We’ve all heard that “the best way to learn is to teach.” For me, it is an adage that has shown itself to be true on countless occasions. Diagraming a sentence, long division, phases of the moon . . . these are all subjects and skills I’m sure I learned in school, but never fully grasped until revisiting them as a teacher. One area in which I frequently find myself rediscovering old concepts through a fresh lens is in teaching Sunday School.
For the past three years, I have served as a monthly storyteller for the third and fourth graders at our church. I volunteer as an act of service, but I often feel as though I am the one who is reaping the greatest benefit: teaching Sunday School has proven to be a tremendous blessing to me and a source of enrichment in my own spiritual life. I find that every time I teach God’s Word to these precious children, my personal understanding of God is enhanced in new and profound ways. This has never been more true than last Sunday, when I had the opportunity to teach on the subject of worship.
The theme for our morning was, “God is Worthy of Worship.” Before jumping into our story, I wanted to define a few terms that might be unfamiliar to my young audience: specifically, “worthy” and “worship.” As a group, we had little trouble establishing that “worthy” means “deserving.” But the kids had a bit more trouble determining the meaning of worship; most told me that worship meant prayer or singing or going to church. Their answers didn’t surprise me, and they closely resembled the types of responses I would expect from adults. In fact, these simple definitions were the first words that had come to my own mind as I prepared the lesson. However, I knew that worship must be—had to be—more than that. I began to reflect on the deeper, truer meaning of worship as well as what it is, exactly, that makes God a worthy recipient of our worship.
Josh Riley, the founder of Worship.com, defines worship as “everything we think, everything we say, and everything we do, revealing that which we treasure and value most in life.” By this definition, worship certainly encompasses such acts as singing and praying, but it goes beyond that to incorporate every thought, every action, and every word that is honoring to God. I have to admit that
not all a small portion of my words, thoughts and actions are God-honoring. And yet, as a Christian, I profess that God is my treasure, the One I value most in life. If I truly desire to live a life of worship, my entire life—not just the “Christian-y” parts—can and should be a manifestation of praise and adoration for my Savior. In the words of pastor Mark Driscoll, my every word and action should become “a continuous living [sacrifice] to the glory of [God].” It is for the fulfillment of these daily—hourly—acts of worship that we were created, and through them, we not only honor God, but point the rest of the world toward Him.
Although I know cognitively that I was created for worship, and despite the fact that I do want my life to be a continuous act of worship, it isn’t always easy. When life is going well, I pay lip service to God, essentially praising Him for allowing things to go my way. When life is tough or seems unfair, I often cease to worship altogether. This style of worship is fickle and insincere, and it takes the focus off of its rightful recipient. My worship should not be contingent on my current circumstances, but on God, who is infinite and unchanging and is ALWAYS worthy of worship. At times, He allows life to flow smoothly, and in those times I should certainly worship Him in the midst of my circumstances, but definitely not because of them. Other times are darker and harder, but this does not negate God’s worthiness. In fact, as I was reminded in Becky White’s Recapture, God often chooses to use times of pain to draw us nearer to Him. As Becky so eloquently puts it, “without question, God knows what it takes to recapture our hearts. . . . So what does it look like to open those gifts of pain in front of God? It looks a lot like worship.”
I’m not sure I fully elucidated the expansive topic of worship in the twenty minutes I had with my Sunday Schoolers last Sunday. Even now, after doing my own exploring and meditation on the subject, I don’t know that I’ve fully grasped it myself. What I do know is that God IS worthy of worship, at all times and in all circumstances. He desires my worship, not just on Sundays, but every minute of every day. My acts of worship are not a chore, but a gift, allowing me to fulfill the role for which I was created and drawing me ever closer to my Creator.