How Do We Know It Is Working?
For the last several weeks we have been discussing some things that we have learned or can learn about worship from the gym. I am convinced that in just a short time, we will all be in better shape spiritually. In the first lesson, we noticed that we usually feel better after we go to the gym/worship. In the second lesson, we noticed that going to the gym/worship helps us to make better choices. In the third lesson, we noticed that going to the gym/worship needs to be about growth and not about comparison. In the fourth lesson, we noticed that the gym/worship meets a number of needs. In the fifth lesson, we noticed the need to avoid clanging. In the sixth lesson, we saw that two are better than one. In this lesson, we will see a number of tests that will prove if things are working.
How do you know if the gym is working? It seems to me that there are a number of tests that you can take. First, there is the mirror test. If the gym is working, the mirror will eventually show it. Muscle will appear and fat will disappear. Second, the scale test. Most of us probably hate stepping on to the scale. We hate it because the number is often going up instead of down. If the number is going down, it is much more enjoyable. I am speaking from personal experience. Third, there is the heart test. As you likely know, when doctors are looking for heart problems, they often put the patient through a stress test often involving a treadmill to see how their heart responds. If there are blockages or other problems they will usually show up. Fourth, there is the photo test. Most of us like the camera about as well as we like the scale. By comparing photos from before working out to a month or two in, it is easy to see the differences. Many people take a before and after picture. Fifth, there is the comment test. If the gym is working, people will often note that we look like we have lost weight. Obviously, this is very subjective. Sometimes, people will say what is clearly not so. I’ve had people say things about me having gained weight when I’ve lost weight or my losing weight when I’ve gained it. Still, the comments of people may reveal that things are working. Sixth, there is the strength test. When you are able to increase the weight that you are lifting from week to week or month to month that is proof that the gym is working. Seventh, there is the stamina test. When reps increase or we are able to extend the length of time that we walk or exercise, that is evidence that the gym is working.
How do we know that worship is working? No doubt, some of the same tests apply. First, there is the mirror test. Of course, the mirror is the word of God (Jam. 1:25). If we are growing in our relationship with God, then the mirror of God’s word will reveal it. Second, the scale will show it. Paul wrote, “But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Tim. 4:7-8). If bodily exercise is profitable for a little, and we can see results from it, then we should certainly be able to see results from that which is far more profitable- godliness. Third, the heart will show it. Worship reveals if there are problems in the heart (Acts 8:20-21). Fourth, if worship is changing us, we should be able to see the difference between before and after. Fifth, if worship is benefiting us, others will likely notice it also (Acts 4:13). Sixth, if worship is changing us, then we will see growth in our strength (1 Cor. 16:13; Eph. 6:10). Seventh, we will see growth in our stamina (Heb. 10:36; 12:1).
As we get ready to worship this week, let’s take a few tests to see how worship is working in our lives. If we are worshipping consistently and correctly, it is bound to be making a difference.
Two Are Better Than One
For the last several weeks we have been discussing some things that we have learned or can learn about worship from the gym. I am convinced that in just a short time, we will all be in better shape spiritually. In the first lesson, we noticed that we usually feel better after we go to the gym/worship. In the second lesson, we noticed that going to the gym/worship helps us to make better choices. In the third lesson, we noticed that going to the gym/worship needs to be about growth and not about comparison. In the fourth lesson, we noticed that the gym/worship meets a number of needs. In the fifth lesson, we noticed the need to avoid clanging. In this lesson, we will see that two are better than one.
I go to the gym alone. I always have. However, I see many who don’t. They come to the gym with someone or meet up with someone at the gym. I can see some definite advantages to this approach. On days when you might not otherwise go to the gym, having someone to remind you or to push you to go can make the difference. Not only can someone help us get to the gym, they can make the whole gym experience more enjoyable and profitable. For one thing, they make the time pass faster. Time always passes faster with good conversation. For another thing, they provide additional motivation. Friends encourage us and push us to be better. They know us and they hold us accountable. Finally, having a gym partner saves us when the weight becomes too heavy for us. One of the most encouraging things at the gym is seeing one person lifting weights and another person spotting for them. If the person lifting has trouble getting the weight up, the spotter steps in to help them.
