What is worship? How do we worship when so many things are going wrong? Why would we?
Martin Luther wrote, ""What does it mean to have a god? What is God? My answer is: A god is whatever a person looks to for all good things and runs to for help in trouble. (Luther's Large Catechism on the 1st Commandment, "You shall have no other gods.")
Did you notice the two parts? "For all good things" and "for help in trouble."
He didn't leave it there, He took it up again in the Small Catechism, this time explaining the 2nd Commandment not to take the name of the Lord in vain. He wrote, "but call upon [God's name] in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks." Did you notice the two parts again? "call" and "pray"; and then "praise and give thanks."
This is the first part of worship.
We worship because: every blessing comes from God and we have had a lot of them through the years. Hymn after hymn sings of the blessings, and Christians gather to sing those praises with great feeling. Century after century the song of praise continues. God has created us, knows us individually and is a constant source, stream and river of blessings. Every breath and heartbeat is a blessing from our Creator. Every blessing is sweetened because it is not just a good thing; it is a good thing from the hand of God. It is personal. There was a youth group meeting that included pizza, and I got to do a brief devotion before we ate. I said, this is not just pizza; this is pizza from God!! And then I think I started to give thanks for every one of the ingredients until they made me stop. (Thus endeth the lesson!) God blesses and loves to bless. And when we needed rescue from our sins God the Father sent His Son Jesus to carry our sins and carry us out of darkness and into light, out from under judgment and into life.
We worship because: we have been through trouble, and through it all we have learned that God is a very present help. (Psalm 46) Troubles in the soul, or problems all around us, He is there and we can turn to Him. I learned this very powerfully one year when I was in high school. Early on Christmas morning my family got the phone call that my grandfather had died. In the middle of the heart-wrenching sadness my older brother said, "I'm going to Church." I went with him. In between the tears, I learned that there was no other place that made as much sense to be there than in God's house. There was no one else who could actually do anything about what had happened. He could. He had. He, Jesus, was born for exactly that moment, and so many other thousands and millions so much like it.
The Second part of worship goes further and is deeper:
Worship goes beyond calling out for our needs and thanking for the blessings. Greater by far than what we need and what we get from God -- we worship God for who He is. To learn this part of worship we have to focus on God, learn of Him, read and hear His promises and savor what they mean.
What is it like to have a God who created you because He really does want to share eternity and every blessing He can create (Psalm 16 -- In Your presence there is fullness of joy);
or who says "I have called you friends" (John 15); or invites one of them to come walking on water with Him;
or who finished His prayers before going out to the garden to be arrested with, "Father, I want them to be with me". (John 17)
who says, "I am with you to the end of the age" and "where 2 or 3 are gathered in My name there am I in the midst of them."
And one more: Zephaniah in the Old Testament describes "in that day". And then God describes something that will happen "on that day". The Lord ... in your midst [that would be Jesus] will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing." This is what our God is like, and this is part of what will happen on the day that Jesus returns. At some point on that day Jesus will break into loud, exultant singing, celebrating that we are with Him.
Worship happens when we see God as who He is and realize, "This is who I want to be with. I want to be with, hang around with and run with Jesus for all of forever." To know God in that way is a sweetness that trouble cannot take away, and becomes more important than any individual blessing. It is a constant theme that runs through all that life can bring; and helps us to focus each prayer that we offer up. And it brings every part of life into worship and connection with God.
Lord Jesus, I ask You to work in my heart and deepen my worship. Let me look to You for every blessing; and run to You in every trouble. Fill my thoughts with Your promises that I may desire to know You more fully all through this life and then all through the endless time of eternity. Amen.