Why Worship? (Newsletter 4-3)

Why Worship?
Jerry Burns

Philippians 4:8 (NKJV) “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate (or think) on these things.”

There was a fascinating research study done by a College Professor. It was discovered that Athletes who won 3rd place in competitions were happier than those who came in 2nd place.

Here’s why. They found that those who came in second place tended to focus on how close they came to winning 1st place, so they were disappointed by not placing higher.

Those who came in third place, however, tended to focus on how close they came to not winning a trophy at all, so they were just happy to have a trophy.

I think that study reveals a fascinating fact of our human nature: Your focus will determine your attitude.

How we feel isn’t determined by our circumstances. If that was true, Second Place Winners would be happier than Third Place Winners because they had a better result.

But, how we feel isn’t determined by our circumstances. How we feel is determined by what we choose to focus on.

Here’s another way of saying it: Your internal attitudes are more important than your external circumstances.

That’s so true isn’t it? All of us know people who can find something good, to focus on, even in the worst of circumstances.
And all of us know someone who can find something bad, to focus on, even in the best of circumstances.
There is a universal principle I need to share with you right at the beginning of this lesson: We tend to see what we’re looking for.

I have been on several Big Game Safaris in Africa, looking for Lions and Tigers. I have dozens of pictures of ROCKS that I thought were Lions and Tigers! I didn’t realize they were really rocks until I got home and looked at them real close.

We tend to see, and believe, what we focus on!

There are two basic types of people in the Church: Complainers and Worshippers.

Complainers can always find something to complain about. Worshippers can always find something to praise God about.

All of us develop opinions about things, all the time. Then, after forming our opinions, we go out and look for evidence to support our opinions. Then, we ignore all the evidence that doesn’t support our opinion.

For example, if you decide you don’t like someone you will notice everything that is wrong with that person. And you will probably ignore anything you could potentially like about them.

The opposite is true as well. If you’re in love with someone you tend to only notice those things you love about them.

We see only what we’re looking for or focusing on.

What does that have to do with worship? A worshipper makes a conscience decision to look for something to praise God for, even in the worst of circumstances.

In Acts Chapter 16, Paul and Silas are having a bad day! Paul and Silas are in a prison cell in Philippi. Here is what happened as told in previous verses of the Chapter.

Paul casts a demon out of a fortune-teller. Her master doesn’t like it because she loses the ability to predict the future so he has Paul and Silas arrested.
Acts 16:22-24 (NKJV) “Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.”

I think we read a story like this and it’s tough to really understand what they went through. I’ve had bad days before, but nothing like this.

If I’m Paul or Silas, I’m emotionally, physically and spiritually spent. I’m drained to the last drop. I’ve got nothing left to give.

Their backs are bleeding from their beating. They are black and blue all over. And they had to be upset.

I’ve never had a mob formed against me, but I’m guessing that it would affect you emotionally. And then they end up in the maximum security cell – in chains!

It just doesn’t get much worse than that. And that’s why this next verse is so amazing to me.

Acts 16:25 says, “Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.”

How many of us would be complaining instead of worshipping? How many of us come to church and fail to worship because we are having a bad day?

Let me share something I’ve learned from personal experience. When I get into a spiritual or emotional depression, it’s usually because I’ve zoomed in on a problem. I’m focused on the wrong thing.

Well, nine times out of ten, the solution is to zoom out so I can get a better perspective. Sometimes you’ve got to zoom out and look at the big picture. It helps to look at things from God’s perspective.

So how do we zoom out?

Let me give you a one word answer: Worship!

Worship takes our eyes off external circumstances and focuses on God. We stop focusing on what’s wrong with us. And, we stop focusing on our circumstances.

Worship causes us to start focusing on what’s right with God.
Paul and Silas could have zoomed in and complained about their circumstances. “Lord, we just cast out a demon and this is what we get? We’re on a missionary journey and we get beaten and thrown in jail?”

Some would say that they had a right to complain. But they made a choice to worship God in spite of their external circumstances.

Here’s what worship does. It restores spiritual stability. It helps you regain the right attitude. It enables you to find something right to praise God about even when everything seems to be going wrong.

Worship is zooming out and refocusing on the big picture.

Worship is refocusing on the fact that two thousand years ago, Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin.

Worship is refocusing on the fact that God loves me when I least expect it, and least deserve it.

Worship is refocusing on the fact that God is going to take me where God wants me to go.

Worship is refocusing on the fact that I have an eternity with God to look forward to, in a place where there is no mourning or sorrow or pain.

Worship is refocusing on the fundamentals of our faith. And here is what happens: God restores the joy of our salvation. We regain our spiritual stability.

Is it easy? Absolutely not. Nothing is more difficult than praising God when everything seems to be going wrong.

