Tagged ‘Worship‘

Transforming Fear Into Worship

Fear gripped Gideon with an icy hand. Against all reason, he gathered his servant and slowly stalked toward the enemy camp. Finally they stopped beside a tent on the outskirt of the sprawling army. Night had fallen heavily upon the plain. In the darkness, the light of a thousand fires silhouetted the tents that filled the valley like a swarm of locust. They were without number, as the sand upon the seashore in abundance, a mighty hoard against the three hundred men in Gideon’s charge.

Earlier that evening, God had clearly spoken to Gideon. The words he spoke sent shivers of fear through Gideon’s soul.

“Arise,” God said, “and go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand.” The words overwhelmed Gideon, for the task was impossible. “But if you are afraid,” the Lord continued, “go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.”

In the darkness Gideon and Purah crouched beside the tent. The men inside were speaking, and Gideon strained to hear what they said. Finally they heard a voice. “Behold, I dreamed a dream,” the man said, “and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.”

A long pause stifled the air. Gideon leaned in to hear more. Finally the man’s comrade spoke. “This is no other than the sword of Gideon,” he said, “the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp.”

Gideon heard the interpretation of the dream. He fell to his knees in the dust and worshiped, overwhelmed by what God has done. Quietly they rose and hurried back to their camp. A new found courage surged through his veins. Urgently he called to his men, “Arise! For the Lord has given the host of Midian into your hands!”

In the darkness, three hundred men rose to follow their leader into battle, and by the light of morning their enemy lay decimated before them. The God of Israel had shown his glory again.

(Adapted from Judges 7:9-25, ESV).

I love the story of Gideon. He is one of my favorite characters in Scripture. But what is most interesting about his life is the way God interacted with him along the way. God’s patience and kindness is on display throughout his life. In this passage, I appreciate that it tells how Gideon was a man like I am, prone to fear and questions. I also appreciate that God understood Gideon’s fear. God cared about his frailty in spite of the immense task that he gave to him.

The first recorded instance in Scripture when someone was afraid is in the story of the first man God created – Adam. After Adam sins, in fear he hides from God. Before the fall, there is no mention of fear. It was a perfect relationship with God. But from the fall to today, fear has been part of the human experience. Fear is not necessarily sin. It is, however, a consequence of our sin nature. We are human, not divine. As a result, we do not always respond to circumstances the way we should. Sometimes that means we are afraid when we do not need to be.

This is where we find Gideon. Naturally, the task God gives him feels overwhelming. God already knew that he was afraid. So God kindly says to him, “If you are afraid, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.” God accommodated his humanity. When Gideon hears the interpretation of the dream, his fear flees and his courage is renewed. God understood Gideon’s humanity, and made a way to address his fear.

Gideon could have puffed himself up and said, “I’m not afraid, I’m too spiritual for that.” Instead, he straps on his boots and heads down to the enemy camp. He was humble enough to admit that he was afraid. Are you? What would you do?

Sometimes when I feel a sense of fear, I ask God for wisdom to understand why I am afraid. I think if I could just figure out what is causing the fear, then I could fix it. The correct prayer is to ask God to calm my fear, and then to yield to him to change me at the deepest part of my life. I want God to inform me, but God wants to transform me. The challenge is to come to the place where my desire for transformation is greater than my desire for information. When I find that place, then I am ready to lay myself down at the feet of my heavenly father so that he can utterly transform me. In this way, the difficulties that come into my life have value when I understand that God uses them to mold me into the image of Jesus Christ.

In Gideon’s life, God initiated a helpless situation so that only God could receive the glory for the outcome. God may do the same for you and me. The result is that it led Gideon to a place of worship. Judges 7:15 says that when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshiped. His fear was transformed into worship. The word used for worship means to bow down in worship before God. It is the place of submission and recognition of God and who he is. It is a humbling of myself before God.

My friend, is there a sense of fear in your life? Are you in a circumstance that seems overwhelming to you? God understands your humanity. In these instances, he does not condemn you for your fear. Instead, he meets you in the midst of your fear to remind you that he is in control. Stop trying to understand the situation, and start yielding your life to him, so that he can utterly transform you. In the end, like Gideon, God will transform your life from fear to worship.

This article was originally published in the July 2016 Newsletter.

Life is Worship

On a personal level, I often struggle to balance the responsibilities of ministry with the responsibilities I have in other areas of life. I’m referring to the responsibilities of owning and maintaining a home, a car, and all the other things that crowd into my life. I imagine many of you can relate. As a single adult, I don’t have a helpmate to assist me with the multitude of things that need attention in a home. If something needs to be taken care of around the house, I’m the one who will do it. I’m the one who mows the lawn, empties the dishwasher, vacuums the floor, dusts the furniture, pays the bills, checks the mail, trims the bushes, reconciles the bank statement, washes the windows, cleans the toilets, cleans those little bits of dried toothpaste out of the sink, checks the oil in the car, buys the groceries, and cooks the meals. If you are a single parent, you can multiply this list by one hundred. I feel your pain. I do all these things and more while trying to maintain a ministry career that often takes me away from home for extended periods of time. It can be a bit overwhelming. The grass doesn’t stop growing while I am gone.