Like the gym, two are better than one when it comes to worship. In the long ago, Solomon wrote, “Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccl. 4:9-12). Although Solomon wasn’t specifically talking about worship in this text, his words easily apply. There are benefits to having a buddy, whether it’s in the gym or in worship. Friends make us better. In the book of Proverbs, Solomon wrote, “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27:17). Friends push us to go to worship and to grow in our walk with Christ. In Hebrews, we read, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25). There are few things more comforting in life than to know that you have a brother or sister to help you when the burdens of life become too heavy for you. Again, Solomon wrote, “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17). The Apostle Paul added, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
As we get ready to worship this week, let’s invite someone to go to worship with us or to meet us there. While we are there, let’s seek out someone that we can encourage and who can do the same for us.
For several weeks we have been discussing some things that we have learned or can learn about worship from the gym. I am convinced that in just a short time, we will all be in better shape spiritually. In the first lesson, we noticed that we usually feel better after we go to the gym/worship. In the second lesson, we noticed that going to the gym/worship helps us to make better choices. In the third lesson, we noticed that going to the gym/worship needs to be about growth and not about comparison. In the fourth lesson, we noticed that the gym/worship meets several needs. In this fifth lesson, we will notice the need to avoid clanging.
There is this guy at the gym who clangs. Every repetition is followed by a clang. There is a clang about every three seconds. One, two, three, Clang! One, two, three, Clang! One, two, three, Clang! I could kind of understand the clanging if he was lifting the equivalent of a small car. Some do, but he isn’t. In fact, he is lifting about what I lift, which isn’t much. It is certainly nothing to clang about. Yet, he does. I try to ignore the clanging. I really do. However, it is really hard to ignore. It breaks my focus. Maybe, I am the only one that notices. Maybe, I am the only one that it bothers. However, I don’t think so. Maybe, he doesn’t know that he clangs. Surely, he would stop if he did. Maybe, he thinks that everyone clangs. This must be what he thinks. However, they don’t! In fact, most people put forth great effort not to clang. Maybe, he knows that he clangs and just doesn’t care what others think. I suppose this could be true, but I don’t think so. I think that he is oblivious to the fact that he is clanging when those around him are not.
You may recall that Paul spoke of clanging in First Corinthians. He wrote, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1). Did you catch that? A clanging cymbal! Without love, even the great Apostle Paul would have been a clanger. Obviously, Paul was only using himself as an example. Few, if any, had more love for God or man than Paul did. In the second epistle to these same Corinthians, he would write, “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved” (2 Cor. 12:15). Although Paul was no clanging cymbal, some of the Corinthians were. Instead of coveting love, the best gift, they were coveting lesser gifts - spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:31). Instead of choosing the eternal (love- 1 Cor. 13:13), they were choosing the temporary (spiritual gifts - 1 Cor. 13:8-10). They seem to have especially been drawn to the gift of tongues. However, had they been able to speak with the tongues of men and of angels, they would have still been clangers without love. Of course, the same is true of us. Without genuine love for God and for one another, we will clang loudly (Mat. 22:37-39; 1 John 4:20-21). Likely, without love, we will make it hard for others to focus in worship. Imagine what they hear as they are trying to worship. One, two, three, Clang! One, two, three, Clang! One, two, three, Clang! Of course, worst of all, this is what God hears when our hearts are not filled with love for Him, for His word, and for His children.
As we get ready to worship this week, let’s make sure that our hearts are filled with love. Without love, we will clang in our worship and distract others.
A Number Of Needs Are Met
Over the last few weeks, we have been discussing some things that we have learned or can learn about worship from the gym. I am convinced that in just a short time, we will all be in better shape for worship. In the first lesson, we noticed that we usually feel better afterwards. In the second lesson, we noticed that going helps us to make better choices. In the third lesson, we noticed that it is about growth and not about comparison. In this lesson, we will see that worship meets a number of needs.
