I recently read a post by Tom Kraeuter titled, “In God’s Presence.” Tom was discussing the attitude or perception we bring with us when we come together to worship. He summed it up at the end with the following sentence. “What do you suppose would happen if we actually acted like He [God] was there?”
What a great question, and not just for worship services, but for all of life. For God is indeed with us in a special way when we gather together for worship. However, as followers of Christ, God also dwells with us and within us. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, indwelt by the living God as a result of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God paid the highest price to make this happen (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). And yet, I fear that my life does not demonstrate this acknowledgement of God’s presence as it should.
I remember when I was younger, before I was married, and when my wife and I were still dating. There was always a great anticipation when I knew I was going to be able to see her. This was magnified during the college years because we were often separated for weeks at a time. One instance stands out in my mind clearly.
It was the weekend before spring break and I was anxious to get home. However, I had to serve that weekend in a church in Iowa. Following the Sunday service, I packed up the car and headed back to Kansas City. I had to drop off another guy at school before heading back to St. Louis. So, we drove the four to five hour trip, without stopping, back to the dorm. By the time we got there, a restroom break was definitely in order. As it turned out, the dorms were locked, as was everything else on campus. So, I thought I would use the restroom when I stopped to fill up the car with gas. When I got to the gas station in town, there was no restroom.
I headed out of town, thinking I will stop somewhere along the way from Kansas City to St. Louis. However, the longer I drove, the more the anticipation of seeing my future wife grew. I was in a hurry to get home. As each rest area or exit approached, I just kept on driving. There was a problem though. Not only had it been eight or nine hours since my last “break,” I had also been drinking, and finishing, a two liter bottle of caffeinated soda to help me stay awake. Needless to say, by the time I arrived at my wife’s house, I was in serious pain. I jumped out of the car to run to the door to meet her, but I could not even stand up straight. She met her future husband at the door, only to be greeted by a hunched over guy who shouted, “I will see you in a minute,” as he rushed past her to get the restroom.
I know, it is a goofy story. Some of you probably think it is over-sharing. I don’t care. What it helps remind me of is a moment in time when I was full of anticipation, to the point of disregarding everything else, even intense discomfort and pain.
For each of us that have been brought into the family of God, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have been given a great gift. We have been given the privilege of having the God of the universe dwell within us to guide us, strengthen us, and to allow us to share in His great purposes and plans. He brings us peace and joy, even in the midst of troubling times. Yet, I am afraid that when it comes to our relationship with God, we are often guilty of showing up late. What I mean by that is that we can get to the place where there is no anticipation for meeting with Him.
We show up late in our daily lives. How many times have I stayed up too late, just watching one more thing on television, checking a few things online or in email? Before long, I am getting to bed late by 30 minutes, an hour, or even longer. So, as I set my alarm the next morning, I realize that if I am going to get enough sleep, I am going to have less time in the morning. My time with God will be very short or be passed up altogether. Therefore, for the sake of some meaningless entertainment or piddling around the night before, I have given up the opportunity to spend time in God’s Word and prayer. I show up late for the Creator of the universe, Who desires to fill my life with wisdom, joy, peace, and His presence. I don’t have enough foresight or anticipation to look beyond the preceding evening’s trivialities to what is waiting for me the next morning.
We show up late for our gathered events. The previous example can apply to our times of gathered worship together as well. If we stay up too late on the nights before our worship gatherings, we are going to less ready to get up and get going the next day. If we do make the effort to show up, we are tired and not at our best. We show up late for the service or Bible study. As a worship leader, I don’t pay a lot of attention to who actually comes into the service late. My attention is usually on the songs we are playing and singing. I just know that when the singing time ends, there are a lot more people present then when we began.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not throwing stones. I have noticed that, on days when I am not leading, I am prone to show up late also. Why is that? If I was anticipating being a part of the church of Jesus Christ worshiping their God and Savior, wouldn’t I make sure I was on time? You would think so. It must be that I value other things more than God and His people.
When we gather together to worship, I believe God blesses this in a special way. His people have come together to worship Him and to hear from Him. He has promised that when we get together is His Name, He is there with us in a unique way. Our presence is also important in another way. We encourage and serve each other by our presence. When we sing together, we not only worship God, we challenge, encourage, and edify each other. If I am sitting in a worship service, surrounded by a bunch of empty seats, feeling like I am singing by myself, this is not very encouraging. If I have others beside me, in front of me, and behind me, singing out the praises and greatness of God and His promises to us, that encourages me. And if I am there for you, then I am helping to encourage you as well.
Worship is not just about me and what I am going to get out of it. If I am showing up late, sure, I may still receive a blessing from the singing and the Word. But what am I saying to God? What am I saying to the others in the congregation? Am I saying that you were not important enough for me to get here on time?
I know that there are many things that can happen on a daily basis. I know that Sunday mornings can be chaotic. There are many who come in late due to circumstances out of their control. Others come in late because they have been serving somewhere else that morning. What I am talking about are those things that are within our control. What can we do to demonstrate to God and others that they are worth our time and effort? Let’s ask God to help fill us with an anticipation that makes us not want to show up late to meet with Him, whether that is on Sunday or every day of the week.
Together for His glory…