Worship: it's a heart thing
My husband recently took our two older children to a fete. While they were there, they got a lolly bag. If you know my kids, you know they love all things sweet! So it was a big deal when they got home and my son, Judah, came to me and said “Mummy, you can have my lollies, because you’re my best friend!”. Pause for a moment while my heart melts! I have a sweet tooth too, but the thing I loved most about this moment was certainly not the lollies in his grubby little hand! It was the heart of love that he had displayed towards me.
When it comes to worship, what does God want from us? Our song? Our gifts? Our words? Our actions? He loves those things, but it’s not what He most wants. What He is really after is the core of who we are – our hearts.
It can be easy to focus on having the right sound, or the right look, in our worship. This isn’t new: in Isaiah 29:13 (also quoted by Jesus in Matthew), it says: “These people say they are mine. They honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote” (NLT). God does not want merely lip service, duty, routine or performance. What He does want is relationship with you. He wants YOU. From the garden, to the cross, to now, God wants your heart.
In order to be able to give Him our hearts, we need to realise God’s heart for us. In Zephaniah 3:17 we read about His delight and joy for us: “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty Saviour. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (NLT)
The Father takes delight in us for who we are, not what we do. When Jesus is baptised, we read the Father speaking out: “This is my son in whom I am well pleased”. Heavenly Daddy spoke his approval over Jesus before he had done any of the 'stuff'. He hadn't yet turned water into wine, healed any sick people or raised anyone from the dead. In fact, the approval came before Jesus' earthly ministry had even started. This is because we are loved for who we are, not what we do.
We recently had our third child, a beautiful baby girl. The smile that lights up her face when she sees us causes our hearts to burst with affection for her! At only six months old, she is too young to do anything for us yet. But our hearts are so full of love for her. It is not about what she can do for us. In fact, she can do ‘number threes’ that require a full change of clothes, wee on us when we change her nappy, and wake us up through the night and we still think she is absolutely incredible! Worship is in no way about performance or what we can do for God. It is simply reflecting back the love that He has first given to us; giving Him the gift of our hearts.
Psalm 139 is a beautiful picture of our Heavenly Daddy knitting us together in our mother's womb. I can just imagine him humming and singing and dreaming over your life as He knits you together in that secret place, weaving in all those precious personality traits, gifts, abilities and godly desires. It also says that God writes every day of our lives in His book. Think of the God of the universe journaling about your life! He is crazy for you! He is your greatest encourager! He wants your dreams more than you do!
When you’ve stuffed up, it can be hard to believe that God delights in you. But He does! I have talked about the joys and delights of my beautiful children, but believe me, they are not always perfect! When one of them has a mega meltdown in the street that brings the neighbours out to see what is going on (yes, this has happened), or they drop their things from one end of the house to the other and make a huge mess (which is pretty much every day), does that make me love them any less? No! And I am only an imperfect human parent - your heavenly Father’s perfect love for you doesn’t change and you can’t escape it!
I believe that when we receive a revelation of the Father’s love for us, our natural response is one of worship and a giving over of our hearts to the One who loved us first. When we get a glimpse of His affection for us, our hearts are drawn to this magnificent loving God and we can begin to sing back the love song that he has always been singing over us. I encourage you to reflect on your Heavenly Daddy’s love for you. Grab a journal and a pen, open up Psalm 139 and take a moment to tune in to the Father’s delight over your life. Ask Him now: What is something you love about me, Papa? Receive His affirmation today. Let your heart be filled with the extravagant love of this good, good Father. And let your own response of worship come from that place.
Emily Minto is the worship pastor of Redhill Church in Canberra. To read more about Emily's story check out her previous blog post: Life as a Worshipper.