Sometimes I feel guilty if I am working on the house while I know there are things related to ministry on which I could be focusing. Frankly, sometimes I get a bad attitude towards it and feel sorry for myself. This is where I found myself last week. I was painting the garage when it happened.

I live with a stewardship mentality. God owns everything, and I just manage what he has entrusted to me. My home is an example of this. I do not own my home. My name may be on the deed, but the reality is that God owns my home. He gave me this home, for this time, for me to live in. I am grateful for it. It is a beautiful place. But it is his, not mine. I merely take care of it for now. At any moment, God could lead me to sell the house and give away all the proceeds. It would be of no consequence to me because it is not my home. When I live this way, I receive an immense freedom to enjoy all that God has given to me. My only responsibility is to be a steward of what he has given to me. I manage it on his behalf, in the way he wants it managed.

Last week I was painting the inside of the garage. It was a project that was long overdue. I had put if off because it really was not that important to me. We’re talking about the garage after all. It was a hot day. The heat index was nearly 100 degrees. As I painted, sweat ran down my arm and dripped off my elbow, spattering the concrete floor. I was tired, and my attitude was sour. Finally I paused and looked around the room, surveying the work that still needed to be completed.

“You know, God,” I said, “If I made more money I could hire someone to do this, and I could be in the house working on an article. I could be working on something that mattered instead of just painting this stupid garage.”

I know it wasn’t fair to speak to him like that, but we have the kind of relationship where we can talk openly to one another. His reply was as frank and direct as my complaint.

“So what you’re saying to me, Tim,” he replied, “is that you think that taking care of my home is not important.”

I was immediately taken aback. It hit me hard because it was true.

I stood there with the brush in my hand and thought about a trip I took a few years ago to Kenya. One day, in the broiling African sun, I served alongside other volunteers painting a large steel gate. I did it with joy because I was serving God as I served the missionary family. It was a privilege! I worshiped God as I worked, thankful for the opportunity to serve him in this way. So what is the difference between painting a gate in Africa and painting a garage in the United States?

In that moment, everything changed for me. I looked around the garage, and I thought about how kind God had been to give me this place to live. That he would entrust me to take care of such a beautiful home was humbling to me. Immediately I hung my head and whispered, “Oh God, forgive me.”

I think for the first time in my life I understood that work could be worship. All these so-called mundane tasks can be moments for worship when I understand that I am serving the King of all Kings in the process. I had made the mistake of separating the work of ministry from the work of living and in the process had missed the wonder of worshiping and serving God in all areas of life.

David wrote,

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalm 24:1-2, ESV).

Everything belongs to God. He created it all, so therefore it belongs to him. Everything in this world, even the animals and people that live on it, belong to him. That means your house, your car, your job, your body, your kids, your parents, or your spouse all belong to him. We simply take care of what he gives us to manage.

Paul wrote,

Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:17, 23-24, ESV)

Whatever I do, I should do it for God. It does not matter if it is done on the mission field or at home. Everything I say and do should be done in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. I should do it with all my heart, as for the Lord and not for myself or for anyone else. I am serving Jesus when I do this.

It was a profound moment for me, and it changed the way I live my life. Yes, all these tasks still need to be taken care of, but now they are moments for worship. If I am trimming the bushes, I am tending God’s garden. If I am reconciling the bank statement, I am managing God’s money. If I am cleaning the little bits of toothpaste out of the sink, I am making God’s bathroom sparkle. I’m doing it for him, not for me, and that changes everything. I’m doing it for someone I love dearly. What a privilege it is to serve him in the mundane things.

Worship is no longer just an event on Sunday. It is that moment on Monday when I am emptying the dishwasher. It is that moment on Tuesday when I am cleaning the house for a small group meeting. It is that moment on Wednesday when I am grocery shopping, and I consider his faithfulness to provide food for me to eat. It is that moment on Thursday when I am writing a devotional. It is that moment on Friday when I am sharing an evening with friends. It is that moment on Saturday when I am fishing from the shore and marveling that I get to live in such a beautiful place. Every moment of my life is an opportunity for worship.

Friend, what is it in your life right now with which you are struggling? Perhaps, like me, you find yourself in a place where you are having a pity party over some challenge you are facing. That person, problem, or situation belongs to God, not to you. Our responsibility is not to balance all the competing needs, but to remember that they all belong to God alone. We are merely serving God in the process.

I close with the words of the psalmist David who wrote:

Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:2-4, ESV)

That day in my garage, I turned on some worship music and continued to paint. The sweat still dripped from my elbow in the heat, and my arm was still tired from dragging the paint brush across the concrete block, but everything had changed. Suddenly that humble garage had become the temple of the Most High God. I was painting his temple. I was painting his home. I was humbled by the privilege to serve him in this way, and I was worshiping him in the process. I was no longer trying to balance the work of ministry with the other responsibilities in life. All of my life had become ministry. All of my life had become a moment to worship, and I had been changed as a result.

Life is worship. Worship is life.

This article was originally published in the August 2015 Newsletter.