Ponder with me, if you will, the current political, moral, and spiritual conditions of our American culture, our nation as a whole. There is no disputing we are enduring some of the worst economic conditions of the post-modern era, as we teeter on the verge of recession. Job loss is at an all time high, our American automobile industry is going bankrupt, and countless families nationwide struggle to survive on a day-to-day basis. Politically, our nation has just recently elected the most liberal and least God-valuing, God-fearing, and God-honoring president in our history, one who is in full support of abortion at any stage of a pregnancy and additionally supports a host of poor international policies. On a global scale, senseless chaos seems to erupt with no end in sight. From terror attacks in Mumbai, India to continued strains in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no doubt a high percentage of the world is in worse shape than we are. How do we as Christians, who are called to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), find reason to rejoice; reason to worship God in the middle of culture chaos?
The first crucial truth we must understand is this: God is still sovereign and in total control. He was not and is never caught off guard by any event in our world, personally, locally, internationally, or globally. Watching today’s news programs can easily discourage any new or longtime Christian and make it difficult to explain our stance and convictions to non-believers. It is the age-old dilemma: “How can a good, loving God allow such pain and death on a massive, global scale?” The existence and/or practice of evil in the world does not change the heart and character of God. The Fall of Mankind in Genesis, and all subsequent pain and suffering, happened because we failed, not God. As a note: I do understand the difficult paradox of using Scripture to debate with any individual who does not accept the Bible as inerrant and God-inspired. Many argue that if God was loving and full of wisdom, He would not have placed man in the middle of a tempting environment like the Garden of Eden and told him not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life. This debate, however, is not the thesis or purpose of this article.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 1:9, reminds us of God’s faithfulness: “God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ, is faithful.” (NIV, emphasis added). God’s eternal, unchanging nature should greatly inspire us to worship Him. Many people see this as a radical mindset: praising God when things are seemingly “out of control.” But the mature Christian understands what a joy it can be to worship God, even when the rest of life hangs in the balances of countless unknowns. In his book My Heart’s Desire: Living Every Moment in the Wonder of Worship, pastor/author/speaker Dr. David Jeremiah says, “I don’t know the whys and wherefores of the evil that is allowed to afflict us. It’s an enigma whose answers won’t be unraveled in this life time. But the worst of misery is overshadowed by the wonder of faith; we marvel when people can look into the sky after it has fallen upon them with a crash and whisper, ‘Praise the Lord, anyway!‘” (149)
Allow the connection between what seems to be chaos and God’s control of chaos to encourage your passionate worship of Him. Early 20th Century Protestant minister/teacher Oswald Chambers (author of the globally-distributed My Utmost for His Highest devotional) writes, “Huge waves that would frighten an ordinary swimmer produce a tremendous thrill for the surfer who has ridden them.” Those of us who have seen and can testify to God’s grace, even in the eye of the storm, grasp the reality of worshipping in the midst of chaos and the application of Chambers’ quote. And most important of all, we understand the immeasurable joy that can come from such moments of worship.
Paul understood well this idea of praise in chaos: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” (Romans 5:3-4: New Living Translation, emphasis added). “Rejoice” is often interchanged between several Bible-translations with words such as “praise” or even “worship.” Note the Message Translation: “…We continue to shout our praise, even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.” (emphasis added) Shouting praise during tribulation? You’ve got to be kidding, right?
Your worship of God and desire to worship Him should never be dependent upon or hindered by your external circumstances. We can learn about and become intimately acquainted with the character of God, but we are never to judge Him for His decisions, motives, etc. Remember that His ways and thoughts are far beyond ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). He is eternally omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. I am reminded of the words of Christian music artist Steven Curtis Chapman from his 2001 song God is God: “God is God and I am not. I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting. God is God and I am man, so I’ll never understand it all, for only God is God.” (Declaration: Sparrow Records, 2001). What a simple but comforting truth!
But what does all of this have to do with my worship and how can I bring it down to a practical level? I’m so glad you asked. Many of us find the day-to-day grind challenging and often depressing when it comes to exalting our King and Savior to the highest place in our lives. Our emotions seem to get in the way, overriding the truths we know and believe about the character of God. We often become “fist-shakers”, waving our angry, clenched hands at Heaven, demanding God wake up and realize we are in misery. But after we throw our tantrum, Heaven is still there, God is still on His throne, and His nature has remained constant. We must live every day in a spirit of worshipful adoration and praise.
If you have yet to do so, try collecting solid worship music to keep in your car and listen to on the way to school, work, church or anywhere else. Ask your pastor or worship leader at church for their input if you are clueless when it comes to what specific worship music you should purchase. Attend a Bible-based church where Scripture is preached accurately and congregational worship is practiced passionately. Learn to play an instrument and pick up some contemporary worship choruses. This may seem radical and obviously won’t apply to everyone, but it can be indescribably fulfilling to sing and play worship to God, whether it be for a church service or just at home in private. Read through the book of Psalms and the book of Job for your personal devotions, concentrating on the heart of these two men and their worship of God, even during some of the darkest, most uncertain times of their lives. Try to watch the news in moderation and get outdoors on occasion. Go for a hike, bike ride, or nature walk and take in the majestic beauty and splendor of God’s creation. And remember: “There is nothing the world can throw at us that God will not use for His glory and our eternal joy.” (Jeremiah, David. Captured By Grace, Integrity Publishers; 2006.)