But one of the purest forms of worship is praising God even when you don’t feel like it, because it shows God that your worship isn’t based on circumstances. Worship is based on the character of God.

Worship is based on WHO GOD IS, not how I’m feeling at the moment!

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in blaming circumstances.

The people who are successful in life are the people who get up and look for the right circumstances, and if they can’t find them, they create them.”
True worship is rising above your circumstances.

Victor Frankl was a Holocaust survivor who wrote about his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp. Everything was taken away from these prisoners. They were stripped of their clothing, their pictures, and their personal belongings.

They even took away their names and gave them numbers. Frankl was number 119,104.

Everything was taken away except one. Frankl said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

I’m absolutely convinced that the most important choice you make every day is your attitude. Your internal attitudes are more important than your external circumstances.

The outcome of your life will be determined by your attitude on life. If you have a critical or complaining spirit you’ll complain till the day you die. Your life will get worse and worse because you’ll accumulate more and more negative experiences.

But, if you have a worshipful spirit, life gets better and better. Why? Because you accumulate positive memories.
At the end of the day, one way or the other, your focus determines your attitude! We have the ability to choose our response in any set of circumstances.

Paul and Silas were in prison. Their bodies were chained. But you can’t chain the human spirit. That’s what Victor Frankl discovered in the concentration camp.

That’s what Paul and Silas showed us two thousand years ago. Their bodies were chained, but their spirits soared.
I wish we had the recording of Paul and Silas singing in jail. Have you ever heard someone who can’t sing, sing real loud? I think there is something so pure about that.

I’m not suggesting that you intentionally sing out of tune. But there is something so awesome about worshipping God at the top of your voice without caring how it sounds.

I don’t think Paul and Silas were necessarily good singers. But I think they sang with a conviction that caused their fellow prisoners to listen.

They praised God at the top of their voices! And that choice to worship led to freedom.

Worship changes the spiritual atmosphere. It charges the spiritual atmosphere.

Let me make an observation: the Day of Pentecost was totally unplanned. It’s not like the disciples woke up on the Day of Pentecost and said, “I feel like speaking in tongues today.”

It’s not like they made an appointment to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter didn’t prepare a sermon. And they certainly didn’t plan a baptism service.

I’m not sure how the day started, but I’m pretty sure the disciples got up and took a shower and brushed their teeth like they did every day.

And then they met for prayer. I don’t think they had any idea that the Holy Spirit would literally rock the house that day. There is no way they could have planned what happened.

Here is the bottom line: You can’t plan Pentecost. But if you pray for ten days some miraculous things are bound to happen!

I don’t think Paul could have planned this miraculous jailbreak either. To make a long story short, there is an earthquake. The prisoners are set free, but they don’t leave!

The jailer who is about to kill himself gets saved and his entire family is baptized in the middle of the night.
You can’t plan that kind of thing. You can’t plan miracles. But when you worship God in the worst of Circumstances you never know what is going to happen.

Worship sets the stage for miracles! Worship causes spiritual earthquakes that can change the situations of your life.

Worship may not change your circumstances. But it will change your life!

Worship is the way we stay positive in negative circumstances. No matter how bad things get, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I have an eternity in heaven to look forward to!

My pain is real. But so is heaven. The good news is that pain is temporary. The good news is that eternity lasts forever!

The key is focusing on the right thing!

I have read that the average person talks to themselves about 500 times a day. Can you guess what percentage of talking to yourself is negative?

Research indicates that 80% of talking to yourself is negative.

We say negative things to ourselves. “I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. People don’t like me.”

When we do that, here’s what happens: We let what’s wrong with us keep us from worshipping what’s right about God. We’re focused on the wrong thing.
A person with the wrong attitude will always see something bad in a good situation. And a person with the right attitude will always see something good in a bad situation.

Paul gives some priceless advice in:

Philippians 4:8 (NKJV) “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate (or think) on these things.”

A worshipper always finds something to praise God for because they’re looking for something to praise God for.
Here’s a closing thought: The circumstances you complain about become the chains that imprison you.

But, worship is the way out. Worship will break those chains!

It was worship that set Paul and Silas free physically. And it’s worship that will set you free emotionally and spiritually.

The prison doors will fly open. The chains will break free.

Are there circumstances that you’re allowing to imprison you? Have your complaints about someone, or something, become chains?

Stop focusing on what’s wrong about you or your circumstances. Start focusing on what’s right about God.

Psalm 103:2 says, “Praise the Lord and forget not all his benefits.”

”Count your blessings. Name them one by one. Count your many blessings. See what God has done.” Your focus will determine your attitude! And your attitude will determine your future!

The above article, “Why Worship?” was written by Jerry Burns. He is a pastor at Living Word Church in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.