When I was a kid, I had a seriously hard time when people told me that Heaven would be “one big praise and worship session.” Don’t get me wrong, I love music; and at the camps and conferences I went to as a teenager, the worship sessions were some of my absolute favorite times. Surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ whose only purpose in that moment was to praise with absolute abandon, I always found myself thinking, “This is what Paradise must feel like.”
But after half an hour so of that…I was ready for the next thing. The teaching, the small group session, the study period. And the older I got, the more difficult it was for me to imagine ages upon ages of worship. Heaven, or eternity, or whatever you want to call it, as one continuous concert…it was hard to look forward to a future like that. I felt like God had to have created us for more than just that…right?
It wasn’t until I was much older that I first heard the phrase, “Worship is not an act of praise; it’s a way of life.”
This thought was revolutionary for me. I’d heard for most of my life that “worship” was synonymous with “praise” and that, by default, our only purpose in the coming Kingdom would be to sing praises to God, 24/7, 365 (never mind that the concept of time will have lost that day-by-day, minute-by-minute structure, no doubt). So when the notion of worship as a way of life was first postulated to me, I had to sit down and really think about it long and hard. From that, two thoughts emerged:
- If worship is a way of life, how do I worship now?
- What will worship look like in the Kingdom?
Those are the two concepts I want to address in this article. Starting with how we live our lives, as beings created to worship:
How Do I Worship Now?
Let’s take a look all the way back to the original Paradise. The creation of the world—and those in it, specifically Adam and Eve—can be viewed as a sort of “blueprint” for the future eternity. While there will be some differences, there’s a rough outline that is the same: man in a perfect body, in perfect fellowship with the Creator, living sinlessly in a world that is perfect in every way.
You’ll notice in Genesis that it doesn’t say Adam and Eve were created for an endless symphony of praise. Yet there is no doubt they were called to worship, as we are—as all of mankind is. So what was worship to them, and what is it to us now?
Dictionary.com defines “worship” in several ways, including “to feel an adoring reverence or regard; reverent honor and homage paid to God.” In a more archaic sense, however, worship was defined as “honor given to someone in recognition of their merit.”
This leads me to ask, “In what way to do we honor God in recognition of His merit?”
- One of the primary ways we can worship is in the ultimate way in which Adam and Eve dropped the ball; we obey. Heartfelt obedience is one of the ultimate forms of worship, because it’s the very act of reverence and honor, carried out; it is a state of complete soul-submission to the One whose plans and purposes are higher, clearer, and better than ours. It’s also the active evidence of trust; without it, it’s impossible to please God. We also live a life of worship by obeying even when we don’t want to…when our sin nature pulls us to do something else. Actively striving to obey our Heavenly Father and to heed His desires is an act of worship that honors Him for all He has done for us (Rom 12:1).
- Another way in which we express worship for our Creator is by utilizing the gifts He has given us. Jesus rebuked the act of hiding a light under a bushel (basket), and he encouraged his followers to “let their light shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) We honor, and therefore worship, our Heavenly Father when we use the talents He has entrusted us with to further His kingdom, enrich the lives of those around us, and ultimately lead others to also follow Him.
- We can also worship through work. One of the pitfalls we can fall into is to think that in order to worship God with our acts of work (or service), we must work in some “Christian” capacity, like a ministerial or pastoral profession. But just as worship is not contained to the field of praise, work done in service to God is not limited to “Doing the Lord’s Work.” My favorite verse is Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” This means that whether someone is a janitor, accountant, or CEO—whether deskwork, homesteading, or management—we all have the exact same opportunities to worship and honor God through our attitude and ethic. When we labor in love and with a servant’s attitude, putting others before ourselves and behaving in a way that reflects the nature of Christ in us and of the One we serve, we are worshipping and honoring God with our very way of being.
We can also worship God in a myriad of other ways including recreation, relationship, creativity, and a whole host of other ways. But I wanted to touch a little more in-depth on these three particular examples because they help to answer my second question:
What Will Worship Look Like in the Kingdom?
Do you see where I’m going with this? If we look to the Scriptures, we see that life everlasting will involve work—farming and shepherding (Isa. 30:23 and 24), cooking (Isa. 25:6), music-making, (Isa 35:10), and much more. Many passages in the prophetic books of the Bible very clearly show that life will go on much like it does today…but without the burdens of sin, wickedness, death, illness, famine and plague, and all the other grievances that make this life so unbearable at times.
The reality of the everlasting kingdom and an eternity of worship become so clear when we realize that we will live to the ages of the ages in perfect obedience to God’s just and righteous laws—and that is worship. We will each be given a task in accordance with what we are due, and no doubt in alignment with the gifts that God has given us—who He created us to be—in this life, as we will be the same people then as we are now. We must carry out those tasks—and that is worship. And we will work the land and the lifestyle of the kingdom, just as Adam and Eve did in the Garden—and that is worship.
We will also have recreation, and music, and relationships, and we will live life, and everything that we do will be worship. Our very existence will shout for joy to our Creator, who will walk with us and speak with us face-to-face again. Every fiber of our being will worship and rejoice as we have full sharing with Him and His Son, our brother, Jesus. There won’t be distance there…them on a stage while we praise from a footstool at their feet.
A life of worship now and a life of worship then aren’t so different, after all; we are beings made to worship with every breath we take. And though in this fallen world, we often struggle to conduct ourselves in ways that pay God the honor He is merited…in a world without sin, that will change. We will be loosed from the shackles of our darker nature, free to praise and worship with our labor, life, and love for all of eternity.
I don’t know about you, but that’s a future I can definitely look forward to.