Paul who encourages us to run the race of life without looking down or to the left or to the right but “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2)
- Now see the love and kindness of Jesus: He does not condemn Peter for failing to maintain worship – but instead graciously saves him. That’s my God!
- Finally, see the effect that seeing the power and glory of Jesus has on all the disciples. They immediately stop what they are doing and turn and worship Him on the boat. Worship is a corporate, as well as individual, delight.
- THE CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER
Worship can mean many things – but maybe at its simplest level it is the beauty of just looking up to God and away from the people of troubles of this world – delighting in spending time in His presence and just adoring Him.
And then, like with Peter, we have the joy and privilege of the problems and things of this world becoming “strangely dim” and the wonder of our well-being increasing due to the worship that we give to Him – which means being able to cope with the troubles that life throws at us constantly.
Yes, the one who worships is the one whose well-being is far higher
So, the challenges for us:
- Do we desire relief from the day-to-day troubles of this life?
- Are we spending quality and quantity time in worship to God?
- What are we going to do about it?
As the old song goes:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of the Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace