The Cost Of Worship

Featuring Posted on March 15, 2008

Speaking about “cost” and “worship” in the same sentence seems a little ironic. How could great worship – an amazing experience – come with a cost?  Serving God comes with a cost… a cost many of us haven’t calculated to the fullest. Our theology is a little messed up here. For some reason we often try to “sell” the gospel as something that makes our lives better – sort of like an additive to your car’s gasoline.

Listen to Jesus’ words:

If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life (Mark 8:35 – NLT).

Anyone who puts his love for father or mother above his love for me does not deserve to be mine, and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me, and neither is the man who refuses to take up his cross and follow my way. The man who has found his own life will lose it, but the man who has lost it for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:37 – 39 – Phillips).

Whoever is not willing to carry the cross and follow me cannot be my follower (Luke 14:27 – NCV).

You see, it’s just not about us. It’s about God.

Part of the cost of worship is that we must volitionally give up our focus on ourselves. The essence of God’s will is that we fit into his broader purposes. If we will not do the task that accomplishes his will, he will call someone else to do it. God’s will for our life is that we faithfully live a life of worship. The tasks that God calls us to do accomplish his will.

The focus of true worship is not on us or our needs. The focus of true worship is on God.

Worship involves volitionally directing our thoughts, prayers, songs and actions to God. Scriptures say that we are to bless the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:10; Psalm 72:18; 134:1 – 2…)! We are to lift our voices, our lives in praise to the God of our salvation. God invites our participation. He prompts us to worship in many ways. But the decision to worship is volitional.

Worship involves a giving of ourselves to God – allowing him to be the focus of our life and activity. Scripture is full of encouragements to give ourselves to God. 1 Chronicles 22:19a says, “Now give yourselves completely to obeying the LORD your God.”

Reality check!

When we worship we die to our self and give everything to a living God. Worship costs us something.

In 2 Samuel 24, David is doing a census. Pretty ordinary, right? But God had forbidden the kings to count the number of people available to fight in their army. You see, a census is a measurement of power. It’s just logical. If you have a lot of warriors and your enemy has few, you have a better chance of winning.

There’s a problem with that? (It all seems to make so much sense!) God asked his people to put their whole trust in him. Even though God had proven himself time and time again, the Israelites consistently turned their backs on trusting God and put their trust in human power.

David’s sin had huge ramifications. God punished Israel. 70,000 people died in three days.

But the story has a great ending. David, referred to as a man after God’s own heart, finally gets it. He goes up to the farmer, Araunah, and asks him to sell him his threshing floor and oxen so he can make a sacrifice to the Lord. Araunah offers his land and oxen free of charge but David insists on paying for it. He replies, “ No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing ” (2 Samuel 24:24).

Worship costs us something. It involves a giving up of my rights and desires so that I might meet God’s desire to be worshipped.

It’s not just an Old Testament principle. Listen to what Jesus tells his disciples in Luke 9:62: “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Worship is sacrifice. God will ask a different sacrifice of each of his children. For some, a sacrifice of worship may be using your body in worship through lifted hands or bended knees in obedience to what God is requiring of you, in spite of what others are doing. For some the sacrifice may be that you need to give up some of your personal free time in order to serve the needs of a neighbor who is going through a difficulty. For others the sacrifice might be to reject a great job offer to which God seems to be saying “No.”

Worship is giving our lives to God and our fellow believers, seeking first his kingdom, fixing our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith (1 John 3:16; Matthew 6:33; Hebrews 12:2). If we continue to look back, we lose our focus on who God is and what he is doing. When we are distracted by those things that don’t point us to the object of our faith, we are not true worshippers.

But more than that, Jesus says we are not even fit for the kingdom of God.

Those are tough words! But God never said that following him would be easy.  Why would we expect that becoming better worshippers would be easy?

There are many things that distract us from worshipping God – family, work, gathering possessions, growing a business, entertainment, church – we each have our list. Ultimately, our true worship of God costs us more than our gifts and talents. Our true worship costs us our lives.