Training for Godliness: Worship
Worship is a common word in churches, but it is one of those words that every seems to know but cannot define. When we consider the importance of worship, it is vital that we understand and practice it. Unfortunately, we often confuse worship with an experience. We attend a great service of music and we think that was worship. Or, we think lights and smoke and flashy shows provides a worship experience. But is this worship?
As Ken Boa defines it, “To worship is to be fully occupied with the attributes of God—the majesty, beauty, and goodness of his person, powers, and perfections.” To worship, then, is to focus on God in all His glory. Worship is not defined by a particular style of music or a place. Worship is a response of the heart to the wonders of the Triune God.
As we consider Training for Godliness, we cannot leave our worship. We were made to worship. However, due to the Fall, our focus of worship has shifted from God to many other things, including ourselves. We need to train ourselves to worship rightly. We must be aware of the dangers of worshipping God in vain.
In his book, Whitney provides several helpful ways that we can train ourselves for godliness in worship. First, Whitney writes, “Worship is…focusing on and responding to God.” Our focus must never be on ourselves, our comforts, our thoughts, or fame. When we worship God, individually or corporately, He must be our focus. When we sing in church, we sing for His glory. When we give, we give to His glory. When we listen to His Word preached, we receive it gladly. Our focus must always be on Him. Whitney discusses the glory of God by stating, “If you could see God at this moment, you would so utterly understand how worthy He is of worship that you would instinctively fall on your face and worship Him.”
Another way that we train ourselves for godliness through worship is, as Whitney remarks, to “Worship…in spirit and truth.” That is how Jesus instructs the Samaritan woman to worship God in John 4:24. This is missing in our churches today. “To worship God in spirit is to worship from the inside out. It means to be sincere in our acts of worship. No matter how spiritual the song you are singing, no matter how poetic the prayer you are praying, if it isn’t sincere then it isn’t worship, it’s hypocrisy,” Don Whitney bitingly quips. When we engage in worship, do we do so sincerely? Or, are our thoughts on other things, such as lunch, the game, the grocery list, etc.? If we are to progress in Christlikeness, we must worship in spirit and truth. While we worship sincerely, we must also worship in truth. That means that our worship should find its place squarely in God’s written Word, the Bible. Therefore, while there is great freedom of expression, worship should reflect the same fundamental principles found in the Scriptures.
We also must worship because, as Whitney reminds us, “Worship is…expected both publicly and privately.” In our highly individualized society, we often thing worship as personal. It is mine. While that is not untrue, it is only half true. God created humanity as a community, first through Adam and Eve and then the rest of humanity. In the context of worship, the author of Hebrews encourages us with these words,
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
We are to worship both individually and corporately. We gather together to worship Him. We see a glimpse into the future in Revelation 21-22, where all the chosen people of God will worship Him for eternity. We are to mirror that in the here and now. This, in turn, produces growth in godliness.
Whitney ends with these words, “Worship is…a discipline to be cultivated.” As with the other spiritual disciplines, it takes time and practice (not that worship can be something we practice in the sense of practicing for football, but something in which we habitually engage). Whitney demonstrates this by writing, “Focusing on the world more than on the Lord makes us more worldly than Godly. But if we would be Godly, we must focus on God. Godliness requires disciplined worship.”
Remember Paul’s words to the young Timothy, “Train yourself for godliness.”
 Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 86.
 See Matthew 15:8-9.
 Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 86.
 Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 87.
 Ibid., 89.
 Ibid., 92.
 Hebrews 10:23-25, ESV.
 Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 94.
 Ibid., 95.
 1 Timothy 4:7, ESV.