|Signpost 3: Seeking After Experiences|
This is not to say that a Christian will fail to experience peace when he worships. Joy and peace are natural by-products of worship. Joy is the fruit of coming into the presence of the Lord. Peace is a result of the Christian's correct relationship with God. We would be thrilled to receive an invitation to a private audience with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. We would prepare carefully, dress properly, speak respectfully, and be grateful for the privilege of that meeting.
But there is an even greater thrill and excitement that comes with entering into the presence of the King of kings. One day the angels and all of the redeemed will cry out in beautiful harmony. "Hail to the King! Worthy is the Lamb!" Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is the Lord. That will be an awesome sight. But even now that same One, full of majesty and splendor, bids us daily to a private encounter with Him. We are called into the presence of the King, His Majesty the Lord Jesus Christ. We experience a sense of awe and wonder as we come before Him. He is the creator of the universe and the Lord of life.
It is only "supernaturally" natural that the child of God should come into His presence with a sense of awe, wonder, and excitement. He will leave that encounter with a new twinkle in his eyes and a new spring in his steps.
Such an encounter will produce peace and joy in his life. Yet, it is at this point that the child of God must be careful. Though many speak of the power of praise and the wonder of worship, I am convinced there is no power in praise or wonder in worship. The power and wonder are in the majestic One. All power and honor and glory are His. The power of worship lies in Jesus Christ Himself, not in the method we use in coming into His presence. Many Christians worship God in only a superficial way, because they do not understand this distinction. The distinction is not simply a matter of the words we use to describe worship, but has to do with what worship really is. If we are to have a correct understanding of worship, it is an extremely important distinction to keep in mind.
Much of the church has only touched the surface of true praise and worship because of an inadequate understanding of worship. We are not to worship "worship" or praise "praise." The purpose of worship is not to produce an ecstatic feeling or a peaceful state of mind. The purpose of worship is not to get something for ourselves. We worship because God alone is worthy of our worship.
This understanding liberates us in our worship experience and brings revival to our lives. We don't praise Him only because we feel like praising Him. We praise Him because we are entering into the presence of divine majesty. We worship Him because of who He is and not because of what we feel. That sets the Christian free in worship, because God does not change. Our feelings change.
Our experiences change. But God remains the same. He always has been and always will be the great "I am." It doesn't matter if I wake up in a good mood or a bad mood. God is there. His nature is the same. He is the Rock that shall never be moved. We must conform our experience to His nature rather than attempt to conform His character to our experience.
A recent experience in Romania brought this truth home to me. I have preached in that country for several years, and the blessings of God have been bountiful each year. Some of my deepest friendships are in Romania. I have learned so much from Christian friends there. But on my last trip into that country, I experienced great difficulties.
The night before I left home for Romania I was inn an automobile accident that demolished my car. No one was injured seriously in the accident, and I had received only minor cuts and bruises, but when I boarded the plane to fly to Europe I sat on the plane with a heavy heart. I had left my family without any transportation. I was lonely. I felt sorry for myself. I just didn't feel like worshipping God. However, the Holy Spirit kept reminding me of the words of that grand old hymn taken from the book of Lamentations: "Great is thy faithfulness. Great is thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed, thy hand hath provided. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me."
The next day when I arrived in Budapest, Hungary, I was tired, but there was peace in my heart. Two Christian friends and I then boarded a train headed for the Romanian border. We separated on the train just in case any of us had problems at the border. That would prevent the others from also having difficulties.
The train arrived at the Romanian-Hungarian border at about 11p.m. At midnight, Romanian soldiers boarded the train and said, "Mr. Tippit, please take your luggage and come with us."
I asked the soldiers what was happening, but they refused to respond. They placed me under guard and kept me just outside the train station. A man from Poland was also being held under guard. He appeared to have been severely beaten.
My two friends were looking out the window as the train pulled away at 1 a.m. It was a sad moment for me. Tears welled up in my eyes. I lifted my hand and pointed my finger toward heaven. I knew they had to depend upon God and not worry about me.
The next two days were miserable. I had been traveling a day and a night without any sleep. I was tired, sore, and very lonely. I didn't know what was going to happen to me. I didn't know what my friends would face. I didn't know how my family was doing back in America. I only knew that it would be long time before I saw my Romanian friends again. I began to question God in those moments. I question myself. Had God forsaken me? Or was I out of the will of God? Pity for myself welled up in me.
The sky was dark. The night was cold. By 3 a.m. my emotions were frazzled, and my body ached. To say the least, I didn't feel like worshipping God. But the Holy Spirit began to stir in my heart. That beautiful hymn began to rise within me, and I begin to sing, "Great is thy faithfulness. Great is thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed thy hand hath provided. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me."
The guards looked at me as though I were crazy. I'm sure they couldn't understand why I was singing while I was their captive. It didn't make sense to me either. But in that moment I had a decision to make. I could become distraught and confused by my circumstances. I could fall prey to depression because of my emotions and feelings. Or I could look upon the loveliness of God. I could see Him as the Sovereign, caring King. The choice was mine.
I decided to place my focus on the faithfulness of God rather than on the fickleness of my feelings. I decided to give reverence to God rather than doubt my circumstances. One great hymn after another came to mind. I sang unto the Lord songs of praise and adoration for His attributes.
As I sang "Holy, Holy, Holy" and "How Great Thou Art," something remarkable transpired. It wasn't long before I forgot my problems. I held a little, private worship service. As I turned my attention away from my situation, I became secure in Christ. As I basked in the love and goodness of God, He allowed me to see the desperate plight of the guars holding me.
Then I began to sing to my guards in Romanian. For about an hour I preached the glorious gospel through singing. And the Holy Spirit gave me tremendous insight. As long as I thought about my feelings, my circumstances, and my plight, I was defeated. Personal victory, peace, and joy were the fruit of the knowledge of God. I only had to worship him. As I worshipped Him, I was able to witness to others. Then I walked in peace.
So many times we reverse that order. We seek after peace so we can witness to others. Then we come to praise Him because of our experience. However, the wind of revival will bring us back to our first love. Our first love is not peace in our hearts. It is not our witness to the world. Our first love is God Himself. It is God that we must return. As we return to or first love there will be a witness to the world and a walk of peace. Our experience will be the fruit of our worship. But only God will be the focus of our worship.