People go to the gym for a host of reasons. Some are trying to get into better shape. Others are trying to prevent illness and injury. Some are trying to relieve stress. Others are trying to improve balance and coordination. Some are trying to keep their heart healthy. Others are maintaining fitness. Some are rehabbing an injury. Others are toning and fine tuning. Some are receiving instruction and guidance. Others are targeting trouble areas. Finally, some are building muscle.
Just as a number of physical needs are met at the gym, a number of spiritual needs are met at worship. Some need to get into shape spiritually. They have looked into the mirror of God’s word and do not like what they see (Jam. 1:25). They are determined to change and to get back into shape spiritually (Rev. 2:5). Others are being proactive. They are trying to prevent illness and injury. They are trying to stay in good spiritual health. The psalmist declared, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11; cf. Prov. 4:23). Some need to relieve stress. They are casting their burdens and cares on Christ. David wrote, “Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psa. 55:22; cf. 1 Pet. 5:7). Others just need to maintain. They are in good shape spiritually. In Titus, Paul wrote, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men” (Tit. 3:8). Some have been injured by their own actions or by the actions of others. They need to rehab an injury (Jer. 30:17). Others need further instruction and guidance (Mt. 11:29; 1 Pet. 2:21; 1 Cor. 11:1). Some need help with trouble areas. For example, some of the Hebrew saints were in need of endurance. We read, “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Heb. 10:36). Others need to make minor adjustments. They need to go on to perfection or completion. In the book of Hebrews, we read, “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” (Heb. 6:1). Finally, some are simply trying to get stronger. To the saints at Ephesus, Paul wrote, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:10-13).
As we get Ready to Worship this week, let’s keep in mind the various needs of worshippers. God designed worship to meet our needs and to exalt His name.
Let This Cup Pass From Me
The anguish of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is one of the most moving scenes about which to read in the sacred text! When He took His three close friends (Peter, James and John) with Him into the Garden, “He began to be troubled and deeply distressed” (Mark 14:33). He told His friends, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” (14:34). Try to imagine (it’s hard, but try to get close) what Jesus was enduring.
Jesus went “a little further” from His friends and “fell to the ground” (Mark 14:35), “knelt down” (Luke 22:41) and eventually “fell on His face and prayed” (Matt. 26:39). Why fall on His face? Jesus prayed, “Let this cup pass from Me” (Matt. 26:39), using an imperative that means “to go forth away, to pass by without touching.” Mark and Luke record part of the prayer with Jesus using another imperative, “Take this away, carry this away, remove it.” Jesus’ anguish is building and will get worse (Luke 22:44). What is “this cup”?
Not long before this time (perhaps even days), Jesus had talked with James and John about “the cup that I am about to drink” (Matt. 20:22), now He is praying in the Garden about “this cup,” and mere moments later He will say to Peter, “Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (John 18:10-11). Jesus is getting ready to fully experience something (He is going to “drink” it), which is causing Him intense agony in the Garden, as He considers it.
Mark helps to identify “this cup.” After Mark tells us that Jesus “fell on the ground,” he shows us that Jesus “prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him” (14:35). The hour? Reading through the book of John, one is repeatedly told that Jesus’ “hour had not yet come” (2:4; 7:30; 8:20). But when Jesus prays before leaving the upper room, He says, “Father, the hour has come” (John 17:1). And after praying fervently in the Garden, He told His friends, “Behold, the hour is at hand” (Matt. 26:45).
The words “cup” and “hour” are used interchangeably to encompass all that Jesus was going to experience (and endure) in the closing moments of His life—not only the mental and physical agony of the cross, but the spiritual agony of bearing the sin of the world and suffering the separation from His Father that comes from sin. That thought deeply troubled our Lord (in His human emotions), but His love for you and me and His desire to fulfill Jehovah’s eternal will triumphed on that day. He arose from prayer and said, “Let us be going” (Mark 14:42). He had a mission to fulfill and a people to save.
Our Friend “has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2). He drank the cup!